What did Charles Spurgeon think about Lent?

My post yesterday titled, “A Charles Spurgeon prayer for lent” created some interesting dialog on the Facebook page. The voiced concerns were that Charles Spurgeon wouldn’t celebrate the season of Lent, at all. Many said they did some research and dug through his sermons but to no avail. I want to share with you what I found from different Spurgeon sermons.

Colossians 2:16. Let no man, therefore, judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sab- bath. Do not let anybody come in and tell you that it is necessary for your salvation that you should abstain from this meat or that drink, that there is a merit in fasting for 40 days in Lent, or that you cannot be saved without observing such and such a holy day. Your salvation is in Christ! Keep to that and add nothing to this one Foundation which is once and for all laid in Him!

The Christ-Given RestVolume 39, Sermon #2298

For Christians, though they have long Lents, do have happy Easters! They may sometimes have forty days of fasting, but one day of such feasting as God’s children have is quite enough to make them forget all this and go fasting more forty days and yet not hunger! There are some days when God’s children are satisfied with fatness—and so satisfied that they have not only all that heart could wish, but their cup runs over and they can do nothing but sit down in astonishment, in a very repletion of satisfaction—content to sing and so to pour out their souls in gratitude before God! Oh, you who think that religion is a dull, dry, dreary thing, from where did you get this idea? Perhaps you have derived it from the Pharisee—it may be that you have acquired this falsehood from the hypocrite—but from the real Christian, I know that you have had very little that will lead to such a conclusion as that!

A Door Of HopeVolume 47, Sermon #2750

Come, then, and for your own good hang up the sackbut and take down the psaltery—put away the ashes! What if men call this season, “Lent”? We will keep no Lent, tonight—this is our Eastertide! Our Lord has risen from the dead and He is among us, and we will rejoice in Him! Come, Beloved, surely it is time that we did, for a while, at least, forget our pain, griefs and all the worries of this weary world and, for one, I must, I will, be glad and rejoice in my Lord—and I hope many of you will join with me in the happy occupation which will be helpful to yourselves.

Rejoicing And RememberingVolume 42, Sermon #2461

I found a few more occasions where Spurgeon mentioned Lent, but these are the best. The short of it is this: No where that I’ve found says that Spurgeon said Lent was blasphemy, by any sort. Rather, Spurgeon will consistently emphasize that it’s not the legalistic(it might not be, but that’s how it’s often seen) act of Lent that produces salvation or any merit, but Jesus Christ. We should never add anything to that foundation, and if we do we are probably compromising the gospel. It’s not about Lent, it’s not about the 40 days, it’s about the risen Jesus Christ. That was his message he preached 150 years ago and it’s the same message we should preach today.

With that said, I think we can “do” the season of lent. More than that, I think pursuing holiness should be something we are always chasing after. We strive, work, pursue and obey from our position in Christ, rather than for our position in Christ. We are not saved by works (Lent), rather we are saved to good works. To quote the Reformation formula, “We are saved by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone”.

  • Michael Snow

    A much more enlightening question for our day would be “What did Spurgeon think about Christians and war?”
    He is very clear:

  • Nick Kennicott

    Thanks for your response to our FB convo, Stephen.
    I give a hearty “Amen!” you one of your concluding thoughts: “I think pursuing holiness should be something we are always chasing after. We strive, work, pursue and obey from our position in Christ, rather than for our position in Christ. ”

    Here’s my issue, and what I had intended in my initial comments. The problem with “doing” lent is associating with a Roman Catholic practice that was designed and is practiced as a work of salvation. I absolutely think fasting and prayer for a season is appropriate and necessary for the Christian life periodically – something we far too readily ignore. Nevertheless, to engage in a Roman practice by simply changing the meaning of it for ourselves is neither safe nor right. In fact, of the majority of those I know who’ve sought to engage in lent, it has served more as a source of pride and self-fulfillment than a pursuit of holiness.

    I don’t assume from Spurgeon’s comments that he is in favor of the practice of lent or the Christianization of the Roman Catholic tradition. In fact, while I need to pull up the sermons to read the quotes in context, it seems to me that he is making it a non-issue altogether. In other words, forget about calling it “lent” because it’s really not lent if it’s not tied to the RCC tradition. Instead, focus on biblical things – holiness, prayer, fasting – whether it’s one day or 40 days.

    You see, the issue here is the association with Catholicism which is not Christianity, of which I believe Mr. Spurgeon would agree. I hold to the 1689 LBC as he did, and within its pages the pope himself is actually identified as THE Anti-Christ! I certainly don’t think any particular pope has been THE anti-Christ, but all of them are certainly anti-Christs in the sense the John conveys in 1 John. Therefore, to have anything to do with their practices/traditions that are not from Scripture is to walk in the traditions of men, not God.

    I will say too, the purpose of lent in its historical context is far too troubling to be supported by protestants in general, and I think reformed baptists like Spurgeon specifically. It really has a lot of ties to their faulty understanding of the extent of the atonement – it’s a false gospel and points man away from Christ instead of toward him.

    Anyway, good dialogue – thank you for posting this and taking the time to sharpen iron with me! Soli deo gloria!