Charles Spurgeon’s Public Evangelism (Part Two)

Charles Spurgeon’s Public Evangelism (Part Two)

This article is Part 2 in a series, you can read Part 1 here.

In the last post, we considered Charles Spurgeon’s public evangelism in terms of his support and practice of open-air preaching. In this post, we will consider the other means that Spurgeon used to wield the sword of the Spirit and the gospel of salvation in the public square.

Personal Evangelism

First, Spurgeon wholeheartedly believed that sinners must be sought on a personal, one-to-one basis. In many cases, open-air preaching, and personal evangelism work in harmony together when the local church goes on mission in the public square. Spurgeon writes:

True-hearted open-air preachers will be sure to join with their preaching very much earnest private talk … Every open-air preacher should not only address the hundreds, but he should be ready to pounce upon the ones, and he should have others with him who have the same happy art. How much more good would come of preaching in the streets if every open-air preacher were accompanied by a batch of persons who would drive his nails home for him by personal conversation.[1]

Though open-air preaching can reach the masses, personal evangelism can reach the individual directly and personally: “One advantage of dealing personally with souls is, that it is not so easy for them to turn aside the message as when they are spoken to in the mass.”[2] Again, Spurgeon emphasized that “many precious souls have been brought to Christ by the loving personal exhortations of Christian people who have learned this holy art! It is wonderful how God blesses very little efforts to serve him.”[3]

Now, one may ask, did Spurgeon actually take the time to practice this “holy art” in the public square? Indeed, he did! In his autobiography, Spurgeon told of a time when he met a man on a boat. After conversing with this man for some time, Spurgeon was burdened for this man’s soul. This lost sinner was confronted with the reality of death in his own life. Prior to their encounter, this poor man lost more than thirteen children due to the cholera outbreak. Knowing this man’s greatest need, Spurgeon proceeded to ask him if he would be going to heaven or hell once he died. Sadly, the man told Spurgeon that he had no hope for life or death. Commenting on the man’s response, Spurgeon writes, “then I told him, as plainly as I could, how the Lord Jesus Christ had taken the place of sinners, and how those who trusted in him, and rested in his blood and righteousness, would find pardon and peace.”[4]

After pointing this man to Jesus Christ, Spurgeon concluded with the following statement: “I cannot say what was the final result of our conversation, but I had the satisfaction of knowing that I had at least set before him God’s way of salvation in language that he could easily understand.”[5] From Spurgeon’s example, we must learn that every conversation with sinners in an opportunity to point them to Jesus Christ.

Tract and Literature Distribution

Second, where open-air preaching or personal conversations were not available, Spurgeon saw gospel tracts as a helpful tool in the hands of an evangelist. Spurgeon loved to distribute gospel tracts:

The very first service which my youthful heart rendered to Christ was the placing of tracts in envelopes, and then sealing them up, that I might send them … And I well remember taking other tracts, and distributing them in certain districts in the town of Newmarket, going from house to house … I used to write texts on little scraps of paper, and drop them anywhere, that some poor creatures might pick them up, and receive them as a message of mercy to their souls.[6]

Spurgeon’s high view of the sovereignty of God encouraged him in these evangelistic labours. Due to his Calvinistic theology, Spurgeon had great confidence that God may use a tract to save the lost. As a result, he earnestly sought to distribute as many tracts as possible, knowing that the Lord could use this literature for the advancement of the gospel.

A gospel tract is a helpful tool in the evangelist’s pocket. Spurgeon urged his hearers to always carry gospel tracts on them: “If I walked along the street, I must have a few tracts with me; if I went into a railway carriage, I must drop a tact out of the window; if I were in company, I must turn the subject of conversation to Christ, that I might serve my Master.”[7] In other words, “when preaching and private talk are not available, you have a tract ready, and this is often an effectual method. A telling, touching gospel tract may often be the seed of eternal life. Do not go out without your tracts.”[8]

Additionally, Spurgeon wrote evangelistic letters to the unconverted, urging them to come to Christ: “There is also power in a letter to an individual … When they get a sincere letter from a respected person such as yourself, they think a great deal of it. And who knows? Perhaps, a note received by post can hit the man your sermon missed.”[9] It is important to note that Spurgeon viewed a gospel tract or letter as a means for further follow up with an individual. It should not be viewed as an exclusive action. Rather, it should be a bridge for further conversation. Spurgeon writes, “I suppose, besides giving a tract, if you can, you try and find out where a person lives who frequently hears you, that you may give him a call. What a fine thing is a visit from an open-air preacher!”[10]

To conclude, after seeing Spurgeon’s Public Evangelism in these first two posts, namely, his open-air preaching, personal evangelism, and tract distribution, we will consider in the next post how Spurgeon trained evangelists in his local church. In the meantime, may we take heed to Spurgeon’s exhortation and do everything we can to seek the lost:

“Get on your feet; ye that have voices and knowledge, go forth and preach the gospel, preach it in every street and lane of this huge city … Let every one of us who knows the Lord seek to fight under his banner!”[11]

                  [1] C. H. Spurgeon, The Soul Winner: Advice on Effective Evangelism (1992; repr., Ross-shire, Great Britain: Christian Focus, 2015), 141.

            [2] Ibid., 377.

            [3] Spurgeon, Autobiography: The Early Years, 373.

                  [4] Ibid., 375.

                  [5] Ibid.

                  [6] Ibid., 156.

            [7] Ibid., 156.

                  [8] Spurgeon, The Soul Winner, 142.

            [9] Ibid., 142.

            [10] Ibid., 142.

                  [11] Spurgeon, Autobiography: The Early Years, 154.

Joshua Mills is a graduate of Toronto Baptist Seminary (M. Div.) and has the privilege of serving as pastor at Trinity Baptist Church (Burlington, Ontario). Joshua is married to his beloved Kyla and they have two children: Isaac and Lydia.
Get Founders
in Your Inbox
A weekly brief of our new teaching resources.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Teaching BY TYPE
Teaching BY Author
Founders Podcasts