CH Spurgeon and the Five Solas of the Reformation
Charles Haddon Spurgeon was not ashamed to be called a Calvinist and was distinctly Reformed in his preaching and teaching. In addition to the Doctrines of Grace, Spurgeon’s teaching also reflected his steadfast belief in the “Five Solas” of the Reformation.
The Five Solas served as the collective rallying cry of the Protestant Reformers. These Latin phrase — Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Solus Christus, and Soli Deo Gloria—tell us that Scripture alone is our highest authority and that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, for God’s glory alone.
These Biblical truths served as theological pillars that supported the whole of Spurgeon’s ministry. The following quotations are but a sampling of what Spurgeon had to say about the Five Solas.
Sola Scriptura — Scripture Alone
The doctrine of Sola Scriptura, or scripture alone, is a central belief of Reformed Theology. It comes as no surprise to find that this doctrine also formed the bedrock of Spurgeon’s preaching. In speaking of Christ’s and the Apostle Paul’s views of Scripture, he said:
Evidently, they regarded the statements of Scripture as conclusive. They took counsel of the Scriptures, and so they ended the matter. “It is written,” was to them proof positive and indisputable. “Thus saith the Lord,” was the final word: enough for their mind and heart, enough for their conscience and understanding.
To go behind Scripture did not occur to the first teachers of our faith: they heard the Oracle of divine testimony, and bowed their heads in reverence. So it ought to be with us: we have erred from the faith, and we shall pierce ourselves through with many sorrows, unless we feel that if the Scripture saith it, it is even so.
Spurgeon found the Bible to be totally authoritative and sufficient. Note the language that he uses; he does not say “go beyond” Scripture but to “go behind” it.
In terms of understanding the faith and proper practice of Christianity, there is nowhere outside of Scripture that we look to. To do so is not to gain insight, but to lose sight of what God has given for our instruction. If we do not acknowledge the truth of Scipture, we have “erred from the faith.”
Where did Spurgeon get such confidence in the Bible’s authority? Primarily, from its divine authorship. “This volume is the writing of the living God; each letter was penned with an Almighty finger; each word in it dropped from the everlasting lips; each sentence was dictated by the Holy Spirit.”
Scripture “is the writing of the living God; each letter was penned with an Almighty finger”
Scripture is not a record of the words of mere men. If it was, he states, “we might reject them.” Instead, Scripture is the very Word of God: “This Bible is a book of authority; it is an authorized book, for God has written it.”
The Bible has God as its author, so it follows that it would be free from error. Spurgeon reached this same conclusion, stating that, “We must settle in our minds that the Word of God must certainly be true, absolutely infallible, and beyond all question.”
This understanding of Scripture’s divine authority allowed Spurgeon to preach from any passage with confidence and clarity.
Sola Gratia — Grace Alone
Another aspect of Reformed Theology which finds sure footing in the text of Scripture is that salvation is available solely due to God’s grace. Ephesians 1:7 clearly proclaims that “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.”
This teaching regarding the grace of God in providing salvation is found throughout the Bible and is similarly found throughout Spurgeon’s preaching. He expounds on this verse in Ephesians in a sermon entitled “The Glories of Forgiving Grace”:
God forgives none because of payment made by them in any form. If we could bring him mountains of gold and silver, they would be worth nothing to him: if we bring him tears in rivers or alms in alps, or resolves, vows and promises in countless numbers, all will amount to nothing as a bribe of grace.
Forgiveness, like love, is unpurchasable by us. God’s pardons are absolutely free. He forgives because he chooses to forgive, out of sheer pity to the sinner, out of clear, unmixed compassion, but with no adulteration of anything like bribe or price.
Forgiveness, like love, is unpurchasable by us. God’s pardons are absolutely free.”
Spurgeon goes on to point out how the verse references the “riches” of God’s grace. He contrasts God’s wealth of grace with our own charitable endeavors.
“We have to calculate our incomes to see whether we may not be spending too much in charity; but those who have great riches can give and not calculate.” God is not at risk of exhausting His stores of grace in pardoning transgressions, and that is very good news for the sinner.
As Spurgeon said in a sermon delivered 23 years earlier than the one quoted above:
If any man be saved, he is saved by Divine grace, and by Divine grace alone; and the reason of his salvation is not to be found in him, but in God. We are not saved as the result of anything that we do or that we will; but we will and do as the result of God’s good pleasure, and the work of his grace in our hearts.
Because this “grand essential truth is often enough forgotten or ignored”
Spurgeon endeavored to bring Sola Gratia to the forefront of many of his sermons. So strongly did he feel about the importance of this doctrine he wished that “every time the clock struck it said, ‘By grace are ye saved.'”
Spurgeon wanted to disabuse his hearers from any notion that salvation can be earned. All preachers should be equally passionate about removing such obstacles to the truth of the gospel.
Sola Fide — Faith Alone
As seen above, Reformed Theology teaches that salvation is an act of God’s grace and cannot be earned. Rooted in this truth is Sola Fide, which teaches that faith is the sole instrument by which this saving grace is applied to the life of the individual.
Ephesians 2:8-9 captures the relationship between grace and faith in regards to our justification: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Salvation is a gift which cannot be earned, but only received by faith. Spurgeon emphasized the truth of this doctrine:
The way of reaching this state of justification is not by tears, nor prayers, nor humblings, nor working, nor Bible-reading, nor church-going, nor chapel-going, nor sacraments, nor priestly absolution, but by faith, which faith is a simple and utter dependence and believing in the faithfulness of God, a dependence upon the promise of God, because it is God’s promise, and is worthy of dependence.
Solus Christus — Christ Alone
The sole object of our faith is Jesus Christ and His atoning work on the cross. As Spurgeon told his congregation on a Sunday morning in May of 1890, “Both feet must be on the Rock of Ages.” He was preaching on Romans 10:11, which states “For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.’”
Spurgeon expounded on this text with an explanation of the importance of placing faith in Christ alone for salvation:
It is not written, “He that believeth on Jesus nine parts out of ten, and on himself for the other tenth.” No! “Whosoever believeth on him”−on him alone. Jesus will never be a part Saviour. We must not rest in part upon what we hope to do in the future, nor in part upon the efficacy of an outward ceremony. No! The faith must be “on him.”
Scripture is clear that we are saved by faith in Christ, and Spurgeon aimed to be equally clear. In a sermon entitled “Faith,” he attempts to rid his audience from any lingering notion of earned salvation:
If thou puttest one atom of trust in thyself, thou hast no faith; if thou dost place even a particle of reliance upon anything else but what Christ did, thou hast no faith. If thou dost trust in thy works, then thy works are
antichrist, and Christ and antichrist can never go together. Christ will have all or nothing; he must be a whole Savior, or no Savior at all.
Throughout his ministry, Spurgeon preached salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. As Christ is the center of the Gospel, so to was He the center of Spurgeon’s preaching: “Christ must be in every sermon, and He must be top and bottom too of all theology that is preached.”
With the heart of an evangelist, Spurgeon passionately exhorted his hearers to respond to the Gospel and place their faith in Christ.
Soli Deo Gloria — For God’s Glory Alone
Scripture teaches, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” The Westminster Catechism declares that “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. All things are ultimately intended for a single purpose: glorifying God.
We know from Scripture that all things are ultimately intended for a single purpose: glorifying God.
Spurgeon said of this doctrine, “Man’s chief end is to glorify and enjoy God. God’s greatest and highest object is to make to himself a glorious and an everlasting name.”
"God’s greatest and highest object is to make to himself a glorious and an everlasting name.”
Thus, God and man are to be united in the purpose of bringing Glory to His name. We can see by the impact he had for God’s kingdom, CH Spurgeon took this calling to glorify God seriously.
It is clear that Spurgeon saw in these doctrines not merely a statement of the Reformer’s beliefs, but a concise statement of the teaching of Scripture.
As in all things, Spurgeon looked to God’s Word to inform his preaching and teaching, and as a result, he confidently taught the Five Solas throughout his ministry.
 C.H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit. Vol. 36, (Banner of Truth Trust, 1970), 278.
 C.H. Spurgeon, “The Bible,” (March 18, 1855).
 The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon, 26.
 C.H. Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Expository Encyclopedia. Vol. 7, (Baker Book House), 356.
 C.H. Spurgeon, “Sovereign Grace and Man’s Responsibility,” (August 1, 1858).
 C.H. Spurgeon, Twelve Sermons on the Plan of Salvation: Delivered at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, (Baker Book House, 1976), 66.
 Spurgeon’s Expository Encyclopedia. Vol. 7, 185.
 The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit. Vol. 36, 281.
 Ibid., 281.
 C.H. Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Sermons. Vol. 1, (Baker Book House, 1989), 381.
 Eric W. Hayden, Searchlight on Spurgeon: Spurgeon Speaks for Himself, (Pilgrim Publications, 1973), 83.
 1 Corinthians 10:31
 Spurgeon’s Expository Encyclopedia. Vol. 7, 411.