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times, he did not, I believe deny the necessity of conversion, nor say that it was impracticable."
Mr. John Roscoe. "Oh! no, he gave us the following quotation from the very excellent and judicious tract* which the justly celebrated Dr. Mant has published on the question: Conversion, according to our notions, may not improperly be said to consist of a rational conviction of sin, and sense of its wickedness and danger; of a sincere penitence and sorrow of heart, at having incurred the displeasure of a holy God; of steadfast purposes of amendment with the blessing of the divine grace; of a regular and diligent employment of all the appointed means of grace; and of a real change of heart and life, of affections and conduct, and a resolute perseverance in well doing.'
"And" continued Mr. John Roscoe, "I may quote the next paragraph from this judicious tract, and say, "The triumph of such conversion as this is not attended by alternations of extreme joy and despondency, of the most ecstatic rapture, and the most gloomy despair; sometimes by heavenly exultation, and sometimes by the agonies of hell. It has little of what is brilliant, and dazzling to decorate, little of what is magnificent and imposing to dignify and exalt it.'"
Mr. Roscoe. "When I first read that tract, I very much admired it, and I have circulated many hundreds, as I thought it would check the progress of evangelical sentiments; but, on a recent perusal, I felt the utmost degree of astonishment when I recollected the satisfaction, and the pleasure which it once afforded me; and I fear that by giving it circulation, I have assisted in perpetuating the delusion, under which such a large proportion of all ranks in society are advancing to an eternal world. I certainly do not object to his definition of conversion; but the highly wrought reflections which you have just quoted, in my opinion, are no less an
The reader is referred to two tracts, on regeneration and conversion, published by Dr. Mant, and circulated by the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge.
impeachment of the accuracy of his reasoning, than of the fervour of his piety. If they have any meaning, they are intended to prove that the gentle excitement of the passions, constitutes a legitimate evidence of conversion; but if the passions should be strongly excited; if they should overflow the banks, and dare to wet the couch of a penitent with the fast dropping tear; if they should touch on the borders of the joy which is unspeakable and full of glory:-or ever during the evolutions of the mind, amidst the partial obscurities, or clear manifestations of revealed truth, alternately sink into despondency, or rise to a hope full of immortality; then they change their character, and become not the evidences of conversion, but of enthusiasm. I object against such a statement, as unphilosophical; and calculated to produce the very evil it is intended to prevent. Two men may sincerely repent of having incurred the displeasure of God: whose mental temperature varies from cool apathy, to the highest degree of a nervous sensibility; but to suppose with Dr. Mant, that they will both feel in the same exact proportion, and that proportion the lowest possible degree of excitement, would be to betray an ignorance of the constitution of man, which we ought to blush to own. These two men who feel a degree of sorrow for sin, and of joy for the promise of forgiveness; that accords with the exact susceptibility of their nature, are placed by the judicious Dr. Mant in very opposite columns. The one amongst the sincere penitents, the other amongst the deluded fanatics. But this is not the only absurdity which such a classification involves ; for does it not necessarily tend to plunge the man of strong passions into despair, because he feels too accutely: while it keeps the man of more moderate passions, in a state of uncertainty lest he should not have felt quite enough?"
Mr. John Roscoe. "But will you not admit that the annals of Methodism record many instances of extravagant feeling, which nether a reference to the varying temperature of the human mind, nor the sober language of holy writ, will account for or justify. Such as extremes of weeping and of laughter, sobs,
and shrieks, and groans, and wailing and gnashing of teeth, the voice now stifled by agony, and now bursting forth in tones of despair; tremors and faintings, and droppings to the ground as if struck by lightning and thunder; paleness and torpor, convulsions and contortions, things terrible to behold, too terrible to be borne, and which words cannot describe. Can you suppose that such scenes are the effect of divine truth producing a rational conviction of sin, and sense of its wickedness and danger? are they not rather the consequences of enthusiasm ?"
Mr. Roscoe. "I have no doubt but impressions have been received by persons, when listening to the fervid eloquence of the pulpit, that have been attended by those external symptoms which you have enumerated, without producing a real change of heart and life. It is in the field in which the wheat is sown, that the enemy is represented as coming, and casting in the tares; and if we should discover something analogous to this in the moral world, we should neither be astonished nor offended. that has ever felt the evil of sin, or perceived the danger to which a man is exposed who has incurred the displeasure of God, but would rather witness the bursting tears, and involuntary sighs of a whole congregation, than that light and fashionable air which they too often assume, during the time in which the incomparable prayers of our church are read and that unfeeling indifference with which they listen to a sermon, which is more like the schoolboy's essay, that displays neither brilliancy of thought, nor power of impression, than the word of God which is described as sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart?. Heb. iv. 12. That these symptoms may accompany a real change of heart and life, that is effected by Divine grace, is a fact which calumny may misrepresent, and a fastidious taste may condemn, bat the experience of thousands places it beyond the power of fair contradiction."
Mr. John Roscoe, "But I presume you do not intend to say that they are the necessary accompaniments of conversion?",
Mr. Roscoe. "No, certainly not; but if there be sorrow in the heart for having incurred the displeasure of a holy God, ought we to be surprised if the eye be suffused with tears? if there be a rational conviction of the danger to which the commission of sin exposes us, ought we to be surprised if the breast heave with its tumultuous swellings of alarm and dread ?" "I am astonished," said Mr. Stevens, "that any clergyman should condemn the strong and visible excitement of the passions at the period of conversion when there are so many passages and facts in the scrip tures which require and attest it. The writer of the book of Proverbs says, chap. xviii. 14, The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity, but a wounded spirit who can bear?' And if a deep wound be inflicted on the soul of man which he is incapable of enduring, shall we turn round upon him and aggravate the intensity of his woe, by employing the strong symptoms of his grief, as evidences either of insanity or fanaticism? The impiety of such an act, would be no less censurable than its cruelty; and though by committing it, we might escape the reproach of Christ, yet we should justly incur his displeasure. Does not the prophet tell us that when the Spirit of grace is poured out on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that (Zech. xii. 10, 11.) they shall look upon him whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born. And was not this prediction fulfilled when the three thousand were pricked in their heart, and cried out at the close of Peter's address, Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Mr. John Roscoe. "Mr. C admitted that the penitents in former times, were sometimes extravagantly affected, because their conversion was miraculous, but he maintained, and I think very satisfactorily, that there are no instantaneous conversions in modern times—the thing is impossible. If you recollect, Sir, addressing his brother, he proved that the
instantaneous conversions recorded in the Scriptures were effected by the force of miracles, and as they have ceased, men must be wrought on now, by the more slow process of argument and persuasion; and he supported his opinion by the following quotation from Dr. Mant. When the conversion was sudden or instantaneous, it was the consequence of miraculous evidence to the truth. When the preaching of Peter on the day of Pentecost added to the church three thousand souls, they were men who had been amazed and confounded by the effusion of the Holy Ghost, and the supernatural gift of tongues.'
Mr. Roscoe. "Yes, they were confounded and amazed when they heard the apostles speaking in different languages, but this miracle, so far from effecting their conversion, merely excited the ridicule of many who mocking said, These men are full of new wine. Acts ii. 13.
"But after they had listened to Peter's discourse, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter, and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?' Acts ii. 37. Miracles attested the divine mission of the apostles, but it was the truth which the apostles preached, that became the means of the conversion of the people. And though the miraculous evidences of the apostolic commission have ceased, because they are no longer necessary, yet the truth is preserved pure and entire; and when it is faithfully and energetically preached it is still the power of God to salvation. Shall we say, that he, who has all power in heaven and earth, cannot, if he please, effect the conversion of sinners as suddenly in the present day, as in the times of the apostles."
Mr. John Roscoe. "If you recollect, he quoted Dr. Mant to prove the possibility of such sudden Not that I would be understood to assert, that Providence may not perhaps, even in the present day be sometimes pleased to interpose in a manner more awful and impressive, than is agreeable to the ordinary course of his proceedings, and to arrest the sinner in his career of infidelity or wickedness, and to turn him from darkness to light.'