Last night was our final Puritan and Evangelical Spirituality class of the semester. Dr. Haykin covered a lot of ground in his final lectures by focusing on Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Horatius Bonar and Charles Spurgeon. It was a great class nonetheless! I love hearing about such great Christians.
At the end of the class there were a number of questions raised. One in particular, by Don Vilneff, was a question on how Spurgeon dealt with those who differed from him theologically. Don recounted a story where Spurgeon visited a dying hyper-Calvinist named Wells. Throughout his ministry the hyper-Calvinists were adamantly against Spurgeon, labelling him an Arminian. Of course Spurgeon would have none of their failures to offer the gospel freely. Yet, as Wells lay dying, Spurgeon spent time with him, visiting and reconciling their difference as brothers in Christ. Don had asked if this was normal to Spurgeon’s character, to which Dr. Haykin replied yes.
This led to a follow-up question by myself about the relationship that the Bonars and M’Cheyne had with Edward Irving. The latter had not only taken to speaking in tongues and believing in the restoration of the apostolic office, but he also argued that Christ assumed sinful flesh and was kept from sinning only by the work of the Spirit. This is a glaring, glaring error, to which M’Cheyne and the Bonars would have taken great exception to (of course!). Yet, when Irving died, Bonar could affirm him as a believer in glory, who now knew the error of his ways. Without taking everything from Irving, the Bonars were influenced by him in a number of ways, including premillennialism.
Stories like this are a great lesson to me on how to respectfully disagree with a brother or sister, and yet remain friendly, open and gracious. This was a big issue for me to learn as I came into contact with the so-called New Perspective on Paul. I believe that much of what is taught by these scholars is serious error, but I have to remember that many of them are in Christ. They need to be treated with brotherly love. It does no good to outwardly attack a brother for his doctrinal view. I know that I would not want someone doing that to me if I were in error!
May we all take a page from men like the Bonars and Spurgeon. May we take a stand for gospel truth as they did, yet disagree with our brethren who don’t hold our views in a way that is marked by the gospel of grace we hold so dear.