Charles Spurgeon on the Need for Spirit-Empowered Preaching
Charles Spurgeon maintained that the Holy Spirit must ignite a holy passion within him for the proclamation of the gospel. He was keenly aware that it is one thing to know the plan of salvation, but something else to feel its truths deeply. Spurgeon was firmly convinced that the Spirit would cause the gospel to burn like a fire within his bones as he preached, giving him a passion for God, His truth, and those to whom he spoke:
The Spirit of God … can make you feel your subject till it thrills you, and you become depressed by it so as to be crushed into the earth, or elevated by it so as to be borne upon its eagle wings; making you feel, besides your subject, your object, till you yearn for the conversion of men, and for the uplifting of Christians to something nobler than they have known as yet. At the same time, another feeling is with you, namely, an intense desire that God may be glorified through the truth which you are delivering. You are conscious of a deep sympathy with the people to whom you are speaking, making you mourn over some of them because they know so little, and over others because they have known much, but have rejected it.
While proclaiming the gospel, Spurgeon trusted the Spirit to keep him in a “devotional” state: “Especially is it the Holy Spirit’s work to maintain in us a devotional frame of mind whilst we are discoursing. This is a condition greatly to be coveted—to continue praying while you are occupied with preaching.” He recognized that the Spirit must burn the truth in the heart of the messenger: “What can be worse than to speak under the influence of a proud or angry spirit? … But, oh, to burn in our secret heart while we blaze before the eyes of others! This is the work of the Spirit of God.” He further stated: “In our pulpits we need the spirit of dependence to be mixed with that of devotion, so that all along, from the first word to the last syllable, we may be looking up to the strong for strength. It is well to feel that though you have continued up to the present point, yet if the Holy Spirit were to leave you, you would play the fool ere the sermon closed.” If he were to effectively communicate the gospel, Spurgeon realized that his affections must be supernaturally enflamed for the truth.
Apart from this sacred flame, Spurgeon knew that his gospel proclamation would be delivered in a rote, mechanical fashion, lacking zeal. Such a delivery would betray the message he preached. Only by the Spirit’s aid could he stand in the pulpit “adoring the majestic and consciously present God, every faculty aroused and joyously excited to its utmost capability, all the thoughts and powers of the soul joyously occupied in contemplating the glory of the Lord, and extolling to listening crowds the Beloved of our soul.” This was the soul-igniting passion he sought through the power of the Spirit.
Spurgeon believed that the Spirit must set his heart ablaze before the gospel could spread to the hearts of his listeners: “The Holy Spirit will move them by first moving you. If you can rest without their being saved, they will rest, too. But if you are filled with an agony for them, if you cannot bear that they should be lost, you will soon find that they are uneasy, too.” This is to say, a fire in the pulpit soon spreads to the pews. Spurgeon knew he could not preach without this Spirit-ignited fire.
This excerpt is adapted from Steven Lawson’s The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon.