Taken from Charles Spurgeon’s sermon No. 201, “Delivered on Sabbath morning, June 20, 1858, at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens,” and based on Acts 10:44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.
Supporting the argument of the “absolute necessity of the Spirit’s work in order to conversion,” he writes:
“It is quite certain that men cannot be converted by physical means. The Church of Rome thought that she could convert men by means of armies; so she invaded countries, and threatened them with war and bloodshed unless they would repent and embrace her religion. However, it availed but little, and men were prepared to die rather than leave their faith. She therefore tried those beautiful things–stakes, racks, dungeons, axes, swords, fire; and by these things she hoped to convert men. You have heard of the man who tried to wind up his watch with a pick-axe. That man was extremely wise, compared with the man who thought to touch mind through matter.”
“Nor, again, can man be converted by moral argument. ‘Well’ says one, ‘I think he may. Let a minister preach earnestly, and he may persuade men to be converted.’ Ah! beloved, it is for want of knowing better that you say so. Melanchthon thought so, but you know what he said after he tried it — ‘Old Adam is too strong for young Melanchthon.’ So will every preacher find it, if he thinks his arguments can ever convert man. Let me give you a parallel case. Where is the logic that can persuade an Ethiopian to change his skin? By what argument can you induce a leopard to renounce his spots? Even so may he that is accustomed to do evil, learn to do well… If sin were a thing ab extra and external, we could induce man to change it. For instance, you may induce a man to leave off drunkenness or swearing, because those things are not a part of his nature–he has added that vice to his original depravity. But the hidden evil at the heart is beyond all moralsuasion. I dare say a man might have enough argument to induce him to hang himself, but I am certain no argument will ever induce him to hang his sins, to hang his self-righteousness, and to come and humble himself at the foot of the cross; for the religion of Christ is so contrary to all the propensities of man, that it is like swimming against the stream to approach it, for the stream of man’s will and man’s desire is exactly the opposite of the religion of Jesus Christ.”
“But again, if you will just think a minute what the work is, you soon see that none but God can accomplish it. In the Holy Scripture, conversion is often spoken of as being a new creation. If you talk about creating yourselves, I should feel obliged if you would create a fly first. Create a gnat; create a grain of sand; and when you have created that, you may talk about creating a new heart. Both are alike impossible, for creation is the work of God.”
“And there is yet one more consideration, and I shall have concluded this point. Beloved, even if man could save himself, I would have you recollect how averse he is to it. If we could make our hearers all willing, the battle would be accomplished. ‘Well,’ says one, ‘If I am willing to be saved, can I not be saved?’ Assuredly you can, but the difficulty is, we cannot bring men to be willing. That shows, therefore, that there must be a constraint put upon their will. There must be an influence exerted upon them, which they have not in themselves, in order to make them willing in the day of God’s power. And this is the glory of the Christian religion. The Christian religion has within its own bowels [insides] power to spread itself. We do not ask you to be willing first. We come and tell you the news, and we believe that the Spirit of God, working with us, will make you willing. If the progress of the Christian religion depended upon the voluntary assent of mankind, it would never go an inch further. But because the Christian religion has within an omnipotent influence, constraining men to believe it, it is therefore that it is, and must be, triumphant, ‘ till like a sea of glory it spreads from shore to shore.'”