Lest They Should Be Converted
James Smith, 1861
I know two young men, whose parents were godly people--but they would never accompany them to hear their minister; and the reason they assigned for this some years afterwards, when they were brought under concern about their souls was, they were afraid they should be converted. They had no fear of being converted under the minister they chose to hear, and such was their dislike to real religion, that they would not go to hear one that was more simple and more impressive, lest they should be converted. This was just the case with the Jews in Paul's time. Therefore he said to them at Rome, "For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Lest they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them." Acts 28:27. They were afraid of being converted.
What is Conversion?It is a thorough change of heart and conduct. It is a turning . . .
the man thinks seriously, upon serious and important subjects;
he feels deeply, the state and danger of his immortal soul; and
he acts wisely in fleeing for refuge to the Lord Jesus Christ.
He can no longer live careless and prayerless,
he can no longer reject the Bible or the means of grace,
he can no longer enjoy the pleasures and frivolities of the world.
He retires to think, to read the Bible and pray;
he seeks the company of the Lord's people, to hear them speak of Jesus, and tell out the experience of their souls.
He enters upon an entirely new course of conduct--if he has been living in sin.
He does everything from a new motive, and with a new object in view--if he has been moral. He becomes a new creature!
To What Does Conversion Introduce a Man?
1. It introduces him to the enjoyment of the pardon of all his past sins; for feeling the guilt of sin on his conscience, he is concerned to get rid of it, he therefore enquires to ascertain how this can be done, and he is directed to exercise faith in Jesus. He receives into his mind, from God's word and the gospel, right views of Jesus as the able and willing Savior; and exercising confidence in his faithful word and finished work--a sense of pardon springs up in his mind, and he feels in himself that all his sins are forgiven him for Christ's sake.
2. This introduces him to enjoyment of peace with God, for he perceives, that God out of pure love, gave his only Son, to live and die in order to put away his sins; and that Jesus has really put away his sins from the sight of God, so that God can now look upon him and love him, and does look upon him lovingly. This causes all dread of God to depart, all fear of his wrath expires--and confidence in God springs up, which fills the soul with peace and joy. God is now viewed as love, as gracious and merciful, as full of compassion and slow to anger; a perfect reconciliation with God takes place, and friendship and fellowship with God springs up.
3. This introduces to the enjoyment of Christ--whose glorious person, wondrous grace, and perfect work--fixes the mind, fires the affections, and consecrates the whole soul to his praise. Jesus is now precious. His name is as ointment poured forth. His word is as sweet as honey. His ordinances are pleasant and significant. His presence is a little Heaven upon earth. To think of Christ, to read of Christ, to hear of Christ, and to converse of Christ--gives joy and rejoicing to the soul.
4. This introduces to the fellowship of the saints.
They alone can sympathize, with us now. They have passed through the same
change. They have experienced the same sorrows, and they have
felt the same joys. They know . . .
the sweets of pardon,
the pleasures of freedom,
the comfort of peace with God, and
the value of a saving interest in Christ.
They are therefore suitable society, and to meet with them to speak of Jesus, or tell out the experience of the heart, or join in prayer, praise, or some work to extend the cause of Christ--is a pleasure and privilege. Now we can say of the saints, "They are the excellent of the earth, in whom is all my delight."
5. This introduces into the way of holiness: we
love holy thoughts, holy people, and holy services. We
pray for a holy heart, choose holy employments, and long for a
holy Heaven. Holy tempers, holy words, and holy
actions--call forth our admiration, and excite our imitation. We . . .
delight in the holy law,
feed on the holy gospel, and
glory in the holy Jesus.
The desire, the object, and the aim of our life, is to be holy in body, soul, and spirit.
6. This introduces us to the joys of Heaven. We
taste them even now. In fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus
Christ, in the communion of saints, and in the service of God--we often feel
a measure of the joy that is unspeakable and full of glory, At times also,
by faith, we seem to anticipate the joy of the Heavenly world,
and live almost in the light of glory. Nor will it be long, before we shall
enter fully upon it, and
what is imperfect now--will be perfect then;
what is now commenced--will then be consummated;
and what is only occasional now--will then be perpetual, and forever.
If conversion introduces to the enjoyment to pardon and peace, of the presence of Jesus and communion with the saints, to the way of holiness and the joys of Heaven--why should any one dislike it, or fear lest they should he converted?
Why Do Some Dislike Conversion?That many do, beside the young men that I have referred to, is evident--or they would seek it, and make use of every means likely to lead to it.
It arises from the pride of human nature. Man is a proud creature, and the idea of being humbled before God, confessing sin to God, and seeking to be saved by the free grace of God alone--is so repugnant to the pride of human nature, that the sinner naturally revolts at it!
To be nothing, to do nothing with a view to merit at the hands of God, to be on a level with the vilest of the vile--proud nature cannot consent to this!
To give up one's own opinions, and adopt adverse ones; to renounce one's own righteousness, and stoop to be justified for the sake of another; in a word to adopt another's name, trust in another's merit, and seek in all we do, think, or say--to bring honor to another's work, grace, and character--is what unsanctioned human nature can never approve of--therefore it objects to be converted.
That many dislike God's method of salvation, arises from the love of sin, which has become natural and pleasant, for the sinner enjoys sin--and looks upon holiness as gloomy and repulsive. He will not give up his pride, or his covetousness, or his indulgence of the carnal appetites.
What! Give up the world!
What! Forsake the mirthful party, the dance, the ballroom, the race course, the theater, the various scenes of carnal pleasure and fleshly indulgence!
What! Pore over the Bible, shut oneself up in the prayer closet, go to the prayer-meeting, attend service on weekdays as well as Sundays, and meet to talk about Christ! No, no! that can never be! Therefore they will not consent to be converted.
Then, there is the enmity of the heart against
God, the sinner is very backward to admit this--but it is too clear to be
denied--God's word states it in so many words, and man's conduct proves it.
Does he not . . .
chose what God prohibits,
love what God hates, and
do just what God forbids?
If a man was not at enmity with God, would he . . .
shun his company,
avoid his presence,
refuse to listen to his messages,
and allow his word to remain unread?
Tis true, too true, that "the carnal mind is enmity against God, it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be."
The heart must be changed--or God can never be loved, served, or enjoyed.
Then, there is also positive unbelief--man will
not believe God. Does God speak to him . . .
of the true nature of sin and holiness,
of the pleasures of true religion,
of the need of a Savior,
of the glory and excellency of Christ,
of the joys of Heaven, or the pains of Hell
--man does not believe him! If he did believe, he would be affected by what God says. But as God's word produces no effect, or no lasting effect upon him, it is clear, that he does not believe him. While therefore man . . .
indulges in the pride of his heart,
nourishes enmity against God,
disbelieves his word, and
thus yields to the Prince of darkness
--he must dislike conversion.
How Do Some Try to Prevent Conversion?
They refuse to read plain, pointed, awakening books on the subject, which would be likely to convert them.
They avoid hearing rousing, energetic, soul-affecting preachers, who are used to bring many to God.
They turn away from some Christians, who will personally address them, and manifest concern for their soul's salvation.
They do all they can to get rid of convictions, and serious impressions, whenever they feel them.
They indulge in light, trifling, soul-deceiving amusements, and keep company with the frivolous, thoughtless, or profane.
In a word, they avoid what would be likely to bring them to God, and humble their hearts before him; and they indulge in those things which would lead them further from him, and harden their hearts against him. They are afraid, "Lest THEY should be converted."
Reader! Man must be converted--or be lost forever! As he is, God can have no fellowship with him! Heaven is no place for him--he could not possibly be happy there. His nature, his tastes, his habits are all against it; therefore our Lord said, "Truly, I say unto you, Except you are converted, and become as little children, you shall never enter into the kingdom of Heaven!"
Many will run the risk of being lost, rather than seek to be converted. If God promises a new heart to the seeker--they will not seek it. If God promises the Holy Spirit to those who ask--they will not ask. If Jesus invites them to come to him, that he may save them, and confer all spiritual blessings upon them--they will not come. If the Holy Spirit comes near them, they say, "Depart from us!" If he strives with them--they resist him. If he presents the free and full salvation of the gospel to them--they put it away from them.
Some people may read these lines, who have been afraid to be converted. My friends, do you know what you are afraid of? You are really afraid of being made truly happy, immensely rich, and eternally honorable! You are afraid of having God for a Father instead of a foe--of having Jesus for a Savior, instead of a Judge--of having the Holy Spirit for a Comforter, Teacher, and Guide. You are afraid of that which would place you under the guardianship of God, entitle you to all the promises of God's word, and the glories of Heaven at death. Yield to such foolish infatuation no longer--but listen to the words of the Holy Spirit, "Repent and be converted--that your sins may be blotted out." Repent and turn yourself from all transgressions, so iniquity shall not be your ruin!