Robert Annan was an evangelist who roamed the streets of Dundee in Scotland back in 1834-1867. He was converted from a life of drunkenness and complete debauchery. He became the Lord’s and was used very much in winning many souls to Christ as result of his street preaching and personal ministry to poor lost souls. He wrote this letter to a Minister who needed correction for his unfaithfulness in the service of men’s souls.
Dear Friend in Jesus,
I hope you will not be offended at me for writing you this note. Every since I left — I have been troubled about you and the people over whom God has made you overseer, as I do think few of them have tasted that the Lord is gracious. You may think otherwise; but dear friend, before God I would say, “You will have to preach the gospel more faithfully.” I do think you flatter your people. I have heard you say. “If there are any unconverted ones here,” as if your people were all true Christians; whereas, had you said, “If there are any Christians here,” it would have been a great deal nearer the mark. I know the people, and few of them can give a practical reason of their hope for eternity, although they can give you the theory of it. For instance, there is John — and his wife, and —, and your Deacon —, and old —, and Mrs C —, who is hardening her neck, and many more whom I know.
I have read the works of those men who have been most used of God in the salvation of souls, and I cannot find an “if” in their sermons where you put it. I heard a man of God, much blessed in the awakening of sinners, say, “I am determined, God helping me, that no unworthy communicant shall sit down at the Lord’s table here, unless they are amongst those who would, if possible, deceive the very elect” – very black hypocrites these.
Dr John Love of Glasgow points out the error of Ministers that I speak of. You will find no such way of speaking in McCheyne’s sermons. Whitfield, Wesley, Bunyan, Baxter and many living preachers, owned of God above others, never preached as if the people were all converted. I do hope you will clear yourself of the blood of souls, and make a distinction between the clean and the unclean, as God has done by the Apostles and Prophets. It is fearful to think that sinners are flattered into hell by their Ministers. God help you to clear yourself of that great sin. Oh to realise more and more the dreadful eternity to which sinners are going! Friend, friend, I ask you to think of your poor flock, lest some of them should rise and curse your ministry on the great day. Get your soul filled with compassion for sinners. Get your own soul steeped in the love of God, and get the burden of other souls laid upon you, and I am sure you won’t flatter sinners as I have heard you do. Read Jeremiah 6:14; Isaiah 22:4; 56:10-11; Galatians 4:19; Acts 20:31. Faithful preaching would empty your church of Pharisees but would fill it with living Christians. May God greatly bless yu.
I am yours in Jesus,
“My dear Christian friends, do not be afraid to graciously write in these terms to Ministers whom you know to be being unfaithful in their oversight of the perishing souls of men” (The Street Preacher).