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JAMES V. 19, 20.

Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.


THE term sinner, in this text, evidently means one who has known the way of the Lord, and, in a degree, backslidden from him, and to convert the sinner from the error of his way,' is to exert an influence which shall be successful in his recovery from his wanderings. As a motive to influence us in this good work, it is declared, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.' How vast then is the consideration to induce us to endeavor the conversion of many!


I do not design in discussing this proposition to enter into a formal defence of the doctrine it involves, but shall assume the truth of it as evident from the language of the text. I will only remark, that by a possibility and danger of backsliding, I mean a possibility and danger of so backsliding, as finally to lose our souls. If I am correct in supposing that the term 'sinner means backslider,' which accords with the views of the most approved expounders of the text, it is evident that his apostacy may be final, or to convert him from the error of his way would not be to save a soul from death,' in the sense of the term as it is here used.

The practical use to be made of this subject is, to encourage that labor of love toward those who show signs of wandering from the right way, which will be most likely to rescue them from final In order to this, it is important to inquire into some of the principal causes of backsliding, and the circumstances which usually attend it in its various degrees.


I say those who show signs of wandering from the right way, because the language of the text obviously refers to those who are under the watch-care of their brethren, rather than those who have been 'led forth with the workers of iniquity,' and excluded from the communion of the saints.' This thought is of importance in directing us with respect to the proper time, as well as the manner, of performing the duty suggested in the text.

1. The apostle evidently had his eye upon a state of society, growing out of the prevalence of backslidings, alike derogatory to the honor of religion, and detrimental to its prosperity. Such a state of society it appears has existed, and, indeed, did exist at a very early period after churches began to be planted by the first publishers of the gospel. Of this we are assured by consulting the revelation made through the Apostle John to the seven churches in Asia Minor. To one of these the Searcher of hearts said, 'I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.' To another, 'I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel-also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate! In the same manner a third was thus reproved:- Notwithstanding, I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce my servants.' A fourth was accused of having a name that they lived,' while they were 'dead;' and a fifth, of boasting that they were 'rich, and increased in goods, and had need of nothing,' while at the same time they knew not that they were 'wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked."

Very similar language is employed by the Apostles. Thus, in the epistle to the Romans, their mutual animosities, in which they indulged too freely, are constantly held up in the language of severe and just reproof; and in conclusion, the writer said, "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions, contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.' Also to the Corinthians he said, 'It hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, that there are contentions among you.'-'Every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.' Hence he proceeded to add, 'Whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?' Hence also in his second epistle to this church he said, 'I fear, lest when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not; lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults; and lest, when I come again, God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many that have sinned already.' To the Galatian church the same Apostle said, 'I stand in doubt of you.' 'Where is the blessedness ye spake of?' "Who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth? Are ye so foolish?'

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