Has God set before us such a wonderful possession as the saints’ everlasting rest, and made us capable of such unimaginable happiness? Why, then, don’t all of the children of this kingdom exert themselves more to help others to enjoy it? We see the glory of the kingdom, while others around us do not. We see the misery of those that are out of it, while others do not. And yet we will not seriously show them their danger and help to bring them into this eternal life. How few Christians there are who give themselves with all their might to save souls! Considering how important this duty is to the glory of God and the happiness of men, I will first show how to do it.
Our hearts must be moved by the misery of other people. We must be compassionate towards them. If we earnestly longed for their conversion, and sincerely desired the best for them; it would put us to work, and God would bless such effort.
We must take every opportunity that we can to instruct others in the way of salvation. Teach them their need of the Redeemer; how Christ mercifully bore their penalty on the cross. Teach them the privileges which believers have in Christ. Show them how wonderful heaven will be. Be sure to urge them to make use of all the ways God has provided for our help—such as hearing and reading the Bible, calling upon God in prayer, and having fellowship with other Christians. Persuade them to forsake sin, avoid temptations and evil companions.
Aim at the glory of God in another person’s salvation. Don’t do it for your own credit or to attract followers; but do it in obedience to Christ and out of tender love for other people’s souls. Do it promptly too. That physician is no better than a murderer, who negligently delays treating a patient until he is dead or incurable. Let others perceive that it is your desire to help them; that you have no other motive in mind but their everlasting happiness. Say to them, “Friend, you know I have nothing to gain in this. The easiest way to please you and keep your friendship would be to say nothing and leave you alone; but love will not let me see you perish, and remain silent. I only seek your own happiness. You are the one who will gain if you come to Christ.”
Do it plainly and faithfully. Don’t play down the seriousness of their sins, nor give them false hopes. If you see their situation is dangerous, speak plainly. Say to them, “Friend, if you were ‘in Christ,’ you would be ‘a new creature; old things’ would be ‘passed away, and all things’ would ‘become new’ (2 Cor. 5:17). You would have new thoughts, new friends, and a new life.” Thus you must deal honestly with people, if you ever intend to help them. It is not in pleasing people that you help them.
Do it seriously, enthusiastically, and effectively. Try to make people know that heaven and hell are not matters to be played with, or dismissed with a few careless thoughts. To avoid extremes, I advise you to do it with discretion. Choose the most appropriate time. Don’t deal with people when they are angry or on the defensive. When the earth is soft the plough will enter. Take a person when he is in trouble, or when he is freshly moved by a sermon. Christian faithfulness requires us to watch for opportunities.
Let all your words be backed with the authority of God. Let sinners be convinced that you do not speak merely your own thoughts. They may reject your opinions even though they would not dare reject the words of the Almighty. Try to bring all of your conversation to a verdict. God usually blesses those whose hearts are set upon the conversion of their hearers and who therefore seek a decision.
Be sure your life witnesses as well as your words. Let people see you practicing what you seek to persuade them about. Let them see, by your attitude toward heaven and the world, that you do indeed believe what you would have them believe.
Besides privately witnessing, you should try to help people through the church. Use your influence to secure faithful ministers, for “how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10:14). Many souls may be saved by the ministry which you have helped to secure for the church. What immense good might men of means do, if they would support the ministerial education of carefully chosen youth until they were ready for the ministry. You can also draw people to attend the services where faithful ministers preach the Gospel. Do your part to keep the church and its ministry in good repute, for no one will be affected much by that which he disdains. The apostle urged, concerning those who are over us in the Lord, “to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake” (1 Thess. 5:13).