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mind, that you can cheerfully renounce all that is pronounced evil by the word of God, and follow after that purity of heart and life which is pronounced blessed ? Matt. v. 8. If you find, after careful examination, that you can do this, then you have one important mark of conversion, which, with others, may determine the fact; but if this be wanting, if sin be still your element, and holiness undesirable, be sure, whatever your convictions and alarms, that you have not yet experienced true conversion.
2. Conversion cannot have taken place, unless you have been humbled as a sinner under the sentence of God's holy law; so humbled, and so convinced, as to acknowledge before God the justice of the sentence that condemns the sinner to everlasting punishment. It is possible, indeed, that one who has not experienced conversion, may be convinced of his guilt, and may acknowledge the justice of his sentence; but, in such a case, there will be no turning of the heart to Him that smiteth, no godly sorrow, or sorrow that draws the heart to Him against whom sin has been committed, who has the power and the right to punish, but who is willing to pardon. Examine your own heart upon this matter, and ask yourself such questions as these: Have I been led to see the deep and universal depravity of my nature? Am I convinced that a righteous God might justly mark my iniquities, and proceed to execute against me the dread. ful sentence I have incurred, the sentence of everlasting exclusion from his presence, and banishment to that place where despair and torment must for ever reign ? Have I, under the influence of these convictions, humbled myself before God, and said, with St. Paul, “ The law is holy, and the
commandment holy, and just, and good," Rom. vii. 12. “But I am carnal, sold under sin,” ver. 14. Since, then, I deserve nothing but justice, and have forfeited every thing good by my sins, have I thus come to God, to seek all through his infinite forbearance and mercy? Have I told him my convictions, spread my deplorable case before him, and said, Lord, save, or I perish?
3. Another important sign of conversion will appear in the state of your affections towards the Saviour. Are you drawn to him as the one Mediator between God and man, the only Redeemer of the soul, whose blood has been received as an atonement for sin, and whose righteousness is to all and upon all those who come unto God by him? Do you view him as the way, the truth, and the life, without whom no man cometh unto the Father ? John xiv. 6. Are you led to place all your hope, and repose all your confidence, in his perfect atonement, his prevailing intercession, his justifying righteousness ? Are you looking to him as the Divine source of gracious influence, from whose fulness alone you can receive pardon, justification, and sanctification ? Forsaking all other, and renouncing all confidence in your own resolution, obedience, or righteousness, are you willing, yea, anxious, to receive, as he is ready to confer, all the blessings of salvation and grace now, and of glory hereafter? Do you not only entertain these sentiments, but are your affections warmed with a sense of his excellence, and your heart melted by the contemplation of his dying love? Do you delight, and feel strengthened by looking to Jesus, in the Divinity of his nature, the greatness of his condescension, the tenderness of his compassion to the chief of sinners? The soul that has felt his converting grace, has especially felt it in the view of Calvary; and, indeed, can never revert to that scene of the Saviour's suffering,without a mingled emotion both of grief and joy: grief, that it should be necessary that Christ should endure such suffering; and joy, that he was willing thus to redeem a lost world. If your affections are right toward Christ Jesus, you will value him above all earthly treasure, desire a sense of his love before every human joy. He will be the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely. You will desire nothing so much as to “ win Christ, and be found in him,” Phil. iii. 8, 9. You will love his bright example, as well as the unspeakable blessing of redemption; and you will set him before your soul as the pattern of that humility, purity, separation from sin, and devotedness to the glory of God, which you will both earnestly desire and sincerely strive to attain. To do to others, in some measure, as he has done to you, will be your aim and your delight.
4. The true convert takes pleasure in all God's commandments. If they are hateful or grievous, there can be no evidence of conversion. This is a part of that course by which all the true sons of God are to prove the sincerity of their love. Have you such delight in God's service, that you can forego temporal interests and worldly pleasure ? Are you conscious of a real hungering for the bread and thirsting for the water of life? It is written, “ They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength,” Isa. xl. 31. Since God has appointed the reading and hearing of the word, prayer, praise, and Christian fellowship, therefore the soul of the converted delights in them. But there is an essential difference between doing all these things mechanically, slavishly, and formally, for the mere sake of recommending ourselves, or meriting the Divine favour; and doing them from a sense of love and of gratitude, of pleasure and privilege. A formalist may very zealously strive to keep God's commands; but he knows nothing of the spirit of love, of liberty, and of adoption. The real servant feels Christ's yoke to be easy, and his burden light. It is his meat and drink to do the will of God. But he who has not given his heart to God, may serve him only from slavish fear. The force of this criterion depends, therefore, upon the true spirit of love, from which alone God can be acceptably served and honoured. All other service is worthless, and can never attest a state of conversion : Psa. cxix. 97, 103, 165.
5. It is stated by the apostle Paul, “ As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God,” Rom. viii. 14. His working, though not palpable to any of our bodily senses, is not imperceptible by the mind. The love which he produces to God and Christ; the sense of insufficiency for any good works in ourselves; the conscious dependence of the soul upon the Redeemer's grace; the spirit of supplication, and the spirit of filial affection felt in supplication; the earnest longings of the soul after spiritual things, and after the graces of the Spirit in particular; the drawing of the heart to the Divine word, and to the ordinances of religion, the house, the people, and the service of God, when these are not for ostentation, nor for the gratification of a self-righteous spirit, but for the honouring of God, and the attainment of his blessing; will all contribute to testify, that you are “led of the Spirit," and not led to“ fulfil the works of the flesh.” If, in your thoughts in secret, and
in seasons of devotion, you are deeply conscious of the presence of God's Spirit, and of his intimate acquaintance with your heart; if you earnestly desire and entreat him to make you his temple, and to dwell in you for ever; if you honour him, love him, wrestle in prayer for his influence, and yield yourself to his motions, which are all pure and heavenly, and may be discriminated by these characters; then you may confidently hope that he has undertaken the regeneration of your soul; and that, because you are led by him, you may humbly conclude that you are among the sons of God. But attribute none of your affections or inclinations to him, except such as lead practically to holiness, to faith in Christ, love to God, and an increase of those fruits of the Spirit mentioned Gal. v. 22-26, as marking those that belong to Christ. Consider all these points calmly and can. didly. Do not rashly or hastily conclude that you possess these signs; and do not deny or disparage them if they really appear. Better were it, however, that you should entertain doubts of your con. version, than presume upon evidences that are not practically exhibited, or suppose signs which do not exist. The doubt might keep you in suspense and pain, it might prevent you from honouring the Spirit of God for what he has done in you; but the presumption that might take for granted an affection that never really existed in the soul, might betray you into a false hope, and make you satisfied with an imaginary state, which, after all, might prove one of unregeneracy and impenitence.
6. A state of conversion may be further evi. denced, by your correct apprehension of the nature of Christ's salvation, connected with your cordial reception of it, unaltered, undiminished, and un.