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which is the effect of the gospel, will often find its way to the conscience of a sinner, and will sweetly and insensibly steal into his soul in a manner that the word perhaps could never do; while his prejudices would resist all arguments, while his vain reasoning would oppose the evidence of truth from the lips of the most eloquent and persuasive teacher, yet the silent eloquence of a holy life will steal insensibly into his conscience, and operate in spite of himself. Thus God often works in ways we little think of, and they afford us abundant encouragement to go on hoping to be the means of restoring the sinner from the error of his way. Think, my brethren, further, of the motives by which we are encouraged to labour for the conversion of sinners. The motives are, that every individual soul that you convert from sin to Christ, you save a soul from death. It would be a great matter if you could only save the life of a man; you would think it worth a large portion of your attention only to save the life of your neighbour, but what is the saving of a life to the saving of a soul? If you save a life to-day there may be something else by which it may be brought to its close to-morrow; but if you save a soul, you save it from eternal death; you are the means of bringing it into a state connected with everlasting life. Only think of the immortality of the soul; the soul that endures for ever. Think of what it is capable of enjoying or enduring. Thought is presently lost in the calculation; it bids defiance to all our thoughts to form any thing like an adequate idea of what an immortal mind is capable of enjoying or capable of enduring; and in proportion to each of these, such is the worth of its salvation—to save a soul from everlasting death. It is not a small object; it is an object for which the Son of God thought it worth while to become incarnate, and to live and to die on earth. It is an object far greater than the creation of the world; the creation of the world was effected by only. speaking a word, “God said, let there be light, and there was light;" God spake, and the heavens were spread abroad; God spake, and the earth was formed, and the different component parts of it were divided according to his sovereign pleasure; but when a soul was to be saved from death, or when a number of souls required to be saved from death, the Son of God must needs come into our world, assume our nature, and be made a sacrifice. Oh what a work was this! To be instrumental in accomplishing that for which the Son of God has laid the foundation, is an honour that is put upon us surpassing all conception. If God had employed us in making the sun, or in spreading abroad the heavens, that would have been a small honour in comparison with employing us as his instruments in doing that which is our work; that work for which all other works were
made, and to which they are rendered subservient. To employ us in rescuing a soul from everlasting perdition, is a work at which an angel might envy us. When I say an angel might envy us, do not mistake me; they are incapable of envy; it is a work in which they rejoice, and when it is said that there is joy among the angels over one such repenting sinner, that conveys to us a vast idea of the importance of the work. Angels are beings of large and extensive minds; their minds far surpass the minds of any creatures amongst us; they would not therefore rejoice at a little thing, much less would the whole of the heavenly world as it were feel a thrill of happiness run through their bosoms at a small benefit, but the return of one sinner to God is pregnant with such consequences as throw, if I may so speak, a stream of gladness through the heavenly world. Oh, methinks, the thought of what happiness is thereby secured, of what misery is thereby prevented, of what glory to God shall thereby accrue, of what honour to the Saviour shall thereby arise, this fills all hearts with joy and gladness. Oh what a thought, to save a soul from death ! What are all our cares, our labours, our toils. We rise in a morning and we toil, and we are busy here and there, and what are the questions we are continually proposing to ourselves, “What shall we eat, and what shall we drink, and where withal shall we be clothed?” Oh how mortifying, my dear friends; what little toys are all these things in comparison with that one great object of saving a soul from death. It is worthy of notice, too, that the apostle uses the term in the singular. If he had said, Let him know that he that converteth a thousand sinners, a million of sinners, from the error of their ways, has accomplished a great object, it might have been no matter of surprize; but when he refers to the case of a single soul being saved from everlasting death as a matter of greater importance than all the acquisitions of this present life, we can easily draw the inference; if the salvation of one soul from death be of so much importance, how much more the salvation of many. Another motive that is held up to us is that in saving a sinner from the error of his way you hide a multitude of sins. That is, as I understand it, you prevent them ; you stop the disease in its progress, and thereby prevent the consequences that would otherwise follow. How does God hide our sins P By stopping us in our progress. What should we have been, what would thousands of us have been ere now had not God stopped the progress, stopped the disease, and thereby hidden all the sins we contemplated 2 It has not appeared to the world what we should have been if God had left us to ourselves to take our course, and let sin have taken its course, and grown to its full. On what an awful figure we should have made in the world ! But when a sinner is converted, and stopped in his course, his iniquities are hidden, his multitude of sins are hidden—are prevented. To illustrate this let me just suppose one case. You recollect the story of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat. He is held up as an example in the scriptures—a noted example —as the man that made Israel to sin. Now what is said of Jeroboam 2 Why he had a thought came into his heart after he was anointed king over the ten tribes; he thought within himself, if the people go up to Jerusalem to worship, there is reason to fear that they will return to the house of David. He then went and advised with somebody else, and in the result he said, “Let us make two calves of gold, and let the people worship them at home instead of taking this long and expensive journey to Jerusalem ;” and this thing became a snare to the house of Jeroboam, and a snare to Israel, for all Israel went after these idols, and the consequence was that Israel went on for a hundred years, and grew worse and worse, till thousands and millions of them became the grossest and vilest idolaters, and the issue was the breaking them up as a nation, and driving them to countries where their posterity are dispersed unknown to this very day. See what are the thoughts that grow out of a thought. Now let me suppose that some faithful friend instead of advising Jeroboam as his wicked counsellors advised him, had stepped in and so spoken, and that had been accompanied with such a blessing as that Jeroboam had been converted from the error of his way, what a world of iniquity would have been hidden, what an ocean of wickedness would have been prevented—a deluge that spread over the nation to the destruction of millions, and that issued in infamy and ruin. It would have been nipped in the bud, it would have been stopped at the outset; and how can you tell, as to every sinner you may have been the means of converting from the error of his way, but that he might have been another Jeroboam 2 None of us can tell where the sins of our lives may lead. Every sinner in heart is an incendiary in God's world; he is like a man going about with fire in a lantern, and labouring to set cities on fire. His whole course tends to set creation on fire. Its tendency is the misery and ruin of himself and others if God do not prevent it. Now, when you have been the instrument of turning a sinner from the error of his way, you have stopped an incendiary, and who can tell what mischief you prevent? Who can tell if that sinner had not been converted to God how much he might have debauched his family, how much he might have destroyed his friends, how much mischief he might have done in his neighbourhood P We cannot tell how much that wickedness might have been propagated from family to family,
and from generation to generation, till thousands reaped its bitter consequences in the regions of despair and death. Think of these sort of connexions, and you will see the importance of using every possible means in order to convert a sinner from the error of his way. Encourage the preaching of the gospel. That is the ordinary means by which souls are converted. Encourage every plan which is calculated to promote this object. It is pleasing to think of the various measures which have been set on foot perhaps more especially within the last nine or ten years. It is pleasing to find that Christian benevolence towards the bodies and souls of men has led hundreds to go and search out the abodes of the wretched, and to visit the death beds of the dying and the sick beds of the afflicted, and that while pouring in the streams of refreshment to their bodies they have also administered words of Christian counsel, and warning, and encouragement; and the Lord has blessed these efforts, I am persuaded, in many instances in this city to the saving of sinners from the error of their ways, and so saving their souls from death; and the same spirit has operated in the country. Perhaps at no former period has the spirit of communicating the good knowledge of God more prevailed than it has in the last nine or ten years. I am very well aware that amongst such various efforts there are some that are unpleasant. There are persons that are heady, high-minded, conceited, who are perfect incendiaries. Some few individuals of this description may be found, and it behoves every church and every society that wish to encourage the diffusion of the gospel to be particularly careful whom they encourage and whom they send forth. Let them be but humble, prudent, godly, modest, serious characters, and the Lord will bless them. Yes, in many parts of the country where such characters have gone forth for this object, it has not been in vain. God has been gathering men to himself, one in one place, and another in another, and so on. I grant that this work is less splendid than some others. We do not catch men by shoals, we do not draw our three thousand into the gospel net, but if we gather them one by one, or ten by ten, let none say that we labour in vain. I am persuaded it is not so. Where but a few are gathered there will be such a satisfaction at the last day, when we come to see the happy results, as will abundantly more than compensate anything that we have done. The friends of the Redeemer, perceiving the spirit for communicating the knowledge of God in the most benighted parts of this country, this Society was formed for encouraging such a spirit. It was to their honour. It is by the formation of such societies things are accomplished, and you have seen, my
brethren, I hope, some fruits of your labour; though, perhaps, this being, as I have said, a less splendid work than some others, and not enough so to attract much of the public attention, some may be ready to think that no fruits have arisen from it. But that does not follow. “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation.” Your patronage has encouraged perhaps not so much the positive itinerancy as diligent, faithful, and worthy characters to labour round their respective posts, and this I am confident has been done in many instances with very great effect. I have known villages, and I now speak of those within my own immediate acquaintance, which a few years ago did not contain more than a single family that appeared at all to fear God, or to have any thought whatever about the salvation of their souls, any more than if they had been heathens, and at this time, were you to walk on the Lord's day along the road between one of those villages and the next Christian congregation where Christ is faithfully preached, you would see the road lined by the mile together, and you would not only see them generally liking to hear the gospel, but you would see and hear many inquiring “What shall I do to be saved?” This is not mere description of something which may exist; I speak that I know, and testify that which is within my own observation and acquaintance. I allow that for several years these sort of labours seemed unproductive. I have gone and preached in dark and benighted places myself, year after year, till I have been ready to think there was no hope, and it were as well to give it up, and yet after a while God has succeeded the effort with his blessing. I know another minister, and you know him. I speak now to the members of this society, for you have received a letter from him; a godly minister just at this juncture, who possesses perhaps rather an extraordinary unction, an extraordinary degree of zeal and love to the souls of men. I believe that man scarcely ever passes a day without carrying the gospel to some village or other; he works all the week round at every village within his reach, and he has six or seven villages within his reach where about three years ago there was no gospel, nor anything like evangelical religion. In that little circle, at this
time, you might see a hundred assembled in this village, two hundred in that, and three hundred in another, and so on. Nor is it merely an assembly to hear a sermon, for when the preacher has finished his discourse, they do not immediately go away; no, they stop; they must converse upon the subject and inquire into his meaning, and whether the things be really as he has been speaking; and, perhaps, if he has three or four miles to walk home, fifty of the people will sometimes accompany him, talking all the while about the subject he has been speaking on. I do not say that these things are general throughout the country, but such things are to be found, and such an example as this is a fact which now exists in the case of one whose character I have known for years, and whom I know to be a man that fears God, and whose whole heart is interested in labouring for the conversion of souls. Is it not proper such men and such efforts as these should be encouraged 2 Is it not proper that a society should exist in the metropolis; that it should cast a sort of parental eye over the whole nation, watching for these sort of openings, assisting these sort of efforts, yielding a fostering and friendly care towards them, and thus labouring with good men such as I have referred to in the propagation of the gospel of peace? Such is the object of this society, and such I hope will be its continued efforts, though perhaps the effect of those efforts may not be much emblazoned or much talked of abroad. Nay, I have always thought that the best way of proceeding in the country, or indeed in the city, is by a still and modest course of action; to make no great boast, or talk about what is done; to name scarcely any men or places, for such things often excite opposition, provoke jealousies, and draw upon us and our agents resentments. The still and silent way of proceeding is Christ's way, and it is worthy of a Christian society like this to search and find out diligent labourers, and to strengthen their hands, at the same time assisting them in bearing the expense which they may be unable to meet. For this purpose a collection will be made this evening at the doors, and if any persons present should be willing to become annual subscribers to the institution, persons will be ready in the vestry to receive their names.
Other Contributions will appear in our nert.
Donations and Subscriptions will be gratefully received on behalf of the Society, by the Treasurer, J. R. BOUSFIELD, Esq., 126, Houndsditch; or by the Secretary, THE REV. STEPHEN JOSHUA DAVIs, 33, MooRGATE STREET, LONDON.
£ost Qsfice orders should give the name in full. Collector for London: MR. W. PARNell, 6, Benyon Cottages, De Beauvoir Sq., Kingsland.
J. HADDox, rRintza, castle street, Finsbury.
FEMALE MARTYRS OF THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY.
TRANSLATED FROM T. J. van BRAGHT's BLooDY THEATRE of MARTYRS OF BAPTIST CHURCHES; OR, THE DUTCH MARTYRoLogy.
THE arrival of the emperor, Charles the 5th in the Low Countries, in the year 1540, was the signal for the renewal of the grievous persecutions which had already been endured by the protestants of Holland. Several severe proclamations were issued against both the persons and writings of the Anabaptists, on whom this persecution chiefly fell. It continued with unrelenting rigour and barbarous cruelty for more than fifteen years. During this period the faith of the sufferers was strengthened by the Christian ministrations of the eminent Menno Simons, who found refuge in the habitations of his companions in tribulation from the unceasing pursuit of his foes. The two following narratives are selected as affording brief examples of the severities entailed by adhesion to the truth as it is in Jesus in that day of darkness, as well as indicating the nature of the narratives contained in the deeply interesting volumes whence
they are taken.
Richst Heynes. Anno 1547.
About the year 1547, there was likewise a God-fearing woman named Richst Heynes, so called after her husband, according to the manner of their country. She lived in Friesland, in the Ylst, not far from Sneek. This woman had likewise taken upon her the easy yoke of the Lord Jesus, hearing and following his blessed voice, and avoiding all who were strangers and opposed thereto. This having been observed by the enemies of God, they sought very much to hinder and extinguish the same. To this end, they sent out cruel emissaries, who, like devouring wolves, got into their power this harmless sheep.
vol. x.-FOURTH series.
Her husband observing this, escaped with great peril and danger of his life; but her they severely treated, and cruelly bound, without any pity or compassion, although pregnant, and so near her confinement that the midwife was already with her. Notwithstanding all this they led her away, regardless of the tears and screams of her little children, to the prison at Leeuwarden, where, after three weeks' imprisonment, she was delivered of a son. This child bore the marks which its mother had received from these inhuman hands, and more especially in its arms, to the great astonishment of the beholders.
They afterwards inflicted great torments on this sheep of Christ, and tor