C.H. Spurgeon on Unconditional Election

Election “is written in the Word of God as with an iron pen, and there is no getting rid of it.”

C.H. Spurgeon considered Unconditional Election to be one of the greatest truths in the whole of revelation.

This is the third article in the series “C.H. Spurgeon on the Doctrines of Grace,” which discusses Spurgeon’s views on Calvinism as seen in his preaching and writing.

Since man is totally depraved it is an absolutely necessary that it is God who saves us according to His sovereign will (Ephesians 1:5). Spurgeon unabashedly preached on the reality of election and the sovereignty of God in saving sinners. Still, he understood that the doctrine of election can be a difficult concept for many to grasp. He began one sermon on the subject by addressing a hypothetical objection:

At the very announcement of the text some will be ready to say, “Why preach upon so profound a doctrine as election?” I answer, because it is in God’s word, and whatever is in the Word of God is to be preached. [1]

As we saw in the previous article, the doctrine of Total Depravity reveals how utterly incapable we are to save ourselves. Scripture affirms this truth and teaches that it is God who saves us according to His sovereign will (Ephesians 2:8-9; John 6:65).

Spurgeon rightly saw in Scripture God’s sovereignty in choosing the elect from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3-4). He read this in many texts of the Bible, and concluded:

I believe the doctrine of election, because I am quite certain that, if God had not chosen me, I should never have chosen Him; and I am sure He chose me before I was born, or else He never would have chosen me afterwards; and He must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find in myself why He should have looked upon me with special love. So I am forced to accept that great Biblical doctrine. [2]

The Prince of Preachers did not, however, hold to the notion of reprobation, which teaches that God predestines some to hell in the same way that he elects some to salvation. On this Spurgeon commented:

Election does not involve reprobation. There may be some who hold unconditional reprobation. I stand not here as their defender, let them defend themselves as best they can… If he be lost, damnation is all of man; but, if he be saved, still salvation is all of God. [3]

Spurgeon’s commitment to the Bible’s teaching on sovereign election in no way hindered his dedication to reaching the lost with the gospel.  He stated that his “main business is the saving of souls.” [4] He urged his flock to be likewise focused on evangelism:

Beloved, do your Master’s work, win souls, preach Christ, expound your Bibles, pray men to be reconciled to God, plead with men to come to Christ. This kind of work will stand the fire; and when the last great day shall dawn, this will remain to glory and honour. [5]

God’s sovereignty in salvation in no way diminishes our call to carry out the Great Commission. (Tweet That)

C.H. Spurgeon

Spurgeon preached both truths consistently because he saw them both clearly in Scripture. He was not anxious to attempt to reconcile or smooth out any alleged difficulties in holding to these two positions simultaneously. His attitude is summed up in a single quote, “If I see in God’s Book two truths which I cannot square with one another, I believe them both.” [6]

His ministry was marked by a balance of preaching God’s unconditional election while urging sinners to come to Jesus. Moreover, he encouraged others to be like-minded: “Beloved, cling to the great truth of electing love and divine sovereignty, but let not these bind you in fetters when, in the power of the Holy Ghost, you become fishers of men.” [7]

If the above quotations were not enough to see Spurgeon’s strong commitment to the doctrine of Unconditional Election, we end with this:

Whatever may be said about the doctrine of election, it is written in the Word of God as with an iron pen, and there is no getting rid of it. To me, it is one of the sweetest and most blessed truths in the whole of revelation, and those who are afraid of it are so because they do not understand it. If they could but know that the Lord had chosen them, it would make their hearts dance for joy. [8]

Articles exploring Spurgeon’s words regarding each of the Doctrines of Grace:

For a more detailed look at Unconditional Election, please see The Five Points of Calvinism – Defining the Doctrines of Grace


[1] Spurgeon’s Expository Encyclopedia. Vol. 7, 9.
[2] Spurgeon’s Autobiography, 51.
[3] “Exposition of the Doctrines of Grace,” http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0385.htm.
[4] The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit. Vol. 36, 277.
[5] Ibid., 276.
[6] Searchlight on Spurgeon: Spurgeon Speaks for Himself, 73.
[7] Ibid., 71-72.
[8] Spurgeon’s Sermons, 9.374, 375.

  1. Thank you very much. I have read part of this sermon, and will read the rest later. Is the Baptist Confession of 1689 similar/the same as Westminster Confession? I have the WC but I have not seen the Baptist Confession. (I am a reformed Baptist, if there is such.)

    Thank you again.

  2. I have a question: What do we say to mature believers who are strong in their faith, who say they believe that they are saved by what Christ did on the cross; yet they do not subscribe to the doctrine of the elect? I was often challenged in Bible study when I cited many Scriptures supporting the predestination doctrine. It became so contentious that I have taken a leave of absence from this group because it put the Chaplain in an awkward position of defending this point.
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Angelina – Thanks for sharing this and asking the question.

      First, I would say that we must recognize that this can be a difficult doctrine for some to grasp. In describing coming to know the doctrines of grace, Spurgeon said that he was “Born, as all of us are by nature, an Arminian” meaning that be default we tend to believe in free-will to the neglect of the sovereignty of God in salvation. We must also recognize that a Christian can be elect and regenerated without understanding the process by which this occurred. Therefore, we should go into these types of conversations with humility and patience.

      Pointing people to the Bible is always the right place to start. We try to help them see Scripture’s consistent teaching on election and the theological consequences of rejecting this doctrine, such as having to also reject the Bible’s position on total depravity (for if we are able to choose God, we are not wholly corrupt by sin as seen in Romans 8:7-8 and elsewhere). Spurgeon said similiarly, “Rebellion against divine election is often founded on the idea that the sinner has a sort of right to be saved, and this is to deny the full desert of sin.”

      Remember that there was a time when even Spurgeon did not understand or believe in election. Pray that God would help your friends and family to come to a full understanding of His sovereign role in saving them.

      In the end, though we stand by God’s truth as revealed in Scripture. “I am not accountable to you, nor you to me. You are accountable to God, if you reject a truth; I am accountable to Him if I preach an error. I am not afraid to stand before His bar with regard to the great doctrines which I shall preach to you this day.” While we do not seek theological arguments, we nevertheless hold strongly to election as being clearly taught in Scripture.

      Spurgeon has a wonderful sermon detailing the Scriptural basis of this doctrine simply titled, “Election.” You can read it in its entirety at http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0041.htm

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