On December 5, 1858 at the tender age of 24, Charles Haddon Spurgeon preached his best sermon. What makes a sermon great? For a soul winner like Spurgeon, one test of greatness is to number the souls converted. Of this sermon, Charles confessed, “I think I never preached another sermon by which so many souls were won to God.” From beginning to end, the riveting exhortation “Compel Them to Come In” is full of fervent entreaties for sinners to come to Christ.
Although preaching on Sunday morning to the church gathered for worship, Charles does not assume he is speaking only to the redeemed. Near the end of the sermon, he quips against professing Church-goers who do not live up to the high standards of the Gospel.
Spurgeon points to many reasons why people refuse to come to Christ. Perhaps they are maimed and blinded by sin. He then details the wonders of conversion to all who will listen. Such a willingness to expose hypocrisy and call sinners to conversion reveals the tone of this great sermon: extraordinarily evangelistic.
“I exhort you, then, to look to Jesus Christ and to be lightened. Sinner, you will never regret.”
Pleading with Sinners
Pleading with his hearers to look to Christ, Spurgeon reminds them of the frailty of their life.
“What will you do in the swellings of Jordan without a Saviour? Death-beds are stony things without the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Many strong men have been killed by the smallest of accidents. The date is December 5th — some listening may not see Christmas. In a crowd this vast, perhaps two or three will be departed by New Years. Charles is purposely threatening, his aim is to bring more to enjoy the sweetness of salvation.
“Come, then, let the threatening have power with you. I do not threaten because I would alarm without cause, but in hopes that a brother’s threatening may drive you to the place where God hath prepared the feast of the gospel.”
Spurgeon makes the matter urgent. Time cannot be wasted. With desperate petition, unable to bear any thought of his hearers being cursed in everlasting fire, the passionate preacher makes his plea:
“I have no authority to ask you to come to Christ tomorrow. The Master has given you no invitation to come to him next Tuesday. Sinner, in God’s name I command you to repent and believe… It seems as if every hair on my head must stand on end to think of any hearer of mine being damned.”
Twice in his sermon, Spurgeon speaks to objecting hearers who think they are too sinful to come to Christ. He offers good news to those who are spiritually poor.
“You have no faith, you have no virtue, you have no good work, you have no grace, and what is worse still, you have no hope. Ah, my Master has sent you a gracious invitation. Come and welcome to the marriage feast of his love.”
To the objecting who believe they are too guilty, the self professing “chiefs of sinners”, Charles exposes their false title. The chief of sinners was Saul of Tarsus, and he is already in heaven! Even the worst alive is still only the second worst — all the more reason to come to Christ. Spurgeon knows from experience that none can out sin God’s grace. He was in despair and darkness, believing himself the most sinful and vile of creatures, when God saved him during a fateful snowstorm in 1850.
“The worse a man is, the more reason he should go to the hospital or physician. The more poor you are, the more reason you should accept the charity of another. Now, Christ does not want any merits of yours. He gives freely. The worse you are, the more welcome you are.”
When he began preaching at the Surrey Gardens Music Hall, Surgeon determined “that, whether my hearers would receive the gospel, or reject it, they should at least understand it.”He recalled that a friend once said as they were leaving, “There are eight thousand people, this morning, who will be without excuse at the day of judgment.” In spite of undue criticism, Spurgeon preached with an heightened evangelistic fervor that day.
“It was a small matter to me to be condemned by the judgment of men, for my Master set His seal very clearly upon that message.”
Many heard the gospel clearly and understood it. And yet, after pleading, threatening, and entreating, Spurgeon recognizes that some will still not be moved. God alone must save.
“What can we do then? We can now appeal to the Spirit…I cannot compel you, but You, O Spirit of God, Who has the key of the heart, You can compel.”
Spurgeon preached thousands of sermons. He also knew that conversions alone do not make ministry great, but only faithfulness. What makes this sermon great? God used it to faithfully point to Christ and convert sinners. For that it is worthy of our consideration.
Read the full sermon, “Compel Them to Come In” here.
Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared at Spurgeon.org and is used with permission.