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THE IMPORTANCE AND NECESSITY OF CONVERSION
1. Sın has made it necessary that, “except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God," John iii. 3. It is revealed by Christ in the discourse with Nicodemus, as well as in numerous other places; and it would be unnecessary to quote further evidence on what is so plainly and uniformly expressed in the New Testament. You must, therefore, realize the fact, that the nature of God makes it necessary that every sinner should undergo this change. He has declared that no sinner, in his sinful, unrenewed, and unconverted state, shall see his face; and you can no more evade this law, than that which says, “ All flesh shall see corruption.” It is declared in that revelation which is stamped with Heaven's high authority, that a man must be converted, and become as a little child, or he cannot see God's kingdom; that every one must repent, must believe in Christ, and become a new man. Now, Jesus Christ repeated this constantly, and enforced it upon all with his own authority, and that of his Father who sent him. Throughout the whole of his preaching, this doctrine appears. He sent out his apostles and many chosen disciples to call men every where to receive his testimony; and they went forth, preaching to sinners that they should
repent of sin, and turn to Christ, as the Lamb of God that had come to take away the sin of the world.
It is a law as certain, as infallible, as universal, as any laid upon the material universe, upon human bodies or human minds :-"Ye must be born again,” John iii. 7. It is, moreover, a law that never has been, that never can be, dispensed with. Do you think, or can you think, that there will be any exception in your case to that law, “ Except ye be converted-ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven?” Matt. xviii. 3. Can you imagine that there can exist any reason so weighty, as to induce God to alter this law for your sake, and to receive you to heaven without a compliance with it? Impossible ! eternally impossible! If you reflect upon the nature of God, you will perceive that his will does and must prevail. It must be supreme and final, because he is God. It cannot bend, it will not bow to yours. Yours must bow to it, whatever pain and humiliation it may cost you. It is a Divine obligation laid upon you by your relation to God; and until you feel its force and necessity, you are an active and open rebel against your God. You may think it a very hard thing, but that will not alter the case; or you may think it a very light thing, and talk of it in very light terms, but this will not change your position. There is no salvation-God has said it —there can be none-Christ declares that there can be none — without conversion. You may think, as many have done, that this law does not apply to your case, because you are free from great sins, and have always endeavoured to do your duty.
2. The necessity of conversion may be still
further illustrated, by a comparison of the nature of sinners and the nature of God. A sinner in his rebellious state cannot be received as an affectionate and obedient child of God. Think of it yourself. No absurdity could be greater or more glaring, than to suppose the enjoyment of such a state as that of acceptance before God without conversion; because that were to suppose a guilty, impenitent, rebellious sinner in heaven, with a nature utterly opposed to heaven and its righteous Sovereign. It were to suppose vice dwelling in the region of perfect purity; hostility to God raised to the honour of immortal fellowship with him; and deep, unsubdued, hateful depravity reaping the reward of faith and love, and in association with all that is pure, glorious, and blessed. Such incongruities could not, in the nature of things, be tolerated by Him who has the power of prevent. ing them. A sinner in an impenitent and unconverted state, would but suffer torment in the presence of heavenly purity. That which most hates God, is most opposed to his nature, could find no delight in dwelling for ever with him ; and that which shrinks now quite instinctively from the sight of his eye, from the sound of his word, and the conviction of his Spirit, would quail and tremble, and be full of torment, in the presence of God and his holy angels. Then, you must be converted if you desire to dwell with God; or, if you refuse to be converted, abandon altogether the hope of being saved from hell. Sin and punishment, impenitence and destruction, are united together by an eternal, infallible law, which you never can annul, never evade, never overcome; and which God will never abrogate. Then, we say again, repent and be converted, or you are lost.
3. Consider the consequences as to your own state and feelings through life, in the prospect of death, and through your immortal existence, which the word of God represents as naturally and necessarily attendant upon conversion, on the one hand, or impenitence and unbelief, on the other. The contrast between these two classes of consequences is immense, awful, and beyond the power of description. You will scarcely attempt to deny that the question, Am I converted or unconverted? surpasses every other that can engage your attention; that is to say, it is infinitely more important than any question relating to your temporal condition in this life: for whether you are rich or poor, still you must die; and then it will be of no moment whether you have fed upon delicacies, or obtained your bread, and that a scanty portion, by the sweat of your brow; whether you have lived to old age, or been cut off in youth ; and to spend a few more years in a mortal body, is, after all, not so great a matter as either to make you very anxious for its enjoyment, or very sad if it should be denied. Whether you are honoured, admired, and remembered among mortal men like yourself, or whether you live unknown, and die unnoticed and neglected, is comparatively a trifling matter. And whether your life, be it long or short, is passed in the possession of unbroken health, or in sickness, debility, and dependence, is, again, another comparatively trivial matter. Or whether you have seen and tasted all the good there is for the sons of men in this life, or have been born to trouble and to toil, is also of little importance. But whether at death you shall be lost for ever, or for ever saved and made happy, is a matter of infinite concern. You must admit that it is so. All is trifling in comparison with it. The very thought of the solemn issue awaiting your death, must inevitably have an influence upon your present feelings. Think, I beseech you, of the infinite difference in the hour of death, between the two states of faith and unbelief; the two emotions of hope and fear : it is all the difference between heaven and hell! Think, then, of the vast, the astounding contrast between the peaceful departure of a real Christian, a truly converted person, having in his soul the hope of glory, and saying, as many have done: “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.” “Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly." "I have a desire to depart, and to be with Christ," Luke ii. 29, 30; Rev. xxii. 20; Phil. i. 23. And then think of the guilty recollections of an impenitent and unconverted sinner, who has all his life long served Satan and the world, and given no attention to the interests of his soul, and of that world to which he goes. Think of him, again, as encompassed on all sides with fear; bowed down by the insupportable burden of guilt; a conscience but a canker, or worse—a burning brand within the soul, set on fire by the anticipation of hell torments; dreading to depart, yet feeling that he must depart in a few moments more to the bar of Divine justice, and thence to the abyss of unutterable torments. This appalling contrast may readily be illustrated by a few well-known facts, which will show that I have not presented an imaginary picture, but what has been frequently, and is still constantly, realized.