Spurgeon on the Cost of Discipleship: Where the Rubber Hits the Road


On November 29, 1868, Charles Spurgeon preached a sermon on the subject of effectual calling by using the call of Abraham in Genesis 12 as his example.

The sermon is a gold-mine of advice for missionaries and evangelists who would call people to follow Christ. Here are a few nuggets:

 The life of the believer is as Abram’s was, a separated life, a life regulated by other affections than those which arise

from the relationships of flesh and blood, a life of walking in the unseen, in which God’s command,
presence, and approval are paramount considerations; it is a life in which faith guides the soul, sitting
like a pilot at the helm of the vessel. Abram denied the flesh, took up the cross, went outside the camp,
became sanctified unto the Lord, and lived and died the friend of God, and a stranger among men.

This call to Abram was a call for separation; the separation must have been exceedingly painful to
him, for it was so complete. “Get you out of your country”—expatriate yourself; be an alien, a stranger,
and a foreigner. “Get you out from your kindred”; let the ties of nature yield to the ties of divine grace;
form new relations, and yield to bonds that are not of the flesh. “Get you from your father’s house,”
from the place of comfort and rest, the place of heir-ship and affection; acknowledge another Father, and
seek another house. “Get you unto a land that I will show you,” which you could not find by yourself,
but which I must reveal to you. Observe, then, the effectual call, wherever it comes to a man, is a sepa-
rating sword, cutting him off from old associations; it makes him feel that this world is not his country;
he lives in it as a stranger lives in a foreign land; he is in the world, but he is not of it. The apostle says,”
Our citizenship is in heaven.” We become citizens of another city, and are aliens in these cities of earth;
for Christ’s sake the Christian is therefore obliged to be separated in many respects from such of his
family and kindred as remain in their sins. They are living according to the flesh; they are seeking this
world; their pleasure is here, their comfort below the skies; the man who is called by divine grace lives
in the same house, but lives not under the influence of the same motives, nor is he ailed by the same de-
sires. He is so different from others, that very soon they find him out, and as Ishmael mocked Isaac, so
the sons of the world mock the children of the resurrection.

 Many come out of Egypt, but never arrive at Canaan; like the children of Israel who
left their carcasses in the wilderness, their hearts are not sound towards the Lord; they start fairly, but the
taste of the garlic and the onions lingers in their mouth, and holds their minds by Egypt’s fleshpots. Like
the planets, they are affected by two impulses—one would draw them to heaven, but another would
drive them off at a tangent to the world, and so they revolve, like the mill-horse, without making pro-
gress. They continue to nominally fear the Lord, and yet to serve other gods practically and in their
hearts. Beware, dear friends, of the call which makes you set out, but does not lead you to hold out! Pray
that this text may be true to you, “They went forth to go into the land of Canaan, and to the land of Ca-
naan they came.”

Spurgeon concludes his sermon with words drawn from Pilgrim's Progress and they serve as good advice to missionaries and evangelists who would want to draw people to Christ, and not have them fall away.

But, ah, dear friends, how many there are who set out to go to Canaan, but unto Canaan they come
not! Some are stopped by the first depression of spirits that they meet with, and like Pliable they run
home with the mud of Despond on their boots! Others turn aside to self-righteousness; they follow the
directions of Mr. Worldly Wiseman, and resort to Doctor Legality, or Mr. Civility—and Sinai falls upon
them and crushes them! Some turn to the right hand with Hypocrisy, thinking that to pretend to be holy
will be as good as being so; others go on the left hand to Formality, imagining that sacraments and out-
ward rites will be as effectual as inward purity, and the work of the Spirit in their hearts. Many fall down
the silver mine where Demas broke his neck; hundreds get into Despair’s Castle, and leave their bones
there because they will not trust Christ, and so obtain eternal life. Some go far, apparently, but, like Ig-
norance, they never really go, and when they come to the river, they perish at the very last! Some, like
Turn-A way, become apostates, and are dragged away by the back door to hell after all their professions!
Some are frightened by the lions; some are tempted by By-Path Meadow; some would be saved, but they
must make a fortune; many would be saved, but they cannot bear to be laughed at. Some would trust
Christ, but they cannot endure His cross; many would wear the crown, but they cannot bear the labor by
which they must attain it. Ah, you sons of men, you will turn aside to Madame Wanton, and to Madame
Bubble; you will be bewitched with this, and that, and the other which ensures your destruction, but the
beauties of the glorious Savior, the lasting joys, the real happiness which He has to give, these are too
high for you! They are above you, and you reach not after them—or if you seek them for a while, the
dog returns to his vomit, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. The stone thrown up
mounts not to heaven, for the attraction of earth brings it back again. O that God would be pleased to
send divine grace into our hearts from His own Holy Spirit, that we too might set out in the spirit of hu-
mility, in confidence in Christ, in the power of the Spirit to the land of Canaan, and to the land of Ca-
naan may we truly come, and the Lord shall have the praise! Amen.

A question for reflection:

Is Spurgeon's call for separation realistic? If so, how would you work that into the message you proclaim and then into your discipleship programs? If not, why not? Can you think of messages and discipleship programs that tend in this direction?

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