An Important Question:
What Have I Done to Save a Soul Today?
James Smith, 1865
Thousands are perishing around me! Hell is enlarging itself! God saves souls by human instrumentality. He saves by the simplest means. He points to some just on the verge of Hell, and says, "Save them with fear, plucking them out of the fire." Paul's object was by all means to save some. He became all things to all men, that he might save the more. What have I done this day in order to save a soul from death? Have I pleaded with God, as one should plead for the deliverance of a never-dying soul from eternal flames? Have I spoken kindly and affectionately to anyone about sin, and the salvation which is in the Lord Jesus?
Have I given a tract, or a little booklet, accompanying it with fervent prayer for the power of the Holy Spirit to attend it? "A tract may save a soul." God may speak by it — it may suggest a thought, which may work, and work, until the Savior be sought and found. And can I, believing this, neglect to give away tracts?
A word spoken, or a passage quoted, may save a soul. God has often used such simple means as these. And shall I neglect to speak to those about me, or fear to set God's word before them. A letter written to a friend, has saved a soul. God works by letters written out of love to his name, with zeal for his glory, in order to bring sinners to his throne. And shall I fail to write, when I cannot speak to my friends — to warn them to flee from the wrath to come.
Oh, if we all prayed for sinners, realizing their great danger, and dreadful doom — if we took advantage of the opportunities that offer, to speak of Jesus, to those who are perishing around us — if we gave tracts and little books to those we meet, praying God to bless them — if once a week, or oftener, we wrote a letter to some friend, to direct attention to eternal things — how much more good might be done, how much evil might be prevented, how many souls may be saved, how greatly our congregations may be increased, how the Lord Jesus would be honored, and what glory we should bring to our God, and HIS cause! This would prove, that we really believe God's word, that we sympathize with sinners in their danger, that we are in downright earnest to save souls from death, that we wish to see God's church flourish, that we realize our obligation and responsibility. Then God, even our God, would bless us.
Doubts and fears would leave us, joy and peace would be enjoyed by us, and all Christians would confess that we are the seed which the Lord has blessed. O, my brethren, let us examine ourselves daily! Let us ask ourselves every night, What have I done to save a soul this day? If I do nothing, can I be guiltless? If I do nothing, can I be honest to my profession? If I do nothing, is it possible that I can understand the gospel? If I do nothing, can I be living in fellowship with God? If I do nothing, ought I to be a member of a church of Christ? If I do nothing, ought I not to give up all profession of religion at once and forever? Conscience, be honest, and speak!
How few realize the value of the soul! How few make any hearty, direct, and daily attempts to save souls from eternal death! And yet this is the most important business in which we can be engaged. Nothing will be reflected on with such pleasure on a death-bed, nothing will be reviewed with such delight from the judgment-seat of Christ. He answers not the end of his existence, who does not habitually seek to honor God, by leading souls to the Savior. He does not drink into the Spirit of Christ, who does not strive to turn men from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.
Of course we can only do so instrumentally. But it is thus that God brings men to repentance and faith. He is the great agent, but he uses human instruments, and he will use us if we are fit for his work, and desirous to be employed for his glory. He puts honor upon us by employing us. He meets us, blesses us, and makes us happy when we are so employed: and thus we prove the truth of his word, that in keeping his commandments there is a great reward. If, therefore, we would be happy in our Christian profession — if we would win honors to be worn before the throne of God and of the Lamb — if we would escape the snares of Satan, and the delusions of the world — if we would adorn the doctrine of our Lord and Savior — if we would make a good impression upon the present generation, and secure a good name in that which follows — if we would live like saints, and die like conquerors — let us daily do something to save souls from death.
The work is most important, our opportunities daily become less, the honor is unspeakably glorious, and the reward is as lasting as eternity — let us therefore daily endeavor to save souls from death. Let us speak to those we can, and write to those we cannot. Let us make it our business, and follow it as our pleasure; nor rest satisfied until we can say with our beloved Lord, "My work is to do the will of him who sent me, and to finish his work." Truly we have been guilty; let us feel it, confess it, obtain pardon for the past, and plead for grace for the future. Oh, that every member of the Church of Christ would act thus, then the Church of Jesus would soon look "forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners." Thus says the Lord, "He who converts a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins."
Another Important Question:
What Have I Done this Day to Make Sure My Own Salvation?
Time is introductory to eternity. Time is given to us to prepare for an eternal, an unchangeable state of existence. The eternal future — depends on the present. What we sow in this world — we shall reap in the next. As we live — we may expect to die. And as we die — so we shall remain forever. We are by nature and by practice, sinners; as such we deserve punishment, and are exposed to never-ending suffering. But we need not perish, for God has sent his only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. That our sins may be pardoned through his precious blood, and we may be justified by his perfect obedience. All that he did on earth — he did for sinners; and all that he suffered on earth — he suffered for sinners. His blood is our all-sufficient atonement, and his obedience is our justifying righteousness.
But HOW does the atonement and obedience of Jesus become ours? By faith alone. And what is faith? It is giving credit to God's word; placing confidence in his work; and depending solely upon him for pardon, peace, purity, and acceptance with God. But is faith alone sufficient to give us an interest in the perfect work of Jesus, and to entitle us to everlasting life? It is quite sufficient, for his own word declares, "He who believes on the Son has everlasting life." He has also declared with his own mouth, "He who believes on me has everlasting life."
But true faith will never exist alone, it always:
produces repentance towards God;
generates love to the Savior; and
leads to the performance of good works.
Every true believer is sorry for his sins; he confesses them before God with shame; pleads the blood of Jesus, that they may be pardoned; and strives to conquer his bad habits in the strength of the Lord.
Every real Christian loves the Savior who died for him, and prays most heartily to be consecrated entirely with all he has to the Redeemer's service and praise. He wishes to do whatever the Lord requires of him; to go wherever the Lord will send him; and if he lives — to live unto the Lord; or if he dies — to die unto the Lord. He places no dependence on his own works — but relies altogether on the service and sacrifice of the Lord Jesus for salvation; and then does all he can to honor his Savior, and to benefit his fellow-men. He lives by faith in Christ, or by believing the word of Jesus, trusting in the merits of Jesus, and exercising confidence in the veracity of Jesus; but while he thus lives by faith in Christ, be is careful to maintain good works. His object, from day to day, is, to make his calling and election sure; so that no one may justly doubt the truth of his profession, and that he may have no reason to doubt himself — but that he is saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation.
Is this the true state of the case? It is. Then let me ask, What have I done this day to make sure my own salvation? Have I exercised faith in Christ? Have I confessed my sins before God? Have I prayed for grace to obey the commands of God? Have I been striving against sin? Have I sought to bring honor to the Savior's name? Have I pitied sinners, and set my heart upon rescuing some of them from eternal flames? Have I endeavored to subdue some lust — to mortify some corruption — to conquer some bad habit — and to be more assimilated to the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ? Have I mourned over sin, sighed for holiness, and kept my eye steadily fixed on glorifying God?
Or, have I lost sight of eternity, neglected my duty, and been living to myself? Has there been no communion with Jesus, no zeal for God, no pity for sinners? If so, is there not reason to doubt, that my religion is but a form, my profession a pretense, and my danger of eternal death imminent? Faith without works is dead. Can such faith save us? Never. It is utterly impossible. If, therefore, we would not deceive our own souls, if we would not plant thorns in our dying pillow, if we would not sink into Hell under a profession of religion — let us examine ourselves carefully, let us reform our lives thoroughly, and let us give all diligence to make our calling and election sure! Every morning let us ask, "What course shall I pursue this day, to put the reality of my religion beyond doubt?" And every evening let us inquire, "What have I done this day to make sure my own salvation?" May the words of the Holy Spirit sink down deep into our hearts, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows — that shall he also reap."