“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” — ACTS 3:19.
WHAT A PITY it is that modem preachers attend no more to the method those took who were first inspired by the Holy Ghost, in preaching Jesus Christ! The success they were honored with, gave a sanction to their manner of preaching, and the divine authority of their discourses, and energy of their elocution, one would think, should have more weight with those that are called to dispense the gospel, than all modern schemes whatever. If this was the case, ministers would then learn first to sow, and then to reap; they would endeavour to plough up the fallow ground, and thereby prepare the people for God’s raining down blessings upon them.
Thus Peter preached when under a divine influence, as I mentioned last Wednesday night: he charged the audience home, though many of them were learned and high and great, with having been the murderers of the Son of God. No doubt but the charge entered deep into their conscience, and that faithful monitor beginning to give them a proper sense of themselves, the apostle lets them know that great as their sin was, it was not unpardonable; that though they had been concerned in the horrid crime of murdering the Lord of Life, notwithstanding they had thereby incurred the penalty of eternal death, yet there was a mercy for them, the way to which he points out in the text; “Repent ye therefore,” says he, “and be converted,” and adds, “that your sins may be blotted out.” Though they are but few words, they are weighty; a short sentence this, but sweet: may God make it a blessed sweetness to every one of your hearts!
But must we preach conversion to a professing people? Some of you perhaps are ready to say go to America; go among the savages and preach repentance and conversion there; or, if you must be a field preacher, go to the highways and hedges; go to the colliers; go ramble up and down, as you used to do, preach conversion to the drunkards: would to God my commission might be renewed, that I might have strength and spirit to take the advice!
Possibly others will say, do not preach it to us; pray who are you? I answer, one sent to call you to repentance; and although I might, yet I will not come so close to you at present, as to inquire in my turn, who are you; yet permit me to pray, that while I am preaching God’s Spirit may find you out; and not only let you know who you are, but what you are; and then you will not be easy with yourselves, nor angry with a minister of Jesus Christ for preaching conversion to your souls.
Repentance and conversion are nearly the same. The expression in the text is complex, and seems to include both what goes before and follows “turning to God”: and if the Lord is pleased to honor me so far tonight to be useful to sinners, as well as saints, I will endeavour to shew you,
First, what it is not to be converted; secondly, what it is to be truly converted: thirdly, offer some motives why you should repent and be converted: and fourthly, answer some objections that have been made against persons repenting and being converted, and yet at the same time, if you come and examine them, they know not so much as speculatively what real conversion is; the general notion many have of it is, a person’s being a convert from the Church of Rome to the Church of England.
There is a particular office in the large prayer book, to be used when any one publicly renounces popery in the great congregation. When this is done, that prayer read, and the person said Amen to the collects upon the occasion, every body wishes him joy, and thanks God he is converted; whereas, if this is all, he is- as much unconverted to God as ever; he has in words renounced popery, but never took leave of the sins of his heart. Well, after this he looks into the church, and does not like that white thing called a surplice; he looks, and thinks there are some rags of the whore of Babylon left still: now, says he, I will be converted; how? I will turn Dissenter: so after he is converted from the Church of Rome to the Church of England, he goes to the dissenting church: maybe, curiosity may bring him to the Methodists, those monstrous troublesome creatures, and, perhaps, he may then be converted a third time, like their preaching, like their singing; O dear, I must have a Tabernacle-ticket, I must have a Psalm-book, I will come as often as there is preaching, or at least as often as I can; and there he sits down, and becomes an outside converted Methodist, as demure as possible: this is going a prodigious way, and yet all this is conversion from one party only to another. If the minister gives a rub or two he will take miff perhaps, and be converted to some other persuasion, and all the while Jesus Christ is left unthought of; but this is conversion only from party to party, not real, and that which will bring a soul to heaven.
Possibly, a person may go further, and be converted from one set of principles to another; he may, for instance, be born an Arminian, which all men naturally are; and one reason why I think Calvinism right, is, because proud nature will not stoop to be saved by grace. You that are brought up in an orthodox belief, under an orthodox ministry, cannot easily make an allowance for thousands that have nothing ringing in their ears but Arminianism; you have sucked in orthodoxy with your mother’s milk, and that makes so many sour and severe professors. I knew a rigid man that would beat Christianity into his wife; and so many beat people with their Bibles, that they are likely, by their bitter proceeding, to hinder them from attending to the means God has designed for conversion. What is this but being converted from one set of principles to another; and I may be very zealous for them, without being transformed by them into the image of God.
But some go further, they think they are converted because they are reformed: they say, “a reformed rake makes a good husband,” but I think a renewed rake will make a better. Reformation is not renovation: I may have the outside of the platter washed; Continue reading “Repentance and Conversion | George Whitfield”