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II. We are now to consider the motives used by the apostle for exciting us to labor in the conversion of those that err from the truth: 66 Let him know, that he which con. verteth a sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins."
We are first taught in these words, that death is the fruit of sin, and will be the por tion of such as turn aside after crooked ways. 66 He that erreth from the way of understand. ing,” says Solomon,“ shall remain in the congregation of the dead.” Solomon knew that good, as well as bad men, die out of this world. It must therefore be a kind of death peculiar to the wicked of which he speaks. Wicked men are already dead in trepasses and sins, and they are waited for of the lake of fire and brimstone, which is the second death.
Did we see any of our friends living on poisoned dainties, would not our bowels be turned within us at the sight of such pernicious folly ? Would we not entreat them with tears to have pity on themselves ? Why then do we feel so little pity for souls perishing by the deceitfulness of sin ? Do we really believe that sin is so fatal in its consequences as the Scripture represents it to be ? If we do not,
where is our faith ? If we do, where are the fruits of our faith ?
2. Salvation from this death is attainable. In this the condition of wicked men differs from that of fallen angels, that " God hath so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life." We ought not therefore to despair of the salvation of the worst of our neighbors. Although they may carry the devil's mark in their forehead, we do not certainiy know that their names are noć written in the Lamb's book of life. Cer. tain it is, that they are called by the gospel to partake of the salvarion of Christ. God stretches out his hand all day long to the disobedient and gainsaying. Shall we think it too great a trouble for ourselves, or too great an extension of charity, to be followers of God ?
3. Our exertions, if they have the desired effect on the salvation of our neighbors, will be profitable beyond all our conception.
66 He shall save a soul from death.” How glorious were Paul and Peter in the eyes of men, when one of them raised up Dorcas, and the other Eutychus, from death. But they were far more glorious in the eyes of the wise, and of God himself, when they were the happy instruments of raising up those who were dead in sins, to a life of holiness. The work indeed was God's; for who but God
can raise the dead? Yet he put honor and glory inexpressible upon his faithful servants who preached those truths by which men were saved. " Although ye have many teachers," says Paul, " yet have ye not many fathers, for in Jesus Christ have I begotten you through the gospel." I would far rather have been able to speak such bold words, than to call myself the Lord of an hundred nations. Far rather would I be the spiritual father of one precious soul, than possess all the riches of Solomon or Cræsus.
There are many who spend their whole lives in heaping up wealth, although they know not who shall possess these acquisitions after them, and whether they shall be wise men or fools, whether they shall be the better or the worse for what is left to them. But “ the fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he that winneth souls is wise.” What account shall be made in the great day of all our painful acquisitions of earthly treasure ? But a single drop of cold water given to a disciple in the name of a disciple, shall in no wise lose its reward. What then will be the happiness, in that awful day, of those who have not only walked in the way of life, but likewise induced their fellow sinners to leave the paths of destruction!
66 He shall save a soul from death,"- from a death ten thousand times more dreadful than all the deaths or miseries that can be sustain
ed in this world. What are seventy years to éternity ? What are the pains that accompany the death of the body, to those eternal burnings which the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle.
He shall save not only the body, but the soul from death. The whole person is often meant by the soul, and the body, as well as the soul, is a partaker of the blessings of salvation. What fools are those men who prefer their bodies to their souls ? What will become of their bodies in the day when their souls leave them, and in the day when their souls are re-unied to them? If you love your bodies let your chief attention be bestowed upon your souls. If you love your friends, let your love be directed especially to their souls, with which their bodies must participate in endless joy or woe. .
When a soul is saved from death, it partakes of a new and an everlasting life. And what can be more delightful to us than the hope of seeing our friends with ourselves in heaven, especially those friends to whosem salvation we have been happily instrumental ? Pauloften thought, with transport,ofthose who were to be his joy and crown in the day of the Lord Jesus Christ, and he could have even wished himself accursed from Christ for the sake of his unbelieving kinsmen, that they might partake of the blessedness of being with Christ. We cannot hope to equal Paul in the
number of his converts; but if we have a few, or but one, for a joy and crown of rejoicing in the day of the Lord, we will not envy his superior glory.
That perfect love which reigns on high will make the happiness of the blessed the happi. ness of every one. If we love our neighbors as ourselves, their happiness is ours. Yet we may reasonably conclude, that those who have turned others to righteousness will, above all their companions, enjoy that happiness which is the fruit, under the divine blessing, of their own prayers and labors.
If such is the advantage of converting a sinner from the error of his ways, what excuse can we make for ourselves, if we neglect any of those means that may be conducive to at end so infinitely important to ourselves, and to those whom we are bound to love as our. şelves? The merchant cannot easily forgive himself, if he neglect the opportunity of gain which might enrich himself for life, and his family after him. But what is the gaining of all the world to the gaining of one soul? Christ knew the value of souls. He died not as a fool dieth. If a skilful jeweller should give his whole fortune for one diamond, you would not surely think that it is of small value, What must be the value of those souls for which Christ gave not all the substance of his house, not the heaven and the earth, although the heaven and the earth are his, but his own