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THE MARKS OF CONVERSION.
It is only intended in this chapter, very briefly to state the principal marks which indicate the reality of conversion. Those which we shall name, may not all appear at once. The reader is, therefore, cautioned not to be discouraged if he cannot find every mark in the early stage of his experience. They may all appear in due course. Let him observe, that there are some signs which will speedily become apparent, when the Spirit of God has commenced his work in the soul. Other signs may exist in principle, but it may require time to call them into exercise, and to bring them to that strength and maturity which can alone make their existence obvious and satisfactory. A seed, as soon as its first germ appears, proves its vitality, and begins to show its own peculiar properties, just as certainly as when it has reached its perfection. Some of its peculiar properties appear immediately; all the others are there vitally and in embryo, and, in due time, the entire development of all the essential properties of the plant will take place. The same is true' of human nature. It would be impossible to discover, and absurd to seek, all the properties of the perfect man in the new-born babe; yel they are there, and will display themselves in the order of nature. We make these remarks to guard those who, in the commencement of the work of grace in the soul, are anxious to perceive evidences of conversion, against being discouraged if they cannot discover at once all the signs that may be here named, or which they may find de
tailed in treatises written expressly upon the evidences of a state of grace.
1. Perhaps the first symptom of which the converted become conscious, is a change of their feelings in reference to sin, the pleasures of the world, and the chief objects of their former pursuit and delight. These cease to please. The soul that is converted receives a new nature, to which sin is offensive, and the very thought of it alarming. The change which a converted sinner has experienced, consists essentially in a turning of the thoughts and affections, the will and the conscience, to God's commands; and by the light and authority of these he is made sensible to the great evil, great guilt and great misery of all sin. He ceases to make provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof; and though he may feel the law of his flesh warring against the new law of his mind, yet the very existence of that war shows that a divine principle, counteractive of sin, has entered and is in active operation among the powers of his soul. This is a sign which, if calmly considered, can hardly be mistaken. A nature that delights in sin cannot be confounded with one that hates it, feels contaminated by its approach and pained by its touch. The nature that takes no delight in holiness, and feels no anxiety to become holy and to please God, is directly opposed to that which views sin as the cause of all its misery, and purity as essential to peace and salvation. Hence, if a man is converted, he begins immediately to mortify the flesh with its affections and lusts; to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world. There is to him a force and meaning which he never perceived before, in such passages of Holy Scripture as the following: “Now
being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life."*
“I delight in the law of God after the inward man.”+ 6 • How shall
we, that dead to sin, live any longer therein ?"} 6 Follow holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”'S The true convert not only must not be, but he will not be, disinclined to forsake even his easily besetting sin, and to strive after that purity of heart which will identify him with a holy God and a holy Saviour. Say, then, reader, whether you are brought to that state of mind, that you can cheerfully renounce all that is pronounced evil by the word of God, and follow after that purity of heart and life which is pronounced blessed ?|| If you find, after careful examination, that you can do this, then you have one important mark of conversion, which, with others, may
determine the fact; but if this be wanting, if sin be still your element and holiness undesirable, be sure, whatever your convictions and alarms, that you have not yet experienced true conversion.
2. Conversion cannot have taken place, unless you have been humbled as a sinner under the sentence of God's holy law; so humbled, and so convinced, as to acknowledge before God the justice of the sentence that condemns the sinner to everlasting punishment. It is possible, indeed, that one who has not experienced conversion, may be convinced of his guilt, and may acknowledge the justice of his sentence; but, in such a case, there will be no turning of the heart to Him that smiteth, no godly sorrow, or sorrow that draws the heart to Him against whom sin has been committed,
* Rom. vi. 22. + Rom. vii. 22. * Rom. vi. 2 $ Heb. xii. 14.
| Matt. v. 8.
who has the power and the right to punish, but who is willing to pardon. Examine your own heart upon
this matter, and ask yourself such questions as these : Have I been led to see the deep and universal depravity of my nature ? Am I convinced that a righteous God might justly mark my iniquities, and proceed to execute against me the dreadful sentence I have incurred, the sentence of everlasting exclusion from his presence, and banishment to that place where despair and torment must forever reign? Have I, under the influence of these convictions, humbled myself before God, and said, with the apostle, “The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. But I am carnal, sold under sin."* Since then, I deserve nothing but justice, and by my sins have forfeited every thing good, have I thus come to God, to seek all through his infinite forbearance
? Have I told him my convictions, spread my deplorable case before him, and said, Lord, save, or I perish?
3. Another important sign of conversion will appear in the state of your affections towards the Saviour. Are you drawn to him as the one Mediator between God and man, the only Redeemer of the soul, whose blood has been received as an atonement for sin, and whose righteousness is to all and upon all those who come unto God by him? Do you view him as the way, the truth, and the life, without whom no man cometh unto the Father?t Are you led to place all your hope, and repose all your confidence, in his perfect atonement, his prevailing intercession, his justifying righteousness? Are you looking to him as the divine source of gracious influence, from whose fulness alone you can receive pardon, jus* Romans vii. 12, 14.
t John xiv. 6.
tification and sanctification? Forsaking all other, and renouncing all confidence in your own resolution, obedience, or righteousness, are you willing, yea, anxious, to receive, as he is ready to confer, all the blessings of salvation and grace now, and of glory hereafter? Do you not only entertain these sentiments, but are your affections warmed with a sense of his excellence, and your heart melted by the contemplation of his dying love? Do you delight, and feel strengthened by looking to Jesus, in the divinity of his nature, the greatness of his condescension, the tenderness of his compassion to the chief of sinners? The soul that has felt his converting grace, has especially felt it in the view of Calvary; and, indeed, can never revert to that scene of the Saviour's suffer. ing, without a mingled emotion of grief and joy : grief, that it should be necessary that Christ should endure such suffering; and joy, that he was willing thus to redeem a lost world. If your affections are right toward Christ Jesus, you will value him above all earthly treasure, and desire a sense of his love before every human joy. He will be the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely. You will desire nothing so much as to “ win Christ, and be found in him."*
You will love his bright example, as well as the unspeakable blessing of redemption ; and you will set him before your soul as the pattern of that humility, purity, separation from sin, and devotedness to the glory of God, which you will both earnestly desire and sincerely strive to attain. To do to others, in some measure, as he has done to you, will be your aim and your delight.
4. The true convert takes pleasure in all God's commandments. If they are hateful or grievous
† Phil. iii. 8,9.