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this earthquake of God's judgments do not shake thee; if after this Christ come seeking fruit on thee and find none, what remains, but that he say, "Let no fruit grow on thee from henceforth and for ever," or, "Cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground?"
5. Therefore, delay no longer, but while thy glass of time is not yet run out; while the sun of divine love is not yet gone down upon thee; while the long-suffering of God the Father still waits to be gracious: while the compassionate Friend of sinners still intercedes for thee; while the ever-blessed Spirit is not yet provoked to bid thee an eternal adieu, but still continues to strive with thee;-in short, while there is yet any hope concerning thee among the blessed inhabitants of heaven, that thou mayest, after all, be saved; or any fear concerning thee, among the fiends of hell, lest after all thou shouldst escape that place of torment; before the door of salvation is for ever shut against thee, before yawning Tophet has devoured, and closed its mouth upon thee.Flee, sinner; flee; at the peril of thy soul, flee! But, whence and whither shalt thou flee?-Flee from thy sins, thy lukewarmness, thy unbelief; flee to Calvary, to the cross, to Jesus, to the fountain opened in his side, to the blood and water which issue thence," and arise, wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." Apply by faith in his blood, his merits to thy guilty conscience; receive by faith the sanctifying graces of his Spirit. Embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life. Let thy conversation be as becometh the gospel of Christ. Thus, believe and show thy faith by thy works, and as sure as he is the resurrection and the life, so sure though thou wert dead, yet shalt thou live, and living and believing in him, shalt not die eternally.
THE WISDOM OF WINNING SOULS.
PREACHED AT THE CONFERENCE HELD AT LEEDS, JULY, 1793,
"He that winneth souls is wise." Prov. xi. 30.
1. THIS is a book of Proverbs, or of wise and weighty sayings, of many which, although containing self-evident truths, and such as only need to be known that they may be approved, are nevertheless as surprising as they are instructive and important. Although some of them might have been in use among the more wise and civilized parts of mankind for many generations, even from the time that men began to multiply upon the face of the earth, yet it is evident that most of them were first spoken by Solomon. For God had given him "Wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the seashore and his wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the East, and all the wisdom of Egypt: insomuch that all the earth sought unto him to hear his wisdom; for his fame was in all nations."* Now, it seems, he expressed his wisdom chiefly in uttering Apophthegms or Proverbs: for, according to the sacred historian, he spake three thousand Proverbs. These, some have thought, were collected and committed to writing by his servants who attended him, and heard his wisdom. But those contained. in this book, which are, I believe, not quite a thousand, and might probably be a selection from the rest, were undoubtedly
* 1 Kings iv: 29. x. 24.
written by Solomon himself, and that, at the motion and under the direction of the Holy Spirit.
2. Indeed they are worthy of him, the Spirit of truth, of wisdom, and of grace, as their author, and are all of the nature of the fountain from whence they flow; nor can we easily drink of these pure and transparent streams, without being at once enlightened and refreshed. These Proverbs of Solomon contain the water of life, as well as other parts of the sacred volume; and with one peculiar advantage; we need not dig deep to arrive at it. Their sense is, in general, obvious to the meanest capacity, and that at the first sight, and yet is not the less useful and important for being so easily apprehended. Add to this, that they have a commanding influence over the mind and heart; and while they challenge the assent of the understanding, subdue the will, and win the affections. This perhaps may be intimated in the original term here translated Proverbs: For it is derived from a word that signifies to rule, or have dominion.
3. The world, indeed, as a pious and judicious writer observes, is governed by proverbs, "As saith the proverb of the ancients,"* or, in the language of the vulgar, "As the old saying is," has much influence with most people. But there are proverbs which tend to corrupt men's minds, and harden them in sin. For the devil, the world, and the flesh, have their proverbs. To guard us against the evil influence of these, let us consider and lay to heart these proverbs of God, that are so salutary, and are intended as an antidote against the baleful effects of the other. For instance: Does Satan suggest, that "it is wise and commendable to give every man as good as he brings," and suffer no injury to pass unrevenged? To defend our minds against the pernicious tendency of this hellish maxim, let us remember, "That he that is slow to anger, is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city." Does the flesh inculcate," He is a wise man that does well to himself," that eats and drinks, and gratifies his appetites ? Nay, let us rather believe, insomuch as "If we live after the flesh we shall die;" "that although this way seemeth right unto a man, the end thereof is the way of death." Does the world preach, " Gain all you can: for he is a wise man that gains wealth?" As a preservative against this, let us be assured and lay it to heart, that "the fruit of the righteous is a tree of life;" and that he, rather, " that winneth souls is wise."
4. By the righteous here, we are to understand those who are such, not in outward appearance only, but in reality; those to whom righteousness is imputed, in whom it is implanted, and by whom it is practised; in other words, those that are justified, regenerated, and rendered obedient to the holy will of God, by a faith working by love. These, by Isaiah, are termed, "Trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified,"* viz. by the fruit they bear. For " herein," said Jesus," is my heavenly Father glorified, that ye bring forth much fruit." And their graces and virtues, with the effect thereof in promoting the honour of God and the good of mankind, are the fruit they bear; such as their faith, hope, and love; justice, mercy, charity: their knowledge, zeal, diligence; their example, instructions, reproofs, and prayers; their interest in heaven, and influence on earth. These are, as the fruit of the tree of life, precious and useful; being the means, frequently, of preserving and rendering more useful even the present life; and, which is of much greater moment, of communicating or increasing spiritual life, and of bringing men to the enjoyment of eternal life.
5. Hence it appears, what great blessings good men are, in the places where divine Providence has cast their lot. They produce abundance of fruit, like that of the tree of life. Nay, they even win souls. For the words may be rendered, with equal propriety, he that is wise winneth souls. And, understood in this sense, the latter part of the sentence may be considered as explanatory of the former, or as an enlargement of its meaning. Thus, the righteous produce fruit, like that of the tree of life: for being wise, they win souls. They are trees of knowledge, as well as of life; not forbidden, but commanded knowledge; and by communicating their wisdom, they win souls, and make them wise unto salvation. However, I shall take the words in the sense of our translation, He that winneth souls is wise, because when thus understood, they contain a proposition not only of the strictest truth, but of the deepest importance; and a truth peculiarly worthy of our serious consideration at this time, when we are met together in solemn conference, to consult respecting the ways and means of winning souls, and of enlarging the kingdom of Christ, and with a view to encourage one another to undertake and procecute this blessed work faithfully. I hope, therefore, for your very serious attention, while we consider,
* Isa. lxiii. 3.
I. What is implied in winning souls? and when a soul may be said to be won?
II. In what way souls may be won, or the means to be used in winning them?
III. How it appears that it is wisdom to win souls?
IV. Who are concerned in this declaration? Whose duty it is to win souls?
I. And first, consider we what is implied in winning souls, and when a soul may be said to be won?
1. This phrase, to win souls, does not occur, I think, again in Scripture, and is capable of being understood in different senses. Some may consider the expression as meaning no more than to win the hearts and affections of others, so as to make them our true friends, sincerely attached to our interest. And it must be confessed, that there are cases in which to do this, is both lawful and commendable. If we ourselves be the real friends of God and mankind, and are employed in promoting the interest of the Redeemer in the world, it is not a blameable, but on the contrary, a virtuous and praiseworthy conduct, to use every prudent and lawful means of engaging the esteem and love of our fellow-creatures, that we may induce them to favour the cause in which we are embarked. In a sense somewhat similar to this, our Lord is to be understood when he commands us, to "make to ourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness;" that is, by a proper use of the mammon or wealth, generally employed in an unrighteous manner, "that when we fail, they may receive us into everlasting habitations," may appear for us, bear witness to our good works, and bid us welcome into the heavenly regions. Now, if we may lawfully make ourselves friends, by our beneficence and liberality, with a view to our own happiness, we may much more do it, with a view to the glory of God. But nevertheless, inasmuch as the inspired penman, when he affirms, "He that winneth souls is wise," seems plainly to affirm an absolute and universal truth; and it is not absolutely and universally true, that he who wins the affections of mankind, and makes them his friends, is wise; therefore, we have reason to think this is not the meaning of Solomon in these words.