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They are in a remarkable manner brought out of darkness into marvellous light. In many others it has been like the dawning of the day, when at first but a little light appears, and it may be is presently híd with a cloud; and then it appears again and shines a little brighter, and gradually increases, with intervening darkness, till at length, perhaps, it breaks forth more clearly from behind the clouds. And many are, doubtless, ready to date their conversion wrong, throwing by those lesser (legrees of light that appeared at first dawning, and calJing some more remarkable experience, that they had afterwards, their conversion; which often in a great measure arises from a wrong understanding of what they have always been taught, that conversion is a great change, wherein old things are done away, and all things become new, or at least from a false arguing from that doctrine.
Persons commonly at first conversion, and afterwards, have had many texts of scripture brought to their minds,
ex ceeding suitable to their circumstances, which often come with great power, and as the word of God or Christ indeed; and many have a multitude of sweet invitations, promises, and doxologies flowing in one after another, bringing great light and comfort with them, filling the soul brim full, enlarging the heart, and opening the mouth in religion. And it seems to me necessary to suppose, that there is an iminediate influence of the spirit of God, oftentimes in bringing texts of scripture to the mind. Not that I suppose it is done in a way of immediate revelation, without any manner of use of the memory; but yet there seems plainly to be an immediate and extraordinary influence, in leading their thoughts to such and such passages of scripture, and exciting them in the memory. Indeed, in some, God seems to bring texts of scripture to their minds no otherwise than by leading them into such frames and meditations, as harmonize with those scriptures; but in many persons there seems to be something more than this.
Those that while under legal convictions, had the greatest terrors have not always obtained the greatest
light and comfort; nor have they always light most suddenly communicated; but yet I think, the time of conversion has generally been most sensible in such per
Oftentimes, the first sensible change after the extremity of terrors, is a calmness, and then the light gradually comes in; small glimpses at first, after their midnight darkness, and a word or two of comfort, as it were, softly spoken to them; they have a little taste of the sweetness of divine grace, and the love of a Saviour, when terror and distress of conscience begins to be turned into an humble, meek sense of their own unworthiness before God; and there is felt inwardly, perhaps, some disposition to praise God; and after a little while the light comes in more clearly and powerfully. But yet, I think more frequently, great terrors have been followed with more sudden and great light, and comfort; when the sinner seems to be, as it were, subdued and brought to a calm, from a kind of tumult of mind, then God lets in an extraordinary sense of his great mercy through a Redeemer.
The converting influences of God's spirit very commonly bring an extraordinary conviction of the reality and certainty of the great things of religion; (though in some this is much greater, some time after conversion, than at first.) They have that sight and taste of the divinity, or divine excellency, that there is in the things of the gospel, that is more to convince them, than reading many volumes of arguments without it. It seems to me that in many instances amongst us, when the divine excellency and glory of the things of Christianity have been set. before persons, and they have at the same time, as it were, seen and tasted, and felt the divinity of them, they have been as far from doubting of the truth of them, as they are from doubting whether there be a sun, when their eyes are open in the midst of a clear hemisphere, and the strong blaze of his light overcomes all objections against his being. And yet many of them, if we would ask them why they believed those things to be true, would not be able well to express, or communicate a sufficient reason, to satisfy the inquirer, and perhaps would make no other answer but that they
see them to be true. But a person may soon be satisfied, by particular conversation with them, that what they mean by such an answer, is, that they have intuitively bereld, and immediately felt, most illustrious works, and powerful evidence of divinity in them.
Some are thus convinced of the truth of the gospel in general, and that the scriptures are the word of God. Others have their minds more especially fixed on some particular great doctrine of the gospel, some particular truths that they are meditating on; or are in a special manner convinced of the divinity of the things they are reading of, in some portion of scripture. Some have such convictions in a much more.remarkable manner than others. And there are some that never had such a special sense of the certainty of divine things impressed upon them with such inward evidence and strength, have yet very clear exercises of grace; i. e. of love to God, repentance, and holiness. And if they be more particularly examined, they appear plainly to have an inward, firm persuasion of the reality of divine things, such as they do not use to have before their conversion. And those that have the most clear discoveries of divine truth, in the manner that has been spoken of, cannot have this always in view. When the sense and relish of the divine excellency of these things, fades on a withdrawment of the spirit of God, they have not the medium of the conviction of their truth at command. In a dull frame they cannot recal the idea, and inward sense they had, perfectly to mind; things appear very dim to what they did before. And though there still remains an habitual strong persuasion, yet not so as to exclude temptations to unbelief, and all possibility of doubting, as before. But then at particular times, by God's help, the same sense of things revives again, like fire that lay hid in ashes.
I suppose the grounds of such a conviction of the truth of divine things to be just and rational, but yet in some God makes use of their own reason much more sensibly than in others. Oftentimes persons have (so far as could be judged) received the first saving conviction from reasoning, which they have heard from the pulpit; and often in the course of reasoning, which they are led into in their own meditations.
The arguments are the same that they have heard hundreds of times; but the force of the arguments, and their conviction by them, is altogether new; they come with a new and before unexperienced power. Before they heard it was so, and they allowed it to be so; but now they see it to be so indeed. Things now look exceeding plain to them, and they wonder that they did pot see them before.
They are so greatly taken with their new discovery, aud things appear so plain and so rational to them, that they are often at first ready to think they can convince others, and are apt to engage in talk with every one they n'eet with, almost to this end; and when they are disappointed, are ready to wonder that their reasonings seem to make no more impression.
Many fall under such a mistake as to be ready to doubt of their good estate, because there was so much use made of their own reason in the conviction they have received; they are afraid that they have no illumination above the natural force of their own faculties. And many make that an objection against the spirituality of their convictions, that it is so easy to see things as they row see them. They have often heard that conversion is a work of mighty power, manifesting to the soul, what no man nor angel can give, such a conviction of; but it seems to them that the things that they see are so plain and
easy, and rational that any body can see them. And il they are inquired of, why they never saw so before; they say, it seems to them it was because they never thought of it. But very often these difficulties are soon removed by those of another nature; for when God withdraws, they find themselves as it were blind again, they for the present lose their realizing sense of those things tiat looked so plain to them, and by all that they can do tiey cannot recover it, till God renews the influences of bis spirit.
Persons after their conversion often speak of things of religion as seeming new to them; that preaching is a new thing; that it seems to them they never heard preach
ing before; that the Bible is a new book. They find there new chapters, new psalms, new histories, because they see them in a new light. Here was a remarkable instance of an aged woman of above seventy years
that had spent most of her days under Mr. Stoddard's powerful ministry; who, reading in the New Testament, concerning Christ's sufferings for sinners, seemed to be surprised and astonished at what she read, as at a thing that was real and very wonderful, but quite new to her, irfsomuch that at first, before she had time to turn her thoughts, she wondered within herself that she had never heard of it before; but then immediately recollected herself, and thought that she had often heard of it, and read it, but never until now saw it as a thing real; and then cast in her mind, how wonderful this was, that the Son of God should undergo such things for sinners, and how she had spent her time in ungratefully sinning against so good a God, and such a Saviour; though she was a person, as to what was visible, of a very blameless and inoffensive life. And she was so overcome by those considerations, that her nature was ready to fail under them. Those that were about her, and knew not what was the matter, were surprised and thought she was a dying.
Many have spoke much of their hearts being drawn out in love to God and Christ, and their minds being wrapt up in delightful contemplation of the glory and wonderful grace of God, and the excellency and dying love of Jesus Christ, and of their souls going forth in longing desires after God and Christ. Several of our young children have expressed much of this, and have manifested a willingness to leave father and mother, and all things in the world, to go to be with Christ. Some persons have had longing desires after Christ, which have risen to that degree, as to take away their natural strength. Some have been so overcome with a sense of the dying love of Christ, to such poor, wretched, and unworthy creatures, as to weaken the body. Several persons have had so great a sense of the glory of God, and excellency of Christ, that nature and life have seemed almost to sink under it; and in all probability, if God