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change of mind, judgment, and heart, has been produced, should always be suspected : for the Holy Spirit, by whose preventing and adjuvant influences we suppose the change to be effected, is “the Spirit of wisdom ;" his work in the mind, conscience, and heart, always accords to the holy scriptures ; and they who have a well grounded hope are able to give“ a reason of that hope” to those who ask it from them. Let it only be granted that, when conversion appears real and scriptural in all other respects, it shall not be judged enthusiastical or hypocritical, because at first effected even in as short a time as these primitive conversions were ; and many of us shall be satisfied.
The history of this event is recorded in the following words. “ When they heard this, they
were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter, “and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, “ what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, “ Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the “ name of the Jesus Christ, for the remission of “sins ; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy “Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your “ children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, say
ing, Save yourselves from this untoward genera“ tion. Then they that gladly received the word “were baptized: and the same day there were added “ unto them about three thousand souls.”] Did these converts then“ gladly receive the word”
Acts ii. 37-41.
which called them to repentance and faith in Christ; and were they admitted into the church by the apostles, on a profession of repentance and faith, before they were in any sense partakers of the Holy Spirit ? Surely their repentance, and faith, and gladness in receiving the word of God, were things' good in the sight of God;' and there, fore beyond doubt performed by the influence of : the Holy Spirit.''
Their subsequent conduct also is recorded in the strongest terms of approbation ; yet, while much is spoken of that love and peace and joy which are " the fruits of the Spirit,” nothing is spoken of the Holy Spirit being conferred on them after they had been baptized. It may be supposed, however, that, by “ the laying on of the hands of “ the apostles,” they received also those miraculous powers which Peter more especially meant.
The historian does not say by degrees,' 'gradually,'' progressively :' and a Calvinist would justly be censured as biassed by an attachment to his own creed, who should make such additions to any part of the sacred narrative. Averse, however, as our opponents are to sudden conversions, it might have been supposed, that some concession or exception would have been admitted on this extraordinary occasion ; however needful it might be to caution the reader not to consider it as a general rule of conversions in ordinary circumstances. "These new proselytes were by degrees • converted.' At what hour, or moment, did they from proselytes become converts ? Did they
1 Ref 61.
“ gladly receive the word,” and were they baptized, before conversion ?
If conversion mean turning from one sentiment, pursuit, dependence, or tenour of conduct, to another which is very different or opposite, it cannot be instantaneous ; and the word sudden can only refer to the rapidity with which the change of views, and purposes, and conduct, takes place. The mind must have time to receive instruction, to feel conviction; to desire, purpose, and actually turn from one thing to another ; from idolatry to the worship of the one living and true God; from sin to holiness ; from Judaism to Christianity, and the devoted holy life of a Christian. The same steps, in these respects, which in some cases occupy months or years, in others may, by extraordinary circumstances, and a peculiar divine influence on the mind and heart, be passed through in a few hours, or even in a much shorter time. Exact men among Calvinists distinguish, scripturally, between regeneration and conversion ; between the communication of divine life to the dead in sins, and a man's actually turning unto Christ, to God through him, and to holiness, in consequence of being thus “ made alive unto “ God." The latter may be more sudden in one case than in another, but the former is, and must be instantaneous. Lazarus was instantaneously made alive : but he came forth from the grave and walked home, in consequence of it; and this was not instantaneous, nor was he passive, but active in it.
The case of Zaccheus, and especially that of the converted thief (or robber) on the cross, is suited to illustrate this part of our subject : but the latter will come before us, in another part of the work, perhaps to more advantage.
“Those who are baptized are immediately trans( lated from the curse of Adam to the grace of * Christ : the original sin which they brought into “the world is mystically washed away; and they * receive forgiveness of the actual sins which they may themselves have committed; they become reconciled to God, partakers of the Holy · Ghost, and heirs of eternal happiness; they acquire a new name, a new hope, a new faith, a new rule of life. This great and wonderful change in the condition of man, is as it were a new na'ture, a new state of existence; and the holy rite ' by which these invaluable blessings are commu
nicated is by St. Paul figuratively called regene‘ration, or new birth.'2
Now, if this be indeed the case, a more sudden conversion 'is wrought than almost any enthusiast ever thought of; when even a hypocrite, receiving baptism from one duly authorized to administer it, and who administers it in due form and right manner, is converted almost instantaneously into a true Christian! The passage in another view will hereafter be considered : but it shews that in some cases it is possible for sudden conversions to occur, at least that it is thought so by our opponents.
But, in fact, the circumstance of sudden or gradual is not the main thing to be estimated on this subject; the reality of the conversion forms the grand inquiry: and this must be judged of principally by its permanent fruits and effects on a man's conduct. Supposed conversions, which are hastily effected, so frequently fail of answering expectation in this respect, that all sober observers, whether Calvinists or Anticalvinists, regard them with a jealous eye, and disapprove the confident public declaration of them, which many have injudiciously been led to set forth. But there have been conversions, not only very sudden, but attended by circumstances bearing the semblance at least of enthusiasm, which yet have introduced so holy and exemplary a conduct during a long course of years, as to put the reality of the conversion beyond all doubt. Who, that is alive to any jealous fears of enthusiasm or delusion, can read, as insulated, the account of Colonel Gardiner's conversion, by Dr. Doddridge, without demurring, suspecting, and objecting? Yet who, on reading the narrative of his 'subsequent life with impartiality, can doubt the reality of his conversion, and the sterling excellence of his character?
1 Tit. iii. 5.
2 Ref. 83, 84.
God will not be limited by our rules, nor ought we to attempt to limit him. He who said to Zacchéus, “ This day is salvation come to this house,” still continues to work “ all things according to “the counsel of his own will," notwithstanding our systems and objections. Yet he allows us to judge of what is wrought by its nature and its fruits, according to the rule and standard of his holy word.
• The apostles preached the doctrines of Christi