« PrécédentContinuer »
there can be no evidence of conversion. This is a part of that course by which all the true sons of God are to prove the sincerity of their love. Have you such delight in God's service, that you can forego temporal interests and worldly pleasure ? Are you conscious of a real hungering for the bread and thirsting for the water of life? It is written, “ They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength."* Since God has appointed he reading and hearing of the word, prayer, praise, and Christian fellowship, therefore the soul of the convert delights in them. But there is an essential difference between doing all these things mechanically, slavishly, and formally, for the mere sake of recommending ourselves, or meriting the divine favour; and doing them from a sense of love and of gratitude, of pleasure and privilege. A formalist may very zealously strive to keep God's commands; but he knows nothing of the spirit of love, of liberty, and of adoption. The real servant feels Christ's yoke to be easy and his burden light. It is his meat and drink to do the will of God. But he who has not given his heart to God, may serve him only from slavish fear. The force of this criterion depends, therefore, upon the true spirit of love, from which alone God can be acceptably served and honoured. All other service is worthless, and can never attest a state of conversion.t
5. It is stated by the apostle Paul, “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”I His working, though not palpable to any of our bodily senses, is not imperceptible by the mind. The love which he produces to God and Christ; the sense of insufficiency for any good works in ourselves; the conscious depend* ísa. xl. 31. + Ps. cxix. 97, 103, 165. * Rom. viii. 14
ence of the soul upon the Redeemer's grace; the spirit of supplication, and the spirit of filial affection felt in supplication; the earnest longings of the soul after spiritual things, and after the graces of the Spirit in particular; the drawing of the heart to the divine word, and to the ordinances of religion, the house, the people, and the service of God, when these are not for ostentation, nor for the gratification of a self-righteous spirit, but for the honouring of God, and the attainment of his blessing; will all contribute to testify, that you are “led of the Spirit,” and not led to "fulfil the works of the flesh.” If, in your thoughts in secret, and in seasons of devotion, you are deeply conscious of the presence of God's Spirit, and of his intimate acquaintance with your heart; if you earnestly desire and entreat him to make you his temple, and to dwell in you forever; if you honour him, love him, wrestle in prayer for his influence, and yield yourself to his motions, which are all pure and heavenly, and may be discriminated by these characters; then you may confidently hope that he has undertaken the regeneration of your soul; and because you are led by him, you may
humbly conclude that you are among the sons of God. But attribute none of your affections or inclinations to him, except such as lead practically to holiness, to faith in Christ, love to God, and an increase of those fruits of the Spirit mentioned in Gal. v. 22—26, as marking those that belong to Christ. Consider all these points calmly and candidly. Do not rashly or hastily conclude that you possess these signs; and do not deny or disparage them if they really appear. Better were it, how
should entertain doubts of your conversion, than presume upon evidences that are not practically exhibited, or suppose signs which do
not exist. The doubt might keep you in suspense and pain;
might prevent you from honouring the Spirit of God for what he has done in you; but the presumption that should take for granted an affection that never really existed in the soul, would betray you into a false hope, and make you satisfied with an imaginary state, which, after all, might prove one of unregeneracy and impenitence.
6. A state of conversion may be further evidenced by your correct apprehension of the nature of Christ's salvation, connected with your cordial reception of it, unaltered, undiminished and unadulterated. Is the fervent, fixed desire of your heart directed towards this particular salvation which
you find described in the word of God! I lay stress upon this particular salvation, and upon the reception of it entirely and cordially, because it is no certain sign simply to desire salvation. Most persons will say they desire to go to heaven, and to be saved from the consequence of sin ; but, at the same time, a large number of such have no adequate or scriptural conception of the salvation provided in the gospel. Thousands would be glad to be saved from the fear of hell, who have no wish to be made new creatures, to be delivered from the love of the world, the dominion of sin, and made meet for heaven by being made holy. A just apprehension of the salvation Christ has wrought out for us, and of the salvation he works in us, is essential to its right reception. Christ saves none from the guilt of sin, who are not saved from the power of sin. If, therefore, the gospel be rightly understood by you, and if, seeing it in its own light, it appears to you precisely such as you need, and such as you can, not only without hesitation, but with fervent gratitude and love,
assent to, accept and embrace; if you can give yourself up to it, to be guided, governed, and iransformed by it, that thereby you may become meet for the inheritance of the saints in light; then may you hope that “flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee,” but your “ Father which is in heaven.'
7. If you have experienced conversion, then, you have undergone, and will be able to trace, a great change in your motives, and in the ends and aims of your actions. The carnal mind is enmity against God. It is not subject to the law of God. All its motives are either derived from worldly interests, or are self-righteous. An unconverted man may do some actions externally good, and practise some self-denial; but it is to place these as a counterbalance to sin, or as a price for future felicity. The high and pure motive of love to holiness because it is agreeable to the will of God; the hatred of sin because He hates it, and because it is in itself degrading and destructive; the commanding impulse to live to the glory of God, and to identify ourselves with his righteous cause, against sin, and Satan, and the world; all these are introduced into the heart of a sinner by the grace of God, and, wherever they appear, are signs of conversion. “Ye are bought with a price : therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.” The soul that is truly converted is quickened to a sense of this commanding obligation. It is no burden or task to submit to it and carry it out in practice, but a real plea“Ye were the servants of sin, but
have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.” “ None of us" (that is, no Christian) “ liveth to himself, and no man dieth to
* Mall. xvi. 17. ti Cor. vi. 20. * Rom. vi. 17
himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord : whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.'
It must be felt by us, that Jesus Christ has a just and a first claim; and if that be not inwardly and deeply recognised, then there must be some other object that is first and supreme—that is the idol of our heart; and while that is worshipped, the love of Christ is not in us.
It may be proper to observe, in concluding this part of the work, that several other marks of conversion might have been named, which may, however, be understood as included in some of those that have been noticed. We have studied brevity, because our limits would not allow us to go more fully into the subject. At the same time we wish to admonish the reader, that his anxiety, in the first instance, should rather be directed to conversion itself than to its proper signs. The work, as a whole, is written for the uncon. verted; and though this chapter may more immediately concern the converted, and minister to their consolation and encouragement, yet the discovery which others may make, that they possess none of these marks, may, by the divine blessing, render this chapter equally serviceable to them, by convincing them that they are yet in an unconverted state, and urgently need that very conversion which the work, at large, is intended to explain and enforce. This chapter, therefore, is designed for both classes of readers, and happy will the writer be if they should derive benefit from the perusal.
* Rom. xiv. 7, 8.