by Richard Nichols
Originally published in
the Christian Informer
WHAT MUST BE SEEN, HEARD AND UNDERSTOOD FOR CONVERSION?
May we illustrate: Suppose there is a man who has never seen a copy of the Scriptures, knows little about God, and nothing of his own destiny. Suppose, too, that he is perfectly ignorant of the things contained in the word of God. But that book is now put into his hands; he is capable of reading, and understanding what he reads. He opens the book and reads: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). "Thou, Lord, in the beginning, hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of thy hands" (Hebrews 1:10). He continues to read until he is overwhelmed with the awesome glory and infinitely powerful character of the Maker of all things.
He again opens the book, and his eyes fall upon those Scriptures that describe the awful end of the ungodly -- and believing all he reads, his faith carries him down to the sorrowful regions of despair, unlocks the dreadful pit, and shows him the horrors of the damned. By faith he hears their doleful groans and bitter cries, and he falls back upon himself muttering, "If that is my lot, oh, why was I born?"
But again he looks into that blessed Book, and believing all he reads, his faith takes another direction, and conveys him up to the paradise of God, unlocks the gates of heaven, and shows him the celestial city, with all its holy inhabitants. He contemplates their joys, hears their rapturous songs of praise, until he feels an anxious desire to be one of that number.
But then he comes to himself, and finds that he is yet in the flesh. He now begins to meditate. I have seen wonderful things out of thy law, O my God; but where am I going? I have seen the horrors of the lost, and the joys of the saved, but to which class do I belong? I know that I must soon die. My friends are dying all around me, and I too must soon fall. But to which of these abodes must I go, when done with time?
While these reflections are occupying his mind, he turns to the word and reads: "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all nations that forget God" (Psalm 9:17). "The Lord shall be revealed from heaven, with all his holy angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God and that obey not the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting fire from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power" (2 Thessalonians 1:7,8). He now inquires, "Have I obeyed the gospel?" He reads to see. He finds that his whole life has been contrary to the will of God. Here he finds a command forbidding certain things to be done. "But I have done these very things," he thinks. Here he finds another class of commands, enjoining the performance of certain duties. "I've not done these." "Lo," he says, "I've sinned in doing things condemned, and failing to do things commanded by God... I'm a doomed man! I am headed for that awful place of torment I read about in the Bible. O! what shall I do? Is there no way to escape?"
While he is awfully alarmed and deeply concerned about his eternal state, he again opens the New Testament, and believing all he reads, his faith carries him to the dark garden of Gethsemane, and shows him the man Christ Jesus, prostrate on the ground, praying until his sweat becomes as great drops of blood, falling to the ground. He listens, and hears the agonizing Savior say: "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done." He is astonished at the sight, but does not understand it.
But, by faith, he follows this same person from the court of the high priest to Pilate's judgment hall, and from there he follows him up Calvary. He beholds him, finally, nailed to the Roman cross; he views him in all the agonies of death. He has also learned from the blessed Book which he has been reading with so much attention, that this is an innocent person. He inquires in his mind, therefore, what does all this mean? Why does this innocent person thus suffer?
While these thoughts are stirring within him, he turns to the inspired Word again, and reads: "Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, hath tasted death for every man." "Christ has suffered in the flesh for sins, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God." "Well," he says, "this Jesus is the just one, and I am the unjust, but am I one of those for whom this Christ died?" He reads again: "Christ gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." "He died for our sins, according to the Scriptures." "Then," the man says, "he died for me! And is it so that all the suffering which I have seen him endure was on my account?"
Still contemplating all he had read about the cross, he remembers the words of a song he once heard but failed to understand at the time --
"Lo Jesus, bleeding on the tree, There, there the love of God I see. I look, I gaze, my rebel heart Feels its own hardness soon depart; Repenting tears begin to roll, And love in streams flows through my soul."
Now, the words of that hymn make sense. Thus, by seeing and hearing of the goodness of God, in the gift and death of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, he becomes reconciled to God. He believes that gospel message; He loves God because He first loved us. He repents of his sins which were contrary to God's will; he wants to reform his life as a matter of choice; he is resolved to lead a life of obedience to the revealed will of the Lord. His heart cries out, "Lord, what wilt thou have me do?" He finds the answer in several places.
In Matthew 10:32 he reads, "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven." He further reads in the words of the inspired apostle to a multitude of people just like him, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:38).
He turns again to the words of Jesus, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16). He believes this promise, and therefore, with a willing heart, obeys the commands; thus he enters into covenant with God, becomes a member of His family, is made free from sins, and now rejoices in hope of the glory of God.
Here, friend, we leave the subject with you, with a word of advice. If you have been thus converted to God, see to it that you stand firm to the end. From this point be determined to stand. O, never let the devil get advantage of you. Do not let the world, the flesh, nor the devil ever convert or change your heart back to the love and practice of sin again. "Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know your labor is not in vain in the Lord."
If, however, you have not been thus converted to the Lord and his service, reflect on what you are, and where you are going. Remember what the Lord has done and what He has suffered for you. And enduring such agony and pain He "became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him" (Hebrews 5:9).
Now is the accepted time, and behold, now is the day of salvation. So harden not your heart. But arise at once, and obey the Lord while He is inviting you -- that you may realize the healing power of the Great Physician of souls, and thus be made every whit whole.
"None but Jesus, none but Jesus, Can do helpless sinners good."
O cease from the ways of man, who cannot heal his own sin-sickness, and apply at once to the Great Physician of souls. Comply with the directions given by His holy apostles, though all the preachers of today oppose you. Obey the Lord. He will pardon your past sins, and give you peace and purpose of life that none but God can give.