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salvation. Friends are anxious for you, and are writing and talking to you about your soul's concerns. The church of God is anxious for you, and is interceding for you with the God of all grace;—and you, you only, are without anxiety. Is not this surprising and affecting, that you alone should be indifferent to your salvation; that you should remain torpid and careless at the centre of this universal and deep solicitude.
Your very want of solicitude should be a cause of anxiety to you. You must be convinced that there is ground for it. You cannot be so utterly ignorant of the nature, importance, and claims of religion, as not to know that there is much in it both calculated and designed to produce a serious thoughtfulness. There have been moments, one would think, when the subject would force itself upon your attention, as one pre-eminently deserving the consideration of a rational and immortal creature; when, by some alarming sermon, or by some impressive event, or by some faithful warning, it would speak to you as a messenger from heaven, and with the voice of God; when an incipient pensiveness was stealing over the soul, and filling the whole field of vision with the realities of eternity. But your earthly-mindedness soon suppressed all this; the transient thoughtfulness suhsided, and the current of your volatility, arrested for a short season, flowed onward in its course with its usual impetuosity, and you are now as far from any thing serious as ever. Astounding spectacle! A rational creature, anxious about a thousand things, yet not anxious about the soul! Agitated, perplexed, inquisitive about little matters of a mere passing interest, which the next day will be forgotten; and yet neglecting that great subject, which swallows them all up, as the ocean does the drops of rain that fall upon it. Your health, your property, your prospects, your friends, any thing, every thing, but your soul, and your soul's salvation, seizes and carries you away! So that you see you can be serious. You cannot plead in excuse for yourself any natural inability, any paralysis of the powers of the mind, any utter incompetency for being occupied with such matters. Nor can you offer in defence of yourself the
excuse, that anxiety would be unavailing, that it would be only a useless self-torture, a tantalizing effort, that would be forever reaching after an object, which as regularly receded from you. No. You can think, and reason, and desire, and hope, in reference to religion, as in reference to any other subject; nor is there any subject in which enlightened, well-directed, persevering solicitude would be so sure of gaining its end, as in reference to this. None shall seek in vain here, who seek aright. God has pledged his promise, his oath, for the salvation of all who truly repent and believe. Where, in temporal matters, there is only hope, in spiritual ones there is absolute certainty.
And now, to bring these remarks towards a conclusion, and to make way for the author, whom they are intended to introduce, I would speak to you for a few moments on the subject of his valuable and most impressive treatise-and which is just the subject, indeed, about which it concerns you to be anxious—I mean, your conversion to God. This is the most momentous change-the greatest which man can undergo. In some respects, it is greater than that which takes place when the redeemed, emancipated spirit drops the fetters of corruption, and soars away in happy freedom from earth to heaven; for heaven is but the perfection and perpetuation of the change which is wrought in conversion. How impressively does the apostle James speak of this, where he says, “ He which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins !”* Shall save a soul from death! A dead body is a fearful object, but how much more so a dead soul ! Dead, not as to rationality, but to spirituality: dead to God, to holiness, to salvation. Perhaps you never reflected upon this. How eloquently, how impressively has it been touched upon by a great writer! “What, my brethren, if it be lawful to indulge such a thought, would be the funeral obsequies of a lost soul? Where shall we find the tears fit to be wept at such a spectacle? Or, could we realize the calamity in all its extent, what tokens of commiseration and concern would be deemed equal to the occasion ?
* James v. 20.
Would it suffice for the sun to veil his light, and the moon her brightness; to cover the ocean with mourning, and the heavens with sackcloth? Or, were the whole fabric of nature to become animated and vocal, would it be possible for her to utter a groan too deep, or a cry too piercing, to express the magnitude and extent of such a catastrophe?”.
This is not too strongly put, nor is the solemnity of the figure out of proportion to the magnitude of the awful truth to be illustrated. Now, conversion means the resurrection of the soul, instead of its continued death. It is the rising into a new, glorious, and immortal life of the moral principle, compared with which, even the resurrection of the body, when it shall forsake the darkness, decay, and imprisonment of the sepulchre, and, in obedience to the call of God, put on incorruption and immortality, is but a dim manifestation of the power and glory of the Redeemer. This is the blessed change set forth in the present volume; and it is a change which must occur in you, or the obsequies above alluded to, and not the resurrection, will take place with regard to your soul. Oh that I could excite a hope and awaken an expectation in your mind of the felicities of this new, divine, heavenly and eternal existence. Would that I could send on your attention to the following pages, with the kindling ambition to be a partaker of this sublime transformation; with something of an anticipation that you are about to hear and obey the voice which saith, " Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light."* Yes, the day. spring from on high may be about to visit the grave in which your soul lies dead in trespasses and sins. A new existence, unknown and unthought of till now, with all its energies and activities, a career of eternal holiness and happiness, may be opening before you.
What an impressive view of the consequences of conversion does the declaration of our divine Lord present to you, when he says, “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth !"+
Repentance is conversion. Now, the conversion, not merely of a nation, or a multitude, but of a single individual, is of such importance as to be known in heaven, and is a source of such joy as to fill the mansions of the blessed with new interest and fresh rapture. Your con. version would do this. Your conversion would draw upon you the congratulations of the innumerable company of angels. Think of this. It is not the joy of ministers and friends upon earth, but of the angels in heaven, who, from their position, capacity, and experience, can better appreciate the immensity of the consequences of conversion; can penetrate far deeper than saints on earth can do, into the heights, and depths, and breadths, and lengths of that eternity, which is the seal and crown of the felicity promised to every real penitent; and can more accurately comprehend “the mysterious and undefinable value of the soul, its intense susceptibility as a rational, moral, accountable substance, incapable alike of extinction or unconsciousness through infinite duration.” Surely, surely, such a consideration alone is sufficient to awaken and sustain the most intense anxiety, that you might be the subject of a change with which are connected, as an inevitable result, the joyful sympathies of the celestial hierarchy over a felicity at once immense and eternal.
Such, then, is the design of this valuable work, to ex. plain the nature, and enforce the necessity, of conversion to God. It comes with a message from God to you; and it is a messenger of mercy and not of wrath. It comes to lead you to the fountain of life, the way of salvation, the path to glory, honour and immortality. A special providence may have placed it in your hands. Receive it not with indifference, treat it not with carelessness. A seraph from the throne of the Eternal, a herald from the world of light, could not present to you a subject in which you are more deeply or more directly interested.
Read these pages with the deepest seriousness of mind. Choose a season of retirement. Command all worldly subjects away. Collect and concentrate your thoughts on that one word-CONVERSION. Read as with paradise opening above you, the bottomless pit yawning beneath you, eternity spreading out before you, and
the eye of God fixed upon you. Read with docility attention, and earnestness. Read with recollection that, after you have perused the book, you will never be again as you have been, since, if you are not converted, you will acquire new light and new responsibility, by which an unconverted state will involve a deeper guilt, and a more dreadful punishment. Read, especially, with sincere, fervent, and believing prayer for the help of God's Holy Spirit. And may the Lord render the perusal the means of your conversion!
J. A. JAMES.