James Smith, 1860
It is the bounden duty of every believer to seek to save souls from eternal death. For this we should live. At this we should habitually aim. Our hearts should be set upon it, and all our talents should be employed with a view to it. But, alas! we are cold and careless — selfish and indifferent — and sinners all around us perish without any regarding it. It is not enough that we subscribe to Societies, that we help to support ministers; we should labor ourselves. We pay to support the fire brigade in the town — but whenever there is a fire, we run to render all the assistance we can personally. It is not enough that the engine, the fire-hose, and the fire-men are present; we help, and in every way endeavor to save property and life. Just so, though we have our Societies, our ministers, and other agencies, as sinners are perishing all around us, every Christian should lend his help. May the Lord help me to pen a few lines on this subject, which may stir some up to engage in this important work. Consider then,
1. WHAT sinners are.They are immortal beings, and must live forever. They are capable of enjoying the highest happiness — or of suffering the deepest misery. They are unfit for Heaven, and are traveling in the road to Hell. If saved at all, they must be saved now. It will soon be too late. They must glorify God's mercy in the highest Heavens — or endure his wrath in the lowest Hell.
2. WHO sinners are. They are our kindred, our family. Every sinner around me is my brother or sister, for we are all one man's sons. God made of one blood all nations to dwell upon the face of the earth. If, therefore, I am accessory to the ruin of a soul, I am accessory to the ruin of the soul of a brother or a sister; and if I can do this, where is my humanity, let alone my Christianity?
3. The DANGER sinners are in.And this danger cannot be exaggerated — it is so dreadful, so fearful, so imminent. They are in danger of falling into Hell, into that lake of fire, that place of wrath — where the worm never dies and the fire is never quenched. They are in danger of this every moment of their lives, and may plunge into it suddenly, without any notice. Yes, the lost sinner you have just spoken to, may be in Hell in two minutes — and if he should, and you never warned him of his danger, never tried to lead him to Jesus, how will you feel?
4. The MEANS by which sinners are saved.God works by means, and most generally by the living voice. Souls are saved by a word spoken in love; it may be a warning word, or a word of invitation, or a word about Jesus, or about Heaven, or about Hell.
Souls are saved by prayer. O how many have been led to seek salvation through hearing others pray for them!
Souls are saved by a simple address, delivered in dependence on the Lord, with a view to do them good.
Souls are saved by reading tracts, good books, or God's Word, presented to them. Let us therefore speak to sinners, to every sinner we can. Let us pray and pray much for sinners. Let us give tracts and good books to sinners, and urge them to read God's Word.
5. The HONOR of saving sinners.To save a fellow-creature from the flames of a burning house, or to rescue a fellow-creature from drowning — is considered an honor, and it is an honor. But to save a soul from Hell — what an honor is this. Jesus considers it his highest honor to save souls, and what then should we consider it? To save souls on earth, with whom we shall dwell eternally in Heaven, and who will forever look upon us, and feel towards us, as the instruments of their salvation — what can compare with this? Even to be in Heaven, and not see one, and never to meet with one, that we have been the means of bringing there — would seem to leave a blank in a loving heart. But to be in Heaven, and to be constantly seeing souls there whom we have been the means of saving, O what thrilling pleasure, what ecstatic joy it must impart! Besides which, it is testified in God's Word, that such shall be distinguished, and "shall shine as the stars forever and ever."
6. The WAY to save sinners.Not by suffering for them, as Jesus did; nor by working in them, as the Holy Spirit does; they save meritoriously and efficiently, we only instrumentally. If we would save souls, we must set the heart upon it, and keep the heart set upon it. We must plead with God for it, that he would give us wisdom to win them, power that will impress them, and love that will conquer them. We must beseech him to put this honor upon us, and teach us to glorify him by doing it. We must look out for opportunities, and embrace them whenever they offer. We must speak to all we can about their souls, about Jesus, about sin, about salvation, about Heaven, and about Hell. And we must speak to them with a view to impress them, and if possible, to save them. We must expect results, as the gardener when he sows his seed expects it will spring up, and looks forward to a harvest; just so should we expect that under God's blessing, glorious results will follow.
7. OBJECTIONS will be raised to your saving souls.Your carnal heart will object. Even some believers may discourage you. Satan will endeavor to his utmost to divert your attention from the work. Some of the doctrines of the gospel may be perverted, or some passages of scripture may be misapplied to dishearten you. For a time you may meet with no success to stimulate you. But it is for you to persevere, looking to the Lord for strength, and wisdom, and courage. Say not, "I am not the person" — you are. Say not, "I have not the power" — God can give it you. Say not, "I cannot succeed, for I am not qualified" — you can succeed, and God can give you all the needful qualifications. There is no lion in the way, unless you place one there. There is no reason why you may not save some; yes, save many, if your heart is right with God, and your eye single to his glory. Excuses you may make, and plenty of them — but scriptural reasons to exempt you from this work, or to justify you in the neglect of it, you can find none.
How shall it be then? Will you make it the grand business of your life to save souls from death? Will you with Paul, become all things to all men, if by any means you may save some? Will you adapt yourself to persons and circumstances, that you may save the more? Nothing is of so much importance, after your own salvation, as seeking to save others. Nothing is so noble, so honorable, so Christ-like — as saving souls!
O that we had always and everywhere kept this in view!
But we have not: let us repent and be sorry for this our sin, and now let us
that we are surrounded with perishing sinners,
that those sinners are our brothers and sisters,
that they are in danger of Hell-fire,
that the means by which they may be saved are in our hands,
that to save souls is to win the highest honors, and
that we shall save souls . . .
if our hearts are set upon it,
if we plead with God for it,
if we speak with all we can with a view to it,
and if in faith we expect results.
O Lord, fill us with the Spirit of love, power, and sympathy for souls, and let us live, labor, plead, and pray to save souls from death!