[ 2 minutes to read ]
Reading Words to Winners of Souls by Horatius Bonar is a good way for preachers to start the year. It is a small book that packs a big punch. It brings excellent conviction and exhortation for us to begin a new year of ministry.
Here are Bonar’s words on being satisfied with a barren ministry:
To deliver sermons on each returning Lord’s Day, to administer the Lord’s Supper statedly, to pay an occasional visit to those who request it, to attend religious meetings—this, we fear, sums up the ministerial life of multitudes who are, by profession, overseers of the flock of Christ. An incumbency of thirty, forty or fifty years often yields no more than this. So many sermons, so many baptisms, so many sacraments, so many visits, so many meetings of various kinds-these are all the pastoral annals, the parish records, the ALL of a lifetime’s ministry to many! Of souls that have been saved, such a record could make no mention.
Multitudes have perished under such a ministry; the judgment only will disclose whether so much as one has been saved. There might be learning, but there was no tongue of the learned to speak a word in season to him that is weary.” There might be wisdom, but it certainly was not the wisdom that “winneth souls.” There might even be the sound of the gospel, but it seemed to contain no glad tidings at all; it was not sounded forth from warm lips into startled ears as the message of eternal life—”the glorious gospel of the blessed God.” Men lived, and it was never asked of them by their minister whether they were born again! Men sickened, sent for the minister and received a prayer upon their death-beds as their passport into heaven. Men died, and were buried where all their fathers had been laid; there was a prayer at their funeral and decent respects to their remains; but their souls went up to the judgment seat unthought of, uncared for; no man, not even the minister who had vowed to watch for them, having said to them, Are you ready?—or warned them to flee from the wrath to come.
Is not this description too true of many a district and many a minister? We do not speak in anger; we do not speak in scorn: we ask the question solemnly and earnestly. It needs an answer. If ever there was a time when there should be “great searching of heart” and frank acknowledgment of unfaithfulness, it is now when God is visiting us—visiting us both in judgment and mercy. We speak in brotherly kindness; surely the answer should not be of wrath and bitterness. And if this description be true, what sin must there be in ministers and people! How great must be the spiritual desolation that prevails’! Surely there is something in such a case grievously wrong; something which calls for solemn self-examination in every minister; something which requires deep repentance.