“My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared Me, and was afraid before My name. The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips; he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many from iniquity-Malachi 2:5-6”
“We have the success of a faithful minister, “he did turn many from iniquity.” This is the great end (result) of our ministerial work-the conversion of souls, and it is this that makes it such a solemn, such a perilous undertaking, as one of the fathers describes it-“A burden which even angels’ shoulders might shrink from.” Nevertheless, having entered upon it, we are sacredly bound to give ourselves wholly to it, and to make full proof of our ministry.
Our errand is the same as our Master’s, to seek and save the lost. Our mind and feeling must be the same as His-compassion for souls. Our great desire and aim must be the conversion of sinners. Less than this we dare not seek. With less than this we cannot be content. To be admired, to be applauded, to be followed, is nothing, so long as our ministry is unfruitful and our labors unsuccessful. Such were the apostle’s feelings, when he went about warning and entreating sinners day and night “with tears”: and when he said, “My little children of whom I travail in birth again till Christ be formed in you.” These surely ought to be the feelings and desires of everyone who has given himself to the ministry of the gospel, and bound himself by solemn vows to watch for souls. If we are really earnest, nothing will satisfy us but success. If we have truly “the desire of saving souls,” which we solemnly vowed at ordination, we can never be at rest unless we see some fruit of our labor. How sad, how criminal must be our condition, if we can go in and out among our people, and yet feel no anxiety about their souls, no concern whether many or few, or none, are turned from their iniquity? If souls are committed to us, and if souls are to be required of us, how can we be indifferent about their state. To those who treat the doctrines of regeneration and conversion as the dreams of fanaticism, indifference may seem a virtue, but to those who believe them to be solemn realities, it might appear a crime of fearful magnitude. Remissness in duty may be lightly spoken of, and lightly thought of now; unfaithfulness in preaching, or negligence in visiting, may press lightly upon the conscience now; but, oh, how different in the day of recompense, when the blood of souls shall be required at the watchman’s hands! Then, how overwhelming the anguish of the hireling shepherd that fed himself and not the flock! How agonizing the remorse that shall seize upon is guilty conscience, and wring from him the cry of the traitor Judas, “I have sinned in that I have betrayed innocent blood”? And how bitter the response from the companions of his despair-the spirits that kept not their first estate-his seducers upon earth-“What is that to us, see thou to that?” The sad state of unconverted men may not disturb the easy quiet of his life; but oh, how dismal shall be the cry of lost souls resounding throughout eternity in the ears of the unfaithful shepherd; the cry of souls that were lost through his neglect, that perished because he never watched for them, never warned them, never prayed for them, never sought their conversion and salvation!
But let us observe the connection here declared to subsist between faithfulness and success in the work of the ministry; between a godly life, and the “turning away of many from iniquity.” The end for which we first took office as we declared at ordination was the saving of souls; the end for which we still live and labor is the same; the means to this end are a holy life and a faithful fulfillment of our ministry. The connection between these two things is close and sure. We are entitled to calculate upon it. We are called upon to pray and labor with confident expectation of it being realized; and where it is not, to examine ourselves with all diligence lest the cause of failure be found in ourselves; in our want (lack) of faith-our want of love-our want of prayer-our want of zeal and warmth-our want of spirituality and holiness of life, for it is by these that the Holy Spirit is grieved away. Success is attainable; success is desirable; success is promised by God, and nothing on earth can be bitterer to the soul of a faithful minister than the want of it. To walk with God, and to be faithful to our trust is declared to be the certain way of attaining it. Oh, how much depends on the holiness of our life-the consistency of our character-the heavenliness of our walk and conversation. Our position is such that we cannot remain neutral. Our life cannot be one of harmless obscurity. We must either repel or attract-save or ruin souls! How loud then the call, how strong the motive, to spirituality of soul and circumspectness (carefulness) of life! How solemn the warning against worldly-mindedness and vanity, against levity and frivolity, against negligence and sloth, and cold formality!”
-From the Preaching of Horatius Bonar in 1840 in a sermon entitled “The Faithful Minister Of The New Covenant”.