(Note – Audio quality improves after 2 minutes) An inspiring call to humility in Christian service and renewed compassion for those without Christ. This timeless classic by Horatius Bonar, Scottish Presbyterian, offers spiritual, heart-searching counsel to all believers, especially ministers of the gospel. Though written over a century ago, these words are as timely and convicting today as when first delivered. They represent a gripping challenge to put aside all that interferes with the ministry of the gospel to labor urgently and “be spent” for Christ.
Drawing from Owen, Baxter, McCheyne, Edwards, and others, Bonar summons us to faith, zeal, and love for lost souls. He warns of “the tragedy of a barren ministry” and gives special attention to the need for ministerial confession of sin, quoting extensively from an extraordinarily moving public confession by the ministers.
Book to download – Words-to-the-Winners-of-Souls-Horatius-Bonar.pdf
Bonar’s message is timeless, exposing our modern weakness in evangelism
We have been carnal and unspiritual. The tone of our life has been low and earthly. Associating too much and too intimately with the world, we have in a great measure become accustomed to its ways. Hence our spiritual tastes have been vitiated, our consciences blunted, and that sensitive tenderness of feeling has worn off and given place to an amount of callousness of which we once, in fresher days, believed ourselves incapable.
We have been selfish. We have shrunk from toil, difficulty, and endurance. We have counted only our lives and our temporal ease and comfort dear unto us. We have sought to please ourselves. We have been worldly and covetous. We have not presented ourselves unto God as “living sacrifices,” laying ourselves, our lives, our substance, our time, our strength, our faculties, and our all, upon His altar. We seem altogether to have lost sight of this self-sacrificing principle on which even as Christians, but much more as ministers, we are called upon to act. We have had little idea of anything like sacrifice at all. Up to the point where a sacrifice was demanded, we may have been willing to go, but there we stood; counting it unnecessary, perhaps calling it imprudent and unadvised, to proceed further. Yet ought not the life of every Christian, especially of every minister, to be a life of self-sacrifice and self-denial throughout, even as was the life of Him who “pleased not himself”?
We have been slothful. We have been sparing of our toil. We have not endured hardship as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. We have not sought to gather up the fragments of our time, that not a moment might be thrown idly or unprofitably away. Precious hours and days have been wasted in sloth, in idle company, in pleasure, in idle or worthless reading, that might have been devoted to the closet, the study, the pulpit or the meeting! Indolence, self-indulgence, fickleness, flesh-pleasing, has eaten like a canker into our ministry, arresting the blessing and marring our success. We have manifested but little of the unwearied, self-denying love with which, as shepherds, we ought to have watched over the flocks committed to our care. We have fed ourselves, and not the flock. We have dealt deceitfully with God, whose servants we profess to be.
We have been cold. Even when diligent, how little warmth and glow! The whole soul is not poured into the duty, and hence it wears too often the repulsive air of ‘routine’ and ‘form’. We do not speak and act like men in earnest. Our words are feeble, even when sound and true; our looks are careless, even when our words are weighty; and our tones betray the apathy which both words and looks disguise. Love is lacking, deep love, and love strong as death, and love such as made Jeremiah weep in secret places. In preaching and visiting, in counseling and reproving, what formality, what coldness, how little tenderness and affection!
We have been timid. Fear has often led us to smooth down or generalize truths which if broadly stated must have brought hatred and reproach upon us. We have thus often failed to declare to our people the whole counsel of God. We have shrunk from reproving, rebuking and exhorting with all patience and doctrine. We have feared to alienate friends or to awaken the wrath of enemies.
We have been lacking in solemnity. How deeply ought we to be ashamed of our levity, frivolity, flippancy, vain mirth, foolish talking, and jesting, by which grievous injury has been done to souls, the progress of the saints retarded, and the world countenanced in its wretched vanities.
We have preached ourselves, not Christ. We have sought applause, courted honor, been avaricious of fame and jealous of our reputation. We have preached too often so as to exalt ourselves instead of magnifying Christ, so as to draw men’s eyes to ourselves instead of fixing them on Him and His cross. Have we not often preached Christ for the very purpose of getting honor to ourselves? Christ, in the sufferings of His first coming and the glory of His second, has not been the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, of all our sermons.
We have not duly studied and honored the Word of God. We have given a greater prominence to man’s writings, man’s opinions, and man’s systems in our studies than to the Word. We have drunk more out of human cisterns than divine. We have held more communions with man than God. Hence the mold and fashion of our spirits, our lives, our words, have been derived more from man than God. We must study the Bible more. We must steep our souls in it. We must not only lay it up within us but transfuse it through the whole texture of the soul. The study of truth in its academic more than in its devotional form has robbed it of its freshness and power, engendering formality and coldness.