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THE NATURE OF CONVERSION. 561 God. Dost thou say to Christ, Thy Father shall be my Father, and thy God my God? Here is the turning point. An unsound professor never takes up bis rest in God; but converting grace cures the fatal misery of the fall, by turning the heart from its idol to the living God. Now says the soul, Lord, whither shall I go? thou hast the words of eternal life, John vi. 68. Here he centres; 'tis the entrance of heaven to him, to see his interest in God. When he discovers this, he saith, Return unto thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee. And it is even ready to breathe out Simeon's song, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.
The mediate term of conversion is either principal or less principal. .
The principal is Christ, the only mediator between God and man. His work is to bring us to God. He is the way to the Father, the only door by which we may enter. Conversion brings over the soul to Christ, as the only means to life, as the only way, the only name given under heaven. He looks not for salyation in any other but him, nor in any other with him; but throws himself on Christ alone, as one that casts himself with outspread arms upon the sea.
Thus the poor soul doth venture on Christ, and resolvedly adheres to him. Before conversion the man made light of Christ, minded his farm, friends, merchandise, more than Christ. Now Christ is to him as his necessary food, his daily bread, the life of his heart, the staff of his life. His great design is, that Christ may be magnified in him. His heart once said, as they to the Spouse, What is thy beloved more than another? He found more sweetness in his merry company, wicked games, earthly delights, than in Christ. He took religion for a fancy, and the talk of great enjoyments for an idle dream; but now to him to live is Christ. He sets light by all that is accounted precious, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ.
All of Christ is accepted by the sincere convert: he loves not only the wages, but the work of Christ. He is willing not only to tread out the corn, but to draw under the yoke: he takes up the commands of Christ, yea, and the cross of Christ.
The unsound closeth by halves with Christ; he is all for the salvation of Christ, but not for sanctification. This is an error in the foundation: whosoever loveth life, let him beware here: 'tis an undoing mistake, of which you have been often warned, and yet none more common.' Jesus is a sweet name, but men love not the Lord Jesus in sincerity, Eph. vi. 24. They will not have him as God offers, to be a Prince and a Saviour. They divide what God hath joined, the King and the Priest. Every man's vote is for salvation from suffering, but they desire not to be saved from sinning. Yea, many divide here again; they would be content to have some of their sins destroyed, but they cannot leave the lap of Delilah, or divorce the beloved Herodias. They cannot be cruel to the right eye, or right hand. O! be infinitely tender here; your souls lie upon it. The sound convert takes a whole Christ, and takes him for all intents and purposes; without exceptions, without limitations, without reserves. He is willing to have Christ upon his own terms, upon any terms. He is willing to have the dominion of Christ, as well as deliverance by Christ; he saith with Paul, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? Any thing, Lord. He sends the blank to Christ, to set down bis own conditions.
The less principal is the laws, ordinances, and ways, of Christ. The heart that was once set against these, and could not endure the severity of these ways, now falls in love with them, and chuses them as its rule and guide for ever.
Four things (I observe) God doth work in every sound convert, with reference to the laws and ways of Christ, by which you may know your state, if you will be faithful to your own souls: therefore keep your eyes upon your hearts as you go along.
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1. The judgment is brought to approve of them as most righteous and most reasonable. The mind is brought to like the ways of God; and the prejudices that were once against them are removed. The understanding assents to them all, as holy, just, and good. His judgment is for the ways of God, and that not only the absolute, but comparative judgment; he thinks them not only best in general, but best for him: he looks upon the rules of religion, not only as tolerable, but desirable; more desirable than gold, yea, than much fine gold.
2. The desire of the heart is to know the whole mind of Christ. He would not have one sin undiscovered, nor be ignorant of one duty. 'Tis the earnest breathing of his heart, “ Lord, if there be any way of wick. edness in me, do thou discover it. What I know not, teach thou me; and if I have done iniquity, I will do it no more.” The gracious heart is willing to know the whole compass of his Maker's law. He receives with all acceptation the word that convinceth him of any duty that he knew not, or minded not before, or discovereth any sin that lay hid before.
3. The will is determined for the ways of Christ, bem fore all the pleasures of sin, and prosperities of the world. His consent is not extorted by some extremity of anguish, nor is it only a sudden and hasty resolve, but he is deliberately purposed, and comes off freely to the choice; his will is for Christ's laws and government; so that he takes them not up as his toil or burden, but his bliss. He had rather (if he might have his choice) live a strict and holy life, than the most prosperous and flourishing life in the world. Christ keeps not his subjects in by force, but is king of a willing people. They are (through his grace) freely resolved for his service, and do it out of choice, not as slaves, but as the son or spouse, from a spring of love, and a loyal mind. In a word, the laws of Christ are the convert's love, desire, delight, and continual study.
4. The bent of his course is directed to keep God's slututes. 'Tis the daily care of his life, to walk with
God. He seeks great things, he hath noble designs, he aims at nothing less than perfection; he desires it, he reaches after it, he would not rest in any pitch or grace till he were quite rid of sin, and had perfected holiness.
A sound convert desires holiness for holiness' sake, and not only for heaven's sake. He would not be satisfied with so much as might save him from hell, but desires the highest pitch; yet desires are not enough. What is thy way and thy course? Is the drift and scope of thy life altered? Is holiness thy trade, and religion thy business? If not, thou art short of sound conversion.
And is this that we have described the conversion that is of absolute necessity to salvation? Then be informed, 1. That strait is the gate, and narrow the way, that leadeth unto life. 2. That there are but few that find it. 3. That there is need of a divine power to convert a sinner to Jesus Christ.
Again, Then be exhorted, O thou that readest, to turn it upon thy own self. What saith conscience? Doth it not twitch thee as thou goest? Is this thy judgment, and is this thy choice, and this thy way, that we have described? If so, 'tis well. But doth not thy heart condemn thee, and tell thee, there is such a sin thou livest in against thy conscience? Doth it not tell thee, there is such and such a secret way of wickedness that thou makest no bones of? *such or such a duty, that thou makest no conscience of?
Doth not conscience carry thee to thy closet, and tell thee how seldom prayer and reading are performed there? Doth it not carry thee to thy family, and show thee the charge of God, and the souls of thy children and servants, that are neglected there? Doth not conscience lead thee to thy shop, thy trade, and tell thee of some mystery of iniquity there? Doth it not sound thee in thine ear for the loose company thou keepest, and the precious tiine thou mis-spendest?
O conscience! do thy duty: in the name of the living God, I command thee, discharge thine office, lay hold upon the sinner, fall upon him, arrest him, apprehend him, undeceive him! What! wilt thou flatter and smooth him while he lives in his sins? Awake, O conscience! What meanest thou, O sleeper? What! hast thou never a reproof in thy mouth? What! shall this soul die in this neglect of God and eternity, and thou altogether hold thy peace? Shall he go on still in his trespasses, and yet have peace? O! rouse up thyself, and do thy work; now let the preacher in thy bosom speak; cry aloud and spare not; lift up thy voice like a trumpet; let not the blood of his soul be required at thy hands.
CHAP. III. Of the Necessity of CONVERSION. It may be you are apt to wonder why 1 follow you with such earnestness, still ringing one lesson in your ears, that you should repent, and be converted. Were it a matter of indifferency, I would never keep so much ado: but would you not have me so solicitous for you, when I see you ready to perish? As the Lord liveth, before whom I am, I have not the least hopes to see one of your faces in heaven, except you be converted; 1 utterly despair of your salvation, except you will be persuaded to turn thoroughly, and give up yourselves to God. Hath God said, Except ye be born again, ye cannot see the kingdom of God, John iii. 3. and yet do you wonder why your ministers so painfully travail in birth with you? Think it not strange that I am earnest with you to follow after holiness, and long to see the image of God upon you; never did any, nor shall any, enter into heaven by any other way but this.
What is it that thou dost count necessary? Is thy bread necessary? Is thy breath necessary ?Then thy conversion is much more necessary. Indeed, this is the one thing necessary. Thine estate is not necessary; thou mayest sell all for the