Lectionary Calendar
Friday, March 1st, 2024
the Second Week of Lent
There are 30 days til Easter!
Tired of seeing ads while studying? Now you can enjoy an "Ads Free" version of the site for as little as 10¢ a day and support a great cause!
Click here to learn more!

Bible Commentaries
James 5

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the BibleSpurgeon's Verse Expositions

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors

Verses 7-8

A Visit to the Harvest Field

A Sermon

(No. 1025)

Delivered by


At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington

"Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waited for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh."-- James 5:7-8

THE EARTH THAT YIELDS seed to the sower and bread to the eater has received its constitution from God; and it is governed through his wise providence by fixed laws that are infinitely reliable; and yet, at the same time, with such diversified conditions and minute peculiarities as may well convince us that the Almighty intended the operations of nature to supply us with spiritual instruction as well as with material good. He who ordained the seed time and the harvest meant to teach us by them. Nor has he left us in vague uncertainty as to the lessons we should learn! In metaphor and parable he has interpreted them to us. The author of the Bible is also the architect of the universe. The book that is writ and the things that are made alike bear witness to his eternal power and Godhead. He who shall study them both will see clearly the idioms of one author. In the two masterpieces the hand of the same great artist may be discerned. We are all so dependent upon the labors of the field, that we ought at the season of harvest to remember how much we owe to the God of harvest. It is but common gratitude that we should go to the field awhile, and there hear what God the Lord may have to say to us among the waving sheaves. No matter what our business may be, the wealth of the country must after all, to a large extent, depend upon the crops that are produced, and the well being of the whole state has a greater dependence upon the harvest than many of you could probably imagine. We will not forget the bounties of God. We will not fail at least to endeavor to learn the lesson which this bountiful season is intended to teach us. Our Lord Jesus often preached of the sowing and of the reaping. His were the best of sermons and his the choicest of illustrations: therefore, we shall do well if are repair to the field, mark the scattering of the corn, and the ingathering of it, to enforce the exhortation of the text.

Our subject, to-night, will involve three or four questions: How does the husbandman wait? What does he wait for? What is has encouragement? What are the benefits of his patient waiting Our experience is similar to his. We are husbandmen, so we have to toil hard, and we have to wait long: then, the hope that cheers, the fruit that buds and blossoms, and verily, too, the profit of that struggle of faith and fear incident to waiting will all crop up as we proceed.

I. First, then, HOW DOES THE HUSBANDMAN WAIT? He waits with a reasonable hope for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it until he receive the early and latter rain. He expects the harvest because he has ploughed the fields and sown the grain. If he had not, he would not be an example for our imitation. Had he left his fields fallow, never stirred the clods, and never cast in among them the golden seed, he would be an idiot were he expecting the soil to produce a harvest. Thorns and thistles would it bring forth to him--nothing more. Out on the folly of those, who flatter their souls with a prospect of good things in time to come while they neglect the opportunity of sowing good things in the time present. They say they hope it will be well with them at the end; but, since it is not well with them now, why should they expect any change--much less a change contrary to the entire order of Providence? Is it not written "He that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption"? Do you expect to sow to the flesh and reap salvation? That is a blessing reserved for him who soweth to the spirit; for he that soweth to the spirit shall of the spirit reap life everlasting. As for the man who scatters nothing but the wild oats of sin, who simply lives to indulge his own passions, and determinately resolves to neglect the things that make for his peace,--he can but upbraid himself if he collect to reap anything good of the Lord. They that sow to the wind shall reap the whirlwind, they that sow nothing shall reap nothing, they that sow sparingly shall reap also sparingly. It is only those who by God's grace have been enabled to sow abundantly, though they have gone forth weeping, who shall afterwards come again rejoicing, bringing their sheaves with them. Patience by all means, but not that foolish patience which expects something good to turn up in spiritual things, as some fools do in business when they turn aside from legitimate trade to foster bubble schemes. Thou shalt have, my brother, after all according to what thou art, and to what thou art fairly going for. If thou art a believer, to thee shall be the promise--thou shalt share the victories and spoils of thy Lord. If thou art a careless, godless worldling, to thee shall be the fruit of thy deeds, and sad and bitter shall be those grapes of Gomorrah that thou shalt have to eat. The husbandman waits with a reasonable hope; he does not look for grain where he has cast in garlic. Save then that thou art a fool, thou wilt like him count only on the fruit of thine own sowing.

While he waits with a patient hope, he is no doubt all the more patient of the issue, because his hope is so reasonable. And not only does he wait with patience, but some stress is put upon the length of it; "and hath long patience for the precious fruit of the earth." Now, brethren in Christ, our waiting, if it be the work of the Holy Spirit, must have this long patience in it. Are you a sufferer? There are sweet fruits to come from suffering! "Not for the present seemeth it to be joyous but grievous, nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruits of righteousness unto them that are exercised thereby." Have long patience for those peaceable fruits. You shall be brought out of your trouble, deliverance will be found for you out of your affliction when the discipline for which you were brought into it has been fulfilled. Have lot patience, however, for not the first month does the husbandman find a harvest. If he has sown in the winter, he does not expect he will reap in the early spring: he does not go forth with his sickle in the month of May and expect to find golden sheaves. He waits. The moons wax and wane; suns rise and set; but the husbandman waits till the appointed time is come. Wait thou, O sufferer, till the night be over. Watch after watch thou hast already passed through; the morning breaketh. Tarry thou a little longer, for if the vision tarry it shall come. "Thou shalt stand in thy lot in the end of the days." Ere long thou shalt have a happy exit out of thy present trials. Are you a worker? Then you need as much patience in working as you do in suffering. We must not expect to see immediate results in all cases from the preaching of the Gospel, from the teaching of Scripture in our classes, from distributing religious literature, or from any other kind of effort. Immediate results may come. Sometimes they do, and they greatly cheer the worker; but it is given to some to wait long, like the husbandman, ere the fruit reaches maturity. Truth, like the grain of mustard seed, does not wax into a tree tomorrow being sown to-day: it takes its leisure. Or, like the leaven in the measure, it doth not work in the next moment; it must have its time. If you have some principle to teach that is now obnoxious, go on with it. Perhaps, you may never see it popular in your day. Do not mind the fickle winds or fret yourself because of the nipping frosts. Truth is mighty and it will prevail, though it may have a hard fight before it wins the victory. Souls may not be won to God the first time you pray for them, nor the first time you exhort them, nay, nor the twentieth time. If thou hast gone to a sinner once on Christ's errand and he has rejected thee, go again seven times; nay, go again seventy times seven; for if thou shouldst at last succeed by thy master's gracious help, it will well repay thee. The long, tedious winter of thy waiting will appear as a short span to look back upon when thou hast reaped the field of thy labor. The little patience that thou hadst to exert for a while will seem as nothing, like the travail of the mother when the man-child is born into the world. Hush, then, your sad complaints, and still your petulant wailings.

"O dreary life! we cry, O dreary life!

And still the generations of the birds

Sing thro' our sighing; and the flocks and herds

Serenely live while we are keeping strife."

Be patient, O worker, for impatience sours the temper, chills the blood, sickens the heart, prostrates the vigor of one's spirit, and spoils the enterprise of life before it is ripe for history. Wait thou, clothed with patience, like a champion clad in steel. Wait with a sweet grace, as one who guards the faith and sets an example of humility. Wait in a right spirit, anxious, prayerful, earnest submissive to the ways of God, not doubtful of his will. Disciple of Jesus, "learn to labor and to wait."

With regard to the result of Christian obedience, the lesson is no less striking. The first thing that a farmer does by way seeking gain on his farm is to make a sacrifice which could seem immediately to entail on him a loss. He has some good wheat in the granary, and he takes out sacks full of it and buries it. He is so much the poorer, is not he? At any rate, there is so much the less to make bread for his household. He cannot get it again; it is under the clod, and there too it must die; for except it die, it bringeth not forth fruit. You must not expect as soon as you become a Christian, that you shall obtain all the gains of your religion, perhaps you may lose all that you have for Christ's sake. Some have lost their lives; they have sown their house and land, relatives, comfort, ease, and at last they have sown life itself in Christ's field, and they seemed for the time to be losers; but, verily I say unto you, this day, if you could see them in their white robes before the throne of God, rejoicing, you would see how rich a harvest they have reaped, and how the sowing which seemed a loss at first has ended, through God's abundant grace, in the greatest eternal gain. Have patience, brother, have patience. That is a false religion that aims at present worldly advantage. He who becomes religious for the loaves and fishes, when he hath eaten his loaves and fishes, hath devoured his religion. There is nothing in such piety but pretension. If thou canst be bought, thou canst be sold: if thou hast taken it up for gain, thou wilt lay it down for what promises thee a better bargain. Be willing to be a loser for Christ, and so prove thou art his genuine follower. The husbandman, I say, does not expect immediate reward, but reckons upon being a loser for a while. He waits, waits with long patience, for the precious fruit of the earth. It is a reasonable waiting on the outset, and not regretful when wearied and worried with delay.

And, while the husbandman waits, you observe in the text he waits with his eye upward, he waits until God shall send him the early and the latter rain. He has wit enough for this; even if he be a worldly man he knows that the harvest depends not only on the seed he sows and on the soil he cultivates, but upon the rain which he cannot control; the rain that cometh at the bidding of the Almighty. If the skies be brass, the clods will be iron. Unless God shall speak to the clouds, and the clouds shall speak to the earth, the earth will not speak to the corn, and the corn will not make us speak the words of rejoicing. Every husbandman is aware of this, and every Christian must remember it. "I am to wait," says a sufferer, "for God's help and for the graces that come by affliction, but I must wait with my eye upward, for all the ploughing of affliction will not profit me, and all the sowing of meditation will not speed me, unless God send his gracious Spirit like showers of heavenly rain. If I am a worker, I must work. When I wait, I must wait always looking upward." The keys of the rain-clouds which water the earth hang at the girdle of Jehovah. None but the eternal Father can send the Holy Spirit like showers on the church. He can send the comforter, and my labor will prosper; it will not be in vain in the Lord; but if he deny, if he withold this covenant blessing, ah me! work is useless, patience is worthless, and all the cost is bootless: it is in vain. In spiritual, as in temporal things, "it is vain to rise up early and sit up late, and eat the bread of carefulness." "Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it." We must have the dew, O God, or else our seed shall rot under the clod. We must wait, and wait with our eye upwards, or else our expectation will perish as a still-born child. So with regard to the comfort, and joy, and ultimate fruit of our faith, we must have our eye upward looking for the coming of the Lord from heaven, for the day of his appearing will be the day of our manifestation. Our life is hid with Christ now; when he shall appear we shall appear with him. When he shall be revealed in glory before the eyes of the assembled multitude, we shall be conspicuous in glory too. Not till then shall the fullness of the reward be bestowed, but the risen saints shall be glorified in the glorification of their coming Lord. Oh, for more of this living with the eyes upward, less minding of earthly things, and more looking for and hasting unto the coming of the Son of God!

Note, however, that while the husbandman waits with his eye upward, he waits with his hands at work, engaged in restless toil. He sows, and it is a busy time. When he sees the green blade, what then? He has to work. Those weeds must not be suffered to outgrow the wheat and choke it. Up and down the field the laborer must go, and the husbandman must be at the expense of this, and all along until the wheat is ripened there is sure to be something to do in this field, so his eyes must be keen, his skill must be taxed, and no drudgery must be disdained. In all labor there is profit, but nothing is gained without pains. We look up to God. He will not accept the look of a sluggard. The eye that looks up to God must be attended with the hand that is ready for work. So if I suffer and expect the blessing for the suffering, I must spend solitary hours in my chamber seeking and searching; to wit, seeking in prayer, and searching God's Word for the blessing. If I am a worker, I must look to God for the result, but then I must also use all the means. In fact, the Christian should work as if all depended upon him, and pray as if it all depended upon God. He should be always nothing in his own estimation; yet he should be one of those gloriously active nothings of which God makes great use, for he treats the things that are not as though they were, and gets glory out of them. Yes, the husbandman waits. He cannot push on the months; he cannot hasten the time of the harvest home; but he does not wait in silence; in sluggishness and negligence; he keeps to his work and waits too. So do you, O Christian men! wait for the coming of your Lord, but let it be with your lamps trimmed and your lights burning, as good servants attending to the duties of the house, until the master of the house returns to give you the reward.

The husbandman waits under changeful circumstances, and various contingences. At one time he sees the fair prospect of a good crop. The wheat has come up well. He has never seen more green springing from the ground; but, peradventure, it may be too-strong, and may need even to be put back. By-and-by, after long showers and cold nights, the wheat looks yellow, and he is half afraid about it. Anon there comes, or he fancies there is a blight or a black smut. Nobody knows what may happen. Only a farmer knows how his hopes and fears alternate and fluctuate from time to time. It is too hot, too cold; it is too dry; it is too wet; it is hardly ever quite right, according to his judgment, or rather according to his unbelief. He is full of changes in his mind because the season is full of changes. Yet he waits, he waits with patience. Ah dear friends, when we work for God, how often will this happen! I speak from no inconsiderable experience. There are always changes in the field of Christian labor. At one time we see many conversions, and we bless God that there are so many seals to our testimony. But some of the converts after a while disappoint us. There was the blossom, but it produced no fruit. Then there will come a season when many appear to backslide. The love of many waxes cold. Perhaps we have found in the church the black smut of heresy. Some deadly heresy creeps in, and the anxious husbandman fears there will be no harvest after all. Oh, patience, sir, patience. Ten thousand farmers' fears have been disappointed this year. Many a fretful expression and murmuring word need to be repented of, as the farmer has looked at last upon the well-filled ear, and the heavy wheat sheaf. So, too, mayhap, O evangelical worker, it will be with you. When God shall give you a rich return for all you have done for him, you will blush to think you ever doubted; you will be ashamed to think you ever grew weary in his service. You shall have your regard. Not to-morrow, so wait: not the next day perhaps, so be patient. You may be full of doubts one day, your joys sink low. It may be rough windy breather with you in your spirit. You may even doubt whether you are the Lord's, but if you have rested in the name of Jesus, if by the grace of God you are what you are, if he is all your salvation, and all your desire,--have patience; have patience, for the reward will surely come in God's good time. Now this is how the husbandman waits, and becomes to us the model of patience.

II. Very briefly, in the second place, we have to ask, WHAT DOES THE HUSBANDMAN WAIT FOR? for we are in this respect like him. He waits for results, for real results; right results; he hopes also rich results. And this is just what we are waiting for--waiting as sufferers for the results of sanctified affliction. May those results be read; may they be right; may they be rich. Oh that we might have every virtue strengthened, every grace refined, by passing through the furnace. There are great blessings connected with patient endurance as in Job's case. He had a plenteous harvest, may we have the same. And you workers, you must work for results, for, though conversion is the work of God, it is in many cases as clearly a product of the holy living, the devout teaching, and the fervent praying of his servants, as any collect can be the result from a cause. Go on, go on, and may you have real conversions--not pretended conversions--not such as are sometimes chronicled in newspapers-- "fifty-one conversions of an evening"--as if anybody knew! May there be real conversions, and ripe fruits for Jesus, in the growth and advance of those who are converted, and may many of them turn out to be such fruit-bearing Christians when they are matured in, grace, that the richest result in the prosperity of the Church may come to you from all your work. You are waiting for results. And you are, also, dear brethren, like the husbandman, waiting for a reward. All the while till the harvest comes, he has nothing but outlay. From the moment he sows, it is all outgoing until he sells his crops, and then, recovering at once the principal and the interest, he gets his reward. In this world, look not for a recompense. You may have a grateful acknowledgment in the peace, and quiet, and contentment of your own spirit, but do not expect even that from your fellow-men. The pure motive of any man who serves his generation well is generally misrepresented. As a rule the lounger looks on at the laborer not to praise but to blame him: not to cheer him but to chide him. The less he does, the less he will be open to rebuke, and the more he does oftentimes, and the more vigorously, the more he shall be upbraided. Look not for your reward here. Suppose men praise you, what is their praise worth? It would not fill your nostrils if you were about to die. The approbation of those who have neither skill nor taste--what pleasure can it afford the artist? Should one stoop for it, or, having it, lift his head the higher? Our reward is the approbation of God, which he will give of his abundant grace. He first gives us good works, as one observes, and then rewards us for those good works, as if they were altogether our own. He gives rewards though they are not a debt, but altogether of grace. Look for the reward hereafter. Wait a bit, man, wait a bit; your reward is not yet. Wait till the week is over, and then shall come the wage. Wait until the sun is gone down, and then there will be the penny for every laborer in the vineyard. Not yet, not yet, not yet. The husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth. This is what we wait for.


The first is, that the fruit he waits for is precious. He waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth. It is worth waiting for. Who that walks through a corn field, such corn fields as we have seen this year, where the crops are plentiful, but will say, "Well, this was, after all, worth all the trouble and all the expense, and all the long patience of that winter which is over and gone?" If the Lord should draw you near unto himself by your affliction, if he should make his image in you more clear, it will be worth waiting for. And if, after your labors he should give you some soul for your reward, oh, will it not repay you? Mother, if your dear child should after all be brought back from his sinful ways to love his Saviour! Sunday-school teacher, if some of those little girls should love the name of Jesus, and you should live to see them honored members of the Church of God, will it not be worth waiting for? It there worth while to preach every Sabbath for a million years, if but one soul were brought in at last. I remember Mr. Richard Knill saying, if there were one unconverted person, and he were in Siberia, and God had ordained that he should only be saved by all the Christians in all the world (and that would be a vast number), all of them making a journey to Siberia to talk with him, it would be worth all the trouble if the soul were at length brought in. And so it would. We may wait, therefore, with patience, because the reward of our labor will be precious. Above all, the reward of hearing the master say, "Well done, good and faithful servant," is worth waiting for! Even now to get a word from him is quite enough to cheer us on, though he a soft, still voice that speaks it, but oh, the joy of that loud voice "Well done.

It were worth going through a thousand perils by land and by sea to come out and win that "Well done." We might count it worth while to face the lions of hell and do battle with Apollyon himself, to snatch but one poor lamb from between their jaws. It were worth while to do all that I say, if we might hear the Master say to us, "Well done," at the last. This then encourages us, as well as the husbandman--the preciousness of the fruit.

A godly husbandman waits with patience, again, because he knows God's covenant. God has said "seed time and harvest, summer and winter, shall not cease," and the Christian farmer knowing, this is confident. But oh, what strong confidences have we who have looked to Christ, and who are resting on the faithful word of a covenant God. He cannot fail us. It is not possible that he should suffer our faith to be confounded. "Heaven and earth may pass away," and they shall, but his word shall not fail. They that sow in faith shall reap abundantly. The glory shall be theirs. And, brother workers, if we do not for a time see all the results we expect, yet the Lord has said, "Surely all flesh shall see the salvation of God." The day must come when the dwellers in the wilderness shall bow before him and lick the dust. "He has set his king upon his holy hill of Zion," and they that said, "Let us break their bands asunder, and cast their cords from us," will have to submit themselves and lick the dust at his feet. Have courage, therefore. The covenant stands good, the harvest must come as surely as the seed time has come.

Moreover, every husbandman is encouraged by the fact, that he has seen other harvests. I suppose if the farmer had never heard of a harvest, and had never seen one, it would take some considerable persuasion to get him to sow his seed. But then he knows his father sowed seed and his grandsire, and that the race of men in all generations have put their seed under the clods as an act of faith, and God has accepted their faith, and sent them a return. And, O brethren, have not we multitudes of instances to confirm our confidence? Let us cheerfully resign ourselves to the Lord's will in suffering, for as others of his saints who went before us have reaped the blessing, So shall we. Let us work on for our Lord and Master, knowing that apostles and confessors, and a great cloud of witnesses who have gone before, have seen great results, and so shall we. Let us patiently tarry till the Lord come, for as in the first coming those that waited for him rejoiced, so shall those who are found watching and waiting at his second advent. We have not only the promise of God, but that promise fulfilled to tens of thousands who have preceded us, therefore, we should be ashamed to be impatient, rather let us patiently wait and work on, till the day breaketh, and the harvest cometh.

IV. And now, brethren, do you ask, WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF PATIENCE? To patiently wait God's appointed time is our business. I have shown you how we are to wait, but note this, whatever benefit there may be in patience, it is very clear there is none in impatience. Suppose a man should be impatient under suffering. Will it diminish his suffering? Will it increase the probabilities of his restoration? We all know that the irritability of temper which is caused by impatience, is one of the difficulties which the physician has to battle with. When the patient is calm there is a better chance of his recovery. If we were near impatient till there was any good to be derived from our fretfulness, we should not be impatient just yet. There is a story told of Mr. Hill being on board a vessel once. It is said he heard the mate swear, and afterwards he heard the captain use a profane oath. I think Mr. Hill interposed as the captain was about to swear again, and said, "No, no, let us be fair, let us have everything turn and turn about. Your mate has sworn, and you have had an oath. Now it is my turn--my turn to swear." The captain looked at him somewhat astonished, and could not but admit that there was a degree of rightness and propriety in every man having his turn. However, Mr. Hill did not swear, and the captain said, "I suppose, sir, you don't mean to take your turn, you don't mean to swear." "Oh, yes," said the good old man, "I mean to swear as soon as ever I can see the good of it." We might do the same by our impatience brethren. Let us be impatient as soon as ever we can see the use it will serve. If the farmer should want rain just now, his impatience would not influence the clouds and make them pour out their torrents. If your child happened to be very petulant, and have a very noisy tongue, and a mischievous disposition, the mother's impatience would not calm the child, control its temper, still its fitful passion, or subdue its stubborn humor. Whatever happens to you, there is nothing can happen to you worse than your being impatient, for of all troubles in the world that one can be troubled with, an impatient spirit is about the worst. O that ye would endeavor to conquer impatience. It cast Satan out of heaven, when he was impatient at the honor and dignity of the Son of God. He was impatient at being a servant to his Maker, and was driven from his high estate. Let us be rid of impatience which made Cain kill his brother, and which has done a thousand mischievous things since. May God grant us like the husbandman patiently to watch and wait.

But the benefits of patience are too many for me to hope to enumerate them. Suffice it to say, patience saves a man from great discouragement. If I expect that God will bless my labors to a large extent the first month, and so strain every nerve and toil with every sinew till my strength is ready to yield, and my spirit begins to flag; and the blessing does not come at the time I looked for; I shall be disheartened. But, if I expect some result, a great result in God's appointed week of harvest, even though I may not count on seeing it myself at once; I shall keep on renewing my labors, reviving my hopes, and encouraging myself in the Lord my God. Surely a farmer would give up his farm in sheer despair if he expected a harvest in a month's time after sowing. He would be month after month in a very sad way, if waiting to see it were not a condition for which he was thoroughly prepared. If you expect an interval during which your patience will be tried, you will not grow discouraged, because it is absolutely requisite that you should wait. Expect to wait for the glory; expect to wait for the reward which God hath promised; and, while you are waiting on the Lord your bread shall be certain, and your water shall be sure: you shall often eat meat, thank God, and take courage. The short days and long nights shall not be all charged with gloom, but full often they shall be tempered with good cheer. When we patience it keeps us in good heart for service. A man to whom it is given to wait for a reward keeps up his courage, and when he has to wait, he says, "It is no more than I expected. I never reckoned that I was to slay my enemy at the first blow. I never imagined that I was to capture the city as soon as ever I had digged the first trench; I reckoned upon waiting, and now that is come, I find that God gives me the grace to fight on and wrestle on, till the victory shall come." And patience saves a man from a great deal of haste and folly. A hasty man never is a wise man. He is wise that halts a little, and ponders his ways, especially when adversity crosses his path. I have known brethren in the ministry get discouraged and leave their pulpits, and repent as long as ever they lived that they left a sphere of labor, where they ought to have toiled on. I have known Christian people get discouraged, and touchy, and angry, fall out with the church of which they were members, go out in the wilderness, and leave the fat pastures behind them. They have only had to regret all their lives, that they had not a little more patience with their brethren, and with the circus stances which surrounded them. Whenever you are about to do anything in a great hurry, pause and pray. The hot fever in your own system ill fits you to act discreetly. While you tarry for a more healthy temperature of your own feelings, there may be a great change in the thermometer outside as to the circumstances that influence you. Great haste makes little speed. He that believeth shall not make haste; and as the promise runs, he shall never be confounded.

Above all, patience is to be commended to you because it glorifies God. The man that can wait, and wait calmly, astonishes the worlding, for the worldling wants it now. You remember John Bunyan's pretty parable (as you all know it, I will only give the outline)--of Passion and Patience. Passion would have all his best things first, and one came in, and lavished before him out of a bag all that the child could desire. Patience would have his best things last, and Patience sat and waited, so when Passion had used up all his joy, and all he sought for, Patience came in for his portion, and as John Bunyan very well remarked, there is nothing to come after the last, and so the portion of Patience lasted for ever. Let me have my best things last, my Lord, and my worst things first. Be they what they may, they shall be over, and then my best things shall last for ever and for ever. He that can wait has faith, and it is faith that marks the true Christian. He that can wait hath grace, and it is grace that marks the child of God. O that the Lord would grant to every one of you more and more of this excellent grace of patience, to the praise and glory of his name.

I have well nigh done. Yet there is one other respect in which our case is like that of the husbandman. As the season advances, his anxieties are prone to increase rather than to abate. If he has had long need of patience while the seasons have succeeded each other, and while organic chances have been in course of development, surely there is a stronger denoted on his patience as the crisis approaches when he shall reap the produce. How anxiously at this season will he observe the skies, watch the clouds, and wait the opportune time to get in his crops and garner them in good condition! Is there no peril that haunts him lest, after all, the blast or the mildew should cheat his hopes; lest fierce winds should lay the full-grown stems prostrate on the ground; lest then the pelting showers of rain should drench the well-filled ears of corn? I might almost call this the husbandman's last fear, and yet the most nervous fear that agitates his mind. In like manner, beloved, we have a closing scene in prospect which may, and will in all probability, involve a greater trial of faith, and a sterner call for patience, than any or all of the struggles through which we have already passed. Perhaps I can best describe it to you by quoting two passages of Scripture, one specially addressed to workers, the other more particularly to sufferers. For the first of these texts; you will find it in Hebrews 10:35-36 . "Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, What, after ye have done the will of God, ye may receive the promise." This is sweet counsel for thee, O pilgrim, to Zion's city bound. When thou wast young and strong, thou didst walk many a weary mile with that staff of promise. It helped thee over the ground. Don't throw it aside as useless, now that thou art old and infirm. Lean upon it. Rest upon that promise, in thy present weakness, which lightened thy labor in the days of thy vigor. "Cast not away your confidence." But, brethren, there is something more. The Apostle says, "Ye have need of patience, after ye have done the will of God." But, why, you will say, is patience so indispensable at this juncture of experience? Doubtless you all know that we are never so subject to impatience as when there is nothing we can do. All the while the farmer is occupied with ploughing, harrowing, tilling, drilling, hoeing, and the like, he is too busy to be fretful. It is when the work is done, and there is nothing more to occupy his hands, that the very leisure he has to endure gives occasion to secret qualms and lurking cares. So it ever is with us. While "we are laborers together with God," our occupation is so pleasant that we little heed the toil and moil of hard service. But when it comes to a point where we have no province, for it is "God that giveth the increase," we are apt to be grievously distrustful; our unbelief finds full play. Hence it is, brethren, that after our fight is fought, after our race is run, after our allotted task is finished, there is so much need of patience, of such patience as waits only on God and watches unto prayer, that we may finish our course with joy and the ministry we have received of the Lord Jesus. And what about the second text? Where is that to be found? It is in the early part of this epistle of James. Turn to James 1:4 . "Let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." Oh, how indisposed we all of us are to take this advice! Methinks I see Paul retiring thrice to wrestle with God in prayer, that he would remove the thorn from his flesh. He felt the rankling, and he craved for relief. He had hardly thought of it as a seton that must irritate before it could relieve, or as a medicine that must gripe before it could head. But oh, patience is then wrought up to its climax, when the soul so accepts the chastisement from the hand of God that she cannot, and will not, ask him to change his treatment or alter his discipline.

Seemeth it not as though patience were a virtue par excellence which puts the last polish on Christian chastity? We will hie us back to the cornfields again: I am afraid we were forgetting them. But this time we will not talk so much with the farmer as with the crops. Knowest thou then what it is that gives that bright yellow tinge of maturity to those blades which erst were green and growing? What, think you, imparts that golden hue to the wheat? How do you suppose the husbandman judges when it is time to thrust in the sickle? I will tell you. All the while the corn was growing, those hollow stems served as ducts that drew up nourishment from the soil. At length the process of vegetation is fulfilled. The fibres of the plant become rigid; they cease their office; down below there has been a failure of the vital power which is the precursor of death. Henceforth the heavenly powers work quick and marvellous changes; the sun paints his superscription on the ears of grain. They have reached the last stage: having fed on the riches of the soil long enough, they are only influenced from above. The time of their removal is at hand, when they shall be cut down, carried away in the team, and housed in the garners. So, too, beloved in the Lord, it is with some of you. Do I speak as a prophet? Do I not rather echo a trite observation? "The fall of the year is most thickly strewn with the fall of human life." You have long been succoured with mercies that have come up from mother-earth; you have been exposed to cold dews, chilling frosts, stormy blasts; you have had the trial of the vapory fog, the icy winter, the fickle spring, and the summer drought; but it is nearly all over now. You are ready to depart. Not yet for a brief space has the reaper come. "Ye have need of patience." Having suffered thus far, your tottering frame has learnt to bend. Patience, man--patience! A mighty transformation is about to be wrought on you in a short space. Wait on the Lord. Holiness shall now be legibly, more legibly than ever, inscribed on your forefront by the clear shining of the Sun of Righteousness. The heavenly husbandman has you daily, hourly, in his eye, till he shall say to the angel of his presence, "Put in your sickle." Then, as we pronounce your obituary with the meed of praise due to one in whom God has wrought a perfect work, we shall record that you were patient under affliction, resigned to the will of the Lord, and ready to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better. Patience has had her perfect work: you lack nothing. God grant unto you this gracious "nunc dimittis" when your time for ingathering has come!

Now, I have only spoken to believers, because as I have already said, the unbeliever cannot wait with patience, for he has nothing to wait for. There is nothing for him but a fearful looking for of judgment. Oh, it must be an awful thing to go from a life of poverty, or of suffering, or of drudgery here, into the world where the wrath of God abideth for ever. It matters not what your position here may be, if at the end you enter into rest. Equally little does it matter what joys or wealth you have here, if after all you are driven from the Lord's presence. May you be led to believe in Jesus. There lies safety. May you rest in his precious blood. There is pardon; there is salvation. God grant it, for Christ's sake Amen.

Verses 19-20


A Sermon

(No. 45)

Delivered on Sabbath Morning, October 7, 1855, by the


At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.

"Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth; and one convert him; Let him know that he which converteth sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins."-- James 5:19-20

THE TRUE BELIEVER is always pleased to hear of anything which concerns the salvation of his own soul. He rejoices to hear of the covenant plan drawn up for him from all eternity, of the great fulfillment on the cross at Calvary, of all the stipulations of the Saviour, of the application of them by the Holy Spirit, of the security which the believer has in the person of Christ, and of those gifts and graces which accompany salvation to all those who are heirs thereof: But I feel certain that, deeply pleased as we are when we hear of things touching our own salvation and deliverance from hell, we, as preachers of God, and as new creatures in Christ, being made like unto him, have true benevolence of spirit, and therefore are always delighted when we hear, speak, or think, concerning the salvation of others. Next to our own salvation, I am sure, as Christians, we shall always prize the salvation of other people; we shall always desire that what has been so sweet to our own taste, may also be tasted by others; and what has been of so inestimably precious a value to our own souls, may also become the property of all those whom God may please to shall unto everlasting life. I am sure, beloved, now that I am about to preach concerning the conversion of the ungodly, you will take as deep an interest in it as if it were something that immediately concerned your own souls, for, after all, such were some of you once. You were unconverted and ungodly; and had not God taken thought for you, and set his people to strive for your souls, where had you been? Seek, then, to exercise that charity and benevolence towards others which God and God's people first exercised towards you.

Our text has in it, first of all, a principle involved--that of instrumentality.--"Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know that he who converteth a sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death." Secondly, here is a general fact stated:--"He who converteth a sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins." And thirdly, there is a particular application of this fact made. "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth and one convert him,"--that is the same principle as when a sinner is converted "from the error of his way."

I. First, then, here is a great principle involved--a very important one--that of INSTRUMENTALITY. God has been pleased in his inscrutable wisdom and intelligence to work the conversion of others by instrumentality. True, he does not in all cases SO do, but it is his general way. Instrumentality is the plan of the universe. In the new creation it is almost always God's invariable rule to convert by means of instruments. Now we will make one or two brief remarks upon this first principle.

First, then, we say that instrumentality is not necessary with God. God can, if he pleases, convert souls without any instruments whatsoever. The mighty Maker who chooses to use the sword sometimes, can, if he pleases, slay without it. He who uses the workman, the trowel, and the hammer, can, if he so sees fit, build the house in a moment, and from the foundation-stone even to the topstone thereof, can complete it by the words of his own mouth. We never hear of any instrument used in the conversion of Abraham. He lived in a far-off land in the midst of idolaters, but he was called Ur of the Cheldees, and thence God called him and brought him to Canaan by an immediate voice, doubtless from above, by God's own agency, without the employment of any prophet; for we read of none who could, as far as we can see, have preached to Abraham and taught him the truth. Then in modern times we have a mighty instance of the power of God, in converting without human might. Saul, on his journey towards Damascus, upon his horse, fiery and full of fury against the children of God, is hastening to hail men and women and cast them into prison; to bring them bound unto Jerusalem; but on a sudden, a voice is heard from heaven, "Saul! Saul! why persecutest thou me?" and Saul was a new man. No minister was his spiritual parent, no book could claim him as its convert; no human voice, but the immediate utterance of Jesus Christ himself, at once, there and then, and upon the spot, brought Saul to know the truth. Moreover, there are some men who seem never to need conversion at all; for we have one instance in Scripture of John the Baptist, of whom it is said, "He was filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb." And I do not know but what there are some who very early in life have a change of heart. It is quite certain that all infants, (who, doubtless, being each of them elect, do ascend to heaven,) undergo a change of heart without instrumentality; and so there may be some, concerning whom it maybe written that though they were born in sin and shapen in iniquity, yet they were so early taught to know the Lord, so soon brought to his name, that it must have been almost without instrument at all. 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.

Secondly, we make another remark, which is, that instrumentality is very honorable to God, and not dishonorable. One would think, perhaps, at first sight, that it would reflect more glory to God, if he effected all conversions himself, without the use of men; but that is a great mistake. It is as honorable to God to convert by means of Christians and others, as it would be if he should effect it alone. 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 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 of my supposition, even a detriment to him in his work. So with regard to human instrumentality. So far from being any assistance to God, we are all hindrances to him. What is a minister? He is made by God a means of salvation, but it is a wonderful thing that any one so faulty, so imperfect so little skilled, should yet be blessed of God to bringing forth children for the Lord Jesus. It seems as marvellous as if a man should fashion rain from fire, or if he should fabricate some precious alabaster vase out of the refuse of the dunghill. God in his mercy does more than make Christians without means; he takes bad means to make good men with, and so he even reflects credit on himself because his instruments are all of them such poor things. They are all such earthen vessels, that they do but set of the glory of the gold which they hold, like the foil that setteth forth the jewel, or like the dark spot in the painting that makes the light more brilliant; and yet the dark spot and the foil are not in themselves costly or valuable. So God uses instruments to set forth his own glory; and to exalt himself.

This brings us to the other remark, that usually God does employ instruments. Perhaps in one case out of a thousand, men are converted by the immediate agency of God--and so indeed are all in one sense,--but usually, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, God is pleased to use the instrumentality of his ministering servants, of his Word, of Christian men, or some other means to bring us to the Saviour. 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. Let us not therefore believe that God will often work without instruments; let us not sit down silently and say, "God will do his own work." It is quite true he will; but then he does his work by using his children as instruments. He does not say to the Christian man when he is converted, "Sit thee down; I have nought for thee to do, but I will do all myself and have all the glory." No; he says, "Thou art a poor weak instrument; thou canst do nothing; but lo! I will strengthen thee, and I will make thee thrash the mountains and beat them small, and make the hills as chaff: and so shall I get more honor through thy having done it than I should had mine own strong arm smitten the mountains and broken them in pieces."

Now another thought, and that is--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. And it is strange that some most terrible acts of wickedness have been the means of the conversion of men. When Charles II ordered the Book of Sports to be read in churches, and after the service the clergyman was required to read to all the people to spend the afternoon in what are called harmless diversions and games that I will not mention here--even that was made the means of conversion; for one man said within himself, "I have always disported myself thus on the Sabbath-day; but now to hear this read in church! how wicked we must have become! how the whole land must be corrupt." It led him to think of his own corruption, and brought him to the Saviour. There have been words proceeding, I had almost said from devils, which have been the means of conversion. Grace is not spoiled by the rotten wooden spout 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 mouths of ravens with food for an Elijah, and yet the raven is a raven still. We must not suppose because God has made us useful that we are therefore converted ourselves.

But then another thing. 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. I believe there are some ministers who have had the painful labor of toiling from year to year without seeing a single soul regenerated. Yet those men have been faithful to their charge, and have well discharged their ministry. I do not say that such cases often occur, but I believe they have occurred sometimes. Yet, mark you, the end of their ministry has been answered after all. For what is the end of the gospel ministry? Some will say it is to convert sinners. That is a collateral end. Others will say it is to convert the saints. That is true. But the proper answer to give is--it is to glorify God, and, God is glorified even in the damnation of sinners. 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 honor; and if he cannot get praise from their songs, he will at last get honor from their condemnation and overthrow, when he shall cast them into the fire for ever. The true motive for which we should always labor, is the glory of God in the conversion of souls; and building up of God's people; but let us never lose sight of the great end. Let God be glorified; and he will be, if we preach his truth faithfully and honestly. So, therefore, while we should seek for souls, if God denies them unto us, let us not say, "I will not have other mercies that he has given; "but let us comfort ourselves with the thought--that though they be not saved, though Israel be not gathered in, God will glorify and honor us at last.

One thought more upon this subject--God by using us as instruments confers upon us the highest honor which men can receive. O beloved! I dare not dilate upon this. It should make our hearts burn at the thought of it. It makes us feel thrice honored that God should use us to convert souls; and it is only the grace of God which teaches us on the other hand, that it is grace and grace alone which makes us useful; which can keep us humble under the thought, that we are bringing souls to the Saviour. It is a work which he who has once entered if God has blessed him cannot renounce. He will be impatient; he will long to win more souls to Jesus; he will account that; he will think that labor is but ease, so that by any means he may save some, and bring men to Jesus. Glory and honor, praise and power, be unto God, that he thus honors his people. But when he exalts us most, we will still conclude with, "Not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy name be all the glory for ever and ever."

II. Secondly, we come to the GENERAL FACT. "He who converteth the sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins." 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. Some men can boast that they have sent so many souls to perdition; that they have hurled many of their fellows out of the world. We meet, now and then a soldier who can glory that in battle he struck down so many foemen; that his swift and cruel sword reached the heart of so many of his enemies; but I count not that glory. If I thought I had been the means of the death of a single individual, methinks I should scarce rest at night, for the uneasy ghost of that murdered wretch would stare me in mine eyes. I should remember I had slain him, and perhaps sent his soul unshaven and unwashed into the presence of his Maker. It seems to me wonderful that men can be found to be soldiers. I say not if it be right or wrong; still I wonder where they can find the men. I know not how after a battle they can wash their hands of blood, wipe their swords and put them by, and then lie down to slumber, and their dreams be undisturbed. Methinks the tears would fall hot and scalding on my cheek at night, and the shrieks of the dying, and the groans of those approaching eternity would torture mine ear. I know not how others can endure it. To me it would be the very portal of hell, if I could think I had been a destroyer of my fellow-creatures. But what bliss is it to be the instrument of saving bodies from death! 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 traveler 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 heavings of the lungs, what joy is in the breast 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 down stairs; 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 a child on his shoulder, and down he comes, twice a giant, having more might than he ever possessed before. He has jeopardized 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, honoring him more than the monarch who had stormed a city, sacked a town, and murdered myriad's.

But ah! brethren, the body which was saved from death to-day may die tomorrow. 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." Suppose that by some conversation of yours you are made the means of delivering a soul from death. My friends, you are apt to imagine that all conversion is under God done by the minister. You make a great mistake. There are many conversions effected by a very simple observation from the most humble individual. A single word spoken maybe more the means of conversion than a whole sermon. There you sit before me. I thrust at you, but you are too far off. Some brother, however, addresses an observation to you--it is a very stab with a short poignard in your heart. God often blesses a short pithy expression from a friend more than a long discourse from 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, "O sir! I am deeply concerned for your salvation. I am deeply concerned for your salvation. I have been wrestling with 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 parlor, still in prayer, and they knelt 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."

Again, you may be the means of conversion by a letter you may write. Many of you have not the power to speak or say much; but when you sit down alone in your chamber you are able, with God's help, to write a letter to a dear friend of yours. Oh! I think that is a very sweet way to endeavor to be useful. I think I never felt so much earnestness after the souls of my fellow-creatures as when I first loved the Saviour's name, and though I could not preach, and never thought I should be able to testify to the multitude, I used to write texts on little scraps of paper and drop them anywhere, that some poor creatures might pick them up, and receive them as messages of mercy to their souls. 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 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 conjunction with a solemn providence, was the means of breaking his heart, and he sought salvation through a Saviour.

Again. How many nave been converted by the example of true Christians. Many of you feel that you cannot write or preach, and you think you can do nothing. Well, there is one thing you can do for your Master--you can live Christianity. I think there are more people who look at the new life in Christ written out in you, than they will in the old life that is written in the Scriptures. 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 disperse to the needy, living like Jesus, 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."

And then how many souls may be converted by what some men are privileged to write and print. There is "Dr. Doddridge's Rise and Progress of Religion." Though I decidedly object to some things in it, I could wish that everybody lad read that book, so many have been the conversions it has produced. I think it more honor to have written "Watts's Psalms and Hymns," than "Milton's Paradise Lost, "and more glory to have written that book of old Wilcocks," A Drop of Honey; "or the tract that God has used so much--"The Sinner's Friend"--than all the books of Homer. 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 bringing souls to him. Oh! to think that we may write and print books which shall reach poor sinners' hearts. The other day my soul was gladdened exceedingly by an invitation from a pious woman to go and see her. She told me she had been ten years on her bed, and had not been able to stir from it. "Nine years," she said, "I was dark, and blind, and unthinking; but my husband brought me one of your sermons. I read it, and God blessed it to the opening of my eyes. He converted my soul with it. And now, all glory to him! I love his name! Each Sabbath morning," she said, "I wait for your sermon. I live on it all the week, as marrow and fatness to my spirit." Ah! thought I, there is something to cheer the printers, and all of us who labor in that good work. One good brother wrote to me this week, "Brother Spurgeon, keep your courage up. You are known in multitudes of households of England, and you are loved too; though we cannot hear you, or see your living form, yet throughout our villages your sermons are scattered. And I know of cases of conversion from them, more than I can tell you." Another friend mentioned to me an instance of a clergyman of the Church of England, a canon of a cathedral, who frequently preaches the sermons on the Sabbath--whether in the cathedral or not, I cannot say, but I hope he does. Oh! who can tell, when these things are printed what hearts they may reach, what good they may effect? Words that I spoke three weeks ago, eyes are now perusing, while tears are gushing from them as they read! "Glory be to God most high!"

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 honor. There is a young man who has not long commenced his ministerial career. When he enters the pulpit everybody notices what a deep solemnity there is upon him, beyond his years. His face is white, and blanched by an unearthly solemnity, his body is shriveled up by his labor, constant study and midnight lamp have worn him away; but when he speaks he utters wondrous words that lift the soul up to heaven. And the aged saint says, "Well! ne'er did I go so near to heaven as when I listened to his voice!" There comes in some gay young man, who listens and criticizes his aspect. He thinks it is by no means such as to be desired; but he listens. One thought strikes him, then another. See you that man; He has been moral all his life long--but he has never been renewed. Now tear begin to flow down his cheeks. Just put your ear against his breast, and you will hear him groan out, "God be merciful to me a sinner." Ah! good reward for a withered frame, or a ruined constitution! Or, take another case. A man is preaching the Word of God. He is standing up to deliver his Master's message, and in steals some poor harlot. Such a case I knew not long ago. A poor harlot determined she would go and take her life on Blackfriars Bridge. Passing by these doors one Sunday night, she thought she would step in, and for the last time hear something that might prepare her to stand before her Maker. She forced herself into the aisle, and she could not escape until I rose from the pulpit. The text was, "Seest thou this woman?" I dwelt upon Mary Magdalene and her sins; her washing the Saviour's feet with her tears, and wiping them with the hair of her head. There stood the woman, melted away with the thought that she should thus hear herself described, and her own life painted. Oh! to think of saving a poor harlot from death, to deliver such an one from going down to the grave, and then, as God pleased, to save her soul from going down to hell! Is it not worth ten thousand lives, if we could sacrifice them all on the altar of God? When I thought of this text yesterday, I could only weep to think that God should have so favored me. 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.

I know there are some now before the throne who first wept the penitential tear in this house of prayer, and who thanked God that they had listened to this voice; and methinks, they have a tender and affectionate love still for him whom God honored thus. Minister of the gospel, if you on earth are privileged to win souls I think when you die those spirits will rejoice to be your guardian angels. They will say, "Father, that man is dying whom we love, may we go and watch him?" "Yea," saith God, "ye may go, and carry heaven with you." Down come the spirits, ministering angels, and oh! how lovingly they look on us. They would, if they could, strike out the furrow from the forehead, and take the cold clammy sweat with their own blessed hands away. They must not do it; but Oh! how tenderly they watch that suffering man who was made the means of doing good to their souls, and when he opens his eyes to immortality he shall see them like guards around his bed, and hear them say, "Come with us, thrice welcome, honored servant of God; come with us." And when he speeds his way upwards towards heaven on strong wings of faith, these spirits who stand by him will clap their wings behind him, and he will enter heaven with many crowns upon his head, each of which he will delight to cast at the feet of Jesus. Oh, brethren, if ye turn a sinner from the error of his ways, remember ye have saved a soul from death, and hidden a multitude of sins.

III. The APPLICATION, I can only just mention. It is this; that he who is the means of the conversion of a sinner does, under God, "save a soul from death, and bide a multitude of sins," but particular attention ought to be paid to backsliders; for in bringing backsliders into the church there is as much honor to God as in bringing in sinners. "Brethren, if any 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." Brethren, 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. Now-a-days it is the fashion, if a man falls, to have nothing to do with him. Men say, "he is a bad fellow, we will not go after him." Beloved, suppose he is the worst, is not that the reason why you should go most after him? Suppose he never was a child of God--suppose he never knew the truth, is not that the greater reason why you should go after him? I do not understand your mawkish modesty, your excessive pride, that won't let you after the chief of sinners. The worse the case, the more is the reason why we should go. But suppose the man is a child of God, and you have cast him off--remember, he is your brother; he is one with Christ as much as you are; he is justified, he has the same righteousness that you have; and if, when he has sinned, you despise him, in that you despise him you despise his Master. Take heed! thou thyself mayest be tempted, and mayest one day fall. Like David, thou mayest walk on the top of thine house rather too high, and thou mayest see something which shall bring thee to sin. Then what wilt thou say, if then the brethren pass thee by with a sneer, and take no notice of thee Oh! if we have one backslider connected with our church, let us take special care of him. Don't deal hardly with him. 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. Suppose you did deceive the church, though art not the first that did it. There are some members of this church, I fear, who have done so, and we have not found them out. I tell you your case is not hopeless. That is not the unpardonable sin. Some who have tried to deceive the very elect have yet been delivered; and my Master says he is able to save to the uttermost (and ye have not gone beyond the uttermost) all who come unto him. Come thou, then, to his feet, cast thyself on his mercy; and though thou didst once enter his came 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 was 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. Think not he has unsheathed the sword to slay thee. Say not, "He has cast me out of the family." He has not. His bowels yearn over thee now. My Father loves thee; come then to his feet, and he will not even remind thee of what thou hast done. The prodigal was going to tell his Father all his sins, and to ask him to make him one of his hired servants, but the Father stopped his mouth He let him say that he was not worthy to be called his son, but he would not let him say, "make me as an hired servant." Come back and thy Father will receive thee gladly; he will put his arms around thee and kiss thee with the kisses of his love, and he will say, "I have found this my son that was lost; I have recovered this sheep that had gone astray." My Father loved thee without works, he justified thee irrespective of them; thou hast no less merit now than thou hadst then. Come and trust and believe in him.

Lastly, you who believe you are not backsliders, if you are saved, remember that a soul is saved from death, and a multitude of sins hidden. Oh, my friends, if I might but be a hundred-handed man to catch you all, I would love to be so. If aught I could say could win your souls--if by preaching here from now till midnight, I might by any possibility capture some of you to the love of the Saviour, I would do it. Some of you are speeding your way to hell blindfolded. My hearers, I do not deceive you, you are going to perdition as fast as time can carry you. Some of you are deceiving yourselves with the thought that you are righteous, and you are not so. Many of you have had solemn warnings, and have never been moved by them. You have admired the way in which the warning has been given, but the thing itself has never entered your heart. Hundreds of you are without God, and without Christ, strangers to the commonwealth of Israel: and may I not plead with you? Is a gloomy religious system to hold me captive and never let me speak? Why, poor hearts, do you know your sad condition? Do you know that "God is angry with the wicked every day;" that "the way of transgressors is hard;" that "he that believeth not is condemned already?" Has it never been told you that "he that believeth not shall be damned? "and can you stand damnation? My hearers could you make your bed in hell? Could you lie down in the pit? Do you think it would be an easy portion for your souls to be rocked on waves of flame for ever, and to be tossed about with demons in the place where hope cannot come? You may smile now, but will not smile soon. God sends me as an ambassador now; but if ye listen not to me, he will not send an ambassador next time, but an executioner. There will be no wooing words of mercy soon: the only exhortation thou wilt hear will be the dull cold voice of death, that shall say, "Come with me." Then thou wilt not be in the place where we sing God's praises, and where righteous prayers are daily offered. The only music thou wilt hear will be the sighs of the damned, the shrieks of fiends, and the yellings of the tormented. O may God in his mercy snatch you as brands from the fire, to be trophies of his grace throughout eternity. The way to be saved is to "renounce thy works and ways with grief," and fly to Jesus. And if now thou art a conscience-stricken sinner, that is all I want. If thou will confess that thou art a sinner, that is all God requires of thee, and even that he gives thee. Jesus Christ says "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Do you hear his wooing words? Will ye turn from his sweet looks of mercy? Has his cross no influence? have his wounds no power to bring you to his feet? Ah! then, what can I say? The arm of the Spirit, which is mightier than man, alone can make hard hearts melt, and bow stubborn wills to the ground. Sinners, if you confess your sins this morning, there is a Christ for you. You need not say, "Oh, that I knew where to find him." The Word is nigh thee, on thy lips, and in thy heart. If thou wilt with thine heart believe, and with thy mouth confess, the Lord Jesus, thou shalt be saved, for "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; and he that believeth not shall be damned."

Bibliographical Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on James 5". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/spe/james-5.html. 2011.
adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile