This article is reprinted with permission from As I See It, a monthly electronic magazine compiled and edited by Doug Kutilek. AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Compiled by Doug Kutilek
Note: A reader from Indiana recently asked if Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) ever directly addressed the subject of Darwinian evolution. Because Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published in England in 1859 only five years after Spurgeon began his London pastorate and was the occasion of great and continuing controversy directly affecting the credibility of the Bible, it would be most surprising indeed if Spurgeon had not addressed the subject. In fact, he did so numerous times, always in strong opposition. Our search turned up a number of quotes and references that should be of interest to the reader. We reproduce a selection of these, without extended comment. —Doug
On October 1, 1861, Spurgeon gave a popular lecture at the Metropolitan Tabernacle on the subject of the recently discovered African “gorilla” and its alleged evolutionary kinship to mankind; a full-sized stuffed gorilla shared the platform with Spurgeon. Mrs. Spurgeon, in compiling the four-volume C.H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography, devoted eight pages in volume III (pp. 51-58) to this lecture and the controversy it stirred. The following is an extract from the lecture:
He is an enormous ape, which claims to approach the nearest to man of any other creature. How nearly he approaches, I leave you to judge. True, his claim to be our first cousin is disputed (on behalf of the koolo-kamba [i.e., west African chimpanzee]), by several very learned men. If we should, therefore, admit you (addressing the gorilla) to be man’s first cousin, we fear that the koolo-kamba might institute a suit at law to claim equal rights, and so many cousins would be far from convenient. Besides, I have heard that, if we should admit this gentleman to be our cousin, there is Mr. Darwin, who at once is prepared to prove that that our great-grandfather’s grandfather’s father—keep on for about a millennium or two,—was a guinea-pig, and that we were ourselves originally descended from oysters, or seaweeds, or starfishes.
Now, I demur to that on my own account. Any bearded gentleman here, who chooses to do so, may claim relationship with the oyster; and others may imagine that they are only developed gorillas; but I, for my own part, believe there is a great gulf fixed between us, so that they who would pass from us to you (again turning to the gorilla) cannot; neither can they come to us who would pass from thence. At the same time, I do not wish to hold an argument with the philosopher who thinks himself related to a gorilla; I do not care to claim the honour for myself, but anyone else is perfectly welcome to it.
Seriously, let us see to what depths men will descend in order to cast a slur upon the Book of God. It is too hard a thing to believe that God made man in his own image; but, indeed, it is philosophical to hold that man is made in the image of a brute, and is the offspring of “laws of development.”
O infidelity! thou art a hard master, and thy taxes on our faith are far more burdensome than those which Revelation has ever made. When we have more incredulity than superstition can employ, we may leap into infidel speculation, and find a fitting sphere for the largest powers of belief. But who can deny that there is a likeness between this animal and our own race? . . . There is, we must confess, a wonderful resemblance,—so near that it is humiliating to us, and therefore, I hope, beneficial. But while there is such a humiliating likeness, what a difference there is! If there should ever be discovered an animal even more like man than this gorilla is; in fact, if there should be found the exact facsimile of man, but destitute of the living soul, the immortal spirit, we must still say that the distance between them is immeasurable.
C.H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography
London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1899
Vol. III, p. 354
In the final volume of the autobiography, Mrs. Spurgeon inserted her late husband’s reply to a letter inquiring about evolution, followed by his response to a question from a student regarding the same:
Westwood, February 5, 1887
Thanks for your most excellent and courteous letter. I have read a good deal on the subject, and have never yet seen a fact, or the tail of a fact, which indicated the rise of one species of animal from another. The theory has been laid down, and facts fished up to support it. I believe it to be a monstrous error in philosophy, which will be a theme for ridicule before another twenty years.
In theology, its influence would be deadly; and this is all I care about. On the scientific matter, you do well to use your own judgment.
The Lord bless you, and lead you into His truth more and more!
At one of the memorable gatherings under “The Question Oak” [a tree in the yard of Spurgeon’s home where he and his students gathered on Fridays], a student asked Mr. Spurgeon, “Are we justified in receiving Mr. Darwin’s or any other theory of evolution?”
The President’s [Spurgeon’s] answer was:
My reply to that enquiry can best take the form of another question—Does Revelation teach us evolution? It never has struck me, and it does not strike now, that the theory of evolution can, by any process of argument, be reconciled with the inspired record of the Creation. You remember how it is distinctly stated, again and again, that the Lord made each creature “after its kind.” So we read, “And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.” And again, “And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.”
Besides, brethren, I would remind you that, after all these years in which so many people have been hunting up and down the world for “the missing link” between animals and men, among all the monkeys that the wise men have examined, they have never discovered one who has rubbed his tail off, and ascended in the scale of creation so far as to take his place as the equal of our brothers and sisters of the great family of mankind. Mr. Darwin has never been able to find the germs of an Archbishop of Canterbury in the body of a tom cat or a billy goat, and I venture to prophesy that he will never accomplish such a feat as that.
There are abundant evidences that one creature inclines towards another in certain respects, for all are bound together in a wondrous way which indicates that they are all the product of God’s creative will; but what the advocates of evolution appear to forget is, that there is nowhere to be discovered an actual chain of growth from one creature to another,—there are breaks here and there, and so many missing links that the chain cannot be made complete. There are, naturally enough, many resemblances between them, because they have all been wrought by the one great master-mind of God, yet each one has its own peculiarities. The Books of Scripture are many, yet the Book, the Bible, is one; the waves of the sea are many, yet the sea is one; and the creatures that the Lord has made are many, yet the Creation is one.
Look at the union between the animal and the bird in the bat or in the flying squirrel; think of the resemblance between a bird and a fish in the flying fish; yet, nobody, surely, would venture to tell you that a fish ever grew into a bird, or that a bat ever became a butterfly or an eagle. No; they do not get out of their own spheres. All the evolutionists in the world cannot “improve” a mouse so that it will develop into a cat, or evolve a golden eagle out of a barn-door fowl. Even where one species very closely resembles another, there is a speciality about each which distinguishes it from all others.
I do not know, and I do not say, that a person cannot believe in Revelation and in evolution, too, for a man may believe that which is infinitely wise and also that which is only asinine. In this evil age, there is apparently nothing that a man cannot believe; he can believe, ex animo [Latin for “from the heart”], the whole “Prayer-book” of the Church of England! It is pretty much the same with other matters; and after all, the greatest discoveries made by man must be quite babyish to the infinite mind of God. He has told us all that we need to know in order that we may become like Himself, but He never meant us to know all that He knows.
C.H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography
London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1899
Vol. IV, pp. 133-4
The worst sort of clever men are those who know better than the Bible and are so learned that they believe the world had no Maker, and that men are only monkeys with their tails rubbed off. Dear, dear me, this is the sort of talk we used to expect from Tom of Bedlam, but now we get it from clever men. If things go on in this fashion a poor ploughman will not be able to tell which is the lunatic and which is the philosopher.
Charles H. Spurgeon
John Ploughman’s Pictures
Pilgrim Publications, 1974, p. 84