Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:00

Dealing With Young Converts

Written by Rev. G. Procee
In spiritual life it is always a very delicate matter to deal with young converts. Often great zeal and enthusiasm is displayed in the lives of those who newly confess faith in Christ. One does not want to remove that enthusiasm, but at the same time one desires to lead these young converts in a scriptural manner. William B. Sprague witnessed revivals at the beginning of the 19th century in America. He gives advice on how to deal with young converts. This article is an adaptation of his thoughts on dealing with young converts.
Sprague states that the object to be aimed at in our treatment of those who hope they have been recently converted is twofold: to save from self-deception, and to build up in faith and holiness.

1. To Save From Self-Deception
There is a danger that many will deceive themselves in such circumstances. For at this time the mind is in an excited state, and it is most prone to misjudge its own exercises. The heart is burdened with anguish; there is a longing for relief. Such a person is prepared to welcome with relief the least evidence of pardon, and is naturally in danger of grasping at a shadow, mistaking it for the substance.

Individuals who, for a season, have felt confident of their own conversion and have been hailed by Christians as fellow helpers in the work of the Lord, have, nevertheless, subsequently been convinced that what they had called Christian experience was mere delusion. Surely, all who are active in giving spiritual guidance must protect those who hope that they have been recently converted, from self-deception.

Even while enjoying the peace and rapture they may experience in connection with what they suppose to be a conversion to God, it is the duty of those who counsel them (though they may rejoice in their joy), to rejoice with trembling, lest it should prove that the hope with which their joy is connected, should be the hope of the hypocrite, which shall finally prove to be a delusion.

2. To Build Up in Faith and Holiness
The other great end to be kept in view in respect to those, of whom I am speaking, is, to build them up in faith and holiness. If they have actually been regenerated, they will certainly, in a greater or lesser degree, bring forth the fruits of holiness; for it is impossible that a gracious principle should exist in the soul, and be habitually and entirely inoperative.

It therefore becomes a matter of great importance that, at the very beginning of the Christian life, such a person should be impressed with his obligations to labour for his Master to the extent of his or her ability. They should be assisted so far as possible, to form a character that will ensure at once the highest degree of both comfort and usefulness. The counsels and directions that a new convert receives, at such a time, may determine to a great degree, the amount of good that he or she is to accomplish during their future life.

Means to Obtain Assurance
Sprague considers some of the means by which this twofold object is to be attained.

Let those who hope they have been the subjects of a recent conversion be put on their guard against too confident a belief that they have been truly regenerated. Sprague writes, I remember to have heard of an individual, who was afterwards greatly distinguished for piety, going to the elder Jonathan Edwards, to whose congregation he belonged, to tell him what God had done for his soul. After that great and good man had listened to the account of his supposed conversion, and had heard him speak with rapture of the new and delightful views which he had of spiritual objects, and when the individual was expecting that he would do nothing less than congratulate him upon having become a child of God, he was disappointed beyond measure by simply hearing him say that what he had experienced was an encouragement to him to persevere.

Nevertheless, the man himself, in relating the circumstance many years afterwards, when he had come much nearer the fullness of the stature of a perfect person in Christ, cordially approved the course that his minister had adopted. It is not always easy to convince persons in these circumstances, even of the possibility that the hope and joy which they experience may be imitation; but it is much to be desired, both as it respects their safety and their usefulness, that this should be effected. They should acknowledge with devout gratitude to God the least evidence that He has extended to them a gracious forgiveness and they should fear lest a promise being left of entering into rest, they should seem to come short of it.

You cannot do better service to those who believe themselves to have been recently converted, than by presenting distinctly to them the evidences of Christian character. Let them clearly understand that the mere fact that the clouds that hung over their minds are dispersed and they are rejoicing in bright sunshine, this does not constitute sufficient evidence of their regeneration.

Encourage them to analyze their feelings, to examine the motives and principles of their conduct, especially to inquire whether they have the humility of the gospel, whether they cordially approve its conditions, and whether they glory in sovereign grace as it is manifested in the gospel design of salvation.

Caution them against the wiles of their own hearts and the wiles of the great adversary. Urge them to settle the question respecting their claim to Christian character, by referring their experience to the simple standard of God's Word.

They should be impressed, from the beginning, with the importance of habitual self-examination; for this is more essential to ensure them against self-deception than it is to all their attainments in holiness. Let them be exhorted, not only to inspect closely their motives and feelings from day to day with a view to give a right direction to their prayers, and to ascertain the measure of their growth in grace, but also frequently to think of the great question whether they have really been born of the Spirit. Such a course, honestly and faithfully pursued in the light of God's Word, is hardly consistent with cherishing the hypocrite's hope or with making low attainments in piety.

Conflict and Strife
Sprague then continues by stating that young converts must be impressed with the consideration that if they have really been renewed, they are just entering on a course of labour and conflict Young converts may easily have the idea that they now enter a state of perpetual sunshine; that there is nothing more to do than to fold their arms and bask quietly in the cheering and bright light of God's countenance. Let them once get this impression or anything like it, and the effect in the first place will be painful disappointment. For it is almost certain that, not too far in the future, they will have to encounter days of darkness. They will find a law in their members warring against the law of their mind. It is not improbable that they may be ready to give their hope to the wind and resign themselves to the conviction that all the joy they experienced was the effect of delusion. In addition to such an assumption, there is reason to fear that this could exert an influence that will be felt throughout life, will be unfavourable to their Christian activity, and might decrease in no small degree, their zeal, efficiency and usefulness in the cause of their Master.

Strive then to impress the young convert, from the very beginning, with the conviction that God has called him or her into His kingdom to struggle with the corruptions of their heart--to war with principalities and powers. Admonish such a person that there is still an evil principle within, and that if its operations seem to be suspended for a while; it yet retains a deadly energy, which will call them, before long, to severe conflict.

Admonish the new convert also of the temptations of the world. Tell them how insidious these are; in what a variety of forms they present themselves; how many there are who have imagined themselves secure against their influence, but who have nevertheless been overcome by temptation with success.

Remind the new convert also that there is a powerful, invisible enemy to contend with--the enemy of all good--against the influence of whose wiles no condition in life can secure him or her. Let the new convert understand that there is never so much danger of falling into the hands of their spiritual enemies, as when they yield to a spirit of self-confidence or carelessness, they either practically forget that such enemies exists, or else think to encounter them in their own strength.

The new converts cannot be girded for conflict too early, be too vigilant in observing their activities, or meet them too resolutely and boldly. Let the new converts determine to wear the whole armour of God at all times, especially in every circumstance of temptation into which duty may call. Then they are able to stand.

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