posted by Phil Johnson
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from "Lingerers Hastened," a sermon preached Sunday morning, 12 January 1868, at the Met Tab in London.
f you really long to save men's souls, you must tell them a great deal of disagreeable truth.
The preaching of the wrath of God has come to be sneered at nowadays, and even good people are half ashamed of it; a maudlin sentimentality about love and goodness has hushed, in a great measure, plain gospel expostulations and warnings.
But, my brethren, if we expect souls to be saved, we must declare unflinchingly with all affectionate fidelity, the terrors of the Lord.
"Well," said the Scotch lad when he listened to the minister who told his congregation that there was no hell, or at any rate only a temporary punishment, "Well," said he, "I need not come and hear this man any longer, for if it be as he says, it is all right, and religion is of no consequence, and if it be not as he says, then I must not hear him again, because he will deceive me."
"Therefore," says the apostle, "Knowing the terrors of the Lord we persuade men." Let not modern squeamishness prevent plain speaking concerning everlasting torment. Are we to be more gentle than the apostles? Shall we be wiser than the inspired preachers of the word? Until we feel our minds overshadowed with the dread thought of the sinner's doom we are not in a fit frame for preaching to the unconverted. We shall never persuade men if we are afraid to speak of the judgment and the condemnation of the unrighteous.
None was so infinitely gracious as our Lord Jesus Christ, yet no preacher ever uttered more faithful words of thunder than he did. It was he who spoke of the place "where their worm dieth not and their fire is not quenched." It was he who said, "These shall go away into everlasting punishment." It was he who spake the parable concerning that man in hell who longed for a drop of water to cool his tongue.
We mast be as plain as Christ was—as downright in honesty to the souls of men—or we may be called to account for our treachery at the last. If we flatter our fellows into fond dreams as to the littleness of future punishment, they will eternally detest us for so deluding them, and in the world of woe they will invoke perpetual curses upon us for having prophesied smooth things, and having withheld from them the awful truth.
When we have affectionately and plainly told the sinner that the wages of his sin will be death, and that woe will come upon him because of his unbelief, we must go farther, and must, in the name of our Lord Jesus, exhort the guilty one to escape from the deserved destruction. Observe, that these angels, though they understood that God had elected Lot to be saved, did not omit a single exhortation or leave the work to itself, as though it were to be done by predestination apart from instrumentality.
They said, "Arise, take thy wife and thy two daughters which are here, lest thou be consumed." How impressive is each admonition! What force and eagerness of love gleams in each entreaty! "Escape for thy life; look not behind thee; neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed." Every word is quick and powerful, decisive and to the point.
Souls want much earnest expostulation and affectionate exhortation, to constrain them to escape from their own ruin. Were they wise, the bare information of their danger would be enough, and the prospect of a happy escape would be sufficient; but they, as they are utterly unwise, as you and I know, for we were once such as they are, they must he urged, persuaded, and entreated to look to the Crucified that they may be saved. We should never have come to Christ unless divine constraint had been laid upon us, neither will they; that constraint usually comes by instrumentality; let us seek to be such instruments. If it had not been for earnest voices that spoke to us, and earnest teachers that beckoned us to come to the cross, we had never come. Let us therefore repay the debt we owe to the church of God, and seek as much as lieth in us to do unto others as God in his mercy hath done unto us.
I beseech you, my brethren, be active to persuade men with all your powers of reasoning and argument, salting the whole with tears of affection. Do not let any doctrinal notions stand in the way of the freest persuading when you are dealing with the minds of men, for sound doctrine is perfectly reconcilable therewith.
I recollect great complaint being made against a sermon of mine, "Compel them to come in," in which I spake with much tenderness for souls. That sermon was said to be Arminian and unsound. Brethren, it is a small matter to be judged of men's judgment, for my Master set his seal on that message; I never preached a sermon by which so many souls were won to God, as our church meetings can testify; and all over the world, where the sermon has been scattered, sinners have been saved through its instrumentality, and, therefore, if it be vile to exhort sinners, I purpose to be viler still.
I am as firm a believer in the doctrines of grace as any man living, and a true Calvinist after the order of John Calvin himself; but if it be thought an evil thing to bid the sinner lay hold on eternal life, I will be yet more evil in this respect, and herein imitate may Lord and his apostles, who, though they taught that salvation is of grace, and grace alone, feared not to speak to men as rational beings and responsible agents, and bid them "strive to enter in at the strait gate," and "labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life."
Beloved friends, cling to the great truth of electing love and divine sovereignity, but let not this bind you in fetters when, in the power of the Holy Ghost, you become fishers of men.