There is no doubt that of all the doctrines of Calvinism, the so-called limited atonement is the most misunderstood and controversial. Sadly, many interpret this as indicating that salvation itself is “limited” and that few will be saved. Spurgeon clearly didn’t think so as this extract from one of his sermons will show. Incidentally, this is preaching as it ought to be! My Spurgeon Challenge remains open, but at least this shows Spurgeon speaking about something similar to the sentiments I half-remember.
“And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west,
and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the
kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast
out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of
teeth” Matthew 8:11, 12.
“. . . my text hath a yet greater depth of sweetness, for it says that “many shall come and shall sit down.” Some narrow-minded bigots think that heaven will be a very small place, where there will be a very few people, who went to their chapel or their church. I confess, I have no wish for a very small heaven, and love to read in the Scriptures that there are many mansions in my Father’s house. How often do I hear people say, “Ah! strait is the gate and narrow is the way, and few there be that find it. There will be very few in heaven; there will be most lost.”
My friend I differ from you. Do you think that Christ will let the devil beat him? that he will let the devil have more in hell than there will be in heaven? No: it is impossible. For then Satan would laugh at Christ. There will be more in heaven than there are among the lost. God says, that “there will be a number that no man can number who will be saved;” but he never says that there will be a number that no man can number that will be lost. There will be a host beyond all count who will get into heaven.
What glad tidings for you and for me! For if there are so many to be saved why should not I be saved? Why should not you? Why should not yon man, over there in the crowd, say, “Cannot I be one among the multitude?” And may not that poor woman there take heart, and say, “Well, if there were but half-a-dozen saved, I might fear that I should not be one; but since many are to come, why should not I also be saved?” Cheer up, disconsolate! Cheer up, son of mourning, child of sorrow, there is hope for thee still! I can never know that any man is past God’s grace.
There be a few that have sinned that sin that is unto death and God gives them up, but the vast host of mankind are yet within the reach of sovereign mercy—”And many of them shall come from the east, and from the west, and shall sit down in the kingdom of heaven.”
Look at my text again, and you will see where these people come from. They are to “come from the east and west.” The Jews said that they would all come from Palestine, every one of them, every man, woman, and child; that there would not be one in heaven that was not a Jew. And the Pharisees thought that if they were not all Pharisees they could not be saved. But Jesus Christ said there will be many that will come from the east and from the west. There will be a multitude from that far off land of China, for God is doing a great work there, and we hope that the gospel will yet be victorious in that land. There will be a multitude from this western land of England; from the western country beyond the sea, in America; and from the south, in Australia; and from the north, in Canada, Siberia, and Russia. From the uttermost parts of the earth there shall come many to sit down in the kingdom of God . . .
There is one more word I must notice before I have done with this sweet portion—that is the word “shall.” Oh! I love God’s “shalls” and “wills.” There is nothing comparable to them. Let a man say “shall,” what is it good for? “I will,” says man, and he never performs; “I shall,” says he and he breaks his promise. But it is never so with God’s “shalls.” If he says, “shall,” it shall be, when he says, “will,” it will be.
Now he has said here, “many shall come.” The devil says, “they shall not come “but “they shall come.” Their sins say, “you can’t come;” God says, you “shall come.” You, yourselves, say, “we won’t come;” God says, “you shall come.” Yes! there are some here who are laughing at salvation, who can scoff at Christ, and mock at the gospel; but I tell you some of you shall come yet. “What!” you say, “can God make me become a Christian?” I tell you yes, for here in rests the power of the gospel. It does not ask your consent, but it gets it. It does not say will you have it, but it makes you willing in the day of God’s power. Not against your will, but it makes you willing. It shows you its value—and then you fall in love with it, and straightway you run after it and have it.
Many people have said. “we will not have anything to do with religion,” yet they have been converted. I have heard of a man who once went to chapel to hear the singing, and as soon as the minister began to preach, he put his fingers in his ears and would not listen. But by-and-bye some tiny insect settled on his face, so that he was obliged to take one finger out of his ear to brush it away. Just then the minister said, “he that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”
The man listened; and God met with him at that moment to his soul’s conversion. He went out a new man, a changed character. He who came in to laugh retired to pray; he who came in to mock went out to bend his knee in penitence: he who entered to spend an idle hour went home to spend an hour in devotion with his God. The sinner became a saint; the profligate became a penitent. Who knows that there may not be some like that here? The gospel wants not your consent, it gets it. It knocks the enmity out of your heart. You say “I do not want to be saved;” Christ says you shall be. He makes your will turn round, and then you cry, “Lord, save, or I perish.”
Ah, might heaven exclaim, “I knew I would make you say that;” and then he rejoices over you because he has changed your will and made you willing in the day of his power. If Jesus Christ were to stand on this platform to-night, what would many people do with him? “O!” say some, “we would make him a King.” I do not believe it. They would crucify him again if they had the opportunity. If he were to come and say, “Here I am, I love you, will you be saved by me?” Not one of you would consent if you were left to your will. If he should look upon you with those eyes, before whose power the lion would have crouched, if he spoke with that voice which poured forth a cataract of eloquence like a stream of nectar rolling down from the cliffs above, not a single person would come to be his disciple; no, it wants the power of the Spirit to make men come to Jesus Christ.
He himself said, “No man c
an come to me except the Father who hath sent me draw him.” Ah! we want that; and here we have it. They shall come! They shall come! ye may laugh, ye may despise us; but Jesus Christ shall not die for nothing. If some of you reject him there are some that will not. If there are some that are not saved, others shall be. Christ shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hands. Some think that Christ died and yet that some for whom he died will be lost. I never could understand that doctrine. If Jesus my surety bore my griefs and carried my borrows, I believe myself to be as secure as the angels in heaven. God cannot ask payment twice. If Christ paid my debt shall I have to pay it again? No.
“Free from sin I walk at large,
The Savior’s blood’s my full discharge;
At his dear feet content I lay,
A sinner saved, and homage pay.”
They shall come! They shall come! And nought in heaven, nor on earth, nor in hell, can stop them from coming.
And now, thou chief of sinners, list one moment while I call thee to Jesus. There is one person here to-night who thinks himself the worst soul that ever lived. There is one who says to himself, “I do not deserve to be called to Christ I am sure!” Soul! I call thee! thou lost, most wretched outcast, this night, by authority given me of God, I call thee to come to my Savior.
Some time ago, when I went into the County Court to see what they were doing, I heard a man’s name called out, and immediately the man said, “Make way! make way! they call me!” And up he came. Now, I call the chief of sinners to-night, and let him say, “Make way! make way doubts! make way fearer make way sins! Christ calls me! And if Christ calls me,
that is enough!”
“I’ll to his gracious feet approach,
Whose scepter mercy gives;
Perhaps he may command my touch!”
And then the suppliant lives.
“I can but perish if I go;
I am resolved to try
For if I stay away, I know
I must for ever die.
But, should I die with mercy sought,
When I the King have tried,
That were to die, (delightful thought!)
As sinner never died.”
Go and try my Savior! Go and try my Savior! If he casts you away after you have sought him, tell it in the pit that Christ would not hear you. But that you shall never be allowed to do. It would dishonor the mercy of the covenant, for God to cast away one penitent sinner; and it never shall be while it is written ‘many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.'”
Spurgeon’s Sermon Number 39