As soon as Zion was in labor
she brought forth her children.  Isaiah 66:8

“If any minister can be satisfied without conversions, he shall have no conversions.  God will not force usefulness on any man.  It is only when our heart breaks to see men saved, that we shall be likely to see sinners’ hearts broken.  The secret of success lies in all-consuming zeal, all-subduing travail for souls.  Read the sermons of Wesley and of Whitfield, and what is there in them?  It is no severe criticism to say that they are scarcely worthy to have survived.  And yet those sermons wrought marvels. . . .

In order to understand such preaching, you need to see and hear the man, you want his tearful eye, his glowing countenance, his pleading tone, his bursting heart.  I have heard of a great preacher who objected to having his sermons printed, ‘Because,’ said he, ‘you cannot print me.’  That observation is very much to the point.  A soul-winner throws himself into what he says.  As I have sometimes said, we must ram ourselves into our cannons, we must fire ourselves at our hearers, and when we do this, then, by God’s grace, their hearts are often carried by storm.”

C. H. Spurgeon, “Travailing for Souls,” 3 September 1871.  Italics original.

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6 thoughts on “Travailing for souls”

  1. Amen! Body language speaks volumes, and the Holy Spirit can use the countenance, demeanor and expression of one offered as a living sacrifice to touch hearts by showing that the words spoken are true and heartfelt.

  2. Steve says:

    I both loved and was convicted by this quote from Spurgeon. Thanks for sharing it.

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Ray Ortlund


Ray Ortlund is senior pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and serves as a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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