Caring for the Salvation of Others
James 5:19-20
Brothers, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;…

1. Brethren may err from the truth. There is no saint recorded in the Word of God, but his failings and errors are recorded. Junius before conversion was an atheist.

2. We are not only to take care of our salvation, but the salvation of others. As God hath set conscience to watch over the inward man, so for the conversation He hath set Christians to watch over one another. "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you," &c. (Hebrews 3:12), not only in yourselves, but in any of you. So Hebrews 12:15, 16. Members must be careful one of another; this is the communion between saints.

(1) It reproveth our neglect of this duty. Straying would have been much prevented if we had been watchful, or did we, in a Christian manner, reason together with each other; what comfort and establishment might we receive from one another's faith and gifts I(2) It showeth what a heinous sin it is in them that watch over each's hurt; as the dragon for the man child (Revelation 12:4), or as angry Herod sought to destroy the babes of Bethlehem, or a nipping March wind the early blossoms of the spring, so they nip and discourage the infancy and first buddings of grace by censure, reproach, carnal suggestions, and put stumbling-blocks in the way of young converts, and so destroy Christianity in the birth.

3. From that "if any do err." If but one, there is none so base and contemptible in the Church but the care of their safety belongeth to all. One root of bitterness defileth many; both in point of infection and scandal we are all concerned; one spark may occasion a great burning.

4. From that "and one convert him." The expression is indefinite, not as limiting it to the officers of the Church, though it be chiefly their work. Besides the public exhortations of ministers, private Christians should mutually confer for comfort and edification.

5. From that "convert him"; that is, reduce him from his error. We must not only exhort, but reclaim. Though it be an unthankful office, yet it must not be declined; usually carnal respects sway us, and we are loath to do that which is displeasant. Well, then, if it be our duty to admonish, it is your duty to "suffer the words of exhortation," to bear a reproof patiently, otherwise you oppose your own salvation.

6. Again from that "convert him?' He doth not say destroy him; the work of Christians is not presently to accuse and condemn, but to counsel and convert an erroneous person. Before any rigorous course be taken, we must use all due means of information; the worst cause always is the most bloody.

7. From that "let him know." To quicken ourselves in a good work, it is good we should actually consider the dignity and benefits of it.

8. From that "he which converteth a sinner from the error of his way." Before it was expressed by "erring from the truth," and now by the "error of his way." You may note that errors in doctrine usually end in sins of life and practice (Jude 1:8). We often see that impurity of religion is joined with uncleanness of body, and spiritual fornication punished with corporal (Hosea 4:12, 13). In error there is a sinful confederacy between the rational and sensual part, and so carnal affections are gratified with carnal doctrined.

9. From that "shall save." Man under God hath this honour to be a saviour. We are "workers together with God" (2 Corinthians 6:1). He is pleased to take us into a fellowship of His own work, and to cast the glory of His grace upon our endeavours. It is a high honour which the Lord doth us; we should learn to turn it back again to God, to whom alone it is due (1 Corinthians 15:10).

10. From that "soul." Salvation is principally of the soul; the body hath its share (Philippians 3:21). But the soul is first possessed of glory, and is the chief receptacle of it, as it is of grace for the present (see 1 Peter 1:9). Well, then, it teacheth us not to look for a carnal heaven, a Turkish paradise, or a place of ease and sensitive pleasure. This is the heaven of heaven, that the soul shall be filled up with God, shall understand God, love God, and be satisfied with His presence.

11. From that "from death." Errors are mortal and deadly to the spirit. The wages of every sin is death, especially of sin countenanced by error, for then there is a conspiracy of the whole soul against God.

12. From that "and shall hide." Justification consisteth in the covering of our sins. It is removed out of God's sight, and the sight of our own consciences, chiefly out of God's sight. God cannot choose but see it as omniscient, hate it as holy, but He will not punish it as just, having received satisfaction in Christ: sins are so hidden that they shall not be brought into judgment, nor hurt us when they do not please us.

13. From that "a multitude of sins." Many sins do not hinder our pardon or conversion. God's "free gilt is of many offences unto justification" (Romans 5:16); and it is said, "He will multiply to pardon" (Isaiah 55:7). For these six thousand years God hath been multiplying pardons, and yet free grace is not tired and grown weary. The creatures owe a great debt to justice, but we have an able surety; there is no want of mercy in the creditor, nor of sufficiency in the surety. It is a folly to think that an emperor's revenue will not pay a beggar's debt. Free grace can show you large accounts and a long bill, cancelled by the blood of Christ. The Lord interest you in this abundant mercy, through the blood of Christ and the sanctification of the Spirit!

(T. Manton.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;

WEB: Brothers, if any among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back,

Be Slow to Despair
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