James, the head of the Jerusalem Church, closes up his letter to the dispersed Jews with this same word as Daniel uses. He would have all to whom he is writing understand that he that turns
another from the wrong way will save a soul from death and hide away out of sight and reach a mass of sin. The old world needs more saving societies and saving individuals of this sort.
We have gotten great skill in saving dollars. Men give their whole strength and time to that. There is something much higher, infinitely higher, saving souls, rescuing lives, treasuring up precious men and women. These people, James says, are famous for their use of the fine cloak of charity. They make the best use of it in hiding away beyond any chance of being found a great mass of ugly, crooked, poisonous sins.
The man with the reputation of being the wisest man gives a special definition of wisdom. The old version runs, |he that winneth souls is wise.| This is a great statement from Solomon's pen. He had searched into all the avenues of men's pursuits. He was a great experimenter. Everything was put to a personal test. He amassed wealth beyond all others. He delved into the fascinations of intellectual delights, of deep intricate philosophies and problems.
He knew the subtle appeal to strong men that there is in deftly handling and controlling men, personally and in large numbers. He had tasted the rich wines of pleasure as had few. This is his conclusion: the wise man is he that gives his strength with all of its fine-grained cunning to wooing men back, through the old Eden gate, up to the tree of life.
This is the finest fruitage any life can yield. This will be to the bearer of it a tree of life giving twelve crops of fruits, a crop of every month, a perennial, alike in heat and frost, in storm and drought, and with a peculiar healing quality in its green leaves for all men.
The revised version gives a fine turn to this old bit, exactly reversing the first statement. |He that is wise winneth souls.| The old philosopher says that here is the real test of wisdom. He that is a wise man gives the cream of his thought and wisdom to personal influence with men. He thinks the thing best worth while is drawing a man through the inner reach upon his thinking and affections and will away from the impure and ignoble and deceptive up into touch with his first Friend.
And he finds too that nothing he has ever undertaken calls for a finer play of all his powers at their best. All the diplomacy and fineness and tact and keen management at his command will be called upon. He must be a wise man to do such work. It is no fool's errand this. It demands the best in the best.
There is no body of men more keen or skilled in the handling and influencing of men, than the politicians. And I use the word in its fine meaning, as well as in its cheaper meanings. As democracy has won its way increasingly among the governments of earth these politicians have increased in number and in influence. Great measures of government have depended on their skill in manipulating men. Rarest subtlety and adroitness and rugged honesty have blended in the strongest of these leaders.
The fishing simile so commonly used in the winning of men over to one's side is a peculiarly attractive, a matchless simile. And all of this handling of men has often been for personal ends, often for wholly selfish ends, often for strong national ends. Almost never has it been for the benefit of the man being won, save at times very remotely.
But Jesus would have us become skilled diplomats in winning men for their own sakes. Getting them to climb the hills for the sake of the air and view they will get, and enjoy. We are to win strong men full of life and vigor and manly force up into touch with their Friend, Himself.
There is too a most attractive winsome phrase on the Master's lips at the close of that fishing story in Luke's fifth chapter, |From henceforth thou shall catch men| is the reading. But the revised margin gives this added bit of color: |Thou shalt take men alive.| They should get, not dead fish, but living men. Men full of vigor and life -- thou shalt have power to sway these and induce them up to the highlands of a new life.