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27 December, 2012


Spurgeon delivered this sermon on October 7, 1855, 
True conversion is so misunderstood that I think this post could be useful.

“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 Saviour, 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 involved—that 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 involved—a very important one—that 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.