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state, will be lost, wholly lost, irretrievably and for ever lost!
All that has been hitherto pressed upon the reader's attention in this chapter relates entirely to the unconverted. Their guilt, misery, and danger have been briefly pointed out. The writer cannot, however, pass from these observations without expressing the deep anxiety he feels, lest any one should avoid the application of this most solemn part of the subject, through a mistaken opinion, that, though just in itself, it is wholly inapplicable to him. Some reader may, perhaps, be induced to entertain such a thought. The very representation already given of the situation in which an unconverted sinner stands, may possibly prove so startling and alarming, that some readers may perhaps seek refuge from it in the thought, that they may possibly be already converted, and that, consequently, what has been said may, after all, not be applicable to their case. If such a thought should arise in the mind of any reader, he will allow me affectionately, but earnestly, to entreat him not to come to that conclusion lightly or hastily. Perhaps you are not quite sure: you may be mistaken. You surely are mistaken if you are resting on the pleasant thought of your religious education, your speculative belief of the gospel, your habits of attention to religious ordinances, your early discipleship, your freedom from gross vice, or your blameless life. All these, or any one of them, as a ground of hope that you are already converted, will supply me with a sufficient reason for entreating you to read on. Do not, I beseech you, shut the book at this part, and say, “ It is for a different class of persons, it does not belong to me.” Perhaps you may find that it is expressly for you. If you should be really converted, the re-examination of your state can do you no injury whatever, but may do you much good. You will be confirmed by examining your conversion to the bottom; you will then only be established in your happy state. But if there should be any room to doubt its reality, if you should not be able to show that you have undergone that conversion which Christ requires, then to dismiss the subject at this point, to refuse now to proceed in the perusal of this book, may be to thrust, or even scornfully to dash,“ the cup of salvation” from your lips, just as God was putting it into your hands. Oh, be entreated not to act thus! It may aggravate your guilt and misery. It may prove a subject of bitter, unavailing, everlasting regret. A disinclination to read a treatise which proposes to discuss a subject so interesting and important to every human being, under the supposition that it is needless or inapplicable, is a strong presumptive evidence of being in an unconverted state, and renders it the more necessary that you should be warned of your danger. The very disinclination to proceed would prove an awful insensibility, and ought to excite in you a fear that you deeply need the instruction that is here offered you. I entreat you, therefore, now to resolve to go on, and read through this whole treatise : or if you are still indisposed to do this, then, at least, as my only hope of doing you good, let me entreat you to turn to those short parts which are addressed to the mistaken, and the self-sufficient ; for in these you may find something to convince you that there is the most urgent reason, in your present state of mind, why you should read the whole.
THE MEANS WHICH GOD HAS APPOINTED, AND ORDINARILY EMPLOYS, IN THE CONVERSION OF SINNERS.
1. “ Thus saith the Lord of hosts ; Consider your ways,” Haggai i. 7. You are called to observe, that no direct means of conversion can be of any avail, until you are brought to serious and deep reflection upon your present state. If it is true that you are yet an unconverted person, then this is a condition which calls for immediate consideration, and that of the most solemn and serious kind, for it is a state of condemnation. You are under a sentence of exclusion from God, from heaven, and eternal happiness. If you were in a situation of temporal danger, danger to your person, or to your worldly interests, you would reflect much upon it. If you were threatened with bodily injury, with alarming disease, with distress in your circumstances, you know perfectly well that these things would make you very uneasy, deprive you of your rest, and prompt you to reflections and efforts by which the evil might be avoided or remedied. You would not be careless or indifferent, if you were told that an assassin waited to destroy you in the road you had to travel. You would not be at ease, if you felt that you had contracted the infection of some dreadful disease; you could not enjoy either pleasure or food, if you had reason to fear that some fatal catastrophe was about to befall you in your temporal affairs. And shall the greatest of all evils be threatened, threatened by an authority not to be disputed, and yet no serious reflections be produced? Will you not begin to think thus: “I am a sinner, a great sinner, and I have never yet thought how I am to escape that perdition which God says awaits impenitent sinners !” Oh, think on your state! seriously reflect upon the misery of being an unpardoned sinner! Think deeply of the inflexible justice which you can neither resist nor escape: think often, and meditate deeply, on the fact, that if you should die in an unconverted state, you will be lost, for ever lost! Look before you, anticipate consequences, and ask, “Who can dwell with everlasting burnings? What am I, that I can hope to escape with impunity, or that I should brave the terrors of eternal wrath and infinite power?” See how clearly the Divine indignation is revealed; and assure your hearts how certain and destructive will be its visitation, how utterly hopeless the condition of those who shall finally become its victims. Set before your mind this gloomy prospect, and then fathom to the very bottom your sinful heart, that you may fully know how vile, and wretched, and helpless it is. Well would it be, if you could not merely entertain such reflections now and then, but resolutely take some suitable season, and that without delay,to investigate your case, and faithfully write down your opinion of yourself; only taking heed to form your opinion not under the influence of pride, self-complacency, or worldly notions of the goodness of your nature, but by the searching light of Holy Scripture, and with its denunciations and threatenings against all impenitent sinners clearly and fully in view. Apply no comfort to your soul on account of redeeming qualities, good intentions, alms-deeds, abstinences, or pious observances. But remember your very nature is entirely corrupted, and your heart dead in sin; that you are a child of wrath, and without any ability either to atone for sin, or appease the wrath of God; that, besides, you are a mortal creature, and, because you may die soon and suddenly, you need an immediate salvation, and cannot wait for it till you might merit it by your works, even if a certain amount of them could deserve it; that, therefore, you can never be happy or safe till you find a complete salvation ready to be enjoyed, and adapted to an unworthy, helpless, guilty soul, that must find all its salvation at once, and in one almighty Deliverer. If you would take pains to review your case in some such way as this, you would find it tend greatly to deepen the sense of your real condition as lost, and thereby to enforce upon you an immediate and an earnest application to Him who is able to save, and who is willing and waiting to become to you all that you need.
Moreover, I might enforce the great importance of such self-examination, by reminding you of the disastrous effects of inconsideration. It is possible, if you so resolve, to abstain from all such thoughts. You may, no doubt, if such be your determination, shake off or suppress all such reflections. But would it be rational? would it be wise ? would it be for your happiness? If you have had so much serious thought already, as to have read the volume thus far, how can you, without being wilfully guilty of destroying your own soul, resolve now, at this very point," I will go no further, I will reflect no more. It only makes me uneasy and wretched. I will try to