James 5:19
My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back,
Sermons
The Blessing of God on Filial PietyAndrew Lee et al James 5:19
Who Will Rise Up with Me Against the Wicked?John Wesley James 5:19
Abrupt EndingDean Plumptre.James 5:19-20
Be Slow to DespairJames 5:19-20
Caring for the Salvation of OthersT. Manton.James 5:19-20
ConversionC. H. Spurgeon.James 5:19-20
Conversion of OthersC. F. Deems, D. D.James 5:19-20
Conversion of the Erring a Christian DutyWin. Forsyth.James 5:19-20
Converting a SinnerDr. J. P. Thompson.James 5:19-20
Converting a SoulD. Thomas.James 5:19-20
Converting Sinners a Christian DutyC. G. Finney.James 5:19-20
Difficulty of the WorkEdward Smith.James 5:19-20
Heresy: an Exposition and an AppealJ. Parker, D. D.James 5:19-20
How to Do ItG. F. Pentecost, D. D.James 5:19-20
Human Agency in the Sinner's Conversion to GodHugh McGatrie.James 5:19-20
Jewel Gatherers .For the Redeemer's CrownW. M. Punshon, D. D.James 5:19-20
Motives to Christian ZealEssex RemembrancerJames 5:19-20
On Restoring BackslidersA. F. Barfield.James 5:19-20
One Soul Worth a Great EffortJames 5:19-20
Saved AloneJames 5:19-20
Sin HiddenJames 5:19-20
Soul-SavingJames 5:19-20
Successful EndeavourSword and Trowel.James 5:19-20
The Conversion of a SinnerC. Jerdan James 5:19, 20
The Conversion of a SinnerA. R. McEwen, D. D.James 5:19-20
The Conversion of SinnersT. Finch.James 5:19-20
The Conversion of SinnersJ. CaugheyJames 5:19-20
The Erring to be ReclaimedDean Scott.James 5:19-20
The Greatness of Being Instrumental to Another's ConversionH. Melvill, B. D.James 5:19-20
The Joy of Converting a SoulJames 5:19-20
The Lord's Converts and Man'sJames 5:19-20
The Mission of a TractThe Fireside.James 5:19-20
The Preciousness of the SoulJoseph Cummings, D. D.James 5:19-20
The Salvation of a SoulT.F. Lockyear James 5:19, 20
The Wide Blessedness of LoveDean Plumptre.James 5:19-20
Tholuck's Personal Effort for Individual SoulsJames 5:19-20
To Sabbath-School Teachers and Other Soul-WinnersC. H. Spurgeon.James 5:19-20
Wandering from the TruthC. F. Deems, D. D.James 5:19-20
With this emphatic sentence the Epistle closes. There are no personal references, Christian greetings, or notices of friends, such as Paul would have had. Perhaps James ends thus abruptly, because he desires to impress upon his readers' hearts this last thought, that every Christian should aim at being a soul-winner. We have here -

I. A BROTHER GOING ASTRAY. The case supposed is the apostasy of a professing Christian. We must notice, at the outset, the supreme importance which our apostle ascribes here, and throughout his Epistle (James 1:18, 21-23; James 3:14), to "the truth." He strikes as loyal a note as Paul does, regarding the necessity of "consenting" to sound doctrine if one would live the Christian life. He assumes that all backsliding is aberration from the truth. His words cover both forms which apostasy may take - errors of creed and of conduct. A brother may go astray:

1. As regards doctrine. Many in our times, alas! attach small importance to error of this kind. Libertines in practice are apt to be latitudinarians in opinion. Many "moral" men act as if they do not regard any of the doctrines of the creed as vital. Some really pious people seem to believe that the Christian life can be lived with equal success by men holding the most diverse views regarding the central facts of Christianity. But Scripture teaches that it is through the knowledge and faith of certain great truths alone that men's hearts will be imbued with Christian principle, and their lives become acceptable to God. Among the essential doctrines are those of human depravity and inability; the Divine inspiration of Holy Scripture; the supreme Deity of Jesus Christ; his substitutionary atonement; and man's dependence on the gracious indwelling of the Holy Spirit. To deny any of these doctrines is to "err from the truth," and to "fall from grace." Among the causes of such doctrinal aberration are

(1) pride of intellect;

(2) giving one's self over to the guidance of speculation;

(3) aversion of heart to evangelical truth;

(4) the vanity of desiring to be thought independent;

(5) neglect of the means of grace. Or, again, a brother may err.

2. As regards practice. He may turn his back upon the gospel without formally renouncing any of its doctrines. Immorality is a departure from the faith, no less than error in opinion. To "walk in the troth" is to follow holiness. The man, therefore, who professes zeal for orthodoxy, and all the while is wallowing in sin, or becoming entangled with the world, is really a heretic. Such a man is a living lie against the truth. But what temptations there are everywhere to leave the narrow way! And do not professing Christians in large numbers succumb to these? The masses of our home heathen are in a great measure composed of members of Churches who have finally lapsed into worldliness. It is a sure sign of spiritual declension to cease to find pleasure in public worship, and to allow one's place in the house of God to be empty.

II. ANOTHER BROTHER CONVERTING THE ERRING BROTHER. Usually the term "convert" is employed to describe that great moral revolution within the soul which is effected by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. And, doubtless, we may understand it here in this radical sense, as well as in its secondary meaning when applied to the reclamation of a backsliding believer. For there are members of the visible Church who are not true Christians. They make for some time a fair profession; but by-and-by they visibly fall away. Well, the counsels and prayers and pious example of a fellow-member of the congregation may be blessed to the real conversion of such. But, again, the erring one may be already a believer; and a brother believer may become instrumental in reclaiming him from his apostasy. This also is a conversion, although as such only supplementary to "the great change." Simon Peter was a truly godly man when he denied his Master; yet Jesus called his repentance after that foul sin his "conversion" (Luke 22:32). Some Christians are in this sense converted many times. Their religious life ebbs and flows; and each turn of the tide after a period of declension amounts to a fresh conversion. Of course, it is only God who can "convert a sinner" in either sense. But he employs believers as his instruments. The Holy Spirit bestows his grace in connection with human prayer add effort (Acts 26:18; Luke 1:15, 16; 1 Corinthians 4:15; Philemon 1:19). And any Christian may become such an instrument. James does not say, "If any preacher, or pastor, or elder, convert him;" the work may be accomplished by the humblest member of the congregation. Even a servant-maid, or a little child, may be honored to do it. Each member is bound to seek the spiritual good of every other member. For, we are our "brother's keeper."

III. THE GLORIOUS RESULTS OF SUCH CONVERSION. The full flower of this glory shall bloom in eternity; but its bud appears just now in time. The ultimate result is the salvation of the soul; and the immediate result is the covering of many sins. But who can estimate the blessedness of such an experience? These last burning words of the Epistle remind us of the priceless value of the human spirit. Man is "the image and glory of God." Think of the high endowments of the soul, its lofty powers, its immortal destiny, the price paid for its redemption, and the dreadfulness of its ruin, should it continue unsaved. The unconverted sinner is an heir-apparent to eternal death; and the backsliding professor, if he be not restored, must slip down into the same undone eternity. Now, the glorious effect of conversion is to deliver from the power of sin in the future, and from its guilt in the present. The convert's sins are "a multitude," for every day has contributed to their number; but now they are covered with the Redeemer's merit. The blood-sprinkled mercy-seat hides the violated Law from Jehovah's eye. And what a joy to the sinner to be made the subject of such a conversion! "Blessed is he whose sin is covered" (Psalm 32:1). Where past sin is thus hidden, much future sin is prevented. This, therefore, is the best "turn which one can do to his neighbor - to convert him from the error of his way."

IV. THE ENCOURAGEMENT THUS SUPPLIED TO CHRISTIAN EFFORT. "Let him know" (ver. 20). These animating words express the main thought in the text. The Christian worker must not forget that to restore an erring soul is one of the noblest of achievements. It is a far grander triumph than even to save a man's natural life. Let him remember this for his comfort in thinking of the work which he has already done, and for his encouragement in seeking to do more. It is inspiring to realize that one has plucked brands from the everlasting burning, and helped to add new jewels to Immanuel's crown. God works for this end; and as often as it is gained, there is joy in heaven in the presence of the angels. For this the apostles labored. For this the martyrs bled. For this evangelists toil. Who does not envy the life-work of men like Luther, Wesley, Whitefield, M'Cheyne, when viewed in the light of a Scripture like this? Yet there are many humble Christians who have tasted of this joy, and whose heaven shall be "two heavens," because they have "turned many to righteousness" (Daniel 12:3).

LESSONS.

1. Let us beware of backsliding ourselves; and let us ask the Holy Spirit to "see if there be any wicked way in us."

2. Let us be concerned about our erring brethren, and labor to compass their conversion.

3. Let us take encouragement to missionary effort from the melting motive presented in this closing counsel. - C.J.







If any of you do err from the truth.
Men may think falsely, and live virtuously; or they may live immorally, and think correctly. The one class are intellectual sinners: the other moral transgressors. They are to be judged by different standards, and so classified as not to be swept away in one common anathema. If error proceeds from sheer intellectual inability to see as the majority see, charity should be exercised in all its power and tenderness; but if error proceeds from a putrid heart — if it is cherished because truth is too regardful of the conduct, and too restraining for the wildness of passion — their indignation may be excited, and consequences allowed to discharge their retributive fires.

I. THE POSSIBILITY OF A TRUTH-POSSESSOR BECOMING A TRUTH-LOSER.

1. Through a daring, speculative turn of thought. We are not of those who would close the inquiring eye and bind the exploring wing; yet our duty is to warn the student that there are dangerous latitudes in every sea, and that many a gallant vessel has been shivered on the hidden rock.

2. Through want of sympathy in their intellectual difficulties. Woe unto the Church when honest thought and honest speech are repressed! When intellect is stagnant, its putrid effluvium may corrupt the heart's holiest feelings.

3. Through intellectual pride. Some men are ever in minorities through a love of singularity. They confound impertinence with candour, and mistake rudeness for originality.

II. THE PRINCIPLE OF MUTUAL OVERSIGHT IN SPIRITUAL LIFE IS RECOGNISED. GO to the erring one with a brother's gentleness, and you may win his soul from destruction. The nearer he is to the edge of the precipice, the more caution is required on the part of those who have his interest at heart.

III. THE SALVATION OF THE SOUL IS THE SUBLIMEST OF MORAL TRIUMPHS.

1. Christ deemed it worthy of His incarnation and sacrifice.

2. The mission of God's Spirit is thus fulfilled.

3. The sum of moral goodness is augmented.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

Truth is the purest, the most powerful, and the most enduring thing in the universe. Truth makes God to be God, and when God came in the flesh, the brightest crown He could place upon His own head, the noblest name He could give to His personality was "The Truth." All the wrongs in the universe begin by a wandering from the truth. This is so in every department of human thought, emotion, and action. It is because the sin begins in some slight departure, in the man, from that which is true, leading to a departure of the affections, which produces a departure in the outward life, that men should be strenuously anxious to know the truth, especially the truth as to their highest things, their highest connections; the truth as to God, their own nature, their relations to God, and their own character. When men talk of the valuelessness of doctrine, and say it does not matter what a man believes so that his life is right, they show their absolute ignorance of the whole subject. It is as if one should say, it is no matter what disease a man has so long as he has health. The outward life of a man is the product of his character, and his character is the product of his creed. If there be one rule without an exception this must be the rule. It certainly is the counterpart in the spiritual world of the fact in physics that no stream ever rises above its source. Now, the source of the outer life is the creed. Nay, it is something still stronger than that. A man is just what he believes, no more, no less. Neither God nor the devil can make him any more or any less. To make any change in him the good or the bad need not strive to mould his outer life, or by any other process attempt to change his character except by efforts to make a change in his creed. If he have believed error, to make him a good man he must be brought to faith in the truth; if he have such faith, to make him a bad man all that is necessary is to break the hold of his faith on the truth. "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he." Now the phrase, "thinks in his heart," is equivalent to "creed," creed being compounded of two words, signifying that form of belief to which I give my heart. If any one shall object to this that there are so many who profess a good creed and lead a bad life, the reply is ready. In such a case the creed is only professed, not held. Indeed, a creed is not that which a man holds at all; it is that which holds him. When a man once comes into vital connection with the creed, he is never its master; it is always his.

(C. F. Deems, D. D.)

Another practical precept to conclude with: abrupt, as regards the verses immediately preceding, but embodying that thought of the duty of brotherhood which runs like a golden thread through the tissue of the Epistle. It has been treated negatively, Do the brethren no ill; repay no injuries" (vers. 9 ff.); then positively, "Minister to them, and pray with them for bodily and spiritual healing" (vers. 14 ff.); and now, lastly," Seek them out; reclaim for Christ His lost sheep." This is the climax of love; more than brotherly, Christlike! In connection with the exhortation to prayer, this may be looked on as praying with the hands, working as God's ministers towards the fulfilment of that has been uttered by the lips.

(Dean Scott.)

He which converteth the sinner.
I. Inquire into THE TRUE IDEA OF A SINNER.

1. A sinner is, essentially, a moral agent, tie must be the responsible author of his own acts, in such a sense that he is not compelled irresistibly to act one way or another, otherwise than according to his own free choice. He must also have intellect, so that he can understand his own relations and apprehend his moral responsibilities. He must also have sensibility, so that he can be moved to action — so that there can be inducement to voluntary activity, and also a capacity to appropriate the motives for right of wrong action.

2. He is a selfish moral agent devoted to his own interests, making himself his own supreme end of action.

3. We have here the true idea of sin. It is, in an important sense, error. It is not a mere mistake, for mistakes are made through ignorance or incapacity. Nor is it a mere defect of constitution, attributable to its author. But it is an "error in his ways." It is missing the mark in his voluntary course of conduct. It is a voluntary .divergence from the line of duty.

II. WHAT IS CONVERSION? What is it to "convert the sinner from the error of his ways"? It is changing the great moral end of action. It supplants selfishness and substitutes benevolence in its stead.

III. IN WHAT SENSE DOES MAN CONVERT A SINNER? Our text reads — "If any of you do err from the truth and one convert him" — implying that man may convert a sinner. But in what sense can this be said and done? I answer, the change must of necessity be a voluntary one — not a change in the essence of the soul, nor in the essence of the body — not any change in the created constitutional faculties; but a change which the mind itself, acting under various influences, makes as to its own voluntary end of action. It is an intelligent change — the mind, acting intelligently and freely, changes its moral course, and does it for perceived reasons. Even God cannot convert a sinner without his own consent. He cannot, for the simple reason that the thing involves a contradiction. The being converted implies his own consent — else it is no conversion at all. God converts men, therefore, only as He persuades them to turn from the error of their selfish ways to the rightness of benevolent ways. So, also, man can convert a sinner only in the sense of presenting the reasons that induce the voluntary change and thus persuading him to repent. If he can do this, then he converts a sinner from the error of his ways. But the Bible informs us that man alone never does or can convert a sinner. It holds, however, that when man acts humbly, depending on God, God works with him and by him. Men are "labourers together with God." They present reasons and God enforces those reasons on the mind.

IV. WE MUST NEXT INQUIRE INTO THE KIND OF DEATH OF WHICH THE TEXT SPEAKS. "Shall save a soul from death."

1. By the death of the soul is sometimes meant spiritual death — a state in which the mind is not influenced by truth as it should be. The man is under the dominion of sin and repels the influence of truth.

2. Or the death of the soul may be eternal death — the utter loss of the soul and its final ruin. To be always a sinner is awful enough — is a death of fearful horror; but how terribly augmented is even this when you conceive of it as heightened by everlasting punishment, far away "from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power!"

V. We can now consider THE IMPORTANCE OF SAVING A SOUL FROM DEATH. Our text says, he who converts a sinner saves a soul from death. Consequently he saves him from all the misery he else must have endured. So much misery is saved. And this amount is greater in the case of each sinner saved than all that has been experienced in our entire world up to this hour. Yet farther. The amount of suffering thus saved is greater not only than all that ever has been, but than all that ever will be endured in this world. Nay, more, the amount thus saved is greater than the created universe ever can endure in any finite duration. Aye, it is even greater, myriads of times greater, than all finite minds can ever conceive. But let us look at still another view of the case. He who converts a sinner not only saves more misery, but confers more happiness than all the world has yet enjoyed, or even all the created universe. You have converted a sinner, have you? Indeed! Then think what has been gained! Does any one ask, What then? Let the facts of the case give the answer. The time will come when he will say, In my experience of God and Divine things, 1 have enjoyed more than all the created universe had done up to the general judgment — more than the aggregate happiness of all creatures, during the whole duration of our world; and yet my happiness is only just begun! Onward, still onward — onward for ever rolls the deep tide of my blessedness, and evermore increasing! If these things be true, then —

1. Converting sinners is the work of the Christian life. It is the great work to which we, as Christians, are especially appointed. Who can doubt this?

2. It is the great work of life because its importance demands that it should be. It is so much beyond any other work in importance that it cannot be rationally regarded as anything other or less than the great work of life.

3. It can be made the great work of life, because Jesus Christ has made provision for it. His atonement covers the human race and lays the foundation so broad that whosoever will may come. The promise of His Spirit to aid each Christian in this work is equally broad, and was designed to open the way for each one to become a labourer together with God in this work of saving souls.

4. Benevolence can never stop short of it. Where so much good can be done and so much misery can be prevented, how is it possible that benevolence can fail to do its utmost?

5. Living to save others is the condition of saving ourselves. No man is truly converted who does not live to save others. Every truly converted man turns item selfishness to benevolence, and benevolence surely leads him to do all he can to save the souls of his fellow-man. This is the changeless law of benevolent action.

6. The self-deceived are always to be distinguished by this peculiarity — they live to save themselves. This is the chief end of all their religion. All their religious efforts and activities tend toward this sole object. If they can secure their own conversion so as to be pretty sure of it, they are satisfied. Sometimes the ties of natural sympathy embrace those who are especially near to them; but selfishness goes commonly no further, except as a good name may prompt them on.

7. Some persons take no pains to convert sinners, but act as if this were a matter of no consequence whatever. They do not labour to persuade men to be reconciled to God.

(C. G. Finney.)

I. A SOUL LOST BY ERROR.

1. A safe antecedent state. What is it to be in conformity with the truth?

(1)Our conceptions in harmony with its spirit.

(2)Our life in harmony with its spirit.

2. A fearful possibility. It is implied that a soul can fall from that state, can err from that truth, can bound away from that orbit.

(1)This man can do because he is moral.

(2)This man has done.

II. A SOUL SAVED BY MAN.

1. It is possible for man to convert a soul.

2. The man who converts a soul accomplishes immense good.

3. The immense good he accomplishes should be well considered by him. "Let him know" it — to cheer him amidst the discouragements of his labours, and to inspire him with persevering zeal.

(D. Thomas.)

I. THE CASE SUPPOSED. How few fulfil their first promise. Where are all the baptized? Demas still forsakes the truth for the love of the present world. There are many still like the Galatians (Galatians 3:1-4), and the Philippians (Philippians 3:18, 19), and the backsliders of Sardis and Laodicea. What, then, are we to fold our hands? Are we to excuse ourselves on the ground that we are not to blame; that it is no business of ours; that though sorry we cannot help? No, there is a better way. If we saw a man nearing a precipice would we not warn him? If we found a child lost in the wilds would we not speak kindly to him and lead him home?

II. THE REMEDY PRESCRIBED. Whom have you converted? Is there one upon earth that blesses you, as having, under God, turned him from the error of his way? Is there one in heaven who will welcome you to the everlasting habitations as the Christian friend who helped him in the hour of need, and saved his soul from death?

III. THE GLORIOUS ISSUE.

1. Great loss averted.

2. Great good secured.

3. Great joy.Lessons:

1. The preciousness of the soul.

2. The liability of good men to err.

3. The necessity of conversion to safety and forgiveness.

4. The obligation upon every Christian to seek the conversion of such as have gone astray.

(Win. Forsyth.)

1. The text does not apply to —

(1)the unconverted;

(2)the hypocrite;

(3)those who are intellectually wrong.

2. But to one who has been truly converted to Jesus, and yet has gone back into the world again.

I. IT IS POSSIBLE TO BACKSLIDE. Some of the causes —

1. A false estimate of the requirements of discipleship.

2. A false estimate of one's own strength.

3. Intellectual pride.

4. Neglect of the means of grace.

II. THE CHRISTIAN DUTY OF MUTUAL OVERSIGHT.

III. THE RESTORATION OF THE BACKSLIDER IS ONE OF THE GRANDEST AND NOBLEST OF ALL CHRISTIAN WORKS.

(A. F. Barfield.)

I. THE GREAT OBJECT OF CHRISTIAN ZEAL.

1. The conversion of the sinner, i.e., a change in the —

(1)understanding;

(2)affections;

(3)will;

(4)life.

2. The importance of conversion is seen when we remember that —

(1)Unconverted, the man's influence is evil;

(2)unconverted, he cannot enter heaven.

II. THE MEANS BY WHICH WE MAY ACCOMPLISH HIS.

1. The force of exhortation.

2. The management of your influence.

3. The power of example.

4. The importunity of prayer.

III. THE MOTIVES FOR ENGAGING IN THIS GREAT WORK.

1. Much evil shall be removed.

2. Much good shall be conferred.

3. Much joy shall be imparted.

(Hugh McGatrie.)

1. A man may convert his fellow —

(1)By planting in him some saving truth.

(2)By showing the truth embodied in a rounded and radiant life.

2. Christians ought to strive to convert those who err.

(1)It saves a soul from death.

(2)It hides a multitude of sins (Psalm 51:9; Psalm 32:1; Proverbs 10:12; 1 Peter 4:8).

(3)It is the grandest work.

(4)It is an enduring work.

(5)It is the most certain work.Know. Other work may disappoint. In the early Christian Church one sold himself as a slave to a heathen family to gain access. They were converted, and freed him. Then he sold himself to the Governor of Sparta, with like result. If all Christians had that spirit!

(C. F. Deems, D. D.)

I. THE PROPENSITY OF MANKIND TO ERR FROM THE TRUTH SO obviously assumed in the text.

1. Some do err from the truth after being taught it by their parents and ministers; after knowing something of its beauty and excellence; after enrolling their names among its friends, and giving some hopeful proofs of its vital and transforming power. Gradually seduced by temptations, evil companions, &c., they become at first indifferent, then reject one point after another, and at last abandon all its claims, and join the ranks of its enemies.

2. Others do err from the truth through habitual inattention to its claims, or a secret aversion to its spirit and authority, felt in youth and confirmed afterwards by indulgence in sin, and the corrupting associations of the world.

3. More still err from the truth, through a total destitution of the means of knowledge, and the influence of some system of error and delusion, instilled into the mind in youth, and identified with all their interests and associations.

II. THE IMPORTANT CHANGE NECESSARY TO SALVATION; the conversion of a sinner from the error of his way. It is a change from ignorance of Divine things to spiritual discernment; from serious errors to the reception of saving truth; from unbelief to a cordial faith in the Son of God; from feelings and habits of impiety to the love and adoration of his Maker; from a course of vanity and sin to a life of integrity and virtue; from the mere morality of worldly prudence to all the graces of Christian piety; and from the inordinate cares and pursuits of time to a sincere and immediate preparation for eternity.

III. THE MEANS AND AGENCY BY WHICH THIS CHANGE MAY BE EFFECTED: "If one convert him." God might doubtless produce this change in a sinner by an immediate operation on the soul, without any sensible agency, or visible means whatever. But the apostle supposes, in the text, that one is converted by the instrumentality of another, and that the use of fit means for that purpose was the common concern of all who constituted the first Christian Churches. For, as in nature God effects all His purposes by second causes, and makes the elements of the physical system the means of all its changes and productions; so it has pleased Him, in the moral and spiritual world, to effect His purposes of grace by the instrumentality of His servants. The Spirit of God enlightens and improves the human spirit by reasonable means; by intelligent and self-conscious means; by means suited to its powers and responsibilities; by means which do not suspend its freedom, but lead the mind, of its own choice, to a new and efficient use of its faculties.

IV. THE MOTIVES AND CONSIDERATIONS WHICH SHOULD INDUCE AND SUSTAIN THE ATTEMPT.

1. The magnitude of its immediate results.

2. The accordance of these means with the spirit and commands of the gospel, and the express purpose of God in the economy of redemption.

3. The promise of Divine influence in connection with human instrumentality, and the good already accomplished as a pledge of future success.

4. The subservience of the conversion of sinners to the glory of God, promoting as it does, in every instance, the manifestation of His perfections, and the triumphs of His grace, in restoring fallen man to His image and favour for ever.

5. The holy satisfaction to be found in this good work, and the gracious reward which awaits the faithful, in the blessed results of their exertions, and the grateful recollections of eternity.

(T. Finch.)

Essex Remembrancer.
I. CONVERSION TO GOD IS OF INDISPENSABLE NECESSITY.

II. IT IS EFFECTED BY HUMAN INSTRUMENTALITY.

1. The pious education of the young.

2. The circulation of the Scriptures.

3. The preaching of the gospel.

III. IT Is THE DUTY OF CHRISTIANS TO SEEK THE CONVERSION OF SINNERS.

(Essex Remembrancer.)

These are the last words of the Epistle. From the abrupt nature of its conclusion, and from the absence of the ordinary salutation and doxology, some have supposed that the original intention was to write at greater length, but at this part of the Epistle the apostle was surprised by the tumultuous Jews, and suddenly hurried off to martyrdom. If this supposition be true, how solemnly the words stand as the last of a wise and generous spirit! With what worthier words than these parting counsels would any one wish to die? In any case, whether this supposition is true or not, there is very much instruction and encouragement couched in them which will repay our careful study.

I. THERE IS INDIVIDUAL DANGER; THE POSSIBILITY OF ERRING FROM THE TRUTH. This danger may be either intellectual or moral; either the darkening of the understanding, or the corruption of the heart. The allusion, evidently, is to one who, having known the truth, had departed from its safe and pleasant paths, and had come under the entanglements, either of erroneous notions, or of vicious life. And this twofold danger is in existence still.

1. There is nowadays, I need not remind you, a danger of intellectual error. If, when the apostle wrote — in the very childhood, so to speak, of Christianity — the tares sown by the enemy were so rank in their luxuriant growth that there were some who denied the divinity of Jesus, and some who allied impurity to devotion, and some who dreamed that they had had a release from the obligations to personal obedience — surely the danger of intellectual error is not the less imminent now, when every man deems himself inspired, and has some form or theory of his own. And, when we consider the almost inevitable connection between faith and practice, we cannot loin in the sentiments of those who deem it a matter of indifference as to that may be the peculiarities of creed. We cannot forget that because of his opinion the Moslem enters upon fierce wars of extermination, and that because of his opinion the Hindoo, personally merciful, defends infanticide, and mourns that widows are no longer burned nor captives immolated, as over some lost privilege. We cannot forget that in the Japanese, who, amid barbarous rites, hold festival to uproot the cross; and the Thugs, who strangle from principle, and whose great merit is in the multiplication of murders, the opinions prompt the deed. There are some among the teachers of religion who denounce creeds and denominations almost as vehemently as they denounce infidelity and sin, and whose special mission appears to be to advocate the extinction, not only of the middle walls of partition, but of those old and venerable landmarks which guard the poor man's heritage. It is a dangerous thing, believe me, to loose off from safe anchorage on matters of Christian belief, or of Christian communion, or of Divine fellowship. Search the Scriptures for yourselves, only take care that you come to the investigation stripped of pride, prejudice, and preconceived hostility — with your spirits softened into a docile trust, with your hearts humbled to the obedience of the truth, and, above all, with fervency of prayer for the guidance of the good Spirit from on high, and that Spirit shall be given to the man that shall inquire, and you shall know of the truth or doctrine whether it be of God.

2. There is danger, not only of intellectual, but of moral error. This is, I need not remind you, more imminent and more disastrous than the other. It is quite possible to hold erroneous opinions in connection with a large charity. Wood, hay, and stubble are sometimes built of as clumsy materials on the true foundation; but where the danger is not intellectual, but moral, there is, of necessity, present alienation from God, and the prospect of perpetual exile from the glory of His power. Heresy is not a trifling thing; it is to be resisted and deplored; but the deadliest heresy is sin.

II. I turn now from the platform of individual danger to that of INDIVIDUAL EFFORT. "If any of you err from the truth, and one convert him." "If one convert him." There is here a distinct recognition of the influence of mind over mind, that principle of dependence and of oversight which is involved in our mutual relationship as members of one family. The minister ever his flock, the parent over his children, the master over his scholars, the scholars reflecting again upon the master, the servant upon the employer, and the employer upon the servant — all are exerting an influence. They cannot help it, and they cannot cease from it; it is the absolute and irrevocable law of their being. "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth and one convert him" — that is, one among themselves, not separated to the holy ministry, but one of his companions; one who is engaged in the same avocations; one who does not preach in the pulpit, but who preaches in the life. It is the persuasiveness of Christian influence that is meant, rather than a public appeal; it is the duty of the individual believer, rather than the duty of the public minister of the truth. There is not a single member of a single Church in the world that is exempt from this service. All are summoned to the labour, and all -oh, infinite condescension! — may be co-workers together with God. "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him." Oh, look at that! "If one convert him." Not the associated force; not the single army; not the phalanx; not even the regiment; but one solitary soldier — if one convert him. See the mighty results of single-handed labour! Some one has said they are minorities of ones that do all the great works of mankind; and it is amazing how large a result will follow from one man's simple, earnest, unostentatious, prayerful labour. Your sphere is narrow, you say; your influence is small; you feel as if you can do nothing for Christ. Don't now, don't any one of you begin to undervalue your own powers. One acorn is a very insignificant thing; but that majestic oak is its development of strength. One little rippling wavelet makes no account, but it is carried to the spring-tide, and the spring-tide were not perfect without it. One rain-drop is hardly noticed as it falls, but it is enough for one rose-bud's life to make it blow. There is not one of you, however small and scanty and narrow your influence, who may not, by patient and prayerful toil, become wise winners of souls. Brethren, I charge you examine yourselves in this matter. Have you done your duty? Let there now be born in the heart of each of you a purpose for God.

(W. M. Punshon, D. D.)

I. Here is a great principle involved — a very important one — that of INSTRUMENTALITY.

1. Instrumentality is not necessary with God. God can if He pleases cast the instrument aside. The mighty Maker of the world who used no angels to beat out the great mass of nature and fashion it into a round globe, He who without hammer or anvil fashioned this glorious world, can if He pleases speak, and it is done, command and it shall stand fast. He needs not instruments, though He uses them.

2. Instrumentality is very honourable to God, and not dishonourable. Suppose a workman has power and skill with his hands alone to fashion a certain article; but you put into his hands the worst of tools you can find; you know he can do it well with his hands, but these tools are so badly made that they will be the greatest impediment that you could lay in his way. Well now, I say, if a man with these bad instruments, or these poor tools — things without edges — that are broken, that are weak and frail, is able to make some beauteous fabric, he has more credit from the use of those tools than he would have had if he had done it simply with his hands, because the tools, so far from being an advantage were a disadvantage to him; so far from being a help, are on my supposition, even a detriment to him in his work. So God uses instruments to set forth His own glory, and to exalt Himself.

3. Usually God does employ instruments. I have heard of some — I remember them now — who were called like Saul, at once from heaven. We can remember the history of the brother who in the darkness of the night was called to know the Saviour by what he believed to be a vision from heaven, or some effect on his imagination. On one side he saw a black tablet of his guilt, and his soul was delighted to see Christ cast a white tablet over it; and he thought he heard a voice that said, "I am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins." There was a man converted almost without instrumentality; but you do not meet with such a case often. Most persons have been convinced by the pious conversation of sisters, by the holy example of mothers, by the minister, by the Sabbath-school, or by the reading of tracts or perusing Scripture.

4. If God sees fit to make use of any of us for the conversion of others, we must not therefore be too sure that we are converted ourselves. It is a most solemn thought that God makes use of ungodly men as instruments for the conversion of sinners. Grace is not spoiled by the rotten wooden spouts it runs through. God did once speak by an ass to Balaam, but that did not spoil His words. So He speaks, not simply by an ass, which He often does, but by something worse than that. He can fill the mouth of ravens with food for an Elijah, and yet the raven is a raven still.

5. If God in His mercy does not make us useful to the conversion of sinners, we are not therefore to say we are sure we are not the children of God. If I testify to them the truth of God and they reject His gospel; if I faithfully preach His truth, and they scorn it, my ministry is not therefore void. It has not returned to God void, for even in the punishment of those rebels He will be glorified, even in their destruction He will get Himself honour, and if He cannot get praise from their songs, He will at last get honour from their condemnation.

6. God, by using us as instruments, confers upon us the highest honour which men can receive.

II. THE GENERAL FACT. The choicest happiness which mortal breast can know is the happiness of benevolence — of doing good to our fellow-creatures. To save a body from death is that which gives us almost heaven on earth. Those monks on Mount St. Bernard, surely, must feel happiness when they rescue men from death. The dog comes to the door, and they know what it means: he has discovered some poor weary traveller who has lain him down to sleep in the snow, and is dying from cold and exhaustion. Up rise the monks from their cheerful fire, intent to act the good Samaritan to the lost one. At last they see him; they speak to him; but he answers not. They try to discover if there is breath in his body, and they think he is dead. They take him up, give him remedies; and hastening to their hostel, they lay him by the fire, and warm and chafe him, looking into his face with kindly anxiety, as much as to say, Poor creature! art thou dead? When, at last, they perceive some hearings of the lungs, what joy in the breasts of those brethren, as they say, "His life is not extinct!" Methinks if there could be happiness on earth, it would be the privilege to help to chafe one hand of that poor, almost dying man, and be the means of bringing him to life again. Or suppose another case. A house is in flames, and in it is a woman with her children, who cannot by any means escape. In vain she attempts to come downstairs; the flames prevent her. She has lost all presence of mind and knows not how to act. The strong man comes, and says, "Make way! make way! I must save that woman!" And, cooled by the genial streams of benevolence, he marches through the fire. Though scorched and almost stifled, he gropes his way. He ascends one staircase, then another; and though the stairs totter, he places the woman beneath his arm, takes the child on his shoulder, and down he comes, twice a giant, having more might than he ever possessed before. He has jeopardised his life, and perhaps an arm may be disabled, or a limb taken away, or a sense lost, or an injury irretrievably done to his body; yet he claps his hands, and says, "I have saved lives from death!" The crowd in the street hail him as a man who has been the deliverer of his fellow-creatures, honouring him more than the monarch who has stormed a city, sacked a town, and murdered myriads. But, ah! the body which was saved from death to-day may die to-morrow. Not so the soul that is saved from death: it is saved everlastingly. It is saved beyond the fear of destruction. And if there be joy in the breast of a benevolent man when he saves a body from death, how much more blessed must he be when he is made the means in the hand of God of saving "a soul from death, and hiding a multitude of sins." A single word spoken may be more the means of conversion than a whole sermon. God often blesses a short, pithy expression from a friend, more than a long discourse by a minister. There was once in a village, where there had been a revival in religion, a man who was a confirmed infidel. Notwithstanding all the efforts of the minister and many Christian people, he had resisted all attempts, and appeared to be more and more confirmed in his sin. At length the people held a prayer-meeting, specially to intercede for his soul. Afterwards God put it into the heart of one of the elders of the church to spend a night in prayer in behalf of the poor infidel. In the morning the elder rose from his knees, saddled his horse, and rode down to the man's smithy. He meant to say a great deal to him, but he simply went up to him, took him by the hand, and all he could say was, "Oh, sir! I am deeply concerned for your salvation. I am deeply concerned for your salvation. I have been wrestling with my God all this night for your salvation." He could say no more, his heart was too full. He then mounted on his horse and rode away again. Down went the blacksmith's hammer, and he went immediately to see his wife. She said, "What is the matter with you?" "Matter enough," said the man, "I have been attacked with a new argument this time. There is Elder B. has been here this morning; and he said, 'I am concerned about your salvation.' Why, now if he is concerned about my salvation, it is a strange thing that I am not concerned about it." The man's heart was clean captured by that kind word from the elder; he took his own horse and rode to the elder's house. When he arrived there the elder was in his parlour, still in prayer; and they kneeled down together. God gave him a contrite spirit and a broken heart, and brought that poor sinner to the feet of the Saviour. There was "a soul saved from death, and a multitude of sins covered."

2. Again, you may be the means of conversion by a letter you may write. There is your brother. He is careless and hardened. Sister, sit down and write a letter to him: when he receives it, he will perhaps smile, but he will say, "Ah, well! it is Betsy's letter after all!" And that will have some power. I knew a gentleman whose dear sister used often to write to him concerning his soul. "I used," said he, "to stand with my back up against a lamp-post, with a cigar in my mouth, perhaps at two o'clock in the morning, to read her letter. I always read them; and I have," said he, "wept floods of tears after reading my sister's letters. Though I still kept on in the error of my ways, they always checked me; they always seemed a hand pulling me away from sin; a voice crying out, 'Come back! Come back!'" And at last a letter from her, in coujunction with a solemn providence, was the means of breaking his heart, and he sought salvation through a Saviour.

3. Again. How many have been converted by the example of true Christians. An infidel will use arguments to disprove the Bible, if you set it before him; but, if you do to others as you would that they should do to you, if you give of your bread to the poor and dispense to the needy, living like Christ, speaking words of kindness and love, and living honestly and uprightly in the world, he will say, "Well, I thought the Bible was all hypocrisy; but I cannot think so now, because there is Mr. So-and-so — see how he lives. I could believe my infidelity if it were not for him. The Bible certainly has an effect upon his life, and, therefore, I must believe it."

4. And then, how many souls may be converted by what some men are privileged to write and print. I value books for the good they may do to men's souls. Much as I respect the genius of Pope, or Dryden, or Burns, give me the simple lines of Cowper, that God has owned in bringings souls to Him. Oh I to think that we may write and print books which shall reach poor sinners' hearts.

5. But, after all, preaching is the ordained means for the salvation of sinners, and by this ten times as many are brought to the Saviour as by any other. Ah! my friends, to have been the means of saving souls from death by preaching — what an honour!" Oh! men and women, how can ye better spend your time and wealth than in the cause of the Redeemer? What holier enterprise can ye engage in than this sacred one of saving souls from death, and hiding a multitude of sins. This is a wealth that ye can take with you — the wealth that has been acquired under God, by having saved souls from death, and covered a multitude of sins.

III. THE APPLICATION. It is this: that he who is the means of the conversion of a sinner does, under God, "save a soul from death, and hide a multitude of sins"; but particular attention ought to be paid to backsliders; for in bringing backsliders into the Church there is as much honour to God as in bringing in sinners. "Brethren, if any one of you do err from the truth, and one convert him." Alas! the poor backslider is often the most forgotten. A member of the Church has disgraced his profession; the Church excommunicated him, and he was accounted "a heathen man and a publican." I know of men of good standing in the gospel ministry, who ten years ago fell into sin; and that is thrown in our teeth to this very day. Do you speak of them you are at once informed, "Why, ten years ago they did so-and-so." Christian men ought to be ashamed of themselves for taking notice of such things so long afterwards. True, we may use more caution in our dealings: but to reproach a fallen brother for what he did so long ago is contrary to the spirit of John, who went after Peter, three days after he had denied his Master with oaths and curses. Recollect you would have been a backslider too if it were not for the grace of God. I advise you, whenever you see professors living in sin to be very shy of them; but if after a time you see any sign of repentance, or if you do not, go and seek out the lost sheep of the house of Israel; for remember, that if one of you do err from the truth, and one convert him, let him remember that "he who converteth the sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins." "Backsliders, who your misery feel," I will come after you one moment. Poor backslider, thou wast once a Christian. Dost thou hope thou wast? "No," sayest thou, "I believe I deceived myself and others; I was no child of God." Well, if thou didst, let me tell thee, that if thou wilt acknowledge that, God will forgive thee. Come thou, then, to His feet; cast thyself on His mercy; and though thou didst once enter His camp as a spy, He will not hang thee up for it, but will be glad to get thee anyhow as a trophy of mercy. But if thou wast a child of God, and canst say, honestly, "I know I did love Him, and He loved me," I tell thee He loves thee still. If thou hast gone ever so far astray, thou art as much His child as ever. Though thou hast run away from thy Father, come back, come back, He is thy Father still.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

: — 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.)

These words are so plain and pointed that we can turn to them without any explanation or introduction. One fact, however, is worthy of notice. They were written by James, the direct teacher of daily duty and of Christian practice. It is a mistake to suppose that a sense of morality loosens a man's hold upon the essential doctrines of Christianity. No one will charge James with being unpractical. This letter is full of stinging, ringing sentences, in which he brands the faith that is "without works" as an accursed thing. Yet it is he who here sets before us the absolute necessity of repentance and conversion as the sum and substance of the whole matter.

I. "THE ERROR OF THE SINNER'S WAY." There is no doubt about whom James means by "the sinner." He had in view men and women who, although nominally Church members, paid no real regard to the gospel or to the commands of God. Of such people James says that their way of thought, and of feeling, and of life is an error. Now, this is not the light in which such a man regards his own way. If it were, he would change at once, and cease to be a sinner. On the contrary, it usually seems to him that he would be losing something if he changed, and that his present plan is natural, judicious, and successful. It does not occur to him that be is wandering, erring, going on the wrong road. His error lies in this, that he is not walking in the road in which God intended him to walk, and on which God's blessing rests. To refuse to lead the life which our Maker intends us to lead is a foolish blunder, because that is the life for which we are best suited. With God, it has not been a matter of mere intention, but of action, of creation, and of endowment, if you saw a man using bank-notes to light a fire, you would be sure that he was committing an error. He might tell you that the banknotes were his own, and that he chose to use them in that way; but he would not persuade you that he was acting prudently. There is a definite value in the notes; and his error would be none the less glaring because he chose to forget their value. There was an Eastern queen, in olden times, who loved extravagance. She took costly pearls, had them ground to powder, and mixed the powder in the wine she drank. No one could interfere; but that fact did not lessen her folly. It is the same with the sinner. He turns to base uses a nature which is fitted for the highest purposes. Capable of true thoughts and pure feelings, and charitable, honourable actions, he wastes his capacity. And, just as in these cases, his choice, his wish, does not make his error less. But there is another and deeper sense in which the ways of a sinner are one great error. He is going in the wrong direction — down-wards instead of upwards, towards the dark land of death instead of towards the bright world of love. In truth, if men were cautious, if they were prudent, if they were wise — there would be no such thing as sin. It is only because we are foolish, and imprudent, and rash, that we choose the way of sin — only because we are slow to learn where our true interest and our safety lie. And yet, thank God, that constantly, every week and every day, sinners are discovering the error of their ways — discovering that they have been blundering, and growing eager to return to God. How marvellous is this steady, unseen work, this descent of the wise Spirit into our hearts — when the young and heedless become serious and earnest; when worldly men and women start, and turn, and live; when hardened sinners, whose blunders seemed to be beyond recall, grow weary of their sins, and see their folly, and stretch out desperate hands for help. It is strange that we should err so grossly; but it is stranger still that, when we confess our error, God is always ready to forgive.

II. JAMES SPEAKS TO US HERE OF THE DEATH OF THE SINNER'S SOUL — "He shall save a soul from death." Even in this world there is a deadness that comes upon the soul which has long been a slave of sin. Torpor, dulness, and indifference creep over the godless heart till it becomes almost impenetrable. But the form of the words which James uses proves that he is thinking not of the soul's ruin in this world, but of the Judgment Day, when sinners receive the wages of sin, which is death. It is not only from the Bible that we learn that sin will be punished beyond the grave. This is what we call a truth of natural religion — a truth which men reach by conscience and by reason, apart from revelation, Many of the most fearful descriptions of future punishment have been written by poets and philosophers who knew nothing of our Scriptures, and never heard the name of Jesus. When we turn to the Bible, two glimpses are given us of the future state of the sinner — or rather, two sets of glimpses, two kinds of view. On the one hand, we are told that it will be a time of incessant suffering and of miserable torment. It is set before us under most appalling images — as a fire that is never quenched, and a worm that never dies. If we had only these passages to guide us, we should be forced to conclude that the soul will suffer in some such way to all eternity, But in other passages of the Bible we learn that the sinful soul will be destroyed — that it will be lost, that it will die — as if only good men were immortal. There are some strange expressions which do not disclose their meaning at the first. For example, we read of "everlasting destruction"; that is a common Bible phrase. What does it mean? Does it simply mean that the sinner will be destroyed, never to live again? Or does it imply that the act of destruction will go on always — that the sinner will always be being-destroyed? It is hard to answer, hard to say whether the New Testament, as a whole, affirms the one of these doctrines or the other. Therefore we rather take those two views — the one that the soul suffers continually, and the other that the soul is destroyed — and, when we fail to reconcile them, we must conclude that this is a subject upon which God has not thought fit to disclose the truth to us explicitly. He has left us to the law of conscience, and to that belief in the eternal laws of righteousness and recompense which the revelation of redemption has entwined with our belief in the unity and eternity of God. He has left us to a "certain fearful looking-for of judgment," and the assurance that we shall receive according to the deeds done in the body, whether they be good or whether they be evil. But beyond this He has given us a truth which underlies those divergent views, and is included in them both. At death the unrepentant sinner is separated from God, banished from His presence, cast away from His gracious sustaining power, and left alone in the vast wilderness of eternity.

III. HE WILL HIDE A MULTITUDE OF SINS. Here we see that the word "sinner" is not a term invented to suit a system of theology, not a fancy figure of some heated pulpiteer, but a real description of lives that men and women actually live. It gives us a definition of a sinner; he is a man who has committed "a multitude of sins." It implies not one transgression only, nor one offence, but a multitude that cannot be counted, rising, as Isaiah says, like a thick cloud between man and God. It is this infinite unmeasured character of human sin that makes it so hard to persuade men of its reality. If a man steals, or drinks, or ill-treats his wife and children, we can argue with him about his sin, we can expose him publicly or privately, we can try to convince him of his special guilt and special danger. But to go deep down into the heart and point to its pollution, to go away back with you into your past, and lay a finger upon every sin you have committed, to follow you into the watches of the night and the privacy of your homes, and then to present you with a full list of your sifts, and say to you, "There, you have done all these things, all that multitude" — that is not the work of man; the multitude of a single soul's offences baffles knowledge. It is wonderful how God teaches this lesson — there is a mystery about it — how a man begins to feel that it dries not matter much what his neighbours think about him, and that there is a reckoning which he must make with the eternal justice. Sometimes slowly, but sometimes in a moment, it dawns upon him that every page and every line of the buck of his life must be read aloud. And then, dear friends, when that truth gets hold of us, when we see what a shabby, shameful, damning story it would be, how we should be stung with shame and filled with remorse as one secret sin after another was disclosed, how absolutely helpless we should be to justify ourselves — then we feel how blessed a thing it is to have all "hidden," all that multitude hidden through God's great mercy and the merits of our Saviour. Fellow Christians, before we close, notice the beginning of this verse. Read it: "If one converteth." Read it again. We sinners may convert other sinners from the error of their way; we may save souls from death; we may hide a multitude of sins. God knows it is not easy; but if we are earnest and loving and persistent, He will help us. Remember there are sinners around us, at home, in church, and in the world, and there is no joy so deep, no reward so great as to lead one sinner on the road to God.

(A. R. McEwen, D. D.)

1. Brethren may err from the truth. There is no saint recorded in the Word of God, but his failings and errors are recorded. Junius before conversion was an atheist.

2. We are not only to take care of our salvation, but the salvation of others. As God hath set conscience to watch over the inward man, so for the conversation He hath set Christians to watch over one another. "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you," &c. (Hebrews 3:12), not only in yourselves, but in any of you. So Hebrews 12:15, 16. Members must be careful one of another; this is the communion between saints.(1) It reproveth our neglect of this duty. Straying would have been much prevented if we had been watchful, or did we, in a Christian manner, reason together with each other; what comfort and establishment might we receive from one another's faith and gifts I(2) It showeth what a heinous sin it is in them that watch over each's hurt; as the dragon for the man child (Revelation 12:4), or as angry Herod sought to destroy the babes of Bethlehem, or a nipping March wind the early blossoms of the spring, so they nip and discourage the infancy and first buddings of grace by censure, reproach, carnal suggestions, and put stumbling-blocks in the way of young converts, and so destroy Christianity in the birth.

3. From that "if any do err." If but one, there is none so base and contemptible in the Church but the care of their safety belongeth to all. One root of bitterness defileth many; both in point of infection and scandal we are all concerned; one spark may occasion a great burning.

4. From that "and one convert him." The expression is indefinite, not as limiting it to the officers of the Church, though it be chiefly their work. Besides the public exhortations of ministers, private Christians should mutually confer for comfort and edification.

5. From that "convert him"; that is, reduce him from his error. We must not only exhort, but reclaim. Though it be an unthankful office, yet it must not be declined; usually carnal respects sway us, and we are loath to do that which is displeasant. Well, then, if it be our duty to admonish, it is your duty to "suffer the words of exhortation," to bear a reproof patiently, otherwise you oppose your own salvation.

6. Again from that "convert him?' He doth not say destroy him; the work of Christians is not presently to accuse and condemn, but to counsel and convert an erroneous person. Before any rigorous course be taken, we must use all due means of information; the worst cause always is the most bloody.

7. From that "let him know." To quicken ourselves in a good work, it is good we should actually consider the dignity and benefits of it.

8. From that "he which converteth a sinner from the error of his way." Before it was expressed by "erring from the truth," and now by the "error of his way." You may note that errors in doctrine usually end in sins of life and practice (Jude 1:8). We often see that impurity of religion is joined with uncleanness of body, and spiritual fornication punished with corporal (Hosea 4:12, 13). In error there is a sinful confederacy between the rational and sensual part, and so carnal affections are gratified with carnal doctrined.

9. From that "shall save." Man under God hath this honour to be a saviour. We are "workers together with God" (2 Corinthians 6:1). He is pleased to take us into a fellowship of His own work, and to cast the glory of His grace upon our endeavours. It is a high honour which the Lord doth us; we should learn to turn it back again to God, to whom alone it is due (1 Corinthians 15:10).

10. From that "soul." Salvation is principally of the soul; the body hath its share (Philippians 3:21). But the soul is first possessed of glory, and is the chief receptacle of it, as it is of grace for the present (see 1 Peter 1:9). Well, then, it teacheth us not to look for a carnal heaven, a Turkish paradise, or a place of ease and sensitive pleasure. This is the heaven of heaven, that the soul shall be filled up with God, shall understand God, love God, and be satisfied with His presence.

11. From that "from death." Errors are mortal and deadly to the spirit. The wages of every sin is death, especially of sin countenanced by error, for then there is a conspiracy of the whole soul against God.

12. From that "and shall hide." Justification consisteth in the covering of our sins. It is removed out of God's sight, and the sight of our own consciences, chiefly out of God's sight. God cannot choose but see it as omniscient, hate it as holy, but He will not punish it as just, having received satisfaction in Christ: sins are so hidden that they shall not be brought into judgment, nor hurt us when they do not please us.

13. From that "a multitude of sins." Many sins do not hinder our pardon or conversion. God's "free gilt is of many offences unto justification" (Romans 5:16); and it is said, "He will multiply to pardon" (Isaiah 55:7). For these six thousand years God hath been multiplying pardons, and yet free grace is not tired and grown weary. The creatures owe a great debt to justice, but we have an able surety; there is no want of mercy in the creditor, nor of sufficiency in the surety. It is a folly to think that an emperor's revenue will not pay a beggar's debt. Free grace can show you large accounts and a long bill, cancelled by the blood of Christ. The Lord interest you in this abundant mercy, through the blood of Christ and the sanctification of the Spirit!

(T. Manton.)

James is pre-eminently practical. If he were, indeed, the James who was called "The Just," I can understand how he earned the title, for that distinguishing trait in his character shows itself in his Epistle; and if he were "the Lord's brother," he did well to show so close a resemblance to his great relative and Master, who commenced His ministry with the practical Sermon on the Mount. The text before me is perhaps the most practical utterance of the whole Epistle. The whole Epistle burns, but this ascends in flames to heaven: it is the culmination as it is the conclusion of the letter. There is not a word to spare in it. It is like a naked sword, stripped of its jewelled scabbard, and presented to us with nothing to note but its keen edge.

I. A SPECIAL CASE DEALT WITH. It was that of a backslider from the visible Church of God. This man had been professedly orthodox, but he turned aside from the truth on an essential point. Now, in those days the saints did not say, as the sham saints do now, "We must be largely charitable, and leave this brother to his own opinion; he sees truth from a different standpoint, and has a rather different way of putting it, but his opinions are as good as our own, and we must not say that he is in error." They did not prescribe large-hearted charity towards falsehood, or hold up the errorist as a man of deep thought, whose views were "refreshingly original"; far less did they utter some wicked nonsense about the probability of there being more faith in honest doubt than in half the creeds. They did not believe in justification by doubting as our neologians do; they set about the conversion of the erring brother; they treated him as a person who needed conversion; and viewed him as a man who, if he were not converted, would suffer the death of his soul, and be covered with a multitude of sins. O God, deliver us from this deceitful infidelity, which while it does damage to the erring man, and often prevents his being reclaimed, does yet more mischief to our own hearts by teaching us that truth is unimportant, and falsehood a trifle, and so destroys our allegiance to the God of truth, and makes us traitors instead of loyal subjects to the King of kings. It appears from our text that this man, having erred from the truth, followed the natural logical consequence of doctrinal error, and erred in his life as well. His way went wrong after his thought had gone wrong. You cannot deviate from truth without ere long, in some measure, at any rate, deviating from practical righteousness. This man had erred from right acting because he had erred from right believing. Every error has its own outgrowth, as all decay has its appropriate fungus. When truth is dominant morality and holiness are abundant; but when error comes to the front godly living retreats in shame. The point aimed at with regard to this sinner in thought and deed was his conversion — the turning of him round, the bringing him to right thinking and to right acting. Alas! I fear many professed Christians do not look upon backsliders in this light, neither do they regard them as hopeful subjects for conversion. I have known a person who has erred hunted down like a wolf. The object of some professors seems to be to amputate the limb rather than to heal it. Justice has reigned instead of mercy. In the days of James, if any erred from the truth and from holiness, there were brethren found who sought their recovery, and whose joy it was thus to save a soul from death, and to hide a multitude of sins. There is something very significant in that expression, "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth." It is akin to that other word, "Considering thyself also, lest thou also be tempted," and that other exhortation, "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." The text gives us clear indications as to the persons who are to aim at the conversion of erring brethren. It says, "If any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him." It is the business, not of certain officers appointed by the vote of the Church thereunto, but of every member of the body of Jesus Christ, to seek the good of all the other members. Still there are certain members upon whom in any one case this may be more imperative. For instance, in the case of a young believer, his father and his mother, if they be believers, are called upon by a sevenfold obligation to seek the conversion of their backsliding child. In the case of a husband, none should be so earnest for his restoration as his wife, and the same rule holds good with regard to the wife. So also if the connection be that of friendship, he with whom you have had the most acquaintance should lie nearest to your heart, and when you perceive that he has gone aside, you should, above all others, act the shepherd towards him with kindly zeal. You are bound to do this to all your fellow Christians, but doubly bound to do it to those over whom you possess an influence, which has been gained by former intimacy, by relationship, or by any other means. Ye see your duty; do not neglect it. Brethren, it ought to cheer us to know that the attempt to convert a man who has erred from the truth is a hopeful one, it is one in which success may be looked for, and when the success comes it will be of the most joyful character. To bring in a stranger and an alien, and to adopt him as a son, suggests a festival; but the most joyous feasting and the loudest music are for the son who was always a son, but had played the prodigal, and yet after being lost was found, and after being dead was made alive again. Here I would say to any backsliders who are present, let this text cheer you if you have a desire to turn to God. Return, ye backsliding children, for the Lord has bidden His people seek you.

II. A GENERAL FACT. This general fact is important, and we are bound to give it special attention, since it is prefaced with the words, "Let him know." If any one of you has been the means of bringing back a backslider, it is said, "Let him know." That is, let him think of it, be sure of it, be comforted by it, be inspirited by it. "Let him know" it, and never doubt it. What is it that you are to know? To know that he who converteth a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death. This is something worth knowing, is it not? If you have saved a soul from death you have introduced it into eternal life; by God's good grace there will be another chorister amongst the white-robed host to sing Jehovah's praise; another hand to smite eternally the harp-strings of adoring gratitude; another sinner saved to reward the Redeemer for His passion. Oh, the happiness of having saved a soul from death! And it is added, that in such case you will have "covered a multitude of sins." Now, remember your Saviour came to this world with two objects: He came to destroy death and to put away sin. If you convert a sinner from the error of his ways you are made like to Him in both these works: after your manner in the power of the Spirit of God you overcome death, by snatching a soul from the second death, and you also put away sin from the sight of God by hiding a multitude of sins beneath the propitiation of the Lord Jesus. Do observe here that the apostle offers no other inducement for soul-winners: He does not say if you convert a sinner from the error of his ways you will have honour. True philanthropy scorns such a motive. He does not say if you convert a sinner from the error of his ways you will have the respect of the Church and the love of the individual. Such will be the case, but we are moved by far nobler motives. The joy of doing good is found in the good itself: the reward of a deed of love is found in its own result. And let us recollect that the saving of souls from death honours Jesus, for there is no saving souls except through His blood. As for you and for me, what can we do in saving a soul from death? Of ourselves nothing, any more than that pen which lies upon the table could write "Pilgrim's Progress"; yet let a Bunyan grasp the pen, and the matchless work is written. So you and I can do nothing to convert souls till God's eternal Spirit takes us in hand; but then He can do wonders by us, and get to Himself glory by us, while it shall be joy enough to us to know that Jesus is honoured, and the Spirit magnified. Now I want you to notice particularly that all that is said by the apostle here is about the conversion of one person. "If any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him, let him know that he who converteth the sinner from the error of his ways shall save a soul from death." Have you never wished you were a Whitfield? Have you never felt, young man, in your inmost soul, great aspirations to be another McCheyne, or Brainerd, or Moffat? Cultivate the aspiration, but at the same time be happy to bring one sinner to Jesus Christ, for he who converts one is bidden to know that no mean thing is done; he has saved a soul from death, and covered a multitude of sins.

III. And, now, A PARTICULAR APPLICATION of this whole subject to the conversion of children. Children need to be saved; children may be saved; children are to be saved by instrumentality.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

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.)

He who is privileged to lead a single soul to Christ does a work compared with which the gathering of crowds and addressing of multitudes is of small account. Let us not despise the day of small things. "You have preached twenty years, and have only made one convert," was the taunt with which a man assailed a servant of the Lord. ', Have I converted one?" asked the minister. "Yes, there is such an one, who is really converted under your ministry." "Then here is twenty years more for another," said the man of God, and all eternity would endorse the wisdom of the utterance.

It is said of the late Lord Lyndhurst that his saving enlightenment came in his ninetieth year. Not till then did he really bow the knee to Jesus and pass from death to life. Those, therefore, who would be eminently successful in soul-winning must be slow to despair. This is the testimony of one who recently died in the faith of the gospel: "Under God, I owe my conversion to you; not through anything special that you said, but because you never would give up hope of me." Even if inquirers should turn wholly away from us, we may reach them "by the way of the throne."

The Rev. Edward Judson, of the Berean Baptist Church, New York, prints the following note at the end of a list of the services of his church: — "A Christian man, deeply devoted, and wise to win souls, made it a rule to speak to some one unconverted person every day on the subject of his soul's salvation. One night, as he was about retiring to rest, he bethought himself that he had not fulfilled his vow that day. He immediately put on his attire, and prepared to go in quest of a soul. But where should he go? was the question. He concluded to make a visit to a grocer with whom he was in the habit of trading. He found him engaged in closing up his store. When the errand of his customer was made known he was surprised. He said all sorts of Christians traded with him — Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Baptists, etc. — but no one had ever spoken to him about his soul. The night visit of his customer and his earnest pleadings made such an impression upon his mind that it led to his speedy conversion.

(Sword and Trowel.)

In the Middle Ages a priest and a general were studying, during war-time, the map of a hostile country which was about to be invaded. The reverend father put his finger on sundry places dotted on the map, and remarked, "This fortified town must be taken, and then this, and this." The soldier broke in, "I may be allowed to remind you, Father Joseph, that fortified towns are not taken with the tip of the finger." To capture a soul for heaven is a feat upon which we must not calculate unless we are prepared to expend care and pains.

(Edward Smith.)

At a time of religious awakening at Yale College the students who were decided for Christ agreed that each should visit one of their unconverted class-mates in his own room. One of the results of this action was the thorough decision of David Stoddard, afterwards the honoured missionary of the Nestorians.

(Dr. J. P. Thompson.)

Some fifteen years ago a young man, a Spaniard by birth, visited Leamington from New:York, and received a tract in the Pump-room, which was given to him casually by a lady. It was one of Canon Ryle's tracts, and was the means of his conversion. On returning to America, where his parents had taken up their residence, he entered one of the universities, and having been ordained by Bishop Potter, was appointed missionary to the Spanish-speaking people in New York. From thence he went to Mexico some ten years ago, and was presented by the Emperor, Maximilian's successor, with one of the principal churches in the capital. He translated the whole of Canon Ryle's tracts into Spanish, and the result was that there are now 160 Protestant congregations in Mexico, whereas nine years ago there was but one, and 63,000 persons have seceded from the Church of Rome. This was the result of one tract casually given to visitor in the Pump-rooms at Leamington. The title of the tract is "Are you Forgiven?"

(The Fireside.)

A telegram was sent back from England by a lady to her husband. She had left New York with all her children, and she landed, shipwrecked, in England, and sent back to him this brief telegram: "Saved — alone." Ah! that last word seemed as if it took all the sweetness out of the first one. "Saved — alone." May that never be what we shall have to say as we enter heaven.

I have been told that Mr. Moody's great career as a soul-winner dates from a somewhat exhaustive study of the word "grace." He had been shut up in his room for days studying this word, until his soul was so full of it that he could contain no longer; so he started out of the house and stopped the first man he met in the street and asked him if he knew anything about "grace." "What do you mean?" said the man. "I mean," replied Moody, "the grace of God that bringeth salvation, and which hath appeared unto all men." And right then and there he began and poured into that stranger's ear this story of God's grace, until the man himself was overwhelmed with the greatness of love and yielded himself to God.

(G. F. Pentecost, D. D.)

The phrase is one of those which St. James has in common with St. Peter (1 Peter 4:8). It occurs also in the LXX. of Psalm 85:2, and in a nearly identical form in Psalm 32:1. The Hebrew and English version of Proverbs 10:12 present a still closer parallel, but the LXX. seems to have followed a different text, and gives "Friendship covers all those that are not contentious." The context leaves hardlyany room for doubt that the "sins" which are thought of as covered are primarily those of the man converted, and not those of the converter. There is, however, a studied generality in the form of the teaching which seems to emphasise the wide blessedness of love. In the very act of seeking to convert one for whom we care we must turn to God ourselves, and in covering the past sins of another our own also are covered. In such an act love reaches its highest point, and that love includes the faith in God which is the condition of forgiveness.

(Dean Plumptre.)

John Bunyan used to say of those places where God had greatly blessed his ministry in the conversion of sinners that he counted as if he had "goodly buildings and lordships" there, and that his heart was so wrapped up in the glory of this excellent work that he counted himself more blessed and honoured of God by them as his spiritual children than if God had made him emperor of the Christian world, or the lord of all the glory of the earth, without it; adding, "Oh! the power of those words in James 5:19, 20!"

(J. Caughey)

The German Tholuck, a household name in the world's Christian homes, standing on the borders of the grave and looking back on the fifty fruitful years of preaching, teaching, and writing, exclaimed, "I value it all less than the love that seeks and follows," by which he had been inspired from the year of his conversion. Personal effort for individual souls!" This is a work of which the world knows little, but of which the Lord knows much." Not only seeking, but following! Here is a single illustration: A. student at Halle was brought near to his heart by a godly mother. He fell into sin and vice. He was ofttimes visited by his loving teacher, late at night or in the early morning, after a night's debauch — sometimes in prison. Good promises were repeatedly made, and as repeatedly broken. Another sacred promise; the following day, late at night, came a card from him: "Tholuck sighs; Tholuck prays; but we will have our drink out." Relying upon the co-working Spirit, still the saintly Tholuck followed. And the giddy youth became pastor of a well-known church in Berlin.

Archbishop Williams once said to a friend of his, "I have passed through many places of honour and trust, both in Church and State, more than any of my order in England these seventy years before; yet were I but assured that by my preaching I had converted but one soul to God I should take therein more spiritual joy and comfort than in all the honours and offices which have been bestowed upon me."

On one occasion an Irish evangelist was brought up for creating a disturbance. "How many did you convert?" said the magistrate. "Just two," was the reply. "Were these all?" "Yes, sir, all I converted, and they were soon as wicked as ever; but the Lord, He converted many more." Possibly such easy conversions, unattended with much or any conviction of sin, and resting on the acceptance of a mere formula, may have not a little to do with the shallow, easygoing Christianity which is more or less common in these days.

: — A teacher had among her pupils a young man of wicked habits. At last, when she heard that he was fast going down to ruin, she sought grace and courage from the Lord to speak to him about Jesus. The young fellow was much affected by her earliest, loving appeal, moved, as he knew she was, by love for his soul; and when he had mastered his emotion, he said to her in a tremulous voice," Had any one ever spoken to me before as you have to-night, I might have been a child of God long ago! But no one has thought me worth saving." Bishop Wilson says, "We deceive ourselves if we fancy we have done our duty when we have given our people a sermon one day in seven. We must try always to gain a precious soul for Christ." May His matchless grace help us.

A Welsh minister, speaking of the burial of Moses, said: "In that burial not only was the body buried, but also the grave and graveyard. This is an illustration of the way in which God's mercy buries sins, No one is at the funeral but Mercy, and if any should meet her on returning from the burial, and ask her, "Mercy, where didst thou bury our sins?" her answer would be, "I do not remember."

The absence of any formal close to the Epistle is in many ways remarkable. In this respect it stands absolutely alone in the New Testament, the nearest approach to it being found in 1 John 5:21. It is a possible explanation of this peculiarity that we have lost the conclusion of the Epistle. It is, however, more probable that the abruptness is that of emphasis. The writer had given utterance to a truth which he desired above all things to impress on the minds of his readers, and he could not do this more effectually than by making it the last word he wrote to them.

(Dean Plumptre.).

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