“If you were all firebrands for Christ, you might set the nation on a blaze.”
Charles Spurgeon loved evangelism. He was himself a firebrand bent on setting the world on fire with the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Furthermore, he was set on fire with heavenly joy as he said, “Never did I know perfect, overflowing, unutterable happiness” until he heard of the first conversion attributed to his ministry.
In this sermon Spurgeon examined the wisdom, and great worth, of being a “soul-winner.” He was not interested in the “multitudes who preach” but see no fruit. Further still he demurred those who “lay down rules for others” but who see no fruit. Spurgeon believed that the wisdom of a soul-winner was “proven by their actual success.”
One could be like Paul, “deeply logical, profound in doctrine.” Another like Apollos, “grandly rhetorical…[soaring] into the very heaven of eloquence.” Still another could be like Cephas, “rough and rugged, using uncouth metaphor and stern declaration.” Indeed, Spurgeon went so far as to say, “Only children wrangle about incidental methods: men look at sublime results.”
In Spurgeon’s view, angels envied mankind, for only “we are permitted to make this our life-object, to win souls for Christ.” Furthermore, soul-winning was not reserved for the “doctor of divinity” but commanded for “all who are in Christ.” And, regardless of the difficulty “it is a joy worth worlds to win souls.”
In the first section of his sermon Spurgeon exhorted his congregation saying, “Let us consider the metaphor used in the text – ‘He that winneth souls is wise.’”
He first noted that the word “win” could be used in warfare. First Spurgeon noted that “Warriors win cities and provinces,” but “to win a soul, is a much more difficult thing.” In fact, sometimes the soul-winner had to “keep the batteries going, day and night, with red-hot shot.” Furthermore, sometimes the soul-winner had to scale the wall, “sabre between his teeth,” and “spring on the man, and slay his unbelief in the name of God.”
Second, the word “win” could be used in wrestling. Here Spurgeon noted the preparation required of a wrestler who “was compelled a long time before to put himself through a course of training.” Similarly, soul-winners often come to “close quarters” with sinners and have to contend with their “prejudice,” “love of sin,” “unbelief,” and their “pride.”
Third, the word “win” was used in relation to hearts. Spurgeon said, “I cannot tell you how the lover wins his fond one, but experience has probably taught you.” Furthermore he said, “Love is the true way of soul-winning.” While warfare and wrestling were metaphors, love was “near the fact. We win by love.” Indeed, he solemnly said that “a hard heart can never win a soul….this is the sine qua non of success.”
In the second section of his sermon Spurgeon concluded “By telling you of some of the ways by which souls are to be won.” He began here by asking, “How can he expect God to do what he does not believe God will do?”
Furthermore, Spurgeon claimed that “To be content without conversions is the surest way to never have them.” Rather, soul-winners needed to “drive with a single aim” at seeing people saved.
However, the obligation to soul-winning was not reserved for pastors, it was incumbent upon all. On this point. Spurgeon argued “If you cannot preach to a hundred, preach to one. Get hold of the man alone, and in love, quietly and prayerfully, talk to him.”
He was not ignorant of the weaknesses of the sheep: he acknowledged that “Timidity often prevents our usefulness in this direction, but we must not give way to it.” Indeed, such silence could not be tolerated in the Christian life. Rather “we must school and train ourselves to deal personally with the unconverted.” No excuses were to be made – only grace-fueled effort until “the irksome task became easy.”
Finally, Spurgeon cried, “Give us your holy living, and with your holy living as leverage, we will move the world.” While bold speech was important, he affirmed that “we need greatly the lives of our people to illustrate what our tongues have to say.” Simply, “If you would be soul-winners, then, dear brethren and sisters, see that you live the gospel.”
Why you should take up and read:
Charles Haddon Spurgeon was a firebrand for Jesus Christ. During his life, he personally preached the gospel to over one million people. However, as Spurgeon articulated here, the duty to personal evangelism is incumbent upon all believers. Through his compelling language, this sermon crystalizes and clarifies the call to evangelism, earning “Soul Winning” a place as one of Spurgeon’s truly classic sermons.
Here is the link to the Sermon of the Week: https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/soul-winning#flipbook/
Phillip Ort serves at the Director of The Spurgeon Library at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City where he is also pursuing a Master of Divinity degree.