James Smith, 1859
Real conversion supposes that it has a counterfeit — something like conversion which is not the thing itself. For instance, a man may change his sentiments, on many points his feelings may undergo a change, and he may reform his life — and yet not be really converted to God. Many have had convictions and impressions, and have changed their course and conduct, who have still been strangers to God, and the power of vital religion. Seeming conversion, sometimes comes so near to real conversion — that there only appears to be one deficiency — but that is a fatal one, it is the life of God in the soul. The outward conduct is correct, the head is illuminated — but the heart is not quickened. Religion without life, however orthodox the creed, or correct the conduct — is but a form without power, the representation of a Christian — but not a real Christian.
What is real conversion? It is a thorough turning to God. The turning of the whole person to God and his service. It includes a change of heart — which change is produced by the Holy Spirit. When the heart is thoroughly changed, there is a change in our thoughts of God, and in our feelings toward God. We then think of him as his Word represents him, and as Jesus reveals him in his holy and beautiful life. We think of him, as the child thinks of his affectionate father, as the wife thinks of her loving husband, or as the servant thinks of her kind and generous master. Our thoughts of God are pleasant and natural, and our souls go forth in desire to God.
Our feelings toward God, were formerly cold, indifferent, and carnal. There was enmity against God, and a wish to keep at a distance from God. But real conversion changes our feelings, and we love God, delight in God, and desire above all things to please God. The feelings of the enemy, give way to those of the friend; and the feelings of the slave, to those of the child.
And out of this change of heart, or change of our thoughts and feelings — grows a change of life. We no longer live unto ourselves, or for ourselves; but we live unto God, and for God. We no longer live in sin — but have our fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. Now, the precepts of the Bible are our rule, the life of Jesus is our model, and the glory of God our aim. Being created anew in Christ Jesus — we are new creatures. Being new creatures — we . . .
act from new principles,
are influenced by new motives,
are attracted by new objects;
and as the Apostle says, "old things are passed away, and behold all things are become new."
Real conversion therefore is the man turning . . .
from sin to holiness,
from self to Christ,
from the world to God.
This turning is the effect of a new principle imparted to the soul by the Holy Spirit in regeneration.
What are the effects of real conversion? Many — too many to enumerate here, as it affects the entire man in all his parts, in all his relations, and in all his prospects. The converted man turning from self to Jesus, obtains peace through the blood of his cross. Peace with God. Peace in his own conscience. Peaceful feelings toward all mankind. He is reconciled to God's perfections, law, and government; and yielding himself to God through Jesus, he enjoys holy tranquility of soul. Turning from self to God — he is sanctified to God. Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, he is changed into the same image.
He is now a holy man. His heart loves holiness. He desires to be holy in body, soul, and spirit. Holiness is his element — and sin his grief and sorrow. Turning from the world to Jesus, he is filled with love — love to God, and love to man. He loves God supremely, and loves all the saints sincerely. Love is the ruling passion of his soul — and love is the great proof that his conversion is real.
Love leads to fellowship with God, as a father and a friend; and in that fellowship he finds the purest enjoyment, and the richest blessings. He lays himself out for others, employing all his spare time and talents, in efforts to do good to his fellow men. He seeks to save souls from death, to ameliorate human woe, and make all round him holy and happy.
Reader, are you really converted to God? Have you experienced a change of heart? Has that led to a change of life? Have you peace with God? Holiness of heart? Love to the Savior, your Heavenly Father, and your fellow men? Do you live in fellowship with God? Are you employing any portion of your time and talents for God? These are solemn and searching questions. They are worthy your closest attention. Take them, and with them, examine your heart and your life.
If you are not really converted to God, you are yet in your sins; and if you die in your sins, where Jesus is, you can never come. Life or death — eternal life or eternal death — depends on your being converted, or unconverted. The heart must be changed, and so must the current of the life; "for if we live after the flesh, we shall die; but if we, through the Spirit, mortify the deeds of the body — we shall live." Life or death therefore, eternal life or eternal death, depend upon our being converted — or unconverted. May the Holy Spirit of God, therefore, reveal to us our true state and condition, and if we are converted, devote us wholly to the Lord, and his work; but if we are unconverted, convince us of it, and by his invincible grace, make us thorough Christians! Amen.