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“Compel Them to Come In:” The Posture and Persuasion in the Preaching of Charles Haddon Spurgeon

He threatens them!

In his exhausting entreaty he describes, as only Spurgeon can, what it means to die without Christ. He imagines “death beds…thorny.” He “picture[s] [him]self standing at your bedside and hearing your cries…knowing you are dying without hope.” He sees himself “standing by your coffin…and looking into your clay-cold face.” Finally, he likens their rejection of Christ as “see[ing] you act the suicide this morning.” Could Spurgeon be more poignant and compelling that this? It is paramount for them to understand. Rejecting Christ is in effect—taking their own lives!

He weeps for them and throws them upon the Savior!

The hearer [reader] understands Spurgeon’s anguish and passion of soul by exposure to this sermon. As he closes, he turns to his final two ploys. First, he weeps for them! He weeps for them to remember. He weeps for them to recollect. He alone is the only one who “weeps” over them, and finally “throw[s] [them] into…[the] Master’s hands.” They will not weep for themselves. So, Spurgeon must ultimately release them to the Christ.

In this final and unexpected dual change of focus; Spurgeon turns his strong concerns away from the sinner to the Savior. He indeed has done all that can possibly be done by mortal preacher. He cries out with what seems to be a breaking-heart of prayer: “We can now appeal to the Spirit… I cannot compel you, but thou O Spirit of God who hast the key of the heart, thou canst compel.” In this his final appeal, he delivers them over to the Savior and the Spirit as he rehearses a familiar passage from John’s Revelation: the picture of the Savior standing at the heart’s door and knocking. In his closing Spurgeon tells them what they doubtlessly have known from so many other previous sermons. The one who stands at the door and knocks also is “he who hath the key of David.” If Christ cannot persuade them by “heart-knocking” He can certainly persuade them by “heart-unlocking.” Spurgeon’s closing paragraph is so very moving and it captures the whole:

I thought it my duty to labour [sic] with you as though I must do it; now I throw it into my Master’s hands. It cannot be his will that we should travail in birth, and yet not bring forth spiritual children. It is with him; he is master of the heart, and the day shall declare it, that some of you constrained by sovereign grace have become the willing captives of the all-conquering Jesus, and have bowed your hearts to him through the sermon this morning.

Spurgeon is much the rhetorician. He uses every means within his arsenal of oratory to bring men and women, boys and girls to the Savior. But more importantly than being a rhetor—he is an evangelist. “Take the Gospel to sinners. Carry it to their door. Put it in their way. Do not allow them to escape”; this was his evangelistic mantra. He pours out his very soul as preacher-teacher-evangelist of the Gospel “To Compel Them to Come In!”

This essay is adapted and originally appeared in Founders Journal.

This article originally appeared here.

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Dr. Roger D. Duke is an ordained Baptist minister. He holds graduate degrees from Harding University Grad School of Religion, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and The University of the South at Sewanee's School of Theology. Duke recently retired early after teaching college and grad school for 20 years to pursue a career in writing and speaking. You can find his works here.