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Are You Being Converted?
A Course of Sermons on Serious Subjects.

by Alexander Penrose Forbes, D.C.L.
Bishop of Brechin.

London: Joseph Masters, Aldersgate Street, 1856.


SEVERAL persons having asked to be allowed to peruse the manuscripts of some of the following Sermons, it occurred to the author that they might be of use if published. Written solely for oral delivery they partake of the faults which discourses composed for this purpose almost always manifest. A sermon which gives pleasure when read, often is considered dry when listened to, on the other hand the expansion of thought and expression which commends a sermon to the hearer fatigues in the study. Again, the degree of originality which satisfies in the pulpit is barely sufficient when submitted to the severer test of printing. The preacher wishing to make a strong and immediate effect on the souls committed to him, brings out of his store "things both old and new," and without conscious plagiarism uses language and ideas which he has obtained from others, without perhaps being very sure of the actual sources whence they have been derived.

I am conscious of both these defects in the following series; and it is also due to truth to say, that in the second, third, and fourth Sermons the heads of advice there are expansions of a very thoughtful paper of Hints upon Conversion, drawn up by an eminent divine.

Having written without any controversial intention, I have made no allusion to the late discussion on the subject of justification and conversion, which has been connected with S. Saviour's Church, at Leeds. As I feel a very great respect for the judgment, talents, and earnestness of many who have taken part in it, I should not wish that any thing that I have said in the volume should pain them. I am convinced that there is much that I can sympathise with in the view they have taken. Men have felt that there is something dry in the Anglicanism of the present day; a want of a certain fervour which ought to characterize the religious life, and its absence cannot be set down to the English character, insomuch as it enters largely into Wesleyanism. Now, viewing the matter in a practical light, it must evidently be a great gain if that very fervour be employed in the service of the Church. Assuming that (while the real teaching of the English Church does produce a most beautiful and gentle type of holiness) Wesleyanism also, carrying with it a mixture of truth and error, and therefore a combination of success and failure, does represent the ordinary uneducated English religion, it would be most important if the Church could seize on that which is really true as well as attractive in the system, and so not only add to her own strength by such adaptation, but also by her loving discipline, and by the eminent graces she receives from her Divine Spouse, guide the souls thus influenced in the paths of perfection, where Wesleyanism notoriously fails. But the difficulty that occurs in adopting these views is, first, that the advocates of conversion as now taught insist upon a sensible instantaneous conversion in the case of all persons. However they may have "walked in white" hitherto, they must be sensibly converted. Is it right to assume as the basis of a theological system that almost all persons have fallen away from grace, so as to be out of CHRIST, and to require entire conversion to GOD? Again, secondly, is it right to say that the conversion is so instantaneous and so sensible, that if one who has been guilty of heavy sin does not know the precise time he is converted, he is in fact not converted and not in a state of grace? And thirdly, is peace, the gift of the Spirit, so inseparable from the Presence of that SPIRIT that one who has not perfect peace must be assumed to be unconverted? Surely the experience of the lives of many of the saints shows us instances of an abiding fear of the judgments of the LORD, which however corrected by a firm trust in the merits of our SAVIOUR, inspired a solemnising element into their whole lives.

It is now generally felt, as has been stated in the following Discourses, that the rising Wesleyanism of the last century was mismanaged. The secular prelates of the day instead of guiding the movement within the Church drove it forth; on the other hand even Wesley himself exhibited great conceit and presumption. May we now act more wisely. May the rulers of the Church deal more tenderly and kindly with these earnest men, who are honestly seeking to extend the kingdom of the Redeemer; and may these again be cautious in putting forth overstrong statements of any one truth in religion, to the destruction of the proportion of the faith.

Lent, 1856.

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