The Delay of Conversion
Isaiah 55:6-9
Seek you the LORD while he may be found, call you on him while he is near:…

I. WE SHALL ENDEAVOUR TO PROVE FROM OUR OWN CONSTITUTION, THAT IT IS DIFFICULT, NOT TO SAY IMPOSSIBLE, TO BE CONVERTED AFTER HAVING WASTED LIFE IN VICE. It is clear that we carry in our own breasts principles which render conversion difficult, and I may add, impossible, if deferred to a certain period. To comprehend this, form in your mind an adequate idea of conversion, and fully admit, that the soul, in order to possess this state of grace, must acquire two essential dispositions; it must be illuminated; it must be sanctified.

1. You cannot become regenerate unless you know the truths of religion. Now, every period of life is not alike proper for disposing the body to this happy temperature, which leaves the soul at liberty for reflection and thought. If we defer the acquisition of religious knowledge till age has chilled the blood, obscured the understanding, enfeebled the memory, and confirmed prejudice and obstinacy, it is almost impossible to be in a situation to acquire that information without which our religion can neither be agreeable to God, afford us solid consolation in affliction, nor motive sufficient against temptation.

2. The soul not only loses with time the facility of discerning error from truth, but after having for a considerable time habituated itself to converse solely with sensible objects, it is almost impossible to attach it to any other. In order to conversion, we must have a radical and habitual love to God. This principle being allowed, all that we have to say against the delay of conversion becomes self-established. The whole question is reduced to this; if at the extremity of life, if in a short and fleeting moment, you can acquire this habit of Divine love, then we will preach no more against delay. But if time, labour, and will, are required to form this genuine source of love to God, you should frankly acknowledge the folly of postponing so important a work for a single moment. This being allowed, we shall establish, on two principles, all that we have to advance upon this subject.

(1) We cannot acquire any habit without performing the correspondent actions.

(2) When a habit is once rooted, it becomes difficult or impossible to correct it, in proportion as it is confirmed. Habits of the mind are formed as habits of the body; the former become as incorrigible as the latter. As, then, in the acquisition of a corporeal habit, we must perform the correspondent actions, so in forming the habits of religion, of love, humility, patience, charity, we must habituate ourselves to the duties of patience, humility and love. Further, we must not only engage in the offices of piety to form the habit, but they must be frequent; just as we repeat acts of vice to form a vicious habit. We make a rapid progress in the career of vice. But the habits of holiness are directly opposed to our constitution. When we wish to become converts, we assume a double task; we must demolish, we must build. Such is the only way by which we can expect the establishment of grace in the heart; it is by unremitting labour, by perseverance in duty, and by perpetual vigilance. Now, who does not perceive the folly of those who procrastinate their conversion? who imagine that a word from a minister, a prospect of death, a sudden resolution, can instantaneously produce perfection of virtue?

II. WE SHALL DEMONSTRATE THAT REVELATION PERFECTLY .ACCORDS WITH NATURE ON THIS HEAD; and that whatever the Bible has taught concerning the efficiency of grace, the supernatural aids of the Spirit, and the extent of mercy, favours, in no respect, the delay of conversion.

1. The first proofs of which people avail themselves, to excuse their negligence and delay, and the first arguments of defence, which they draw from the Scriptures, in order to oppose us, are taken from the aids of the Spirit, promised in the new covenant. To this objection we must reply. We shall manifest its absurdity —

(1) By the ministry God has established in the Church.

(2) By the efforts He requires us to make, previously to our presuming that we have received the Holy Spirit —

(3) By the manner in which He requires us to co-operate with the Spirit, when we have received Him.

(4) By the punishments He has denounced against those who resist His work.

(5) By the conclusions which the Scripture itself deduces from our natural weakness, and from the necessity of grace.

2. The notion of the mercy of God is a second source of illusion. "God is merciful," say they, "the covenant He has established with man is a covenant of grace. A general amnesty is granted to every sinner. Hence, though our conversion be defective, God will receive our dying breath, and yield to our tears. What, then, should deter us from giving free scope to our passions, and deferring the rigorous duties of conversion, till we are nothing worth for the world?" Detestable sophism l Here is the highest stage of corruption, the supreme degree of ingratitude.


1. You may oppose to us two classes of examples. In the first class, you may arrange those instantaneous conversions which grace has effectuated in a moment by a single stroke; and which apparently destroy what we have advanced on the force of habits, and on the economy of the Holy Spirit. In the second class, you will put those other sinners who, after the perpetration of enormous crimes, have obtained remission by a sigh, by a wish, by a few tears; and afford presumptive hopes, that to whatever excess we may carry our crimes, we shall never exceed the terms of mercy, or obstruct reception at the throne of grace. Consider that many of these conversions are not only out of the common course of religion, but also that they could not have been effectuated by lees than miraculous powers. Consider that, among all those sinners, there was not one in the situation of a Christian who delays conversion to the close of life. Consider that you are enlightened with meridian lustre, which they had scarcely seen. Consider that you are pressed with a thousand motives unknown to them. Consider that they continued, for the most part, but a short time in sin; but you have wasted life in folly. Consider that they possessed distinguished virtues, which rendered them dear to God; but you have nothing to offer Him but dissipation or indolence. Consider that they were distinguished by repentance, which afforded constant proof of their sincerity . whereas it is still doubtful whether you shall ever be converted, and you go the way to make it impossible. See, then, whether your arguments are just, and whether your hopes are properly founded.

2. Hitherto we have examined the cases of those sinners who apparently contradict our principles; let us briefly review those by which they are confirmed. Let us 1)rove that the long-suffering of God has its limits; and that in order to find Him propitious, we must "seek Him while He may be found, and call upon Him while He is near." Three distinguished classes of examples confirm these illustrious truths.

(1)  Public catastrophes.

(2)  Obdurate sinners.

(3)  Dying men. Happy are they who are cautioned by the calamities of others!

(J. Saurin.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:

WEB: Seek Yahweh while he may be found; call you on him while he is near:

The Best Time to Seek the Lord
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