CHARLES HADDON SPURGEON VS. JAMES WHITE

According to the following inspired passage, God desires to save all human beings:

“First of all, then, I counsel that petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all human beings, including kings and all in positions of prominence; so that we may lead quiet and peaceful lives, being godly and upright in everything. This is what God, our Deliverer, regards as good; this is what meets his approval. He wants ALL HUMANITY to be delivered and come to full knowledge of the truth. For God is one; and there is but one Mediator between God and humanity, Yeshua the Messiah, himself human, who gave himself as a ransom on behalf of all, thus providing testimony to God’s purpose at just the right time. This is why I myself was appointed a proclaimer, even an emissary — I am telling the truth, not lying! — a trustworthy and truthful teacher of the Goyim.” 1 Timothy 2:1-7 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

High/hyper Calvinists like James R. White who deny that God truly desires to save every human soul, interpret such passages to mean that God seeks to save all kinds or classes of men, but not every single human individual.

Thankfully, not all Calvinists believe this but do accept the plain reading of the God-breathed Scriptures. One such Calvinist was the late, great preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon commonly referred to as the “prince of preachers.”  

Note his sermon on this very inspired text. All bold emphasis is mine:

Salvation by Knowing the Truth

A Sermon Delivered by C. H. SPURGEON, At the Newington (https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/spe/1-timothy-2.html)

“God our Savior; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:3-4 .

MAY GOD THE HOLY GHOST guide our meditations to the best practical result this evening, that sinners may be saved and saints stirred up to diligence. I do not intend to treat my text controversially. It is like the stone which makes the corner of a building, and it looks towards a different side of the gospel from that which is mostly before us. Two sides of the building of truth meet here. In many a village there is a corner where the idle and the quarrelsome gather together; and theology has such corners. It would be very easy indeed to set ourselves in battle array, and during the next half-hour to carry on a very fierce attack against those who differ from us in opinion upon points which could be raised from this text. I do not see that any good would come of it, and, as we have very little time to spare, and life is short, we had better spend it upon something that may better tend to our edification. May the good Spirit preserve us from a contentious spirit, and help us really to profit by his word. What then? Shall we try to put another meaning into the text than that which it fairly bears? I trow not. You must, most of you, be acquainted with the general method in which our older Calvinistic friends deal with this text. “All men,” say they, “that is, some men”: as if the Holy Ghost could not have said “some men” if he had meant some men. “All men,” say they; “that is, some of all sorts of men”: as if the Lord could not have said “all sorts of men” if he had meant that. The Holy Ghost by the apostle has written “all men,” and unquestionably he means all men. I know how to get rid of the force of the “alls” according to that critical method which some time ago was very current, but I do not see how it can be applied here with due regard to truth.

I was reading just now the exposition of a very able doctor who explains the text so as to explain it away; he applies grammatical gunpowder to it, and explodes it by way of expounding it. I thought when I read his exposition that it would have been a very capital comment upon the text if it had read, “Who will not have all men to be saved, nor come to a knowledge of the truth.” Had such been the inspired language every remark of the learned doctor would have been exactly in keeping, but as it happens to say, “Who will have all men to be saved,” his observations are more than a little out of place. My love of consistency with my own doctrinal views is not great enough to allow me knowingly to alter a single text of Scripture. I have great respect for orthodoxy, but my reverence for inspiration is far greater. I would sooner a hundred times over appear to be inconsistent with myself than be inconsistent with the word of God. I never thought it to be any very great crime to seem to be inconsistent with myself; for who am I that I should everlastingly be consistent? But I do think it a great crime to be so inconsistent with the word of God that I should want to lop away a bough or even a twig from so much as a single tree of the forest of Scripture. God forbid that I should cut or shape, even in the least degree, any divine expression. So runs the text, and so we must read it, “God our Savior; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” This is one of those things which we do not need to know.

Have you never noticed that some people who are ill and are ordered to take pills are foolish enough to chew them? That is a very nauseous thing to do, though I have done it myself. The right way to take medicine of such a kind is to swallow it at once. In the same way there are some things in the Word of God which are undoubtedly true which must be swallowed at once by an effort of faith, and must not be chewed by perpetual questioning. You will soon have I know not what of doubt and difficulty and bitterness upon your soul if you must needs know the unknowable, and have reasons and explanations for the sublime and the mysterious. Let the difficult doctrines go down whole into your very soul, by a grand exercise of confidence in God. Men are saved, and the same men that are saved come to a knowledge of the truth. The two things happen together, and the two facts very much depend upon each other. God’s way of saving men is not by leaving them in ignorance. It is by a knowledge of the truth that men are saved; this will make the main body of our discourse, and in closing we shall see how this truth gives instruction to those who wish to be saved, and also to those who desire to save others. May the Holy Spirit make these closing inferences to be practically useful. Observe that stress is laid upon the article: it is the truth, and not every truth.

Though it is a good thing to know the truth about anything, and we ought not to be satisfied to take up with a falsehood upon any point, yet it is not every truth that will save us. We are not saved by knowing any one theological truth we may choose to think of, for there are some theological truths which are comparatively of inferior value. They are not vital or essential, and a man may know them, and yet may not be saved. It is the truth which saves. Jesus Christ is the truth: the whole testimony of God about Christ is the truth. The work of the Holy Ghost in the heart is to work in us the truth. The knowledge of the truth is a large knowledge. It is not always so at the first: it may begin with but a little knowledge, but it is a large knowledge when it is further developed, and the soul is fully instructed in the whole range of the truth. The truth is useful to a man in another way: it saves him from prejudice. Often when men are awakened to know something about the wrath of God they begin to plunge about to discover divers methods by which they may escape from that wrath. Consulting, first of all, with themselves, they think that, if they can reform give up their grosser sins, and if they can join with religious people, they will make it all right. And there are some who go and listen to a kind of religious teacher, who says, “You must do good works. You must earn a good character. You must add to all this the ceremonies of our church. You must be particular and precise in receiving blessing only through the appointed channel of the apostolical succession.” Of the aforesaid mystical succession this teacher has the effrontery to assure his dupe that he is a legitimate instrument; and that sacraments received at his hands are means of grace. Under such untruthful notions we have known people who were somewhat aroused sit down again in a false peace. They have done all that they judged right and attended to all that they were told. Suddenly, by God’s grace, they come to a knowledge of another truth, and that is that by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in the sight of God. They discover that salvation is not by works of the law or by ceremonies, and that if any man he under the law he is also under the curse. Such a text as the following comes home, “Not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God”; and such another text as this, “Ye must be born again,” and then this at the back of it “that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

When they also find out that there is necessary a righteousness better than their own a perfect righteousness to justify them before God, and when they discover that they must be made new creatures in Christ Jesus, or else they must utterly perish, then they are saved from false confidences, saved from crying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace. It is a grand thing when a knowledge of the truth stops us from trusting in a lie. I am addressing some who remember when they were saved in that way. What an opening of the eyes it was to you! You had a great prejudice against the gospel of grace and the plan of salvation by faith; but when the Lord took you in hand and made you see your beautiful righteousness to be a moth-eaten mass of rags, and when the gold that you had accumulated suddenly turned into so much brass, cankered, and good for nothing, when you stood stripped naked before God, and the poor cobwebs of ceremonies suddenly dropped from off you, oh, then the Lord was working his salvation in your soul, and you were being saved from false confidences by a knowledge of the truth. A saving knowledge of the truth, to take another line of things, works in this way. A knowledge of the truth shows a man his personal need of being saved. O you that are not saved, and who dream you do not need to be, you only require to know the truth, and you will perceive that you must he saved or lost for ever. When a man comes in very deed to a knowledge of the truth about faith in Christ, he trusts Christ, and he is there and then saved from the guilt of sin; and he begins to be saved altogether from sin. God cuts the root of the power of sin that very day; but yet it has such life within itself that at the scent of water it will bud again. Sin in our members struggles to live. It has as many lives as a cat: there is no killing it.

Now, when we come to a knowledge of the truth, we begin to learn how sin is to be killed in us how the same Christ that justifies, sanctifies, and works in us according to his working who worketh in us mightily, that we may he conformed to the image of Christ, and made meet to dwell with perfect saints above. Beloved, many of you that are saved from the guilt of sin, have a very hard struggle with the power of sin, and have much more conflict, perhaps, than yon need to have, because you have not come to a knowledge of all the truth about indwelling sin. I therefore beg you to study much the word of God upon that point, and especially to see the adaptation of Christ to rule over your nature, and to conquer all your corrupt desires, and learn how by faith to bring each sin before him that, like Agag, it may be hewed in pieces before his eyes. You will never overcome sin except by the blood of the Lamb. There is no sanctification except by faith. The same instrument which destroys sin as to its guilt must slay sin as to its power. “They overcame by the blood of the Lamb,” and so must you. Learn this truth well, so shall you find salvation wrought in you from day to day.

How are we to know it, then? Well, we are to know it, first, by a believing knowledge. You do not know a thing unless you believe it to be really so. If you doubt it, you do not know it. If you say, “I really am not sure it is true,” then you cannot say that you know it. That which the Lord has revealed in holy Scripture you must devoutly believe to be true. In addition to this, your knowledge, if it becomes believing knowledge, must be personal knowledge a persuasion that it is true in reference to yourself. It is true about your neighbor, about your brother, but you must believe it about yourself, or your knowledge is vain for instance, you must know that you are lost that you are in danger of eternal destruction from the presence of God that for you there is no hope but in Christ that for you there is hope if you rest in Christ that resting in Christ you are saved. Yes, you. You must know that because you have trusted in Christ you are saved, and that now you are free from condemnation, and that now in you the new life has begun, which will fight against the old life of sin, until it overcome, and you, even you, are safely landed on the golden shore. There must be a personal appropriation of what you believe to be true. That is the kind of knowledge which saves the soul.

This knowledge when it comes really to save the soul is what we call experimental knowledge knowledge acquired according to the exhortation of the psalmist, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good” acquired by tasting. Now, at this present moment, I, speaking for myself, know that I am origin ally lost by nature. Do I believe it? Believe it? I am as sure of it as I am of my own existence. I know that I am lost by nature. It would not be possible for anybody to make me doubt that: I have felt it. How many weary days I spent under the pressure of that knowledge! Does a soldier know that there is such a thing as a cat when he has had a hundred lashes? It would take a deal of argument to make him believe there is not such a thing, or that backs do not smart when they feel the lash. Oh, how my soul smarted under the lash of conscience when I suffered under a sense of sin! Do I know that I could not save myself? Know it? Why, my poor, struggling heart labored this way and that, even as in the very fire with bitter disappointment, for I labored to climb to the stars on a treadwheel, and I was trying and trying and trying with all my might, but never rose an inch higher. I tried to fill a bottomless tub with leaking buckets, and worked on and toiled and slaved, but never accomplished even the beginning of my unhappy task. I know, for I have tried it, that salvation is not in man, or in all the feelings, and weepings, and prayings, and Bible readings, and church goings, and chapel goings which zeal could crowd together. Nothing whatsoever that man does can avail him towards his own salvation. This I know by sad trial of it, and failure in it.

I am now going to draw two inferences which are to be practical. The first one is this: in regard TO YOU THAT ARE SEEKING SALVATION. Does not the text show you that it is very possible that the reason why you have not found salvation is because you do not know the truth? Hence, I do most earnestly entreat the many of you young people who cannot get rest to be very diligent searchers of your Bibles. The first thing and the main thing is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, but if you say,” I do not understand it,” or “I cannot believe,” or if there be any such doubt rising in your mind, then it may be because you have not gained complete knowledge of the truth. It is very possible that somebody will say to you, “Believe, believe, believe.” I would say the same to you, but I should like you to act upon the common-sense principle of knowing what is to be believed and in whom you are to believe. I explained this to one who came to me a few evenings ago. She said that she could not believe. “Well,” I said, “now suppose as you sit in that chair I say to you, ‘Young friend, I cannot believe in you’: you would say to me, ‘I think you should.’ Suppose I then replied, ‘I wish I could.’ What would you bid me do? Should I sit still and look at you till I said, ‘I think I can believe in you’? That would be ridiculous. No, I should go and enquire, ‘Who is this young person? What kind of character does she bear? What are her connections?’ and when I knew all about you, then I have no doubt that I should say, ‘I have made examination into this young woman’s character, and I cannot help believing in her.'”

Now, it is just so with Jesus Christ. If you say, “I cannot believe in him,” read those four blessed testimonies of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and especially linger much over those parts where they tell you of his death. Do you know that many, while they have been sitting, as it were, at the foot of the cross, viewing the Son of God dying for men, have cried out, “I cannot help believing. I cannot help believing. When I see my sin, it seems too great; but when I see my Savior my iniquity vanishes away.” I think I have put it to you sometimes like this: if you take a ride through London, from end to end, it will take you many days to get an idea of its vastness; for probably none of us know the size of London. After your long ride of inspection you will say,” I wonder how those people can all be fed. I cannot make it out. Where does all the bread come from, and all the butter, and all the cheese, and all the meat, and everything else? Why, these people will be starved. It is not possible that Lebanon with all its beasts, and the vast plains of Europe and America should ever supply food sufficient for all this multitude.” That is your feeling. And then, to-morrow morning you get up, and you go to Covent Garden, you go to the great meat-markets, and to other sources of supply, and when you come home you say, “I feel quite different now, for now 1 cannot make out where all the people come from to eat all this provision: I never saw such store of food in all my life. Why, if there were two Londons, surely there is enough here to feed them.” Just so when you think about your sins and your wants you get saying, “How can I be saved?” Now, turn your thoughts the other way; think that Christ is the Son of God: think of what the merit must be of the incarnate God’s hearing human guilt; and instead of saying, “My sin is too great,” you will almost think the atoning sacrifice too great.

Therefore I do urge you to try and know more of Christ; and I am only giving you the advice of Isaiah, “Incline your ear, and come unto me; hear, and your soul shall live.” Know, hear, read, and believe more about these precious things, always with this wish “I am not hearing for hearing’s sake, and I am not wishing to know for knowing’s sake, but I am wanting to hear and to know that I may be saved.” I want you to be like the woman that lost her piece of silver. She did not light a candle and then say, “Bravo, I have lit a candle, this is enough.” She did not take her broom and then sit down content, crying, “What a splendid broom.” When she raised a dust she did not exclaim, “What a dust I am making! I am surely making progress now.” Some poor sinners, when they have been seeking, get into a dust of soul-trouble, and think it to be a comfortable sign. No, I’ll warrant you, the woman wanted her groat: she did not mind the broom, or the dust, or the candle; she looked for the silver. So it must be with you. Never content yourself with the reading, the hearing, or the feeling. It is Christ you want. It is the precious piece of money that you must find; and you must sweep until you find it. Why, there it is! There is Jesus! Take him! Take him! Believe him now, even now, and you are saved.

DEAR FRIENDS, Accept again my heartiest salutations. I hope soon to issue sermons preached at home on the previous Sabbaths, for I purpose, if the Lord will, to leave this shelter on February 2, or thereabouts. Six weeks of continuous fine weather have by God’s blessing delivered me from my pains, and enabled me to regain a large measure of strength; and the daily good tidings from home has also helped to quiet my mind and revive my spirit. O that I may be the better for this affliction. As after heavy showers the fountains and brooks run with new force and fullness, so may it be with these sermons now that with me “the rain is over and gone.” If you, dear readers, are the more refreshed I shall count pain and weakness to be a small cost for so blessed a result.

Yours most heartily C. H. Spurgeon

“Menton, January 16, 1880.
(Spurgeon’s Verse Expositions of the Bible, Chapter 2 https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/spe/1-timothy-2.html)

FURTHER READING

John Calvin and Particular Redemption

HEBREWS 2:16 AND LIMITED ATONEMENT

For Whom Did the OT High Priest Make Atonement? Pt. 1

For Whom Did the OT High Priest Make Atonement? Pt. 2

LIMITED ATONEMENT DEBATE PT. 1

LIMITED ATONEMENT DEBATE PT. 2

LIMITED ATONEMENT DEBATE PT. 3

The Case for Unlimited Atonement Pt. 1

The Case for Unlimited Atonement Pt. 2

The Case for Unlimited Atonement Pt. 3

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