He Shall Save a Soul from Death!
by James Smith, 1860
"Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death, and cover over a multitude of sins!" James 5:20
Death, to a sinner is dreadful, as it is the end of his comforts, pleasures, and anticipations. But the death of the soul — is the soul of death. The death of the body, as bad as it is — is as nothing compared to the death of the soul. Annihilated — the soul will not, cannot be; it is created to live forever, and exist forever it must.
Yes, light will be extinguished — and it will be in utter darkness.
Hope will be extinguished — and it will be in black despair.
All comfort will be extinguished — and it will be in agony, perfect agony forever.
If the soul dies — its portion will be weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth.
If souls are left alone, they will die. Oh, how many are dying all around us! But they may be saved — and in order that they may be saved, God gave his only begotten Son, to be a sacrifice for sin; and to give his life a ransom for many. The Son of God came into our world, kept the law for us, and died the just for the unjust. He invites sinners to come unto him, promises to receive all who come, and to save all he receives. The Holy Spirit joins with the Father and the Son, he has revealed Christ in the gospel, he attends the testimony of Christ with his power; and unites with the Savior and the Bride, in calling to the sinner to come. And now, the Father having given his Son, the Son having given his life, the Spirit having given the gospel, and promised his presence and his power — it is for every believer to set his heart, and use his talents, and seize every opportunity, to save souls from death. May the blessed Spirit apply these words of the apostle to us individually, to animate, stimulate, and stir us up to duty, "He shall save a soul from death."
Who Shall? The Christian who aims at it, whose heart is set upon it, and who seeks to do it in God's way. Not only the minister, the missionary, or the teacher — but the private Christian. Not only the gifted, the talented, the influential Christian — but the poor man, the laborer, the child, however few his gifts, however small his talents, or however secluded his situation.
The man of prayer, who pleads with God;
the man of faith, who believes God;
the man of diligence, who bears his testimony daily;
the man of love, who out of love to God, and love to his fellow men, sets his heart upon this great, this glorious work.
This honor may be obtained by any Christian man, for it is "not by might, nor by power — but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty." Which words are not intended to be a cloak for idleness, or an excuse for inactivity; but to furnish a stimulus and an encouragement to the weakest among us — to attempt great things, with a view to God's glory. For while the Holy Spirit always maintains his prerogative, and manifests his sovereignty; He at the same time puts honor on the man, who sympathizing with God in his promises, and with man in his misery, seeks to save souls from death.
Reader, have faith in God — have faith in the gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation — and in faith bear your testimony, speak the word of warning, invitation, and inquiry, speak in love, and you shall save a soul from death.
To this end, there should be earnest, importunate, agonizing prayer. Such prayer takes hold on God, has power with him, and brings his power to bear on the human heart. How little we know of travailing in birth for souls, until Christ is formed in them. Prayer should be associated with direct efforts to obtain the end. God saves souls by the simple, earnest, affectionate, and faithful preaching of the gospel; if therefore we preach, we should seek grace so to preach, that as was said of the Apostles, we may so speak that a great multitude may believe. God saves souls by kind, gentle, loving, teaching; if therefore we teach, whether children or adults, we should endeavor so to teach. God saves souls by direct and personal appeals; we ought therefore to speak and appeal to all about us, with a view to save their souls from death. God saves souls by the reading of his Word, good books, and evangelistic tracts; if therefore we desire to save souls, we should aid the circulation of the Scriptures, lend good books, and give away Christian tracts — in proportion to our means. God saves souls by the influence of example; a holy life is a most influential sermon; we ought therefore to live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present world, not only that God may be glorified — but that we may save souls from death.
If we would be aided and honored in this work, our hearts must be set on it. But, alas! we see that it is not so. The mind must be occupied with that thoughts of it. We are never likely to do a work — which does not occupy our thoughts. We must think, if we would plan — we must plan, if we would work wisely — and we must carry out our plans in a spirit of prayer and dependence upon God, if we would succeed. The life, so far as lawful business, and other claims, will admit, must be consecrated to it; and with the heart set upon it, the mind filled with it, and the life consecrated to it — we may say of any, of every Christian, "he shall save a soul from death."
Reader, is your soul saved? It was lost once, and if it is now saved, you have passed through a great and important change — you have been born of the Spirit, you have been converted to God — and if this is the case, you know something about it. God does not act upon us as upon passive matter. He does not save man as if he were a horse or a mule. But he saves by producing conviction of sin, a sense of danger, a desire for safety, and a willingness to be saved in his own way, by grace through faith. He then leads to Jesus, gives faith in Jesus, and enables us to commit the soul to Jesus. Having led us to believe in Christ for life and salvation — he then gives a delight in his law, a thirst for holiness, and a desire so to live as to honor and glorify him. Is this your experience? Then you are saved from death. If you know nothing about it — then you are still dead in trespasses and sins, and the wrath of God abides on you!