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Produced by Bryan Ness, Greg Bergquist and the Online
Scientific and Religious Journal.
|Vol. I.||DECEMBER, 1880.||No. 12.|
There are a great many questions asked upon the subject of conversion, and as many answers given as there are theories of religion, and many persons listening to men’s theories upon this subject are left in doubt and darkness in reference to what is and is not conversion. You ask the Mormons, who fully believe their theory of conversion, and they will refer you to their own experience and the experience of the loyal, self-sacrificing devotees of their faith. Ask the Roman Catholic and he will give you an answer corresponding with his theory of religion. All Protestant parties give you their experience, and refer you to their loyal and self-sacrificing brethren for the truthfulness of their theories of conversion. In the midst of this conflict and medley of contradictions what are we to do? Shall we accept their experience as the infallible rule by which to determine the right from the wrong in matters pertaining to our present and eternal salvation? A strange rule, in view of the great contrariety of opinions and our liability to be misled. It would justify Mother Eve, she being deceived. But “she was found in the transgression.” We may be deceived and found in transgression. This strange rule would justify Saul; for he verily thought he ought to do many things contrary to Jesus, which things he did, and did them in all good conscience towards God and man, yet he was a blasphemer and injurious. The Master, in view of our liability to be deceived, gave us a rule of conduct in reference to our communications in these words: “Let your communications be yea, yea, and nay, nay.” It requires heroism and manhood, which is the highest degree of moral courage, to say nay where questions of personal interest are involved.
The rule in reference to God’s word is different, being based upon his immutability and perfections. He is not deceived, not misled, not mistaken. Paul says in reference to the word of God, which was preached by himself, Sylvanus and Timotheus: “Our word toward you was not yea and nay, but in him was yea, for all the promises of God in Christ are yea, and in him amen unto the glory of God by us.” 2 Cor. 1, 18–20. “Let God be true though every man be a liar,” was in the times of the Apostles and first Christians a rule which they had no hesitancy in affirming. A moral agent is one who, with a knowledge of the right and wrong, exercises the power of action. In conversion it is the exercise of the power that begins conversion. If the sinner has not this power, then he is not a moral agent in his conversion. All the differences among men upon the subject of conversion grew out of their different notions of God and of men. It is a matter of the greatest consequence to have correct notions of God and of self. As conversion relates to both, wrong notions of one will create wrong notions of the other. Those who have been taught to debase themselves under the pretext of giving glory to God, consider meanness and wrong as natural and inherent imperfections of their being, and attributable to Father Adam and Mother Eve, and neglect to exercise the powers at their command. Being taught that they are unable to do anything to help themselves, they are left to throw the work all back upon God or give it up in despair. If they throw it back upon God, and regard themselves as passive recipients of the work of conversion, then they must wrestle with God, for there is no use in wrestling with the powerless one.
With this view of the subject the world’s condition is incomprehensible, and in direct conflict with the revealed character of God. We would naturally suppose when we read that “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” that none would be allowed to perish on account of any neglect upon the divine side. But thousands do die in their sins. Do you say it is because of their great wickedness? In what does wickedness consist? Is it the neglect of that which is not in their power? Does not the system that God interposes in the conversion of the sinner rest upon the idea that the sinner is helpless in respect to his conversion? It certainly does. Then why should the sinner he blamed? This view of the sinner’s moral condition necessitates a view of God utterly at variance with his character, viz: that he is now and then on the giving hand, that he consents to pour out his Spirit occasionally, and does this only where the good people wrestle with him and give him no rest day nor night. One would think that “he who spared not his own son, but gave him up for us all,” would send that Almighty Spirit everywhere, and at once bring about the millennial glory. What is the trouble? “God is love!” “Tell them, as I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of him who dieth, but rather that he would repent and live.” This theory of the sinner’s helplessness is the foundation of the entire system of mystical conversion through mystical operations of the Spirit of God. And as for plain and easy conditions of pardon and peace that we know all sinners can comply with, this system of mystical conversion sets them all aside. So you see that difficulties are multiplying on our hands, and unless we can start off upon another foot, we must be lost in the mystical and incomprehensible. As reformers, our greatest work is to clear away mystical and false notions of men in reference to themselves and their God; to make men sensible of their dignity and responsibility, as beings endowed with God-like attributes.
We have succeeded, in most communities, in killing the tap-root of the mystical tree of conversion—i.e., the tenet of total hereditary depravity, but the tree still stands erect, and men claim that a wonderful outpouring of the Spirit of God has, in many days and nights, resulted in 100 or 200 or 300 conversions. But what is conversion? It is lexically defined “to turn upon, to turn towards.” In a moral sense, “to turn upon or to, to convert unto, to convert from error, to turn to the service and worship of the true God.” “And all who dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw him and turned to the Lord.” Acts ix, 35. The word turned, in the above text, is a translation of the Greek term that is nine times rendered convert in its forms and thirty-eight times turn in its forms. They, the people of Lydda and Saron, turned, converted to the Lord. Did they do it? Then they were active and not passive. It was an act of their own. “Repent and turn yourselves.”—Eze. xviii, 30. Here the Lord commanded sinners to convert themselves. “Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed, and make you a new heart and a new spirit; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” Eze. xviii, 31. “If the wicked will turn, convert, from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die.” Eze. xviii, 31. Here we discover that the burden of conversion and the entire responsibility of an unconverted state is thrown upon the sinner.
The Apostles taught men to convert themselves. See Acts xiv, 15. “We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you, that ye should turn, convert, from these vanities to the living God.” Paul says, “He showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem and throughout all the coasts of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should turn, convert, to God, and do works meet for, worthy of, repentance.” Acts xxvi, 20. Speaking of the unbelieving Jews he said, “But their minds were blinded; for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament, which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless, when it shall turn, convert, to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away.” 2d Corinthians, iii, 14–16. Here we find that the heart must do its own turning, converting. Poor Jews! Could they help themselves? Yes, it all depended upon their own actions. The Infinite One did as much for them as for any others. They closed their eyes and stopped their ears, lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and be converted and healed. Why did the Master not say, “And I should convert and heal them?” Ans. Conversion is a commandment of God, and sinners must obey it or perish.
The above quotation is made from Isaiah vi, 10, where it reads: “Lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and convert, and I should heal them.” Paul, speaking of the disciples in Macedonia and Achaia, says: “They themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned, converted, to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” 1 Thess., i, 8, 9. “Repent ye therefore and be converted,” is passive in our translation, but imperative active in the original. In the Geneva text it reads: “Amend your lives and turn. So conversion is a commandment of God. If there is anything necessary to conversion that is not in the power of the sinner, why should he be commanded to convert? If the trouble is in his corruption, through inborn depravity, why are some converted and others not? If there is anything in conversion that is not in the power of the sinner, then he must of necessity be saved without it, or remain unavoidably in sin—doomed to misery.”
Webster defines the term convert “to change from one state to another, as to convert a barren waste into a fruitful field; to convert a wilderness into a garden; to convert rude savages into civilized men; to change or turn from one party or sect to another—as to convert Pagans to Christianity, to turn from a bad life to a good one, to change the heart and moral character from enmity to God and from vicious habits to the love of God and to a holy life.” Hence the ancient commandment: “Make you a new heart and a new spirit, for why will you die.” Eze. xviii, 32. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.” Is this out of your power? Then who is to blame? Does the blessed Father command you to do what you can not? Are you thus lost without remedy? Does the Lord mock you with commandments that you can not obey? The importance of conversion is in the fact that it is the turning point or dividing line between those who serve God and those who serve him not.
I. The Lord commands sinners to convert.
II. The Lord’s commandments are duties that sinners owe to God.
Therefore, conversion is a duty that the sinner owes to God. It is the sinner’s duty; then he must perform it. We have seen that the Lord commands it, and that sinners did perform it. Do you say it is a work begun upon them and accomplished by them? Then sinners must be passive in the beginning of this work, and the beginning is most essential, for unless the thing is begun it will never be accomplished. Is this beginning the work of God wrought upon the sinner by a special operation of the Holy Spirit? If this be so it follows that the entire Christian life is of necessity, and not of choice, for the root always bears the tree, and not the tree the root. If the cause is the unconditioned power of God, the effects growing out of that cause are the fruits of necessity; and so the Christian is a necessitated creature, and entitled to neither praise or reward, for it was not he that did it, but God. And in this case the sinner is not a moral agent, for in moral agency the sinner, with a knowledge of the right and the wrong, begins the work himself and does it himself. This does not exclude the instrumentality of Christ, the Apostles, prophets and Christians, who, by the words of the Holy Spirit, have placed before sinners all the knowledge necessary to give them correct ideas of duty, and also the motives to be accepted. An agent is one who has power to begin action, and moral agency in conversion is the exercise of that power, with a knowledge of the right and the wrong, and so it comes to pass that conversion to God always makes a Christian, provided, however, that the man, knowing what to turn from and what to turn to, honestly turned from the wrong to the right, which is the same as to say that he was a moral agent in his conversion. A man may turn without a knowledge of the right and the wrong, but it is turning round and round and remaining in the same place, i.e. in ignorance of God’s will, and so remaining in disobedience. Such may be and often is.
In all such cases the person has been the creature of passion, wrought upon by excitement, and left in ignorance of duty in disobedience to the gospel of Christ. A good rule by which to determine when such is the case, and it is the Master’s rule, is the unwillingness of the person to do the commandments of God, and to receive for instruction upon the subject of duty, his word, an unteachable disposition, which not only refuses to obey when the commandments are presented, but absolutely persists in opposing them. A man in this condition is worse than ignorant, his heart is irreconciled to the government of God, and he may turn around and around and die in sin and transgression. Do you object that God controls in conversion, and, therefore, the man is illuminated in a mysterious manner, and necessitated aright—that he is a necessitated moral agent? Necessitated moral agency and free slavery are identical. There is no such thing as necessitated moral agency. What I am compelled to do is not mine, but his who compelled me. All that we call moral or immoral, virtuous or vicious, praiseworthy or blameworthy, in our conduct, depends wholly upon the will. It begins in us and is done by us. It is ours and we will answer for it. No man is to be blamed or praised for that which he neither had power to do or avoid. This, in harmony with the words agent and action, is saying no more than that a man is to be praised or blamed for actions done by himself and not by another. It is the gospel rule, “that every man shall receive according to that which he bath done; that every man shall give account of himself to God.”
If the sinner is to blame for remaining in an unconverted state, then of necessity conversion is his own voluntary act; a duty imperatively enjoined upon him, in the performance of which he needs to be guided by the knowledge of the right and the wrong, as much as in any other duty. On the other hand, if it is a work wrought upon the man by a special effort of the Holy Spirit, then the man is free from all responsibility in the premises, for he will answer only for his own work.
“Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.” Prov. iv, 23. “He taught me also, and said unto me: Let thine heart retain my words; keep my commandments and live.” Prov. iv, 4. “Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way.” Prov. xxiii, 19.
“Man, with naught in charge, could betray no trust,
And if he fell, would fall because he must.
If love reward him, or vengeance strike,
His recompense in both would be unjust alike.”
If the sinner is passive in his conversion he can claim no reward, for it is the act of another. All action is the work of an agent, of a being who acts. And every being who acts is the beginner of the motion which constitutes the action. The bullet that kills the man, the explosion that makes it fly, the sparkles from the cap which produce the explosion, are not agents, all being equally passive; nor is it the finger operating upon the trigger that begins the motion; that also is a passive instrument; it is the mind giving to the finger direction and energy which is the mover in this business, and as such, is, properly speaking, the agent. But if we were super-naturally informed that the mind thus exerted was made to do so by the mysterious and irresistible impulse of a superior being, we should instantly declare that being the agent, and the mind irresistibly influenced only a passive instrument, and no more to blame than the gunpowder. Now, if the sinner is passive he is no more to blame or praise than the passive instruments employed by the murderer. And if he is not passive, but active, then the thing is begun and done by himself as the real agent. Action implies motion, and where there is no power to begin motion there can not be action, but rest. If the sinner has power to begin that action called conversion, then he is a moral agent in his conversion, provided that he begins it with a knowledge of the right and the wrong in their relations to the subject, for action without knowledge of duty is not conversion to the service of God. In this case the moral element is wanting, the man acts blindly from impulse or passion; which is no more than saying that men must know what to convert from, and what to convert to, before they can act intelligently as rational moral agents. As such, the thing of first importance is to teach men the will of God upon the subject of conversion, that they may know what to do. Anciently men were told what to do. And the gospel of Christ tells men the same story yet. If the sinner is the agent in his conversion then he should give himself no rest until he learns his duty and does it. But if he is not, then he might just as well rest contented, for the passive stone that has no power to change its place must rest. To say that the sinner has the power to change is giving up the question. And when this is once given up all good people will go to work upon sinners to teach them their duty, and persuade them to turn, convert, to God. And the Lord will no longer be regarded by sensible skeptics as a very changeable being.
The ancient Christians did not wrestle with God in the work of saving sinners. He was always willing that men should be saved, and is yet willing. If we were to wrestle with him in solemn prayer all our days he would not be more willing than he is at this moment.
Why is it that all men are not saved? Ans.—The Lord commands men to convert, turn and live. Turn from what? Ans.—From the will of the flesh and from the will of man. To what? Ans.—To the gospel of Christ. And they refuse to do it. To say the sinner has not the power is to relieve him, forever, of all responsibility for his continuance in an unconverted state, and throw it, forever, upon God. To say the sinner has not the power, and in the next breath tell him that he has, is a square contradiction and a self-evident falsehood, only equaled by the statement that a thing is a round square, or that ice is red hot. Let whatever fall that may, it is true that a thing can not be, exist, and not be, not exist, at the same time. The sinner is either passive or active in his conversion. He can not be both. If he has not the power to begin and convert, it follows that all who have died in sin were fated to ruin without remedy. Philosophers have said, “that the will is determined by motives, purposes, intentions, or reasons.” Granting this to be true, we can not admit that the will is necessarily determined by motives and purposes; for it is the self-determining power of the mind that gives a motive, or reason, that weight and influence whereby our course is determined. In other words, it depends on ourselves whether we will act from one motive or another.
Action from motive always begins in ourselves. And if conversion is the result of motive power, it begins in ourselves and by ourselves. Let a man be tempted to steal, his motive is the love of money. But if he refrains from the deed, his motive is a regard for duty. If he suffers himself to be governed by the first, he is a thief and deserves punishment, but if he allows himself to be governed by the second, he has done well. The laws of every country suppose that men have it in their power to give to either motive that regard which will determine their conduct. The divine laws allow the same, placing motives high as heaven before sinners for their acceptance, and warning them with restraining threats deep as hell. And if sinners will not receive these threats and act accordingly, they are without excuse. The scriptures allow that men convert from God. How is this? Have men power to cross the chasm backwards, and are not able, at the same time to cross it in a forward movement? Strange logic, this! It is the same old philosophy that sinners have the power to go to hell, but none to get to heaven; that they are free, like the slave, to do the tyrant’s bidding; that they are free like the water that stands in the pool; that they are mechanically free, are simply active when wrought upon, the same as any machinery. If this be so, why is it that so many are left in an unconverted state? Is it because the good Spirit prefers the existence of iniquity and crime? If the Lord brings about the salvation of some, through a mighty outpouring of his Spirit, then we shall never comprehend his ways. Why is it that he does not give us one general outpouring, one grand revival all over our country, and bring about the long prayed for millennial day? Answer.—Conversion is a commandment of God. It must be obeyed or the country lie, in direct opposition to the will of God, in sin. His will is expressed in the words, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return, reconvert, unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”
“To Israel he saith, all the day long have I stretched forth my hands unto a gainsaying and disobedient people.” Ro. x, 21. “The Lord strove with them by his Spirit in the prophets, and bore with them many years, yet they would not hear.” Nehe. ix, 30. “They made their hearts as an adamant stone lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets.” Zech. vii, 12. Jesus wept over them when he stood upon Mount Olivet and expressed the greatness of his great heart in these words: “How often would I have gathered thy children together as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not.” Lu. xiii, 34. Their failure was not because the Spirit did not strive with them as it did with others who were saved. “God is no respecter of persons.” Neither was it on account of inborn depravity. For if any were corrupted in their moral nature by Adam’s sin, all were corrupted alike. So that each one would be in this respect equally hard to overcome. But why bring up inborn corruption and helplessness? Is not the Spirit of God able for any task which is in its own line of work? Jesus gave the true solution of the question. He said: “Their hearts have waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts and be converted, and I should heal them.” The words “at any time” deserve particular attention, for the Lord’s time is all the time. He is unchangeable. “He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Pet. iii, 9.
Many people talk and act as though the Lord was the most changeable being in the universe. They seem to think that the unchangeableness of the Lord is in the idea that he is everlastingly changing. Let us imagine a perfect circle with a stone permanently fixed in the center and a man walking within, and every move he makes from side to side affecting his relations to the center. So it is with God and the children of men. He is immutable. He is the center of the circle. In the right hand side of this circle are the innocent and the obedient, in the enjoyment of all its riches, peace, pardon and all spiritual blessings. These blessings were provided for all men, and presented in the gospel of peace; and in the left side of this circle are all the threatenings of God and all the wickedness and miseries of men. The wicked at the left are able to convert around to the right. In doing this they leave their sins and miseries and come around where all the blessings of the great salvation have always been, are, and will be until time is no more. In all the work of human redemption there is no place for change in God. The center has never changed. Man alone changes. God has not bestowed special pardoning grace. Such phraseology is unknown in the gospel. “His grace was given us in Jesus Christ before the world began.” 2 Tim. i, 9. All that we or any others have to do is to live on the Christ side of this circle—the right hand. If we are sinners it is our duty to convert around to the right into new relations containing all that is grand, glorious and desirable. The sinner, led by the motives of the gospel, changes sides; leaving the kingdom of darkness upon the left, and crossing the line drawn through the center of the circle, he passes into the kingdom of light. It seems strange that intelligent men and women should be constantly throwing mystery around a matter that is so plain and simple. But we are aware that, by long dwelling on an idea, and from the excited and abnormal sensitiveness of the mind, we sometimes lose ourselves to truth amidst our own creations, which become in the imagination stern realities, producing a species of monomania or religious insanity.
Long dwelling upon the idea that conversion is a special work of God destroys all disposition to convert, and causes men to be at ease in disobedience. We will to do those things, and those only, which we believe to be in our power. We are not so destitute of common sense as to undertake that which we know to be out of our power. I never attempt to fly, or raise a weight that I know to be far above my strength. So it is in the question of conversion. If I believe it to be a work that is beyond my power, there will be a corresponding indifference upon my part. As long as men are made to believe that God must convert them by a special interposition of his Spirit, so long their minds will be directed, beyond the plain duties of the gospel, to the realm of the mysterious and incomprehensible. In ancient times, when men were plainly told to convert—turn—to God and do works worthy of repentance, when the mists and mysticles of the schoolmen and dogmatists of all sects and parties had not, as yet, beclouded the minds of men, nor corrupted the simplicity of the Gospel, thousands were converted in a day. Christianity overran the inhabited earth in the space of a few years. Judaism and Paganism trembled and crumbled before its mighty power. But now the religious world is contending with sin and crime, under the great disadvantages of a perverted mind and a Gospel beclouded with the smoke of Babylon, and the result is that three-score souls brought into the church is a great success for the labors of weeks, and even months. Why should this be so? It need not be. It would not be but for the wrong teaching consequent upon creeds. It is said, “That many of the Corinthians hearing, believed and were baptized.” Their minds were clear upon the great subjects of human duty and the goodness, love and mercy of God. They had no long sessions, in which they were wrestling with God as though he was insensitive and indifferent upon the subject of the sinner’s salvation.
They were told the story of God’s love, and made acquainted with the great fact that all things were ready for their reception; “that Christ had finished the work which the Father had given him to do,” and that it only remained for them to believe and obey the Gospel and all would be well. They were commanded to convert to the service of God. This work was not given into the hands of Christ to perform. It is the sinner’s own work. Christ will not believe for you. He will not repent for you. He will not convert for you. Conversion is the overt action of the will carried out in “breaking off from sins by righteousness.” It begins in the heart, but it does not end there. Murder begins in the heart, but its consummation is the action of the will carried out. The man first yielded to the temptation by saying, in his heart, I will. The next thing in the order was carrying out the will in the deed. Nothing short of the deed done would have met the statement in the heart, I will. So it is in conversion. The man first says in his heart, I will, I will forsake my former course of life and be a Christian, I will obey God, I will do his will. And nothing short of doing the will of God as it is addressed to him in the Gospel will carry out the action of the will, and meet the demands of the statement, I will. “Whosoever will let him come and take the water of life freely.” So the “tree is known by its fruits.” “He that saith I know him, acknowledge him, and keepeth not his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” 1 Jno. ii, 4.
As regards the instrumentalities employed in persuading men, I have only to say, that men were always free as moral agents, to convert—turn, under the weakest instrumentality, or refuse under the most powerful. The Lord himself “strove with the ancient Jews by his Spirit in his prophets, and they would not hear but resisted the Spirit.” Stephen, after he had made one grand effort to instruct his hearers, said, “Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did so do ye.” Acts vii, 51. Was the condition of those fellows unavoidable? If it was, they were not to blame. But there was nothing in their condition that was not in their power. If there was, why should we find these words in their law, “circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff-necked.” Deut. x, 16. The Lord has made the salvation of all men possible, otherwise those remaining in an unconverted state, and dying in their sins, are unavoidably lost. And who is to blame? The Father “so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son to die for every man. He sent him to be the Savior of the world. The Gospel is the ministration of the Spirit. The Apostles preached it with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven. They received grace and Apostleship, for the obedience of faith among all nations, for Christ’s name.” Rom. i, 5. A great and grand law governed them. In obeying it they did all that they ever did for the world or for the church. There were just three duties prescribed in that law. The first is in the word “teach,” or, the better rendering, disciple. The second is in the word “baptizing;” and the third is in the phrase “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” The whole is beautifully rendered thus, “Going therefore, disciple all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” And the whole is rested upon a declaration of kingly authority, viz: “All power in heaven and upon earth is given into my hands,” going therefore,—you see the connection.
Go to the Acts of the Apostles and read for yourselves and see how they turned men to God. Paul says, “That he showed first to them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn, convert, to God, and do works meet for repentance.” Some disobeyed under the preaching and teaching of the Apostles. Some under the teachings of Christ. And many “rejected the council of God against themselves in not being baptized of John’s baptism.” Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature; he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned.” Paul was preaching at Corinth; many of the Corinthians hearing, believed, and were baptized, and Jesus appeared unto him in a vision by night, and said, “Speak boldly and hold not thy peace, and I will let no man set on thee to hurt thee.”
Christ gave the commission and Paul was carrying it out. The Savior’s visit to Corinth, in vision, was to encourage Paul to go on. Would all the preachers in this country encourage such a work by speaking well of it? Would they say, Go on? If I was preaching in a great city under the same circumstances that surrounded Paul in Corinth, and the days of miracles were not past, I might rationally conclude that Jesus would encourage me in the same manner. Be that as it may, one thing is doubtless true, viz., the same work is the Lord’s work yet, and his visit to Corinth to encourage Paul is a great source of encouragement to us. The primitive Christians were all baptized believers; all converted to the service of God; none of them on probation, but all in the fellowship. All were “sanctified unto obedience,” all had “purified their souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit.” Many reverse the order thus: “Get your souls purified and then obey the truth.” But Christ has become the “Author of eternal salvation unto all those who obey him.” Heb. v, 9. Jesus said, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he can not enter into the kingdom of God.” Whatever this language may mean it is accomplished when the sinner is begotten in Christ Jesus through the gospel and baptized into Christ.
Paul said of the Corinthians: “In Christ Jesus have I begotten you through the Gospel.” And they, “Hearing, believed and were baptized.” And James said: “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.” Consequently, the entire meaning is in the power of all sinners who have access to the Gospel of Christ. Otherwise, the sinner is unavoidably lost for his unavoidable unbelief. But we are told in John’s Record, i, 12, “That as many as received him to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” So the power of the sinner to become a son of God depends upon his belief on the name of the Son of God, and if he can not believe it is no fault of his. Poor fellow! Is he thus doomed? If he can believe on the name of Christ he is able to reach the relation of a son. For the divine law grants the privilege, liberty or power to as many as believe on the name of Christ. The primitive Christians were the “children of God by faith in Jesus Christ, for as many as were baptized into Christ put on Christ.” Gal. iii, 26, 27. John said: “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.” 1 John iii, 7. “If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doth righteousness is born of him.” 1 John ii, 29. The great appeal to man as a moral agent is in these words: “Know ye not that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness.” Rom. vi, 16. Do you not know this? Do you not know that you will receive, in the great day, according to that which you have done, whether it be good or bad? Then why not obey the Gospel and enjoy its promises?