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through whatever trials or sacrifices a practical faith may involve; and if you have not that measure of faith that enables you so to trust him with the issue of any temporal risk, how can you infer that you
have that faith which is to trust him with the eternal interest of your soul? How can you trust that his atoning blood can save you from the denunciations of the divine law,
you cannot believe that his divine power can bring you through any of the adversities of this present life, which you may incur by a faithful adherence to his cause and a full profession of his name? Apply to him now at once for grace to pardon your sins, to enable you to show your faith by your obedience, and make you and keep you « faithful unto death,” that you may receive “a crown of life.”*
THERE is, undoubtedly, a large class of persons included among the general professors of Christianity, who are mistaken in their views of conversion. Most of these have been brought up from their infancy under some sort of religious instruction, and have been habituated to attend upon its ordinances. They profess what may be denominated an educational, or historical faith. They admire Christianity as a very pure and benevolent religion, undoubtedly the best in the world; but as to any change of heart under its
* Rev. ii. 10.
influence, or any spiritual experience of its renovating power, they deem it fanaticism.
1. Some of these consider that conversion means nothing more than simply giving their assent to Christianity, or perceiving that the gospel attests itself to be a divine religion. If they show it a decent external respect and submission, have been baptized into the name of Christ, and edu cated in a belief of his religion, they conceive tha there is not any other kind of conversion which can be required of them. They would restrict the use of the term conversion to those who, having previously been heathens, embrace the religion of the gospel; or to such as had been infidels, or grossly vicious characters, and have renounced their evil courses.
In these instances, they would admit that there is something which amounts to an entire change, and would, therefore, account very properly for the use of the word conversion in reference to them. But, as to themselves, they cannot perceive any propriety in requiring conversion, or in enforcing it as essential to their salvation.
Yet, surely, if the words of Christ are correct, these persons are fearfully mistaken. For nothing can be more certain and clear from Scripture than that Jesus Christ and his apostles urged the ne cessity of conversion upon many individuals who were of fair religious reputation, and even esteem. ed among the most devout, so far as an outward observance of forms and ceremonies can go, but who gave no evidence of a change of heart. He said to the Jews, who were firm believers in the authority of revelation, and to his own disciples, “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be sonverted, and become as little children, ye shall nol
enter into the kingdom of heaven."* Concerning the great body of professing persons in that day, God had before testified by the prophet Isaiah, that though they frequented his courts, and admitted his authority over them, yet they drew near to him with their mouths, and with their lips did honour him, while they had removed their hearts far from him ; therefore he denounced all their services as vain and unacceptable, and their persons as abominable in his sight. Hence, too, in calling their attention to that kingdom of \Christ which was to be established among them, he expressly enforced upon them a change of heart. “I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.” The whole of our Saviour's ministry among them proceeded upon this important principle, that mere forms and privileges, profession and ordinances, did neither constitute nor evince that kind of piety which he required, and for the promotion of which he enforced the doctrine of conversion.
It was manifest in the treatment he himself received from them, that, notwithstanding all their rigid observance of the law of Moses, and all their glorying in the only religion revealed from heaven they had not the love of God in them, and, con sequently, no sound claim to the character of true and spiritual believers. Their rejection of Christ, and especially the cruel and impious manner of that rejection, both show, that, with all their pretensions to godliness, they were utterly mistaken, and stood in need of an entire change of heart. The case of Paul before conversion was precisely that of a person firmly believing in the authority
* Matt. xviii. 3. + Isa. xxix. 13. # Ezek. xxxvi. 26.
of revelation, zealous for the religious law of his fathers, and strictly conformed to the ceremonies of his religion, and that a divine one; and yet he was undoubtedly an unconverted, unregenerated man. Now, this case seems to make it certain, that the mere profession of Judaism was not true piety, nor a state of conversion; and that it is, therefore, just as possible for a professed Christian o be in an unconverted ståte as for a professed Jew; since both these forms of religion may be externally professed by those whose hearts have never experienced a change from the love of sin :o the love of the divine law, or from the love of the world to the love of God.
2. There is another class of the mistaken, who are equally in danger of missing a sound conversion. They are those who admit that conversion is required, and that it is essentially a change of heart; but they conclude that it has passed upon themselves, simply because they have been the subjects of occasional and partial convictions, oi even of strong ones; or, because they are still frequently agitated in a powerful manner under the preaching of the word. They have heard that a great change is included in conversion; that it is often accompanied with strong excitement and deep inward convictions of sin. They have had some such impressions wrought upon their minds, and, without looking further into the subject, they have hastily inferred that they are converted. But how superficial and inadequate their views are, may be evinced by the fact, that they have not become new creatures in Christ Jesus; and by observing what is said in Scripture concerning a class who “receive the word with joy,'
* Luke viii. 13.
yet have no root in themselves; also by the case of Felix, who trembled while the apostle Paul reasoned of temperance, righteousness, and judge ment to come ;* as well as by many, both in the days of Christ and his apostles, who assented to the truth as preached, and even felt it to a certain degree in their hearts, yet, subsequently, lost their convictions and became increasingly hardened in their sinful state. So that it is clear they never experienced true and thorough conversion, though they were the subjects of temporary awakenings and convictions.
Let not the reader, therefore, suppose he has undergone the essential change for which we plead, unless he can show before the heart-searching God that he is a new creature, the opposite of what he was when sin had the dominion over him. For it is certain, whatever degree of excitement he has felt, or whatever temporary concern for the forgiveness of his sins, or whatever resolutions he may have formed to amend his life, if he is not really acting by faith, and living by faith, under the commanding influence of love to God through Christ, he is yet an unconverted person, and, as such, under all the condemnation in which the un pardoned and the guilty are involved. It behoves him to look upon all he has taken for conversion as mere alarm, or excitement of natural feeling; and however much he may think it resembles the experience of the converted and the true believer, he may rely upon it there is as essential a difference as between a shadow and a substance, a painted fire and a real one. He has yet to learn what that conversion is, without which he can possess no scriptural hope of heaven.
* Acts xxiv. 25.