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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, though the fullest confidence is 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. 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 Scriptures enforce. When once the happy change has passed, and pass it must on all who would en. joy eternal life,—the converted man feels like one translated out of darkness into murvellous light; a new world opens before him; a new object and end of life seem 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 you should answer it now, 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 conver sion Jesus Christ requires, that without which none can be saved-without which you will be CHAPTER II.
THE IMPORTANCE AND NECESSITY OF CONVERSION
1. Sın has made it necessary that, “except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."* This is revealed by Christ in the discourse with Nicodemus, as well as in numerous other places ; and it would be unnecessary to quote further evidence on what is so plainly and uniformly expressed in the New Testament. You must, therefore, realize the fact, that the nature of God makes it necessary that every sinner should undergo this change. He has declared that no sinner, in his sinful, unrenewed and unconverted state, shall see his face; and you can no more evade this law than that which says, “ All flesh shall see corruption. It is declared in that revelation which is stamped with Heaven's high authority, that a man must be converted, and become as a little child, or he cannot see God's king-, dom; that every one must repent, must believe in Christ and become a new man. Now, Jesus Christ repeated this constantly, and enforced it upon all, with his own authority and that of his Father who sent him. Throughout the whole of his preaching, this doctrine appears. He sent out his apostles and many chosen disciples to call men everywhere to receive his testimony; and they went forth, preaching to sinners that they should repent of sin and turn to Christ, as the Lamb of
God that had come to take away the sin of the world.
It is a law as certain, as infallible, as universal, as any laid upon the material universe, upon human bodies or human minds :-"Ye must be born again."* It is, moreover, a law that never has been, that never can be, dispensed with. Do you think, or can you think, that there will be any exception in your case to that law, “Except ye be converted-ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven ?”+ Can you imagine that there can exist any reason so weighty as to induce God to alter this law for your sake, and to receive you to heaven without a compliance with it? Impossi. ble! Eternally impossible! If you reflect upon the nature of God, you will perceive that his will does and must prevail. It must be supreme and final, because he is God. It cannot bend, it will not bow to yours. Yours must bow to it, whatever pain and humiliation it may cost you. It is a divine obligation laid upon you by your relation to God; and until you feel its force and necessity, you are an active and open rebel against Him. You may think it a very hard thing, but that will not alter the case; or you may think it a very light thing, and talk of it in very light terms, but this will not change your position. There is no salvation-God has said it—there can be noneChrist declares that there can be none-without conversion. You may think, as many have done, that this law does not apply to your case, because you are free from great sins, and have always endeavoured to do your duty.
2. The necessity of conversion may be stil
* John iii. 7.
† Matt. xviii. 3.
further illustrated, by a comparison of the nature of sinners and the nature of God. A sinner in his rebellious state cannot be received as an affectionate and obedient child of God. Think of it yourself. No absurdity could be greater or more glaring than to suppose the enjoyment of such a state as that of acceptance before God without conversion ; because that were to suppose a guilty, impenitent, rebellious sinner in heaven, with a nature utterly opposed to heaven and its righteous Sovereign. It were to suppose vice dwelling in the region of perfect purity; hostility to God raised to the honour of immortal fellowship with him; and deep, unsubdued, hateful depravity reaping the reward of faith and love, and in association with all that is pure, glorious and blessed. Such incongruities could not, in the nature of things, be tolerated by Him who has the power of preventing them. A sinner in an impenitent and unconverted state would but suffer torment in the presence of heavenly purity. That which most hates God, is most opposed to his nature, could find no delight in dwelling forever with him; and that which now shrinks instinctively from the sight of his eye, from the sound of his word, and the conviction of his Spirit, would quail and tremble and be full of torment, in the presence of God and his holy angels. Then, you must be converted if you desire to dwell with God; or, if you refuse to be converted, abandon altogether the hope of being saved from hell. Sin and punishment, impenitence and destruction, are united together by an eternal, infallible law, which you never can annul, never evade, never overcome ; and which God will never abrogate. Then, we say again repent and be converted, or you are lost.