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Reformed Literature
A Presbyterian Internet Journal

The Soul Winner

C. H. Spurgeon

The author of this book stands in a very short list of those who were men of action, men of words and great preachers. Most good authors are just that, as they use their God given talent in producing great books or excellent devotional material. While others, whose lives are caught up in defending the church, its principles and the controversies of the day, often leave little written matter behind them. It is even rarer that a well-known author or defender of the faith is also one whose preaching was blessed to the saving of many souls, but what was true of Martin Luther is also true of our author, C.H. Spurgeon - these men are rare jewels and it is to be hoped that their names and works are always valued by the people of God.

Spurgeon in his lifetime was called the “Prince of Preachers”, perhaps this observation alone should recommend us to read a book by him on preaching. The book was written towards the end of his ministry so it is not full of the rash enthusiasm of a youth but is the thoughtful reflection of one of the Lord's choice servants. He possesses in this book a commendable clarity of expression and a directness of observation that I wish was still common within the Reformed Church. A typical example of this type of frank observation is that the preacher is called by God to win souls and therefore the mark of the Lord's approval of his preaching should be souls for his hire, with a few caveats he adds that if a ministry isn't seeing souls converted then perhaps this reflects on the ministerial call itself.

I was recently at the FP Young Conference and towards the end of the discussion after the lecture, the question was posed about what the church should be doing to attract more young people. The answer is the same to the question about what the church should be doing to attract old people and middle aged people, and parents and children. The method we must use to win souls is ‘preaching pure and simple’. It is a mistake to assume that a musical concert, or this or that type of activity will help to win souls – just as it is a mistake for any sinner to think that what he does or doesn’t do contributes to his/her salvation. The hard truth of salvation is that we don’t do it, we cant do it, we must trust on the one who can change our state. The simple truth about preaching is that it isn’t a very modern or attractive method, in the eyes of man, for the winning of souls – but that is the beauty of it. The simple truth about preaching is that it is by the ‘foolishness’ of preaching that souls are saved – resting in preaching is often just as hard for the sinner to do as resting in Christ. Yet, with all this being said, it is important not to handicap preaching by putting additional man made obstacles and hindrances in the way of what is being said. I think it is vital that there is greater frankness from hearers and self reflection on what has been done with those preparing for the ministry, and those in the ministry, about their habits of delivery and the effectiveness of their presentation.

The first chapter of the book deals with ‘what is it to win a soul’ and comes out strongly against a particular technique or method in favour of the simple act of instructing a man so that he may know the truth of God, developing this with the need to impress the other person with the truth so that it is felt.  The second chapter is about the qualifications for soul-winning and deals with the personality and inward characteristics of a minister. The third chapter also looks at the qualifications for soul-winning but focuses on the external qualities, encouraging a trained ministry, the need for earnestness in the pulpit, a lack of selfishness and the importance of a seriousness in tackling matters while at the same time having these traits tempered with tenderness. The fourth chapter looks at sermons likely to win souls alongside a range of pithy sets of advice he also encourages ministers to regularly preach a simple direct evangelical sermon. His advice develops throughout the book over a range of topics, including the need for ministers to make use of those in their congregations both as means of drawing in their friends and in speaking to a variety of people within the congregation and following a sermon.

He encourages all that are downcast in the task with a whole chapter on soul-winners reward. Reminding us of the joy in heaven amongst the angels over one sinner that repenteth.

The whole book is full of down to earth advice and straight forward examples. It ranges with its advice and anecdotes being drawn from an array of evangelicals with many stories that will stick in your mind. This is a book that is easy to read and one that deserves your attention.