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Aaron O'Kelley

This quote merely affirms Spurgeon's view that infants are redeemed from their guilt in Christ. It in no way denies inherited guilt but actually presupposes it. How else could Spurgeon speak of the "salvation" of these infants unless he presupposed their guilt and worthiness of Hell apart from Christ?

peter lumpkins

Hi Aaron,

Few, if any, surely will find your interpretation of Spurgeon's words above convincing I'm afraid. One would be on much safer interpretational grounds were it to be outright suggested and/or conceded that Spurgeon's words in the sermon quoted definitively pose tension with other statements the famed British Baptist preached. After all, Spurgeon was not a theological systematician but a Biblical expositor.

What you seem to have done, on the other hand, is make Spurgeon into a babbling fool. By philosophizing on his use of a term (i.e. "salvation") and what it must mean (or presuppose if you will), you transform his clear words into the exact opposite:

"This quote merely affirms Spurgeon's view that infants are redeemed from their guilt in Christ. It in no way denies inherited guilt but actually presupposes it."

Yet in this very selection, Spurgeon explicitly denies the stated conclusions you draw:
" it is most certain that no man now perishes through Adam’s sin only, and no man is cast into hell because of natural depravity alone; his own personal sin and unbelief cast him there."

Hence, rather than honor Spurgeon by admitting somewhat of a tension between what he said in one sermon compared with another, you (unintentionally, of course) make him out to an idiotic buffoon who "presupposes" something which makes his present words unintelligible gibberish, hardly a compliment to the famed Baptist preacher.

In footnote #1, I conceded my estimation of Spurgeon as being a "complex theologian" and at times, at least for me, "profoundly baffling." But this is for far different reasons than you appear to imply, for by that I certainly did not mean to imply Spurgeon did not clearly communicate what he meant as he preached each sermon. Indeed why Spurgeon is baffling at times is because he is so clear in what he says.

But what you have done, Aaron, at least from the way I read it, is gut Spurgeon's clear affirmation that no person now perishes through Adam’s sin only and thus cast into hell because of natural depravity alone but rather for personal sin and unbelief into a hollow shell in order to salvage what you yourself presuppose as Spurgeon's affirmed view of inherited Adamic guilt.

As for speaking of presupposing inherited guilt just because one mentions infants being "saved," remains a hefty non sequitur. Most everyone employs the term "saved" and/or "safe" when speaking of infants dying in infancy regardless of whether they embrace inherited sinful guilt or not. The fact is, few terms exist to employ when speaking of people (infants or otherwise) going to heaven when they die than "being saved" or something similar. Hence, it really makes little difference Spurgeon mentioned the "salvation" of infants. The question is, why did Spurgeon explicitly implicate both Adamic sin and natural depravity alone as impotent factors so far as condemning infants to hell on the one hand while positively, explicitly affirming one's own personal sin and unbelief as the damning factor on the other?

Thanks, Aaron...

Aaron O'Kelley

"The question is, why did Spurgeon explicitly implicate both Adamic sin and natural depravity alone as impotent factors so far as condemning infants to hell on the one hand while positively, explicitly affirming one's own personal sin and unbelief as the damning factor on the other?"

They are only impotent, in Spurgeon's view, because of Christ's atoning work. In other words, no infant who dies is condemned, not because he is not guilty, but because Christ's atonement has achieved forgiveness for his Adamic guilt. Spurgeon is not minimizing the effect of Adam's sin at all; he is, rather, saying that it is no match for what Christ has done.

I don't find this baffling at all. I find it perfectly consistent with what Spurgeon says elsewhere regarding the imputation of Adam's sin. If you want to find a Baptist who denies inherited guilt, you will need to look elsewhere, because this dog won't hunt.

Blessings to you!

peter lumpkins


The problem again with what you just stated is, it is precisely what Spurgeon does not state in the quote. Rather he specifically indicates no one perishes through original Adamic guilt alone nor sinful depravity alone, instead it's one's personal sin and unbelief which condemns him or her to hell.

Moreover, what you have just reiterated is nothing close to the Reformed emphasis on inherited guilt. According to WCF, both original sin and actual sins bear condemnable guilt sending people to eternal torment. Indeed the idea that infants are guilty as charged of original sin worthy of God's eternal wrath but not liable to eternal wrath because Jesus completely took it away makes for a nice way to relieve the tension in classical Reformed belief but remains complete nonsense given the Reformed insistence on bequeathed Augustinian guilt. At least Augustine accepted and stated what his premise necessarily implied; namely, only elect infants--the election of which is expressed in water baptism--make it to heaven. Non-elect infants go where non-elect adults go: to hell.

What makes your proposition perhaps a bit humorous is, if a preacher made a similar statement to Spurgeon's today, the Reformed everywhere would blast him as a semi-pelagian or even pelagian heretic!

In short, it is simply double-speak to insist on the universal imputation of an Adamic sinful guilt--a guilt alleged to fully warrant the eternal wrath of God--but nonetheless an imputed guilt which has been absolutely gutted of actual liability because it was universally neutralized by the blood of Christ.

By the way, Aaron, care to show me how classical Reformed-Calvinistic bodies argue Christ's atonement universally paid for Adamic guilt? I assure I can show how classical Arminian bodies argue from Scripture Christ's atonement universally paid for Adamic guilt.

peter lumpkins

BTW, Aaron, I meant to inform you I'm not necessarily looking to "find" a Baptist who "denies inherited guilt." There are plenty available for those who are interested. Spurgeon piqued my curiosity in this instance by clearly stating in terms of which are typically non-Reformed a negation of "original sin" so far as actual guilt is concerned. You may not see this as "baffling" but I do given Spurgeon's fairly vocal emboldened commitment to Calvinism.

Have a nice Monday...


Peter, I'm curious how you square Spurgeon's statement, "that we are lost even when we are born" with his later statement, which you did not include, "A far more terrible matter for us, practically, is this, that we are, apart from Divine Grace, lost by our own actions. Our nature has revealed itself in our character. Our inward inclinations have developed themselves in our conduct and we
have lost ourselves by our own acts and deeds. We have erred and strayed from God’s ways willfully and wickedly like lost sheep—and now the word, “lost,” belongs to us by our own overt acts, as well as through Adam’s Fall."

Note the direct connection of our acts to Adam's Fall, reiterating the previous statements concerning being born lost.

It would seem (at least to me) that Spurgeon is saying the two (imputed connection with Adam and our ultimately acting on that [sin]) will deem us lost unless Divine Grace intercedes.

Now, in the case of a child, I'm not sure how you are seeing the two separately. It seems to me that Spurgeon isn't saying they are born innocent, but they are born lost and owe their salvation to Christ. That position, that babies, unable to cognitively understand their position [guilt] before God, are saved by His Grace, is a historic position, and one accepted by many on both the Calvinist side and non-Calvinist side.

It seems to me that this is what Spurgeon is saying, albeit not forceably.

peter lumpkins


Thanks. Your initial question strikes at the heart of my initial contention above that I find Spurgeon, contrary to Dr. O'Kelly, quite baffling at times. I'm unsure his words in this particular sermon about original Adamic guilt alone nor sinful depravity alone sending any one to Hell can be necessarily "squared" with any number of quotes immediately at my disposal I could cite. Spurgeon was a biblical preacher at heart and not a systematic thinker. Nor can his massive collection of sermons preached over numerous years be taken and interpreted as if it were a single, fine-tuned, well thought-out systematic theology broken into several volumes. Rather each sermon stood as a unitary whole preached to a single congregation. For these reasons and more, it should not surprise us to find any number of statements which don't "square" with one another.

Now, as for Spurgeon not saying infants are born innocent I quite agree. But neither did he suggest their guilt. In fact, he says nothing of either innocence or guilt in this passage as I can tell. Nor is it held amongst those either affirming or denying inherited sinful guilt from Adam that if anyone is saved--whether infant or adult--it will be Christ's Cross-work which saves them.

In Adam Harwood's book The Spiritual Condition of Infants, he argues that while infants do not inherit sinful guilt from Adam, all people since Adam (obviously including infants) inherit a depraved sinful nature from Adam. Hence, it's because of the incipient sinful nature infants require Christ's Cross-work, not because they are "guilty" of Adam's sin or because infants federally, seminally sinned in Adam. Since one doesn't "commit" original sin therefore one is not guilty of committing it.

Finally, similarly to what I mentioned to O'Kelly, I think you've inaccurately stated the classical Reformed position by suggesting that since babies are unable to cognitively understand their guilt before God, they are saved by His grace.

Consider The Westminster Confession on original sin:

Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto, doth, in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God, and curse of the law, and so made subject to death, with all miseries spiritual, temporal, and eternal.

Consider the 1689 Baptist Confession:

Our first parents... fell from their original righteousness... and we in them whereby death came upon all... all becoming dead in sin...

They [Adam & Eve] being the root... standing in the room and stead of all mankind, the guilt of the sin was imputed, and corrupted nature conveyed, to all their posterity... being now conceived in sin... the subjects of death, and all other miseries, spiritual, temporal, and eternal, unless the Lord Jesus set them free"

We could cite confession upon confession clearly stating the Augustinian-Calvinist understanding of imputed guilt but it would look far, far different from your averring that babies, unable to cognitively understand their guilt before God, are saved.

In fact, such a summation is a flat denial of unconditional election, is it not? If God saves infants on the basis of their cognitive inability to understand their guilt, then God bases His election of them on some condition He perceives about them.

Affirming infant salvation while trying to hang on to imputed Adamic guilt remains an Achilles heel for strict Calvinism, at least it does in my view.


"Affirming infant salvation while trying to hang on to imputed Adamic guilt remains an Achilles heel for strict Calvinism, at least it does in my view."

I'm not sure it is a full-blown Achilles, but I understand the statement. It is the passage that Spurgeon uses, and we could bring in King David's response to the death of the baby born to his adulterous relationship that leads to the Achilles "aching" a bit... :)

Spurgeon, by reading many of his other sermons, catchechisms, etc. seemed to suffer from the same achy Achilles..

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