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are divine and spiritual. It begins in the heart and mind, in serious and sorrowful reflection upon our sinful state, as destitute of the supreme love of God, alienated in desire and in practice from his holiness, with the heart devoted to sin or worldly trifles, and in consequence under Divine displeasure, and condemned by the terms of God's perfect law. When such convictions are deeply lodged in the mind by the Spirit of God, it is made anxious for the pardon of sin, and it searches the Scriptures with this view. Then Christ appears as the one Mediator, the one Sacrifice, through which "whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life," John iii. 16. Conversion is effected when, on account of the burden of our sins, we feel our need of Him, and, through his grace given unto us, we believe the precious promise, which says, "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Rom. x. 13; and, "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely," Rev. xxii. 17. Man by nature loves sin in some of its degrees and forms, or so loves and pursues innocent and lawful things as to exclude the supreme love of God. But, in conversion, he turns with disgust from all direct iniquity, and looks with comparative indifference upon natural joys, under the sense of possessing in the promise of the gospel a far higher good. Hence the Scripture represents conversion as a new birth, a new life, a new nature, a new creation, effected by the Spirit of God. "Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new," 2 Cor. v. 17.
We must observe again; conversion does not consist in a mere feeling of alarm, nor of hope; it is not mere conviction of sin, nor mere knowledge
of the gospel. Neither is it a mere desire to be converted but it is a real, conscious turning unto God; a clear, and decided, and entire belief of his testimony, accompanied, as all sincere belief must be, with a permanent change of heart. The sinner, if converted, perceives that he is a lost and helpless rebel against God; that his guilt requires pardon, his pollution needs cleansing. He becomes sensible that he is dead in sins, and needs quickening grace; he even then feels that grace effectually working in his heart. In fact, conversion expresses the entire change which a vivid and practical belief of the gospel produces in the soul.
But, perhaps, you have not a clear notion of what the Scripture requires, when it demands faith in Christ for salvation, saying, "Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed," Rom. ix. 33. What is it then to believe? The idea conveyed by that term requires only to be presented in its proper simplicity. Persons have very vague, confused, and mystified notions of believing. Yet the term is one of the plainest that can be used. We all know perfectly well what it signifies when it is used in common life. Its meaning is the same when it is used in religion. It does not express any act of the mind different from that which is intended when we fully confide in the testimony of a fellow creature of known and tried veracity. It is the confidence the mind places in the truth of the words spoken, whether those words convey a statement of some past fact, or a promise of something to be done. If a friend, of whose veracity you not only have no reason to entertain a doubt, but of whose integrity you have proof sufficient to warrant an unwavering confidence, imparts any piece of intelligence, and says
he knows its certainty, and can vouch for its accuracy, you feel then warranted in placing entire reliance upon his word; and if it is a matter that requires you to act, you do not hesitate to give practical proof of your faith in the word of your friend. And yet in all such cases there is a possibility that this friend may deceive you; he may be deceived himself. There is a possibility, and however bare that possibility, yet the admission of it is all that I require for my present purpose.
Suppose a friend to proceed beyond the mere announcement of some fact, and make us a promise of some future, important benefit he means to confer; we should then admit some other considerations before we entirely confided in his promise. For instance, we should inquire, Is he a man of benevolence? Has he any particular friendship for us? Is he in the habit of performing generous actions? Can he fulfil this promise without serious sacrifice or loss? If we found every inquiry of this kind could be satisfactorily answered, we should then have valid ground for believing his promise, and we should feel no hesitation in anticipating its fulfilment. We should be especially encouraged in such an anticipation, if we knew that he was in the habit of conferring such favours. In proportion to the magnitude of the promise, would be our anxiety to weigh well every consideration that could contribute to the ascertainment of his sincerity, ability, veracity, benevolent habits, and such like. But if all these points are satisfactorily settled, then we should fully anticipate, at the appointed time, the fulfilment of the promise. Now, this is faith. This is just that exercise of mind that God requires towards himself and his promises. There are, however, some
important observations which must not be overlooked. Faith in God derives all its virtue and efficacy from that which is believed. It is the faithfulness of God that makes a true faith in him so important, so precious, so efficient. There are certain contingencies and possibilities which, after all, must be admitted to attach to the promises of a fellow mortal, as in the case lately supposed. For instance, that person may, after all, fail us, and after the fullest confidence reposed in his word, we may never receive what he has promised. He may change his mind; he may die before the time appointed arrives; he may lose his property, and not be able to fulfil his word; we may offend him in the interval: and therefore we never can be quite sure of receiving the desired good. Hence, faith in man, in the best, in the sincerest, in the most trustworthy, must always be qualified, and exercised with certain limitations. We never can be infallibly sure that we shall not be disappointed. But none of these contingencies apply to the faith of a sinner in God. He will never retract his promise, can never alter his word, will never lose his ability, will never reject a believing sinner. Hence the power of that faith in him to save the soul. When we thus believe in God, it is his word received into the soul which converts it, that is, brings it to confide, to hope, to rejoice, to obey. Thus faith is the cardinal virtue of the Christian, the root and stem of all graces; and till we believe, we are not converted: as soon as we do believe according to his word, we are converted. Hence the grace and promise of the gospel must be known and understood before they can be cordially believed. This is the kind of conversion which the Scripture enforces. When once the happy change
has passed, and pass it must on all who would enjoy eternal life, the converted man feels like one translated out of darkness into marvellous light; a new world opens before him; a new object and end of life seems to have taken possession of him; a new and opposite direction is given to the energies of his soul; and now all his desire, all his anxiety seems to be after that salvation, which before he neither sought, nor apprehended, nor valued.
Reader, if the foregoing brief sketch of true conversion be scriptural, if it approve itself to your conscience as borne out and sustained by the requirements of the Divine word, if you know it to be that very conversion without which no man shall see the kingdom of God, then it is for you to judge whether or not you have thus been converted. It is the earnest desire of the writer that you should feel constrained to answer this question, and that should answer it now, you calmly and solemnly, as before your own conscience, and in the sight of that God who seeth in secret, and who will judge you at the last day. Let me entreat you to answer this question now, remembering that this is conversion, the conversion Jesus Christ requires, that without which none can be saved, and without which you will be lost.