January 16, 2018

Why a Universal Call to Salvation is Essential

Kevin Schaal

It is hard to believe, but there were some mid-19th Century London Baptists who accused Charles Haddon Spurgeon of having a “a second-hand ministry, deeply tainted with an Arminian spirit.”[1] Yes. Spurgeon was called a closet-Arminian by some of his peers.

One of their problems with Spurgeon was his insistence on a universal call to salvation (called a universal warrant). The universal warrant places the “warrant” or condition for believing on nothing other than the commands of scripture. These staunch hyper-Calvinists, as Spurgeon called them, felt it was a theological error to call people who were not elect to salvation. Of course, that presents a dilemma. How do you know who is elect? Their practice was to wait until the penitent would show signs of the Spirit’s elective work in his or her heart before the call to salvation should be issued.

Iain Murray points out the folly of this thinking and the horrendous unintended consequences of its practice.

To deny a universal warrant, and to require subjective experiences before Christ is trusted, is bound to lead to confusion and legality. Such teaching makes men look at themselves instead of the Saviour. It leads people to suppose that possessing a broken heart and feeling the burden of sin are some kind of qualification for believing. But this is to require a discernment on the part of would-be converts for which the Scripture does not ask. The truth is that individuals under conviction are unable to understand themselves and it is common for those who are most burdened to fear that they have no true sense of sin at all.”[2]

He goes on to quote Spurgeon directly,

I believe the tendency of that preaching which puts the warrant for faith anywhere but in the gospel command, is to vex the true penitent, and to console the hypocrite; the tendency of it is to make the poor soul which really repents, feel that he must not [really] believe in Christ, because he sees so much of his own hardness of heart. The more spiritual a man is, the more unspiritual he sees himself to be. … Often the most penitent men are those who think themselves the most impenitent.[3]

If we begin to preach to sinners that they must have a certain sense of sin and a certain measure of conviction, such teaching would turn the sinner away from God in Christ to himself. The man begins at once to say, “Have I a broken heart? Do I feel the burden of sin?” This is only another form of looking at self. Man must not look to himself to find reasons for God’s grace.

Preaching “Whosoever will” and “calling on all men everywhere to repent” is not the theological invention of the Arminian, it is the command of scripture. Even the most avowed Calvinists in Baptist history proclaimed with passion that to do anything else undermines the very gospel being proclaimed.

I would highly recommend reading Murray’s book Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism. It gives historical insight into a battle that remains with us today, and likely will remain until Jesus comes.

Dr. Kevin Schaal serves as the pastor of Northwest Valley Baptist Church in Glendale, Arizona and as the President of the FBFI.

  1. Earthen Vessel, 1855, p. 241, quoted by Iain Murray in Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism, (Banner of Truth: Carlisle PA, 1995), p. 47. []
  2. Murray, p. 68. []
  3. Quoted in Murray, p. 69. []


  1. Good post.

    I delight to give the universal call when I preach.

  2. Having served in the same church for 24 years, I have seen people come to Christ only after two decades of the Gospel message piercing their hearts. Who would have guessed 15 years ago that they were actually part of the elect! I gave the gospel to a self-professed witch on Sunday night who might be my sister in the Lord within only a dozen years or so. Planting and Watering with a sincere invitation to receive Christ.

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