I dare not leave you with your eyes half open, like him that saw 'men as trees walking'.
The Word is profitable for doctrine as well as reproof. And therefore, having thus
far conducted you by the shelves and rocks of so many dangerous mistakes, I would
guide you at length into the haven of truth.
Conversion then, in short, lies in the thorough change both of the heart and life.
I shall briefly describe it in its nature and causes.
1: The Author of conversion is the Spirit of God, and therefore it is called 'the
sanctification of the Spirit' (2 Thess H 13) and 'the renewing of the Holy Ghost'
(Tit iii 5). This does not exclude the other persons in the Trinity, for the apostle
teaches us to bless the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who 'bath begotten us again
unto a lively hope' (1 Pet i 3). And Christ is said to 'give repentance unto Israel'
(Acts v 31); and is called the 'everlasting Father' (Is ix 6) and we His seed, and
'the children which God hath given Him' (Heb ii 13). Yet this work is principally
ascribed to the Holy Ghost, and so we are said to be 'born of the Spirit' (Jn iii
So then, conversion is a work above man's power. We are 'born, not of blood, nor
of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God' (Jn i 13). Never think
you can convert yourself. If ever you would be savingly converted, you must despair
of doing it in your own strength. It is a resurrection from the dead (Eph ii 1) a
new creation (Gal A 15; Eph ii 1O), a work of absolute omnipotence (Eph i 19). Are
not these out of the reach of human power? If you have no more than you had by your
first birth, a good nature, a meek and chaste temper etc., you are a stranger to
true conversion. This is a supernatural work.
2: The efficient cause of conversion is both internal and external.
The internal cause is free grace alone. 'Not by works of righteousness which we have
done, but of his mercy he saved us', and 'by the renewing of the Holy Ghost' (Tit
iii 5). 'Of his own will begat he us' (Jas i 18). We are chosen and called unto sanctification,
not for it (Eph i 4).
God finds nothing in man to turn His heart, but enough to turn His stomach; He finds
enough to provoke His loathing, but nothing to excite His love. Look back upon yourself,
O Christian I Reflect upon your swinish nature, your filthy swill, your once beloved
mire (2 Pet 2). Behold your slime and corruption. Do not your own clothes abhor you?
(Job ix 31). How then should holiness and purity love you? Be astonished, O heavens,
at this; be moved, O earth. Who but must needs cry, Grace! Gracel (Zech iv 7). Hear
and blush, you children of the Most High. O unthankful men, that free grace is no
more in your mouths, in your thoughts; no more adored, admired and commended by such
as you! One would think you should be doing nothing but praising and admiring God
wherever you are. How can you forget such grace, or pass it over with a slight and
formal mention? What but free grace could move God to love you, unless enmity could
do it, unless deformity could do it? How affectionately Peter lifts up his hands,
'Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus, who of his abundant mercy hath
begotten us again.' How feelingly does Paul magnify the free mercy of God in it,
'God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, hath quickened
us together with Christ. By grace are ye saved' (Eph ii 4-5)!
The external cause is the merit and intercession of the blessed Jesus. He has obtained
gifts for the rebellious (Ps lxviii 18), and through Him it is that God worketh in
us that which is well-pleasing in His sight (Heb xiii 21). Through Him are all spiritual
blessings bestowed upon us in heavenly places (Eph i 3). He intercedes for the elect
that believe not (Jn xvii 2O). Every convert is the fruit of His travail. Never was
an infant born into the world with that difficulty which Christ endured for us. All
the pains that He suffered on the cross were our birth-pains. He is made sanctification
to us (1 Cor i 3O). He sanctified Himself, that is, set apart Himself as a sacrifice,
that we might be sanctified (Jn xvii 19). We are sanctified through the offering
of His body once for all (Heb x 1O).
It is nothing, then, but the merit and intercession of Christ, that prevails with
God to bestow on us converting grace. If you area new creature, you know to whom
you owe it; to Christ's pangs and prayers. The foal does not more naturally run after
the dam, nor the suckling to the breast, than a believer to Jesus Christ. And where
else should you go? If any in the world can show for your heart what Christ can let
them do it. Does Satan claim you? Does the world court you? Does sin sue for your
heart? Why, were these crucified for you? O Christian, love and serve your Lord while
you have a being.
3: The instrument of conversion is personal and real.
The personal instrument is the ministry. 'In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through
the gospel' (I Cor iv 15). Christ's ministers are they that are sent to open men's
eyes, and to turn them to God (Acts xxvi 18). O unthankful world! Little do you know
what you are doing when you are persecuting the messengers of the Lord. These are
they whose business it is, under Christ, to save you. Whom have you reproached and
blasphemed? (Is xxxvii 23). These are the servants of the most high God that show
unto you the way of salvation (Acts xvi 17), and do you requite them thus, O foolish
and unwise? (Dent xxxii 6). O sons of ingratitude, against whom do you sport yourselves?
These are the instruments that God uses to convert and save sinners: and do you revile
your physicians, and throw your pilots overboard? `Father, forgive them; for they
know not what they do.'
The real instrument is the Word. We are begotten by the word of truth. It is this
that enlightens the eye, that converts the soul (Ps xix 7, 8), that makes us wise
to salvation (2 Tim iii 15). This is the incorruptible seed by which we are born
again (1 Pet i 23). If we are washed, it is by the Word (Eph v 26). If we are sanctified,
it is through the truth (Jn xvii 17). This generates faith, and regenerates us (Rom
x 17; Jas i 18).
O ye saints, how you should love the Word, for by this you have been converted! You
that have felt its renewing power, make much of it while you live; be ever thankful
for it. Tie it about your neck, write it upon your hand, lay it in your bosom. When
you go let it lead you, when you sleep let it keep you, when you wake let it talk
with you (Prov vi 21-22). Say with the Psalmist, V will never forget thy precepts,
for by them thou hast quickened me' (Ps cxix 93). You that are unconverted, read
the Word with diligence; flock to where it is powerfully preached. Pray for the coming
of the Spirit in the Word. Come from your knees to the sermon, and come from the
sermon to your knees. The sermon does not prosper because it is not watered by prayers
and tears, nor covered by meditation.
4: The final cause or end of conversion is man's salvation, and God's glory. We are
chosen through sanctification to salvation (2 Thess ii 13), called that we might
be glorified (Rom viii 3O), but especially that God might be glorified (Is lx 21),
that we should show forth His praises (1 Pet ii 9), and be fruitful in good works
(Col i 1O).
O Christian, do not forget the end of your calling. Let your light shine, let your
lamp bum, let your fruits be good and many and in season (Psi 3). Let all your designs
fall in with God's, that He may be magnified in you (Phil i 2O).
5: The subject of conversion is the elect sinner, and that in all his parts and powers,
members and mind. Whom God predestinates, them only He calls (Rom viii 3O). None
are drawn to Christ by their calling, nor come to Him by believing, but His sheep,
those whom the Father has given Him (Jn A 37, 44). Effectual calling runs parallel
with eternal election (2 Pet i 1O).
You begin at the wrong end if you first dispute about your election. Prove your conversion,
and then never doubt your election. If you cannot yet prove it, set upon a present
and thorough turning. Whatever God's purposes be, which are secret, I am sure His
promises are plain. How desperately do rebels argue! 'If I am elected I shall be
saved, do what I will. If not, I shall be damned, do what I can.' Perverse sinner,
will you begin where you should end? Is not the word before you? What saith it? 'Repent
and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.' 'If you mortify the deeds of
the body you shall live.' 'Believe and be saved' (Acts iii 19: Rom viii 13; Acts
xvi 31). What can be plainer? Do not stand still disputing about your election, but
set to repenting and believing. Cry to God for converting grace. Revealed things
belong to you; in these busy yourself. It is just, as one well said, that they who
will not feed on the plain food of the Word should be choked with the bones. Whatever
God's purposes may be, I am sure His promises are true. Whatever the decrees of heaven
may be, I am sure that if I repent and believe I shall be saved; and that if I do
not repent, I shall be damned. Is not this plain ground for you; and will you yet
run upon the rocks?
More particularly, this change of conversion extends to the whole man. A carnal person
may have some shreds of good morality, but he is never good throughout the whole
cloth. Conversion is not a repairing of the old building; but it takes all down,
and erects a new structure. It is not the sewing on a patch of holiness; but with
the true convert, holiness is woven into all his powers, principles and practice.
The sincere Christian is quite a new fabric, from the foundation to the top-stone.
He is a new man, a new creature; all things are become new (2 Cor v 17). Conversion
is a deep work, a heart work. It makes a new man in a new world. It extends to the
whole man, to the mind, to the members, to the motions of the whole life.
Conversion turns the balance of the judgment, so that God and His glory outweigh
all carnal and worldly interests. It opens the eye of the mind, and makes the scales
of its native ignorance fall off, and turns men from darkness to light. The man that
before saw no danger in his condition, now concludes himself lost and for ever undone
(Acts ii 37) except renewed by the power of grace. He that formerly thought there
was little hurt in sin, now comes to see it to be the chief of evils. He sees the
unreasonableness, the unrighteousness, the deformity and the filthiness of sin;
so that he is affrighted with it, loathes it, dreads it, flees from it, and even
abhors himself for it (Rom vii 15; Job xlii 6; Ezek xxxvi 31). He that could see
little sin in himself, and could find no matter for confession, now sees the rottenness
of his heart, the desperate and deep pollution of his whole nature. He cries, 'Unclean!
Unclean! Lord, purge me with hyssop, wash me thoroughly, create in me a clean heart.'
He sees himself altogether filthy, corrupt both root and branch (Ps xiv 3; Mt vii
17-18). He writes 'unclean' upon all his parts, and powers, and performances (Is
Ixiv 6; Rom vii 18). He discovers the filthy corners that he was never aware of,
and sees the blasphemy, and theft, and murder, and adultery, that is in his heart,
of which before he was ignorant. Hitherto he saw no form nor comeliness in Christ,
no beauty that he should desire Him; but now he finds the Hidden Treasure, and will
sell all to buy this field. Christ is the Pearl he seeks.
Now, according to this new light, the man is of another mind, another judgment, than
he was before. Now God is all with him, he has none in heaven nor in earth like Him;
he truly prefers Him before all the world. His favour is his life, the light of His
countenance is more than corn and wine and oil (the good that he formerly enquired
after, and set his heart upon. Ps iv 6-7). A hypocrite may come to yield a general
assent that God is the chief good; indeed, the wiser heathens, some few of them,
have at least stumbled upon this. But no hypocrite comes so far as to look upon God
as the most desirable and suitable good to him, and thereupon to acquiesce in Him.
'This is the convert's voice: 'The Lord is my portion, saith my soul. Whom have I
in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. God is
the strength of my heart and my portion for ever' (Lam iii 24; Ps lxxiii 25-26).
Conversion turns the bias of the will both as to means and end. The intentions of
the will are altered. Now the man has new ends and designs. He now intends God above
all, and desires-and designs nothing in all the world, so much as that Christ may
be magnified in him. He counts himself more happy in this than in all that the earth
could yield, that he maybe serviceable to Christ, and bring Him glory. This is the
mark he aims at, that the name of Jesus maybe great in the world.
Reader, do you read this without asking yourself whether it be thus with you? Pause
a while, and examine yourself.
The choice is also changed. He pitches upon God as his blessedness, and upon Christ
and holiness as means to bring him to God. He chooses Jesus for his Lord. He is not
merely forced to Christ by the storm, nor does he take Christ for bare necessity,
but he comes freely. His choice is not made in a fright, as with the terrified conscience,
or the dying sinner that will seemingly do anything for Christ, but only takes Christ
rather than hell. He deliberately resolves that Christ is his best choice, and would
rather have Him than all the good of this world, might he enjoy it while he would
(Phil i 23). Again, he takes holiness for his path; he does not out of mere necessity
submit to it, but he likes it and loves it. 'I have chosen the way of thy precepts'
(Ps cxix 173). He takes God's testimonies not as his bondage, but his heritage; yea,
heritage for ever. He counts them not his burden, but his bliss; not his cords, but
his cordials (1 Jn v 3; Ps cxix 14, 16, 47). He does not only bear, but takes up
Christ's yoke. He takes not holiness as the stomach does the loathed medicine, which
a man will take rather than die, but as the hungry man does his beloved food. No
time passes so sweetly with him, when he is himself, as that which he spends in the
exercises of holiness. These are both his aliment and element, the desire of his
eyes and the joy of his heart.
Put it to your conscience whether you are the man. O happy man, if this be your case!
But see that you are thorough and impartial in the search.
Conversion turns the bent of the affections. These all run in a new channel. The
Jordan is now driven back, and the water runs upwards against its natural course.
Christ is his hope. This is his prize. Here his eye is: here his heart. He is content
to cast all overboard, as the merchant in the storm about to perish, so he may but
keep this jewel.
The first of his desires is not after gold, but grace. He hungers for it, he seeks
it as silver, he digs for it as for hid treasure. He had rather be gracious than
great. He had rather be the holiest man on earth than the most learned, the most
famous, the most prosperous. While carnal, he said, 'O if I were but in great esteem,
rolling in wealth, and swimming in pleasure; if my debts were paid, and I and mine
provided for, then I would be a happy man.' But now the tune is changed. 'Oh !' says
the convert, 'if I had but my corruptions subdued, if I had such a measure of grace,
and fellowship with God, though I were poor and despised I should not care, I should
account myself a blessed man.' Reader, is this the language of your soul?
His joys are changed. He rejoices in the way of God's testimonies as much as in
all riches. He delights in the law of the Lord, in which he once had little savour.
He has no such joy as in the thoughts of Christ, the enjoyment of His company, the
prosperity of His people.
His cares are quite altered. He was once set for the world, and any scrap of spare-time
was enough for his soul. Now his cry is, 'What must I do to be saved?' (Acts xvi
3O). His great concern is how to secure his soul. O how he would bless you, if you
could but put him out of doubt concerning this!
His fears are not so much of suffering as of sinning. Once he was afraid of nothing
so much as the loss of his estate or reputation; nothing sounded so terrible to
him as pain, or poverty, or disgrace. Now these are little to him, in comparison
with God's dishonour or displeasure. How warily does he walk, lest he should tread
upon a snare! He looks in front, and behind: he has his eye upon his heart, and is
often casting it over his shoulder, lest he should be overtaken with sin. It kills
his heart to think of losing God's favour; this he dreads as his only undoing. No
thought pains him so much as to think of parting with Christ.
His love runs in a new course. 'My Love was crucified', says Ignatius, that is, my
Christ. 'This is my beloved', says the spouse (Cant v 16). How often does Augustine
pour his love upon Christ! He can find no words sweet enough. 'Let me see Thee, O
Light of mine eyes. Come, O Thou Joy of my spirit; Let me behold Thee, O Gladness
of my heart. Let me love Thee, O Life of my soul. Appear unto me, O my great delight,
my sweet comfort, O my God, my life, and the whole glory of my soul. Let me find
Thee, O Desire of my heart; let me hold Thee, O Love of my soul. Let me embrace Thee,
O Heavenly Bridegroom. Let me possess Thee.'
His sorrows have now a new vent (2 Cor vii 9-1O). The view of his sins, the sight
of Christ crucified, that could scarcely stir him before, now how much do they affect
His hatred boils, his anger burns against sin. He has no patience with himself; he
calls himself fool, and beast, and thinks any name too good for himself, when his
indignation is stirred up against sin (Ps lxxiii 22; Prov xxx 2). He could once wallow
in it with much pleasure; now he loathes the thought of returning to it as much as
of licking up the filthiest vomit.
Commune then with your own heart, and attend to the general current of your affections,
whether they be towards God in Christ above all other concerns. Indeed, sudden and
strong motions of the affections are often found in hypocrites, especially where
the natural temperament is warm. And contrariwise, the sanctified themselves are
often without conscious stirring of the affections, where the temperament is more
slow, dry, and dull. The great inquiry is, whether the judgment and will are steadily
determined for God above all other good, real or apparent. If so, and if the affections
do sincerely follow their choice and conduct, though it be not so strongly and feelingly
as is to be desired, there is no doubt but the change is saving.
These that before were the instruments of sin, are now become the holy utensils of
Christ's living temple. He that before dishonoured his body, now possesses his vessel
in sanctification and honour, in temperance, chastity, and sobriety, and dedicates
it to the Lord.
The eye, that was once a wandering eye, a wanton eye, a haughty, a covetous eye,
is now employed, as Mary's, in weeping over its sins, in beholding God in His works,
in reading His Word, or in looking for objects of mercy and opportunities for His
The ear, that was once open to Satan's call, and that did relish nothing so much
as filthy, or at least frothy talk, and the laughter of fools, is now bored to the
door of Christ's house, and open to His disciples. It says, 'Speak, Lord, for thy
servant heareth.' It waits for His words as the rain, and relishes them more than
the appointed food (Job xxiii 12), more than the honey and the honeycomb (Ps xix
The head, that was full of worldly designs, is now filled with other matters, and
set on the study of God's will, and the man employs his head, not so much about his
gain as about his duty. The thoughts and cares that fill his head are, principally,
how he may please God and flee sin.
His heart, that was a sty of filthy lusts, is now become an altar of incense, where
the fire of divine love is ever kept burning, and from which the daily sacrifice
of prayer and praise, and the sweet incense of holy desires, ejaculations and prayers,
are continually ascending.
The mouth is become a well of life; his tongue as choice silver, and his lips feed
many. Now the salt of grace has seasoned his speech, has eaten out the corruption
(Col iv 6), and cleansed the man from his filthy conversation, flattery, boasting,
railing, lying, swearing, backbiting, that once came like flashes proceeding from
the hell that was in the heart (Jas iii 6). The throat, that once was an open sepulchre,
now sends forth the sweet breath of prayer and holy discourse, and the man speaks
in another tongue, in the language of Canaan, and is never so well as when talking
of God and Christ, and the matters of another world. His mouth brings forth wisdom;
his tongue is become the silver trumpet of his Maker's praise, his glory and the
best member that he has.
Now here you will find the hypocrite sadly deficient. He speaks, it may be, like
an angel, but he has a covetous eye, or the gain of unrighteousness is in his hand.
His hand is white, but his heart is full of rottenness (Mt xxiii 27), full of unmodified
cares, a very oven of lust, a shop of pride, the seat of malim It may be, with Nebuchadnezzar's
image, he has a golden head - a great deal of knowledge; but he has feet of clay
- his affections are worldly, he minds earthly things, and his way and walk are sensual
and carnal. The work is not thorough with him.
The Life and Practice.
The new man takes a new course (Eph H 2-3). His conversation is in heaven (Phil iii
2O). No sooner does Christ call by effectual grace but he straightway becomes a follower
of Him. When God has given the new heart, and written His law in his mind, he henceforth
walks in His statutes and keeps His judgments.
Though sin may dwell in him - truly a wearisome and unwelcome guest - yet it has
no more dominion over him. He has his fruit unto holiness, and though he makes many
a blot, yet the law and life of Jesus is what he looks at as his pattern, and he
has an unfeigned respect to all God's commandments. He makes conscience even of little
sins and little duties. His very infirmities which he cannot help, though he would,
are his soul's burden, and are like dust in a man's eye, which though but little,
is not a little troublesome. (O man, do you read this, and never stop to examine
yourself?) The sincere convert is not one man at church and another at home. He is
not a saint on his knees and a cheat in his shop. He will not tithe mint and cummin,
and neglect mercy and judgment, and the weightier matters of the law. He does not
pretend piety and neglect morality. But he turns from all his sins and keeps all
God's statutes, though not perfectly, except in desire and endeavour, yet sincerely,
not allowing himself in the breach of any. Now he delights in the Word, and sets
himself to prayer, and opens his hand and draws out his soul to the hungry. He breaks
off his sins by righteousness, and his iniquities by showing mercy to the poor (Dan
iv 27). He has a good conscience willing in all things to live honestly (Heb xiii
18), and to keep without offence towards God and men.
Here again you find the unsoundness of many that take themselves for good Christians.
They are partial in the law (Mal ii 9), and take up the cheap and easy duties of
religion, but they do not go through with the work. They are as a cake half-baked
and half-raw. It may be you find them exact in their words, punctual in their dealings,
but then they do not exercise themselves unto godliness; and as for examining themselves
and governing their hearts, to this they are strangers. You may see them duly at
church; but follow them to their families, and there you shall see little but the
world minded; or if they have family duties, follow them to their closets, and there
you shall find their souls are little looked after. It may be that they seem religious,
but they do not bridle their tongues, and so all their religion is vain (Jas i 26).
It may be they come to closet and family prayer; but follow them to their shops,
and there you find them in the habit of lying, or some fashionable way of deceit.
Thus the hypocrite is not thorough in his obedience.
6. The objects from which we turn in conversion are, sin, Satan, the world, and our
own righteousness. We turn from sin. When a man is converted, he is for ever at enmity
with sin; yes, with all sin, but most of all with his own sins, and especially with
his bosom sin. Sin is now the object of his indignation. His sin swells his sorrows.
It is sin that pierces him and wounds him; he feels it like a thorn in his side,
like a prick in his eyes. He groans and struggles under it, and not formally, but
feelingly cries out, 'O wretched marl' He is not impatient of any burden so much
as of his sin. If God should give him his choice, he would choose any affliction
so he might be rid of sin; he feels it like the cutting gravel in his shoes, pricking
and paining him as he goes.
Before conversion he had light thoughts of sin. He cherished it in his bosom, as
Uriah his lamb; he nourished it up, and it grew up together with him; it did eat,
as it were, of his own meat and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was
to him as a daughter. But when God opens his eyes by conversion, he throws it away
with abhorrence, as a man would a loathsome toad, which in the dark he had hugged
fast in his bosom, and thought it had been some pretty and harmless bird. When a
man is savingly changed, he is deeply convinced not only of the danger but the defilement
of sin; and O, how earnest is he with God to be purified! He loathes himself for
his sins. He runs to Christ, and casts himself into the fountain set open for him
and for uncleanness. If he fall, what a stir is thereto get all clean again! He
has no rest till he flees to the Word, and washes and rubs and rinses in the infinite
fountain, labouring to cleanse himself from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit.
The sound convert is heartily engaged against sin. He struggles with it, he wars
against it; he is too often foiled, but he will never yield the cause, nor lay down
the weapons, while he has breath in his body. He will make no peace; he will give
no quarter. He can forgive his other enemies, he can pity them and pray for them;
but here he is implacable, here he is set upon their extermination. He hunts as it
were for the precious life; his eye shall not pity, his hand shall not spare, though
it be a right hand or a right eye. Be it a gainful sin, most delightful to his nature
the support of his esteem with worldly friends, yet he will rather throw his gain
down the gutter, see his credit fail, or the flower of his pleasure wither in his
hand, than he will allow himself in any known way of sin. He will grant no indulgence,
he will give no toleration. He draws upon sin wherever he meets it, and frowns upon
it with this unwelcome salute, 'Have I found thee, O mine enemy?'
Reader, has conscience been at work while you have been looking over these lines
? Have you pondered these things in your heart? Have you searched the book within,
to see if these things be so? If not, read it again, and make your conscience speak,
whether or not it is thus with you.
Have you crucified your flesh with its affections and lusts; and not only confessed,
but forsaken your sins, all sin in your fervent desires, and the ordinary practice
of every deliberate and willful sin in your life? If not, you are yet unconverted.
Does not conscience fly in your face as you read, and tell you that you live in a
way of lying for your advantage? that you use deceit in your calling? that there
is some way of secret wantonness that you live in ? Why then, do not deceive yourself.
'Thou art in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity.'
Does your unbridled tongue, your indulgence of appetite, your wicked company, your
neglect of prayer, of reading and hearing the Word, now witness against you, and
say, 'We are your works, and we will follow you' ? Or, if I have not hit you right,
does not the monitor within tell you, there is such and such a way that you know
to be evil, that yet for some carnal respect you tolerate in yourself? If this be
the case, you are to this day unregenerate, and must be changed or condemned.
We turn from Satan. Conversion binds the strong man, spoils his armour, casts out
his goods, turns men from the power of Satan unto God. Before, the devil could no
sooner hold up his finger to the sinner to call him to his wicked company, sinful
games, and filthy delights, but immediately he followed, 'as an ox goeth to the slaughter,
or as a fool to the correction of the stocks; as the bird that hasteth to the snare
and knoweth not that it is for his life' (Prov vii 22-23). No sooner could Satan
bid him lie, but immediately he had it on his tongue. No sooner could Satan offer
a wanton object, but he was stung with lust. If the devil says, `Away with these
family duties', be sure they shall be rarely performed in his house. If the devil
says, 'Away with this strictness, this preciseness' he will keep far enough from
it. If he tells him, "There is no need of these secret-duties', he will from day
to day and scarcely perform them. But after he is converted he serves another Master,
and takes quite another course; he goes and comes at Christ's bidding. Satan may
sometimes catch his foot in a trap, but he will no longer be a willing captive. He
watches against the snares and baits of Satan, and studies to be acquainted with
his devices. He is very suspicious of his plots, and is very jealous in what comes
across him, lest Satan should have some design upon him. He wrestles against principalities
and powers; he entertains the messenger of Satan as men do the messenger of death.
He keeps his eye upon his enemy, and watches in his duties, lest Satan should get
We turn from the world. Before a man has true faith, he is overcome by the world.
He either bows down to mammon, or idolizes his reputation, or is a lover of pleasure
more than a lover of God. Here is the root of man's misery by the fall. He is turned
aside to the creature, and gives that esteem, confidence and affection to the creature
that is due to God alone.
O miserable man, what a deformed monster has sin made you! God made you 'little lower
than the angels'; sin has made you little better than the devils, a monster that
has his head and his heart where his feet should be, and his feet kicking against
heaven, and everything out of place. The world that was formed to serve you, is come
up to rule you - the deceitful harlot has bewitched you with her enchantments, and
made you bow down and serve her.
But converting grace sets all in order again, and puts God on the throne, and the
world at his footstool; Christ in the heart, and the world under the feet. ‘I am
crucified to the world, and the world to me' (Gal vi 14). Before this change, all
the cry was 'Who will show us any (worldly) good?' but now he prays, 'Lord, lift
thou up the light of thy countenance upon me', and take the corn and wine whosoever
will (Ps iv 6-7). Before, his heart's delight and content were in the world; then
the song was, 'Soul, take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry; thou bast much goods
laid up for many years.' But now all this is withered, and there is no comeliness,
that we should desire it; and he tunes up with the sweet psalmist of Israel, 'The
Lord is the portion of my inheritance; the lines are fallen to me in a fair place,
and I have a goodly heritage.' Nothing else can make him content. He has written
vanity and vexation upon all his worldly enjoyments, and loss and dung upon all human
excellencies. He has life and immortality now in pursuit. He pants for grace and
glory, and has a crown incorruptible in view. His heart is set in him to seek the
Lord. He first seeks the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and religion is no
longer a casual matter with him, but his main care. Before, the world had the sway
with him. He would do more for gain than godliness - more to please his friend or
his flesh, than the God that made him; and God must stand by till the world was first
served. But now all must stand by; he hates father and mother, and life, and all,
in comparison of Christ.
Well then, pause a little, and look within. Does not this concern you? You pretend
to be for Christ, but does not the world sway you? Do you not take more real delight
and content in the world than in Him? Do you not find yourself more at ease when
the world is in your mind and you are surrounded with carnal delights, than when
retired to prayer and meditation in your room, or attending upon God's Word and worship?
There is no surer evidence of an unconverted state than to have the things of the
world uppermost in our aim, love and estimation.
With the sound convert, Christ has the supremacy. How dear is His name to him! How
precious is His favour! The name of Jesus is engraved on his heart. Honour is but
air, and laughter is but madness, and mammon is fallen like Dagon before the ark,
with hands and head broken off on the threshold, when once Christ is savingly revealed.
Here is the pearl of great price to the true convert; here is his treasure; here
is his hope. This is his glory, 'My beloved is mine, and I am his.' O, it is sweeter
to him to be able to say, 'Christ is mine, than if he could say, 'The kingdom is
mine; the Indies are mine.'
We turn from our own righteousness. Before conversion, man seeks to cover himself
with his own fig-leaves, and to make himself whole with his own duties. He is apt
to trust in himself, and set up his own righteousness, and to reckon his counters
for gold, and not to submit to the righteousness of God. But conversion changes
his mind; now he counts his own righteousness as filthy rags. He casts it off, as
a man would the verminous tatters of a nasty beggar. Now he is brought to poverty
of spirit, complains of and condemns himself, and all his inventory is, 'poor, and
miserable, and wretched, and blind, and naked'. He sees a world of iniquity in his
holy things, and calls his once-idolized righteousness but filth and loss; and would
not for a thousand worlds be found in it. Now he begins to seta high price upon Christ's
righteousness. He sees the need of Christ in every duty, to justify his person and
sanctify his performances; he cannot live without Him; he cannot pray without Him.
Christ must go with him, or else he cannot come into the presence of God; he leans
upon Christ, and so bows himself in the house of his God. He sets himself down for
a lost undone man without Him; his life is hid in Christ, as the root of a tree spreads
in the earth for stability and nourishment. Before, the news of Christ was a stale
and tasteless thing; but now, how sweet is Christ! Augustine could not relish his
once-admired Cicero, because he could not find in his writings the name of Christ.
How emphatically he cries, 'O most sweet, most loving, most kind, most dear, most
precious, most desired, most lovely, most fair!' (Meditat c 37) all in a breath,
when he speaks of and to Christ. In a word, the voice of the convert is, with the
martyr, 'None but Christ.'
7: The object to which we turn in conversion is, God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
whom the true convert takes as his all-sufficient and eternal blessedness. A man
is never truly sanctified till his heart be truly set upon God above all things,
as his portion and chief good. These are the natural breathings of a believer's heart:
'Thou art my portion.' 'My soul shall make her boast in the Lord.' 'My expectation
is from him; he only is my rock and salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength,
and my refuge, is in God' (Ps cxix 57; Ps xxxiv 2; Ps lxii).
Would you be certain whether you are converted or not? Now let your soul and all
that is within you attend.
Have you taken God for your happiness? Where does the desire of your heart lie? What
is the source of your greatest satisfaction? Come, then, and with Abraham lift up
your eyes eastward, and westward, and northward, and southward, and look around you;
what is it that you would have in heaven or on earth to make you happy ? If God should
give you your choice, as He did to Solomon, or should say to you, as Ahasuerus to
Esther, 'What is thy petition, and what is thy request, and it shall be granted thee?'
what would you ask? Go into the gardens of pleasure, and gather all the fragrant
flowers there, would these satisfy you? Go to the treasures of mammon; suppose you
may carry away as much as you desire. Go to the towers, to the trophies of honour.
What do you think of being a man of renown, and having a name like the name of the
great men of the earth? Would any of these, would all of these satisfy you, and make
you to count yourself happy? If so, then certainly you are carnal and unconverted.
If not, go farther; wade into the divine excellencies, the store of His mercies,
the hiding of His power, the depths unfathomable of His all-sufficiency. Does this
suit you best and please you most? Do you say, 'It is good to be here. Here will
I pitch, here will I live and die'? Will you let all the world go rather than this?
Then it is well between God and you: happy art thou, O man — happy art thou that
ever thou wast born. If God can make you happy, you must be happy; for you have taken
the Lord to be your God. Do you say to Christ as He to us, 'Thy Father shall be my
Father, and thy God my God'? Here is the turning point. An unsound convert never
takes up his rest in God; but converting grace does the work, and so cures the fatal
misery of the fall, by turning the heart from its idol to the living God. Now the
soul says, 'Lord, whither shall I go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.' Here
he centres, here he settles. It is the entrance of heaven to him; he sees his interest
in God. When he discovers this, he says, 'Return unto thy rest, O my soul, for the
Lord bath dealt bountifully with thee' (Ps cxvi 7). And he is even ready to breathe
out Simeon's song, 'Lord, now letteth thou thy servant depart in peace'; and says
with Jacob, when his old heart revived at the welcome tidings, 'It is enough' (Gen
xlv 28). When he sees he has a God in covenant to go to, this is all his salvation,
and all his desire (2 Sam xxiii 5).
Is this the case with you? Have you experienced this? If so, then 'blessed art thou
of the Lord'. God has been at work with you; He has laid hold of your heart by the
power of converting grace, or else you could never have done this.
More particularly, in conversion.
We turn to Christ, the only Mediator between God and man (1 Tim ii 5). His work is
to bring us to God (I Pet iii 18). He is the way to the Father (Jn xiv 6), the only
plank on which we may escape, the only door by which we may enter (Jn x 9). Conversion
brings the soul to Christ to accept Him as the only means of life, as the only way,
the only name given under heaven. He does not look for salvation in any other but
Him; he throws himself on Christ alone.
'Here', says the convinced sinner, 'I will venture; and if I perish, I perish; if
I die, I will die here. But, Lord do not let me perish under the eye of Thy mercy.
Entreat me not to leave Thee, or to return from following after Thee. Here I will
throw myself; if Thou slay me, I will not go from Thy door.'
Thus the poor soul ventures on Christ and resolvedly adheres to Him. Before conversion,
the man made light of Christ, minded his farm, friends, merchandise, more than Christ;
now, Christ is to him as his necessary food, his daily bread, the life of his heart,
the staff of his life. His great desire is, that Christ maybe magnified in him.
His heart once said, as they to the spouse, 'What is thy beloved more than another?'
(Cant v 9). He found more sweetness in his merry company, wicked games, earthly
delights, than in Christ. He took religion for a fancy, and the talk of great enjoyments
for an idle dream; but now to him to live is Christ. He sets light by all that he
accounted precious, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ.
All of Christ is accepted by the sincere convert. He loves not only the wages but
the work of Christ, not only the benefits but the burden of Christ. He is willing
not only to tread out the corn, but to draw under the yoke. He takes up the commands
of Christ, yes, the cross of Christ.
The unsound convert takes Christ by halves. He is all for the salvation of Christ,
but he is not for sanctification. He is for the privileges, but does not appropriate
the person of Christ. He divides the offices and benefits of Christ. This is an error
in the foundation. Whoever loves life, let him beware here. It is an undoing mistake,
of which you have been often warned, and yet none is more common. Jesus is a sweet
Name, but men do not love the Lord Jesus in sincerity. They will not have Him as
God offers, 'to be a Prince and a Saviour' (Acts v 31). They divide what God has
joined, the King and the Priest. They will not accept the salvation of Christ as
He intends it; they divide it here. Every man's vote is for salvation from suffering,
but they do not desire to be saved from sinning. They would have their lives saved,
but still would have their lusts. Indeed, many divide here again; they would be content
to have some of their sins destroyed, but they cannot leave the lap of Delilah, or
divorce the beloved Herodias. They cannot be cruel to the right eye or right hand.
O be infinitely careful here; your soul depends upon it. The sound convert takes
a whole Christ, and takes Him for all intents and purposes, without exceptions, without
limitations, without reserve. He is willing tohave Christ upon any terms; he is
willing to have the dominion of Christ as well as deliverance by Christ. He says
with Paul, 'Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?' Anything, Lord. He sends the blank
for Christ to set down His own conditions.
We turn to the laws, ordinances, and ways of Christ. The heart that once was set
against these, and could not endure the strictness of these bonds, the severity of
these ways, now falls in love with them, and chooses them as its rule and guide for
Four things, I observe, God works in every sound convert, with reference to the laws
and ways of Christ, by which you may come to know your state, if you will be faithful
to your own souls. Therefore, keep your eyes upon your hearts as you go along.
(i) The judgment is brought to approve of them and to subscribe to them as most righteous
and most reasonable. The mind is brought to like the ways of God, and the corrupt
prejudices that were once against them as unreasonable and intolerable, are now removed.
The understanding assents to them all as holy, just, and good (Rom vii 12). How is
David taken up with the excellencies of God's laws! How does he expatiate on their
praises, both from their inherent qualities and admirable effects! (Ps xix 8-10,
There is a two-fold judgment of the understanding, the absolute and the comparative.
The absolute judgment is when a man thinks such a course best in general, but not
for him, or not under his present circumstances. Now, a godly man's judgment is for
the ways of God, and that not only the absolute, but comparative judgment. He thinks
them not only the best in general, but best for him. He looks upon the rules of religion
not only as tolerable, but desirable; yea, more desirable than gold, fine gold; yea,
much fine gold.
His judgment is fully determined that it is best to be holy, that it is best to be
strict, that it is in itself the most eligible course, and that it is for him the
wisest and most rational and desirable choice. Hear the godly man's judgment; V know,
O Lord, that thy judgments are right; I love thy commandments above gold, yea, above
fine gold, I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate
every false way' (Ps cxix 127-128). Mark, he approves of all that God requires, and
disapproves of all that He forbids. 'Righteous, O Lord, and upright are thy judgments.
Thy testimonies that thou hast commanded are righteous and very faithful. Thy word
is true from the beginning, and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for
ever' (Ps cxix). See how readily and fully he subscribes; he declares his assent
and consent to it, and all and every thing contained therein.
(ii) The desire of the heart is to know the whole mind of Christ.He would not have
one sin undiscovered, nor be ignorant of one duty required. It is the natural and
earnest breathing of a sanctified heart: 'Lord, if there be any way of wickedness
in me, do Thou reveal it. What I know not, teach Thou me; and if I have done iniquity,
I will do it no more.' The unsound convert is willingly ignorant, he does not love
to come to the light. He is willing to keep such and such a sin, and therefore is
loath to know it to be a sin, and will not let in the light at that window. Now,
the gracious heart is willing to know the whole latitude and compass of his Maker's
law. He receives with all acceptation the Word which convinces him of any duty that
he knew not, or minded not before, or which uncovers any sin that lay hid before.
(iii) The free and resolved choice of the will is for the ways of Christ, before
all the pleasures of sin and prosperities of the world. His consent is not extorted
by some extremity of anguish, nor is it only a sudden and hasty resolve, but he is
deliberately purposed, and comes freely to the choice. True, the flesh will rebel,
yet the prevailing part of his will is for Christ's laws and government, so that
he takes them up not as his toil or burden, but as his bliss. While the unsanctified
goes in Christ's ways as in chains and fetters, the true convert does it heartily,
and counts Christ's laws his liberty. He delights in the beauties of holiness, and
has this inseparable mark. He had rather, if he might have his choice, live a strict
and holy life, than the most prosperous and flourishing worldly life. 'There went
with Saul a band of men whose hearts God had touched' (1 Sam x 26). When God touches
the hearts of His chosen, they presently follow Christ, and, though drawn, do freely
run after Hun, and willingly devote themselves to the service of the Lord, seeking
Him with their whole desire. Fear has its uses; but this is not the main-spring of
motion with a sanctified heart. Christ does not control His subjects by force, but
is King of a willing people. They are, through His grace, freely devoted to His service.
They serve out of choice, not as slaves, but as the son or spouse, from a spring
of love and a loyal mind. In a word, the laws of Christ are the convert's love, delight,
and continual study.
(iv) The bent of his course is directed to keep God's statutes. It is the daily care
of his life to walk with God. He seeks great things, he has noble designs, though
he fall too short. He aims at nothing less than perfection; he desires it, he reaches
after it; he would not rest in any degree of grace, till he were quite rid of sin,
and perfected in holiness (Phil iii 11-14).
Here the hypocrite's rottenness maybe discovered. He desires holiness, as one well
said, only as a bridge to heaven, and inquires earnestly what is the least that will
serve his turn; and if he can get but so much as may bring him to heaven, this is
all he cares for. But the sound convert desires holiness for holiness' sake, and
not merely for heaven's sake. He would not be satisfied with so much as might save
him from hell, but desires the highest degree. Yet desires are not enough. What is
your way and your course? Are the drift and scope of your life altered? Is holiness
your pursuit, and religion your business? If not, you fall short of sound conversion.
And is this which we have described, the conversion that is of absolute necessity
to salvation? Then be informed, that strait is the gate and narrow is the way that
leadeth unto life — that there are few that find it — that there is need of divine
power savingly to convert a sinner to Jesus Christ.
Again, be exhorted, 0 man, to examine yourself. What does conscience say? Does it
begin to accuse? Does it not pierce you as you go? Is this your judgment, and this
your choice, and this your way, that we have described? If so, then it is well. But
does your heart condemn you, and tell you of a certain sin you are living in against
your conscience? Does it not tell you there is such and such a secret way of wickedness
that you wish to pursue; such and such a duty that you make no conscience of?
Does not conscience carry you to your closet, and tell you how seldom prayer and
reading are performed there? Does it not carry you to your family, and show you the
charge of God, and the souls of your children that are neglected there? Does not
conscience lead you to your shop, your trade, and tell you of some iniquity there?
Does it not carry you to the public-house, or the private club, and blame you for
the loose company you keep there, the precious time which you misspend there, the
talents which you waste there? Does it not carry you into your secret chamber, and
read there your condemnation?
O conscience! do your duty. In the name of the living God, I command you, discharge
your office. Lay hold upon this sinner, fall upon him, arrest him, apprehend him,
undeceive him. What! will you flatter and soothe him while he lives in his sins?
Awake, O conscience! What meanest thou, O sleeper? What! have you no reproof in your
mouth? What! shall this soul die in his careless neglect of God and of eternity,
and you altogether hold your peace? What! shall he go on still in his trespasses,
and yet have peace? Oh, rouse yourself, and do your work. Now let the preacher in
your bosom speak. Cry aloud, and spare not; lift up thy voice like a trumpet. Let
not the blood of his soul be required at your hands.