Originally preached by Spurgeon as the second part of a sermon (the first part, "Christ Lifted Up", appeared in last month's issue of Disciple) in 1857. Edited slightly for modern spellings.
"And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me" (John 12: 32).
If Christ be faithfully preached, thus fully held forth, thus simply proclaimed to the people, the effect will be that He will draw all men unto Him.
1) Christ draws as a trumpet. Men have been wont to sound a trumpet to attract an audience to the reading of a proclamation. The people come from their houses at the well-known sound, to listen to what they are desired to know. Now, my brethren, part of the attractive power of the Gospel lies in the attracting people to hear it. You cannot expect people to be blessed by the preaching of the Gospel if they do not hear it. One part of the battle is to get them to listen to its sound. Now, the question is asked in these times, "How are we to get the working-classes to listen to the Word?" The answer is, Christ is His own attraction, Christ is the only trumpet that you want to trumpet Christ. Preach the Gospel, and the congregation will come of themselves. The only infallible way of getting a good congregation, is to do this.
"Oh!" said a Socinian once, to a good Christian minister, "I cannot make it out; my chapel is always empty, and yours always crammed full. And yet I am sure mine is the more rational doctrine, and you are not by any means so talented a preacher as I am."
"Well," said the other, "I will tell you the reason why your chapel is empty, and mine full. The people have a conscience, and that conscience tells them that what I preach is true, and that what you preach is false, so they will not hear you."
You shall look through the history of this realm ever since the commencement of the days of Protestantism, and I will dare to say it without fear of contradiction, that you will almost in every case find that the men who have attracted the greatest mass of people to hear them, have been men who were the most evangelical-who preached the most about Christ and him crucified. What was there in Whitefield to attract an audience, except the simple Gospel preached with a vehement oratory that carried everything before it? Oh, it was not his oratory, but the Gospel that drew the people. There is a something about the truth that always makes it popular. For tell me that if a man preaches the truth his chapel will be empty. Sir, I defy you to prove that. Christ preached His own truth, and the common people heard Him gladly, and the multitude flocked to listen to Him.
My good ministering brother, have you got an empty church? Do you want to fill it? I will give you a good list, and if you will follow it, you will, in all probability, have your chapel full to the doors. Burn all your manuscripts; that is number 1. Give up your notes; that is number 2. Read your Bible and preach it as you find it in the simplicity of its language. And give up all your Latinised English. Begin to tell the people what you have felt in your own heart, and beseech the Holy Spirit to make your heart as hot as a furnace for zeal. Then go out and talk to the people. Speak to them like their brother. Be a man amongst men. Tell them what you have felt and what you know, and tell it heartily with a good, bold face, and, my dear friend, I do not care who you are, you will get a congregation.
2) Christ acts as a net to draw men unto him. The Gospel ministry is, in God's Word, compared to a fishery, God's ministers are the fishermen, they go to catch souls, as fishermen go to catch fish. How shall souls be caught? They shall be caught by preaching Christ. Just preach a sermon that is full of Christ, and throw it unto your congregation, as you throw a net into the sea-you need not look where they are, nor try to fit your sermon to different cases, but, throw it in, and as sure as God's Word is what it is, it shall not return to Him void, it shall accomplish that which He pleases, and prosper in the thing whereto He hath sent it.
The Gospel never was unsuccessful yet, when it was preached with the demonstration of the Spirit and of power. It is not fine orations upon the death of princes, or the movements of politics which will save souls. If we wish to have sinners saved and to have our churches increased; if we desire the spread of God's kingdom, the only thing whereby we can hope to accomplish the end, is the lifting up of Christ; for, "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me."
3) Christ Jesus draws as the cords of love.After men are saved, they are still apt to go astray, it needs a cord to reach all the way from a sinner to heaven, and it needs to have a hand pulling at him all the way. Now, Christ Jesus is the band of love that draws the saint to heaven. Oh child of God, you would go astray again if Jesus did not hold you fast, if He did not draw you to Himself you would still wander.
Christian people are like our earth. Our world hastwo forces, it has one tendency to run off at a tangent from its orbit, but the sun draws it by a centripetal power and attracts it to itself, and so between the two forces it is kept in a perpetual circle. Oh! Christian, you will never walk rightly, and keep in the orbit of truth, if it be not for the influence of Christ perpetually attracting you to the centre. You feel, and if you do not feel always, it is still there-you feel an attraction between your heart and Christ, and Christ is perpetually drawing you to Himself, to His likeness, to His character, to His love, to His bosom, and in that way you are kept from your natural tendency to fly off and to be lost in the wide fields of sin. Bless God, that Christ, lifted up, draws all His people unto Him in that fashion.
4) Christ Jesus is the center of attraction, even as a standard is the center of gathering. We want unity in these days; we are now crying out, "away with sectarianism." Oh, for unity! There are some of us who truly pant after it. We do not talk about an evangelical alliance; alliances are made between men of different countries. We believe that the phrase "Evangelical Alliance" is a faulty one-it should be "Evangelical Union"-knit together in union with Christ. Why! I am not in alliance with a brother of the Church ofEngland; I would not be in alliance with him if he were ever so good a man! I would be in union with him, I would love him with all my heart, but I would not make a mere alliance with him. He never was mine enemy, he never shall be; and, therefore, it is not an alliance I want with him, it is a union. And so with all God's people, they do not care about alliances; they love real union and communion one with another.
The only standard of union that can ever be lifted up is the cross of Christ. As soon as we shall begin to preach Christ and Him crucified, we shall be all one. We can fight anywhere except at the foot of the cross-there it is that the order goes forth, "sheath swords"; and those that were bitter combatants before, come and prostrate themselves there, and say, "You dear Redeemer, You have melted us into one." Oh! My brethren, let us all preach the Gospel mightily, and there will be union. Let all of us begin to preach the Gospel, and we shall soon see that the Gospel is self-supporting; and that the Gospel does not want entrenchments of bigotry and narrow-mindedness, in order to make it stand.
No, we shall say, "Brother, there is my pulpit for you. You are an Episcopalian; preach in my pulpit, you are right welcome to it." The Episcopalian will say, "You are a Baptist, and my brother, there is the parish church for you." And I just announce that the first chance I get to preach in a parish church, I will do it, and risk the consequence. By what law of Christian love is one denomination to shut its pulpit doors against every other? Many of my dear friends in the Episcopal Church are willing to lend their edifices, but they dare not. But mark you, when the Gospel is preached fully, all those things will be broken down. For one brother will say, "My dear friend, you preach Christ and so do I, I cannot shut you out of my pulpit." And another will cry, "I am anxious for the salvation of souls, and so are you, come into my house, come into my heart, I love you."
The only means of unity we shall ever get will be all of us preaching Christ crucified; when that is done, when every minister's heart is in the right place, full of anxiety for souls-when every minister feels that, be he called bishop, presbyter, or preacher-all he wants to do is to glorify God and win souls to Jesus, then we can maintain our denominational distinctions, but the great bugbear of bigotry and division will have ceased and schism will no more be known. For that day I anxiously pray; may God send it in His own time.
And now I close by noticing the last sweet thought-"I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me." Then Christ Jesus will draw all His people to heaven; He says He will draw them unto Himself. He is in heaven; then Christ is the chariot in which souls are drawn to heaven. The people of the Lord are on their way to heaven, they are carried in everlasting arms, and those arms are the arms of Christ. Christ is carrying them up to His own house, to His own throne, by-and-by His prayer, "Father, I will that they, whom you have given me, be with me where I am," shall be wholly fulfilled. And it is fulfilling now, for He is like a strong courser drawing His children in the chariot of the covenant of grace unto Him.
Oh! Blessed be God! The cross is the plank on which we swim to heaven, the cross is the great covenant transport which will weather out the storms, and reach its desired heaven. Now, poor sinner, I would to God Christ would pardon you, remember His death on Calvary, remember His agonies and bloody sweat-all this He did for you; if you feel yourself to be a sinner. Does not this draw you to Him? You have rebelled against Him, and revolted, but He says, "Return, backsliding children." Will not His love draw you? I pray that both may have their power and influence, that you may be drawn to Christ now, and at last be drawn to heaven.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892), "the Prince of Preachers," was a renowned pastor and author who served as pastor of London's Metropolitan Tabernacle for 38 years. His works are still widely read today.