To the Editors of Scripture Truth.
Your correspondent raises a most interesting question, viz. “What are the best means for reaching souls in the gospel? The word “reach” may be equivocal in this connection, but his idea is, of course, to gain or win. Paul writes of having a “measure to reach even unto you” (see 2 Cor. 10:13-15), but that is clearly figurative. He uses the word “gain” much more directly, e.g. “What is my reward then?”, that, when I preach the gospel, “I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel. For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Cor. 9:18-22). Here “gaining” and “saving” are equivalent—to gain is to save; and, no doubt, the best means of saving souls is in the mind of your correspondent. May I ask whether the verses I have quoted suffice for an answer? As I copied them out I felt how searching is the truth they contain. The first to be “reached” is the preacher himself! So Paul felt and so he acted. It is not enough, therefore, to gather an audience, and to proclaim the precious gospel ever so earnestly to it, though that is undoubtedly one way of reaching souls, and, indeed, the usual way in which the seed is sown, but there must be, on the part of the servant of Christ, a hearty repudiation of himself and his natural predilections, together with a kind of moral affinity—that of compassion and not surrender of truth—with those whose salvation he seeks. Here is the test for him.
He must not stand on a pinnacle of pharisaic superiority, nor say, “Stand by, for I am holier than thou.” He must make himself servant unto all, that he may gain the more. His holiness will not suffer in so doing. To “gain” he must “go;” to reach others be must refuse self. To him one soul must be worth everything. We all began by seeking to gain one soul, perhaps a brother as did Andrew in John 1:41, or a sister, or a companion; we prayed first for such, and, thank God, gained them—how can hardly be detailed, but it was done; then another and another, while out hearts flowed over with gratitude to God. Christ was so precious to us that we longed for others to share our blessing. Ah! this was no outburst of nature—never, never! It was the lovely fruit of divine compassion; it was the spirit of Christ. Listen! “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, does not … go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.”
Best of soul-winners! How He sought, at all cost to Himself; and found, and carried home the poor lost sheep—and in such a way! What a pattern to us! We may meditate on the yearnings of this Good Shepherd, and then on the whole-hearted devotion of His servant Paul, and bury our heads in shame and self-abasement.