Although Spurgeon doesn’t quite make this point in the extract below (from Pyromaniacs), the demand left hanging here is that – if men love generalities and acquiesce to them without really being touched by them – it not only becomes every one of us to look to our own selves, but it demands that every preacher preach to the individual. In a church with faithful preaching it is all too easy to commend oneself for hearing faithful preaching without ever (or rarely) making a proper response to faithful preaching, to rest satisfied with the fact that you have heard the truth without considering whether or not you have acted upon the truth. Part of this truth was brought home to me many moons ago when I read some Puritan exhorting me to “repent particularly of particular sins.” We must so preach as, under God, to secure this effect, to promote particular repentance, personal faith, particular joys, personal conviction, and we must ensure that both we who are pastors, and those to whom we preach, are not so allowing the Word to wash around us (rather than through us):
In religion men love far rather to believe abstract doctrines, and to talk of general truths, than the searching inquiries which examine their own personal interest in it. You will hear many men admire the preacher who deals in generalities, but when he comes to press home searching questions, by-and-by they are offended.
If we stand and declare general facts, such as the universal sinnership of mankind, or the need of a Saviour, they will give an assent to our doctrine, and possibly they may retire greatly delighted with the discourse, because it has not affected them; but how often will our audience gnash their teeth, and go away in a rage, because, like the Pharisees with Jesus, they perceive, concerning a faithful minister, that he spoke of them.
And yet, my brethren, how foolish this is. If in all other matters we like personalities—if in everything else we look to our own concerns, how much more should we do so in religion? for, surely, every man must give an account for himself, at the day of judgment. We must die alone; we must rise at the day of resurrection one by one, and each one for himself must appear before the bar of God; and each one must either have said to him, as an individual, “Come ye blessed;” or else, he must be appalled with the thundering sentence, “Depart, ye cursed.”
If there were such a thing as national salvation; if it could be possible that we could be saved in the gross and in the bulk, that so, like the sheaves of corn, the few weeds that may grow with the stubble, would be gathered in for the sake of the wheat, then, indeed, it might not be so foolish for us to neglect our own personal interests; but if the sheep must, every one of them, pass under the hand of him that telleth them, if every man must stand in his own person before God, to be tried for his own acts—by everything that is rational, by everything that conscience would dictate, and self-interest would command, let us each of us look to our own selves, that we be not deceived, and that we find not ourselves, at last, miserably cast away.