Sermon by Joseph Alleine on Soul-Winning

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Don Kistler

Puritan Board Sophomore
Friends, here's a sermon I just edited by Joseph Alleine ("Alarm to the Unconverted"). I thought you'd all find it encouraging as well as convicting.

A Serious Call to Christians to Win Souls to Christ, with Helps Thereunto

“And he that winneth souls is wise.” Proverbs 11:30

In this verse we have set forth unto us the excellence of a righteous man in two things. First, he is more useful than others. Second, he is more skillful than others.

First, he is more useful than others. “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life” (Proverbs 11:30). The righteous is not a barren tree, but he is a fruitful bough, as Joseph was. And he does not bring forth his fruit unto himself. His fruit is a tree of life. As the tree of life would give life to them who should eat thereof, so the fruit of the righteous is such that those who will hearken to his counsel shall partake with him of eternal life. When others are as thorns and brambles, fruitless, unuseful, of no value in God’s world, the righteous is a fruitful tree, and as a tree of life in the midst of the world.

Second, he is more skillful and wise than others. And would you know wherein his wisdom lies? It is in winning of souls.

DOCTRINE. It is the chief part of a believer’s duty, and the chief point of a believer’s wisdom, to gain souls unto God.

It is the duty of a believer to gain souls. Though he must begin at home with his own soul, yet he must not terminate there; but he must look abroad after others’ souls. He must not be as a tree that brings forth fruit to himself alone, but he must be “a tree of life,” so that whoever plucks of his fruit to make use thereof shall live.

And then, second, it is his wisdom. As in the text, so it is in Daniel 12:3: “And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever.” They are the wise men that turn others to righteousness.

Here I shall show you that it is a chief part of his duty, and that it is a chief point of his wisdom to gain souls.

First, it is a chief part of his duty, and this appears:

1. Because this is one chief point of his love to Jesus Christ. Wherein did Paul display his love to Jesus Christ in anything as in his zeal and industry to save souls (Romans 9:1–3)? And thus did Moses evidence his love (Exodus 32:3132). If you would show your love to Jesus Christ, this is the best way in all the world to evidence it. You may see how carefully Christ takes notice of any kindness done to the bodies of His elect (Matthew 25); but, oh, how much more will He take notice of the love to the souls of His elect!

2. Because this is the chief point of our love to our brethren. You know that Christ tells us that all the law and the prophets hang upon this, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart. . . and thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:37–40; Mark 12:30–31). If the law binds you to preserve the chastity and estate of your neighbor, how much more does God require of you that you preserve the soul of your neighbor? This is the principal point of love. “He that converteth a sinner from the error of his ways shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (James 5:20). If God requires that you help your neighbor’s ox and his ass, how much more must you help your neighbor’s soul from hell?

3. Because this is the principal means of bringing glory to Christ. Every soul that is brought in to Christ is a jewel put into the crown of Christ. And would you not be ambitious of such a service as this? Every soul you bring into Christ is an eternal monument set up by you to the name of Jesus Christ. Would you have much service done for Jesus Christ? Oh, then labor to bring in souls to Him that may do His work here in the world. Would you have much praise to the name of Christ? Oh, then labor to bring in souls to Jesus Christ. Every soul brought in to Jesus Christ is a trumpet of His praise. The glory of a king is in the multitude of his subjects. And so it is of Christ. This is the great way wherein we are capable to further the glory of Christ in the world, to bring in many souls to Jesus Christ.

4. Because this is a principal subject of our prayers. This is the one grand petition, “Thy kingdom come.” In this petition we pray that the kingdom of grace may be advanced, ourselves and others brought into it, and kept in it. Now it is a great part of a Christian’s business to live suitable to his prayers.

Second, it is the chief point of a Christian’s wisdom to gain souls unto Christ. This appears. . .

1. Because souls are the goodly pearls that are of great price (Matthew 13:36) with Christ. Oh, there is no merchandise like that of souls! There is no gain like the gain of souls. One soul is of more worth than all the world. You may see of how great price souls are with Jesus Christ by the great price that He laid down for souls. Did Christ spend His blood for souls; and will you not spend your breath for souls? This is a principal part of wisdom, to deal, like wise merchants, in goodly pearls. A wise man will not spend his time for trifles; that is childish. But his wisdom appears in the weight of those things that he lays out his time and pains upon. Oh, if you would appear to be wise, lay out your time and strength for souls! If you could gain but one soul, what a happy gain would that be?

2. Because souls will be the most glorious crown in the day of Christ. There is no crown like the crown of souls. The time is coming when a crown of souls will be found to be of another manner of value than a crown of gold. What was the crown that Paul wished for? It was for the souls that he had converted. “What is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ at His coming” (1 Thessalonians 2:19)? Why were these Paul’s crown? It was because he had converted them by his ministry. Upon the same account he calls the Philippians “my joy and crown of rejoicing” (Philippians 4:1).

3. Because we shall most effectually promote the good of our own souls by endeavoring to gain others’ souls. By teaching others you shall teach yourself. By exhorting others you shall excite and stir up yourself. And nothing will redound to your advantage so much as your laboring to gain souls. “Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorified.”

4. Because this will be an evidence of our own sound conversion if we lay out our strength and time to convert others. In John 1:41 we see those young converts; when they were but touched they labored to bring in others presently. So if you would evidence your own sincerity to your soul, you should lay out your endeavor for the good of others’ souls.


USE OF REPROOF. Is it so that it is a chief part of a Christian’s duty, and a chief point of a Christian’s wisdom, to gain souls to Christ? Then here is matter of reproof to reprove those who profess the name of Christ, who lay out their zeal no more this way, who lay not out their strength to gain souls, yea, who do not long for or endeavor after the conversion of souls. Surely this speaks sadly to those who wholly neglect this duty. But how exceedingly are many of the people of God themselves to be blamed for their negligence in this? Does not your heart know that there is a brother of your who lives in such a sin and yet you never tell him of it? What a great evil is this, and unsuitable to the pattern of the Lord Jesus Christ! How did He go up and down doing good, and so taken up with souls that He could scarcely spare time to eat His bread, insomuch that His carnal friends began to take hold of Him and thought that He had been beside Himself. Oh, how far are you from this! Your friends may live in their sins and die in their sins before you will labor to save their souls! The Devil labors to destroy souls; and how few are there who labor to save souls? He may carry away the poor soul, and none labors to take the soul from him. We should be watchful and vigilant for souls, for our own souls and others’ souls; because this enemy is always taking opportunities to destroy souls. Surely it argues that you have very little love to Jesus Christ that you do not do more for souls; that you have little zeal for Jesus Christ, and that you have little love for your brethren, that you take no more care for their souls. It may be you are careful for the bodies of those who are under your charge; but how little do you do for their souls? How many live without the worship of God in their families, without catechizing their children or instructing them, and think they have done well if they provide for their bodies! Oh, man, God will find out your neglect. It was their souls that were your charge also. If you look only after their bodies, this you will do for your swine. And will you do no more for your children’s souls than for your swine? Many are ready to say, as Cain, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” If this is not the language of your tongue, is not this the language of your life? What do you do for your brother to save his soul from death?

USE OF EXHORTATION. The second use is of exhortation to stir you up to perform this duty, to labor to be skillful in this duty to win souls to Christ. Brethren, if you would be wise indeed, and if you will gain indeed, labor to gain souls. Oh, look upon the woeful condition of perishing souls! How few of your friends and acquaintances have you good grounds to think they have a share in Jesus Christ? What! Will you have no compassion for your brother’s soul? You would have compassion on the body of your neighbor. If you saw the house on fire about them, and they asleep, would you not be stirred up, and with zeal forget yourself, and labor to call upon them and awake them? Oh, how many of our carnal friends remain in a carnal state, and we sit still and let them alone! I beseech you, stir up your souls to relieve the souls of others. This is the best charity, and best pleasing to Christ.

It may be that many of you have not the wherewithal to show your charity to the bodies of your brethren; but this way you may show it, in showing kindness to their souls. Exhort them, and strengthen them in their duty. Comfort them and support them. If you cannot give them an alms, give them an exhortation.

QUESTION. But you will say, “What should we do, or what means must we make use of to do good to souls?”

ANSWER. I answer you must do it, first, by Scripture demonstration. When you go to deal with souls, be sure to make use of God’s weapons. Bring the Word of God with you. Go forth in the name of God. Pour out your supplication to God to prosper the work. And then show your brother the Scripture, to convince him out of the Scripture, as Apollos did. You can never throw down the Devil’s strongholds but by the use of God’s own weapons. No cannon but this will batter down the strongholds of sin and Satan. Therefore bring the Scripture with you to him.

Second, do it by earnest supplication. This was Paul’s course, who so earnestly thirsted for the salvation of his brethren. He strove mightily with God in prayer for them. “My heart’s desire and prayer is that Israel may be saved” (Romans 10:1). Carry your friends to God, and go to God by prayer, and weep over their carnal and unsanctified state. Bring your dead husband and child to God, and put up your request to God for them, as Abraham did Ishmael. “Oh, that they might live before Thee!” How the prophet prevailed by his prayers for the restoring of the dead child? As the prophet prayed in life into the dead child, so you should strive with God in prayer for dead souls. If you did but wrestle with God for your dead wife, child, or neighbor, what do you know what God might do for them? “What knowest thou, O man, but thou mayest save thy wife?” Thus we are taught by our Lord in that great petition, “Thy kingdom come.” Thus if you strive by the Word of God and prayer, then you may be likely to prevail mightily for the good of souls you converse with.

Third, do it by kind obligation. This is another way by which you should labor to gain souls. Observe that great rule of the apostle—be pitiful and be courteous; it is the rule that he gives. Labor by kindness and courtesy to gain upon all you converse with, that you may get within him, that you may be in a capacity to do good to his soul. “Showing all meekness to all men” (Titus 3:2). And when you are thus kind to all men, this will be a means to do good to them by what you do. If they are such as stand in need of your charity, open your hand to relieve their necessity, and that will be a way to open their hearts to you to receive your counsel.

Fourth, do it by faithful reprehensions. “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart; thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbor, and not suffer sin to rest upon him” (Leviticus 19:17). Observe that it is quite contrary to Christian love to suffer sin to lie upon him; for it is called hating him. O brethren, show your love to the souls that you are among by the faithful rebuking of their sins that they will fall into. Manifest it not as a token of your displeasure, but as an ordinance of God. Deal with him in all gentleness and meekness. Not gentle with their sins; you must be plain and faithful with their souls. You must show them the danger of such a way; but you must do it with such tenderness to them as may make this bitter pill to go down. How do many souls miscarry to all eternity for want of professors’ faithful dealing with them? Oh, is it not enough that we have the guilt of our own sins upon us, but must we needs have the guilt of our neighbors’ sin upon us too? Ah, brethren, this is enough to convince us that we have little love to our brethren’s souls in that we have so little care to reprove their sins.

Fifth, do it by your convincing conversation. Live before all you converse with in the convincing power of a holy life. This is the way to convince them. “Likewise, you wives, be in subjection to your own husbands that, if any obey not the Word, they also may, without the Word, be won by the conversations of the wives: while they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear” (1 Peter 3:1–2).

Observe here that even those who are weakest, and seemingly out of a capacity to win souls, may by their godly conversations win souls. “Women,” who are more weak than they? Do you think that this belongs only to ministers to win souls? This belongs to all.

Observe also that a careful and tender walking in the duties of our relations towards men, with a conjunction with the duties of piety towards God, is a most powerful means to convert souls. When wives shall be strict in their profession and yet not be in subjection to their husbands, this will offend the men and not work upon them. Your profession and practice must one answer the other, and then you are likely to gain others. I beseech you, take this course to gain souls to Christ; let there be a suitableness in all the parts of your conversation; be the same at home that you are abroad; and bring forth your religion into your shops, trades, and fields so that whoever converses with you may see the power of godliness in you.

Sixth, do it by your frequent exhortations. “But exhort one another daily, while it is called today, lest any be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). Observe that it is not the duty of ministers only to abound in exhortations, but it is the work of you all. Every one must look to his neighbor’s soul, and that daily. There must be constancy and frequency in this work; and the reason is, “lest he be hardened.” Do you see such a neighbor fall into sin? Go to him. It may be you will do it hereafter. Why, it may be, the man may be hardened. It may be the man may die; or you may not have the opportunity; or you may be removed from one another and the work may be forever cut off if you neglect it.

Seventh, do it by your careful observation of all those advantages that God has put into your hands for dealing with your brother’s soul. Consider and study with yourself what advantages you have upon him.

(1) Take the advantage of affliction. It may be he is taken down by affliction. Now go and warn him of his sin. It may be, now he will hearken to you (Job 36:8–10).

(2) Make use of your relations. It may be you are some near relation in the flesh to him. Take that advantage to be dealing with him for his eternal good.

(3) Make use of his dependence upon you. It may be he is such an one as is concerned in your goodwill to him; it may be he works for you or depends upon your charity for his livelihood. Take this advantage upon him; it may be he will hearken to you.

(4) Make use of your interest in him. It may be he has some affection for you. Make use of it for God. And this may be a means to win him to Christ.

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