"Let me ask, in the fifth place, WHETHER WE KNOW ANYTHING BY EXPERIENCE OF CONVERSION TO GOD.
Without conversion there is no salvation. "Except you be converted, and become as little children — you shall never enter the kingdom of Heaven." — "Except a man be born again — he cannot see the kingdom of God." — "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ — he is none of His." — "If any man be in Christ — he is a new creature." (Matthew 18:3, John 3:3, Romans 8:9, 2 Corinthians 5:17)
We are all by nature so weak, so worldly, so earthly-minded, so inclined to sin — that without a thorough change we cannot serve God in life, and could not enjoy Him after death. Just as ducks, as soon as they are hatched, take naturally to water — so do children, as soon as they can do anything, take to selfishness, lying, and deceit; and none pray or love God, unless they are taught. High or low, rich or poor, gentle or simple, we all need a complete change — a change which is the special office of the Holy Spirit to give us. Call it what you please — new birth, regeneration, renewal, new creation, quickening, repentance — the thing must be had if we are to be saved; and if we have the thing — it will be seen.
Sense of sin and deep hatred of it,
faith in Christ and love to Him,
delight in holiness and longing after more of it,
love for God's people, and
distaste for the things of the world —
these, these are the signs and evidences which always accompany conversion. Myriads around us, it may be feared, know nothing about it. They are, in Scripture language, dead, and asleep, and blind, and unfit for the kingdom of God. Year after year, perhaps, they go on repeating the words of the creed, "I believe in the Holy Spirit;" but they are utterly ignorant of His changing operations on the inward man. Sometimes they flatter themselves they are born again, because they have been baptized, and go to church, and receive the Lord's Supper; while they are totally destitute of the marks of the new birth, as described by John in his first Epistle. And all this time the words of Scripture are clear and plain — "Except you be converted, you shall in no case enter the kingdom." (Matthew 18:3).
In times like these, no reader ought to wonder that I press the subject of conversion on men's souls. No doubt there are plenty of sham conversions in such a day of religious excitement as this. But bad coin is no proof that there is no good money: no, rather it is a sign that there is some money current which is valuable, and is worth imitation. Hypocrites and sham Christians are indirect evidence that there is such a thing as real grace among men. Let us search our own hearts then, and see how it is with ourselves. Once more let us ask, in the matter of conversion, "How do we do?"