JAMES IF any one of you has been the means of bringing back a backslider, it is said, “Let him know.” That is, let him think of it, be sure of it, be comforted by it, be inspirited by it. “Let him know” it, and never doubt it.
Do not merely hear it, let it sink deep into your heart. When an apostle inspired of the Holy Ghost says, “Let him know,” do not let any indolence of spirit forbid your ascertaining the full weight of the truth. What is it that you are to know? To know that he who converteth a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death. This is something worth knowing, it is no small matter. Why, we have men among us whom we honor every time we cast our eyes upon them, for they have saved many precious lives; they have manned the lifeboat or they have plunged into the river to rescue the drowning; they have been ready to risk their own lives amid burning timbers that they might snatch the perishing from the devouring flames.
True heroes these, far worthier of renown than your blood-stained men of war. God bless the brave hearts! May England never lack a body of worthy men to make her shores illustrious for humanity. When we see a fellowcreature exposed to danger our pulse beats quickly, and we are agitated with desire to save him. Is it not so? But the saving of a soul from death is a far greater matter. Let us think what that death is! It is not non-existence; I do not know that I would lift a finger to save my fellow-creature from mere non-existence. I see no great hurt in annihilation; certainly nothing that would alarm me as a punishment for sin. Just as I see no great joy in mere eternal existence, if that is all that is meant by eternal life, so I discern no terror in ceasing to be; I would as soon not be as be, so far as mere colorless being or not being is concerned. But eternal life in Scripture means a very different thing to eternal existence; it means existing with all the faculties developed in fullness of joy; existing not as the dried herb in the hay, but as the flower in all its beauty. To die in Scripture, and indeed in common language, is not to cease to exist. Very wide is the difference between the two words to die and to be annihilated. To die as to the first death is the separation of the body from the soul; it is the resolution of our nature into its component elements; and to die the second death is to separate the man, soul and body, from his God who is the life and joy of our manhood. This is eternal destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power; this is to have the palace of manhood destroyed and turned into a desolate ruin for the howling dragon of remorse, and the hooting owl of despair, to inherit for ever.
Now, remember your Savior came to this world with two objects: He came to destroy death and to put away sin. If you convert a sinner from the error of his ways, you are made like to Him in both these works after your manner in the power of the Spirit of God you overcome death, by snatching a soul from the second death, and you also put away sin from the sight of God by hiding a multitude of sins beneath the propitiation of the Lord Jesus.
The apostle does not say if you convert a sinner from the error of his ways; you will have honor. True philanthropy scorns such a motive. He does not say if you convert a sinner from the error of his ways you will have the respect of the church and the love of the individual. Such will be the case, but we are moved by far nobler motives. The joy of doing good is found in the good itself the reward of a deed of love is found in its own result. If we have saved a soul from death, and hidden a multitude of sins, that is payment enough, though no ear should ever hear of the deed, and no pen should ever record it. Let it be forgotten that we were the instrument if good be but effected; it shall give us joy even if we be not appreciated, and are left in the cold shade of forgetfulness. Yea, if others wear the honors of the good deed which the Lord has wrought by us; we will not murmur, it shall be joy enough to know that a soul has been saved from death, and a multitude of sins have been covered.
Let us recollect that the saving of souls from death honors Jesus, for there is no saving souls except through His blood. As for you and for me, what can we do in saving a soul from death? Of ourselves nothing, any more than that pen which lies upon the table could write the Pilgrim’s Progress; yet let a Bunyan grasp the pen, and the matchless work is written. So you and I can do nothing to convert souls till God’s eternal Spirit takes us in hand; but then He can do wonders by us, and get to Himself glory by us, while it shall be joy enough to us to know that Jesus is honored, and the Spirit magnified. Nobody talks of Homer’s pen, no one has encased it in gold, or published its illustrious achievements; nor do we wish for honor among men it will be enough for us to have been the pen in the Savior’s hand with which He has written the covenant of His grace upon the fleshy tablets of human hearts. This is golden wages for a man who really loves his Master; Jesus is glorified, sinners are saved.
All that is said by the apostle is about the conversion of one person. “If any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him, let him know that he who converteth the sinner from the error of his ways shall save a soul from death.” Have you never wished you were a Whitefield? Have you never felt, in your inmost soul, great aspirations to be another McCheyne, or Brainerd, or Moffat? Cultivate the aspiration, but at the same time be happy to bring one sinner to Jesus Christ, for he who converts one is bidden to know that no mean thing is done; he has saved a soul from death, and covered a multitude of sins.
And it does not say anything about the person who is the means of this work. It is not said, “If a minister shall convert a man, or if some noted eloquent divine shall have wrought it.” If this deed shall be performed by the least babe in our Israel, if a little child shall tell the tale of Jesus to its father, if a servant girl shall drop a tract where some one poor soul shall find it and receive salvation, if the humblest preacher at the street corner shall have spoken to the thief or to the harlot, and such shall be saved, let him know that he that turneth any sinner from the error of his ways, whoever he may be, hath saved a soul from death, and covered a multitude of sins.
Let us long to be used in the conversion of sinners. James does not speak concerning the Holy Ghost in this passage, nor of the Lord Jesus Christ, for he was writing to those who would not fail to remember the important truths which concern both the Spirit and the Son of God; but yet we cannot do spiritual good to our fellow-creatures apart from the Spirit of God, neither can we be blessed to them if we do not preach to them “Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” God must use us; let us pray and pine to be used; let us purge ourselves of everything that would prevent our being employed by the Lord. If there is anything we are doing, or leaving undone, any evil we are harboring, or any grace we are neglecting, which may make us unfit to be used of God, let us pray the Lord to cleanse, and mend, and scour us till we are vessels fit for the Master’s use. Then let us be on the watch for opportunities of usefulness; let us go about the world with our ears and our eyes open, ready to avail ourselves of every occasion for doing good; let us not be content till we are useful, but make this the main design and ambition of our lives.