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saved is said to be saved from the error of his , into whatever system it be, as are their prinway. Next it is supposed to be progressive inciples such will be their spirit and their evil, for it is described as commencing in a small practice. beginning, and ending, if not stopped, in a But supposing there are no doctrinal errors multitude of sins; and, lastly, it is held up as remarkably connected with an erroneous way, terminating in death, for he that saves such a yet there is a sort of error of another kind soul saves a soul from death. Let us review there is an error that may especially be these three ideas of the state of an uncon-called the error of the heart. The Psalmist verted soul.
remarks upon this in the 95th Psalm : " It First, his way is distinguished by error— is a people that do err in their heart.” AU it is an erroneous way; falsehood lies at the doctrinal error partakes of the heart, and bottom, deceit and self-deception mark its therefore is sinful in the sight of God, bat every step; self-deception and fatal delusion there is some error that may be called more mark it in all its progress. When I say it especially the error of the heart. What I arises from error, I do not mean that it now refer to are cases where persons act arises from a small mistake, but chosen error, against their convictions in order to gratify or that kind of error which arises from the their inclinations. They do not so much ert mind choosing darkness rather than light, be in speculation as in their feelings; they will cause its deeds are evil. It is not an inno- acknowledge it is wrong: “Yes, it is wrong; cent mistake, but it is an error of the heart, I own it is wrong, but however yet it seems and we may remark this, that all the devious necessary to my happiness; I must indulge paths of unrighteousness which are seen in the it at least for a time, at least in a degree, or world, stand closely connected with some I cannot be happy ; I am utterly miserable false systeni or other. Could you take a if I do not.” This, my friends, is the error comprehensive view of the world, could of the heart which operates against the dicyou look over the heathen world, you tates of conscience; this is all self-deception. would see an amazing mass of abomination, | Instead of your being rendered happy by you would see every heathen country upon opposing the dictates of your conscience, you earth deluged with immorality of every kind, are plunging yourselves into the paths of but you would also see that arm in arm with misery and death. this system of immorality goes a system of But a second mark of the sinner's way is, lies, a system of falsehood; idolatry, and it is supposed to be progressive in evil. abominable superstition go hand in hand Perhaps at its first beginning it was a very along with it, and the one is fostered by the small matter, a very little affair, a trilling other, so that the path of sin is the path of indulgence, that which many would have error.
overlooked; but it went on from ore thing The same remarks would hold good were to another, from small beginnings it kept you to go into the Mohammedan parts of the gradually increasing, and it is supposed that world: There you would see sensuality, if not stopped by converting grace it will cruelty, uncleanness, and all iniquity in their issue in a multitude of sins. Oh, my dear grossest forms, and you would see all this friends, it is a terrible truth that sin is a connected with a system of falsehood. prolific principle, that it is that which, where
Travelling into popish countries, there you it obtains a prevalence in the heart, nerer will see under the name of Christianity a ceases to go on, to increase more and more, system of superstition as foreign from the and to bind the soul in its chains stronger gospel as anything can well be, and you will and stronger. It breeds in the imagination see immorality keep pace with falsehood and the thoughts and the desires till it sets on a system of delusion. Nor need we travel fire the whole course of nature. Every sin abroad for proofs of these things, we need that we indulge in makes way for ten more only look around us to see error in our own in its place; every indulgence yielded to country, and we may see the abominations prepares the way for more, and more, and that pervade the land which have a close and There cannot be a greater deception inseparable connexion with a system of false than that which the mind puts upon itself in doctrine. The great body of men, I might these matters. The sinner is ready to say say, are practical heathens, are, in effect, within himself, “ Hitherto will I go in such infidels; and as are their principles, such are and such an indulgence, and no further; their practices. Another large part of the thus far shall the temptation be permitted to community are merely nominal Christians; come but no further.' But it is in vain for they entertain loose and vague notions con- you to set bounds to the claims of a temptacerning God, concerning sin, concerning tion when once it is admitted and yielded to; Christ as a Saviour ; in fact, they hold a false it rises in its demands; it becomes then next system of religion under a few orthodox to impossible to stem the torrent; it becomes terms, and as are their principles such is their progressive and increases in many ways. practice. You will generally find, if you ob- Particularly inclination strengthens by the serve them closely, that as men deviate from commission of evil. Every sin we commit the pure system of the gospel of Jesus Christ we feel our propensity so much the stronger
inclining us to repeat it. It is like the habit | death, is the portion of the sinner. If God of drinking. A person who is addicted to does not stop the progress of it by an interdrinking spirituous liquors, the more he in- position of divinė grace, eternal death is dulges in the habit the more his inclination certain. becomes strengthened; the more he indulges
We pass on,
in the second place, to remark the more he may indulge, and thus it is sin the method of recovery-how it is that sinners becomes progressive in its operation. One are to be recovered from the error of their ways, sin committed renders another necessary in and this it is intimated is by conversion. “Let order to hide it, or it may be in order to him know, that he which converteth the sindrown reflection on account of it. When ner from the error of his way shall save a once you have indulged in evil, you feel it soul from death.” Conversion, my brethren, becomes necessary to add another sin, the is the changing of one thing into another. sin of prevarication, in order to disguise, in Thus we use the term in common life. We order to keep up appearances to save your speak sometimes of converting a building from self from the censures of mankind. It was one purpose to another, of converting a garthus that David, when once he had stepped ment, or converting anything else-changing aside, found it necessary to prevaricate in a thing from one purpose to another, or order to deceive Uriah; it was thus that he changing a substance from one thing to found it necessary to proceed from one sin another, and the conversion of which the to another, till he was precipitated well nigh gospel speaks is the changing a person from into the gulph of perdition. Had not divine being an enemy, to become a friend of God. grace saved him by a kind of miraculous It is not every change that is gospel converinterposition, he must have gone. Such, my sion. There may be a change of opinion friends, is the path of the sinner. It is an where there is no gospel conversion. A man erroneous, a delusive path, founded in false- may change his opinion from Judaism, and hood. It is a progressive path; so that he may profess to believe Christianity, and yet who sets one step in it thereby disables him- be unconverted. A man may throw off his self from receding, and becomes prompted to open idolatry, and take upon him the Chrisproceed faster and faster till plunged into tian name, but however this may pass for perdition.
conversion amongst nominal Christians, it Lastly, it is a path whose end is death. does not come up to the idea of the text. I This is implied by its being said that he am very well aware that the great body of which converteth the sinner from the error of nominal Christians in the present day conhis way shall save a soul from death." This sider conversion as a mere change of opinion, does not mean corporeal death, though true that is, they consider conversion as confined it is that many a man by his own wicked to a man who is a Jew becoming a professed courses has brought himself to an untimely Christian, or a Mahommedan becoming noend; true it is that diseases innumerable and minally a Christian, or a pagan calling him. untimely deaths are caused by sin. What self a Christian. That is a mere change of numbers are seen in the world dying the opinion, and hence they suppose that there victims of their wicked courses. But it is is no room nor any need for conversion with not from the death of the body that conver- those who are born in what is called a Chrission saves us; it is from that death which is tian land. They have been baptized, as it is spoken of in this same epistle. It is from termed, in their infancy, and brought up in a that kind of death which is described in the Christian way. They suppose that here confirst chapter : “ Every man is tempted when version is altogether superseded. But if the he is drawn away of his own lust, and change that is here spoken of, and which enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it indeed is every where else spoken of in the bringeth forth sin ; and sin, when it is gospel, does not consist merely in a change finished, bringeth forth death ;" that is, the of opinion, this must be a fatal mistake. death which is here described, that which sin My friends, it is not merely a change of works when permitted to finish its operation opinion, but it is a change that involves love without repentance. The operations of sin --the love of God. It is a change from are like those of a spider with an insect, it enmity to love, and without this it matters winds its captivating web round every part but little what we are called; and seeing that of the body and every wing, till, by and bye, this is the nature of the change, conversion it takes its life. After having captivated the becomes no less necessary in those who are poor little insect in every part, and disarmed born in a Christian land, or of Christian it of all resistance, it without any difficulty parents, than it does in other men. They destroys its very life. And such, my friends, were not heathens to whom our Saviour is the operation of sin. Let it but go on, and spoke. They were not Jews in such a it will bind in its web every part, it will pos- sense as to reject Christ's Messiahship, and sess itself of every power and every passion, yet he said, " I say unto you, except ye be and it will subjugate the whole soul into converted, and become as little children, ye captivity to itself, and then, when it has cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” Real finished all its operations, death, eternal conversion, you see, is equivalent to our be
coming of the spirit of little children-meek, good or harm one to another. We draw and lowly, humble, weak in ourselves, dependent are drawn, one by another, either to heaven upon God.
or to hell. “Iron sharpeneth iron, so a man We see, then, that conversion is a change sharpeneth the countenance of his friend." of heart, and not merely of opinion ; a change As the godly whets the desires and stimulates of heart, and not merely a change of outward the pure affections of his fellow Christians, so behaviour; for men may change in their out- doth the ungodly whet and stimulate the ward behaviour without any change of heart; unholy affections and vile passions of his a man may be changed from a profligate to a fellow sinners, and thus they are drawn and sober man; he may be changed from a pub. drawing one another towards heaven or lican to a pharisee. Many a man is changed towards hell every moment. Mankind move in this way when he begins to advance in on, as it were, arm in arm in crowds, and life; to get old, then he begins to think it are drawn downwards or upwards in innu. time to desist from some of his unlawful merable companies. Hence the propriety vices; but the truth is, the man's vices have of that language in the twenty-eighth psalm, left him instead of his leaving them; he be- “Draw me not away with the wicked and comes incapable of following them. Con with the workers of iniquity." Oh how treversion is the leaving our sins, not our sins mendous to be drawn away with the wicked, leaving us. Here then is the point; it is a to be yoked in along with them, to be drawn change from enmity to love; this is the down in their awful connection into the gulf change we must aim, as Christian ministers of perdition. and as Christian societies, to effect. Labour Now, as God has thus constituted human to convert a sinner from the error of his way; nature, that we shall generally influence one change the life by changing the heart. Our another either to good or to evil, there arises Saviour's doctrine always was directed to this a stimulus to watch against evil company as issue; the preaching of Christ was different a marinet would watch if he knew himself in from that of all other reformers. You never danger of foundering upon rocks; as he wouid find any philosopher that set about to inform watch if he knew himself just ready to fall mankind, point to the heart in the manner in into a derouring vortex, so would you watch which Christ taught. They pointed out a against the snares of temptation, the evils of number of forms, prescribing rules and regu- seduction, if you had any regard to your nererlations for mankind, but the doctrine of dying souls; and so, on the other hand, would Christ constantly ained at the very heart, Christians be stimulated to draw their feilow and if that be cured the rest will follow. If sinners if it were possible to induce them to the fountain be healed, the streams are at go along with them to eternal glory. We may once healed. If the love of sin be cured, the use the same means for the conversion of practice of sin will be deserted. If Christ men's souls, as we do in any other object of have the first and principal place in our persuasion. It is as perfectly scriptural to hearts, his precepts will become our choice. say to your neighbour, your kindred, or your This is that conversion which it behoves all acquaintance, “Go with us, and we will do Christian ministers to make the object of you good;" and it is as perfectly in point to their pursuit after the example of their Lord urge and to persuade, as it was for Moses to and Saviour.
adopt that course towards Hobab. God alone I proceed, lastly, to urge the importance can render what we say effectual, but these of a zealous perseverance in the use of all are means which he has himself appointed; possible means for the conversion of sinners; and let those who use the means know “that and that, from the important considerations he which converteth the sinner from the error here suggested to us, “Let him know that he of his way, shall save a soul from death." which con verteth the sinner from the error of The many ways that may be employed of his way, shall save a soul from death, and converting å sinner, afford abundant encoushall hide a multitude of sins.” Do not object ragement to the Christian. It is not confined that conversion is God's work; do not say to the addressing men in a studied address; that it is not yours. It is true enough that if it were, we should have very little to say we cannot convert a single soul effectually, unless it were to ministers; or, if it were to but we may instrumentally, and this is plainly others, it would be only urging upon them implied in the language of the text. The that they should encourage ministers and Lord would not have held out this encourage- strengthen their hands; but there are many ment to us to labour in converting sinners other ways by which a soul may be saved from the error of their way, unless he de- from death. There are ways in which godly signed to make use of us as instruments for females may be instrumental as well as those this purpose, and we know that it is a fact of the other sex. The apostle Paul speaks that God has made use of us for the con- of sume that were not won by the word, but verting of one and another in thousands of | who were won to Christ by the amiable coninstances. These things are so ordered in the versation of their wives. A modest, meek, divine plan, that men are certain to do either holy, chaste, affectionate behaviour in life,
which is the effect of the gospel, will often made, and to which they are rendered subfind its way to the conscience of a sinner, and servient. To employ us in rescuing a soul will sweetly and insensibly steal into his soul from everlasting perdition, is a work at which in a manner that the word perhaps could an angel might envy us. When I say an never do; while his prejudices would resist all angel might envy us, do not mistake me; arguments, while his vain reasoning would they are incapable of envy; it is a work in oppose the evidence of truth from the lips of which they rejoice, and when it is said that the most eloquent and persuasive teacher, there is joy among the angels over one such yet the silent eloquence of a holy life will repenting sinner, that conveys to us a vast steal insensibly into his conscience, and idea of the importance of the work. Angels operate in spite of himself. Thus God often are beings of large and extensive minds; their works in ways we little think of, and they minds far surpass the minds of any creatures afford us abundant encouragement to go on amongst us; they would not therefore rejoice hoping to be the means of restoring the sinner at a little thing, much less would the whole from the error of his way.
of the heavenly world as it were feel a thrill Think, my brethren, further, of the motives of happiness run through their bosoms at a by which we are encouraged to labour for the small benefit, but the return of one sinner to conversion of sinners. The motives are, that God is pregnant with such consequences as every individual soul that you convert from throw, if I may so speak, a stream of gladness sin to Christ, you save a soul from death. It through the heavenly world. Oh, methinks, would be a great matter if you could only the thought of what happiness is thereby save the life of a man; you would think it secured, of what misery is thereby prevented, worth a large portion of your attention only of what glory to God shall thereby accrue, of to save the life of your neighbour, but what what honour to the Saviour shall thereby is the saving of a life to the saving of a soul? arise, this fills all hearts with joy and gladIf you save a life to-day there may be some Oh what a thought, to save a soul thing else by which it may be brought to its from death! What are all our cares, our close to-morrow; but if you save a soul, you labours, our toils. We rise in a morning and save it from eternal death; you are the means we toil, and we are busy here and there, and of bringing it into a state connected with what are the questions we are continually everlasting life. Only think of the immor- proposing to ourselves, "What shall we eat, tality of the soul; the soul that endures for and what shall we drink, and wherewithal ever. Think of what it is capable of enjoying shall we be clothed ?" Oh how mortifying, or enduring. Thought is presently lost in my dear friends; what little toys are all these the calculation; it bids defiance to all our things in comparison with that one great thoughts to form any thing like an adequate object of saving a soul from death. It is idea of what an immortal mind is capable of worthy of notice, too, that the apostle uses enjoying or capable of enduring; and in pro- the term in the singular. If he had said, Let portion to each of these, such is the worth of him know that he that converteth a thousand its salvation—to save a soul from everlasting sinners, a million of sinners, from the error of death. It is not a small object; it is an their ways, has accomplished a great object, object for which the Son of God thought it it might have been no matter of surprize; worth while to become incarnate, and to live but when he refers to the case of a single soul and to die on earth. It is an object far being saved from everlasting death as a greater than the creation of the world; the matter of greater importance than all the creation of the world was effected by only. acquisitions of this present life, we can easily speaking a word, “God said, let there be light, draw the inference; if the salvation of one and there was light ;" God spake, and the soul from death be of so much importance, heavens were spread abroad; God spake, and how much more the salvation of many. the earth was formed, and the different com Another motive that is held up to us is ponent parts of it were divided according to that in saving a sinner from the error of his his sovereign pleasure, but when a soul was way you hide a multitude of sins.
That is, to be saved from death, or when a number of as I understand it, you prevent them ; you souls required to be saved from death, the stop the disease in its progress, and thereby Son of God must needs come into our world, prevent the consequences that would otherassume our nature, and be made a sacrifice. wise follow. How does God hide our sins ? Oh what a work was this! To be instru- | By stopping us in our progress. What mental in accomplishing that for which the should we have been, what would thousands Son of God has laid the foundation, is an of us have been ere now had not God stopped honour that is put upon us surpassing all the progress, stopped the disease, and thereby conception. If God had employed us in hidden all the sins we contemplated ? It making the sun, or in spreading abroad the has not appeared to the world what we heavens, that would have been a small honour should have been if God had left us to ourin comparison with employing us as his in- selves to take our course, and let sin have struments in doing that which is our work; taken its course, and grown to its full. Oh that work for which all other works were what an awful figure we should have made
in the world! But when a sinner is con- | and from generation to generation, till thou: verted, and stopped in his course, his iniqui- sands reaped its bitter consequences in the ties are hidden, his multitude of sins are regions of despair and death. Think of these hidden-are prevented.
sort of connexions, and you will see the imTo illustrate this let me just suppose one portance of using every possible means in
You recollect the story of Jeroboam, order to convert a sinner from the error of the son of Nebat. He is held up as an his way. example in the scriptures-a noted example Encourage the preaching of the gospel. -as the man that made Israel to sin. Now That is the ordinary means by which souls what is said of Jeroboam ? Why he had a are converted. Encourage every plan which thought came into his heart after he was is calculated to promote this object. It is anointed king over the ten tribes; he pleasing to think of the various measures thought within himself, if the people go up to which have been set on foot perhaps more Jerusalem to worship, there is reason to fear especially within the last nine or ten years, that they will return to the house of David. It is pleasing to find that Christian benevoHe then went and advised with somebody lence towards the bodies and souls of men else, and in the result he said, “Let us make has led hundreds to go and search out the two calves of gold, and let the people worship abodes of the wretched, and to visit the death them at home instead of taking this long and beds of the dying and the sick beds of the expensive journey to Jerusalem ;” and this afflicted, and that while pouring in the streams thing became a snare to the house of Jero- of refreshment to their bodies they have also boam, and a snare to Israel, for all Israel administered words of Christian counsel, and went after these idols, and the consequence warning, and encouragement; and the Lord was that Israel went on for a hundred years, has blessed these efforts, I am persuaded, in and grew worse and worse, till thousands and many instances in this city to the saving of millions of them became the grossest and sinners from the error of their ways, and so vilest idolaters, and the issue was the break- saving their souls from death; and the same ing them up as a nation, and driving them to spirit has operated in the country. Perhaps countries where their posterity are dispersed at no former period has the spirit of comunknown to this very day. See what are municating the good knowledge of God more the thoughts that grow out of a thought. prevailed than it has in the last nine or ten Now let me suppose that some faithful friend years. I am very well aware that amongst instead of advising Jeroboam as his wicked such various efforts there are some that are counsellors advised him, had stepped in and unpleasant. There are persons that are so spoken, and that had been accompanied heady, high-minded, conceited, who are perwith such a blessing as that Jeroboam had fect incendiaries. Some' few individuals of been converted from the error of his way, this description may be found, and it behores what a world of iniquity would have been every church and every society that wish to hidden, what an ocean of wickedness would encourage the diffusion of the gospel to be have been prevented -a deluge that spread particularly careful whom they encourage over the nation to the destruction of millions, and whom they send forth. Let them be and that issued in infamy and ruin. It would but humble, prudent, godly, modest, serious have been nipped in the bud, it would have characters, and the Lord will bless them. been stopped at the outset; and how can Yes, in many parts of the country where you tell, as to every sinner you may have such characters have gone forth for this obbeen the means of converting from the error ject, it has not been in vain. God has been of his way, but that he might have been gathering men to himself, one in one place, another Jeroboam ? None of us can tell and another in another, and so on. I grant where the sins of our lives may lead. Every that this work is less splendid than some sinner in heart is an incendiary in God's others. We do not catch men by shoals, we world; he is like a man going about with fire do not draw our three thousand into the in a lantern, and labouring to set cities on gospel net, but if we gather them one by one, fire. His whole course tends to set creation or ten by ten, let none say that we labour in on fire. Its tendency is the misery and ruin vain. I am persuaded it is not so.
Where of himself and others if God do not prevent but a few are gathered there will be such a it. Now, when you have been the instrument satisfaction at the last day, when we come to of turning a sinner from the error of his way, see the happy results, as will abundantly you have stopped an incendiary, and who more than compensate anything that we have can tell what mischief you prevent? Who done. can tell if that sinner had not been converted The friends of the Redeemer, perceiving to God how much he might have debauched the spirit for communicating the knowledge his family, how much he might have destroyed of God in the inost benighted parts of this his friends, how much mischief he might country, this Society was formed for encourhave done in his neighbourhood? We can- aging such a spirit. It was to their honour. not tell how much that wickedness might It is by the formation of such societies things have been propagated from family to family, are accomplished, and you have seen, my