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2. For the same reason, by winning souls here, cannot be meant the inducing people to embrace our opinions, whether on religious, political, or any other subjects. It is true, if our opinions be scriptural, especially, respecting the important matters of religion, we do those no small favour whom we persuade to embrace them. Yet still, as we have reason to believe there are few persons but what are entangled in some errors, and those perhaps of no small moment, it can never be affirmed, absolutely and universally, that he who winneth souls in this sense, that brings them over to his way
of thinking, is wise. For if his sentiments be erroneous, and he induce others to embrace them, he may possibly be the cause of their everlasting damnation. For being entangled in error, they may also be led into sin, (all error having, more or less, a destructive tendency,) and of consequence into hell, and in the end their blood may be required at the hands of him who first misled them. So that before we use means to instil our opinions into others, we ought to be well assured that they have the sanction of reason and truth, lest we should be ignorantly administering poison instead of wholesome food, and murdering those souls we meant to feed. In which case, as our plea of ignorance will be but a small recompense, and a poor support and consolation amidst their everlasting burnings, to those whom we have deprived of eternal life, and plunged into eternal death; so neither will it be allowed before God as a sufficient excuse for our guilt.
3. It will hardly be necessary, after what has just been advanced, to observe, that by winning souls, cannot be meant the bringing people over to the party with which we may happen to be connected. This, it will easily be discerned, may prove a blessing to them, or a curse, according as the members of such a party are or are not the true followers of Christ. If they be such, to draw persons into society and communion with them, may be the mean of saving their souls ; for, “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise.” They that “ fear the Lord,” and are united together in Christian fellowship, “speak often one to another,” by way of instruction, reproof, or consolation, as they appear severally to stand in need: yea, they " exhort one another daily,” and the consequence generally is, not only that the Lord hearkens and hears ; and a book of remembrance is written,” but, by this they prevent an evil heart of unbelief from springing up in themselves and others, and
preserve one another from being “ hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” On the contrary, as we are assured that “ a companion of fools shall be destroyed,” if we be connected with fools, that
is, sinners, continuing in sin, and not the real children of God, those whom we draw over to such a party, we draw to their ruin and destruction. So that in this case too, as well as in those before mentioned, it concerns us to consider well what we do. take care that we be connected with the people of God, with those • that are wise, holy, and virtuous; and then, the more we induce to enter into fellowship with us, the better. For by having fellowship with the disciples, they will be introduced into fellowship with their Master; and from union with those that are sanctified, they will aspire to an union with him that sanctifieth. And their union and communion with him on earth, will infallibly prepare them for, while it manifests their title to, everlasting fellowship with him in heaven.
4. It appears, therefore, that it is a matter of no small moment to win souls, even in this sense ; to bring them to be united with the children of God. This, however, is not what is primarily meant in our text. It is not the drawing souls into union with the people of God, but into fellowship with God himself, that is here intended. In other words, it is the “turning of them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance among them that are sanctified, by faith in Christ Jesus.” By nature, men are in darkness, and under the dominion of the prince of darkness. They are the servants, the children, and in some sense, the property of Satan, who is the “god of this world, and worketh with energy in the children of disobedience.” His servants ye are,” said St. Paul, “whom ye obey." “ Ye are of your father the devil," said Jesus, to the unconverted Jews, “ for his works ye do." Jews and Gentiles, yea, all mankind, while in an unrenewed state, are, according to the Scriptures, “dead in trespasses and sins, and children of wrath ;” that is, under condemnation, and exposed to the wrath of God. Now to win them is to bring them into the favour and family of God, that being justified by his grace, born of his Spirit, and made his children, they may be constituted heirs according to the hope of eternal life, glorifying him in their bodies and spirits here, and prepared to be glorified with him hereafter.
5. But it will be necessary more particularly to describe those that are thus won. And, 1st. They are enlightened by the Spirit as well as Word of God, and made truly acquainted with themselves. They are convinced of their sinfulness and guilt, their depravity, weakness, and misery ; in consequence of which they ex
perience that humiliation and sorrow for, and that hatred to sin, which constitute that “Repentance which is unto life, and which need not to be repented of.” This never fails to be followed with fruits worthy of repentunce. They “cease to do evil, and learn to do well,” in all respects, as they have ability and opportunity. On the one hand they are “ blameless and harmless, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation;" and on the other, by their good works, they “shine as lights in the world.”
A second particular, implied in the character of such souls as are won, is, they are enlightened with the saving knowledge of Christ. He is revealed to them as to his person and offices, his humiliation and exaltation, his grace and glory, in such a manner, that renoun.. cing all dependence on their own righteousness and strength, they trust only on his merit and Spirit, for pardon, holiness, and eternal life. Hereby they obtain an interest in him, and union with him, as their Prophet, Priest, and King, their Redeemer, Saviour, Head, and Husband; made of God unto them wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
In consequence of this, 3dly, as St. Peter testifies, they find him precious, they sincerely and fervently love him. Indeed, if they did not, they would want one very important branch of the character of such souls as are won. For, as grace and peace are the property of all those that love the Lord Jesus in sincerity,* so “ if any man love him not, he is anathema ;" that is, under a curse : Mara.. natha, adds the Apostle, a Syriac expression, which means, The Lord cometh, viz. to execute that curse, and take vengeance upon
And it is to be diligently observed, that this love is always productive of the fruits ascribed to it in the word of God, “ He that hath my commandments," saith Jesus, " and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.” They, therefore, that love him, and are truly gained over from Belial to Christ, live to him. For " The love of Christ constraineth them” so to do. “None of them liveth to himself, and none of them dieth to himself; but whether they live, they live unto the Lord, or whether they die, they die unto the Lord : living or dying, therefore, they are the Lord's."
Hence it is, that, 4thly, as St. Paul testifies, they are new creatures. Old things are passed away, and all things are become new. For it is so natural for a man to live to himself, to make his own will his law, and his own honour, or interest, or pleasure, his end, in all his words and works, that if any man walk by another rule,
* Eph. vi, 24.
viz. the divine will, and direct his actions to another end, viz. the glory of God, he must be born again, or renewed in the spirit of his mind. This, therefore, is an essential branch of the character of a soul that is won. He is “ washed in the laver of regeneration, and renewed by the renewing of the Holy Ghost.” He has put off the old man, and put on the new, and is created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” And this divine change, begun in his soul, must be increased and perfected. God having “predestinated him to be conformed to the image of his Son," he must “press to this mark, for the prize of his high calling of God in Christ Jesus ; forgetting the things that are behind, and aspiring after the things that are before.” It must be his ruling desire, and principal endeavour, so to follow Christ, that he may have in him the whole mind that was in Christ, and walk as he walked; glorifying God by a holy, unblameable, edifying conduct and conversation; and enduring with resignation and patience towards God, and meekness, gentleness, and longsuffering towards mankind, all the trials and troubles, injuries and affronts, which in the course of Providence he may meet with.
IT. I proceed now to consider, 2dly, in what way souls may
1. By the metaphorical expression here used, in the original, the wise man seems to allude to the catching of birds, or fish, or the taking of a city strongly fortified. And, perhaps, without incurring the danger of being deemed very fanciful, I might make use of these comparisons to illustrate my subject. I might observe, that the minds of men, while in their natural state, like birds, are light, inconstant, and trifling, winged indeed, furnished with affections, that they may ascend towards heaven, but loading those affections with thick clay, with the love of sin and vanity, of money, honour, pleasure ; with worldly desires and cares, and sinking down to earth, in consequence of which, they are entangled in the mud and filth of it, and “ caught alive in the snares of the devil, and led captive by him at his will.”
2. Now in order that “ God may give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth, that they may recover themselves out of Satan's snare,” they must, 1st, be alarmed with faithful representations of the danger they are in while unconverted. They must be given to know that, while in a fallen state, a state of ignorance and sin, of guilt, depravity, and weakness, they are the subjects, and servants, nay, and the children of Satan ; joint-heirs with him of future wrath; to which wrath, it must be proved to them,
they are continually exposed, being continually on the verge of death and eternity. When we have reason to believe they are awakened to a due sense of their danger, and brought to be seriously concerned about eternal things, they must, 2dly, be allured, by unfolding the precious promises of God, made to them, if in true repentance and faith they return unto him. A free and full pardon for all their past sins, the especial favour and love of God, adoption into his family, and regeneration by his grace, the indwelling of his sanctifying Spirit, and communion with him from day to day, together with his peculiar care and protection, must be set before them, and offered to them, “ without money and without price." These privileges they must be assured may be enjoyed on earth, while eternal life, felicity, and glory, are laid up for them after death, in the heavenly, everlasting kingdom of their God and Father.
3. Again. That they may make more haste to embrace these blessings, they must, 3dly, be drawn with the cords of love, the love of God in Christ Jesus, and the bands of a man, viz. solid reason and argument. “God so loved the world,” must be our language, “ that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." “ Herein,” we must cry, “is love ; not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and made his only-begotten Son a propitiation for our sins.". “For when we were under condemnation, and exposed to wrath, and without strength to help ourselves, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” “Now scarcely for a righteous man," we
" will one die : although peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more, then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” In this way did the apostles address themselves to the guilty, doubtful, and desponding children
Thus did they draw them unto the Lord Jesus, and bring them to experience the constraining power of love divine. Thus did Christ himself draw mankind unto himself. Being “ lifted up" upon the cross for lost sinners, being “ wounded for their transgressions, and bruised for their iniquities, and bearing in his own body on the tree the chastisement of their peace,” he led them to reflect on their own sinfulness and guilt, and thus to judge, that“ if one died for all, then were all dead : and that he died for all, that they who live, should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto hím that died for them, and rose again.” And in this we must