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lesson-Think in time. No one was ever injured by thinking in time; but multitudes have had to deplore, in reference to all sorts of subjects and interests, that they began to think when it was too late. If persons are about to take any important step in life, upon which their future comfort or success depends, they usually think intensely, and always will do so, if they are wise. Take the following illustration :--A man has a cause to be tried before a judge and jury, which involves his property, his character, or his life: will he wait till the day and hour of trial, before he inquires what may be necessary to his defence? Will he not endeavour to anticipate every argument or proof that may be brought against him, and every circumstance that may be in his favour? The answer is, He certainly will if he is wise.
Let us conceive another case. You are about to embark on board a ship for a long and perilous voyage. Not only yourself, but those dearest to your affections are to be your companions, to be bound with you to the same destination : would you not use every precaution to ascertain the trustworthiness of the vessel, the captain, and the crew? Would you not sit down, and both calmly and carefully think, what would be desirable for your comfort, or required for your necessities, during the voyage ?
All this, you admit, is perfectly reasonable and prudent. To neglect thinking in time in any of these instances, and many similar ones, would justly expose any person to the charge of rashness, folly, or thoughtlessness; and if, by such neglect, he should at last become involved in difficulties and sufferings, he would have little claim upon the sympathy of his fellow men. He might have
avoided all these inconveniences by the exercise of only ordinary prudence. He did not employ forethought, and so he has become inextricably perplexed. To induce you to think, to direct you how to think efficiently, and to prompt you to think in time, upon the most important of all concerns, is the object of the present small volume. If you are right and safe in your hopes and prospects for futurity, the reading of these pages will confirm you in them; but if you are mistaken, deceived, or have hitherto been thoughtless and careless, not now to think, may be to inflict upon yourself irreparable injury. You must think at some time, and if that should not be till it is too late, your thoughts will then only prove tormentors, they will certainly issue in remorse, agony, and terror.
But some of my readers may here say, “ It is yet time enough; it is not too late : we will think hereafter, when we have more leisure, or a better inclination.” If you will examine this reason for delay, you will at once perceive its fallacy. The precise period when it may be too late to think of your soul and its salvation, no human wisdom can determine. It is impossible for yourself, or any one else, to foresee and fix the day, the month, or the year. It is the uncertainty of the period when consideration may be too late, that should induce you to think without delay. Can you say that the awful meaning of the expression too late may not be felt by you this week, to-morrow, or this night? It may even now, with all its infinite and endless consequences, be hanging over you. By the Sovereign Author of your being you are allowed no time for delay, and if you take it, you take it upon a fearful venture. If you should repent too late, what is the doom that awaits you ? Then you will be a lost soul! Many are lost because they did not think of repenting till it was too late. Think in time. Your immortal soul may be saved, or lost, as you now think, or refuse to think; yea, it must ere long be either saved or lost for eternity. Read this little treatise, therefore, under the impression, that, by the Divine blessing, it may lead to your conversion.
Our first business, in presenting to you a treatise upon Conversion, must be to explain what, accord. ing to our judgment, the word of God intends by conversion. When you are in possession of the true notion, that is, the scriptural and Divine idea of this important subject, you will labour under no uncertainty or obscurity as to the change you are required to undergo before you can hope to escape perdition, and enjoy everlasting life. We observe therefore, that it is a change, or a turning about of our mind or heart, and signifies a reversing of our moral and religious state, a complete transformation of the character—from irreligion to piety, from sin to holiness, from unbelief to faith, from impenitence to contrition and confession, from the service of the world to the service of God, from uneasiness to peace, from fear to hope, from death to life. It is important you should observe that this is mainly, though not exclusively, an inward change. It must begin in the heart, and extend to the whole character. You must become, in a moral and religious sense, a new creature. You must not limit your notion to that which is merely external and visible, or imagine that any mere change of conduct or profession is conversion. There are frequently considerable changes wrought in external behaviour,
and these even much for the better, when there is no real change of heart, no conversion. A man may change from being a drunkard, become strictly sober, and yet not be converted. He may turn from any vicious course to the observance of the strictest rules of virtue, and not be converted. He may relinquish irreligious habits, and observe the sabbath, be regular at public worship, and attend to all the rites of religion, and not be converted. He may turn from infidelity, to a firm belief in the Divine authority of the Bible, and not be converted. He may turn from one sort of religion to another, and not yet be converted. A Papist may become a Protestant, or a Protestant a Papist, and yet be in God's sight unconverted : although that lying church tells all that embrace its creed and practise its superstitions, that it will answer for their salvation, yet it can offer no guarantee but its own impious presumption; and that will be detected when it will be too late for those who have heedlessly trusted it, either to reject its delusions, or demand, what they ought first to have demanded, Divine authority for their faith, and not the bare assertions of frail and fallible men.
Conversion is something more inward, spiritual, and peculiar; more closely in contact with the inmost soul, more thoroughly and deeply seated in the heart, than any of the changes already named. It may indeed involve and require a turning from some of these states, from some of these practices and habits, to others quite opposite; but, in itself, it consists in none of them. It is a change of the natural and carnal mind, wrought by the Spirit of God, from the degradation of things seen and temporal, to the desire and pursuit of those that