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But it may be said, Every christian cannot thus remember all these circumstances. It is granted that some may be sanctified from the womb; and that in others the work has been so gradual, that they cannot recollect any particular sermon, providence, place, or event, where and when the change was first wrought. This, I say, may be granted ; but, after all, even in these cases, though the means be not recollected, yet the Case is admired; and if the christian cannot tell when it was he first saw, yet he blesses God that he does now see. There are very few instances, however, but in which christians can remember the time when they were not as they now are ; and though particular circumstances cannot be pointed out, yet they can say, to the praise of Divine Grace, that they are made new creatures in Christ Jesus; that old things are past away, and all things are become new. 2 Cor. v. 17.
Conversions of which little or nothing can be remembered by the subjects, are, in my opinion, rare, and often liable to suspicion. We must not, however, limit the Holy One of Israel ; he can work upon the minds of his creatures in different ways; and while some are instantaneously changed, in others the work seems to be gradual, if not as to the communication of the first principle of grace, at least as to the evidence of it. It must be observed, however, that, wherever this principle is given, it will more or less produce light: light will produce discovery ; and a disco. very of ourselves, the evil of sin, and the holiness of God, will in general humble the soul; and, owing to the remains of corruption, painful conflicts will ensue. This, therefore, is another
thing which many christians have to call to remeinbrance. Indeed, the sufferings of some have been very great before they were brought to a clear and comfortable view of the provision made for them in the gospel of the Son of God. Many a christian can say, I remember the wormwood and the gall. How did my sins all appear in array before me! I thought I should have sunk under the burden. Not fit to live, and afraid to die, how intolerable was existence itself to me! Innumerable evils compassed me about; mine iniquities took hold of me, so that I was not able to look up: they appeared more in number than the hairs of my head; my heart failed within me. I said, What shall I do to be saved? Where shall I go? To what object shall I look? Will the God whom I have so greatly offended ever look upon me? Have I not done that which can never be forgiven? And is not the mercy of the Lord clean gone for ever? Thus the christian has been involved in the deepest distress, until die rected to Calvary, there to behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world. By being enabled to view Jesus as an all-sufficient Sa. viour, at last the burden was removed; and with pleasure he recollects the happy moment when light sprung in upon his soul, when his fears were dissipated, and, through divine goodness, he could say, with a holy confidence,“ My Lord, and my God!”
Being thus set at liberty, the christian calls to mind his consequent joy, his fervent gratitude, his ardent zeal. How lively was he then in prayer! how did he pour out his soul to God! He found it then not as a hard duty to be discharged, but as an inestimable privilege to be enjoyed. With inexpressible pleasure he retired from the world to huld intercourse with God. Here he found his heaven, and his God: his spiritual strength was renewed, and his soul animated to go forward in the path of duty and of diligence. What spirituali. ty, tvo, was there in his conversation! Like the woman of Samaria, he was ready to say, Come, see a man that hath told me all things that ever I did. Is not this the Christ? John iv. 29. How reasdy was he to reprove sin, to defend truth, to ex. alt the Saviour, and stir up his brethren! What happy hours were spent in profitable conversation about the things of God; how did the time passaway ; how did his heart burn within him; how his face shone, and all took knowledge of him that he had been with Jesus! With what alacrity he attended public ordinances! With the psalm. ist he could say, “ I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.”! Ps. cxxii. 1. With what delight has he sung,
“ How pleas'd and blest was I
To hear the people cry,
Yes, with a cheerful zeal,
I'll haste to Zion's hill,
· No little inconveniences then deterred him, no frivolous excuses were made to absent himself. Well he recollects how he has laboured to order and direct every thing in subserviency to this, and so to plan and execute his concerns, that he might be early and punctual in his attendance at the house of God. How eagerly he searched the sacred scriptures; how regularly he read them ; how
much he remembered ; and how willingly he hid them in his heart, that he might not sin against God. Could he not say with David, “ O how I love thy law! it is my ineditation all the day. Thy testimonies are wonderful : I rejoice in them, as one that findeth great spoil.” Ps. cxix. How anxious was he then also to do good! What opportunities did he embrace for this purpose ! How many pious and affectionate letters did he send to his friends and acquaintance, to tell them what he experienced, and to recommend Jesus as the altogether lovely, and the Saviour of sinners! Then it was he thought that he could suffer, that he could resign, that he could bear any thing, so that he might but bring sinners to him. How of. ten has he said, “ O that I could but convert my relations! How happy should I be, could they but see as I do! What would I not do that my neighbours might know him whom my soul loveth? yea, how I long that the whole world, which lieth in wickedness, may repent and be saved !" Thus in this, and many other instances, the christian discovered his first love and his ardent zeal for the promotion of the divine glory. But while many christians can call to mind these delightful feelings, yet how humbling is it for them to reflect that they do not possess that holy fervor, that sacred zeal now! How do their minds reproach them! They open the sacred volume, but how cutting is it to read, “ Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the Lord, I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown. Ah! my people have committed
two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” Jer. ii. 2, 14. How have they to lament over the coldness of their affections, the unfruitfulness of their lives, and the sad lukewarmness into which they are sunk! Once they could say, “ Lord, I will fol. low thee whithersoever thou goest." No sacrifice was considered too great, no difficulty too formi. dable, no comfort considered so dear but what could be relinquished, so that the honour of God might be but promoted, and the interests of the soul furthered. But how is the gold become dim, and the most fine gold changed! It is with shame and confusion of face the christian here looks back, while he thus bemoans himself. “ Did I not cheerfully and willingly give myself up to the Lord ? Did I not say, Here am I, do with me as it seemeth thee good ? When I heard his voice saying, Come out from the world, and be separate, Did I not say, Amen, Lord; so give me grace to obey thy will ? When sufferings presented themselves, did I not say, Why art thou cast down, O my soul; God is able to sup. port; yea, he will support? When opportunities of usefulness appeared, did I not say, Let me work while it is day? and was I not all activity in the best of services? But now- Ah! it is too painful to think of, and the only encouragement is, that He who says, I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love, still invites to return, and says, Remember from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works.”” Rey. ii. 4,5.