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" Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian." — Acts, xxvi, 28.
Such is the nature of the soul that truth affects it more powerfully than anything which is presented to it. See the effect produced on the mind of the student ; what excitement is raised in the mind, as in the solution of a problem he advances, step by step, to the conclusion ! What unbounded excitement and admiration are produced in the mind of the philosopher as some new truth is discovered in science ! Who can tell the
ALMOST A CHRISTIA . 319 measure of the effect upon ewton, how his pulse bounded, as, watching in his garden the fall of an apple, the grand truth of gravity flashed upon his mind ? So with every man ; truth always affects us, we are swayed by it, we yield to it. In proportion to its greatness will be the effect, greater or less. This influence, which truth exe'rts upon our souls, is accounted for in the fact that God is truth, and our souls emanate from God; He gave them, and hence is revealed to us the reason why truth lives and must live forever, whilst error perishes. And herein is revealed to us the reason why the Gospel of the Son of God has not been and can never be crushed out of the world. These refl^ections are suggested by the facts
recorded in this chapter by the Apostles. Here we have set before us a remarkable instance of the powerful effects of Gospel truth. Agrippa, under its presentation, with all his prejudices and antipathies, was almost persuaded to embrace it — to be a Christian. There are those before me this morning who are almost persuaded to be Christians. To such I shall address myself. We lay down this proposition, and shall undertake to show its truth, that the state of that individual, who is almost persuaded to be a Christian but not altogether, involves a crisis in his spiritual history that renders his condition fearfully dangerous.
320 SERMO S. We undertake to show first how this state is produced; and, doing so, the truth of my proposition will be in part exhibited. First, then, we remark that the testimony which supports the truth of the revelation made through Christ is such as to induce a disposition on your part to accept Him as your Saviour. In the case of Agrippa it was so. He was born and educated amongst the Jews; he was acquainted with the teachings of the Old Testament Scriptures; he believed them ; and when Paul stood before him, making his defence, he so clearly exhibited to Agrippa's mind Christ as the antitype of all the types and shadows of the Jewish ceremonials, so clearly set forth Christ as the fulfillment of the prophecies pointing to a Messiah, that Agrippa could not resist it. He appealed to him: "King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest." He then goes on to call his attention to the life of Christ, to His miracles, particularly to His resurrection. Why should it be
thought a thing incredible ? ow, these same proofs have produced a similar effect upon your mind. They have been presented to you, you have looked to them, examined them, and they have driven away the mists of unbelief. You feel that no man can examine these proofs impartially, which support the claims of the Christian religion, without being convinced of its truth.
ALMOST A CHRISTIA . 321 You feel that these are facts and circumstances connected with the system which could not exist if religion were false; these bring to the mind the conviction as clearly as the proofs of a problem in mathematics show the rules to be true by which the conclusion is reached. And from the nature of the soul, of which we have spoken in setting out, the truth induces an admiration and a disposition to embrace it. The reason, and the only reason, why any are infidels is because they have never seen the great truth of Christianity. They examine only the theories that conceal its truth. An ignorant man does not believe in astronomy. Why? He has never had unfolded to his mind the great truth contained in the science; he is ignorant of its proofs; he knows nothing of the calculations by which the principles of the science are clearly and satisfactorily demonstrated. By the truths presented to your minds, which sustain the claims of Christ, you are almost persuaded to be Christians. Again, we remark that the recital of Christian experience in the conversion of the soul has had a powerful influence in bringing you into your present state of mind — almost persuaded to be Christians.
Paul spoke out on this occasion his experience. Told Agrippa how he was converted ; told him that he knew that he had been a great persecutor 15
322 SERMO S. of Christiaus ; that at the time of his conversion he was on his way to Damascus for that purpose. "But at mid-day, oh! king, I saw a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining around about me." He then went on to tell him as near as he could the nature of the change which had taken place in him. Agrippa was greatly affected by this. He knew Paul was not a fool ; that he was an educated, intelligent man ; that he was not likely to be imposed upon ; that he was honest in his statements. This greatly moved and affected his heart. So it is with you. Your present state, the strong disposition to become Christians which you feel, has been greatly induced by the recital of the experience of those in whom your confidence is unshaken. Your friend, your husband, your wife, your children, stand up as witnesses before you. They tell you that they have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, that they have peace with Grod, and that it takes away fear of death and dread of judgment — that there is a power and reality in the religion of Jesus — that they have experienced a change, and you see it in their conversation and life; you talked with them before their conversion, you knew what their views and feelings were then — they agreed, perhaps, with you. ow they say they are changed. They have no motive to be untrue any more than you have. You know they
ALMOST A CHRISTIA . 323 are honest — the tear that steals from their eye tells you that they are sincere. You do not think they can be mistaken. And coming in its force upon your soul, it has excited in you a strong disposition to try it too. You are almost persuaded to become. Christians. Again, we remark that this state in which you find yourself is produced by the general conclusion which you draw from these facts. You have reasoned thus in your mind : If the great doctrines of Christianity be true; if the way of the transgressor is hard ; if the wicked are troubled here, and pass away at last from earth under a cloud, with the frown of Grod resting upon their dying hour, and in eternity are cast into hell fire, "where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched;" on the other hand, if the good, the righteous, are happy in life, triumphant in death, and blest forever in the world to come ; if to enter into the kingdom of God, and escape hell, it is necessary to be born again; if all this be true, and you feel it is so, your heart says it is your highest interest to become Christians. With this general conclusion resting upon your mind you are led to undervalue the pleasures derived from the fashions, the pageant, the honors, the wealth of the world, and the great question comes to your heart, "what will it profit me if I gain the whole world and lose my own soul?"
324 SERMO S.
Again, we remark that in addition to all this, and in connection with it, your present state is produced by the influence of the Holy Spirit, "the light that lighteth every man's mind that cometh into the world." The Holy Spirit is persuading you to become Christians. It is His power that gives strength to the proofs, that gives efficacy and influence to Christian experience, that holds before your spiritual vision the pleasures of religion, and at the same time has arrayed before you the emptiness of earthlj'- good and the terrors of the pit. God, the Holy Spirit, is standing at the door of thy heart. He is softly touching thy spirit and awakening in your bosom that disposition you feel to yield yourselves to Christ. ow, with these influences bearing upon you, you would immediately become Christians if there were not counteracting influences at work. These opposite, warring principles have produced your present state. The same devil that told our first parents that they would not die, at "the very time when the proofs of religion are taking effect upon you, is whispering doubts into your ear, infusing the poison of unbelief, making you feel at times that perhaps, after all, this change of which the Christian speaks is animal excitement, enthusiasm. He insists upon it that the pleasures of the world at the present are more valuable to you — will make you happier than the pleasures of reli-
THE MYSTERY OF SPIRITUAL THI GS. 325 gion. He contends with the influences of Q-od's Spirit, and you are thus made undecided — a fearful crisis with you — trembling between Grod and the devil, heaven and hell, on the middle of the
beam, and soon you will walk upon one end or the other. The great question will soon be settled, and your soiil will be forever saved or forever lost. The Spirit of G-od is now especially poured out ; it is a season of refreshing, and the crisis is upon you. Oh ! what a spectacle of interest you now present ! A night's decision may now fix all well for eternity. Perhaps on these few minutes hang the eternal destiny of your soul. Then let me urge you to be not only almost, but altogether, persuaded to be Christians.
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