33. Preaching To Sinners

Only A Prayer Meeting by C. H. Spurgeon

We shall always, I trust, as a church, cultivate an anxious desire for the conversion of all who come within our gates; yea, and of all who dwell around us. Never, I hope, will you wish the Pastor to preach so that you shall be fed, careless as to whether sinners are saved or not; nor will you make yourselves into a snug corporation for purposes of profit and mutual admiration. We long to see the wedding furnished with guests, and our Redeemer seeing of the travail of His soul. The public ministry must not be confined to a part of the truth, for it should reflect the whole counsel of God as far as mortal mind can do so. It is my delight to preach the doctrine of election, and all the other grand teachings which declare Jehovah’s special love to His chosen; but, at the same time, I have felt it to be my duty to preach the Gospel to every creature. We know no other limit to our invitation than this, “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”

I have been amused, lately, with a story told me by a dear fellow-labourer in the Gospel. One of his churchmembers came to him, and said that she was going to unite herself with another church, a church higher in doctrine, and less given to evangelistic efforts. She said, “When you preach the doctrines of grace, I am very happy; but when I hear you inviting sinners to Christ, my heart goes down into my shoes.” “That is a very sad thing,” said the minister, “but I cannot alter my preaching on that account, for I think you are wrong.” When our brother met his people at the prayer-meeting in the evening, he told them what had occurred, and said, “I cannot help preaching to sinners as I do; and even if more of you go, it will be the same. I shall preach to sinners as long as there are any sinners left.”

Our friend then went on to say that the mode of preaching among certain friends reminded him of his school-boy days. A boy had a nice, rosy-cheeked apple, which he tossed up in the air before our friend’s eyes, and then he shouted to him, “Do you see this apple?” “Yes.” “Well, now, take a good look at it,” replied the boy, “for that is your share of it;” and he put it back into his pocket. Another playmate pretended to be more generous, and said, “Oh, give the poor fellow a smell!” Even his liberality went no further. Have you never heard preaching of that sort? “Here is a precious salvation! I hope you sinners see how precious it is, for that is your share of it.” The minister puts the heavenly fruit back again into his pocket, and the sermon is over; and this is called free-grace! The most liberal of those who dare not invite the sinner, try to give him a smell of the Gospel by telling him of the peace and joy which it brings.

Now, when I am preaching to sinners, I feel inclined always to beg every one of them to put the golden apple in his pocket, for this choice fruit of the tree of life may belong to millions, and yet the whole of it will remain for millions more. There is not a sinner in the world who is to be told that he may not come to Jesus, and receive the whole of the blessings of the Gospel. What a blessing to have a free salvation to preach as well as a full salvation! At least, I feel it to be so. Everyone must speak according to his light; but while I see clearly the doctrines of distinguishing grace, I see also the universality of the Gospel command.

Many years ago, I had a good old friend, who, like myself, had a very sweet tooth for Calvinistic doctrine; and I cannot do with any other doctrine any more than he could. He said to me, one day, “I love to hear you preach the doctrines of grace, but I feel very uncomfortable when you are giving free invitations to sinners; I feel as if I could not sit in the place.” I said to him, “Well, shall I give up inviting sinners in order to please you?” “No,” he replied, “by no manner of means; for, a month or two ago, my son-in-law, about whom I was very anxious, went to hear your sermon, and you were very persuasive with sinners, and set Christ before them most freely. I did not enjoy it at all; but when I got home, I found my son-in-law in tears, and that sermon, by the blessing of the eternal Spirit, brought him to the Saviour. Therefore, I think you had better go on in your own style, and not alter your preaching to please a poor old man like me.” I answered, “That is just how I feel; I would gladly agree with you in everything, but I dare not try to appear consistent by leaving out one side of the truth.” He said to meafterwards, “If I do not quite agree with your invitations to sinners, it is clear that God blesses them; and therefore I must look into the matter, and see whether I am right or not. You have declared the doctrines of grace, yet you have freely given the invitations of the Gospel; and I hope, my dear sir, you will long continue to preach what you feel you have learned in your own soul.” I have followed his advice, and I hope to do the same as long as the Lord spares me. We shall proclaim the doctrine of God’s sovereignty without toning it down, and electing love without any stuttering over it; but we shall proclaim the other truth also.

Those who differ from us, in one direction, ought also to remember that there are others who differ from us on the other side. A sister has written to me saying that, even if I do believe in election, she would not have me preach it, but keep it in my own mind, and get comfort from it for myself. I do not know who the friend is, for she forgot to put her name to her letter; but I would like her to know that I cannot accept her idea for a moment. I feel sure she does not expect me to do as she says; for, if I did, I should act like a Jesuit; I should say one thing and believe another, and that be far from me! I hope that no earthly power could bring me to do that; no, not even an anonymous letter from a good lady! Everything that I believe to be in God’s Word, I shall preach, whether my hearers accept it or not. It is to me a great comfort that such numbers do receive my teaching; and I never feel surprised when I meet with those who do not. I do not expect everybody to eat everything that I put on the table. I may flavour a dish with too much salt or too much pepper at times, but your own prayerful judgments will guide your tastes. We must preach all the truth; and this one thing is certain, we shall never give up loving the souls of men, or cease from trying to bring in the lost from the highways and hedges. We shall, throughout life, echo that blessed call of our Lord Jesus, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Labourers and burden-bearers shall hear continually that gracious Word; and if they do not come to Jesus, their blood shall be upon their own heads, for the invitation is as free as the blessing is full. The Gospel trumpet rings out clearly over hill and dale. “The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” We cannot make men come; that is the work of the Holy Spirit; but we can persuade them, by the love of Jesus, and by the terrors of the Lord. We can preach Christ to sinners if we cannot preach sinners to Christ; and we know that the Lord’s Word shall not return unto Him void.


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