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Written by: Spurgeon, C.H.    Posted on: 03/31/2003

Category: Sermons

Source: CCN

Conversion"  A Sermon by the REV. C.H. SPURGEON

              "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth; and one convert him; Let him know that he which               converteth sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of               sins."James 5:19-20.

          THE TRUE BELIEVER is always pleased to hear of anything which concerns the salvation of his own           soul. He rejoices to hear of the covenant plan drawn up for him from all eternity, of the great fulfillment           on the cross at Calvary, of all the stipulations of the Savior, of the application of them by the Holy           Spirit, of the security which the believer has in the person of Christ, and of those gifts and graces which           accompany salvation to all those who are heirs thereof: But I feel certain that, deeply pleased as we are when we           hear of things touching our own salvation and deliverance from hell, we, as preachers of God, and as new           creatures in Christ, being made like unto him, have true benevolence of spirit, and therefore are always delighted           when we hear, speak, or think, concerning the salvation of others. Next to our own salvation, I am sure, as           Christians, we shall always prize the salvation of other people; we shall always desire that what has been so sweet           to our own taste, may also be tasted by others; and what has been of so inestimably precious a value to our own           souls, may also become the property of all those whom God may please to shall unto everlasting life. I am sure,           beloved, now that I am about to preach concerning the conversion of the ungodly, you will take as deep an interest           in it as if it were something that immediately concerned your own souls, for, after all, such were some of you           once. You were unconverted and ungodly; and had not God taken thought for you, and set his people to strive for           your souls, where had you been? Seek, then, to exercise that charity and benevolence towards others which God           and God's people first exercised towards you.               Our text has in it, first of all, a principle involvedthat of instrumentality."Brethren, if any of you do err           from the truth, and one convert him; let him know that he who converteth a sinner from the error of his way, shall           save a soul from death." Secondly, here is a general fact stated:"He who converteth a sinner from the error of           his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins." And thirdly, there is a particular           application of this fact made. "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth and one convert him,"that is the           same principle as when a sinner is converted "from the error of his way."               I. First, then, here is a great principle involveda very important onethat of INSTRUMENTALITY. God           has been pleased in his inscrutable wisdom and intelligence to work the conversion of others by instrumentality.           True, he does not in all cases SO do, but it is his general way. Instrumentality is the plan of the universe. In the           new creation it is almost always God's invariable rule to convert by means of instruments. Now we will make one           or two brief remarks upon this first principle.               First, then, we say that instrumentality is not necessary with God. God can, if he pleases, convert souls           without any instruments whatsoever. The mighty Maker who chooses to use the sword sometimes, can, if he           pleases, slay without it. He who uses the workman, the trowel, and the hammer, can, if he so sees fit, build the           house in a moment, and from the foundation-stone even to the topstone thereof, can complete it by the words of           his own mouth. We never hear of any instrument used in the conversion of Abraham. He lived in a far-off land in           the midst of idolaters, but he was called Ur of the Cheldees, and thence God called him and brought him to           Canaan by an immediate voice, doubtless from above, by God's own agency, without the employment of any           prophet; for we read of none who could, as far as we can see, have preached to Abraham and taught him the           truth. Then in modern times we have a mighty instance of the power of God, in converting without human might.           Saul, on his journey towards Damascus, upon his horse, fiery and full of fury against the children of God, is           hastening to hail men and women and cast them into prison; to bring them bound unto Jerusalem; but on a sudden,           a voice is heard from heaven, "Saul! Saul! why persecutest thou me?" and Saul was a new man. No minister was           his spiritual parent, no book could claim him as its convert; no human voice, but the immediate utterance of Jesus           Christ himself, at once, there and then, and upon the spot, brought Saul to know the truth. Moreover, there are           some men who seem never to need conversion at all; for we have one instance in Scripture of John the Baptist, of           whom it is said, "He was filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb." And I do not know but what           there are some who very early in life have a change of heart. It is quite certain that all infants, (who, doubtless,           being each of them elect, do ascend to heaven,) undergo a change of heart without instrumentality; and so there           may be some, concerning whom it maybe written that though they were born in sin and shapen in iniquity, yet           they were so early taught to know the Lord, so soon brought to his name, that it must have been almost without           instrument at all. God can if he pleases cast the instrument aside. The mighty Maker of the world who used no           angels to beat out the great mass of nature and fashion it into a round globe, he who without hammer or anvil           fashioned this glorious world, can if he pleases, speak, and it is done; command, and it shall stand fast. He needs           not instruments, though he uses them.               Secondly, we make another remark, which is, that instrumentality is very honorable to God, and not           dishonorable. One would think, perhaps, at first sight, that it would reflect more glory to God, if he effected all           conversions himself, without the use of men; but that is a great mistake. It is as honorable to God to convert by           means of Christians and others, as it would be if he should effect it alone. Suppose a workman has power and skill           with his hands alone to fashion a certain article, but you put into his hands the worst of tools you can find; you           know he can do it well with his hands, but these tools are so badly made, that they will be the greatest impediment           you could lay in his way. Well now, I say, if a man with these bad instruments, or these poor toolsthings           without edgesthat are broken, that are weak and frail, is able to make some beauteous fabric, he has more credit           from the use of those tools, than he would have had if he had done it simply with his hands because the tools, so           far from being an advantage, were a disadvantage to him; so far from being a help, are of my supposition, even a           detriment to him in his work. So with regard to human instrumentality. So far from being any assistance to God,           we are all hindrances to him. What is a minister? He is made by God a means of salvation, but it is a wonderful           thing that any one so faulty, so imperfect so little skilled, should yet be blessed of God to bringing forth children           for the Lord Jesus. It seems as marvellous as if a man should fashion rain from fire, or if he should fabricate some           precious alabaster vase out of the refuse of the dunghill. God in his mercy does more than make Christians without           means; he takes bad means to make good men with, and so he even reflects credit on himself because his           instruments are all of them such poor things. They are all such earthen vessels, that they do but set of the glory of           the gold which they hold, like the foil that setteth forth the jewel, or like the dark spot in the painting that makes           the light more brilliant; and yet the dark spot and the foil are not in themselves costly or valuable. So God uses           instruments to set forth his own glory; and to exalt himself.               This brings us to the other remark, that usually God does employ instruments. Perhaps in one case out of a           thousand, men are converted by the immediate agency of Godand so indeed are all in one sense,but usually,           in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, God is pleased to use the instrumentality of his ministering servants, of his           Word, of Christian men, or some other means to bring us to the Savior. I have heard of someI remember them           nowwho were called like Saul, at once from heaven. We can remember the history of the brother who in the           darkness of the night was called to know the Savior by what he believed to be a vision from heaven or some effect           on his imagination. On one side he saw a black tablet of his guilt, and his soul was delighted to see Christ cast a           white tablet over it; and he thought he heard a voice that said, "I am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for           mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins." There was a man converted almost without instrumentality; but           you do not meet with such a case often. Most persons have been convinced by the pious conversation of sisters,           by the holy example of mothers, by the minister, by the Sabbath-school, or by the reading of tracts or perusing           Scripture. Let us not therefore believe that God will often work without instruments; let us not sit down silently           and say, "God will do his own work." It is quite true he will; but then he does his work by using his children as           instruments. He does not say to the Christian man when he is converted, "Sit thee down; I have nought for thee to           do, but I will do all myself and have all the glory." No; he says, "Thou art a poor weak instrument; thou canst do           nothing; but lo! I will strengthen thee, and I will make thee thrash the mountains and beat them small, and make           the hills as chaff: and so shall I get more honor through thy having done it than I should had mine own strong arm           smitten the mountains and broken them in pieces."               Now another thought, and that isIf God sees fit to make use of any of us for the conversion of others, we           must not therefore be too sure that we are converted ourselves. It is a most solemn thought, that God makes use           of ungodly men as instruments for the conversion of sinners. And it is strange that some most terrible acts of           wickedness have been the means of the conversion of men. When Charles II ordered the Book of Sports to be           read in churches, and after the service the clergyman was required to read to all the people to spend the afternoon           in what are called harmless diversions and games that I will not mention hereeven that was made the means of           conversion; for one man said within himself, "I have always disported myself thus on the Sabbath-day; but now to           hear this read in church! how wicked we must have become! how the whole land must be corrupt." It led him to           think of his own corruption, and brought him to the Savior. There have been words proceeding, I had almost said           from devils, which have been the means of conversion. Grace is not spoiled by the rotten wooden spout it runs           through. God did once speak by an ass to Balaam, but that did not spoil his words. So he speaks, not simply by an           ass, which he often does, but by something worse than that. He can fill the mouths of ravens with food for an           Elijah, and yet the raven is a raven still. We must not suppose because God has made us useful that we are           therefore converted ourselves.               But then another thing. If God in his mercy does not make us useful to the conversion of sinners, we are not           therefore to say we are sure we are not the children of God. I believe there are some ministers who have had the           painful labor of toiling from year to year without seeing a single soul regenerated. Yet those men have been faithful           to their charge, and have well discharged their ministry. I do not say that such cases often occur, but I believe they           have occurred sometimes. Yet, mark you, the end of their ministry has been answered after all. For what is the           end of the gospel ministry? Some will say it is to convert sinners. That is a collateral end. Others will say it is to           convert the saints. That is true. But the proper answer to give isit is to glorify God, and, God is glorified even in           the damnation of sinners. If I testify to them the truth of God and they reject his gospel; if I faithfully preach his           truth, and they scorn it, my ministry is not therefore void. It has not returned to God void, for even in the           punishment of those rebels he will be glorified, even in their destruction he will get himself honor; and if he cannot           get praise from their songs, he will at last get honor from their condemnation and overthrow, when he shall cast           them into the fire for ever. The true motive for which we should always labor, is the glory of God in the           conversion of souls; and building up of God's people; but let us never lose sight of the great end. Let God be           glorified; and he will be, if we preach his truth faithfully and honestly. So, therefore, while we should seek for           souls, if God denies them unto us, let us not say, "I will not have other mercies that he has given; "but let us           comfort ourselves with the thoughtthat though they be not saved, though Israel be not gathered in, God will           glorify and honor us at last.               One thought more upon this subjectGod by using us as instruments confers upon us the highest honor           which men can receive. O beloved! I dare not dilate upon this. It should make our hearts burn at the thought of it.           It makes us feel thrice honored that God should use us to convert souls; and it is only the grace of God which           teaches us on the other hand, that it is grace and grace alone which makes us useful; which can keep us humble           under the thought, that we are bringing souls to the Savior. It is a work which he who has once entered if God has           blessed him cannot renounce. He will be impatient; he will long to win more souls to Jesus; he will account that; he           will think that labor is but ease, so that by any means he may save some, and bring men to Jesus. Glory and           honor, praise and power, be unto God, that he thus honors his people. But when he exalts us most, we will still           conclude with, "Not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy name be all the glory for ever and ever."               II. Secondly, we come to the GENERAL FACT. "He who converteth the sinner from the error of his way,           shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins." The choicest happiness which mortal breast can           know is the happiness of benevolence,of doing good to our fellow-creatures. To save a body from death, is that           which gives us almost heaven on earth. Some men can boast that they have sent so many souls to perdition; that           they have hurled many of their fellows out of the world. We meet, now and then a soldier who can glory that in           battle he struck down so many foemen; that his swift and cruel sword reached the heart of so many of his           enemies; but I count not that glory. If I thought I had been the means of the death of a single individual, methinks           I should scarce rest at night, for the uneasy ghost of that murdered wretch would stare me in mine eyes. I should           remember I had slain him, and perhaps sent his soul unshaven and unwashed into the presence of his Maker. It           seems to me wonderful that men can be found to be soldiers. I say not if it be right or wrong; still I wonder where           they can find the men. I know not how after a battle they can wash their hands of blood, wipe their swords and           put them by, and then lie down to slumber, and their dreams be undisturbed. Methinks the tears would fall hot and           scalding on my cheek at night, and the shrieks of the dying, and the groans of those approaching eternity would           torture mine ear. I know not how others can endure it. To me it would be the very portal of hell, if I could think I           had been a destroyer of my fellow-creatures. But what bliss is it to be the instrument of saving bodies from death!           Those monks on Mount St. Bernard, surely, must feel happiness when they rescue men from death. The dog           comes to the door, and they know what it means; he has discovered some poor weary traveler who has lain him           down to sleep in the snow, and is dying from cold and exhaustion. Up rise the monks from their cheerful fire,           intent to act the good Samaritan to the lost one. At last they see him, they speak to him, but he answers not. They           try to discover if there is breath in his body, and they think he is dead. They take him up, give him remedies; and           hastening to their hostel, they lay him by the fire, and warm and chafe him, looking into his face with kindly           anxiety, as much as to say, "Poor creature! art thou dead? "When, at last, they perceive some heavings of the           lungs, what joy is in the breast of those brethren, as they say, "His life is not extinct." Methinks if there could be           happiness on earth, it would be the privilege to help to chafe one hand of that poor, almost dying man, and be the           means of bringing him to life again. Or, suppose another case. A house is in flames, and in it is a woman with her           children, who cannot by any means escape. In vain she attempts to come down stairs; the flames prevent her. She           has lost all presence of mind and knows not how to act. The strong man comes, and says, "Make way! make           way! I must save that woman! "And cooled by the genial streams of benevolence, he marches through the fire.           Though scorched, and almost stifled, he gropes his way. He ascends one staircase, then another, and though the           stairs totter, he places the woman beneath his arm, takes a child on his shoulder, and down he comes, twice a           giant, having more might than he ever possessed before. He has jeopardized his life, and perhaps an arm may be           disabled, or a limb taken away, or a sense lost, or an injury irretrievably done to his body, yet he claps his hands,           and says, "I have saved lives from death!" The crowd in the street hail him as a man who has been the deliverer of           his fellow-creatures, honoring him more than the monarch who had stormed a city, sacked a town, and murdered           myriad's.               But ah! brethren, the body which was saved from death to-day may die tomorrow. Not so the soul that is           saved from death: it is saved everlastingly. It is saved beyond the fear of destruction. And if there be joy in the           breast of a benevolent man when he saves a body from death, how much more blessed must he be when he is           made the means in the hand of God of saving "a soul from death, and hiding a multitude of sins." Suppose that by           some conversation of yours you are made the means of delivering a soul from death. My friends, you are apt to           imagine that all conversion is under God done by the minister. You make a great mistake. There are many           conversions effected by a very simple observation from the most humble individual. A single word spoken maybe           more the means of conversion than a whole sermon. There you sit before me. I thrust at you, but you are too far           off. Some brother, however, addresses an observation to youit is a very stab with a short poignard in your           heart. God often blesses a short pithy expression from a friend more than a long discourse from a minister. There           was once in a village, where there had been a revival in religion, a man who was a confirmed infidel.           Notwithstanding all the efforts of the minister and many Christian people, he had resisted all attempts, and           appeared to be more and more confirmed in his sin. At length the people held a prayer meeting specially to           intercede for his soul. Afterwards God put it into the heart of one of the elders of the church to spend a night in           prayer in behalf of the poor infidel. In the morning the elder rose from his knees, saddled his horse, and rode           down to the man's smithy. He meant to say a great deal to him, but he simply went up to him, took him by the           hand, and all he could say was, "O sir! I am deeply concerned for your salvation. I am deeply concerned for your           salvation. I have been wrestling with God all this night for your salvation." He could say no more, his heart was           too full. He then mounted on his horse and rode away again. Down went the blacksmith's hammer, and he went           immediately to see his wife. She said, "What is the matter with you?" "Matter enough," said the man, "I have been           attacked with a new argument this time. There is elder B_______ has been here this morning; and he said," I am           concerned about your salvation.' Why, now, if he is concerned about my salvation, it is a strange thing that I am           not concerned about it." The man's heart was clean captured by that kind word from the elder; he took his own           horse and rode to the elder's house. When he arrived there the elder was in his parlor, still in prayer, and they           knelt down together. God gave him a contrite spirit and a broken heart, and brought that poor sinner to the feet of           the Savior. There was "a soul saved from death, and a multitude of sins covered."               Again, you may be the means of conversion by a letter you may write. Many of you have not the power to           speak or say much; but when you sit down alone in your chamber you are able, with God's help, to write a letter           to a dear friend of yours. Oh! I think that is a very sweet way to endeavor to be useful. I think I never felt so           much earnestness after the souls of my fellow-creatures as when I first loved the Savior's name, and though I           could not preach, and never thought I should be able to testify to the multitude, I used to write texts on little scraps           of paper and drop them anywhere, that some poor creatures might pick them up, and receive them as messages of           mercy to their souls. There is your brother. He is careless and hardened. Sister, sit down and write a letter to him,           when he receives it, he will perhaps smile, but he will say, "Ah, well! it is Betsy's letter after all!" And that will           have some power. I knew a gentleman, whose dear sister used often to write to him concerning his soul. "I used,"           said he, "to stand with my back up against a lamp-post, with a cigar in my mouth, perhaps at two o'clock in the           morning, to read her letter. I always read them; and I have," said he, "wept floods of tears after reading my sister's           letters. Though I still kept on the error of my ways, they always checked me, they always seemed a hand pulling           me away from sin; a voice crying out," Come back! come back!'" And at last a letter from her, in conjunction with           a solemn providence, was the means of breaking his heart, and he sought salvation through a Savior.               Again. How many nave been converted by the example of true Christians. Many of you feel that you cannot           write or preach, and you think you can do nothing. Well, there is one thing you can do for your Masteryou can           live Christianity. I think there are more people who look at the new life in Christ written out in you, than they will           in the old life that is written in the Scriptures. An infidel will use arguments to disprove the Bible, if you set it           before him; but, if you do to others as you would that they should do to you, if you give of your bread to the poor           and disperse to the needy, living like Jesus, speaking words of kindness and love, and living honestly and uprightly           in the world, he will say, "Well, I thought the Bible was all hypocrisy; but I cannot think so now, because there is           Mr. So-and-so, see how he lives. I could believe my infidelity if it were not for him. The Bible certainly has an           effect upon his life, and therefore I must believe it."               And then how many souls may be converted by what some men are privileged to write and print. There is           "Dr. Doddridge's Rise and Progress of Religion." Though I decidedly object to some things in it, I could wish that           everybody lad read that book, so many have been the conversions it has produced. I think it more honor to have           written "Watts's Psalms and Hymns," than "Milton's Paradise Lost, "and more glory to have written that book of           old Wilcock

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