Conversion a Cause of Joy
James Smith, 1860
The conversion of a sinner is a marvelous event, view it in whatever point we may — and it produces an effect in all worlds. It excites an enmity in hell, it draws forth love in heaven, and it awakens thanksgiving, and opposition on earth. All who sympathize with God — rejoice in it. All who are enemies to God — dislike and oppose it. But nothing seems to make so deep an impression, or to call forth such strong feelings, as the conversion of great and flagrant sinners; and none show such bad tempers, on such an occasion, as the self-righteous and pharisaical. How strikingly our Lord, brings this out in the parable of the Prodigal Son.
The Father's heart was glad, the servants rejoiced over the wanderer — but the self-righteous brother was angry, and would not go in. And mark how the Father accounts for the joy manifested, "But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was DEAD and is alive again; he was LOST and is found." Luke 15:32.
His State Had Been Most Dangerous.
He was DEAD. Separated from a father's love and care — insensible of his condition — and apparently doomed to destruction. And such is every sinner's case. Sin separates from God, the fountain of life and light. Sin renders man insensible to his danger — and blinds him to his true state and condition. Sin brings a man under the sentence of the law — exposes him to the wrath of God — and so dooms him to eternal destruction.
He was LOST. His state appeared hopeless, he was deprived of all true comfort, and was sunk into wretchedness and crime. Just so the lost sinner — his case is hopeless, unless God in the exercise of his sovereignty intervenes for him; he has no true comfort, nor can he obtain any; he is degraded in the eyes of all God's intelligent creatures, and he sinks deeper and deeper into crime!
But a Glorious Change Was Effected in Him.
He who was dead — is ALIVE again. He thinks, he purposes, he returns to his father. He feels his degradation, he strives to escape, he reaches home, he is happy once more. Just so the sinner, like David, who said, "I thought upon my ways, and turned my feet unto your testimonies." True religion always begins with a thought. The thought works, and ripens into a purpose; the purpose sets the soul in motion to return to God, and returning to God, is real conversion. The convinced soul strives to escape from Satan, its old habits and customs, and from the dreaded wrath to come. It agonizes until it gets free, arrives at the feet of Jesus, and enjoys rest.
He who was lost, was FOUND. Jesus, by his Spirit sought him — that Spirit found him. To the Father's house, and the Father's heart, he led him; and his Father gladly received, and heartily forgave him. Old friends and servants recognize and rejoice over him, and his character and station are recovered. Just so, when the sinner returns to God, he meets with a cordial reception, a hearty welcome; he is instantly forgiven, and treated as if he had never wandered. All who sympathize with God, rejoice over him — and he is at once sanctified to God, and placed among the children. How wondrously grace shines in its fullness, freeness, and power, in the conversion of every sinner — more especially in the conversion of degraded prodigals. From hence we learn that,
A Deep and Solemn Obligation Is Laid upon Us. We should gladly unite to receive every returning sinner. No matter how low he may have sunk — or how degraded he may have become. He is still God's child, and he is our brother, we ought therefore not only to receive him — but to rejoice over him. Angels do, Jesus does, God our Father does, the Holy Spirit does — and we should. Nor only so, we should praise God for him, for his mercy to him. It is fit that we should make merry and be glad. The return of a sinner to God, should fill heaven and earth with gladness. Grace should be recognized in every conversion. The grace should be approved, which brings prodigals to God. Grace should be admired, especially in such victories as this. Relationship should be acknowledged — when a sinner believes, he is our brother; and the past course should be forgotten — when grace has renewed the heart.
We are all by nature dead and lost. We never live — until we return to God. Every returning sinner is heartily welcomed by the Lord. We are in a bad state if we do not rejoice in the return of our poor lost brothers — yes, if we do not seek to recover and restore them. There is no joy like that occasioned by the return of poor lost prodigals.
Does this paper meet the eye of a poor prodigal — a poor degraded young man — or a poor fallen miserable woman? If so, we say, Arise, and go to your father — go at once — and go as the prodigal did, directly from the field where he had been feeding the swine, go just as you are. God will receive you, he will raise you to happiness and honor. No father ever welcomed back a prodigal son with such exquisite delight — as God welcomes the approach of the returning sinner. Desponding one, degraded one, God sends a special message to you — he invites, he entreats, he beseeches you to return! Return and experience his compassion. Return and receive his forgiveness. Return and prove the greatness of his love. Return and taste the sweetness of being reconciled to God. Return and make your father's heart, your father's home, your father's household happy. For you is provided the fattened calf, on you shall be put the best robe, to you shall be awarded a seat at the festal table, and for you, to celebrate your return, shall be heard music and dancing. Return, return, return then poor prodigal, and heaven and earth shall rejoice over you!