« PrécédentContinuer »
change, are very apt to view it as something so difficult as to be next to impossible. Their ignorance of its nature, and their entire inattention to what the New Testament teaches upon the subject, may explain how it is that they deem it impossible. As soon as they begin to think, their difficulties and discouragements seem to multiply and strengthen, till sometimes they feel disposed to abandon all hope of ever undergoing it. Perhaps they have heard the subject described as involving mystery, or in terms which appeared to them unintelligible.
It is, therefore, highly desirable that you should feel convinced that there is nothing in the nature of conversion to render it impossible in your case.
1. You are fully capable, as far as your natural powers are concerned, of understanding all the doctrines and facts of the gospel, which are made the means of producing a change. So that you can plead no natural incapacity for understanding “the truth as it is in Jesus." You can understand what it is to be a sinner in the sight of God, to be under the curse of his law, to be in danger of eternal punishment. You can understand what is meant by Christ's atonement for sin ; what, by a gracious forgiveness, a full pardon, and a promise of eternal life. You can, further, understand what is meant by an entire change of character. In so far as these things can be expressed by words, you can understand them, though to feel them may require a more intimate and perfect knowledge. Yet, in this respect, these subjects stand in no worse situation than any other matters of experience. We can understand by words and sentences what it is to think, to move, to live, to reason, to be pained, and to be pleased; though
the actual experience of the things expressed by these terms gives us a more clear and complete conception of them. Hence, you ought to be impressed with the conviction, that there is nothing impossible, especially if you will pay adequate attention, in your apprehending those great truths of the gospel which must be received before conversion can be effected. It is not intended here to intimate that there are no difficulties in the way both of your apprehending and feeling these subjects; but, simply, that there is no impossibility. You may not only understand them all, and perceive their authority and intimate connection, but, by the blessing of God, which you may expect, and are encouraged to ask, you may also feel them in all their force. You can imagine no insurmountable obstacle in this quarter; for the truths in question are so simple and plain, that the humblest capacity may apprehend them: they are so plain, that even a child may understand them; and it is quite certain that many children, and persons of very inferior capacity, have understood them.
2. I observe, your heart, though sinful, is yet as susceptible of that change, called conversion, as the hearts of others who have experienced it. You possess
that very nature for which the means of conversion are provided. You can think, and reason, and are susceptible of hope and fear. You, probably, feel that you possess a heart that needs conversion ; for you can hardly deem it fit in its present state to be admitted into God's immediate presence. And you have, doubtless, seen or known some who have undergone this change. You knew them before their conversion, and you have seen them since, and have perceived a great alteration. Even if you have not approved of it,
you must have observed it. Then consider this fact: before their conversion they were just in the same state as you now are ; that is, they had not been quickened to a due sense of their sinfulness, but they are now quickened; they had not felt the fearful consequence of dying in impenitency, but they were made to feel it: they had no aspirations of heart after the holiness of the Christian charac ter, or happiness of the Christian hope ; but they have cherished these aspirations, and do now feel them as living principles in their heart. These, then, are evidences that human nature, your nature, is susceptible of the great change, called conversion. Those who have undergone it were in no way different from yourselves, as to their powers of mind, as to their moral state, as to their natural endowments, or as to their sinful condition; and yet these facts show that they have changed their views, have cherished other feelings, and have become new creatures. The change, therefore, which has passed upon thousands of them, may pass upon you, in so far as this, which is all I am at present concerned to establish, that your nature presents no greater obstacles than theirs; and whatever the divine word, fitly received, has taught them, it is able to teach you, if you will attend to it seriously; and whatever the Spirit of God did in their case, in disposing their minds rightly to feel the word of truth, he is ready to do for you, and you are just as susceptible of his influence as they
I have no wish to infuse into your mind any self-confidence ; I would not, on any account, induce you to think that you can effect this change unaided or unblessed by God's Holy Spirit. But I would have you view your own nature, however bad ii may be, as in no worse condition than that
of multitudes who have already been made subjects of converting grace.
3. It is quite certain, that many have been converted, and become eminent and happy Christians, who were once as averse from conversion as you are, as ignorant of what it is, and as unwilling to renounce a carnal and worldly state for the sake of the pleasures of religion. Of this you may be quite sure, for many such have testified to these facts, and stated that no hearts could be more fortified by prejudice, or disinclined by evil habits to submit to the divine authority of Christ, or obey him as their Lord and King; and yet their opposition was subdued, and their hearts inclined, and at last they submitted, and found peace and joy in believing. Now, from these general facts it may be inferred that there is nothing in your case that can place you beyond the reach of that effectual grace
which has been granted unto so many others. I know it is part of an unbeliever's disposition to indulge doubts, and to place imaginary difficulties in the way, for the very sake of seeming to throw responsibility from the sinner. He would gladly find reason to lay his destruction at God's door, and prove that, if he is lost, it is not his own fault, because there are, as he pretends, insurmountable obstacles in his way. Something of this may be discovered in the case of almost every sinner. He will find himself looking about for excuses by which he may escape from the charge of having destroyed himself; and a sinful heart is always prone to cleave to the idea, that there is an awful fatality, a dire necessity, or impossibility in his case, which prevents him from being saved, though willing, as he would pretend. Hence, many solace themselves, if I may use such
If you ap
a term, with the idea, that if they remain uncone verted, and are lost, they shall be able to prove that it was not their fault. Satan will, with unce
nceasing effort, labour to maintain such a notion; and as long as it is maintained, there is an effectual barrier placed in the mind against believing, because the sense of responsibility in this particular case is destroyed, or the heart is deceived into acareless state.
Now, there can be little hope of bringing you to a right view of your duty, as to repentance, and faith in God's appointed medium of salvation, as long as any idea of this sort remains. prehend there is any barrier to your conversion, placed by patare, or Providence, or the Saviour, you are not likely to make any effort. He who believes any result to be impossible, is not likely to use the means of effecting it, even though he may see those very means accompanied with sucmany
So the alarmed, but yet unbelieving sinner, is apt to imagine his own case to be a solitary exception, and to indulge this fancy against all fact and reasoning, as well as against the general assertion of Scripture, rather than give up his unbelieving thought of the insurmountable nature of the barrier which he fancies is placed in his way. But all such discouraging and desperate notions ought to be relinquished. It is impossible that you can have any foundation for them. The gospel is intended for all, without a single exception. Its Author says, he 6 wil] have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.' If your vague suspicion, that you are excluded by some insurmountable obstacle, were true, then the testimony
* 1 Tim. ii. 4.