However, if you are an elder in a church, this book will challenge you.
In summary, Bonar, relying heavily upon Baxter, writes about the urgency the church leader must have in their life, teaching, and ministry. He continues by stressing how important it is to not be worldly therefore: "Oh, how much depends on the holiness of our life, the consistency of our character, the heavenliness of our walk and conservation!...We must either repel or attract--save or ruin souls! And he then shows that the person who walks with God is not only the worlds light of truth, but the worlds fountain, pointing them to Christ. One of my favorite parts of the book was when he was describing how the preachers preached during the plagues in Europe. Should there ever be less fervor in preaching or less eagerness in hearing than there was then?" He then gives my favorite line of the book: "True, life was a little shorter then, but that was all" (56). Sure, during these plagues, life was shorter. More could be said, but I will read the book over and over again as a spiritual refreshment and reorientation for my soul--toward the lost, toward those in the flock, toward prayer, and toward Bible reading. A summary urgent call can be from page 53-54: "Many days may yet be, in the providence of God, before us.
It is one thing to read a Calvinist lambasting anxious people and blaming them for a lack of faith--that just comes off as unseemly bullying--but when a Calvinist hellfire and damnation speaker as this author certainly was comes out and hammers less passionate Calvinist ministers as a whole for lacking a commitment to win souls for Christ and set a godly example, that is the sort of condemnation I can easily get behind. Lest my ministerial friends and acquaintances view this as evidence of some sort of hostility to the ministry, this book qualifies as the sort of soul-searching call for repentance that is meant for an insider audience and that ought to apply to everyone (lay people like myself included) who speak from the pulpit on matters of faith. After this comes what I think is the most worthwhile part of this message, the author's excoriation of the past defects of the ministry in being cold and focused too much on their own wealth and prestige rather than the serious task of preaching the gospel and preparing God's people (3). Throughout the author is more interested it seems in quoting and referring to other Calvinist divines or historical clergy than talking about the Bible, but given the focus of this book on the ministry it makes sense that ministers should be the main examples for better and for worse--Ussher of the biblical chronology debates comes off particularly well in the author's estimation.
"How MUCH MORE would a few good and fervent men effect in the ministry than a multitude of lukewarm ones!" So begins Horatius Bonar's little, (maybe even tiny), book "Words to the Winners of Souls." And it doesn't get any easier to digest from there. (I fear I am!) Bonar believes that "Rash preaching disgusts, timid preaching leaves poor souls fast asleep, but bold preaching is the only preaching owned by God." May God grant to His church bold preachers who, "however learned and able, should yet be more distinguished by their spirituality, zeal, faith and love." What a remarkably humbling and yet motivating little book.
Bonar first calls for ministers to focus on their one object: to win souls. 10) For Bonar, rising early is focused on prayer, contra most of our contemporary culture which focuses on bible reading. The minister must focus on his own soul and must walk with God. Bonar also calls out the laziness of the minister's in his day (which also calls out our ministers today). He pushes for all ministers to set their hearts on winning lost souls.
It is so terribly convicting in the very best ways.
One of eleven children, his brothers John James and Andrew Alexander were also ministers of the Free Church of Scotland. Bonar's wife, Jane, died in 1876.