CONVERSION, and God’s Responsibility of it.

Taken and adapted from, “The True Scripture Doctrine Concerning Some Important points of  Christian Faith”
Written by, Jonathan Dickinson

pure_heart_by_avalmaar

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ. By grace ye are saved. –Ephesians 2:4, 5

HAVING, understood from scripture, somewhat distinctly the considered the sad effects of our original apostasy…

…I am now led by the words before us, to take notice of the methods of our recovery from the misery, death, and ruin, which the fall has brought upon us. In the text we have,

  1. A representation of our state of nature in these words, “When we were dead in sins.” We are, by our apostasy from God, dead as to all the powers and faculties of our souls in their moral consideration: they are wholly pollution and sin, and naturally incapable of anything that is spiritually good. We are dead by a just sentence of the law of God. We are condemned already, and the wrath of God abideth on us. And we are not only spiritually but eternally dead, by the execution of that terrible sentence upon our souls, if infinite mercy doth not step in to our rescue and deliverance, as I have observed in a former discourse.
  2. Here is set before us the great change, which by conversion is wrought on the soul; in that expression, Hath quickened us; or, as it is elsewhere expressed, hath made us alive from the dead. The blessed Spirit of God, when he pleaseth, renews our nature, sanctifies our affections, and fulfils in us the whole good pleasure of his goodness. By his gracious operations upon our souls, he mortifies our corruptions, brings our sinful appetites and passions into subjection, and creates us anew in Christ Jesus unto good works, that we may walk in them. This makes a great change in the soul, such as may very aptly be compared to a quickening, or resurrection from the dead.
  3. Here is intimated the powerful efficiency, by which this change is wrought, in those words, “together with Christ.” As the almighty power of God was gloriously exerted and displayed, in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, so is the same Almighty power manifested and magnified in the resurrection of sinners from their spiritual death. Thus they are quickened together with Christ; as truly quickened as he was, and by the same divine efficiency.
  4. We have the motive unto, or the impulsive cause of this change, suggested in these words, “God who is rich in mercy, for his great love, wherewith he loved us. By grace are ye saved.” There could be no motive out of himself, nothing but his own infinite mercy, love, and grace, to excite his kind regard to such poor guilty, hell-deserving rebels as we are. Should he leave us all under the guilt of our sins and the damning power of our lusts, unto inevitable and remediless perdition, he would be most just, and we most justly miserable. We should have no cause of complaint, if he should bestow no mercy upon any of us, for he owes us none, we have nothing to claim but his just displeasure. What then but sovereign distinguishing grace, looks upon any of the fallen race of mankind while in their blood, and says unto them, LIVE? Why is one, more than another, partaker of these quickening influences, but from the mere good pleasure of God’s goodness?

But that I may more distinctly explain the words before us, I shall endeavor to consider, In what manner the Spirit of God quickens dead sinners, and brings them into a state of spiritual life.

To this I shall in general observe that,

1.   the principal method by which this great change is wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit of God, is his giving him a realizing view of the great truths revealed in the word of God, and enabling him to see things as they are. It may be some prejudice against the doctrine of our sanctification by the special influences of the Spirit of God upon our hearts, that men may imagine, there is thereby intended the infusion of some new faculty into the soul, which it had not before; and that the new creation implies our becoming a new sort of being, with respect to the natural powers and properties of the soul, which we were not before. But let it be considered, that the Spirit of God does no more in the conversion of a sinner, than bring him to the right exercise of those rational powers with which he was born, give him a just view of his greatest concerns, and enable him to act worthy of a reasonable being. Observe this, and all the prejudices against the doctrine before us are obviated, and vanish away. Now that this is the case, I shall endeavor to show, by taking some particular notice of the usual progressive steps by which a sinner is brought out of a state of carnal security, to the possession and exercise of the divine life [Though I have, on another occasion, formerly endeavored to represent the methods of the blessed Spirit’s operations in the conversion and sanctification of a sinner, in a discourse published on that subject, the reader will see the necessity of considering these things over again in another view, in order to clear up the case before me.]. And I think it will appear that the whole change is wrought in him by spiritual illumination, by impressing a right view of things upon his mind, or by enabling him to act reasonably.

2.  Then, if we consider the first change wrought in a sinner by the Spirit of God, it will appear to be no more than his bringing him to realize his own miserable condition, and see it as it is. It is awfully certain from the word of God, that every impenitent sinner is an enemy to God, under a sentence of condemnation, and an heir of hell and eternal misery. And it is equally certain, that the most of the world are easy and quiet, careless and secure in this dreadful state. No means that can possibly be used, will put the most of mankind upon a proper solicitude about their eternal welfare. The most awakening addresses, that can be made them in the name of the Lord, the most surprising alarms of God’s providence, the most pathetic and compassionate entreaties of their godly friends, have no effect upon them, to stop their career for hell and damnation. They will yet sleep upon the brink of the pit. They will yet run upon the thick bosses of God’s buckler. They will yet indulge their lusts, though they perish for ever. And what is the source of this indolence, thoughtlessness, and security, but their want of a just view of their state and danger? Could they but realize these things, and see them as they are, they would sooner rush upon a drawn sword, or leap into a burning furnace, than further incense the eternal Majesty against their souls, and venture upon everlasting damnation. But their misery is, that they have no feeling apprehension of these things. They consider them but as the rumbling of remote thunder, and as affairs of no special consequence to them; and thus they will consider them, unless the Spirit of God set home the important concern upon their minds, and give them a lively sense of what they are doing, and whither they are going. But if once the blessed Spirit undertakes the work, he will make the long neglected and slighted means of grace effectual to open their eyes, that they may see their state as it is. Though they could before sit under the most powerful ministry from year to year, without care, fear, or sensible apprehension of their danger; yet now an ordinary sermon, or a particular passage in a sermon, which perhaps they had heard hundreds of times before without concern, shall awaken their sleepy consciences, and make them with trembling and astonishment cry out, “What shall I do to be saved?” Why, what is the matter now? Whence is this wonderful change? Why cannot the poor sinner do now as he was wont to do? Why cannot he go on in his mirth and jollity, in his worldly pursuits and sensual gratifications? What means this darkness and distress, this melancholy countenance and solemn concern? Is this the man that lately laughed at preciseness; that bantered serious godliness, and ridiculed vital piety, as enthusiasm, or a heated imagination? Whence is he now as much an enthusiast, as any of those whom he lately derided and scoffed at? Whence is he now so afraid of hell and damnation, that could lately “mock at fear, and laugh at the shaking of God’s spear?” This wonderful alteration is wholly wrought by the Almighty Spirit’s impressing a lively view of what the secure sinner could have no feeling sense of before. Now he sees his sins, in their number, nature and aggravations. Now he sees his danger, and thence feels that “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” He sees in such a view, that he can be no longer quiet and easy, in such a state of guilt and misery. But this, though open to every one’s observation, and plainly visible from the word of God and the nature of things, is what he never would have seen to purpose, unless the Comforter had been sent to “convince him of sin.” And the reason is assigned, 2 Cor. 4:4. “The God of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not;” and Isa. 1:3, “Israel doth not know; my people doth not consider.”

3.  If we consider the case with respect to a sinner’s humiliation, the Spirit of God works this also in the soul, by showing him his state as it is; and by giving him a realizing sight of his unworthiness of divine mercy, of his spiritual impotency, and utter inability to help himself. These are indeed truths plainly revealed in Scripture, as well as necessary deductions from the light of nature. By both of these it is clearly manifest, that we are guilty creatures, and thereby obnoxious to the wrath of God; that we are imperfect creatures, and therefore cannot fulfil the demands of the law of nature; much less can we make satisfaction for our past offences. But though these things are in themselves evident as the light, they have no impression upon the minds of the generality of mankind. Though deserving nothing but destruction and death, they are as easy and secure, as though they had a title to God’s favor, and a claim to eternal happiness. Though utterly incapable to change their own hearts, or to deserve that God should do it for them, they are yet attempting their salvation in their own strength, if they attempt it at all; and being ignorant of God’s righteousness, they go about to establish their own righteousness, not submitting themselves to the righteousness of God. Even those who are convinced of their guilt and danger, are usually struggling after deliverance in their own strength, and betaking themselves to some self-righteous refuge or other. And thus in their highest attainments, will they continue to “compass themselves about with sparks of their own kindling,” till the Spirit of grace by his powerful influences humble them at God’s feet; and show them that they are “poor, and miserable, and wretched, and blind, and naked.” And how is this done, but by giving them a sight of their case as it is? They had a doctrinal knowledge before, that they were sinful, guilty, helpless, and hopeless in themselves. But this had no special influence upon their affections, or their conduct. But when they have a feeling sense of this, it must bring them low. They now see their sin and guilt, that there is no resting in their present condition. They see the defects of their duties, that these cannot recommend them to God’s favor. They see their own impotency, that they cannot take away the heart of stone out of their flesh, and give themselves a heart of flesh. They see the strict demands of God’s law, that it is impossible to come up to them. They see the purity and holiness of God’s nature, that he cannot look upon sin and sinners with approbation. They see that they have no capacity to help themselves, though they are utterly undone in their present condition. And what is the necessary result of a realizing sight of such a lost, helpless, perishing condition, but that, Psalms 130:3. “If thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquity, O Lord, who should stand?” Or that, Neh. 9:15. “Behold, we are before thee in our trespasses; for we cannot stand before thee, because of this!” What should be the result of this prospect, but that they lie at God’s footstool, as condemned malefactors, having nothing to plead, save unmerited and forfeited mercy, why sentence should not be executed upon them, to their eternal confusion!

4.  In the same manner, is a convinced sinner brought to a solicitous inquiry after an interest in Christ. This also is wrought in him, by a lively view of his case as it is. We an all indeed from our earliest age, indoctrinated in this essential article of the Christian faith, that there is not salvation in any other but Christ, and that there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. And yet the most of the world, are whole, and need not the physician. They are more concerned about anything else, than about an interest in Christ. It is beyond human art and means, to make them at all solicitous about this great salvation, though they know that their eternal welfare depends upon it. And what can be the reason, that this madness is in the hearts of men? Can condemned perishing sinners be unconcerned, about the only method of escape from eternal damnation? Can they set more value on their lusts and pleasures, on the world and its vanities, and even on the merest trifles imaginable, than on Christ and his saving benefits? Can they rather choose to perish eternally, and to lose all the glories of the heavenly world, than to come to Christ, that they might have life? How astonishing this conduct appears, it is visibly the case of the world of mankind in general. And what reason can possibly be imagined of such unparalleled stupidity, but this, that they have not, they cannot have, while under the power of a blind and carnal mind, any realizing view of this great concern? Could they but see their case as it is, a condemned malefactor could as easily set light by a pardon, or a drowning man by deliverance, as these perishing sinners by an offered Savior. We accordingly find, that when the Spirit of God comes upon them with his illuminations, and opens their eyes to see their misery and impotency, they can be no longer careless about an interest in Christ, They can no longer make excuses; and go their way, one to his farm, and another to his merchandise. They can no longer amuse themselves with different lusts and pleasures; and forget their necessity of Christ and his salvation. No! They have now nothing so much at heart, as the securing an interest in this blessed Savior. Now this thought lies down and rises with them, “What must I do to be saved? How shall I obtain an interest in Christ?” Now their distressed souls are groaning out these pathetic desires—O for an interest in Christ! Let me have Christ, whatever I want!—The world now with all its blandishments, all its riches and glory, dwindles to nothing in the eyes of such a humbled sinner, when compared with this excellent and needed Savior. I may appeal to everyone that has been truly converted to God, at an age of observation, whether they have not experienced these things in their own hearts. And indeed these operations of the mind are so rational, that it would be in the nature of things impossible we should neglect a most active concern about an interest in Christ, if the eyes of our understanding were enlightened. But alas! “The light shines in darkness; and the darkness comprehends it not.” We see by experience, that men never do, never will show themselves thoroughly in earnest about this everlasting concern, till the Spirit of God open their eyes, and turn them from darkness to light; and that when they are thus illuminated, they cannot do otherwise. This wonderful change in men’s desires and pursuits, is a necessary consequence of divine illumination, and of a just and reasonable view of things. Without this, they cannot attain it; with this they cannot fail of it. To this therefore the apostle ascribes it. 2 Cor. 4:6, “For God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ.”

5.  In the same manner also is the actual conversion of a sinner accomplished. In order to this, the Spirit of God gives him a realizing sight of the fullness and sufficiency that there is in Christ; and of his willingness and readiness to save him: the attainments before described, do not necessarily imply a saving conversion to God. Though these are the influences of the blessed Spirit, they are not his special and saving operations. The sinner is not brought into a state of favor with God, till he accepts a tendered Savior upon his own terms. It is by receiving him, that we have power to become the sons of God. The first act of saving faith is that conversion, by which the sinner effectually turns from sin to God, passes from death to life, and becomes interested in Christ and all his saving benefits. Now, which way is the sinner brought to this, but by an impressed lively discovery of things as they are?—By a lively sight of his sin and danger, powerfully applied to his mind and conscience, and appearing as it is, he is awakened to an earnest inquiry after the way of salvation. By a clear discovery of his unworthiness and impotence, he is brought to the footstool of God’s sovereignty, and to an earnest desire of an interest in Christ; as I observed before. But here the soul is often plunged into greatest darkness and distress: his guilt stares him in the face; he sees he has no claim to mercy, nothing that can entitle him to it; he has been struggling in vain, to mortify his corruptions, to enliven his affections, and to do something to recommend himself to God’s favor; and is now perhaps ready to give up the case, as helpless and hopeless; he cannot see how God can have mercy upon such a guilty, polluted, hard-hearted, hellish sinner, as he is. Propose to him the only remedy for such lost sinners; and how many objections will lie in the way! How many arguments will he bring against believing in Christ: from his own unworthiness and want of qualifications to come to him; from the decrees of God; from his having sinned away the day of grace, and the like; even till he runs into despair, unless the Spirit of God disperse the dark cloud, and give him a right view of redeeming mercy! But when once such a distressed soul sees this as it is, when once he has an impressed sense of gospel grace, and is brought to see indeed, that he is invited to come to Christ, notwithstanding all his guilt, and unworthiness; and that this precious Savior is able and willing to bestow all that salvation upon him, which he stands in need of, then his objections are silenced; and he cannot refrain from heartily complying with the offer. Then he can commit his soul to him; for he sees that there is the utmost safety in doing it. Then he can depend upon him as the author of his eternal salvation; for he sees that he has no whither else to go, and that Christ has the words of eternal life.

It is remarkable that the Scriptures everywhere annex salvation to faith, and to the belief of the truth; and we are told, 1 John 5:1 “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God.” But what are we to understand by this belief? Will a cold and inactive assent to this truth interest us in Christ and his salvation? No! “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 9:1. In which is more than a bare assent implied.

It implies such a realizing view as makes all the offers of salvation by Christ certain, and his purchased benefits present to the believer. And when a weary and heavy laden soul hath such a sight of the fullness and sufficiency, of the kindness and compassion of Christ; and of his willingness to save him upon his coming to him, as makes this comfortable truth as it were personally present to his mind; when he has such a view that this Savior is offered freely to him, “without money and without price;” it is impossible for him to do otherwise than consent to such reasonable terms of salvation. How can he refuse his consent to these terms, when his distress of soul had before prepared him for a compliance with any terms of obtaining God’s favor? It is impossible for him to do otherwise than set the highest value on such a Savior, when he has this sight, that grace here, and glory hereafter is implied in his interest in Christ. It is impossible for him to do otherwise than have his dependence upon Christ only, when he has this sight, that in him all fullness dwells, and that there is no safety anywhere else. But I hope, if God will, more particularly to describe a true saving faith. I am now only endeavoring to show, that the Spirit of God works this grace in us by illuminating our minds; and giving us a right exercise of our understandings.

6.   The Spirit of God does likewise carry on the work of grace in a believer’s sanctification, by continued views of spiritual things as they are. By faith the soul is united to the Lord Jesus Christ; and becomes one spirit with him. By faith, believers have an interest in all the benefits of Christ’s redemption. They have thereby a claim to all the promises of the covenant of grace, and may safely and confidently depend upon the faithfulness of God, that he will give them grace and glory; that they shall be kept by his power, through faith, unto salvation; that he who hath begun a good work in them, will perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ; that he who spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for them all, will with him also freely give them all things; and that upon their believing in Christ, out of their bellies shall flow rivers of living water. And what way is this glorious work of grace carried on in the soul, but by the continued assistances of the blessed Spirit to act reasonably, and to maintain a lively apprehension and impression of invisible realities? How comes the believer to hate every false way, but by a lively view of the vileness and unreasonableness of sinning against God? What excites him to live in the love of God, but a realizing impression of the excellency of his nature, the infinite value of his favor, and the endearing attractions of his goodness, kindness and compassion? What makes him in love with holiness, but a sensible discovery of its internal beauty and agreeableness to a reasonable being? How comes he weaned from the world, but by a true sight of its vanity and utter insufficiency to satisfy the desires of an immortal nature? How come his affections placed upon the things above, but from a like discovery of the value and importance of things unseen and eternal? What is communion with God, but a just impression of what pertains to God and godliness? And what the evidences of God’s favor, but a realizing sight of the actings of grace in our souls, and of the truth of the invitations and promises of the gospel? The extraordinary influences of the Spirit in his immediate communications of light and joy to the believer, are but still a brighter discovery of things as they are. In a word, in whatever aspect this case is considered, what I am pleading for will, I think, appear to be truth. The whole work of sanctification is carried on by illumination, and by the soul’s being brought, through the influences of God’s Spirit, to the exercise of knowledge and understanding; and to this the Apostle ascribes it. Eph. 1:17, 18, “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercy, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation, in the knowledge of him; the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of his calling; and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.”

Upon the whole, I cannot see that the Spirit of God does in any other manner, work this wonderful in the change in the hearts of sinners, than by giving them a just view of things as they are, by bringing them to act reasonably, worthy the dignity of their rational nature, and the intellectual powers they are endued with. By this he [the Holy Spirit] conquers the enmity to God there is in their hearts; and brings them from the power of their lusts, of Satan, and the world, into the fear and favor of God. By opening their eyes, he turns them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may have an inheritance among those that are sanctified.

The Work of Your Conversion: The Sweetness of Providence’s Mark of Mercy

Extracts taken and adapted from, “The Mystery of Providence”
Written by, John Flavel (1627-1691)

PROVIDENCE COLOR LOGO NO HOSPITAL

In nothing does Providence shine forth more gloriously in this world than in ordering the occasions, instruments and means of conversion of the people of God.

However skillfully its hand has molded our bodies, however tenderly it has preserved them and however bountifully it has provided for them; if it had not also ordered some means or other for your conversion, all the former favors and benefits it had done for you mean little. This, O this, is the most excellent benefit you will ever receive from God’s hand. You are more indebted to God for this, than for all your other mercies. And in explaining this performance of Providence, I cannot but think your hearts must be deeply affected. This is a subject which every gracious heart loves to steep its thoughts in. It is certainly the sweetest history that ever they repeat; they love to think and talk of it. The places where, and instruments by whom this work was wrought are exceedingly endearing to them for the work’s sake, yea, endeared to that degree, that, for many years after, their hearts have melted when they have but passed occasionally by those places or but seen the faces of those persons that were used as instruments in the hand of Providence for their good. As no doubt but Jacob’s Bethel was ever after that night sweet to his thoughts (Gen. 48. 3), so other saints have had their Bethels as well as he. O blessed places, times, and instruments! O the deep, the sweet impressions, never to be erased out of the memory or heart, that this Providence has made upon those on whom it wrought this blessed effect at years of discretion, and in a more perceptible way!

But lest any poor soul should be discouraged by the display of this Providence because he cannot remember the time, place, instruments and manner when and by which conversion work was wrought, I will therefore premise this necessary distinction, to prevent injury to some, while I design benefit to others.

Conversion, as to the subjects of it, may be considered two ways; either as it is more clearly wrought in person of riper years, who in their youthful days were more profane and vile; or upon persons in their tender years, into whose hearts grace was more imperceptibly and indiscernibly instilled by God’s blessing upon pious education. In the former sort, the distinct acts of the Spirit, illuminating, convincing, humbling, drawing them to Christ and sealing them are more evident and discernible. In the latter, these are more obscure and confused. They can remember that God gave them an esteem and liking of godly persons, care of duty and conscience of sin; but as to the time, place, instruments and manner of the work, they can give but a slender account of them. However, if the work is savingly wrought in them, there is no reason they should be troubled because the circumstances of it are not so evident to them as they are to others. Let the substance and reality of the work appear and there is no reason to afflict yourselves because of the lack of evidence of such circumstance.

But where the circumstances as well as substance are clear to a man, when we can call to remembrance the time when, the place where, the instrument by whom that work was wrought, it must needs be exceedingly sweet, and they cannot but yield a fresh delight to the soul every time they are reflected upon.

There are many of the following occasions which, it may be, we took for stragglers when they first befell us, but they proved scouts sent out from the main body of Providence, which they make way for. Now there are various things in those Providences that respect this work, which are exceedingly sweet and taking, as namely: The wonderful strangeness and unaccountableness of this work of Providence in casting us into the way and ordering the occasions, yea, the minutest circumstances about this work. Thus you find that the Eunuch, at that very instant when he was reading the prophet Esaias, had an interpreter, one among a thousand that joins his chariot just as his mind was by a fit occasion prepared to receive the first light of the knowledge of Christ (Acts 8. 26-30).

And how strange was that change, however far it went, upon Naaman the Syrian (2 Kings 5. 1-4)! that the Syrians in their incursion should bright away this girl – likely her beauty was the inducement – and she must be present to Naaman’s wife, and relate to her the power of God that accompanied the prophet; though you find in that particular case there had never been an instance given before (Luke 4. 27). Doubtless the whole of this affair was guided by the signal direction of Providence.

And now let me expostulate a little with your soul, reader. Have you been duly aware of your obligation to Providence for this inestimable favor? O what it has done for you! There are various kinds of mercies conveyed to men by the hand of Providence, but none like this; in all the treasury of its benefits none is found like this. Did it cast you into the way of conversion, and order the means and occasions of it for you, when you little thought of any such thing? How dear and sweet should the remembrance of it be to your soul! methinks it should astonish and melt you every time you reflect upon it. Such mercies should never grow stale or look like common things to you, for do but seriously consider the following particulars.

How surprising was the mercy which Providence performed for you in that day! Providence had a design upon you for your eternal good, which you did not understand. The time of mercy was now fully come; the decree was now ready to bring forth that mercy, with which it had gone big from eternity, and its gracious design must be executed by the hand of Providence, so far as concerned the external means and instruments. How aptly did it cause all things to fall in with that design, though you did not know the meaning of it?

Look over the before-mentioned examples, and you will see the blessed work of conversion begun upon those souls, when they minded it no more than Saul did a kingdom that morning he went out ‘to seek his father’s asses’ (1 Sam. 9. 3, 20). Providence might truly have said to you in that day, as Christ said to Peter: ‘What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know it hereafter’ (John 13. 7). God’s thoughts are not as our thoughts; but as the heavens are higher than the earth so are His thoughts higher than ours, and His ways than our ways. Little did Zacchaeus think when he climbed up into the sycamore tree to see Christ as He passed that way what a design of mercy Christ had upon him, who took thence the occasion of becoming both his Guest and Saviour (Luke 19. 5-8). And as little did some of you think what the aim of Providence was when you went, some out of custom, others out of curiosity, if not worse motives to hear such a sermon. O how stupendous are the ways of God!

What a distinguishing and seasonable mercy was ushered in by Providence in that day! It brought you to the means of salvation in a good hour. In the very nick of time, when the angel troubled the waters, you were brought to the pool (John 5. 4). Now the accepted day was come, the Spirit was in the ordinance or providence that converted you, and you were set in the way of it. It may be you had heard many hundred sermons before, but nothing would stick till now, because the hour was not come. The Lord did, as it were, call in the word for such a man, such a woman, and Providence said: ‘Lord, here he is, I have brought him before thee.’ There were many others under that sermon that received no such mercy. You yourselves had heard many before, but not to that advantage, as it is said: ‘And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian’ (Luke 4. 27). So there were many poor, unconverted souls beside you under the Word that day, and it may be, to none of them was salvation sent that day but to you. O blessed Providence that set you in the way of mercy at that time!

What a weighty and important mercy was providentially directed to your souls that day. There are mercies of all sizes and kinds in the hands of Providence to dispense to the sons of men. Its left hand is full of blessings as well as its right. It has health and riches, honours and pleasures, as well as Christ and salvation to dispense. The world is full of its left hand favours, but the blessings of its right hand are invaluably precious and few there be that receive them. It performs thousands of kind offices for men; but among them all, this is the chiefest, to lead and direct them to Christ. For consider, of all mercies, this comes through most and greatest difficulties (Eph. 1. 19, 20).

This is a spiritual mercy, excelling in dignity of nature all others, more than gold excels the dirt under your feet (Rev. 3. 18). One such gift is worth thousands of other mercies.

This is a mercy immediately flowing out of the fountain of God’s electing love, a mercy never dropped into any but an elect vessel (1 Thess. 1. 4, 5).

This is a mercy that infallibly secures salvation; for as we may argue from conversion to election, looking back, so from conversion to salvation, looking forward (Heb. 6. 9).

Lastly, this is an eternal mercy, one which will stick by you when father, mother, wife, children, estate, honours, health and life shall fail you (John 4. 14).

O, therefore, set a special mark upon that Providence that set you in the way of this mercy. It has performed that for you which all the ministers on earth and angels in heaven could never have performed. This is a mercy that puts weight and value into the smallest circumstance that relates to it.

CONVERSION: And those things from which we turn

Taken and adapted from, “An Alarm to Unconverted Sinners”
Written by Joseph Alleine (1634-1668), An English Nonconformist Pastor

sin_grave

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 forever 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 sins swell 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, “0 wretched man!” 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 sin and for uncleanness. If he fall, he has no rest till he flees to the word, and washes in the infinite fountain, laboring 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 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 or the support of his esteem with worldly friends, yet he will rather throw his gain down the kennel, see his credit fail, or the flower of 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 you, 0 mine enemy?”

Have you pondered these things in thy heart? Hast you searched the book within you, to see if these things be so? If not, read it again, and make thy conscience speak, whether or not it be thus with you.

Hast you crucified thy flesh with its affections and lusts; and not only confessed, but forsaken thy sins, all sin in thy fervent desires, and the ordinary practice of every deliberate and willful sin in thy life? If not, you art yet unconverted. Does not conscience fly in your face as you read, and tell you that you livest in a way of lying for thy advantage; that you used deceit in your calling; that there is some way of secret wantonness that you live in? Why then, do not deceive thyself; you are in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity.

Does not 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 or such a way that you know to be evil, that yet for some carnal respect you do tolerate yourself in? If this be your case, you are to this day unregenerate, and must be changed or condemned.

We turn from Satan.

Conversion binds the strong man, spoils his armor, 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 presently he followed, like an ox to the slaughter, and a fool to the correction of the stocks; as the bird that hastens to the prey, and knows not that it is for his life. No sooner could Satan bid him lie, but presently 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 enough 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 closet-duties,” he will go from day-to-day and scarcely perform them. But since 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 an advantage.

We turn from the world.

Before a man has true faith, he is overcome of the world; either he 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,

0 miserable man, what a deformed monster has sin made you! God made you “little lower than the angels;” sin, little better than the devils. The world, that was formed to serve you, is come 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. So Paul, “I am crucified to the world, and the world to me,” Before this change, all the cry-was, “Who will show us any worldly good?” but now he prays, ” Lord, lift you up the light of thy countenance upon me,” and take the corn and wine whoso will. Before, his heart’s delight and content were in the world; then the song was, “Soul, take thy ease, eat, drink, and be merry; you hast 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.” He blesses himself, and boasts himself in God. Nothing else can give 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 heaven and the righteousness thereof, and religion is no longer a matter by the by 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. Doth not this nearly concern you? You pretend 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 thyself better at ease when the world goes to thy mind, and you art compassed with carnal delights, than when retired to prayer and meditation in thy closet, or attending upon God’s word and worship? 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 favor! The name of Jesus is engraven on his heart. Gal. 4: 19. Honor 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.” 0, it is sweeter to him to be able to say, Christ is mine, than if he could say, the kingdom is 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 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 dirty tatters of a 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 set a 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 nutriment. Before, the news of Christ was a stale and tasteless thing; but now, how sweet is Christ. Augustine could not relish his before so much admired Cicero, because he could not find in his writings the name of Christ. How emphatically cries he, “0 most sweet, most loving, most kind, most dear, most precious, most desired, most lovely, most fair!”

In a word, the voice of the convert is with the martyr, “None but Christ.”

 

When acting a death led to life

[Do you remember the events and things that led up to your own personal conversion to the Lord?  Many of us can. Often there seems to be a profound tension that builds. And while the whole world may seem to be quiet, inside of our soul, life is at a boil. There is a restlessness, a sense of disquiet, a tension that builds upon itself until… that moment. When all is ready, Grace is offered and received. God has regenerated a heart, a new life begins; a soul has been born in the gates of heaven. Has that happened to you? I pray that it has. –MWP]

h-placeholder

One evening…

…recalls the Rev. Dr. J. H. Wilson, when he was a young man, and sitting in the gallery of the Independent Church, Pastor Cullen, the minister, in applying the text of his sermon, “Thou God seest me,” said, with intense earnestness… “Sailors, write it on your binnacles; merchants, on your counters; carters, on your carts, ‘Thou God seest me;’ –and then turning to the gallery where I was seated, he seemed to fix his eyes on me, and said, “Young man, write it on thy heart, –Thou God seest me.”

That was all he said. But it was an arrow from God’s quiver. I went home wretched, and could not tell why. Days and weeks passed away, and I was unhappy. I read, I prayed, and I wept and laughed, and laughed and wept, like a maniac, and father and mother thought I was going mad. Oh! the remembrance of those days. I cannot account for such feelings. All about me were religious, but none were pious except my dear mother, and her piety was not of the demonstrative cast. I had no sins of a glaring character to mourn over. Ours had been a family of love and obedience, and yet I was not happy.

In this state I continued to hear the good minister, but to no profit. At length the way to peace seemed to open up. I was walking down the principal street of our little town one day, when I met an acquaintance who stopped me, and said, “–Come, now, I want you very much. We are going to act the play of the ‘Heart of Midlothian’ for the benefit of the poor, and Mr. Mullender of the Theatre Royal is to help us. You will make a capital Madge Wildfire. What do you say? The passage, “charity covereth a multitude of sins,” rushed into my mind. “I will,” was the response, and then with all my heart and energy I committed to memory, and practiced for performance.

It suited my romantic nature. Madge was a religious maniac, and I could enter into all her griefs and sorrows and joys with zest. But Madge had to die. On the stage this scene troubled me. “I am mocking death,” said I to myself, when prostrate on the boards. “What if God takes me in this act of solemn mockery?” At that moment a flash of lightning seemed to come across the stage, and with it the words, “–Thou God seest me.”

I could stand it no longer. Rushing behind the scenes, and spoiling the whole play, I put on my daily dress, ran home, went into a summer house in the garden, wept and prayed, and prayed and wept, for a whole night, and until day came in the morning.

Shortly after that, rest was found in Jesus, and a new life, with new aims, hopes, joys, and aspirations, began.

Regeneration and the Regenerate Man

Written by, David Dickson, c.1583–1663, was a Scottish theologian.
Taken and adapted from, Therapeutica Sacra
and from, Select Practical Writings of David Dickson, Vol. 1, 1845

monsma-blazingfurnace

I.  REGENERATION

We speak not here of the regeneration of elect infants dying in their infancy; God hath his own way of dealing with them; but of the regeneration of those who are capable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the word, which we may thus describe.

Regeneration (being one in effect with effectual calling) is the work of God’s invincible power and mere grace, wherein, by his Spirit accompanying his word, he quickened a redeemed person lying dead in his sins, and renews him in his mind, will, and all the powers of his soul; convincing him savingly of sin, righteousness, and judgment, and making him heartily to embrace Christ and salvation, and to consecrate himself to the service of God in Christ, all the days of his life.

The main thing we must take heed to in this work is to give to God entirely the glory of his grace, and power, and wisdom, so that the glory of man’s regeneration be neither given to man, nor man made sharer of the glory with God; but God may have the whole glory of his free grace, because out of his own good will, not for any thing at all foreseen in man, he lets forth his special love on the redeemed in a time acceptable. And the glory of his almighty power, because by his omnipotent and invisible working, he makes the man dead in sins to live, opens his eyes to take up savingly the things of God, takes away the heart of stone, and makes him a new creature, to will and to do his holy will. And the glory of his wisdom, who deals so with his creature, as he doth not destroy, but perfect the natural power of man’s will, making the man regenerated, most freely, deliberately, and heartily to embrace Christ, and to consecrate himself to God’s service. The reason why we urge this, is, because Satan, by corrupting the doctrine of regeneration, and persuading men that they are capable of themselves, by the common and the natural strength of their own free will, without the special and effectual grace of God, both to convert themselves and others also, doth foster the native pride of men; hinders them from emptying and humbling themselves before God; keeps them from self-denial; doth mar the regeneration of them that are deluded with this error, and obscures what he can, the shining of the glory of God’s grace, power, and wisdom, in the conversion of men. For whatsoever praise proud men let go toward God for making men’s conversion possible, yet they give the whole glory of actual conversion to the man himself, which Christ ascribes to God only, and leaves no more for man to glory in his spiritual regeneration, than he hath to glory in his own natural generation, (John 3:5-8). And the same doth the apostle teach, (Eph 2:8-10, and Phil 2:13). “It is God (saith he) which works in you both to will and to do of his own good pleasure.” And therefore it is the duty of all Christ’s disciples, but chiefly their duty who are consecrated to God, to preach up the glory of God’s free grace, omnipotent power, and unsearchable wisdom; to live in the sense of their own emptiness, and to depend upon the furniture of grace for grace, out of Christ’s fulness; and zealously to oppose the proud error of man’s natural ability for converting himself; as they love to see and find the effectual blessing of the ministry of the gospel, and themselves accepted for true disciples, at the day of their meeting with Christ the judge at his second coming.

For opening up of regeneration, these five propositions must be holden.

The First is this – “The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God; for, they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned,” (1 Cor 2:14).

The Second is this – It is the Spirit of God which convinces man of sin, of true righteousness, and of judgment, (John 16: 9-11).

The Third is this – In the regeneration, conversion, and quickening of a sinner, God, by His invincible power, creates and infuses a new life, and principles thereof, “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power,” (Ps 110:3, John 5:21, 6:63).

The Fourth is this – The invincible grace of God, working regeneration and a man’s conversion, doth not destroy the freedom of man’s will, but makes it truly free, and perfects it. “I will make a covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah, and will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts,” (Jer 31:31).

The Fifth is this – Albeit a man, in the act of God’s quickening and converting of him, be passive, and in a spiritual sense dead in sins and trespasses, yet, for exercising external means, whereof God makes use unto his conversion, for fitting him, and preparing him for a gracious change (such as are, hearing of the word, reading it, meditating on it, inquiring after the meaning of it,) the natural man hath a natural power thereunto as to other external actions; which suffices to take away excuse from them who have occasion of using the means, and will not use them (Matt 23:37).

For clearing of the first proposition, we must remember, that the object of actual regeneration, conversion, and effectual calling, is the man elected or redeemed by Christ, lying in the state of defection from God, destitute of original righteousness, at enmity with God, bently inclined to all evil, altogether unfit and impotent, yea, even spiritually dead to every spiritual good, and specially to convert, regenerate, or quicken himself. For albeit after the fall of Adam, there are some sparks of common reason remaining, whereby he may confusedly know that which is called spiritually good, acceptable and pleasant unto God, and fit to save his soul; yet the understanding of the unrenewed man judges of that good, and of the truth of the Evangel wherein that good is propounded, to be mere foolishness; and doth represent the spiritual object, and sets it before the will, as a thing uncertain or vain: and the will of the unrenewed man, after deliberation and comparison made of objects, some honest, some pleasant, and some profitable in appearance, naturally is inclined to prefer and choose any seemingly pleasant or profitable thing, whether the object be natural or civil, rather than that which is truly honest, and morally good. But if it fall out that a spiritual good be well, and in fair colours described unto the unrenewed man, yet he seeth it not, but under the notion of a natural good, and as it is clothed with the image of some natural good, and profitable for preserving its standing in a natural being and welfare therein. So did the false prophet Balaam look upon the felicity of the righteous in their death, when he did separate eternal life from faith and sanctification, and did rend asunder the means from the end appointed of Gad, saying, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his” (Num 23:10).

After this manner the woman of Samaria apprehended the gift and grace of the Holy Ghost, and saving grace offered to her by Christ: “Lord,” saith she, “give me of that water, that I may not thirst again, and may not come again to draw water,” (John 4:15). So also did the misbelieving Jews judge of the application of Christ’s incarnation and suffering, for their spiritual feeding, (John 6:33-35); for, “the natural man cannot know the things of the Spirit of God, because they are spiritually discerned,” and the natural man is destitute of the spirit of illumination, (1 Cor 2:14). And the wisdom of the flesh is enmity to God; for it is not subject to the law of God, yea, it cannot be subject unto it, (Rom 8:7). The power, therefore, of the natural or unrenewed man, is not fitted for the discerning, and loving of a spiritual good, because he is altogether natural and not spiritual; for a supernatural object requires a supernatural power of the understanding and will to take it up, and rightly conceive of it. But of this supernatural faculty the unrenewed man is destitute, and in respect of spiritual discerning, he is dead, that he cannot discern spiritual things spiritually.

As for the second proposition regarding a man’s regeneration, the Lord, that he may break the carnal confidence of the person whom he is to convert, first, shows him his duty by the doctrine of the law and covenant of works, making him to see the same by the powerful illumination of the Holy Spirit, and so, taketh away all pretext of ignorance. Secondly, he shows him his guiltiness and deserved damnation wherein he is involved, and so, taketh away all conceit and imagination of his innocency. Thirdly, he doth convince him of his utter inability to satisfy the law, or to deliver himself from the curse thereof, either by way of action and obedience, or by way of suffering, and paying the penalty of the violated law of God; and so, overturned all confidence in himself, or in his own works. Whence followeth the elect man’s desperation to be delivered by himself, because he sees himself a sinner, and that all hope of justification by his own deeds or suffering is cut off. Now, that this is the work of the Holy Spirit, is plain: “When the Comforter, the Spirit of truth shall come, he shall convince the world of sin,” (John 16:8). And in this condition sundry of God’s dear children, for a time, are kept under the bonds of the law, under the spirit of bondage and sad conviction.

As for the third proposition, the Lord, after He hath laid the sins of his elect child who is to be converted, to his charge, by the doctrine of the law, first, opens up a light unto him in the doctrine of the gospel, and lets him see that his absolution from sin, and his salvation is possible, and may be had, by flying unto Christ the Redeemer. Secondly, the Lord drawing near the humbled self-condemned soul, deals with him by way of moral persuasion, sweetly inviting him in the preaching of the gospel, to receive the Redeemer, Christ Jesus, the eternal Son of God manifested in the flesh, that by receiving of Him as he is offered in the evangel, for remission of sin, renovation of life, and eternal salvation, he may close the covenant of grace and reconciliation with God. Thirdly, because the fall of Adam hath bereft man of all spiritual and supernatural power, till he be supernaturally quickened and converted by the omnipotent power of God’s grace, therefore, the Lord super adds unto moral persuasion, effectual operation, and forms in the soul a spiritual faculty and ability for doing what is pleasant unto God, and tends to save himself according to the will of God. This infusion of a new life, sometimes is called the forming of the new creature; sometimes regeneration; sometimes rising from the dead, and vivification, or quickening of the man; sometimes saving grace, and the life of God, and the seed of God; having in it the principle of all saving graces and habits, which are brought forth afterward to acts and exercise.

Meantime, true it is that all men, because of their inborn corruption, have an inclination and bent disposition to resist the Holy Ghost; but when the Lord will actually convert the man, he overcomes  and taketh away actual resistance, and doth so break the power of natural rebellion, that it doth not for ever after reign in him. For if God did not take away actual resistance of the man in his conversion, no conversion would certainly follow, and God would be disappointed of his purpose to convert the man, even when he hath put forth his almighty power to work conversion. But God doth so wisely and powerfully stir up this newly infused life of grace, and sets it so to work, that the understanding and judgment, like a counsellor, and the will, like a commanding emperor, and the active power of the newly infused faculty, like an officer, do all bestir themselves to bring forth supernatural operations. Whence it cometh to pass, that the new creature begins to look kindly on Christ the Redeemer, and to desire to be united unto him; and doth stretch forth itself to embrace him heartily, for obtaining in him righteousness and salvation, as he is offered in the gospel. And so, he casts himself over on Christ, with full purpose never to shed from him, but by faith to draw out of him grace for grace, till he be perfected. And here, the man that was merely passive in his quickening and regeneration, begins presently to be active in his conversion, and following conversation, for God giveth to him to will and to do of his good pleasure; and he, having obtained by God’s effectual operation to will and to do, doth formally will and do the good which is done.

As to the fourth proposition, when the power of God is put forth invincibly for the converting of a soul, that invincible working is so far from destroying the natural liberty of the will, that it doth indeed preserve it, and sets it right on the right object, and doth perfect it. For, as when God opens the eyes of a man’s understanding that he doth behold the wonders of his law, when he removes the natural blindness of the mind, and makes a man to see that the gospel is the wisdom and power of God unto salvation, which sometimes he counted to be mere foolishness, he doth in no way destroys the man’s judgment or understanding; but doth correct, help, heal, and perfect it – so, when the Holy Spirit doth powerfully and effectually move and turn the will of the man to embrace the sweet and saving offers of Christ’s grace in the gospel, and make him deliberately choose this blessed way of salvation, and to renounce all confidence in his own, or any other’s worth or works, he doth not destroy, but perfect the liberty of the will, and raises it up from death and its damnable inclination, and makes it most joyfully and most freely to make choice of this pearl of great price, and bless itself in its choice for ever. Therefore, let no man complain of wrong done to man’s free-will, when God stops its way to hell, and wisely, powerfully, graciously and sweetly moves it to choose the way of life: but rather let men beware to take the glory of actual conversion of men, from God, and either give it wholly to their idol of free-will, or make it sharer of the glory of regeneration with God; which glory God will not give to another, but reserve wholly to himself; for all men, in the point and moment of regeneration, are like unto Lazarus in the grave, to whom God by commanding him to arise, gave life and power to arise out of the grave where he lay dead and rotting.

As to the fifth proposition, we must distinguish the work of regeneration, from the preparation and disposition of the man to be regenerated, whereby he is made more capable of regeneration to be wrought in him. For the material disposition of him, fitting him for regeneration, is neither a part nor a degree of regeneration; for albeit the Lord be not bound to these preparatory dispositions, yet he will have man bound to make use of these external means which may prepare him; because by the use of external means, (such as are, hearing the word, catechising and conference), a man may be brought more near unto regeneration, as Christ doth teach us by his speech to that Pharisee, who was instructed in the law, and answered discreetly unto Christ; “Thou art not far (saith he) from the kingdom of God,” (Mark 12:34). This preparatory disposition, in order to regeneration, is like unto the drying of timber to make it sooner take fire, when it is casted into it. For dryness in the timber, is neither a part nor a degree of kindling or inflammation of it; but only a preparation of the timber to receive inflammation when the fire shall be set to it, or it be put in the fire, possible, a long time after. In these preparatory exercises then, no man will deny, that the natural man unrenewed, hath a natural power to go and hear a sermon preached, to read the scripture, to be informed by catechising and conference of religion and regeneration, whereof God when he pleaseth may make use in regeneration of the man. Wherefore, whosoever in the preaching of the gospel, are charged and commanded to repent, to believe in Christ, or turn unto God, they are commanded also to use all these external means whereby they may be informed of the duty required, and of the means leading thereunto; in the exercise of which external means, they may meet with sundry common operations and effects of God’s Spirit, before they be regenerated or converted, whereof the use may be found not only in, but also after, conversion. And if any man shall refuse, slight, or neglect to follow these preparatory exercises, which may prepare him for conversion, he is inexcusable before God and man, and guilty of rejecting the offer of reconciliation; yea, guilty of resisting the Holy Ghost, of which sin and guiltiness, the holy martyr Stephen charges the misbelieving Jews, (Acts 7:51).

II.  THE REGENERATE MAN

As for the regenerate man, he it is who in the acknowledgment of his sinfulness and deserved misery, and of his utter inability to help himself, doth cast away all confidence in his own parts, and possible righteousness of his own works, and flees to Christ offered in the gospel, that in Christ alone he may have true wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; and doth with full purpose of heart consecrate himself, and endeavour, in the strength of Christ, to serve God acceptably all the days of his life.

For the ground of this description, we have the words of the apostle, where putting a difference between the true people of God, and the counterfeit, he saith, “We are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Jesus Christ, and have not confidence in the flesh,” (Phil 3:3).

In which description of the regenerate man, the apostle first points forth unto us three special operations of the Spirit of regeneration; then, three duties of the man regenerated.

The first operation of the Spirit of God, the only circumciser of the heart, is the humbling of the man in the sense of his sin, by the doctrine of the law, and cutting off all his confidence in his own worth, wit, free-will, and strength to help himself, so that the man hath no confidence in the flesh.

The second operation, is the infusion of saving faith, making the man humbled to close with Christ in the covenant of reconciliation, and to rest upon Him as the only and sufficient remedy of sin and misery; so that Christ becometh to him the ground of rejoicing and glorifying.

The third operation, is the up-stirring and enabling of the believer in Christ, to endeavour new obedience, and to worship God in the Spirit.

 As for the three duties of the man regenerated,

The first is, to follow the leading of the Spirit in the point of more and more humbling of himself before God in the sense of his own insufficiency, and eschewing of all leaning on his own parts, gifts, works, or sufferings, or any thing else beside Christ: he must have “no confidence in the flesh.”

The second duty, is to grow in the estimation of Christ’s righteousness, and fulness of all graces to be led forth to the believer, enjoying him by faith, and comforting himself in Christ against all difficulties, troubles, and temptations: he must rejoice in Jesus Christ.

The third duty, is to endeavour communion-keeping with God in the course of new obedience in all cases, worshipping and serving God in sincerity of heart: he must be a worshipper of God.

As to the last thing holden forth in the apostle’s words, which is the undoubted mark and evidence of the man regenerated and circumcised in heart, it standeth in the constant endeavour to grow in these three duties jointly, so as each of them may advance another; for many failings and short-comings will be found in our new obedience, and worshipping of God in the spirit. But let these failings be made use of to extinguish and abolish all confidence in our own parts and righteousness, and that our daily failings may humble us, and cut us off from all confidence in the flesh.

But let not these failings so discourage us, as to hinder us to put confidence in Christ; but by the contraire, the less ground of confidence we find in ourselves, let us raise so much higher the estimation of remission of sin and imputation of Christ’s righteousness, and stir up ourselves by faith to draw more strength and ability out of Christ for enabling us to walk more holily and righteously before God. And having fled to Christ, and comforted ourselves in him, let us not turn his grace into wantonness; but the more we believe the grace of Jesus Christ, let us strive, in his strength, so much the more to glorify God in new obedience. And in the circle of these three duties, let us wind ourselves up stairs toward heaven; for God hath promised, that such “as wait on the Lord, shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint,” (Is 40:31).

In the conjunction of these three duties, the evidence of regeneration is found. If there be not a sincere endeavour after all these three duties, the evidence of regeneration is by so much darkened, and short for probation: for it is not sufficient to prove a man regenerated, that he is driven from all confidence in his own righteousness, and filled with the sense of sin and deserved wrath; because a man that hath no more that, may perish in this miserable condition; as we see in Judas the traitor, whose conscience was burdened with the sense of sin, but did not seek mercy and pardon. Neither is it sufficient to boast of acquaintance with Christ, and profess great respect to him; because many do cry, “Lord, Lord!” who neither renounce their confidence in their own righteousness, nor worship God in spirit; for, of such Christ saith, “Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of God,” (Matt 7:21). Neither is it sufficient to pretend the worshipping of God in spirit: for, all they who think to be justified by their own works, do esteem their manner of serving God, true and spiritual service and worship; as may be seen in the proud Pharisee glorying before God in his own righteousness, and acknowledging that God was the giver unto him of the holiness and righteousness which he had. “I thank thee, O God,” saith he, “that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican,” (Luke 18:11). For, of this man, Christ saith, he returned to his house unjustified, that is, a man lying still in sin, unrecognised.

Neither is it sufficient to prove a man regenerated, to confess sin and bygone unrighteousness, and to promise and begin to amend his ways and future conversation; for, so much may a Pharisee attain. And there be many that profess themselves Christians, who think to be justified by the merits of their own and other saints’ doings and sufferings, and do disdainfully scoff and mock at the doctrine of the imputed righteousness of Christ. How many are they also, who think their bygone sins may be washed away, and be recompensed by their purpose to amend their life in time to come? How many are they, who, being willingly ignorant of the righteousness of God, which is of faith in Jesus Christ, go about to establish their own righteousness, as the Jews did? (Rom 10:3). And how few are they who follow the example of the apostle, who carefully served God in spirit and truth, but did not lean to his own righteousness, but sought more and more to be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness, which behoved to be made up of his imperfect obedience of the law, but that righteousness which is by the faith in Jesus Christ? (Phil 3:9).

But that man, who daily in the sense of his sinfulness and poverty flees unto Jesus Christ, that he may be justified by his righteousness, and endeavoured by faith in him to bring forth the fruits of new obedience, and doth not put confidence in these his works when he hath done them, but rejoices in Jesus Christ the fountain of holiness and blessedness, that man, I say, undoubtedly is regenerated, and a new creature, for so doth the apostle describe him, (Phil 3:3).

———————————————————-
Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: David Dickson was born about the year 1583. His parents were religious, of considerable substance, and were many years married before they had David, who was their only child. As he was a Samuel asked of the Lord, so he was early devoted to Him and the ministry. Yet afterwards the vow was forgot, till Providence, by a rod and sore sickness on their son, brought their sins to their remembrance, and then he was sent to assume his studies at the University of Glasgow.

Soon after he had received the degree of Master of Arts, he was admitted professor of philosophy in that college, where he was very useful in training up the youth in solid learning; and, with the learned Principal Boyd of Trochrig, the worthy Mr Blair, and other pious members of that society, his labours were singularly blessed in reviving serious piety among the youth in that declining and corrupted time, a little after the imposition of Prelacy upon the Church. Accordingly, David Dickson was, in 1618, ordained minister to the town of Irvine, where he laboured for about twenty-three years.

That same year, the corrupt Assembly at Perth agreed to the five articles imposed upon the Church by King James IV and the prelates. David Dickson at first had no great scruple against Episcopacy, as he had not studied those questions much, till the articles were imposed by this Assembly. These he closely examined; the more he looked into them, the more aversion he found to them; and when some time after, by a sore sickness, he was brought within view of death and eternity, he gave open testimony of the sinfulness of them.

But when this came to take air, James Law, Archbishop of Glasgow, summoned him to appear before the High Commission Court, January 29, 1622. Dickson, at his entrance to the ministry at Irvine, had preached upon 2 Cor 5:11, “Knowing the terrors of the Lord, we persuade men;” and when he perceived at this juncture a separation (at least for a time), the Sabbath before his compearance he chose the next words of that verse, “But we are made manifest unto God.” Extraordinary power and singular movings of the affections accompanied that parting sermon.

David Dickson appeared before the Commission, where, after the summons being read, and after some reasoning among the bishops, he gave in his declinature; upon which, some of the bishops whispering in his ear, as if they had favoured him upon the good report they had heard of him and his ministry, said to him, “Take it up, take it up.” He answered calmly, “I laid it not down for that end, to take it up again.” Spottiswoode, Archbishop of St Andrews, asked if he would subscribe it. He professed himself ready. The clerk, at the Archbishop’s desire, began to read it; but had scarcely read three lines, till the Archbishop burst forth in railing speeches, full of gall and bitterness; and turning to Mr David, he said, “These men will speak of humility and meekness, and talk of the Spirit of God, but ye are led by the spirit of the devil; there is more pride in you, I dare say, than in all the bishops of Scotland. I hanged a Jesuit in Glasgow for the like fault.” Mr David answered, “I am not a rebel; I stand here as the King’s subject; grant me the benefit of the law, and of a subject, and I crave no more.” But the Archbishop seemed to take no notice of these words.

Aberdeen asked him, whether he would obey the King or not? He answered, “I will obey the King in all things in the Lord.” “I told you that,” said Glasgow, “I knew he would seek to his limitation.” Aberdeen asked again, “May not the King give the same authority that we have, to as many sutors and tailors in Edinburgh, to sit, and see whether ye be doing your duty or not?” Mr David said, “My declinature will answer to that.” Then St Andrews fell again to railing, “The devil,” said he, “will devise; he has Scripture enough;” and then called him knave, swinger, young lad; and said he might have been teaching bairns in the school. “Thou knowest what Aristotle saith,” said he, “but thou hast no theology.” Because he perceived that Dickson gave him no titles, but once called him Sir, he gnashed his teeth, and said, “Sir! you might have called me Lord; when I was in Glasgow long since, ye called me so, but I cannot tell how, ye are become a puritan now.”

All this time he stood silent, and once lifted up his eyes to heaven, which St Andrews called a proud look. So after some more reasoning betwixt him and the bishops, St Andrews pronounced his sentence, in these words: “We deprive you of your ministry at Irvine, and ordain you to enter in Turriff, in the north, in twenty days.” “The will of the Lord be done,” said Mr David; “though ye cast me off, the Lord will take me up. Send me whither ye will, I hope my Master will go with me; and as He has been to me heretofore, He will be with me still, as with His own weak servant.”

The Conversion of Zaccheus, Part 1.

Written by George Whitefield (1714-1770)
Taken and adapted for space

William_Hole_Zacchaeus_In_The_Sycamore_Tree_400.
.
“And Jesus said unto him,
This day is salvation come to this house,
forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham.
For the Son of man is come to seek
and to save that which was lost.”

— Luke 19:9-10
.
.

Salvation, everywhere through the whole Scripture, is said to be a free gift of God…

…through Jesus Christ our Lord. Not only free, because God is sovereign agent, and therefore may withhold it from, or confer it on whom He pleaseth; but free, because there is nothing to be found in man that can any way induce God to be merciful to him. The righteousness of Jesus Christ is the sole cause of our finding favor in God’s sight. This righteousness apprehended by faith (which is also the gift of God – Eph 2:8) makes it our own; and this faith, if true, will work by love (Gal 5:6).

These are parts of those glad tidings which are published in the gospel; and, of the certainty of them, next to the express word of God, the experience of all such as have been saved is the best and the most undoubted proof. That God might teach us every way, He has been pleased to leave upon record many instances of the power of His grace exerted in the salvation of several persons, that we, hearing how He dealt with them, might thence infer the manner we must expect to be dealt with ourselves, and learn in what way we must look for salvation, if we truly desire to be made partakers of the inheritance with the saints in light (Col 1:12).

The conversion of the person referred to in the text, I think will be of no small service to us in this matter, if rightly improved. I would hope most of you know who the person is to whom the Lord Jesus speaks; it is the publican, Zaccheus, to whose house the blessed Jesus said salvation came, and whom He pronounces a son of Abraham.

The evangelist Luke introduces the account of this man’s conversion thus, verse 1: “And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.” The holy Jesus made it His business to go about doing good. As the sun in the firmament is continually spreading his benign, quickening, and cheering influences over the natural, so the Son of Righteousness arose with healing under His wings (Mal 4:2), and was daily and hourly diffusing his gracious influences over the moral world. The preceding chapter acquaints us of a notable miracle wrought by the holy Jesus on poor blind Bartimaeus; and in this, a greater presents itself to our consideration. The evangelist would have us take particular notice of it; for he introduces it with the word behold: “And behold, there was a man named Zaccheus, who was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich” (Luk 19:2).

Well might the evangelist usher in the relation of this man’s conversion with the word “behold”! For, according to human judgment, how many insurmountable obstacles lay in the way of it! Surely no one will say there was any fitness in Zaccheus for salvation; for we are told that he was a publican, and therefore in all probability a notorious sinner. The publicans were gatherers of the Roman taxes; they were infamous for their abominable extortion; their very name therefore became so odious, that we find the Pharisees often reproached our Lord as very wicked, because He was a friend unto and sat down to meet with them. Zaccheus then, being a publican, was no doubt a sinner; and, being chief among the publicans, consequently was chief among sinners. Nay, he was rich. And one inspired apostle has told us, “that not many mighty, not many noble, are called” (1Co 1:26). Another saith, “God hath chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith” (Jam 2:5). And He Who was the Maker and the Redeemer of the apostles, assures us that “it is easier for a camel [or a cable rope] to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Mat 19:24). Let not therefore the rich glory in the multitude of their riches.

But rich as he was, we are told, verse 3, that “he sought to see Jesus.” And that was a wonder indeed! The common people heard our Lord gladly, and the poor received the gospel. The multitude, the very mob, the people that knew not the Law, as the proud high priests called them, used to follow Him on foot into the country, and sometimes stayed with Him three days together to hear Him preach. But did the rich believe or attend on Him? No. Our Lord preached up the doctrine of the cross; He preached too searching for them, and therefore they counted Him their enemy, persecuted and spoke all manner of evil against Him falsely. Let not the ministers of Christ marvel, if they meet with the like treatment from the rich men of this wicked and adulterous generation. I should think it no scandal (supposing it true) to hear it affirmed, that none but the poor attended my ministry. Their souls are as precious to our Lord Jesus Christ, as the souls of the greatest men. They were the poor that attended Him in the days of His flesh: these are they whom He hath chosen to be rich in faith, and to be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Were the rich in this world’s goods generally to speak well of me, woe be unto me; I should think it a dreadful sign that I was only a wolf in sheep’s clothing (Mat 7:15)—that I spoke peace, peace, when there was no peace (Jer 6:14), and prophesied smoother things than the gospel would allow of (Isa 30:10). Hear ye this, O ye rich. Let who will dare to, do it. God forbid that I should despise the poor—in doing so, I should reproach my Maker. The poor are dear to my soul: I rejoice to see them fly to the doctrine of Christ, like the doves to their windows. I only pray that the poor who attend may be evangelized, and turned into the spirit of the gospel; if so, blessed are ye; for yours is the kingdom of heaven (Luk 6:20).

But we must return to Zaccheus. He sought to see Jesus. That is good news. I heartily wish I could say it was out of a good principle. But, without speaking contrary to that charity which hopeth and believeth all things for the best, we may say that the same principle drew him after Christ which now draws multitudes (to speak plainly, it may be multitudes of you) to hear a particular preacher, even curiosity. For we are told that he came not to hear His doctrine, but to view His person, or to use the words of the evangelist, to see Who He was. Our Lord’s fame was now spread abroad through all Jerusalem, and all the country round about. Some said He was a good man; others, nay, but He deceiveth the people (Joh 7:12). And therefore curiosity drew out this rich publican Zaccheus to see Who this person was, of Whom he had heard such various accounts.

But it seems he could not conveniently get a sight of Him for the press, and because he was little of stature. Alas! how many are kept from seeing Christ in glory by reason of the press. I mean, how many are ashamed of being singularly good, and therefore follow a multitude to do evil, because they have a press, a throng, of polite acquaintance! And, for fear of being set at naught by those with whom they used to sit at meat, they deny the Lord of glory, and are ashamed to confess Him before men. This base, this servile, fear of man, is the bane of true Christianity; it brings a dreadful snare upon the soul, and is the ruin of ten thousands. For I am fully persuaded, numbers are rationally convicted of gospel truths; but, not being able to bear contempt, they will not prosecute their convictions, nor reduce them to practice.

Happy those, who in this respect, at least, like Zaccheus, resolve to overcome all impediments that lie in their way to a sight of Christ.

For finding he could not see Christ because of the press and the littleness of his natural stature, he did not smite upon his breast and depart, saying, “It is in vain to seek after a sight of Him any longer, I can never attain unto it.” No, finding he could not see Christ if he continued in the midst of the press, “he ran before the multitude, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way” (Luk 19:4).

There is no seeing Christ in glory, unless we run before the multitude, and are willing to be in the number of those despised few who take the kingdom of God by violence. The broad way, in which so many go, can never be that straight and narrow way which leads to life. Our Lord’s flock was, and always will be, comparatively a little one. And unless we dare to run before the multitude in a holy singularity, and can rejoice in being accounted fools for Christ’s sake, we shall never see Jesus with comfort when He appears in glory. From mentioning the sycamore tree and considering the difficulty with which Zaccheus must climb it, we may further learn that those who would see Christ must undergo other difficulties and hardships, besides contempt. Zaccheus, without doubt, went through both. Did not many, think you, laugh at him as he ran along; and in the language of Michal, Saul’s daughter (2Sa 6:20), cry out, “How glorious did the rich Zaccheus look today, when, forgetting the greatness of his station, he ran before a pitiful, giddy mob and climbed up a sycamore tree to see an enthusiastic preacher!”

But Zaccheus cares not for all that; his curiosity was strong. If he could but see Who Jesus was, he did not value what scoffers said of him. Thus, and much more will it be with all those who have an effectual desire to see Jesus in heaven. They will go on from strength to strength, break through every difficulty lying in their way, and care not what men or devils say of or do unto them. May the Lord make us all thus minded, for His dear Son’s sake!

At length, after taking much pains, and going (as we may well suppose) through much contempt, Zaccheus has climbed the tree; and there he sits, as he thinks hid in the leaves of it, and watching when he should see Jesus pass by; “for he was to pass by that way.” But sing, O heavens, and rejoice, O earth! Praise, magnify, and adore sovereign, electing, free, preventing love; Jesus the everlasting God, the Prince of peace, Who saw Nathaniel under the fig tree, and Zaccheus from eternity, now sees him in the sycamore tree, and calls him in time.

————————————————–
Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage:  (1714 – 1770), also known as George Whitfield, was an English Anglican preacher who helped spread the Great Awakening in Britain, and especially in the American colonies.

Born in Gloucester, England, he attended Pembroke College, Oxford, where he met the Wesley brothers. He was one of the founders of Methodism and of the evangelical movement generally. In 1740, Whitefield travelled to America where he preached a series of revivals that came to be known as the “Great Awakening”. He became perhaps the best-known preacher in Britain and America during the 18th century, and because he traveled through all of the American colonies and drew great crowds and media coverage, he was one of the most widely recognized public figures in colonial America.

Because business at the inn had become poor, Whitefield did not have the means to pay for his tuition. He therefore entered Oxford as a servitor, the lowest rank of students at Oxford. In return for free tuition, he was assigned as a servant to a number of higher ranked students. His duties included waking them in the morning, helping them bathe, taking out their garbage, carrying their books and even assisting with required written assignments. He was a part of the ‘Holy Club‘ at Oxford University with the Wesley brothers, John and Charles. An illness, as well as Henry Scougal‘s The Life of God in the Soul of Man influenced him to cry out to the Lord for salvation. Following a religious conversion, he became very passionate for preaching his new-found faith. The Bishop of Gloucester ordained him a deacon.

In 1738 he went to Savannah, Georgia, in the American colonies, as parish priest. While there he decided that one of the great needs of the area was an orphan house. He decided this would be his life’s work. He returned to England to raise funds, as well as to receive priest’s orders. While preparing for his return he preached to large congregations. At the suggestion of friends he preached to the miners of Kingswood, outside Bristol, in the open air. Because he was returning to Georgia he invited John Wesley to take over his Bristol congregations, and to preach in the open-air for the first time at Kingswood and then Blackheath, London.

Whitefield accepted the Church of England’s doctrine of predestination but disagreed with the Wesley brothers’ views on the doctrine of the Atonement, Arminianism. As a result Whitefield did what his friends hoped he would not do—hand over the entire ministry to John Wesley. Whitefield formed and was the president of the first Methodist conference. But he soon relinquished the position to concentrate on evangelical work. 

In terms of theology, Whitefield, unlike John Wesley, was a supporter of Calvinism. The two differed on eternal election, final perseverance, and sanctification, but were reconciled as friends and co-workers, each going his own way. It is a prevailing misconception that Whitefield was not primarily an organizer like Wesley. However, as Wesleyan historian Rev. Luke Tyerman states, “It is notable that the first Calvinistic Methodist Association was held eighteen months before Wesley held his first Methodist Conference.” He was a man of profound experience, which he communicated to audiences with clarity and passion. His patronization by the Countess of Huntingdon reflected this emphasis on practice.

Whitefield died in the parsonage of Old South Presbyterian ChurchNewburyport, Massachusetts, on September 30, 1770, and was buried, according to his wishes, in a crypt under the pulpit of this church. A bust of Whitefield is in the collection of Gloucester City Museum & Art Gallery.

It was John Wesley who preached his funeral sermon in London, at Whitefield’s request. (Wesley’s Journal entry for Nov. 10, 1770)

From Her Infirmity Came Great Strength… The Story of God’s “Rock Star”

The poet, Charlotte Elliott (1789-1871), became an “invalid” in her early thirties, but what later flowed from her heart and pen was mighty and was used by God.
.

singer-lThe true story of Charlotte Elliott, however, begins long before her conversion…

You see, Miss Elliott as she was known, was carefree, a popular artist and a writer of humorous verse. She was both beautiful and talented. Everyone loved to hear her sing. Being energetic and coming from a well to do home, Charlotte Elliott was part of the scene. She was in demand. Today, we would call her a rock star.  But as it was, Charlotte Elliott was the center of attention in her world and she loved it.

.
Then disaster struck…

In her early thirties, Charlotte Elliott went from being an artistic carefree spirit to a woman who was in constant pain. . . A severe illness had left her a permanent invalid, and it was said afterwards that “Ill health always beset her.” Besides the general trying influence on the spirit, her sickness often caused the peculiar pain of depression, the pain of a seemingly useless life. You can imagine, that her debilitating condition must have been especially galling considering that the large circle round her was full of unresting motion, which they were using for serviceableness for God.  Such was the time of trial for Charlotte Elliott; the year was 1834, and she was now 45 years old and living in Westfield Lodge, Brighton.

But as God often does, God came to Charlotte Elliott, and called her back to him…

Miss Elliott’s father had become a godly man and a silk merchant, at whose house the servants of Christ were often entertained. Her brother, the Rev. H.V. Elliott, had not long before conceived the plan of St. Mary’s Hall at Brighton, a school designed to give at nominal cost, a high education to the daughters of clergymen; a noble work which is to this day carried on with admirable ability and large success. So it was at this point, that in aid to St. Mary’s Hall there was to be held a bazaar and afterwards a dinner party.

As part of the party, Charlotte Elliott was to sing…

Westfield Lodge was all astir; every member of the large circle was occupied morning and night in preparation with the one exception of the ailing Charlotte — as full of eager interest as any of them, but physically fit for nothing. The night before the bazaar and the dinner party, she was kept wakeful by distressing thoughts of her apparent uselessness; and questioned the reality of anything spiritual and wondered whether it was anything better after all than an illusion of the emotions, an illusion ready to be sorrowfully dispelled.

During the dinner party, Charlotte sang her piece.  It was a pretty piece, gay and witty but it was said to be a bit worldly. As the gathering sat conversing and winding down, an elderly man, who was unknown to Charlotte (but who was none other than the great preacher and evangelist, Dr. Cesar Malan, of Geneva), approached her and asked if she knew herself to be really a Christian. She told him that she considered him rude and unkind, and that she also resented the question thus so pointedly put, and also petulantly answered that religion was a matter that she did not wish to discuss at all that evening.

Dr. Malan replied in his usual kind manner, that he would not pursue a subject which so displeased her, but would pray that she might give her heart to Christ, and employ her great talents with which He had gifted her to his holy and spiritual use.

It seems that the Holy Spirit used her abrupt and almost rude conduct towards God’s servant to show Charlotte what depths of pride and alienation from God were in her heart. Charlotte Elliott didn’t sleep at all that night.  And after several days of spiritual misery, Charlotte apologized to God’s servant for her unbecoming conduct, and confessed that his question had troubled her greatly. “I am miserable” she said, “I want to be saved. I want to come to Jesus; but I don’t know how”. “Why not come just as you are?” answered Malan. “You have only to come to Him just as you are.”  Little did Malan think that his simple reply would be repeated in song by the whole Christian world! Further conversation followed, and this good man was enabled to make perfectly clear to the once proud but now penitent young lady God’s simple way of salvation through Christ; that on the ground of His shed blood for us, all who from their heart believe are accepted of God. She gathered up in her soul the grand certainties, not of her emotions, but of her salvation: her Lord; His power: His promise. And taking pen and paper from the table she deliberately set down in writing for her own comfort the formulae of her faith … so in verse she restated to herself the Gospel of pardon, peace and heaven…. there, then, always, not at some past moment, but “even now” she was accepted in the Beloved, “Just as I am”. As the day wore on, her sister-in-law, Mrs. H.V. Elliott, came in to see her and bring news of the work. She read the hymn and asked (she well might) for a copy. So it first stole out from that quiet room into the world, where for many years it has been sowing and reaping, until a multitude which only God can number has been blessed through the message”.  Miss Charlotte came as a sinner to Christ, and remembering this event wrote the hymn that has made her name famous everywhere…”Just as I am

Just as I am – without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
– O Lamb of God, I come!

Meet this great Christian: Charlotte Elliott (1789-1871).  Charlotte Elliott was possessed of rare literary gifts and when in the year 1836 she assumed the editorship of the “Yearly Remembrancer”, she inserted in the first number, this now long-famous hymn — without her name. A commentator says of this hymn, “With its sweet counsel to troubled minds it found its way into magazines and other publications, and in devout persons’ scrap books; then into religious circles and chapel assemblies; and finally into the hymnals of the church universal”. Sometime after its publication, a lady, struck by its beauty and spiritual value, had it printed in leaflet form for circulation in cities and towns of the kingdom. Miss Elliott, in feeble health, was then in Torquay in Devonshire, under the care of an eminent physician. One day the doctor, who was an earnest Christian man, put one of these leaflets into his patient’s hands, saying that it had been helpful to him and felt sure she would like it. The surprise and pleasure was mutual when she recognized her own hymn and he discovered that she was the author.

As one hymnologist noted:  We know not which to admire most, the beauty of the composition, or the lovely modesty of its author, who for so many years forbore to divulge its origin.

Though weak and feeble in body, she possessed a strong imagination and a well-cultured and intellectual mind….. Her verse is characterized by tenderness of feeling, plaintive simplicity, deep devotion, and perfect rhythm. For those in sickness and sorrow, she has sung as few others have done.  — Dr John Julian 

The testimony of Miss Elliott’s brother, (the Rev. H.V. Elliott, editor of Psalms and Hymns, 1835) to the great results arising from this one hymn is very touching. He says, “In the course of a long ministry I hope I have been permitted to see some fruit for my labours; but I feel far more has been done by a single hymn of my sister’s”. It ranks with the finest hymns in the English language. Its success has given rise to many imitations.

Charlotte Elliott died in Brighton in 1871. She is buried, along with her brothers, in the churchyard at St Andrew’s Church, Hove.