Brothers, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;…
: — St. James was speaking to those who were the true and faithful disciples of Christ; not to hirelings, who would think only of what was personal to themselves, or who could view their own interests separately from those of His Church. The true Christian is one who burns with zeal for the glory of God, and who loves his fellow-men, as children of the same Father, and redeemed by the same blood. Show him, then, what he can do to promote God's glory, or to benefit his fellow-men, and you show him what he will eagerly seize on, as meeting his desires and deserving of his energies. He has so much of conformity to Christ, that as the blessed Redeemer "pleased not Himself," but "poured out His soul unto death," that He might save sinners from eternal destruction, so he thinks not of what may minister to his individual happiness, but seeks his own good in that of strangers, and even enemies. Is it nothing, then, to him, that he may be instrumental to the "saving a soul from death" — to the "hiding a multitude of sins"? The soul is that of which we are taught assuredly that it shall not die; that God hath endowed it with immortality. The death of the soul is life — eternal life — but life under the frown of the Almighty: the life of anguish; the life of remorse; the life of despair; life with all the darkness of death, but with none of its repose; the grave, but the grave for a home, with all its noisomeness felt, all its terrible chillness clasping the heart, all its unseen, its unimagined fearfulness telling on acute and ever wakeful sensibilities. Thus, when you speak of a man's losing his soul, you do not mean that the soul is taken from him; that he parts with the soul, as is ordinarily meant in speaking of anything that is lost. This were no loss; this were gain — immeasurable, unspeakable gain — to the wicked. But the soul is lost when it clings tenaciously to the body, and "yet would give worlds, if it had them to give, to dissolve the union; when all its powers are lost, but the power of being wretched, or rather are all sunk in that one tremendous and ever-growing capacity. And is it nothing, then, to "save a soul from death"? Oh i the true Christian thrills at the mention of such a deed. No matter whose soul it is — it is the soul of a fellow-creature, the soul of one formed in the same image with himself; a soul too, for which the Lord Jesus died, and which, therefore, need not die; the multitude of whose sins may be hidden — hidden from the avenger of blood, because blotted out through the expiation made on Calvary. There is motive, then, enough, in the mere prospect of "saving a soul from death." Not, however, that he who is instrumental to the conversion of a sinner has no more immediate, personal interest in the event, than would seem indicated by these remarks. We cannot doubt — Scripture will not suffer us to doubt — that he who converts another thereby forms for himself a new spring of happiness through eternity. What says St. Paul to the Thessalonians? "What is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?" Now we attach peculiar worth to our text, on account of its dealing with single cases of conversion. It is not one of those passages which take a large sweep, and which, therefore, the private Christian, who is not placed in any wide sphere of duty, may consider as scarcely applying to himself. It is but one wanderer who is here spoken of as reclaimed; and it is but a single individual who is instrumental to his conversion. If the text related to conversion on a great scale, as when multitudes are acted on through the preaching of the gospel, it might have been said, that if there were encouragement in the text, it was encouragement for those only unto whom is committed "the work of an evangelist." But as it is, there is not one of you who may not consider himself as the party addressed by St. James; for there is not one of you, however contracted the sphere in which he may move, unto whom there is not afforded opportunity of acting on some fellow-creature, who is living in estrangement of God, and of endeavouring to prevail on him to "return to the Shepherd and Bishop of his soul."
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;