Sermon 1101. An Old-Fashioned Conversion
A SERMON DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, MARCH 16, 1873,
BY REV. C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"Lo, all these things works God oftentimes with man, To bring back his soul from thepit, to be enlightened with the lightof the living." Job 33:29,30.
SOME people are wonderfully enamored of anything that is old. An old coin, an old picture, an old book, or even a piece ofantique rubbish they will almost worship. The jingle of a rusty medal is music to them, and "auld nick-nackets" are as preciousas diamonds. It is wonderful what a little mold and a few worm-holes will do in the way of increasing values! I confess Ido not very greatly share in the feeling, at least it is no craze of mine but, nevertheless, all things being equal, antiquityhas its charms. Old, old stories of the days far past, when time was young, have a special interest. They are as windows whichpermit us to gaze down the dim aisles of ages long gone by-we look through them with mingled curiosity and awe.
I am about, this morning, to speak to you concerning an old conversion. We shall rehearse an ancient story of the renewaland salvation of a soul. In our day we meet with professors who cry down everything of the present and cry up everything ofthe former days, which they call the good old times. Such persons talk much about old-fashioned conversions and hold in greatadmiration the lives of Believers of the old school. I shall, this morning, introduce you to an old-fashioned conversion andexplain the way in which men were brought to God not only hundreds, but thousands of years ago. I suppose that Elihu deliveredthis description of conversion about the time of Moses, or at the period when Israel was in Egypt, for almost general consentappropriates one of those dates to the Book of Job.
The record we shall read this morning, and study carefully, refers to the very, very oldest of times. Let this fact give additionalinterest to our meditation-and if it does I am sure that we shall not lack for earnest attention, for the subject is of greatintrinsic value. Kindly keep your Bibles open. We have already read the chapter, but it will be necessary to refer to it verseby verse.
I. The matter in hand is to compare an old-fashioned conversion with those of the present time. And the first note we shallstrike is this-it is quite certain from the description given in this 33rd chapter of Job that THE SUBJECTS OF CONVERSIONWERE SIMILAR and men in the far gone ages were precisely like men in these times. The passage tells us nothing about the statureof men's' bodies, but as far as they were concerned spiritually the photograph which Elihu took is the portrait of many ofthose who are brought to Jesus now.
Reading the passage over, we find that men in those times needed converting, for they were deaf to God's voice (verse 14).They were obstinate in evil purposes (verse 17) and puffed up with pride. They needed chastening to arouse them to thoughtand required sore distress to make them cry out for mercy (verses 19-22). They were very slow to say, "I have sinned," andwere not at all inclined to prayer. Nothing but sharp discipline could bring them to their senses and even then they neededto be born-again. Men in those days were sinful and yet proud-sinful self and righteous self were both in power-it was onepart of conversion to withdraw them from their purposes of sin and another part of their conversion to "hide pride" from them.
Though they were sinful, they thought that they were righteous, and though they were condemned by the Law of God they stillentertained the fond hope that they should, by their own merits, obtain the favor of the Most High. They were then, as theyare now, poor as poverty and yet proud of their wealth. They were Publicans in sin, and yet Pharisees in boasting. It appearsthat in those days God was accustomed to speak to men and to be disregarded by them. We are told that God spoke "once, yes,twice," and men perceived Him not. Their presumptuous slumbers were too deep to be broken by the call of love. Samuel said,"Here am I, for You did call me," but they slept on in defiance of the Lord.
O, how frequently does the Lord speak now to deaf ears! He calls and men refuse. He stretches out His hands and men do notregard Him. But they are desperately set upon their sins and sod in carnal security, therefore they do despite to His Graceand ruin their own souls! In those ancient times, when a man was converted, the Lord Himself must turn him-Omnipotence itselfwas necessary to divide man from his folly. God's speaking to the ear was not enough unless He followed it up with a powerfulapplication to the heart. Man was too far gone to be healed by remedies less than Divine-he was utterly past hope unless Almightylove would come to the rescue!
Verily, the case is the same at this day and each man repeats his fellow. As the fish still bites at the bait, as the birdstill flies into the snare, as the beast is still taken in the pit, so is man still the dupe of his sins and only the Lordcan save him! Salvation was only worked by the gracious influences of God's Spirit in the days of Job-and it is only so accomplishedat this present hour! Men were lost then as now! Men thought they were not lost then, and they are equally conceited now!Into the house of the Divine Physician the same class of persons enter as were welcomed and healed by Him ages ago. He hasthe same blind eyes and deaf ears to open-hearts still require to be transformed from stone to flesh-and leprosies to be exchangedfor health by His Sovereign touch.
The Spirit from the four winds breathed on a valley covered with dry bones in the days of the fathers and He comes forth,still, to work upon the like scene of death. Man has not outgrown his sins! As it was in the beginning it is now and so itever will be while that which is born of the flesh is flesh. As were the sires such are their sons, and such will our sonsbe in their turn-so that the process of conversion needs to be the same-and "all these things God works oftentimes with man."
II. The second note we shall strike is this, that in those olden times THE WORKER OF CONVERSION WAS THE
SAME-"all these things God works." The whole process is by Elihu ascribed to God and every Christian can bear witness thatthe Lord is the great Worker now. He turns us and we are turned. We read in verse 14 that, at first, the Lord worked uponmen by speaking to them, once, yes, twice-He also brought Truth home to their minds and instructed them and so changed theirpurposes and humbled their hearts. In the same manner the Lord works now.
Conversion is a change which concerns the mind, the affections, the spirit-it is not a physical manipulation as some foolishpersons fancy-who appear to think that God converts men by force and turns them over as a man would roll a stone. The Lordoperates upon men as men, not as blocks of wood! God speaks to them, instructs them, reveals Truth to them, encourages themto hope and graciously influences them for good. Man is left free, for, "God speaks once, yes, twice, yet man perceives itnot," and yet in God's own wise and suitable manner, he is at length led to cry, "I have sinned and perverted that which isright and it profited me not."
But in those times, as now, it was necessary that God should do more than speak to the outer ear. He, therefore, came stillnearer and by His Holy Spirit led men to really hear what He spoke. He did not leave men to their wills, neither did He trusttheir conversion to the eloquence of preachers, or to the cogency of arguments. But He Himself came and opened men's earsand pressed the Truth of God home upon their understandings and made it operative upon their entire nature. Man was so proudthat no one else could humble him but God-and he was so willful, that no one could withdraw him from his purpose but the Lord,alone!
And the Lord, in condescension, did the deed and made the man obedient and humble. Indeed, the Lord is described in this chapteras the main cause of all the work accomplished. Whereas a ransom was needed to deliver men from going down to the pit, itis the Lord's voice which cried, "I have found a Ransom." Whereas, even when the Ransom was found, men did not know it andwould not receive it, it was God who sent a messenger, one of a thousand, to show unto man His uprightness and to proclaimthe great provision made for restoring man to his primeval state. It is the Lord who delivers the soul from the pit, thatman's life may see the light.
In this chapter it is God that visits, that speaks, chastens, instructs, enlightens, consoles, renews and saves-from firstto last-God works all in all. Salvation is of the Lord, it is not of man, neither by man. Neither is it of the will of man,nor of the flesh, nor of blood, nor of birth, but of the will of God. The purpose of God and the power of God work salvationfrom first to last. What a blessing this is for us, for, if salvation were of ourselves, who among us would be saved? ButHe has "laid help upon One that is mighty." God is also our strength and our song, for He Himself has become our salvation.He who has begun the good work will carry it on. Christ is the Alpha. Christ is the Omega. Christ is the "Author and the Finisherof our faith."
So we have two points in this ancient conversion in which it was just like our own-the same men to be operated upon and thesame God to work the miracles of Grace.
III. The most interesting point to you will probably be the third-THE MEANS USED TO WORK CONVERSION
IN THOSE DISTANT AGES WERE VERY MUCH THE SAME AS THOSE EMPLOYED NOW. There were
differences in outward agencies, but the inward modus operandi was the same. There was a difference in the instruments, butthe way of working was the same. Kindly turn to the chapter, at the 15th verse. You find there that God, first of all, spoketo men, but they regarded Him not, and then He spoke to them effectually by means of a dream-"In a dream, in a vision of thenight, when deep sleep falls upon men, in slumbering upon the bed."
Now, this was an extraordinary means of Grace, seldom used now. In this the distant ages differ from the present. A dream,though it is, in itself, but the mirage of sleep, may be employed by God to arouse the mind towards eternal things. Dreamsof death and judgment to come have frequently had a very alarming effect upon the conscience, while visions of celestial Gloryhave impressed the heart with desires after infinite bliss. As Dryden says of some men-
"In sleep they fearful precipices tread Or, shipwrecked, labor to some distant shore," so others have in their slumbers shiveredat the gates of Hell, or even been tossed upon its fiery waves-and the thoughts consequent upon such dreams have, by God'sGrace, occasionally been rendered permanently useful, though I fear it is not often so.
In the days of Elihu, however, dreams were much more frequently the way in which God spoke, for there were few messengersfrom God to interpret His mind-no openly declared Gospel and few assemblies for instruction by hearing the Word. And whatis more, there was then no written Word of God. In those early times they had no Inspired books at all, so that, lacking theBible and lacking the frequent ministrations of God's servants, the Lord was pleased to supply their deficiencies by speakingto men in the visions of the night. I say again, we must not expect the Lord to return to the general use of so feeble anagency now that He employs others which are far more effectual. It is much more profitable for you to have the Word in yourhouses which you can read at all times and to have God's ministers to proclaim clearly the Gospel of Jesus than it would beto be dependent upon visions of the night!
The means, therefore, outwardly, may have changed, but still, whether it is by the dream at night, or by the sermon on Sunday,the power is just the same-namely, the Word of God. God may speak to men in dreams and if so, He speaks to them nothing moreand nothing different from what He speaks in the written Word. If any come to you and say, "I have dreamed this or that,"and it is not in the Scriptures, away with their dreams! If anything should occur in your own mind in vision which is notalready revealed in the Book of God, put it away, it is an idle fancy not to be regarded. Woe to that man whose religion isthe baseless fabric of dreams-he will one day wake up to find that nothing short of realities can save him!
We have the more sure word of testimony unto which we do well if you take heed as unto a light that shines in a dark place.Conversions, then, in the old times, used to be by the Word of God. It came in a different way, but it was the same Word andthe same Truth. At this time faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God-and at bottom that was precisely the wayin which faith came to men in those distant periods. Now, observe, that in addition to the external coming of the Word, itseems from the chapter before us in the 16th verse, that men were converted by having their ears opened by God. Alas, men'sears are still stopped up!
An old Puritan has mentioned seven forms of what he calls, "ear stoppers," which need to be taken out of the human ear. Theyare frequently blocked up by ignorance-they know not the importance and value of the Truth of God and, therefore they refuseto give earnest heed to it. Judging it to be an idle tale, they go their way to their farms and to their merchandise. Someears are stopped up by unbelief-they have heard the glad tidings of salvation but they have not received it as an InfallibleRevelation from Heaven, a message backed by Divine authority. Skepticism and philosophy, falsely so called, barricade Eargateagainst the assaults of Emmanuel's captains so that even the great battering rams of the Gospel prove powerless to force anentrance. "He could not do many mighty works then because of their unbelief!"
Others ears are stopped up by impenitence-the hardness of the heart causes a deadness of the ear. You may discharge the greatcannons of the Law in the ears of some men, but they will not stir. The thunders of God startle the wild beasts of the woodbut impenitence is not moved thereby. The Gospel, itself, sounds upon such ears with no more
effect than upon a marble statue-the groans of Calvary are nothing to them. Some ears are stopped by prejudice-they have madeup their minds as to what the Gospel ought to be and they will not hear it as it is. They have set up for themselves a standardof what the Truth of God should be and that standard is a false one, for they have put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter,darkness for light and light for darkness.
Prejudices against the preacher, or against the denomination are but forms of the same evil-they make men to be as Ulysseswas when his ears were sealed with wax, for they are even as deaf men. The entrance into many ears is also effectually barredby the love of sin. He who loves vice will not hear of repentance-the lover of pleasure detests holy mourning. The licentiousthink holiness to be another name for slavery. The man who finds delight in sin is a deaf adder whom the wisest charmer cannotcharm-the poison of asps is under his tongue and he cannot renounce his deadly hate of a Gospel which rebukes his evil ways.It would be vain to teach cleanliness to the sow which wallows in the mire-it loves uncleanness and after uncleanness willit go.
Some ears are stopped through pride-the plain, unflattering, humbling Gospel of the sinner's Savior is not to their taste.The Gospel for lost sinners, they think, is not addressed to them, for they are almost good enough and are by no means worthyof any great blame, or in danger of any great punishment. When they acknowledge their sinnership in words they feel it notin their hearts, therefore they hear not the Truth of God in the love of it. If the Gospel-pipe could be tuned to notes offlattery, to praise the dignity of man, they would attend to its music-but a Gospel for vulgar sinners! How can their noblesouls endure it? With their fine feathers all ruffled in disdain, they turn away in a rage.
Alas, how many ears are stopped through worldliness? If you stand in a street where the traffic is abundant-where the constantthunder of rumbling wheels creates a din-it would be difficult to preach so as to command an audience, for the abundant soundwould prevent all hearing. And, to a great extent, the mass of mankind are just in that position as to the joyful sound ofthe Gospel-the rumbling of the wheels of commerce, the noise of trade and the cries of competition, the whirl of cares andthe riot of pleasures-all these drown the persuasive voice of heavenly love so that men hear no more of it than they wouldhear a pin fall in the midst of a hurricane at sea. Only when God unstops the ear is the still small voice of Truth heardin the chambers of the heart.
Now it is clear to every thoughtful person that all these ear-stoppers existed in the olden times as well as now and thereforethe same work of opening the passage to the heart was necessarily performed. Dreams did not convert sinners of the Patriarchalage, however vivid they might be. Nor did prophetic warnings by themselves arouse them-the hand of Him who created the earwas needed to cleanse and circumcise it before the Truth of God could find admission. Note the next sentence, He "seals theirinstruction." That was the means of conversion in the olden times. God brought the Truth down upon the soul as you press aseal upon wax-you bear upon the seal to make the impression and even thus the power of God pressed home the Word.
Truth is heard by men, but they forget it unless the Holy Spirit takes the Truth and puts it home and lays His force uponit and then it makes a stamp upon the conscience, upon the memory, and upon the entire manhood. Perhaps, also, by sealinghere is meant confirming. A thing is sealed when it is established by testimony and witness-under hand and seal, as we say.Now the Holy Spirit has a way of making Truth to become manifest to men and cogent upon their minds by bearing His witnesswith it, so that they cannot help feeling that it is true. He sets it in such a light that they cannot dispute it, but yieldfull consent to it, their conscience being overwhelmingly convinced.
Dear Friends, I pray God the Holy Spirit in this sense to seal home the Word we speak to each one of you, that from Hearersyou may grow into Believers. I know you will remain Hearers, only, unless that sacred sealing shall take place, but let thatcome upon you and your soul will have the Gospel stamped into its very texture, never more to be effaced. If the Spirit ofGod thus seals you, you will be sealed, indeed! By sealing is also sometimes meant preserving and setting apart, as we sealup documents or treasures of great value that they may be secure. In this sense the Gospel needs sealing up in our hearts.We forget what we hear till God the Holy Spirit seals it in the soul and then it is pondered and treasured up in the heart-itbecomes to us a goodly pearl, a Divine secret, a peculiar heritage.
This sealing is a main point in conversion. What thousands of sermons many of you have heard, but the instruction has neverbeen sealed to you and, therefore, you remain unsaved! I cannot bear to think of your unhappy case and I beseech those wholove the Lord to pray that our discourses, or the sermons of someone else, or the Bible itself, may be sealed of the Lordupon these, my unhappy Hearers, that they may be converted and saved! O for the Lord's sealing hand
upon men's hearts! Send, Lord, by whomever You will send, and by Your servant, also! Give the hearing ear and then engraveyour Gospel upon an understanding heart. You are able to do this and in faith we seek it at Your hands, O Lord God of oursalvation! In this manner men were converted in the olden times-ears were opened and hearts were sealed.
It appears, also, that the Lord, in those days, employed Providence as a help towards conversion-and that Providence was oftenof a very gentle kind, for it preserved men from death. Read the 18th verse-"He keeps back his soul from the pit, and hislife from perishing by the sword." Many a man has had the current of his life entirely changed by an escape from imminentperil. Solemn thoughts have taken possession of his formerly careless mind and he has said to himself, "Has God preservedme from this danger? Then let me be grateful to Him. He must have had a purpose in my preservation. Let me find out what itis and thankfully endeavor to answer to it."
Have any of you, my Hearers, escaped from shipwreck? Is there one here who has escaped from an accident upon the iron way?Are you one of a handful who were snatched from between the very jaws of death? Have you risen up from a fever which laidyou very low? Are you now almost the only survivor of a family, all the members of which, except yourself, have been takenaway by consumption, or some other hereditary disease? Are you a remarkable monument of sparing mercy? Then, I pray you, letthe long-suffering of God lead you to repentance, for it has led many before you and it is intended that it should do thesame for you!
Yield to the gentle pressure of loving kindness, even as the flowers that yield their perfumes to the sunshine do not needto be crushed and bruised like Oriental spice beneath the pestle. Tenderly does the Lord call you to Himself, and says, "Ihave spared you from the grave. I have also kept your guilty soul from going down to Hell. I have placed you, today, underthe sound of the Gospel. I am, by My servant, calling upon you to turn unto Me and live. Will you not hear Me? You are stillon praying ground and pleading terms with Me-will you not consider all this?" Thus God speaks now by actions, which speakmore loudly than words, and it seems that in the same way He was known to speak to men in the days gone by, so that Providentialcircumstances were often the means of conversion.
But, further, it seems that, as Elihu puts it, sickness was a yet more effectual awakener in the common run of cases. Observethe 19th verse, "He is chastened, also, with pain upon his bed, and the multitude of his bones with strong pain: so that hislife abhors bread, and his soul dainty meat." Severe pain destroyed appetite and brought on extreme lassitude and distasteof life-but all this was sent in mercy to fetch the wanderer home. Yes, men get space for thought when they are shut up inthe chamber of sickness. While the mill-wheel went on and on and on, they could not hear God speak, but when its hum is hushedthe warning voice sounds forth clearly.
There in silence the patient tosses on the bed, wakeful at night and fearful by day. And then conscience lifts up its clamorand is heard-then, too, the Spirit of God seizes the opportunity to speak to an awakened conscience-and He convicts the manof sin. How much some of us owe to a bed of sickness! I do not desire for any unconverted person here that he should be ill,but if that would be the way to make him think, repent and believe, I could earnestly pray for it! I believe the Lord hasoften preached to men in hospitals who never heard Him in churches or chapels. Fever and cholera have been heard by thosewhom ministers could not reach.
If we could banish pain and sickness from the world, it may be we should be robbing Righteousness of two of her most impressiveEvangelists. What Jonah was to Nineveh, sickness has been to many a man. Like Elijah, also, it has cried in the soul, "Chooseyou this day whom you will serve." Disease has been a grim orator for God and with an eloquence not to be resisted, it hasmade the hearts of men to bow before its message. If there are any here who have lately been thus afflicted, I would ask themwhether God has blessed it to their souls.
I earnestly pray that they may not be hardened by it, for in that case there is fear that God will say, "Why should you besmitten anymore, you will revolt more and more!" and He may add, "I will let them alone, they are given unto idols. I havesmitten them till their whole head is sick and their whole heart is faint. I have made them to be so near death's door, thatfrom the crown of the head even to the foot they are all wounds and bruises through the chastening of My rod. I will givethem up, and no more will I deal with them in a way of Grace." Great God have pity, still, and make Your chastisements effectualto their souls!
Now, note well that we do not assert that all persons who are saved are awakened by sickness-far from it! All that we arenow taught is that many are so aroused and that such was the case in the instance described by Elihu. In addition to thissickness, the person whom God saved was even brought to be apprehensive of death-"Yes, his soul draws near
unto the grave, and his life to the Destroyer." When a man is made to lie upon his bed on the brink of Hell and look intoanother world, that sight may be sacredly blessed to him. O, it is no small thing to peer into eternity and to make out, amidthe horrid gloom, no shape of hope but ghastly forms of hideous woe! To have behind one the memory of a mix-spent life, tohave above one an angry God, to have within one the aches of the body and the pangs of remorse and to have beneath one thebottomless pit, yawning with its lurid fires-what can be worse?
This side of Hell, what can be worse than the tortures of an awakened conscience? This has sometimes made men wake up froma life-slumber and compelled them to cry, "What must we do to be saved?" I wish that every man here, who has remained unmovedby gentler means, might have some such an experience! It were better for you to be saved so as by fire than not to be savedat all. But, now, notice that all this did not lead the person into comfort. Although he was impressed by the dream and sickness,and so on, yet the ministry of some God-sent ambassador was needed.
"If there is a messenger with him," that is a man sent of God-"an interpreter," one who can open up obscure things and translateGod's mind into man's language-"one among a thousand," for a true preacher, expert in dealing with souls, "is a rare person"to show unto man his uprightness, "then He is gracious unto him." God could save souls without ministers, but He does notoften do it. He could bring men to Jesus without the call from the lips of His sent servants, but as a general rule, conversionin the olden times needed the messenger and the interpreter, and it needs them still-"How shall they believe on Him of whomthey have not heard, and how shall they hear without a preacher, and how shall they preach except they be sent?"
I pray that many of you, dear Brothers, who know the Lord, may become preachers to others. That you may be such successfulmessengers of mercy to poor broken hearts that you may be to them picked and choice men like one out of a thousand! I entreatyou to pray for me, also, that I may have a share and a large share, in this blessed employment, and that to many God maysay through me, "Deliver him from going down to the pit, for I have found a Ransom."
IV. Fourthly, and with too much brevity, THE OBJECTS AIMED AT IN THE OLD CONVERSIONS WERE JUST THE SAME as those that areaimed at now-a-days. Will you kindly look at the 17th verse? The first thing that God had to do with the man was to withdrawhim from his purpose. He finds him set upon sin, upon rebellion, upon carnal pleasure, upon everything that is selfish andworldly-and conversion turns him away from such evil purposes-it was so then, it is so now. This turning of an obstinate willtowards God and holiness is, however, no easy matter-to stay the sun in his course, or reverse the marches of the moon wouldnot be a harder task.
The next object of the Divine work was to hide pride from man, for man will stick to self-righteousness as long as he can.Never does limpet adhere to its rock more firmly than a sinner to his own merits, although, indeed, he has none! Like theold Greek hero in the mythology, the natural man sits down upon the stone of self-esteem and Hercules, himself, cannot tearhim from it. When he is vile even in outward character, he still fancies that there is some good thing in him and to thatfancy he will tenaciously cling! So that it is a work of Divine power, an effort of the august Omnipotence of Heaven-to geta man away from his innate and desperate pride.
Beloved, another great object of conversion is to lead man to a confession of his sin. Hence we find it said in the 27th verse,"He looks upon man, and if any say I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not, He will deliverhis soul from going into the pit." Man hates confession to his God, I mean humble, personal, hearty confession. He will goto a priest and answer all his filthy questions, but he will not confess to the Lord! He will gabble over words which he callsa "general confession," but true, heart-felt confession he shrinks from-he will not come to the publican's cry if he can helpit. He will not say, frankly, from his heart, "I have sinned." He will not own or confess the perverseness of his nature andsay, "I have perverted that which is right." Nor can you get him to admit the folly and stupidity of his sin, so as to say,"it profited me not."
But conversion brings him to his knees. Conversion pulls up the sluices of his soul and makes him pour out his confessionsbefore the Most High. And when this is done, then salvation has come to the man's soul, for God desires man to put himselfinto the place of condemnation in order that He may be able to say to him, "I forgive you freely." The Lord shuts us up tohopelessness and helplessness in order that He may come as a God of Grace and display His abounding mercy. All our hope liesin Him and all other hopes are delusions. The great work in conversion is not to make people better, so that they may cometo God on a good footing-it is to strip them completely and lay them low so
that God may come to them when they are on a bad footing, or rather on no footing at all, but down in the dust at His
The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost, but it needs God Himself to convince men that they are lost.And the Spirit's work of soul-humbling is just this-to get man to feel so diseased that he will accept the Physician-to gethim to feel so poor that he will accept the charity of Heaven. To get him to know that he is so stripped that he will no longerbe proud of his fig leaves, but will be willing to take the robe of righteousness which Christ has worked out. Convictionis sent to kill the man, to break him in pieces, to bury him, to let him know his own corruption-and all this as a preliminaryto his quickening and restoration.
We must see the bones in the valley to be dead and dry, or we shall not hear the Voice out of the excellent Glory, saying,"Thus says the Lord, 'You dry bones live!'" May God in His mercy teach us what all this means and may we all experience anold-fashioned conversion!
V. Fifthly, the process of conversion in days of yore exactly resembled that which is worked in us now as to ITS SHADES. Theshadowy side wore the same somber hues as now. First of all, the man refused to hear. God spoke once, yes twice, and man regardedHim not-here was obstinate rebellion. His heart was as an adamant stone. How true is that today! Then came the chasteningtill the man's bones were made to ache and he was full of misery. It is often the same now. I acknowledge that I was broughtto God by agony of soul. I have often said from this pulpit that no man ever steers his boat towards the port of peace tillhe is driven there by stress of weather.
We never come to Christ till we feel we cannot do without Him. We must feel our poverty before we shall ever come and begat the door of His mercy for help. The shades are the same, for the same imminence of danger which Elihu spoke of comes uponevery sinner's consciousness, more or less, before he resorts to Jesus for refuge. The same bitter sense of sin still comesover men and the same wonder at their own folly in having continued in it. The same darkness still covers the sinner's pathwayand the same inability to procure the light for himself. The same need of light from above, the same need of help from Himwho is mighty to save. If any of you are passing, just now, through great darkness of soul because you have not yet come tothe light-and God is revealing yourselves to yourselves-be comforted, for the same dark road has been traversed by many ofthe saints before you and it is a safe pathway, leading to comfort in Jesus Christ!
VI. But now, sixthly and very briefly, again, THE LIGHTS ARE THE SAME, even as the shades were the same. You will note inElihu's description that the great source of all the light was this-"Deliver him from going down to the pit, for I have founda Ransom." There is not a gleam of light in the case till you come to that Divine Word-and is it not so now? Did you everget any comfort for your troubled souls until you were led to see the ransom found by God in Jesus Christ? Did you ever knowthe value of the Ransom for yourselves till God spoke it home to you-"Deliver him from going down to the pit, for I have founda Ransom!"
This is the central point of the sinner's hope-a bleeding Savior paying our ransom price in drops of blood-the dying Son ofGod achieving our redemption by His own death! Oh, dear Souls, who are in the dark, if you want light, there is light nowherebut at the Cross! Do not look within for light-the only benefit of looking within is to be more and more convinced that allis dark as midnight apart front Jesus. Look within if you want to despair! But if you wish for hope, look yonder to Calvary'smountain, where the Son of God lays down His life that sinners may not die! Hear from Heaven the Voice which says, "I havefound a Ransom." That is the only reason why God delivers you-not because He has seen any good thing in you, but because Hehas found a Ransom for you. Look where God looks and your comfort will begin.
Then this precious Gospel being announced to the sinner, the comfort of it enters his soul in the exercise of prayer- "Heshall pray unto God, and he will be favorable unto Him." O, you can pray when you get to the Cross! Our prayers, before wesee Christ, are poor poor things, but when we get to Calvary and see the utmost Ransom paid and the full atonement made, thenprayer becomes the utterance of a child to a father and we feel quite sure it will speed. Next, it appears that the soul obtainscomfort because God gave it His righteousness-"for He will render unto man His righteousness." That righteousness which Godexpected God bestows! That righteousness which man ought to have worked out but could not, Christ works out and God treatsthe believing man as if he were righteous, making him righteous in the righteousness of Christ! Here is another source ofjoy.
And then is the man led to a full confession of his sin. In the 27th verse the last cloud upon his spirit is blown away andhe is at perfect peace. God was gracious to the man described by Elihu. God Himself became his light and his salvation andhe came forth into joy and liberty. There is nothing more full of freshness and surprise than the joy of a new convert! Thoughthousands have felt it, yet each one, as he feels it, is himself amazed. I did really think, when God forgave me, that I wasthe most extraordinary instance of His Sovereign love that ever lived and that I should be bound even in Heaven, itself, totell to others how God's infinite mercy had pardoned, in my case, the biggest sinner that ever was forgiven. Now, every savedsoul is led to feel just that and to exult and rejoice, and magnify the Lord with extreme surprise because of His goodness!
It seems it was so in Job's day and it is so now! The old conversions are the conversions of the period-the shades are thesame and the lights are the same.
VII. And last of all, which is the seventh point, THE RESULTS ARE THE SAME, for I think I hardly know a better descriptionof the result of regeneration than that which is given in the 25th verse-"His flesh shall be fresher than a child's: he shallreturn to the days of his youth." He who was an old wrinkled man in sin and looked yet older through his sorrow, becomes born-again!He starts upon a new career with a new life within him! The health which had departed from his soul comes back! The springof spiritual juvenility wells up in him because God has begotten him afresh and made him a new creature-"Old things have passedaway, behold all things are become new!"
And with this change comes back joy. See the 26th verse-"He shall see His face with joy; for He will render unto man His righteousness."And the 30th verse-"To bring back his soul from the pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living." So that the newspirit finds itself in a new world in which it goes forth with joy and is led forth with peace. The mountains and the hillsbreak forth before it into singing and all the trees of the forest do clap their hands. It was so then-it is just the samenow!
O that the same blessed thing may happen to many here present at this time! I have endeavored to give a description of conversion,that you may see what it is to be renewed in heart, but I shall have failed of my intention unless many a knee shall be bentto God with this prayer, "O Spirit of God, renew my nature, change my heart! Make my flesh to be fresher than a child's! Makeme a new creature in Christ Jesus."
Time is passing-we are getting now almost one-fourth through another year and the year itself will soon fly away. I wouldspeak to careless and thoughtless ones, again, and ask them, will it never be time to think upon these things? Will it neverbe time to consider your ways? Will it never be time to seek the Lord? You know not how near you are to the grave's brink.Do consider, I beseech you, and remember that the Lord waits to be gracious-that He delights in mercy and if you seek HimHe will be found of you!
And this great conversion and regeneration, of which we have spoken at such length, shall be yours, and you shall see theface of God with joy even as they did of old! The Lord grant it to you for the Redeemer's sake. Amen.
PORTIONS OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON-Psalm 32; Job 33:14-30.