Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:00

Dealing With Young Converts (3)

Written by Rev. G.R. Procee
This is the last of a series of three articles based on the book, Lectures on Revivals of Religion (1832), by William B. Sprague, who gives advice on dealing with young converts. His valuable advice should benefit office bearers, youth workers, teachers, and even parents, in dealing with young converts. In the first article it was explained that it is important to deliver them from self-deception, as well as to build them up in faith and holiness. The second article showed how Sprague advises them to gain comfort from religion; stressed the necessity of being focused upon God's Word; being watchful against particular besetting sins; and being on guard against backsliding.

In this third article Sprague directs young converts to guard against neglecting personal prayer, to beware of the world, and encourages making public profession of faith.

1. The Young Convert Must Be On Guard Against Neglecting Personal Prayer.
It is in the inner chamber, the closet, where every Christian must labour to keep alive the flame of devotion in his soul. Here, more than anywhere else, the work of self-examination is advanced; here the silent communion of the soul with God is experienced in acts of confession, thanksgiving and supplication. Here the believer becomes acquainted with his sins and his needs while he unburdens his soul before the throne of mercy and gathers strength and grace by which he is sustained amidst the various duties and trials he meets in the world.

Therefore, when these duties are neglected, religion will languish in the heart and the manifestation of the Christian life will decrease. Others will notice this in the life of the believer and he himself will realize his joy is gone. His conscience will accuse him and he will lack evidence to assure him he is walking on the path that leads to heaven.

This evil--that of neglecting personal prayerÑis one to which the young convert is very liable. He may not be liable to it in the very earliest stage of his Christian experience; for then the duties of the closet are usually a delight to him. But when his first joys have partially subsided and he has begun to be familiar with the more sober realities of religious life, there is a great danger he will find some excuse for partial or irregular attendance on these duties.

One source of danger is found in the fact that he may neglect them because others do not notice it. Because these duties are of a particularly spiritual character, they are the very first to be neglected by a Christian who is losing his spirituality. While others would notice neglect of duties, the neglect of personal prayer is only observed by his own conscience and by the Lord. He can easily satisfy his conscience with a vague resolution that he will attend to personal prayer at some other time. But no resolution is more easily broken than this; and when it is repeatedly broken, a habit of virtual indifference to the closet is the consequence. If the faithful exercise of private devotions is so essential to healthy spiritual life and there are particular temptations that lead to neglect them, everyone who stands at the commencement of the Christian life ought to be admonished of this danger on the one hand, and be exhorted to faithfulness on the other hand.

Therefore, counsel young converts to have stated seasons for private devotions when nothing but sheer necessity will keep them out of the closet. Counsel them to take heed not to substitute the form for the spirit of prayer. Counsel them not to appease their conscience by appearing before God on bended knee without a broken heart. Counsel them to mingle their private prayers with self-examination and by reading of God's Word so that communion with God may be more informed on the one hand, and more spiritual on the other.

Counsel the young convert to never neglect personal devotions, because he will find that it will cause his affections to weaken and to become lethargic. Neither should he neglect devotions because he imagines having little enjoyment in prayer. Let this rather be an argument to urge him to hasten to his closet and confess and lament his indifference, endeavouring to have the flame of devotion rekindled in his bosom. In short, urge upon him the importance of private meditation and devotion in all circumstances. Urge him to make time for these things, even under the greatest pressure of worldly care. Continue to make him mindful of the connection this duty has with everything that belongs to Christian character and Christian joy.

2. Beware of the World.
Everyone who has made a considerable deal of progress in the Christian life has learned by experience that the world is a deadly enemy to the believer's growth in grace. Even for an advanced Christian it is not easy to maintain familiarity with the world and at the same time retain a high degree of spirituality.

The cares of the world so easily mar the ChristianÕs character; in addition there are the pleasures, honours and the riches of the world--all of these powerfully take hold of the heart. Sometimes the world laughs and scoffs at a young Christian and tries to persuade him that he is giving himself over to fanaticism and foolishness. Sometimes the world flatters him and seeks to draw him aside from his plain path of duty. The world will assume any form or use anything to draw the Christian, especially the young Christian, away from God and from duty.

How important, therefore, that the young convert is put on guard at the very beginning of the Christina life against this dangerous enemy! If he is in the morning season of life as well as young in Christian experience, there is every reason to caution him especially against the frivolities and amusements of the world, for he will be in most danger at this point.

Let the young convert beware of the influence of former careless friends, not by taking on an attitude of ÒLook at me; I am holier than thou" or by encouraging him to assume a distant or unsocial manner. But he should be on guard that they do not unawares draw him into forbidden paths. The young convert should watch that such worldly friends do not on the one hand flatter him nor on the other hand make sneering insinuations and draw him to unwarranted and unchristian conduct.

3. Every young convert should be encouraged to make a public profession of faith at the proper time.
This is a duty that he owes to himself, the church and to his Master. But while every young Christian should be encouraged to make a profession of faith, he should be encouraged to do it at the proper time--neither too early nor too late.

There is a possibility of doing this too early. In this case there is not sufficient opportunity to test his character, guard against self-deception or the misunderstanding of what is involved and required when making a Christian profession. On the other hand, it may be deferred too long; and then the desire for it may be weakened and the mind become preoccupied. It is not easy, nor indeed possible, to establish a hard and fast rule to be applied to every case.

The young convert should be well instructed in relation to the nature and obligations of a Christian profession and should be encouraged to proceed with humility considering his unworthiness. There should be gratitude in view of the greatness of the privilege to confess Jesus Christ. The young convert must also be encouraged to have a strong resolution to live a life of dedication to Christ and have some awareness of the necessity of living a holy life. In all these things the young convert must realize his complete dependence on divine grace, consider his own weakness on the one hand and the duties of Christian life on the other. Let the young convert come in this spirit at the proper time and we may reasonably hope that it will be good for him and for the church he joins in close communion.

Sprague concludes his treatise by stating that the spiritual well being of young converts depends in no small measure on the instruction and counsel they receive. Let every Christian, therefore, who undertakes to perform this important task, realize his great responsibility. Let him bear in mind that the influence that he exercises will reflect, not only on the individual character of the young believer, but also on the future effectiveness and purity of the church.

Sprague urges all children of God to qualify themselves for this difficult task by faithfully studying God's Word, earnestly supplicating for divine grace, and by constantly aiming at a high standard of Christian experience. All God's children will sooner or later be faced with the necessity of giving proper counsel to young converts. In this way a Christian may mix with their younger brethren and sisters in Christ with delight and profit. The result is that the Christian will increase in the knowledge of God, while building up young converts in the most holy faith.

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