Brothers, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;…
We cannot but be struck with the contrast between what God honours and that which man deems most honourable. God honours those that save. Man too oft, indeed generally, gives his highest honour to the man that destroys. Thus the warrior has ever been a favourite with society; and yet how terrible is his work! Another man the world honours, less highly, though he is more worthy — the statesman of far-reaching genius, who devises those measures that shall increase general intelligence and happiness, advance the public interest, and make his country's name to be honoured and feared among the nations of the earth. Society recognises as worthy of some measure of esteem another character, more worthy than either we have named, yet less honoured. We refer to the man of benevolence, who goes forth to improve the condition of society, to raise the fallen, to give new hope to the despairing. Such a man was Howard, who sought to solve the problem, What is the greatest amount of effort a man may make in the cause of humanity? Still higher in merit than the characters named is the man whom God especially honours. He toils not only to improve man's physical, moral, and intellectual condition, but deems it his great work to save man from sin, from the pollution and corruption of his nature, from those consequences partially manifest in this life, that shall have their consummation in the life to come. He goes forth with burning, self-sacrificing zeal, to save the souls of men. How little does the world honour this class of men! But the honour and greatness of this work of saving men is indicated by the greatness of the change wrought in conversion, through which all who have sinned must pass in order to be saved. How wondrous the change in a soul converted! He was dead in trespasses and sins, lost in error, and in bondage to sin and Satan. Now, renewed in heart and life — changed in opinions, in prospects, in hopes, and associations he is free, and becomes a child of God, a brother of Christ, How marked is this change, they who have experienced it well know, and they also understand it who have witnessed the wondrous transformation in character and conduct of many they have known as sinners and as converted men. Now, the evidence of the reality of this work of conversion to any candid seeker of truth is clear and strong. The evidence to the individual renewed is manifestly and necessarily, from its nature, in his own consciousness. You may go to any community and bring forth the persons that say they have experienced this change of heart. They will tell you they have known what it is to be under the bondage of sin, in fear of the wrath to come, and in their trouble and anguish of soul they submitted to the directions of God's Word and yielded themselves to Christ. They will affirm that in so doing they found peace; their sense of condemnation was removed, and peace and joy filled their souls. They will tell you that they have the assurance of God's forgiveness, and the witness of the Holy Spirit that they are His children. This personal testimony will have confirmation in the change in their enjoyments, tastes, and the new rules of conduct to which they have submitted in consequence of conversion. But in this work of saving men the most important point remains for consideration. On whom rests the responsibility of this work of converting men? It is not enough to wish for this work, to feebly pray for it, to think of the obligation of the Church at large, but every single Christian must labour as he has opportunity, and use all his means of influence to secure the salvation of others. The great object of the Church, and of union with it, is not the personal happiness of believers. Happiness is the result of obedience to laws, and misery is the consequence of disobedience. We shall be happy ourselves when we strive in self-forgetfulness to make others happy. While the Church is designed to furnish instruction, assistance, and comfort to its members, it is God's great instrumentality for the diffusion of the word of life, for proclaiming the gospel unto unregenerate men. It is sinful and absurd for any one to say, "I have not the power to do anything; I cannot speak to any one on the subject of religion." What other subject is there on which men cannot speak? Will any man acknowledge himself so feeble and humble that he can never speak on business, so modest that he can never say a word on trade? Our excuse that we have not the requisite power to engage in this work is a dishonour to ourselves, and in urging it we dishonour God. When men thus speak, they talk vainly. It is on this account the Church languishes and souls perish. In conversion the human will must yield in order that the Holy Spirit may renew the heart and forgive sins. To secure this yielding of the will of the sinner to Divine grace, family, friendly, and moral influences may avail. God requires that they be sanctified to this use. Have not some of us sad thoughts as we think of those with whom we have been associated, and of our unfaithfulness? Do not scenes rise before us that cause sorrow and anguish? Has no one of our friends or families passed away relative to whose future there is a terrible doubt, nay, perhaps s. fearful certainty, if we could entertain the thought? A mother wept for the death of a beloved child. Friends came to comfort her. They offered the usual sources of consolation, such as affectionate hearts yearn to give. But the mother rejected it all. "Ah!" said she, "it is not this. It is not this. I could give up my child. I could bow with resignation over her death. But, alas! I fear she is not saved. It was a foolish diffidence that kept me from talking with her as I oft felt it my duty to do. And when she was stricken with disease, I thought the opportunity would come and I would then improve it. But, alas! delirium came. I bowed by my child. I prayed God, not so much for her life as for one hour of reason, that I might do my duty to my child. But she never recognised me, and I fear she is lost." Oh I mothers, mothers, do you love your children, and you are living with them in view of certain death, and have you done your duty to seek the conversion of their souls? But there is joy, also, in the thought of being instrumental in saving souls. A missionary sat by the dying bed of his first convert. The dying man said to him, "Brother, I hear you preached a sermon about heaven last evening; I could not go to hear you preach, but I am going to heaven itself, and when I get there I shall go first to the Lord Jesus Christ and thank Him that He ever sent you to tell me of His love; and then, brother, I shall come back to the gate and sit there until you come; and when you come, I will lead you to the Saviour and say, ' Here, Lord, is the man that told me of Thy love.'" Oh! Christians, are you willing to walk the streets of heaven and have no one greet you there? Would you be willing to go yourselves inside the gates and never have a soul to greet you and say, "I thank God for the kind words of sympathy and love you spoke on earth?" But while this work of saving souls thus concerns the Church, shall the unconverted be indifferent to their own salvation? Remember, if Christians are unfaithful you are not excused. You know your duty, and, living amid so many privileges, your guilt for the rejection of Christ will be the greater.
(Joseph Cummings, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;