Bringing Sinners to the Savior

August 22nd 1880
C. H. Spurgeon

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“A man in the crowd answered, ‘Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.’ ‘O unbelieving generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.’ So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.” [Mark 9:17-20]

I do not intend to speak much on the whole of this text as to use the latter part of it as a sort of motto for an appeal to Christian people to be diligent in the service of their Lord. If we wish to do good to our fellowman, the best thing that we can do for them is to bring them to the Lord Jesus Christ. At the feet of Jesus we ourselves obtained salvation if we are saved; we never had any true peace of heart until we came to Christ, and we never would have had any if we had remained apart from him. The great Physician, who healed the sickness of our soul, was Christ Jesus the Lord; and if we are to be the means of blessing to men and women, we must recommend to them the Physician whom we have proved to be so very useful to ourselves. They cannot be blessed, any more than we could be, until they are brought to Jesus.

When any of us desires to be of service to others, it is good for us to learn the best way of setting about our task; for if we do not know how to go to work, all our sincerity may be expended on that which is useless; but when we understand how to approach our task, and concentrate all our powers on wise and proper efforts, then are we likely to succeed.

To my mind, the first thing that we have to strive after, in the name of God, and by the help of the Holy Spirit, is to bring men and women to Jesus Christ; and God forbid that we should ever lift even a finger to point them anywhere else for salvation.

Each true believer, as well as every Christian minister, should say, -

“‘Tis all my business here below
To cry, ‘Behold the Lamb!’”

We are to point sinners to Jesus - all the while looking at him ourselves, and praying that they also may look to him, and live.

I think I hardly need to remind you that every Christian is obligated to give himself to the blessed work of bringing sinners to the Savior. Common love for humanity should lead us to attempt this task. Is it necessary for me to tell you to love your fellowmen, and seek their good? Why, even they who have no Christianity are often very generous, and humane, and kind. Some persons whose religious opinions are full of error, have, nevertheless, manifested great tenderness and sympathy towards the sick, and the suffering, and the poor; and they have set a noble example of what others might do for the needy. Much more, then, must the followers of the loving Christ, have tender, sympathetic hearts, and anxiously desire to do the most they can for their fellowmen. I shall take it for granted, my dear friends, that you, who are members of this church, or of any other true Christian church, are desirous to be the means of blessing to those who are around you, and that you also believe that the surest way to bless them is to bring them to Christ.


In the 17th verse, we read that the demonically possessed youth was, in a sense, brought to Christ by his father.

“Teacher,” said the father, “I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech.” He had a vague idea how to set to work, for when the Lord Jesus was away on the mountain of Transfiguration, he brought his son to the disciples. They could not cast out the demon, yet it was a right thing, on the part of the father, to bring his child to them; it showed a loving spirit, and a desire to see him cured. I am afraid there are some fathers, who even call themselves Christians, who have not yet done as much for their sons and daughters as that father did for his boy, for they have not asked for the sympathy and help of Christian people on behalf of their own children. I am utterly ashamed of some who profess to be Christians who say that they really must leave that matter to their children. I have heard of one man who said that he did not like to prejudice his boy, so he would not say anything to him about religion. The devil, however, was quite willing to prejudice the lad, so very early in life he learned to swear, although his father had a foolish and wicked objection to teaching him to pray. If you ever feel it incumbent upon you not to prejudice a piece of ground by sowing good seed in it, you may rest assured that the weeds will not imitate your impartiality, but they will take possession of the land in a very sad and shocking manner. Where the plow does not go, and the seed is not sown, the weeds are quite sure to multiply; and if children are left untutored and untrained, all sorts of evils will spring up in their hearts and lives.

If a parent, who professes to be a Christian, has not even put his children under godly instruction, what shall I say of him? He must be a Christian watered down to a very low point, or beaten out to extreme thinness. There must be very little, if any, grace left in such a man as that. We have known wealthy Christian men send their boys to school where the whole influence was altogether against Christianity, or else utterly neutral. Girls have sometimes been sent abroad, to learn a foreign language in the midst of those who are steeped in gross error; and it does not seem to have occurred to the parents that they ought first to have cared about the souls of their daughters. Oh, dear friends! are such people as these worthy to be called Christians at all; or do they merely wear the Christian label on the outside without having the grace of God in their hearts? Dear brother or sister, if you feel that you are not able to speak to your own children about their souls, as you wish you could, then follow the example of this man, and bring your dear ones to the disciples, that they may see what they can do for them in the Master’s name. Still, remember that there was a mistake in this father’s action, because, at first, he made the disciples the last stop of his journey instead of merely coming to them en route to Christ. We may make Christian men the way by which we try to get to Christ; but to stop at them, and not to bring the children to Christ himself, will be fatal to all our desire for the salvation of their souls.

This man did not see his child cured by the disciples, yet he persevered after his first failure.

“Teacher,” he said, “I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech... I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.” In effect, he said, “They have failed, so I have brought him to you.” So, if the Sunday-school teacher has not been able to lead your daughter to Christ - if the instruction in that Bible-class, to which she has gone for years, has not been the means of her conversion - if your son after having had the best Christian training, remains unsaved, then go right away to the great Master in your earnest prayers, and so bring your dear children to Christ.

I am not a believer in the theory that some hold - that children do not grow up in the fear of God if they have been trained in it. It is true that there have been many ministers’ sons who have been ungodly young men, I have had very sad proof of that fact; yet I fear that some of those ministers may have neglected their own families while they were preaching to others. It is very easy for a man - especially if his wife does not help him to train their children - very easy for him to neglect the affairs of his own family while he is continually busy about the work of the church; and thus they are not trained up in the way they should go. I wish that this evil was not so common as it is; but I do know that some have grown up ungodly because there was not suitable attention paid to them. The vineyard at home was neglected while other people’s vineyards were being kept.

If you have no family prayer, and your children do not grow up to be Christians, how can you expect that they will? If there is no altar in the house, is it right to call it God’s house at all? Wherever Abraham pitched his tent, he built an altar too; and that is the custom of all those who live near to God, they sanctify their dwellings with daily prayer and praise; but if that practice is neglected, and the father keeps his religion in the background, and does not let it be seen at home, then I am not surprised if his boys and girls grow up to say that there is nothing in it. It is a sad thing when children can say, “Father made a profession of being a Christian, but his life was not consistent with it. Mother also professed to be a Christian, but we never heard her speak of Christ. She never prayed with us, or, in our hearing, for us.” Where no influence is used, it is not probable that there can be any result.

I told you, the other night, of a dear brother who said, after I had exhorted the congregation to select somebody to pray for, that he had prayed for one person for twenty years, and that he is not converted yet. So I said to him, “Have you spoken to your friend personally about his soul? Have you made it your business to go down to his house, and tell him that you are concerned about him?” “No,” he replied, “I cannot say that I have done so.” “Well, then,” I asked, “do you expect God to hear prayers of that kind? Suppose I were to pray that there might be a good harvest in a particular field, and yet, for twenty years, I did not sow any corn there; the probability is that, when I did sow some, I would get my prayers answered, and gather in the harvest.” If we pray for anything, God expects us to use the proper means of obtaining it; and if we neglect the means, we have no right to expect him to believe in the sincerity of our prayer. If a father and mother pray for their children, but never pray with them, or speak to them personally about the welfare of their souls, then they must not wonder if they are not brought to Christ.

II. But, secondly, although parents should be the first persons to bring their children to Christ, WE MAY, EACH ONE OF US, HELP IN THIS BLESSED WORK.

Our text says, “They brought him;” that is, the disciples helped the father to bring this poor demon-possessed child to Jesus. In seeking to bring sinners to the Savior, we shall find that some are brought to him by almost unconscious influence.

I believe that, where a man is full of the grace of God, he is like a object that is charged with electricity; if he possesses true holiness, he will give some of it to others almost without knowing that he is doing so. I have met with many singular instances of that indirect way of doing good. Some three or four months ago, there was a working man, whose wife, being suddenly taken ill, needed a certain Christian woman to come and help her. The husband went to her house to try to find her. It was on Sunday evening, so she was where she ought to been at that time, at a church not many miles from here. The man knew that he must get this good woman to go to his wife, so he went to the church, and since he could not easily get to her, he waited for a few minutes, and listened to the preacher. He was interested in what he heard, so he went to that church again the next Sunday morning. Before long, he was brought to know the Lord, and now he has joined the church, and through his sincere and dedicated efforts is a great help to the minister. Well, now, if that good woman had not been a Christian, she might not have been in that church. If she had not been a regular attendant of the means of grace, she would not have been there, and the man would not have had to go to the place where he found a blessing to his soul.

I know of another case that may seem equally strange. A man and his wife recently moved to a certain street where nobody, to their knowledge, attended any place of worship. It is dreadful to think that, in London, you may go into street after street where a person, who goes to church, is quite an exception to the general rule; it is sad that it should be this way, but so it is. These two people regularly went to a place of worship, and it so happened there was living on the same street a man who, when he resided in the country, was a regular attendant to the means of grace; and, as these people went by his window, Sunday after Sunday, although they did not know him, and never said a word to him, and were even quite unconscious of their influence over him, they were preaching to him by their action, for it rebuked him, and he said to himself, “What would my mother think if she knew how I spend my Sundays? There are two good people, who are just like my father and mother at home, who, about this time, are going to church.” He got dressed for the evening service, found his way to the church, and soon became a Christian.

When you are doing anything that is right, you cannot know how much blessing you are scattering. Any man or woman, a master or a servant, may be used by God in bringing others to Jesus, simply by a happy, cheerful, kind, gentle behavior. You may not have the opportunity of saying much for Christ; perhaps it might not be proper in your position that you should do so; but those around you watch you, they note your friendly spirit, and they begin to like you. They observe your consideration for others, and they admire it; then they see your cheerfulness, and they wonder what is the secret of it. Possibly, you are ill, and someone comes to visit you; you are very patient, you even sing in the midst of your pain. Persons who see and hear you, and who note how you bear it all, say to themselves, “There is something within these people that we do not understand;” and thus you exercise an influence over them although you may have said very little to them. The fact that you are a Christian is one of the most practical and powerful means of bringing others to inquire what this religion is which elevates, sweetens, softens, and yet strengthens, and makes people to be clearly like their Father in heaven.

I remember hearing Mr. Jay, tell the story of a good girl, a servant, who attended his little independent evangelical church. Her master and mistress were very strict High Church-people, and when they found out that Jane went to the little independent church, they talked to her very roughly, and said that she must stop going there. She answered very gently, that she must go where her soul was being fed, and she could not meet their wishes in that matter, though she was willing to do so in everything else. “Very well, Jane,” they replied; “then you must take a month’s notice, for we cannot have any of these horrible “Evangelicals” living with us.” That evening, as the lady and gentleman sat talking together, one of them said, “She is really a good girl, don’t you think we are treating her very badly? Suppose she were to insist that we should go to her church with her, we would say that it was very wrong for her to dictate to us, so is it not wrong for us to try to dictate to her?” “She took it so gently, too,” said the other; “we would not have stood it as well as she did. Suppose we go and see what this Mr. Jay is like whom she goes to hear; for if he is a good man, she may as well go to that little independent church as to the “established church.” They went; and, in telling the story, Mr. Jay said, “they have continued to come and hear Mr. Jay up to the present time.” So, you see, that the servant had, by her consistent Christian character, brought her master and mistress around to her way of thinking, although they could not coerce her to theirs; and you can judge what influence you also may exert over others if you have the grace of God abounding in you. May God fill us full of it, that we may be the means of bringing many sinners to the Savior! Yet we must not be content with unconscious influence.

In many instances, much good has been done in bringing souls to Christ by casual seed-sowing.

Eternity alone will disclose the good results that have sometimes followed from the utterance of one short word. I trace all the light I have upon a certain subject to a remark made by the teacher in a school where I was many years ago; he was teaching geography, and he let drop a sentence, which I remember it to this very day, and it had an influence upon my whole career and character. I also remember a few gracious words that were spoken to me by a godly old woman, who used to talk to me about the power of divine grace. I rejoiced to get a grip of the grand old Calvinistic doctrine of election, very much through half a dozen sentences that fell from the lips of that poor, humble, Christian woman, whom it was my great happiness to help, in later years, when she was in poverty. I felt that I owed so much to her that I must do anything I could to comfort her. You will often prove that, as George Herbert says, -

“A verse may find him who a sermon flys right by,” -

and that a short sentence may strike and stick where a long sermon may completely fall flat. Give away a tract whenever you can; better still, give a little book that will not be torn up, one that has a cover on it, for you will probably see it on the table when you call again. Speak a word for the Master whenever it is possible; and offer a short prayer at every convenient opportunity. I think we should make it a rule, whenever we hear a foul or blasphemous word spoken, - (and, sadly! we constantly do so,) - always to pray for the person who utters it. Perhaps then the devil might find it expedient not to stir up people to swear, if he knew that it excited Christians to pray. Try it, at all events, and see whether it may not have a subtle power to stop the profanity, which is so terribly on the increase.

Over and above all this indirect witnessing, there ought to be direct effort, made by all Christians, for the conversion of those around them.

People should see what they could do by personally addressing other people. I have heard of one, an utter stranger to religion, who was brought to Christ through a gentleman tapping him on the shoulder, and saying to him, “Well, my brother, how does your soul prosper today?” The one, to whom he spoke, turned around, having never heard such a question before, and the other, as he saw his face, exclaimed, “I beg a thousand pardons; I thought you were my old friend So-and-so, who has been in the habit of putting that question to me.” It was a mistake, but it was a very blessed mistake, for the Spirit of God used it to the awakening of a conscience that was lying dormant; an honest conscience, which only needed to be aroused by some such startling question as that.

Dear friends, try to speak personally to some friends about their immortal souls. I know that it is not easy work for some of you to break the ice, and make a beginning in such service; but I can assure you that you will do it better and better the more often you attempt it.

Beside that, bring people to the means of grace definitely with a view to their conversion. Help me all you can in trying to preach to the people. Get any, in whom you are concerned, to come to church. A young man, who later became a most useful minister of Christ, had been entirely careless about divine things until a neighbor said to him, “I have reserved seat at the church where Mr. Spurgeon preaches; if you will come with me, you can use my seat.” The friend, who made that kind suggestion, stood, through all the service, where he could see the young man, and he was earnestly praying for him the whole time. The result of lending his seat, on that one occasion, was that the young man was brought to the Savior; he was soon a Sunday-school teacher, and, afterwards, as I told you, he became a most useful minister. Are there not more of you who might try that plan? I know that some of you have done this; then do it over and over again. Deny yourself of a Christian privilege for the sake of bringing others where the Lord will be likely to meet with them, especially if you back up the preacher’s word with your continual prayer on behalf of those whom you have brought to listen to his message.

Then, if you really want to bring souls to Christ, remember that there are the young to be taught. Just now, all our Sunday-schools are suffering for lack of teachers. O you, who would desire to receive rewards in heaven, seek them among the little ones! It is a happy task, however difficult it may be, so give yourselves to it with your whole heart and soul. Others of you, if you do not feel called to take a class of children, might sometimes speak words of warning to the grosser sinners with whom you come into contact, and words of encouragement to those who are seeking the Savior. There is many a poor sinner, floundering in the quagmire of despondency, who only wants someone to come and point out to him where the stepping-stones are, or to lend him a hand lest he should altogether sink under his crushing burden of guilt.

This I know, dear Christian friends; if you are not trying to bring sinners to the Savior, you are missing the chief purpose of your being, and you are also missing the most joyous work that can ever occupy your attention. Oh, if you bring a soul to Jesus, the joy of it is unspeakable! I have just remembered, at this moment, a little cottage in the country, in which lived the first person of whom I heard that I had been the means of bringing her to Jesus. I had only been a preacher for a short time, and I wanted some assurance to my effectiveness; and when the deacon of the little church of which I was the minister said to me, “There was a poor woman under great conviction, the other Sunday night; and I believe she has found the Savior,” I quickly left to visit her. Those of you who have had a similar experience can imagine the joy I had in hearing her tell the story. She went home to heaven years ago, perhaps the first of those who have gone to heaven, whom God has called by my ministry; but I was so glad, so happy, so delighted with my first convert that I say to you, “Please seek the same joy, if you yourself know the Lord.”

So that is my second point, that all of us, who are, believers in Christ, may bring others to him.


God, the Holy Spirit, of course does the whole work in the conversion of a soul, but he works by instrumentalities; and there are some desperate cases in which he does not work on a soul through one instrument alone, but he moves a number of persons to act together to that end. Our text says, “They brought him.” This poor youth was foaming at the mouth and gnashing with his teeth, and tearing himself just as you have seen persons do in an epileptic fit, so that it took several persons to hold him; together they grabbed him, and, with one desperate, united effort, they brought him to the feet of Jesus, and Jesus cast out the evil spirit, and healed the poor sufferer.

In this way, people and minister may unite in bringing sinners to the Savior.

There may be some persons, who come here, who will never be converted until you and I join in seeking their salvation. Somebody must preach, but other people must pray; and if a group of you should be praying about any one person in the congregation, I believe that it will not be long before that desperate sinner is delivered. The devil himself shall be defeated by the united prayers of many believers, especially if they are those mighty prayers of which our Savior spoke when he said, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” Yes, these type of conversions will take place when the praying souls hunger for the salvation of the suffering one, and in united prayer cry to God to effect it. We have had much happy union in Christian work, let us have more of it; say to one another, “While the pastor preaches, we will pray; no, more than that, we will continually remember him in our prayers, for we know that he needs them, and prizes them.” That is quite true, dear friends; for it is no small thing to minister, every Sunday, to this great company of people, and then, through the printed page, to address tens of thousands of readers, even to the utmost ends of the earth. Yes, I do indeed need your prayers and your help; give them to me, for then we may be sure that “they” - that is, all of us together, - shall bring many to Jesus.

Another form of cooperation is when there is a soul that has been prayed for, but no answer has come, so you call a few praying people to meet in your house, and you tell them the details of the case, and make a point of praying specially for that person. I have known instances in which brethren have collected a number of Christian friends, who, perhaps, never before met in one place; but they pledged themselves to pray about one particular case; and their united prayers have, with God’s blessing, accomplished what previously seemed to be impossible. It has been truly said that, if you have a very hard object, you can cut it with something harder; and if any heart is especially hard, God can use the hard, strong, persistent intensity of other mighty, passionate souls to pray the blessing of eternal life into that stubborn, rebellious heart. I would like to hear more frequently of friends banding themselves together, and meeting in their private houses to pray about somebody or other, making the person about whom they are interested the subject of special supplication; that would be the way to bring him to Jesus.

Then, add to that prayer, distinct united effort. Perhaps, if one friend should speak to that person, he may resent it. Then, if another should address him, he may receive it coolly. But when another speaks to him, he may begin to listen a little more attentively; and the next one may be able to put the key into the keyhole, and be the means, in the hand of God, of opening the closed door of that man’s heart. If God moves us to join in united effort for any soul, I do not believe that we shall often find it to be a failure. At any rate, if a man or woman will go down to hell, I would like that we would make it very difficult for them to get there; if they will not turn to Christ, I would that we were resolved that it should not be for lack of being prayed for, or for lack of being earnestly pleaded with. We will be innocent of their blood; we will shake off the very dust of our feet against those who are determine to remain unrepentant; and resolve that, to the utmost of our capacity, Christ will be lifted up, so that, if men and women reject him at all, they shall willfully reject him.

Oh, that my words might stir up all of you who profess to be Christians! We have nearly six thousand members in our church. Oh, if all were alive to God, and serious and intense in his service, - “all doing it, and always doing it,” - what would be impossible with God the Holy Spirit blessing our labors? But, sadly! there are many people here, like the camp-followers of an army, who do not fight when the battle comes on. Those who do the fighting are often hampered by these other people; and, sometimes, they almost feel as if they wanted to clear the ground of such loiterers and hinderers; but, instead of doing that, I beg all of you, dear friends, to wake up, and see what you can do for the Christ who has done so much for you. Let us all ask to be aroused again, and to be thoroughly stirred up in the service of the Savior. God grant that this great city and the surrounding areas may be permeated and saturated with your earnest endeavors to bring sinners to the Savior! The Lord bless you, for Christ’s sake! Amen.

Revised, Updated, and Added to Bible Bulletin Board's "Spurgeon Collection" by:

Tony Capoccia
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