The Most Important Thing: Loving God and/or Winning Souls

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And because of that sinful nature, all people are subject to death as a penalty. Once we see how precious all people are to God, we will do all we can to win them to Christ. Winning souls is the Great Commission. It is a personal instruction from Jesus and a special calling to His disciples. Jesus calls every Christian to step out in faith and spread the Good News. Who so likely to pitch upon the best Arguments to per swade Men to be religious, as they, who have found by Experience, what have been the most forcible upon themselves?

And then again, Who so likely to be diligent and faithful in pursuing this grand Design of the Mi nistry, even that of winning Souls, like those who are won over to the Love and Service of Christ, and are filled accordingly with a Zeal for his Honour, and with a compassionate Concern for the Souls of Men? With how much greater Pleasure will such pursue the Business that will be so much to the Glory of Christ and the Good of Souls, than one who careth for none of these Things?

In a Word, Who so likely to lay themselves out in this Service, as they who have their very Hearts and Souls enga ged in this Matter? Which is the Case of every Mi nister that is himself thoroughly and effectually won over to Christ. There is a great deal of Wisdom and Skill to be used in the direct Application to the Souls of Men, in order to win and gain them over to Christ. As these previous Accomplishments are very use ful and necessary, so, if we would win Souls, we must, in our Ministrations and Applications to them, ma nage with particular Skill and Wisdom.

Here then,. In their publick Ministrations, they must manage with great Wisdom, if they would win Souls. They must so order their Speech and their Beha viour in Prayer, as will be most likely to command the Attention, excite the Reverence, and raise the Devotion of the People.

They must wisely accom modate their Confessions to the Sins, their Petitions and Intercessions to the Wants, their Thanksgivings to the Mercies of the People; and should mention nothing in Prayer but what the Assembly that hear may and ought to join with them in. And then, as to Preaching, which is a principal Part of the publick Service, there is great Wisdom requisite in the managing of it, so as that the Word might prove a Savour of Life unto Life unto them that hear it.

And now, as in preaching, Ministers are to Teach, Exhort, and Rebuke; so in all these the Preacher must manage with great Discretion. And, Here I would take the Opportunity to say, That as for the sublime mysterious Doctrines of the Gospel, they should always be treated with great Re verence and Caution; and in those Articles, if Mi nisters would be wise, they wont pretend to be wise above what is written.

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But the deeper and darker the Point is, the more closely must they adhere to the written Oracles of GOD; to which they will do well says the Apostle to take heed, as unto a Light that shineth in a dark Place, 2 Pet. And, I cannot but think this has been the Fault on all Sides, that they have departed, some more and some less, from the written Word, in their discoursing upon, and undertaking to explain the Mysteries of the Gos pel; and each Party has been more fond of suppor ting his own particular Terms, and Manner of Ex pression, than to sit down contented with the Doc trines, as the Holy Ghost has delivered them unto us; by which Means, instead of winning Souls over to Christ, they only win them over to a particular Par ty; which very Thing has divided the christian World into innumerable Sects.

Whereas, if Mi nisters, and other Christians, had, in all their Discour ses upon mysterious Points, laid aside humane Expli cations and adhered to the Word, as a Lamp unto their Feet, and a Light their Paths, Psal. And therefore, The Minister that is so wise as to know himself, will have such a modest humble Sense of his own Weakness and Ignorance about these Things, as to take up contented with the Words of the Holy Ghost, believing that they set these Things in the truest and best Light, and go so far as we are capable of understanding, or, as is necessary for us to understand; and that most, if not all, humane At tempts to explain those Points, have rather darkned than enlightned them; being Words without Know ledge, which darken Counsel, Job.

So, that if the Preacher be wise, when he speaks of those Things, he will chuse rather to speak of them in the Words which the Holy Ghost teacheth, com paring spiritual Things with spiritual; than in the Words which Man's Wisdom teacheth, agreable to the Apostles own Practice, as he tells us, 1 Cor. But, to proceed, We are told, Eccl. So that he is the wise Preacher that endeavours to be Instructive in his preaching. I don't mean by this, that Men should use bald Expressions, and homely Simi litudes; but such Expressions as will best serve to con vey the clearest Ideas of the Point they are discour sing, in the most agreeable Manner.

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For, as it is when the Word is mixed with Faith, that it becomes profitable to the Souls of Men; so it is highly proper that the Preacher should present them with proper Arguments, as a Foundation for their Faith, even such Proofs as the Nature of the Subject will afford, and such as the People may per cieve the Force of. This is that Part of preaching which is directed immediately to the Consciences of Men, perswading and urging them to that Faith, and Love, and Ho liness, which will be Salvation unto them. And now here it is requisite that Ministers should be skil led in all the Arts of Perswasion; and that they be Master of all those Arguments that are apt to strike the Minds and Consciences of Men; and of that Rhetorick too, which will strike the Passions; for as the whole Soul is to be won, so there ought to be a moving Address to all the Powers and Faculties, to every Passion and Affection the Soul.

The Preacher that was wise sought to find out acceptable Words, Eccl. And we all find by Experience, that the Soul is charmed and captivated by the pungent and pathetick Strains of the Preacher, that has wisely ordered his Speech for that Purpose. But to do this in a Manner that will an swer the Design, requires peculiar Skill.

The Mi nister must be faithful, but not too severe, in publick Reproofs. So plain, as that every one that is guilty may easily apply it to himself; and yet not so particu lar as publickly to expose Men's Characters, where the Crimes are private. He must duly expose the Sirs and Vices of the People, setting them forth in the clearest Colours, representing their evil Nature, and warning them of the fatal Consequences of Sin: But yet, this must be done in a Way that will convince and soften, and melt Men down into Repentance, rather than irritate, and so harden them in their Sins.

It must be managed so as will best serve to excite within Men a just Sense and Hatred of their Sins; and at the same time, an higher Esteem and Love for the wise Reprover.

The Greatest Service that Man Can Offer to God – To Convert Souls

And thus much for the Wisdom of the Preacher. And then, In the Administration of these Ordinances, Ministers must behave with that Gravity, with that Seriousness, and with that Devotion, as may serve to excite and influence the Devotion of others, where by the Design of these sacred Institutions will best be answered. And here, in particular, as the Design of the holy Supper is to give Men a lively Remembrance of the dying Love of our dear Redeemer, so this sacred Festival should be so celebrated, and all the Parts of the Institution so managed, as may serve to excite the most lively and affecting Remembrance of Him.

But we must exhort and rebuke with all long suffering. And there we must take Care that nothing of this Nature be done by Partiality; and yet a Difference is to be made, according to the Na ture and Aggravations of the Offence. The Wisdom needful for Ministers in their private Application to Souls. There is often times Occasion for Ministers to apply themselves privately and personally to Men.

Such as are under Convictions and Concern about their spiritual State, will repair to their spiritual Guides for Counsel and Comfort: And others that are stupid and careless about their Souls, it is no Ways improper for Ministers to go to them; and doubtless pastoral Visits, if they be managed wisely, may be of great Advantage.

And since it is the Minister's Business and Calling to win Souls, it seems very proper that what Time they can spare from their Studies and pub lick Labours, and other necessary Avocations, they should devote to the Service of particular Souls. We must consider whe ther Men's Tempers be quick and hasty, proud and haughty; whether they be humble and meek; whe ther they be self-conceited and spiritually proud; whether they be dejected or discouraged; and must address ourselves to them accordingly.

Moreover we must consider what particular Sins they are addicted to; and must faithfully, but in the most friendly Manner, warn and admonish them thereof. We must find out the particular Difficulties and Objections in their Way of coming to Christ, wisely adjusting our Counsels and Arguments to the Circumstances and Capacities of Persons.

Winning Souls with Charles Spurgeon

Moreover Ministers, if they would be wise, must watch for favourable Opportunities to perswade Men over to Christ; such as times of Sickness and Dan ger, times of Sorrow and Mourning; so also, when they have experienced remarkable Preservations and Deliverances. In a Word, as there are favourable Opportunities, happy Junctures, for speaking to Per sons of their spiritual Concerns, so Ministers should watch for them, and by no Means let them slip.

But I must hasten to another general Instance of Wis dom necessary in Ministers, in order to their winning Souls, and that is,. This is a main Point, without which, all the rest will signify little: For if a Man prays and preaches, and discourses at all times, as it were, with the Tongue of Angels, yet, to what Purpose will it all be, if he contradicts it by his own Practice?

For how is it possible that a People should be perswaded and wrought upon by the pre aching of those whom they see are not at all wrought upon by their own Arguments, and openly reject their own Counsels and Warnings? And truly, what can look so absurd as to hear Ministers crying down this and the other Sin on the Sabbath, and yet live in the allowed Practice of them, all the Week af ter? How reproachful must it needs be to Ministers, and what a Discredit to Religion, for them to teach one thing and practice the quite contrary? Thou that Preachest a Man should not steal, dost thou steal?

Thou that sayest a Man should not commit Adultery, dost thou commit Adultery? Thou that abborrest Idols, dost thou commit Sacrilege? Our blessed Lord wisely considered the great Ad vantage of a good Example; and so exhibited a most perfect Pattern to the World in his own Life, and gives it in express Charge to his Disciples, to let their Lights so shine before Men, that others might see their good Works, and glorify their Father which is in Heaven, Mat.

Observe here the Way that the Apostle advises young Tim thy to take that he might not be despised, was to be Exemplary in the Spirit and Temper of his Mind, and in the whole Conduct and Behaviour of himself; and there is no other Way that will save Ministers from Con tempt; nor any Way so likely for them to win upon the Souls of others.

When does Religion appear so amiable, as when we see it drawn to the Life in a Man's Temper and Be haviour?

First - Love God with all your Soul

Wisdom, that is Religion, makes a Man's Face to shine. And how glorious does a Minister shine a mong a People, when his Life and Conversation is but a Transcript of his Preaching? Verily it is not easy to conceive how such a Man would win upon a People. Therefore this is a grand Point for Mi nisters to take Care of in their first setting out, as the Way to save them from Contempt, to honour their Character, and to adorn the Doctrine of GOD their Saviour. But here, with respect to a Minister's Conversation, there is Wisdom and Prudence to be exercised: For as Ministers may not be light and vain in their Con versation, so they must avoid the other Extreme of a m rose affected Gravity; for this disassects People to Religion, as much as too great Levity.

Nor are Ministers to be superciliously brow-beating every thing in Company that promotes an innocent and civil Mirth. On the other Hand, They must take heed that they don't countenance, much less promote that which is filthy or prophane. Ministers may be pleasant in Company, as well as other Men, so long as they observe proper Seasons, and keep within the Bounds of Civility and Christi anity.

There is a Time to Laugh, as well as a Time to Mourn; and Religion is not to be represented in such gloomy Colours, as to forbid every Thing that excites a civil Mirth; for this would discourage, ra ther than allure Men to Religion. The Business of winning Souls requires a close and constant Application: And he that deals with a slack Hand in this Matter, will do but little to the Purpose. Ministers, whose Business it is to win Souls, should endeavour that no one Soul committed to their Charge should perish thro' their Neglect.

And con sidering the great Number of Souls, the various Circumstances and Conditions of them, and the vast variety of Means that must be used with them, the Minister will find that he must be very industri ous, or some of them will suffer. It becomes Ministers, as much as any Men in the World, to be so wise as to redeem the Time; to watch and improve all Opportunities for doing Good to the Souls of Men.

The Essence of Loving God

And so, in short, their main Study must be how to win Souls, This must take up their Thoughts when at home, or when they are abroad, when they rise up and when they lay down, when they are riding or wal king by the Way; for as this is the Business they are devoted unto, so, if they be wise they will make a Business of it, and give themselves wholly to these Things, and willingly spend and be spent in this im portant Service. For, considering there is so much Skill and Wisdom necessary to win Souls, and that this cometh forth from the Lord of Hosts that is wonderful in Counsel; and considering further, that after all our Wisdom, it is GOD who by his Spirit and Grace wins the Soul over to Christ; any Minister that is wise will see that he has such a Dependance upon GOD, both for Assistance and Success in his Ministry, that he wont pretend to go on in it, without earnest seeking to GOD for Help and Grace to he vouchsased unto him, unto those that hear him.

When a Minister seriously considers the arduous and important Business that he is engaging in, he will be ready to cry with the Apostle, 2 Cor And who is sufficent for these Things? He will take Encouragement from those gracious Words, Jam. He will pray for Direc tion and Assistance in his Studies, and in every Ser mon that he composes, that he may be led into Truth, that he may be kept from Errors, and that such things may be dictated to his Mind as shall be seasonable and profitable to the Souls of those that hear him, and to his own Soul; and that he may be assisted and directed in all his Administrations.

But then, being sensible also that his Learning, his Wisdom, and Skill, will signify nothing, without the setting in of divine Grace upon the Souls of Men, this is what he will be much in Prayer to God for, that the divine Spirit may go forth with all the Means that he is using for the winning Souls; acknowledging with the Apostle, 1 Cor. That neither is he that planteth any thing, neither be that watereth, but God that giveth the Increase.