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III. In what sense does man convert a sinner?

Our text reads, “If any of you do err from the truth and one convert him“—implying that man may convert a sinner. But in what sense can this be said and done?

I answer, the change must of necessity be a voluntary one, not a change in the essence of the soul, nor in the essence of the body—not any change in the created constitutional faculties; but a change which the mind itself, acting under various influences, makes as to its own voluntary end of action. It is an intelligent change—the mind, acting intelligently and freely, changes its moral course, and does it for perceived reasons.

The Bible ascribes conversion to various agencies: 1. To God. God is spoken of as converting sinners, and Christians with propriety pray to God to do so.

2. Christians are spoken of as converting sinners. We see this in our text.

3. The truth is also said to convert sinners.

Again, let it be considered, no man can convert another without the co-operation and consent of that other. His conversion consists in his yielding up his will and changing his voluntary course. He can never do this against his own free will. He may be persuaded and induced to change his voluntary course; but to be persuaded is simply to be led to change one’s chosen course and choose another.

Even God can not convert a sinner without his own consent. He can not, for the simple reason that the thing involves a contradiction. The being converted implies his own consent—else it is no conversion at all. God converts men, therefore, only as He persuades them to turn from the error of their selfish ways to the rightness of benevolent was.

So, also, man can convert a sinner only in the sense of presenting the reasons that induce the voluntary change and thus persuading him to repent. If he can do this, then he converts a sinner from the error of his ways. But the Bible informs us that man alone never does or can convert a sinner.

It holds, however, that when man acts humbly, depending on God, God works with him and by him. Men are “laborers together with God.” They present reasons and God enforces those reasons on the mind. When the minister preaches, or when you converse with sinners, man presents truth, and God causes the mind to see it with great clearness and to feel its personal application with great power. Man persuades and God persuades; man speaks to his ear—God speaks to his heart. Man presents truth through the medium of his senses to reach his free mind; God presses it upon his mind so as to secure his voluntary yielding to its claims. Thus the Bible speaks of sinners as being persuaded, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” In this the language of the Bible is entirely natural. just as if you should say you had turned a man from his purpose, or that your arguments had turned him, or that his own convictions of truth had turned him. So the language of the Bible on this subject is altogether simple and artless, speaking right out in perfect harmony with the laws of mind.

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