C. H. Spurgeon's Autobiography
I was about the age of fourteen when I was sent to a Church of England school, - now called St. Augustine's College, Maidstone. We had three clergymen who came by turns to teach us their doctrines; but, somehow or other, the pupils did not seem to get on much, for when one of them was asked by a clergyman how many sacraments there were, he said, "Seven," and when that was denied, he said, "Oh, sir, there is one that they take at the haltar!" upon which I could not help saying, "That's hanging, I should think," which suggestion made even the reverend gentleman smile, although, of course, I was bidden not to be so rude as to interrupt again. I am sure many of the sons of the gentry in that establishment were more ignorant of Scripture than the boys in some of our Ragged Schools.
One of the clergy was, I believe, a good man; and it is to him I owe that ray of light which sufficed to show me believers' baptism. I was usually at the head of the class, and on one occasion, when the Church of England Catechism was to be repeated, something like the following conversation took place: -
Clergyman. - O What is your name?
Spurgeon. - Spurgeon, sir.
C. - No, no; what is your name?
S. - Charles Spurgeon, sir.
C. - No, you should not behave so, for you know I only want your Christian name.
S. - If you please, sir, I am afraid I haven't got one.
C. - Why, how is that?
S. - Because I do not think I am a Christian.
C. - What are you, then, - a heathen?
S. - No, sir; but we may not be heathens, and yet be without the grace of God, and so not be truly Christians.
C. - Well, well, never mind; what is your first name?
S. - Charles.
C. - Who gave you that name?
S. - I am sure I don't know, sir; I know no godfathers ever did anything for me, for I never had any. Likely enough, my mother and father did.
C. - Now, you should not set these boys a-laughing. Of course, I do not wish you to say the usual answer.
S. - He seemed always to have a respect for me, and gave me The Christian Year, in calf, as a reward for my great proficiency in religious knowledge. Proceeding with the Catechism, he suddenly turned to me, and said, -
C. - Spurgeon, you were never properly baptized.
S. - Oh, yes, sir, I was; my grandfather baptized me in the little parlour, and he is a minister so I know he did it right!
C. - Ah, but you had neither faith nor repentance, and therefore ought not to have received baptism!
S. - Why, sir, that has nothing to do with it! All infants ought to be baptized.
C. - How do you know that? Does not the Prayer Book say that faith and repentance are necessary before baptism? And this is so Scriptural a doctrine that no one ought to deny it. (Here he went on to show that all the persons spoken of in the Bible as being baptized were believers; which, of course, was an easy task, and then said to me, - ) Now, Charles, I shall give you till next week to find out whether the Bible does not declare faith and repentance to be necessary qualifications before baptism.
S. - I felt sure enough of victory; for I thought that a ceremony my grandfather and father both practised in their ministry must be right; but I could not find it, - I was beaten, - and made up my mind as to the course I would take.
C. - Well, Charles, what do you think now?
S. - Why, sir, I think you are right; but then it applies to you as well as to me!
C. - I wanted to show you this; for this is the reason why we appoint sponsors. It is that, without faith, I had no more right than you to holy baptism; but the promise of my sponsors was accepted by the Church as an equivalent. You have no doubt seen your father, when he has no money, give a note-of-hand for it; and this is regarded as an earnest of payment, because, as an honest man, we have reason to expect he will honour the note he has given. Now, sponsors are generally good people, and in charity we accept their promise on behalf of the child. As the child cannot at the time have faith, we accept the bond that he will; which promise he fulfils at confirmation, when he takes the bond into his own hands
S. - Well, sir, I think it is a very bad note-of-hand.
C. - I have no time to argue that, but I believe it to be good. I will only ask you this, - Which seems to have the greater regard to Scripture, - I, as a Churchman, or your grandfather as a Dissenter? He baptizes in the very teeth of Scripture; and I do not, in my opinion, do so, for I require a promise, which I look upon as an equivalent of repentance and faith, to be rendered in future years.
S. - Really, sir, I think you are more like right; but since it seems to be the
truth that only believers should be baptized, I think you are both wrong, though you seem to treat the Bible with the greater politeness.
C. - Well, then, you confess that you were not properly baptized; and you would think it your duty, if in your power, to join with us, and have sponsors to promise on your behalf?
S. - Oh, no! I have been baptized once, before I ought; I will wait next time till I am fit for it.
C. - (Smiling.) Ah, you are wrong; but I like to see you keep to the Word of God! Seek from Him a new heart and Divine direction, and you will see one truth after another, and very probably there will be a great change in those opinions which now seem so deeply rooted in you.
S. - I resolved, from that moment, that if ever Divine grace should work a change in me, I would be baptized, since, as I afterwards told my friend the clergyman, "I never ought to be blamed for improper baptism, as I had nothing to do with it; the error, if any, rested with my parents and grandparents."
[From C. H. Spurgeon's Autobiography, Volume 1, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Susannah Spurgeon, pp. 48-50.]