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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Proverbs 11:30

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, And he who is wise wins souls.

Adam Clarke Commentary

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life - חיים עץ ets chaiyim, "the tree of lives." It is like that tree which grew in the paradise of God; increasing the bodily and mental vigor of those who ate of it.

He that winneth souls is wise - Wisdom seeks to reclaim the wanderers; and he who is influenced by wisdom will do the same.

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These files are public domain.

Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Proverbs 11:30". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https: 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Winneth souls - Better, a wise man winneth souls. He that is wise draws the souls of people to himself, just as the fruit of the righteous is to all around him a tree of life, bearing new fruits of healing evermore. The phrase is elsewhere translated by “taketh the life” 1 Kings 19:4; Psalm 31:13. The wise man is the true conqueror. For the Christian meaning given to these words, see the New Testament reference in the margin.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Proverbs 11:30". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https: 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Proverbs 11:30

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life.

The fruit of the righteous

By this is meant his prayers, his charities, his good example, the virtues which compose his character and adorn his life, and all the efforts and influences by which he shows forth his wisdom in winning souls. To win souls in the best sense is to bring them to the saving knowledge of Jesus and subjugate them to His gracious dominion. An illustrious ancient philosopher said, “There is nothing great on earth but man, and nothing great in man but his soul.” How will you compute the worth of a soul, or by what standard measure its greatness? Will you estimate it by its nature and origin, or by its power and capacities, or by the duration of its being, or by the cost of its redemption, or by the struggle for its possession and control, or by comparison with the splendid and precious? And if such is the value of the soul that worlds acquired could not compensate its loss, nor a material universe redeem its forfeiture, how excellent, beyond all power of language or of thought, the work of saving the priceless thing from destruction, and placing it among the crown-jewels of the King of kings! Look at the matter in another light. The soul is fallen, guilty, perishing; and he who rescues and restores it confers an incalculable and inconceivable benefit. Who shall limit the effect of your labour in saving a soul, or trace the blessed influence to an end? The beneficent effect of faithful Christian labour is an ever-swelling stream and an ever-enlarging growth. All heaven unites with all that is heavenly on earth in witnessing to the precious fruit of righteousness and the transcendent wisdom of winning souls. These considerations appeal to your charity, others appeal with equal force to your piety, your gratitude, your interest, your ambition. The Church was ordained for mutual help and the recovery of the lost. The saints live for others, God has blessed them, that they may be blessings to their race. (J. Cross, D.D., LL.D.)

He that winneth souls is wise.--


I. The object of the Christian worker. It is a good thing in any work to have a clear perception of the object to be sought after. This brings our efforts into order and gives them consistency. If a man lose sight of a clear purpose he becomes listless, or at best mechanical. This is true pre-eminently in Christian work. They who undertake it purpose the gathering of immortal souls out of darkness into God’s marvellous light. Ours is an apostolic mission. We are to catch men--souls. Their salvation is the centre of the target--the bull’s-eye which we are to hit. We should be thankful for every token of success. If we can instruct the mind or store the memory with the things of God, ours is not lost work, but we are not to be content with these things; they may be means to the end, they are not the end itself. Our purpose is to bring the young to Christ, and Christ to them. The very magnitude of the purpose will give us encouragement if we look at it rightly.

II. The manner in which this work is to be done. “Winneth.” No force is to be employed. We cannot drive even little children into the fold of safety with clogs and stones. We want to lay hold of the heart, to gain the affections, and to do that we are to use the persuasive aspect of the gospel. A forced religion, if you can conceive it, is nothing worth. It is a sham flower. The examples of winning are found in the way in which the first disciples of the Saviour, and above all, the Saviour Himself, did their work. We are to live the truth, letting our whole life tell of what is right, and that beyond mistake; and yet over all love is to preside, softening our asperities, and making our wisdom peaceable as well as pure. Where there is a tender, winning spirit, then plain home-thrusts can be made that would be resented if they were mingled with the wrath of man. The attractive power lies even more in the evident tone of our teaching than in the sort of language we use. The root of persuasion lies in love to God and love to man, cherished by prayer, kindled and sustained by the Holy Ghost.

III. The character requisite foe this great work. “Wise.” There is needed a high style of Christian character. We are to be good. The successful winner of souls must himself be already won for Christ. Our work is intimately bound up with our characters. Other things being equal, he will be most likely to bring others to Christ who himself is nearest to Christ. The influence of personal holiness steals in where nothing else can find a place. Our power with man will be just in proportion to our power with God. Every devout effort to reach a holier life is a way of increasing our efficiency as winners of souls. We have also to be wise in the knowledge of God’s truth. A man may know enough for his own salvation and yet not know so as to be able to impart effectively to others. Mighty in the Scripture, we shall be mighty for our work. And we are to be wise in the knowledge of the human heart. In their inmost nature the heart of a child and of a man are very much alike. Any one may gain this knowledge who, with a prayerful, sympathising nature, goes out into the world and keeps his eyes open. The teacher who knows his children can give to each his portion of meat in due season as none other can. Think of the encouragements to this work. Ours is everlasting work, its monuments are to abide for ever. We are working for eternity, polishing stones for the heavenly temple, searching for gems with which to deck the Saviour’s crown. Think of the joy of the heavenly greeting, and the approval of the Lord, an approval not bestowed according to success, but according to fidelity. Upon no better purpose can you spend your life. Work for Christ that shall stand. (Edward Medley, B.A.)


He must be a wise man in even ordinary respects who can by grace achieve so Divine a marvel as win a soul. He that winneth souls is usually a man who could have done anything else if God had called him to it. He is wise--

1. Because he has selected a wise object.

2. Because to win a soul requires infinite wisdom.

3. He will prove to have been a wise man in the judgment of those who see the end as well as the beginning.

I. The metaphor used in the text. We use the word “win” in many ways, e.g., game of chance, juggling tricks, etc. It is used in warfare. Warriors win cities and provinces. The word was used to signify success in a wrestling match. There are secret and mysterious ways in which those who love win the object of their affections. Love is the true way of soul-winning. The Hebrew is, “He that taketh souls is wise,” and the word refers to fishing, or bird-catching. We must have our lures for souls adapted to attract, to fascinate, to grasp.

II. Some of the ways by which souls are to be won.

1. A preacher wins souls best when he believes in the reality of his work.

2. When he keeps closest to saving truth.

3. Souls are won by bringing others to hear the Word.

4. By trying after sermon to talk to strangers.

5. By button-holing acquaintances and relations.

6. By writing letters.

7. The soul-winner must be a master of the art of prayer. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Winning souls

Our Lord’s estimate of the soul’s value was exceeding high. His mind saw its spiritual nature as an object of supreme worth. In proportion as we are Christ-like will our views correspond, and our efforts also.

I. A great work contemplated. The definite business of all Christian workers. Great because--

1. Of the value of the object.

2. Of the soul’s capacities--for evil if not won, and for good if won.

3. Because the soul is the mainspring of life and action.

II. An effectual method suggested. Winning.

1. Christian work is a magnetic force. The centre of electric magnetism is the Cross.

2. The possibility here embodied. A work which all may undertake and accomplish.

III. A character here defined. “Is wise.” Because he benefits others. Because he gains a star for his own crown. Because he is laying up treasure in heaven. For he wins the approval of his God and the plaudits of the angels. The highest form of wisdom is to devote life’s strength to gather pearls whose salvation will enrich with eternal wealth. (J. F. Pridgeon.)

The life of the good


I. The involuntary influence of a good man’s life. The fruit of a life is the involuntary and regular expression of what the man is in heart and soul. All actions are not the fruit of life, inasmuch as man in the exercise of his freedom and, indeed, even by accident, performs actions that, instead of fully expressing, misrepresent his life. The regular flow of a man’s general activity is the fruit, and this, in the case of a good man, is a “tree of life.” It is so for three reasons.

1. It expresses real life.

2. It communicates real life.

3. It nourishes real life.

II. The highest purpose of a good man’s life. “He that winneth souls is wise.” This implies--

1. That souls are lost.

2. That souls may be saved.

3. That souls may be saved by man.

4. That the man who succeeds in saving souls is wise.

III. The inevitable retribution of a good man’s life. The recompense here is supposed to refer rather to the suffering he experiences in consequence of his remaining imperfections than of the blessings he enjoys as a reward for the good that is in him. The sins of good men are punished on this earth. The argument here is a fortiori--if God visits the sins of His people with punishment, much more will He visit the sins of the wicked. (D. Thomas, D.D.)

The soul-winner

Most men are aiming and endeavouring to win something to which they attach great value. It may be secular wealth, or earthly honour, or sensual pleasure. But there can be no wisdom in spending one’s life in the endeavour to win any one of these things. The aim of Paul was to win Christ, and that should be our first aim too. Having won Christ for ourselves, our aim should be to win souls for Christ.

I. He who would succeed in winning souls needs to be wise. It needs wisdom to succeed in the business of life. It needs a far higher and nobler wisdom to win Souls. It is an exceedingly difficult thing to win men over from the ranks of sin and Satan to the ranks of God and His Christ.

1. The would-be soul-winner needs to be theoretically wise. He needs to be well informed. He cannot know too much and must be well informed on some very important matters, e.g., the sacred Scriptures, human nature, etc.

2. He needs to be practically wise--wise in action as well as in thought. He should deal largely in the most attractive and pathetic truths. He should carefully choose the most appropriate seasons. He should cultivate the most loving spirit and the most kindly manner. He should be much in communion with God.

II. He who does succeed in winning souls proves himself to be wise. This is true looked at from several points of view.

1. Think of this work in relation to God. It is co-operation with God.

2. In its relation to those who are won.

3. In its relation to society.

4. In its relation to those who are engaged in it.

In this world it brings them honour, pleasure, and culture. The blessings follow them into the future world. (John Morgan.)


I. What is a soul? We know little about a soul apart from the Bible. It teaches--

1. That man is a compound being.

2. That the soul is indestructible.

3. Because indestructible, its value is infinite.

II. What is meant by winning souls?

1. The word “win” is used both in a good and bad sense. There are no mean tricks in winning souls.

2. “Win” is a warlike word: what powers are there striving for the soul?

3. Margin has, “he who taketh souls,” implying the use of various allurements.

III. How may souls be won? There must be--

1. Adaptation.

2. The soul-winner must be careful not to offend the prejudices of those he seeks to win.

3. There must be method. The soul-winner must first have the love of Christ in his own heart. Then he must proclaim it patiently, lovingly, prayerfully, earnestly. This can be done in various ways.

IV. In what sense is the man who wins souls wise?

1. In the ordinary sense. The man of business who has adaptation, method, diligence, etc., you say is a wise man.

2. Because he is preparing for the future.

3. Because he builds lasting monuments.

4. Because he pleases God. (A. F. Barfield.)

A wise work

The Book of Proverbs may be compared to a basket of pearls. Each verse is complete in itself; the truth contained within it is of independent worth.

I. Wisdom is seen in the attempt to win. The very effort itself is a proof of true wisdom.

1. The soul’s position proves it. It is a perishing one.

2. Soul-winning is a noble work. A soul-winner need envy no one. His work surpasses all in true nobility.

3. Soul-winning is a lasting work, and therefore he who attempts it is wise.

4. It is a soul-profiting work. The man who imparts a blessing by the very act receives one. The way to be a joyful Christian is to be a working one at the winning of souls.

5. Winning souls is a work that tells on eternity.

6. Winning souls is a work which will influence you in heaven.

II. Wisdom is required in the work of winning.

1. The nature of the work as suggested in the text shows it. The word for “winneth” has three references. It refers to the snaring of birds, the catching of fish, the taking of a city. To the accomplishment of each of these wisdom is required.

2. The variety of disposition seen in souls requires it.

III. Hints as to how to set about winning souls.

1. They must be alarmed.

2. They must be allured.

3. They must be taken by the hand.

4. They who would win others must show that they themselves are won. (Archibald G. Brown.)

The wisdom of winning souls

This text may refer to two things: wisdom in winning souls, or the wisdom of winning souls. He who assumes, as the errand and purpose of his life, the conversion of his fellow-men to Christ, has given the highest proof within his reach that he himself is a wise man.

I. He has selected the natural field for successful human effort. It is time to drop our suspicion in reference to honest work. Butler’s definition says, “Happiness consists in a faculty having its proper object.” That is, let any one of our powers fasten itself upon a legitimate end, and proceed at once unto vigour, and a feeling of true continuous joy will spring up from the mere exercise. Our reason is the happiest in reasoning; our judgment in deciding; our imagination in the poetic drawing of pictures; our affections in lavishing their love on chosen friends. There needs only to be added the element of success. That is, we must be able to gain the ends we aim at. If we are baulked, we are disappointed and discontented. Hence it is important for each man to understand his own adaptations and possibilities, so that he may seek right ends. Winning souls is the true work for human souls to do. For it flings into successful action the whole Christian man, body, mind, and spirit. There is intelligence in it; there is faith in it; there is hope in it; there is activity in it; there is excitement and exhilaration in it. And success is sure to follow fidelity. The old fable was that one who always carried a myrtle-wand in his hand would never grow weary in the way. But here is no fable. The love of Christ in the heart, and the zeal of Christ in the life, are what evermore satisfy, exercise, and rest the soul.

II. The specific end to be reached in winning souls evidences wisdom in the choice. Even a ministry of destruction has something grand about it, fearful as it seems to gaze upon, awful as it must be to exercise. But a ministry of relief is better than any of retribution. It has in it all the sublimity of power, and then the additional grace and glory of help, the beauty of being serviceable. A ministry of salvation is simply transcendent. It deals with a man’s highest nature, and touches upon the destinies of eternity. Everywhere God seems to look upon human beings as just so many souls. To save a man is to deliver a fellow-man from sin and hell, and bring him to holiness and heaven. To save a soul is to incorporate with the eternal destiny of a sentient and reasoning being a new spring and force of exultant and exhilarant life; to quicken all its susceptibilities; to renew the will into a profitable obedience to God; to unfold all the capacities of intellect and affection. In a word, to save the soul is more than to create the soul.

III. The proprietorship we gain in the souls we instrumentally win. We love what we work for more than what costs us nothing. Value to you is measured by this sum of yourself you have put in possession. A soul we help to save possesses a value to us unlike that of any other soul. For we gain a kind of proprietary right in it. God lets us feel so.

1. Present companionship. The soul we lead into the joys of this new life becomes our helper, and returns the benefit. If we put into active, beneficent, useful, attractive life any human soul, may we not share all the benedictions its sweet, gentle, Christlike career is scattering around it?

2. Eternal communion. Those who are with us here will go with us to be in our company hereafter.

IV. The grand awards of the gospel for this work show the wisdom of winning souls.

1. The growth of personal graces. He who watereth others shall be watered himself. He who carries a lantern for darkened men finds his own path lit the clearest.

2. The day of approval. Every soul which saves a soul shares in the satisfaction his work gives to the Master. Oh, the exquisite joy of that supreme moment when a Christian labourer presents a new prince or princess to Christ, the King of Glory, in the midst of heaven! (C. S. Robinson.)

The wisdom of winning souls

The estimate which men form of spiritual things is very different from that which they form of temporal things. An individual who is the victim of temporal evil excites our pity, and kindles our compassion, but an individual perishing in ignorance, and dying in sin, excites no compassion.

I. The object here proposed to our benevolent sympathy and regard--the soul of man. The soul of man--who of us understands it? Fix attention on the nature and frame of the human soul. In nature it is not material, it is spiritual and immaterial. The body is divisible, the soul is a homogeneous substance--it is indivisible, insoluble, inseparable. The soul is not matter. We know of only two substances, matter and spirit, flesh and mind, body and soul--these make up the whole of what we know to have any existence in the universe of God. Philosophers have speculated much about the locality of the soul in the body. All that we know is, that although the soul dwells in matter, it is perfectly and entirely distinct from it.

1. We may endeavour to form some estimate of the soul by noticing its Maker, its origin. Think of it as formed for eternity; as occupying all the attributes of Jehovah in its formation; as made in the true image of God; as made next in rank and degree, though equal in blessedness, to the angelic multitude. Though the soul is not in the condition it was in when it came from the hands of its Maker, still there is that about it that tells us something of what it was; there are traces of primeval glory and dignity. Such is the faculty of reason, and the power of conscience.

2. Form a notion of the soul’s capacities, and faculties, and properties. Think of its power of thought; of the recording pen of memory; of the tablet of the heart; of the creations of genius; the glow of enterprise; the light of reason; all proving to us that the soul of man is spiritual, intellectual, immaterial, immortal. Think, too, of its power of knowledge. The soul of man wanders on and on, exploring invisible and distant objects.

3. Think of the power of pleasing. How it can charm by description, dazzle by comparison, enliven by wit, convince by argument, thrill, captivate, and carry away by eloquence. Think of its power of acting on matter, in the glow of painting, in the symmetry of architecture, in the beauty of sculpture, in the enchanting intonations of the human voice.

4. The soul must be of inestimable value, for its redemption has been effected by Jesus Christ.

5. Think, too, on the endless duration of the soul’s existence. Only one word can be applied to the duration of the human soul--it is the word Eternity. The soul never dies.

II. The conduct described in the text, in reference to this object, and recommended to our adoption. We can only win souls as instruments and accessories. Christ is the ransomer of the soul. The French commentator paraphrases the text thus: “He that sweetly draweth souls to God, maketh a holy conquest of them” (Diodoret)

1. We are to endeavour to win souls by instruction. Knowledge is wanted, is agreeable. Knowledge is to be communicated, now, from mind to mind, from one to another. The man who has knowledge is bound to communicate it to the man who has not.

2. We must do it by persuasion. For the soul is not only ignorant, but perverse. Its ignorance calls for illumination, and its perverseness and obstinacy call for entreaty and persuasion. Seriousness of manner, combined with affectionateness of spirit, are the charms we are to employ, the artillery we are to command. We are to clothe our words with plainness, seriousness, and affection.

3. It is our duty to endeavour to win souls by admonition. It is necessary, sometimes, to rebuke with all authority and all earnestness.

III. The eulogium which the text pronounces on the conduct of those who win souls. He is “wise.”

1. Scriptures say that man is wise who saves his own soul.

2. The text pronounces that man wise who is instrumental in winning the souls of his fellow-creatures. Such a man, in his conduct, is promoting the honour, and glory of God. Such a man connects himself with the coming in of the mediatorial reign of our Immanuel. Such a man is the best friend of the human race, and most effectually promotes the welfare of mankind around him. (J. Beaumont.)

The work and responsibility of the ministry

The work of the ministry is an awful thing. What shall we say of the responsibility which belongs to him who, at an age when he could neither deceive himself nor be deceived, chooses an office to which he professes to be divinely called, even the cure of souls?

I. The worth of souls. The very word “souls” is startling. The soul is a direct emananation from God--a breath of God, a spark, so to call it, of Deity. It is a living soul. It has infinite capacities. See the estimation in which God holds it; especially in giving His Son for its redemption. See not the original redemption only, but also all the subsequent acts of grace. Then most guilty must he be who despises his own soul, and in spite of all this array of mercy, chooses death rather than life.

II. The winning of souls.

1. The agency which the Divine wisdom has seen fit to employ in this business.

2. The means which this agency is commissioned to use. In preaching the doctrine of Christ, we are wielding a weapon of omnipotent might.

3. While with fidelity we preach Christ, we must do it with the earnestness which its importance demands, and the affection which its subject warrants.

4. And we must also labour to the utmost to give no offence, that the ministry be not blamed. But this line of conduct is strictly within the limit of the faithful preaching of the Word. What are the noble and glorious results of a ministry so conducted? Such a pastor both saves himself and them that hearken. (Joseph Haslegrave, M.A.)

The mission work of winning souls

1. Missionary associations and enterprises take their rise out of the most enlightened and comprehensive views of human nature.

2. Missionary Societies employ the only expedient which has ever been known to act on human nature with the power of effecting a moral transformation.

3. Missionary enterprises proceed on the most enlightened views of the harmony between the instrumentality of man and the agency of God in the work of winning and saving souls.

4. The instrumentality employed secures the most glorious of all results to the instruments themselves.

5. Missionary operations are conducive, in a high degree, to the prevalence of the spirit of Christian union. (H. F. Burder, M.A.)

Winning first your own soul, then other souls

The charity that wins a soul begins at home; and if it do not begin there it will never begin. The order of nature in this work is, “save yourselves and them that hear you.” But though this charity begins at home, it does not end there. From its centre outward, and onward all around, like the ripple on the surface of the lake, compassion for the lost will run, nor stop until it touch the shore of time. Winning immortal souls is work for wise men, and we lack wisdom. On this point there is a special promise from God. Those who need wisdom and desire to use it in this work will get it for the asking. The wisdom needed is different from the wisdom of men. It is very closely allied to the simplicity of a little child. Much of it lies in plainness and promptness. (W. Arnot, D.D.)

Two ways of wisdom

I. In the choice of the object of pursuit. When men fix on that which is of real and unquestionable value to the exclusion of other things. There can be no doubt of the preference due to the soul’s interests, even on the low standard of calculated good. Common sense must admit the wisdom shown in making the soul of man the object of the pursuit of men. If true of man’s own soul, equally true of the souls of others. He who makes the soul the object of his pursuit, and aims at doing good to men through those means that are spiritual, finds that his benevolence is exercised under circumstances very favourable.

II. In determining the manner in which that object shall be pursued. In selecting, out of many plans, that which is the most likely to succeed. Of these plans for winning souls some are of men’s devising, and bear the marks of their original. There is one, and one alone, of God’s ordaining. Of men’s schemes there is--

1. The religion of morality, which aims at men’s reformation, by addressing the reason in the form of arguments and conviction.

2. The religion of sentiment, which addresses itself to the feelings, and endeavours to win the affections by exhibitions calculated to melt and touch and soften the sensibilities of men’s natures. And there is the Divine religion of the gospel, which aims at the conversion of the soul through faith. This system speaks to the heart and to the conscience; and this is the way of wisdom in winning souls. (Henry Raikes, M.A.)

The winner of souls

I. What is here implied?

1. That these souls might be lost, else they could never be won--would never need to be won.

2. That these souls, though lost, are not irrecoverably lost; they may yet be won.

3. That human instrumentality is to be employed for the accomplishment of these ends; the work is the Lord’s.

II. The winner of souls has a twofold aim. The immediate aim is the salvation of souls; the ultimate aim is the glory of God.

III. The gain is perpetual. These souls once won are won for ever. Leave it to other men to build palaces and rear memorial pillars, to add house to house, and call their lands by their own names; be yours the God-like task of contributing to rear the palace of the Great King--of adding another and another stone to that goodly structure--of setting up pillars in the eternal temple that shall stand when all others have fallen--of brightening the diadem of Jesus with gems rescued from ruin--with stars that shall shine for ever and ever. Be it yours to win souls; for the price of them is far above rubies, more precious than the gold of Ophir--to rear plants that shall flourish and bloom for ever in the paradise of God. (Thos. Main, D.D.)

A word to winners of souls

I. He is wise who wins souls, for he has a blessing in the winning.

1. The best way to keep our own souls in health is to seek those of others.

2. The best way to benefit our brethren is to seek souls.

II. He has a blessing in the won. Every soul we win for Christ--

1. Is a token of His favour. It proves we have used the means in the right way.

2. Causes, or should cause, more watchfulness. We are examples to them.

3. Is an additional helper for us. What sweet communion have we with our spiritual fathers and spiritual children!

III. He has a blessing stored up in heaven.

1. Exalted position. “Shine as stars.”

2. Perpetual preferment. “For ever and ever.”

3. Unbounded delight. (R. A. Griffin.)

The winning of souls

To win souls is a proof of wisdom, and it is also an exercise of wisdom. There is the wisdom of winning souls to be considered, and also the wisdom in winning souls.

I. The wisdom of winning souls.

1. Human souls require to be won. They are at first in a lost state. They are lost as being without knowledge, without righteousness, without happiness, and without hope.

2. But the souls of men may be recovered. The method of their salvation is arranged and completed in the gospel.

3. See the wisdom of this work in its innate grandeur and excellence. In a shipwreck or a fire what strenuous efforts are made to save property, or to save life: how much more to pluck these brands from the burning.

4. See what an enduring work it is. Other things, saved, may perish again; but a soul saved will be secure for ever.

5. See the reward it brings to the happy agent himself. It gratifies his benevolence, and his piety--it secures him affection and love--it will ensure immortal honour (Daniel 12:3).

6. It is an essential part of our duty as Christians. The task of winning souls is committed to us. A dispensation of the gospel is entrusted to us. We are bound by the pledges of our allegiance and gratitude to Christ to employ ourselves in this work.

II. The wisdom in winning souls.

1. There are difficulties peculiar to the work.

2. The required wisdom consists of several important constituents. (The Congregational Pulpit.)

The supreme wisdom

The literal meaning of these words is “He that catcheth souls is wise.” The figure is taken from the manner in which the fowler catches the birds. He that goeth into the wilds of nature, where the spirits of men are rude and untamed, and employs his skill in attracting and winning them to cultivation and righteousness, is wise. The enterprise of capturing a soul for this end is replete with honour, and brings such distinction that rank and talent have been proud to consecrate themselves to the work. The ostensible end of all enlightened government is to win souls, and that administration is the wisest whose measures are fitted to win the largest number to civilisation and from vice to morality. The legislature that does not apprehend the moral as well as the social and civil wants of a people is either barbarous or wicked--as it may happen to rest on ignorance or selfishness. Let us select any form of philanthropy--the genius of that form really is the recovery of the soul. You never give a beggar alms without some reference to his mind. Whether you would or not, you must include the relief of his mind when you are moved to lighten his bodily distress. The true philanthropist gives scope to this mental sympathy. Why does he seek to alleviate the mental and physical disorders of his fellow-men? Because they stand in the way of their moral nature. He does not stop when he has rescued a family from starvation. “He that winneth souls is wise.” He makes the world better and increases the resources of his country’s greatness. In treading a low neighbourhood of the East-end of London, you find a family bearing every mark of extreme distress. You enter what more resembles a den than a room. But in that foul and wretched hovel there would be a lot more than meets the eye. Amid that squalor, and in such a home, there would be scenes of the greatest crime and ruin, and if the children were turned out on society they would be like so many prowling wolves. But suppose you are the instrument of checking this current of evil and wickedness. What have you done? In rescuing these poor creatures from poverty you dispel one of the chief incentives to crime by waking up energies laid asleep by destitution or wickedness. You have, by sending the children to school, closed one door of ignorance and vice, and opened another of intelligence and virtue. You have won souls to knowledge and integrity. But here I ask, Have we done all when we have reached this step? Have governments arrived at the limit of their possibilities when they have made men free and prosperous? Has philanthropy executed her mission when she has supplied the needy with bread and gathered about them conditions of health? As if a man had drawn up a careful design for a mansion, had laid the foundation, carried up the walls, and then had neglected to cover the building, the result being that when the winds and rain came the splendid fragment, wanting the coherence and support of a roof, falls away and collapses. Long experience has convinced me that unless education be roofed and crowned with religion, the principles of human character, however wisely laid, however right in themselves, will not prevent the character from collapsing. The principles of human character will go down, and the soul is not won, but lost. The doctrines Christ came to reveal or enforce, and the great atoning work which it was the business of His life to finish were illustrated upon a miniature scale in order that we might be ready and able at once to study their operation. The truths He proclaimed were for all time and for the world, but the application was first directed by Himself to a small district of Palestine. He taught us how to win souls. He addressed Himself to every human want. Unlike all other benefactors I have ever seen or heard of, He did not give Himself to one department of charity. He raised the whole man. And the dispensation of His goodness was as practical as it was beneficial. He satisfied the hungry, but He never pauperised indolence. Why do I mention these particulars? In order to show that our heavenly Lord took care of the earthly life--its animal and social wants; and in His daily teachings He included those earthly virtues of truth, purity, industry, loyalty, and love. But the basis of His superstructure of philanthropy was the salvation of the soul. It must be the aim of all power professing beneficence to take the soul to the arms of God. The soul not only belongs to God, everything belongs to Him; but the soul has a future of immortality, and the brief life of a few years here must train it for the life of ages. To win a soul is not to bring it into bondage, it is to take it and keep it for God. The Saviour was ever removing obstacles in the way to heaven, and the supreme obstruction--sin--He laid down His life to remove. All His earthly lessons, all His parables and teachings, lead up to heaven like the steps of a ladder. And I think you cannot begin this winning process too soon. The perceptions of a child are far in advance of its tongue, although that begins early. Its temper and will are apt scholars before its tongue can frame a syllable. It will learn more in the first three years than you can teach it in the next ten. (E. E. Jenkins, M.A.)

The wise man wins souls

It is supposed that a man is wise because he wins souls. That is not the teaching of the text. He wins souls because he is wise. Let us look at the matter in this way: there is a necessity in wisdom that it shall win souls. Wisdom always wins. The wise man may never speak to a soul, and yet he may win it. This is not the picture of an ardent evangelist running to and fro in the earth upon the vague and general mission of winning souls. That is the popular misunderstanding of the text. The real interpretation is that if a man is wise he will by the very necessity of wisdom win souls, draw them to him, excite their attention, compel their confidence, constrain their honour. There is a silent conquest; there is a preaching that never speaks--a most eloquent preaching which simply does the law, obeys the gospel, exemplifies the spirit of Christ, works that spirit out in all the detail of life, so swiftly, patiently, sympathetically, completely, that souls are won, drawn, saying, Behold, what virtue is this! what pureness, what charity, what simplicity, what real goodness and beneficence! This must be the right doctrine, because it comes out in the right line. So then the scope of the text is enlarged. (J. Parker, D.D.)

Souls to be won, not driven

This wise man does not drive souls--he wins them. Souls cannot be driven. We may attempt to drive them, and therein show our folly, but it is of the nature of the soul that it be charmed, lured by angel-like beauty, by heavenly eloquence, by mighty persuasion of reason. The soul that is driven offers no true worship; nay, as we have just said, the soul can defy the driver. The body can be driven to church, but not the soul. It does not follow because a man is sitting in church that he himself is there. A child forced to church is not at church. The house of God, therefore, should be filled with fascination, attraction, charm, so that little children should long to go to it, and it should be a deprivation not to go there. The wise man would not drive men to any form of goodness, though he is bound to prohibit them under penalty from certain forms of social evil, because those forms involve the health, the prosperity, and the best advantage of others. (J. Parker, D.D.)

How to win others to Christ

Soul-winning is a blessed possibility to all who are “filled with all the fulness of God.”

1. Be prayerful. Have regular hours for secret communion with God.

2. Study the Scriptures.

3. Be gentle. Lead rather than drive. Speak the truth in love. Never argue.

4. Be polite. Haste or brusqueness will repel. A courteous, affable manner is well-nigh irresistible.

5. Be courageous. Trusting the guidance of the Spirit, never be afraid to speak to any soul.

6. Leave the result with God. It is unwise ever to waste time in regrets. A rebuff may mean a soul under strong conviction. Some seeds take longer to sprout than others. Remember you are not working for yourself, but for God; that without Him you could do nothing; and to Him belongs all the glory. (G. F. Pentecost.)

How to win

In Chicago, a few years ago, there was a little boy who went to one of the mission Sunday-schools. His father moved to another part of the city, about five miles away, and every Sunday that boy came past thirty or forty Sunday-schools to the one he attended. One day a lady who was out collecting scholars for a Sunday-school met him and asked him why he went so far, past so many schools. “There are plenty of others just as good,” said she. “They may be as good, but they are not so good for me,” he said. “Why not?” she asked. “Because they love a fellow over there,” he answered. Ah! love won him. “Because they love a fellow over there!” How easy it is to reach people through love! (D. L. Moody.)


Some preachers think only of their sermon; others think only of themselves: the man who wins the soul is the man who aims at it. (Dean Hook.)

Success in soul-winning

Success in soul-winning is only given to skill, earnestness, sympathy, perseverance. Men are saved not in masses, but by careful study and well-directed effort. It is said that such is the eccentric flight of the snipe when they rise from the earth, that it completely puzzles the sportsman, and some who are capital shots at other birds are utterly baffled here. Eccentricity seems to be their special quality, and this can only be mastered by incessant practice with the gun. But the eccentricity of souls is beyond this, and he had need be a very spiritual Nimrod, a “mighty hunter before the Lord,” who would capture them for Christ.

The best news

When Chalmers was in the very zenith of his popularity in Glasgow, and crowds were gathering every Sabbath round his pulpit, he was walking home one evening with a friend, who told him of a soul who had been converted through the instrumentality of a sermon which he had preached. Immediately the tear-drop glittered in the good man’s eye, and his voice faltered as he said, “That is the best news I have heard for a long time. I was beginning to think that I had mistaken the leadings of providence in coming to your city; but this will keep me up.”

The joy of winning souls

Bishop Harold Browne of Winchester once said that among all the joys which had been given him in the course of a long and busy life, none had come with a deeper thrill, or had remained so freshly in his heart, as the joy he had felt when, as a young curate, he had been for the first time the means, through God, of leading a soul to peace and trust in Christ. This is a joy which all can have, if they ask for guidance in the work of influencing others for God. (F. E. Toyne.)

The winner of souls is wise

A learned divine was asked, on his death-bed, what he considered the greatest of all things. His answer was, “It is not theology, nor controversy; it is to save souls.” Doddridge wrote, “I long for the conversion of souls, more sensibly than for anything besides.” Matthew Henry says, “I would think it a greater happiness to gain one soul to Christ than mountains of gold and silver for myself.” Brainerd said, “I cared not where nor how I lived, or what hardship I went through, so that I could but gain souls to Christ.” Ward Beecher says, “As the pilot beats cruise far out, watching for every whitening sail, and hover through day and night all about the harbour, vigilant to board every ship that they may bring safely through the Narrows all the wanderers of the ocean, so should we watch off the gate of salvation for all the souls, tempest-tossed, beating in from the sea of sin, and guide them through the perilous straits, that at last, in still waters, they may cast the anchor of their hope.” The Christian is to do good, not by force or hardness, but by gentle persuasion and persevering kindness. To win, as in a game, implies skill in adapting the means to the end.

1. He who would be successful in winning souls to Christ must be considerate and thoughtful.

2. Another qualification is courage.

3. Another is tender, unaffected sympathy. It is said that if a piano is struck in a room where another stands unopened, one who should place his ear near it would hear a responsive note within, as though touched by the hand of an unseen spirit. Such is the power of sympathy. (John N. Norton.)

A motto for a new year

Our first object should be to win Christ. That being attained, we cannot adopt a better motto for life than this, “He that winneth souls is wise.”

1. He is a wise man who sets this before him as the object for which to five. No pursuit is more worthy of our energies. No pursuit yields a better return.

2. He who would be successful in this work must go about it wisely. He must himself be wise unto salvation. He must have the tact to discern his opportunities, and rightly direct his appeals. The word winneth (margin, “taketh”) is an allusion to the hunter’s craft.

3. A wise adaptation to the circumstances and temperaments of those we seek to bless is needed in this work. It will not answer to deal with all alike. Men are not to be taken in the lump and treated after some patent method of moral mechanics. Every human being is an individual, and must be so reckoned and laboured for. No labour or self-denial will be misspent in this holy cause. (C. A. Davis.)

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Proverbs 11:30". The Biblical Illustrator. https: 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

"The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; And he that is wise winneth souls."

An alternate reading of the first clause is that, "The revenue of the righteous is a tree of life."[33] The proverb therefore deals with soul-winning, a truth missed by many of the translations and versions. The best rendition of the second clause here is in the ASV.

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Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Proverbs 11:30". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https: Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,.... Either the fruit which grows upon Christ, the tree of life, and which they receive from him; even all the blessings of grace, peace, pardon, righteousness, and life, Revelation 2:7; or the fruits which the righteous bring forth under the influence of divine grace; they are trees of righteousness, and are filled with the fruits of righteousness by Christ, and have their fruit unto holiness, and their end everlasting life. Aben Ezra interprets it,

"the fruit of the righteous is as the fruit of the tree of life;'

that is, lovely, beautiful, desirable, salutary, and issues in life;

and he that winneth souls is wise; antichrist trades in the souls of men, that is one part of his wares, Revelation 18:13; but his negotiations about them are to the loss, and not to the saving of them: whereas wise and faithful ministers of the word, such as are here described, use all prudent methods to gain and save the souls of men, 1 Corinthians 9:19; even their precious immortal souls, which are of more worth than a world, are the immediate production of God, made after his image, which by sin they come short of; and having sinned, are liable to eternal death; the redemption of which is precious; the charge of which Christ has taken, and therefore is called the Shepherd and Bishop of souls; and which he commits to the care of his under shepherds, who watch for them, as they that must give an account. To "win" them is to teach them, for the wordF7לקח "qui docet", Pagninus, Baynus, Mercerus, Gejerus. has the signification of teaching or doctrine; see Proverbs 4:2; the ministers of Christ are teachers, qualified and sent by him as such; and their business is to teach men their state by nature, how sinful, miserable, and helpless they are; and also Christ, and the way of life by him; that salvation is in him, and in no other; that justification is only by his righteousness, peace and pardon by his blood, and atonement by his sacrifice: they also teach various other things; as the fear of God, faith in Christ, love to him, and obedience to all his commands. To win souls is to proselyte them and convert them to the true religion; to bring them into a love and liking of it, and to embrace it: the souls that Abraham got or made in Haran are supposed to be such; and the same with those trained or instructed in his house, whom he armed for the rescue of Lot, Genesis 12:5; the former of which texts Jarchi compares with this, as explanative of it. The phrases of "turning many to righteousness", done by the "wise": and of "converting a sinner from the error of his way", whereby a "soul is saved from death", Daniel 12:3, are a proper comment on these words: which, moreover, may be rendered, "he that taketh souls"F8"Capit", Vatablus, Tigurine version, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "capit salutari doctrina", Michaelis. ; as a fort or castle is taken, and which is sometimes expressed by "winning"; see 2 Chronicles 32:1. The soul of man is a hold, and a strong hold, of foul spirits; it is Satan's palace or castle, which he keeps and holds against Christ, but is won and taken by him; which is usually done by means of the word, and the ministry of it, which are made effectual to the pulling down of strong holds, 2 Corinthians 10:4. Or the allusion is to the taking or catching of birds in a snare, or fishes in a net. The souls of men are got into the snare of the devil, and they are taken out from hence by breaking this snare; by which means they escape the hands of the fowler, Satan, and come into better hands: the old serpent laid a bait for our first parents, by which he gained his point, and that was the fruit of the forbidden tree; but the bait which wise men lay to catch souls is the fruit of the tree of life, mentioned in the former clause, the blessings of grace in Christ. Again, Christ's ministers are called "fishers" of men, and are said to "catch" men, Matthew 4:19; which they do by casting and spreading the net of the Gospel; the Gospel is the net; the world is the sea into which it is cast; where natural men are in their element, as fishes in the sea: the casting of the net is the preaching of the Gospel; and by means of this souls are caught and gathered in to Christ and his churches, Matthew 13:47. Once more, the words are by some rendered, "he that allures souls"F9"Allicit", Drusius, Gejerus. ; which is done, not by the terrors of the law, but by the charming voice of the Gospel; by which souls are drawn to God and Christ, and brought among his people: and one that is an instrument of all this had need be "wise", and so he appears to be; he that teacheth men the knowledge of divine and spiritual things had need to be as he is, as a scribe well instructed in the kingdom of God; he who is to be the instrument of converting sinners must have a mouth and wisdom to address them in a proper manner; as he that wills a castle, or takes a fort, ought to have military skill as well as courage; and to cast a net well requires art as well as strength.

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Gill, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 11:30". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https: 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

The fruit of the righteous [is] a tree of life; and he that s winneth souls [is] wise.

(s) That is, brings them to the knowledge of God.

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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Proverbs 11:30". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https: 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

a tree of life — Blessings to others proceed from the works of the righteous (Proverbs 3:18).

winneth souls — (Compare Margin) to do them good as opposed to Proverbs 6:25; Ezekiel 13:18 (compare Luke 5:10).

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This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Proverbs 11:30". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https: 1871-8.

Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,

And the wise man winneth souls.

The lxx translate, ἐκ καρποῦ δικαιοσύνης φύεται δένδρον ζωῆς ; Hitzig takes thence the word צדק ; but this translation discredits itself by the unnatural reversal of the relation of fruit and tree. The fruit of the righteous is here not the good which his conduct brings to him, as Isaiah 3:10; Jeremiah 32:19, but his activity itself proceeding from an internal impulse. This fruit is a tree of life. We need to supplement פּרי [fruit] as little here as ארח [a traveller] at Proverbs 10:17; for the meaning of the proverb is, that the fruit of the righteous, i.e. , his external influence, itself is a tree of life, namely for others, since his words and actions exert a quickening, refreshing, happy influence upon them. By this means the wise (righteousness and wisdom come together according to the saying of the Chokma , Proverbs 1:7) becomes a winner of souls ( לקח as Proverbs 6:25, but taken in bonam partem ), or, as expressed in the N.T. (Matthew 4:19), a fisher of men, for he gains them not only for himself, but also for the service of wisdom and righteousness.

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Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Proverbs 11:30". https: 1854-1889.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

This shows what great blessings good men are, especially those that are eminently wise, to the places where they live, and therefore how much to be valued. 1. The righteous are as trees of life; the fruits of their piety and charity, their instructions, reproofs, examples, and prayers, their interest in heaven, and their influence upon earth, are like the fruits of that tree, precious and useful, contributing to the support and nourishment of the spiritual life in many; they are the ornaments of paradise, God's church on earth, for whose sake it stands. 2. The wise are something more; they are as trees of knowledge, not forbidden, but commanded knowledge. He that is wise, by communicating his wisdom, wins souls, wins upon them to bring them in love with God and holiness, and so wins them over into the interests of God's kingdom among men. The wise are said to turn many to righteousness, and that is the same with winning souls here, Daniel 12:3. Abraham's proselytes are called the souls that he had gotten, Genesis 12:5. Those that would win souls have need of wisdom to know how to deal with them; and those that do win souls show that they are wise.

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Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Proverbs 11:30". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https: 1706.

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

The righteous are as trees of life; and their influence upon earth, like the fruits of that tree, support and nourish the spiritual life in many.

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Henry, Matthew. "Concise Commentary on Proverbs 11:30". "Matthew Henry Concise Commentary

on the Whole Bible". https: 1706.

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary


Pro . Or, "the wise man winneth" or "taketh" souls.



I. Souls can be won to God and goodness.

1. There is in every man a natural light to which to appeal. If a sick man has something in his constitution upon which the physician can fix as a basis of operation, there is hope of recovery. But where the constitution is utterly and entirely bad, the very effort of the physician is a proof of his lack of wisdom. Man is morally diseased, but he is not so depraved as to make his being won to God a hopeless attempt. There is in him a moral base of operation, he has a conscience which is more or less enlightened. Men are, acccording to the highest authority, "a law unto themselves," "that which may be known of God is manifest in (or to) them." (See Rom ; Rom 2:14.) They would not be "without excuse," as the Apostle there declares that they are, if they had no moral consciousness.

2. The very existence of the Bible proves that man is not hopelessly lost. Wise men do not waste words and efforts where they know they would be thrown away. They do not set on foot plans to help those for whom they know there is no hope. A wise physician will not harass his patient and waste his own energies when he knows there is no possibility of cure. It is kinder to let him die in peace. God is too wise and too kind to send man a revelation which he knows would be useless to him. He would not tantalise him with hopes which could not be realised.

3. The history of Christ confirms this view. He claimed to come to this earth for the special purpose of seeking and saving men. He was pre-eminently a winner of souls. There can be but one explanation of the Incarnation.

4. The moral difference in men is another proof. For every effect there is a cause. That there is an immense difference in the character of men is admitted by all; and the difference is that some have been won from sin to God.

II. Souls can only be won. There are two kinds of power in the universe—force and persuasion. The mother who desires her child to take a certain place may attain her end in two ways—she may take the child in her arms and carry it where she desires, or she may use moral suasion and induce the child to fall in with her wishes by the exercise of its own free will. The thing may be done either by strength of muscle or by the strength of love. Souls cannot be dealt with in the first way. The soul can only be won to God by the same kind of power as it was won from God, viz., by that of persuasion. If the tempter had tried force he would have failed with our first parents. He knew human nature too well to attempt the use of such means. Force is of no avail to bring about a friendship, and the winning of a soul is bringing about a friendship between man and God. Therefore the Apostle "beseeches" and "prays" men to be reconciled to God (2Co ). To be won to God is to be won to service. Two kinds of service may be rendered to a human parent or ruler. There is a service of the body only which is prompted by fear, and there is the service of the whole man which is the fruit of love. God must have the latter or none (Isa 1:11, etc.,) hence the soul must be "drawn," "constrained," by the power of moral force. (See Hos 13:14; Joh 12:32; 2Co 5:11; 2Co 5:14).

III. Souls are won by fruit. Human nature will not be influenced by words without actions. The actions which make up a holy life are here called fruit. When two men are at variance and hatred is deeply rooted, he who would be a peace-maker must be something as well as say something. Words alone will not kill enmity—there must be correspondent deeds. This constituted our Lord Jesus Christ the great Reconciler—that He brought forth the fruits of holiness and self-sacrifice, and so gave weight to His words of persuasion. So many souls have been won by him because so much fruit was brought forth by him. And all who would win souls must in their measure do likewise. In this sense they must obey His injunction and be made partakers of His promise: "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Mat ).

IV. The fruit that wins souls will be a "tree of life" both to the winner and to those who are won. The vine-dresser has joy in rearing his fruit, and the eater has joy in partaking of its sweetness. When he who seeks to win souls brings one to taste the sweets of godliness for himself, there is joy for both. The righteous man is a "tree of righteousness," hence he is himself a "tree of life." Others partake of his fruit and live unto holiness, and become fruit-bearing trees in their turn. And in this sense "he that reapeth and he who soweth rejoice together," and the precious harvest is a "tree of life"—an undying source of soul-satisfaction to both.

IV. He who thus wins souls is a wise man. He saves men from a present and real misery. The end of all practical wisdom is to elevate the human race—to lift men out of misery and degradation—to solve the problems of every day social life. The man who wins a soul to God is a truly scientific man—he has reduced his moral science to practice in his own life, and then has brought it to bear upon the lives of others. He is a wise general who can turn the guns of the enemy against the foe. He who wins a soul can teach a man how to turn the forces that have been against him into powers and influences that shall work for him. He is a wise financier who can devise means by which a man can free himself from debt. The winner of souls can show his fellow-man how to be freed from moral debt. He is a wise physician who, by healing one man of a deadly pestilence, prevents the spread of disease. The man who turns another from the error of his ways, not only "saves a soul from death," but hides a multitudes of sins (Jas ) by, in some measure, lessening the increase of sin in the universe.


I. Christians are a blessing to the world.

1. There is the influence of personal character, showing what religion is, viz., a living principle in the hearts of the faithful, which must spread its radiance. It may be said of a good man, as it was said of Christ, "He could not be hid" (Mar ).

2. There is the force of the great principles they advocate—Freedom, Education, etc. They raise, in this way, the standard of public opinion.

3. There are their habits of active beneficence.

II. To win souls the highest wisdom is requisite.

1. Consider the preciousness of the object—souls. Made in the image of God, and designed to reflect His glory. Of infinite value in the esteem of Him who came to redeem them.

2. How greatly they are endangered by sin, held captive by Satan, in bondage by the world, entrenched in long habits of evil. The soul, in its present depraved state, is not inclined to seek God, nor anxious to obtain deliverance.

3. The difficulty is increased by the shortness of the time and the limitation of the means at our command. The preacher has only the Sabbath; Satan and the the world have all the week wherein to exert their influence. It is more or less so with all who endeavour to win souls.—S. Thodey.

He may begin as a "leaf" or "branch" (Pro ), but he ends as a "tree." The tree of life made the partaker of it immortal. "The fruit of the righteous" is immortal life to many a poor sinner. The latter clause may read either: "The wise is a winner of souls," or "The winner of souls is wise." It doubtless should be read in both. The grand "tree of life" on earth is the man converted already. The man converted already will be a "tree of life." Both doctrines are true, and, therefore, in so terse a passage, I see no resource but to understand the Hebrew as pregnant of both. It is of the very essence of wisdom to be benevolent, and it is the very height of benevolence to catch the souls of the impenitent. Moreover, no soul is caught but by the wise.—Miller.

What is dwelt on is the power of wisdom, as we say, to win the hearts of men. He that is wise draws men to himself, just as the fruit of the righteous is to all around him a tree of life, bearing new fruits of healing evermore. It is to be noted, also, that the phrase here rendered "winneth souls," is the same as that which is elsewhere translated by "taketh the life" (1Ki ; Psa 31:13). The wise man is the true conqueror.—Plumptre.

To win souls is one special fruit of the tree of life. This is a noble fruit indeed, since our soul is more worth than a world, as He hath told us who only went to the price of it (Mat ).—Trapp.

In this verse we have set forth to us the excellency of a righteous man. I. He is more useful than others. He is not a barren tree, but a fruitful bough, as Joseph was. And he doth not bring forth fruit unto himself. As the tree of life would give life to them that would eat thereof, so those that will hearken to the counsel of the righteous shall partake with him of eternal life. II. He is more skilful than others. He wins souls—

1. By Scripture demonstration. Thou canst never throw down the devil's strongholds except by God's own weapons.

2. By earnest supplications. As the prophet did pray life into the dead child, so thou shouldst strive in prayer for dead souls.

3. By kind obligation. Labour by kindness and courtesy to gain upon all thou dost converse with, that thou mayst get within him, that thou mayst be in a capacity to do good to his soul.

4. By faithful reprehension. 'Tis quite contrary to Christian love to let sin lie upon thy brother (Lev ). Show your love to souls by the faithful rebuking of sin, not as a token of your displeasure, but as an ordinance of God.

5. By convincing conversation. Live before all thou dost converse with in the convincing power of a holy life.

6. By careful observation of all those advantages that God puts into your hand. Take advantage of his affliction. Make use of thy near relation or of his dependence upon thee, or of thy interest in him. It may be he is concerned in thy goodwill to him, or hath some affection for thee. Make use of it for God.—Alleine.

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Proverbs 11:30". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.

The fruit — His discourses and his whole conversation, is like the fruit of the tree of life.

Winneth — That gains souls to God.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 11:30". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https: 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Proverbs 11:30 The fruit of the righteous [is] a tree of life; and he that winneth souls [is] wise.

Ver. 30. The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,] i.e., The commodities and comforts that one may every way receive from a righteous person, - for, est aliquid quod a viro bono etiam tacente discas, saith Seneca, somewhat a man may learn from a good man, even when he says nothing, - are more than can be imagined. Plutarch reporteth that the Babylonians make three hundred and sixty various commodities of the palm tree, and do therefore greatly honour it. Should not we much more honour the multifarious gifts of God in his righteous ones for our good? For whether it be "Paul, or Apollo, or Cephas," "All is ours." [1 Corinthians 3:4-9]

And he that winneth souls.] And useth singular art and industry therein, as fowlers do to take birds (for so the Hebrew word imports), or fishermen fishes. "He is wise, and wiseth others," as Daniel hath it; [Proverbs 12:3] he is just, and justifieth others; he "shall save a soul from death." [James 5:20] He shall shine as a star in heaven. And this is instanced as one special fruit of that tree of life mentioned in the former verse. This is a noble fruit indeed, since one soul is more worth than a world, as he hath told us, who only went to the price of it. [Matthew 16:26]

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 11:30". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https: 1865-1868.

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann

v. 30. The fruit of the righteous, all his deeds, as an outflow of the faith of his heart and the integrity of his life, is a tree of life, a fountain of blessing to all who come into contact with him; and he that winneth souls is wise, or, "the wise man winneth souls," gaining them for the service of the Lord and for the cause of truth.

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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Proverbs 11:30". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https: 1921-23.

Sermon Bible Commentary

Proverbs 11:30

I. The true Christian is not satisfied to watch and work for his own salvation, but he remembers the souls of others also. Every soul won for Christ is a token of His favour. The success of our efforts proves that we have used the right means in the right way, so that the planting and the watering of the human agency has been crowned by the Divine Spirit with an abundant increase.

II. The text contains a significant hint as to the mode of carrying on this blessed work. "He that winneth souls is wise." The Christian is to do good, not by force or harshness, but by gentle persuasion and persevering kindness. To win, as in a game, implies skill in adapting the means to the end.

III. He who would be successful in winning souls to Christ must be (1) considerate and thoughtful; (2) he must have courage; (3) tender, unaffected sympathy.

J. N. Norton, Every Sunday, p. 418.

References: Proverbs 11:30.—J. Sherman, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 373; New Manual of Sunday School Addresses, pp. 148, 151, 154, 158; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv., No. 850, and vol. xxii., No. 1292; W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 1st series, p. 333; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 346; E. Medley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 289; J. Morgan, Ibid., vol. xv., p. 334.

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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Proverbs 11:30". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https:

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae



Proverbs 11:30. He that winneth souls, is wise.

REAL piety is operative, and influential on the whole life; and discovers itself very principally in labours of love to those around us. “The fruit of the righteous is” very fitly compared to “a tree of life,” which administers to the welfare of all who come under its benignant shade. True, indeed, such persons are often regarded only as weak enthusiasts; and are despised in proportion as they exert themselves for the benefit of their fellow-creatures. But they have a good report from God himself, who says concerning them, “He that winneth souls, is wise.”

This sentence it shall be my endeavour to confirm: and confirmed it will be beyond all doubt, if we consider what may be justly said in vindication of every one who engages in this good work.

I. The object he proposes to himself is most excellent—

[What in the universe is there worthy to be compared with an immortal soul? — — — And what work can be compared with that which is done for the soul, in its conversion to God? — — — Think of its being plucked as a brand out of the fire of hell itself — — — Think of its being restored to the favour of its offended God — — — Think of its being transformed into the divine image — — — Think of its being exalted to a participation of all the glory and felicity of heaven — — — Is there any object that can stand in competition with this? What is the acquisition of crowns and kingdoms in comparison of this? — — —]


II. The labour he bestows upon it is most beneficial,

1. To the soul he wins—

[Let the foregoing hints be duly contemplated; and then say what a benefactor he is, “who turns a man from the error of his ways, and saves a soul alive [Note: James 5:19-20.]” — — —]

2. To the world around him—

[Man, in his unconverted state, is a snare to all around him. By his example at least, if not by any avowed declarations, he teaches men to think that the concerns of this world are most worthy of their attention, and that the concerns of the soul are only of secondary importance. — — — But, when once he is truly turned to God, the honour of God is dear unto him, and the welfare of immortal souls lies near his heart — — — For the extension of the Redeemer’s kingdom he prays in secret, and labours according to his ability in the sphere wherein he moves. “Thy kingdom come,” is the language, not of his lips only, but of his heart also. He now lives, not for himself, as heretofore, but for God, for his Saviour, for his fellow-men; and whatever he possesses he considers as a talent to be improved for them — — — Now, therefore, he becomes “a light in the world;” and, from being an agent of Satan to advance the kingdom of darkness, he is a favoured instrument of Jehovah, to promote in every way the happiness and salvation of the human race — — — Who can calculate the benefits accruing from such a change?]

3. To himself also—

[Who ever laboured for God without receiving in his own soul a rich reward [Note: Psalms 19:11.]?” “Who ever watered others, and was not himself watered by the Lord [Note: ver. 25.]?” The very graces which a man exercises, in winning souls to God, diffuse a sweet serenity, a holy joy, over the whole man, and assimilate him to his Lord and Saviour, and render him meet for the inheritance that is reserved for him. I may add also, his very labour augments for him the weight of glory that is reserved for him in heaven: for God has said, in reference to this very thing, that “every man shall receive according to his own labour [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:8.];” and that “they who turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars, for ever and ever [Note: Daniel 12:3.].”

Is not he “wise,” then, who engages in such a work as this?]

In addition to all this I must say,

III. The end he accomplishes is most glorious—

[This is the end which God the Father had in view, when he delegated to his Son the office of redeeming man — — — This was the end for which our adorable Saviour “left the bosom of the Father,” and assumed into union with himself our fallen nature, and led a life of sorrow upon earth, and at last died for us upon the cross. To this he looked forward, as “the joy that was set before him, for the which he endured the cross and despised the shame [Note: Hebrews 12:2.].” And when he beholds this as the fruit of his sufferings, he is altogether “satisfied with the travail of his soul [Note: Isaiah 53:11.]”— — — The Holy Spirit also regards this as the end for which he performs his part in the economy of redemption. For what does he “strive with rebellious man [Note: Genesis 6:3.]?” For what end does he enlighten, quicken, sanctify the souls of men, or refresh and invigorate them with his heavenly consolations? All of this is to “glorify Christ [Note: John 16:14.],” in the salvation of man. In truth, it is in this work that every person of the Godhead will be glorified to all eternity. What is it that illustrates in harmonious union all the perfections of the Deity? — — — What is it that is the one subject of praise and adoration amongst all the heavenly hosts? Is not this the song of all that have been redeemed? “To him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto our God, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever [Note: Revelation 1:5-6.].” Even the angels, that never sinned, add their “Amen to this; and sing their praises unto God who sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever [Note: Revelation 5:11-13.].”

Compare with this work, then, “all the labour that is done under the sun,” and it is no better than laborious folly. Not he that accumulates to himself wealth or honour, but “he that winneth souls, is wise.”]

What, in conclusion, shall I say? What?

1. Let every one seek the salvation of his own soul—

[Is it wisdom to win the souls of others? What folly, then, must it be to lose our own? — — — In this labour we have more abundant encouragement. We may seek to save others, and fail in our attempt: but who ever failed, that sought salvation for his own soul? Find, in the annals of the whole world, one who ever looked to Christ in vain? Who ever washed in the fountain of his blood in vain? or for whom did the grace of Christ ever prove inadequate and insufficient? Let the world deride this labour as folly, if they please: they will soon see who it is that is really wise; and will soon condemn themselves, more bitterly than now the most envenomed amongst them condemn the righteous: “We fools accounted their life madness, and their end to be without honour: but now we see how greatly we have erred from the way of truth [Note: Wisd. 5:4–6.].” — — — Who then is wise among you, let him “give himself wholly” to the concerns of his soul; for “the wise shall inherit glory; but shame shall be the promotion of fools [Note: Proverbs 3:35.].”]

2. Let every one seek also the salvation of others—

[There are many ways in which this may be done [Note: Here any particular means may be insisted on, according as the particular occasion may require: for instance, The Ministry—The Visiting of the Sick—The Instructing of Children—The Sending forth of the Holy Scriptures—The Support of Missions, &c. &c.] — — — In particular, let every one attend to his own household. For these, in a more especial manner, is every one responsible — — — But in whatever way our exertions are called forth, let us remember that they must be used in a wise, discreet, affectionate manner. We must doubtless declare the whole counsel of God: but, if we would succeed in our labours, we must endeavour to “win souls” by love, and not drive them away by severity and terror — — —]

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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Proverbs 11:30". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https: 1832.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

The fruit of the righteous, i.e. which he produceth; his discourses and his whole conversation.

Is a tree of life; is like the fruit of the tree of life; is a great preserver of his life, and a procurer of eternal life, not only to himself, but to others also.

He that winneth souls, Heb. that catcheth souls, as a fowler doth birds; that maketh it his design and business, and useth all his skill and diligence, to gain souls to God, and to pluck them out of the snare of the devil.

Is wise; showeth himself to be a truly wise and good man. But this clause is and may be rendered thus, and he that is wise (the same with the righteous in the former clause) winneth souls, or brings them to life. So this clause agrees very well with the former.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Proverbs 11:30". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https: 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

30. The fruit… righteous — His words and actions, or their results.

Is a tree of life — Imparting a living principle. Compare Proverbs 11:30; Proverbs 13:12; Genesis 2:9; Revelation 2:9; Revelation 22:2. Comp. 3; Proverbs 18:14.

He that winneth souls — Or captures them by his holy life or persuasive eloquence.

Is wise — Wise by eminence. His wisdom is evinced by the results. “He is the greatest benefactor of all who communicates wisdom so charitably and seasonably that he draws souls to the love of virtue.” — Patrick. “The wise man winneth souls.” — Zockler (and others.) “There does not seem,” says the Speaker’s Commentary, “any ground for seeing in these words the meaning which ‘winning souls’ for God or Christ has gained in Christian language.” They signify about what we mean by winning the heart. He that is wise draws the souls, the affections, the confidence of men to himself. The wise man is the true conqueror. Still they may have a specific application to winning hearts for Christ. The phrase winneth souls, לקח נפשׁות, (lokeahh nephashoth) is the same that is sometimes translated, “Taketh the life.” 1 Kings 19:4; Psalms 31:13. Compare Daniel 12:3; 1 Corinthians 9:19; James 5:20.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Proverbs 11:30". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https: 1874-1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

A righteous person exercises a life-giving influence. Furthermore, a wise person wins others to wisdom. That Isaiah , he or she captures others with ideas or influence (cf. 2 Samuel 15:6). [Note: See Daniel C. Snell, ""Taking Souls" in Proverbs 11:30 ," Vetus Testamentum33 (1983):362-65.] While it is true that evangelistic soul-winning is wise work, soul-winning is not all that this verse is talking about. The idea here is that wise people influence others to follow the way of Wisdom of Solomon , which includes turning to God for salvation. [Note: See also Lee M. Fields, " Proverbs 11:30: Soul-Winning or Wise Living?" Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society50:3 (September2007):517-35.]

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Proverbs 11:30". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https: 2012.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Proverbs 11:30. The fruit of the righteous — Which he produceth; namely, his piety and charity, his instructions, reproofs, exhortations, and prayers; his interest in heaven, and his influence on earth, are a tree of life — That is, like the fruit of that tree, precious and useful, contributing to the support and increase of the spiritual life in many, and nourishing them up to eternal life. And he that winneth souls — Hebrew, לקח נפשׂות, he that taketh, or catcheth souls, as a fowler doth birds, or a fisherman fishes; that makes it his design and business, and uses all his skill and diligence to gain souls to God, and to pluck them out of the snare of the devil; is wise — Showeth himself to be a truly wise and good man. Or, the clause may, with equal propriety, be rendered, and he that is wise (the same with the righteous in the former branch) winneth souls, brings them to repentance, faith, and holiness, to God and heaven. All that are truly wise, or righteous, endeavour to do this, and their endeavours, through the divine blessing, are more or less successful.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Proverbs 11:30". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https: 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary


Life. Producing excellent fruits of virtue and edification.

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Proverbs 11:30". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https: 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

winneth = taketh, or catcheth.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Proverbs 11:30". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https: 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise - (Daniel 12:3.) "The fruit" which "the righteous" bring forth, namely, in benefiting the bodies and souls is of others, is salutary, like "the tree of life" (Genesis 2:9; Genesis 3:22; Proverbs 3:18). "He that winneth (literally, taketh) souls" - like a successful fisherman, that he may bring them to God and heaven (Luke 5:10): by precept and by example (1 Peter 3:1; 1 Corinthians 9:19-22; James 5:20).

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Proverbs 11:30". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https: 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(30) The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life.—The righteous, by the performance of his duty to his neighbours, brings, as it were, life and healing (Revelation 22:2) to them, and “the wise man winneth souls,” attracts them to himself, and induces them to follow his example.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Proverbs 11:30". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https: 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.
3:18; 15:4
Daniel 12:3; Matthew 4:19; John 4:36; 1 Corinthians 9:19-23; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; James 5:20
Heb. taketh.
Luke 5:9,10

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Proverbs 11:30". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https:

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker


Proverbs 11:30

That is not the correct reading of the sacred text. The second part of the verse must be read in the light of the first part—"The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life." The words ought to be read, as it were, by transposition of terms: "The wise man winneth souls." The usual interpretation, whilst not correct, does not exclude the interpretation that is accurate. It is supposed that a man is wise because he wins souls. That is not the teaching of the text. He wins souls because he is wise. Let us look at the matter in this way—there is a necessity in wisdom that it shall win souls. Wisdom always wins. The wise man may never speak to a soul, and yet he may win it. This is not the picture of an ardent evangelist running to and fro in the earth upon the vague and general mission of winning souls, which is the popular misunderstanding of the verse. The real interpretation is that if a man is wise he will by the very necessity of wisdom win souls, draw them to him, excite their attention, compel their confidence, constrain their honour. There is a silent conquest; there is a preaching that never speaks,—a most eloquent preaching which simply does the law, obeys the gospel, exemplifies the spirit of Christ, works that spirit out in all the details of life, so swiftly, patiently, sympathetically, completely, that souls are won, drawn, saying, Behold, what virtue is this? what pureness, what charity, what simplicity, what real goodness and beneficence! This must be the right doctrine because it comes out in the right line. So then the scope of the text is enlarged. He who would found upon these words an address to evangelists might deliver a very excellent speech, but he would miss the principal point of the text which he had chosen as his starting basis. The text makes all men preachers, by the necessity of their being wise. The sun never speaks, yet he draws all men who can walk out of the house. He does not come with a strong hand, smiting the door, or ringing the bell, and saying with sonorous voice, You must and shall come out. The sun simply shines, silvers the windows, seeks out all accessible corners, floods the house with glory, so that even cripples begin to feel they must sit outside, at least; they would gladly walk and leap and praise God in the open meadows, but being deprived of this high festival of thanksgiving they must seek a warm corner just outside, and thank God for the ministry of light. It is precisely so with the wise man. He does not know what good he is doing. He gives away his whole life, and yet is almost unconscious of doing so. Men look at him, estimate his influence, study his motives, observe with what wondrous precision the whole mechanism of his life works, and how all his thinking comes to solid and beneficent conclusions, and they say, So long as that man lives we cannot laugh at his faith: he is a living argument; he never speaks a word upon subjects of a metaphysical or even a religious kind, and yet his whole life is religious. He is like the concealed Christ; he is mistaken for the gardener, and yet the mistake is self-convicting, for they who affect to mistake him feel in their innermost souls that there is about him a royalty which common men cannot honestly claim. Thus we have only to be wise in order to win souls. The fool wins nobody; the buffoon is no preacher either by tongue or by example; but the solid character, the wise head, the discerning eye, the judgment that is well based, and that goes straight upward, heavenward, will in the long run secure attention, confidence, and honour.

The wise man does not drive souls—he wins them. Souls cannot be driven. We may attempt to drive them, and therein show our folly, but it is of the nature of the soul that it may be charmed, lured by angel-like beauty, by heavenly eloquence, by mighty persuasion of reason. The soul that is driven offers no true worship; nay, as we have just said, the soul can defy the driver. The body can be driven to church, but not the soul. It does not follow because a man is sitting in church that he himself is there. A child forced to church is not at church. The house of God, therefore, should be filled with fascination, attraction, charm, so that little children should long to go to it, and it should be to them a deprivation not to go there. The wise man would not drive men to any form of goodness, though he is bound to prohibit them under penalty from certain forms of social evil, because those forms involve the health, the prosperity, and the best advantage of others. Men cannot be driven to observe the Sabbath. He who does not open his place of business because the law forbids him to do Song of Solomon , or society would frown upon him for doing Song of Solomon , opens every shutter of his window and every desk in his counting-house, and he is as busy there and as guilty as if he were there palpably, visibly, and defiantly.

Souls are to be won. The only way of gaining souls is by winning them. He that is wise in everything but soul-winning is not wise. There are those who are winning the world and losing themselves. A man cannot healthily affect the souls of others until his own soul is in the right mood, and in the right relation to God. There is a sense in which every man must preach himself—that is to say, he can only preach according to the level of his own experience: he may say much beyond that, and aside from that, but in so saying it it is the tongue alone that is employed; the whole preacher is not there unless his experience be there, his entire heart, his deepest conviction,—then how he talks, and burns, and reasons, and allures, and persuades! What is it to have won everything but souls—everything but affection, confidence, trust, real honour of the heart? Such a man is dead whilst he lives: nobody cares for him; people will hear years hence without surprise that he is dead; his death created no blank, disturbed no equanimity, extorted no tears, arrested no festival. There Isaiah , therefore, a sense in which we should seek to prove our wisdom by the winning of souls. He who has won many souls is rich. The souls he has won will never forget him, never neglect him, will always put up the shielding hand, and offer the needful sympathy and help. Win the souls of your children; win the souls of all around you: give them to feel that you are a divinely-created centre, a high influence, a vitalising energy, a tree of life, and that your fruit is meant for the satisfaction of the world"s hunger. The tree does not publish an announcement on paper or in ink that its fruit may be plucked; the tree simply grows the fruit, and when it has ripened, by its very ruddiness it says, I am ready; put out your hands, and satisfy yourselves with this food. It is the same with the wise character. All its experience is for the use of society; all its records are open documents, to be perused by those who would know the way of understanding and the secret of wisdom and the reality of noble life. Every true man is thus a living gospel.

Christianity is a direct appeal to the soul,—to that inner spirit or organ or faculty—for we need not stop to determine names—which gives man manhood, spiritual accent, divine figure. Wherein Christianity is a religion of the body it is so secondarily; rather—for the terms admit of amendment—Christianity looks upon the whole Prayer of Manasseh , and treats him in comparative degrees, never helping the body without its intention being to go further, and in helping the soul always including the body. But it is right to define the function of Christianity as a religion that appeals to the soul, wants to get at the mind, to find its way into the heart, to sit down upon the throne of love. Christianity does not come asking us to believe certain statements only; when Christianity offers statements for belief, it is that those statements being believed should be transformed into life, character, beneficence. You would not say that a man is honest in all his actions because he believes the pence-table. It is precisely what people are saying about the religion of Jesus Christ—that a man is a Christian because he believes Christian dogmas, doctrines, or statements. You would not say that because a man believes the railway time-table therefore he often takes a journey. Yet this is precisely what men say regarding the truths of Christianity. They would describe a man as a thorough Christian because he believes a certain number of definite statements. He may intellectually believe every statement in the long enumeration, and yet know nothing about Christianity, as a man might believe the time-table and never take a journey. Christianity, therefore, wins the soul"s homage—not the assent of dry intellect, not the fascination of excited fancy, not the entrancement of a bewildered imagination, but the sacrifice of a life. It wants every man to say, Jesus Christ, Son of God, I am thine; take me, use me, keep me in thine hand, hide me in thine heart, and let me have no life but thine. Failing that, the rest is decoration, sentiment, utterance without eloquence, words without wisdom. So the position of the Church is defined. The Church does not claim to speak upon all subjects. Its supremacy is in one direction. A preacher might do very much good by discoursing upon the structure of the universe, by treating with information that is up to date questions which are troubling men"s minds in all lines of thought; but the preacher"s business is with souls, to get out of souls wrong thinking, prejudices, sophisms, follies, madnesses, of every name and mould and tone. Christ"s business was to heal the mind, to work restoration in the soul, to glorify man by a resurrection from death in trespasses and in sins. Whatever is done of another kind must be done with distinct reference to this supreme purpose; then the initial work becomes sacred, of high value, almost indispensable in a complicated social system, but the end of all must be that the soul shall be won, have rest and peace, be a child of music, an angel of light, an ally of God.

Christianity thus becomes a persuasive appeal. "We beseech men," said Paul. Who beseeches men to take gold? Who beseeches men to double all their earthly possessions? Who beseeches men to seize an immediate advantage, and to insist upon its retention, when that advantage is of a physical and ponderable kind, which can be weighed and estimated and valued in plain figures? Yet, mystery of mysteries, every man has to be reasoned with when it comes to a question of the soul"s relation to God. Why? Because of the vastness of the subject. We are not entitled always to say it is because of personal aversion to God, but because the subject itself is boundless as the firmament,—yea, where the firmament ends this subject begins, making all things little by the sublimity of its vastness: whereas, other advantages are there, just at hand, immediately realisable; the appetites are pressing for satisfaction, and there is a fountain where they may drink and be filled; and the soul thirsts with a desire which drinks up all the fountains and rivers, and burns with unquenchable ardour, until it is led to the living God, and in eternity finds the reply to the necessities of time. Christianity occupies the position of a mendicant, an appellant, a suppliant—one who goes up and down the world, saying, Believe me, receive me, give me heart room, and I will give you pardon and rest and hope. But the metaphysics are so profound, the advantages so spiritual, the competition is so tremendous, the world is so large because it is so near, the devil so mighty because so persistent, that sometimes the soul falters, hesitates, balances itself, withdraws, returns, and spends a life of peril, now almost in hell, now almost in heaven. There is no driving in Christianity. Therefore there should be no attempt to drive any Christian to church or to preaching; everything should be winsome, persuasive, attractive, alluring. This is the very genius of the gospel, because it is the very spirit of Christ.

This attempt to win souls, on the part of Christianity, is a philosophical attempt. Christianity is adapted to human constitution, mental and moral. He who invented Christianity, whoever he was, had laid a line upon the human mind, and had plumbed the depths of the human heart, and had noted all the outgoing and issue of human imagination. So much is this the case, and so truly and so really, as to resent the idea that Christianity had any builder or maker but God. Only he who made the human heart knows how to satisfy the human heart. That nothing can satisfy the human heart but the living God, in some form, is a proof that man was made in the image and likeness of God. Do not scorn the idolatry of heathen minds; do not pour contempt upon the superstitions of those who have never heard of the Son of God: rather ought they all to be accepted as points to begin at, as so many assumptions; yea, they may be regarded as so many solid bases on which to proceed, and sometimes the foundation has to be taken out after the building is up. Herein is a mystery, or would be but for what we know of practical life. We have seen one foundation taken away, and another put in its place. In the education of minds that have no Christian advantages you must begin where they can begin, and after long processes return to initial points, and work the miracles of Christ. The education of the world is the largest of all questions, and every element may be needed, and judgment should be suspended until the last element has been introduced and the top-stone has been put on. By this standard we would have our Christianity judged.

Christianity is philosophical in that it is also progressive. The education of the Christian never stops When a man says his Christian education is finished you may be perfectly sure it has never begun. Said Paul, "I count not myself to have apprehended." The horizon is always a million miles further on. When I reached the mountain I thought I should lay my hand upon the limit of the sky, and behold the mountain-top only helped me to see how much larger the sky was than I had ever imagined. So when we advance from one Christian stage to another it is to see that the horizon yet lies beyond. This should humble the soul in the very act of inspiring it. This, too, should make men modest in all acts of judgment; for we are not all upon a level, nor have we all attained the same points. There is no monotony in our Christian attitude in relation to God. The strong are far beyond us; we are little and faint, yet we are pursuing, and the voices of the great strong climbers come down the hill, saying, Struggle on; be not weary in well-doing; it is very difficult where you are now, but take hold of that projection, look at yonder point, halt a little to get your breath again, and then follow on; up here it burns with ineffable beauty, and every spot of land is a flower; we cannot see the mountain because of the Paradise. A soul is won when it repents. A soul is won when it says, "Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief." A soul is won when it says, "Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee."

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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Proverbs 11:30". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https: 1885-95.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, August 10th, 2020
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19
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