Tuesday, December 02, 2008

My brainiac readers: can you source this Spurgeon quotation/story?

This is so great, and so (rightly) well-loved, that I dearly hope it isn't apocryphal.

You can find it all over the internet via Google — yet never sourced! I searched my massive Logos library, and Spurgeon.org, and a good bit of my electronic Spurgeon collection. Nothing.

It's Spurgeon's remark — sometimes presented as a statement, sometimes as a response to a question — about the relationship of election to preaching the Gospel. Spurgeon (is reported as having said) that if God had painted a yellow stripe up the backs of the elect, he'd go around London lifting up coats and preaching only to them. As He has not (Spurgeon reportedly went on), Spurgeon would simply preach the Gospel to all, and let God bring in His own.

Can anyone site the source in Spurgeon?

UPDATE: well, we not having come up with a definitive answer, I've cast the net a bit wider.

40 comments:

Jerry said...

I thought that it was in his "Defense of Calvinism" (posted on your spurgeon.org), but I was wrong.

My searching elsewhere did not reveal the original source.

Ron said...

Did anyone else have an initial reaction of wanting to go to the nearest mirror...? Of course, I then read the rest of the post.

beaconlight said...

I might be mistaken but I thought I read that quote in "The Soul Winner". I'll look it up.

Michelle said...

The closest I found to Spurgeon speaking about the backs of the elect is at www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0034.htm, about one third of the way down.

"You are only to preach to God's dear people, if you go into that pulpit," said a deacon once to a minister. Said the minister, "Have you marked them all on the back, that I may know them?".

Nothing about a yellow stripe or lifting up the coats of Londoners.

DJP said...

Pretty close, Michelle. Great work!

ThirstyDavid said...

I've become very disillusioned and cynical about famous, but never documented, quotes. I recently tried to source the famous Cicero line, "A room without a book is like a body without a soul." Turns out he never said it.

I wouldn't be a bit surprised if your quote isn't just the result of liberties taken with Michelle's quote, or something similar.

DJP said...

That's exactly why I'm such a stickler, David. I don't know how many sermon manuscripts have footnotes, but mine do.

Either I can source it, or I preface it with a qualifier.

threegirldad said...

Much as I'd like to believe otherwise, I'm dead certain that this is, indeed, apocryphal.

Still waiting to be proved wrong...

And to expand on ThirstyDavid's comment, it mystifies me more than a little to see how often this sort of thing happens.

Two words: Ad fontes.

DJP said...

Me, I have a sneaking feel it's in (—of all people) Thielicke's book on Spurgeon.

RT said...

Our facility being visited today by an emminent personage, I have had altogether too much time to look around for this quotation - all regular work being more or less disrupted. Proving a negative is usually an exercise in futility, but, after considerable research, I am satisfied that the quotation is spurious (as opposed to Spurgeonous). Two bits of evidence made it suspect ab initio. First, there are so many variations; and not just in the words used, but in the context, purpose etc. Second, I can't help thinking it unlikely that Spurgeon would allude to a "yellow" stripe and particularly "up the back (spine)" of the elect. Any other color and any other location would be more in keeping with Victorian, or even modern, usage. He does use the idea of a "yellow" mark on a couple of other occasions, but the references are negative, such as in "John Ploughman" where he refers to the "party which wears yellow colors." (Followed by his splendid - "butter them and like turnips you may eat them." - !)

Anyway, hugging my suspicions to my bosom, I repaired to www.archive.org where there are
189 scanned volumes (albeith with numerous duplicates) purporting to be either by or about Spurgeon. I searched about 50 of the most likely, including collections of his sermons, his autobiography and at least two volumes of "reminiscences and anecdotes", which I assumed would catch the possibility of the remark being made on the street or in conversation. The search engine on the site only allows searching by single words as far as I could determine, so I searched individually for 3 key words from the phrase - "yellow", "stripe" and "back." I came up with nothing even close. After seeing Michelle's comment I added "marked," but I did not have the time or stamina to go back to the 19 volumes of sermons a second time, so I did not locate her quotation either, which fact of course one could cling to (as to a straw) were one determined to believe the quotation genuine.

Of course now someone will surely come forward bearing, in Spurgeon's own handwriting no doubt, the quotation verbatim, which will only prove the truth of my initial statement, that attempting to prove a negative is an exercise in futility.

DJP said...

Never in this blog's history has "No clue" been said with more conviction nor erudition. Never!

RT said...

Nor at greater length, hopefully.

DJP said...

Not yet

threegirldad said...

By the way, Encounter With Spurgeon is available on Google Books as a limited preview. A search for "yellow" returns two hits (both on restricted pages, naturally), while a search for "stripe" returns none.

DJP said...

Oh, I KNOW, and I'm home now, and can't find my copy! I have a naggy feel it's in that, but far from certainty.

I don't own The Soul Winner either.

Grr.

Michelle said...

I also found this, from www.joshgelatt.com/2008/06/quote-of-day-spurgeon-on-preaching-to.html:

Spurgeon responding to why his belief in election did not move him to preach only to the elect:

"If you'll go around and pull up their shirttails so I can see if they have an E stamped on their back, I will."

- Taken from: John Macarthur, Nothing but the Truth: Upholding the Gospel in a Doubting Age (Wheaton: Good News Publishers, 1999), pg 151-152

******

I own many books by John MacArthur, but not this one so I can't check his source.

DJP said...

Secondary source! BZZZZT!

(c;

Michelle said...

Yes, but (two words that my children aren't allowed to use consecutively) John MacArthur surely would have referenced a source, I just don't have the book to check what it was.

DJP said...

Well, anyway... Phil Johnson would have.

:^P

Rachael Starke said...

"Well, anyway... Phil Johnson would have."

Oh, snap. Big time. :)

Just to throw a spanner in the works, my Phil says he actually got into a minor skerfuffle with one of his students in his Church History class this week over this exact quote. Phil says it's actually Packer that said it, in Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God.

He's working late but said he'll try and find it (he loves a good quote hunt).

And I actually saw an issue of Credenda Agenda that had none other than the Wilson attributing it to Spurgeon, also without citation.

Naughty scholars! Naughty naughty naughty!

Susan said...

I happen to have a copy of Packer's EVANGELISM & THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD on hand--and have been trying for the past 15 min. to try to find this quote--no "luck" yet. (God's sovereignty has prevented me from finding it....)

Rachael Starke said...

Susan -

Oh dear. Given how good a book it is, hopefully your time wasn't a total loss.

Now I have to think of a good way to tell my husband that he was probably mistaken. Let's see... " Honey, great news! You know that hour you were so kindly going to sacrifice? You can have it back!"

Susan said...

Oh, no, Rachael, let your husband have his fun. I'm sure he enjoys it. Perhaps God will let HIM find it instead of me! :)

DJP said...

I looked too. )c:

But it was my unmarked edition.

The Reformed Doug said...

"If God would have painted a yellow stripe on the backs of the elect I would go around lifting shirts. But since He didn't I must preach `whosoever will' and when `whosoever' believes I know he is one of the elect."
- C.H. Spurgeon

I found the quote from this website:

http://www.credenda.org/issues/2-1.php

(The quote is toward the bottom of the page.)

Does that help?

DJP said...

No, but thanks. That too is a secondary source, and not a very good one. That is, you're quoting someone who quotes Spurgeon, but even he doesn't give the source of his quotation.

RT said...

There is absolutely no lack of secondary attestations all over the place. The Macarthur version is the more believable, both because of the source and, I continue to maintain, because he does not purport to paint yellow down the spine of the elect.

Michelle said...

And judging by all the pictures, there was no yellow - everything was either black or white in Spurgeon's day.

DJP said...

Check the Pyro thread. Mystery is probably solved.

ThirstyDavid said...

OK, I started reading my Spurgeon's Expository Encyclopedia (15 vol.) painstakingly looking for this quote. I'm through volume 11, and I haven't found it yet.

Josh Gelatt said...

When I included this in my "Quote of the Day" on my blog (which Michelle already noted) I had the same problem finding a source. "Ad fontes" is a life motto of mine ("to the sources"), and I am a stickler about finding the original source for everything.

Simply put, I just couldn't find an original for this one. The closest I could come was an unsourced quotation taken from McArthur. I highly suspect the quotation to be from the less poetic original rendering found in the sermon, which was later spiced up by a redactor.

.....oh crap. now I sound like F.C. Baur! :o)

DJP said...

LOL

Well, with so many great quoters, how can it not be original? (Easily, unfortunately.)

I think the comment-thread over at Pyro probably gets as ad to the fontes as we're going to get. Q may remain out of reach.

ThirstyDavid said...

Well, if no one is going to call me on my bold-faced lie, I'll have to come clean on my own. I haven't actually read 11 volumes of Spurgeon in the last two days. That would take at least a week.

DJP said...

It's just a measure of the high esteem in which etc.

ThirstyDavid said...

OK, sure, I'll take that.

ThirstyDavid said...

In other news, Captain Kirk never said "Beam me up, Scotty," and Bogart never said "Play it again, Sam."

Josh Gelatt said...

This only goes to prove that we need to establish a critical text of the entire Spurgeon corpus. :o)

DJP said...

So would you envision an ur-CHS, accompanied by the various strains of tradition and folklore about the great man? Perhaps discern different "hands" when "Spurgeon" speaks in a more Jacobean (thee, thy, -est, -eth) manner? That could be J-CHS? And so forth?

Josh Gelatt said...

Well, clearly the Baker editions of his sermons are the inferior Majority text and must therefore be ruled out a priori. Perhaps the successor to Kurt and Barbara Aland could start a new project titled Editio Spurgeus Critica Major.

DJP said...

And then, the day after it comes out, Bart Ehrman could publish a book citing the critical edition as proof-positive that Spurgeon never even existed.