I am reading Iain Murray’s book, The Forgotten Spurgeon and found two quotes very telling about the nature of pastoral ministry. Spurgeon in today’s church would have been considered very successful. He had a large church and an extensive writing ministry, yet he understood the nature of gospel ministry. He noted,
Long ago I ceased to count heads. Truth is usually in the minority in this evil world. I have faith in the Lord Jesus for myself, a faith burned into me as with a hot iron. I thank God, what I believe I shall believe, even if I believe it alone (p. 138).
Spurgeon could have such an attitude about numbers and ministry because he believed that the salvation of sinners was rooted in the sovereign will of God and not human ability. It was a work of God.
The second quote is longer but it really supports the first one. Spurgeon was preaching a sermon on John 6 and Christ’s teaching about the role of God’s sovereignty in salvation. When Christ was finished Spurgeon noted how in 6:66 the text reads, “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.” Spurgeon declared,
The defection in this case was because of doctrine … They would believe as far as they could understand, but when they could not comprehend they turned on their heel and left the school of the Great Teacher. Besides, the Lord Jesus Christ had taught the doctrine of the sovereignty of God, and the need of the Spirit of God, that man should be led to him, ‘For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and they who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him by my father.’ Here our Lord uttered a bit of old-fashioned free-grace doctrine, such as people nowadays do not like. They call it ‘Calvinism’, and put it aside among the old exploded tenets which this enlightened age knows nothing of. What right they have to ascribe to the Genevian reformer a doctrine as old as the hills I do not know. But our Lord Jesus never hesitated to fling that truth into the face of His enemies. He told them, ‘Ye believe not because ye are not my sheep, as I said unto you.’ ‘No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.’ Here he tells them plainly that they could not come to Him unless the Father gave them the grace to come. This humbling doctrine they could not receive, and so they went aside (p. 166).
Why could Spurgeon have such a liberating attitude about numbers? Because he knew that salvation is God’s work, and when he saves them, he adds them to the church. This is a great encouragement to pastors who labor faithfully in proclaiming God’s word in a lost world.