Charles Spurgeon (1834–1892) once described a remarkable experience he had while preaching:
He suddenly broke off from his [sermon] subject, and pointing in a certain direction, said, “Young man, those gloves you are wearing have not been paid for: you have stolen them from your employer.” At the close of the service, a young man, looking very pale and greatly agitated, came to the room which was used as a vestry, and begged for a private interview with Spurgeon. On being admitted, he placed a pair of gloves upon the table, and tearfully said, “It’s the first time I have robbed my master, and I will never do it again. You won’t expose me, sir, will you? It would kill my mother if she heard that I had become a thief.” (Spurgeon, 60)
What do you call Spurgeon’s experience? Is there anything we can compare it with in the New Testament? How about this: “If all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you” (1 Corinthians 14:24–25)?
According to the apostle Paul’s description, I would argue that what Spurgeon experienced is a good example of the New Testament spiritual gift of prophecy. And it wasn’t an isolated experience for the Prince of Preachers.
I could tell as many as a dozen similar cases in which I pointed at somebody in the hall without having the slightest knowledge of the person, or any idea that what I said was right, except that I believed I was moved by the Spirit to say it; and so striking has been my description, that the persons have gone away, and said to their friends, “Come, see a man that told me all things that ever I did; beyond a doubt, he must have been sent of God to my soul, or else he could not have described me so exactly.” (Grudem, 357)
Prophecy by Any Other Name
Now, Spurgeon didn’t call these revelatory experiences “prophecies,” because as a cessationist, he reserved that term for Holy Spirit-inspired, authoritative, infallible, Scripture-equivalent revelation — the kind of revelation all evangelicals agree ceased at the close of the apostolic age. Spurgeon called his experiences “impressions of the Holy Spirit”:
There are occasionally impressions of the Holy Spirit which guide men where no other guidance could have answered the end. . . . I have been the subject of such impressions myself and have seen very singular results therefrom. (Spurgeon, “A Well-Ordered Life,” 368)
I daresay he did. But, though I blush to offer him correction, I believe Charles Spurgeon indeed prophesied in these instances. I believe this because of how Paul speaks of the spiritual gift of prophecy, particularly in 1 Corinthians 14 — the chapter in the New Testament that provides the clearest apostolic instructions on the use and evaluation of prophecy.
Question: Are experiences of revelatory “impressions of the Holy Spirit” reported by Charles Spurgeon common among cessationists? If so, do they distinguish them from what continuationists would refer to as manifestations of the gift of prophecy and/or word of knowledge?
- Are there any accounts of "words of knowledge" taking place outside of Pentecostal and Charismatic denominations?
- Do any Christian congregations follow the example of 1 Cor 14:24-25 to win unbelievers for Christ?
- Are there any documented cases of prophecies, dreams or visions (Joel 2) in modern times (1900 - present) that are endorsed by a denomination?
- Do Cessationists wish that all God's people may prophesy?
- Do Cessationists believe that the Holy Spirit still speaks specific messages or instructions to Christians today?