Fields plowed and sown, yet yielding no fruit! Machinery constantly in motion, yet all without one particle of produce! Nets cast into the sea, and spread wide, yet no fishes inclosed! All this for years—for a lifetime! How strange! Yet it is true.  There is neither fancy nor exaggeration in the matter.  Question some ministers, and what other account can they give? They can tell you of sermons preached, but of sermons blessed they can say nothing. 

They can speak of discourses that were admired and praised, but of discourses that have been made effectual by the Holy Spirit they can not speak.  They can tell you how many have been baptized, how many communicants admittied; but of souls awakened, converted, ripening in grace, they can give no account. They can enumerate the sacraments they have dispensed; but as to whether any of them have been “times of refreshing” or times of awakening, they can not say. 

They can tell you what and how many cases of discipline have passed through their hands; but whether any of these have issued in godly sorrow for sin, whether the professed penitents who were absolved by them gave evidence of being “washed and sanctified and justified,” they can give no information; they never thought of such an issue!

They can tell what is the attendance at Sunday school, and what are the abilities of the teacher; but how many of these precious little ones whom they have vowed to feed are seeking the Lord they know not; or whether their teacher be a man of prayer and piety they can not say.  Perhaps they would deem it rashness and presumption, if not fanaticism, to inquire.  And yet they have sworn, before men and angels, to watch for their souls as they that must give account!

But oh, of what use are sermons, sacraments, schools if souls are left to perish; if living religion be lost sight of; if the Holy Spirit be not sought; if men are left to grow up and die unpitied, unprayed for, unwarned!

Horatius Bonar