Spurgeon argued yesterday that often feelings come before faith, (having previously denied it!). In today’s quote after carefully reminding us that not every conversion is a “typical” one he goes on to tell us how he feels the typical conversion occurs:
Some men have the light of God; but they cannot tell when the light first came to them. Let none of you imagine that you are not converted because you do not know the hour when it occurred; otherwise, you would be as foolish as I should be if I said to some old lady, “How old are you?” “Well, I am somewhere about eighty.” “But when was your birthday? Do you not remember your birthday?” “No, sir, I do not.” Suppose I were to tell her she was not alive because she did not know her birthday, I should be very foolish; and if you say to yourself, “Soul, you were never born again because you do not know when the event happened,” you will be very foolish, too. If you can say, “One thing I know, whereas I was blind, but now I see,” be satisfied and grateful, even though you cannot tell when the great miracle was wrought. Conversions, then, are not all alike.
Yet, as a usual rule, the work of grace begins in the heart with a time of gloom. Clouds gather; there is a general dampness round about; the soul seems saturated with doubt, fear, dread. There is something coming, but the soul knows not what; it feels that it is very sinful, and deserves whatever punishment God may send. Perhaps some of you are passing through that stage of experience just now. You get sadder and yet more sad every day; and yet you do not quite know why. You used to go to the theater, and you enjoyed it; but you went the other night, and it seemed very dreary to you, as indeed it is. You went off to some gay company, where you used to be very merry; but you seemed quite out of spirits, you could not join in their merriment, you were glad to get home. Something ails you; something ails you. Yes, the clouds are gathering over your head. That is how grace usually begins to work in the soul that God means to save and bless.
After the clouds, in the next place, the rain falls. The real work of the Spirit of God often follows upon an inward depression of spirit. Now you begin really to repent of sin; now are you sorry for the past; now you begin to sigh and cry for Christ. You wish you knew him; you wish you loved him. Tears begin to drop; or if they do not actually fall from your eyes, yet there are inward weepings, and your soul is getting moist now with deep contrition, hatred of sin, dread of God’s anger, the fear of the wrath to come, and a wish to lay hold on eternal life. Now the rains, the blessed rains, have come, and softened your heart. If we were to water all the fields in summer-time, when the sun is shining with a scorching heat, it would be of very little use indeed. An Irish friend of mine once said, that he had carefully noticed that it did not rain when the sun was shining; but that, whenever it rained, there were always some clouds to keep the sunshine off. There is a great truth in what my friend said. Rain becomes doubly precious to the earth when all the surroundings are suitable for its reception. All the atmosphere becomes damp; whereas, if rain could fall when all is dry and warm, mischief might come of it. Well, now, God’s Holy Spirit loves to come and work in man a congenial atmosphere, a holy tenderness, a devout heartbreaking; then with the clouds he brings a heavenly rain.
What comes after the rain? Then, the sun shines: “clear shining after rain.” I am describing the conversion of a man to God, not in a cast-iron style; for, as I have already told you, experiences differ. But, as a rule, after the softening, saturating influences of the Holy Spirit have come to the man, then the clouds go, the rain ceases, and there comes clear shining. The sun shines out. The man perceives that he is a sinner, but that Christ has come to save him. He sees his own blackness; but he believes that Christ can make him whiter than the snow. He mourns his own rebellions; but he rejoices that he is made a reconciled child, and admitted into the sacred family. Now look at him; his face is full of brightness; he looks as if he would like to dance, he feels so happy. His sins are washed away, he has believed in Jesus, he has rested in Christ’s finished work, and now he is as merry as the birds in May. His cheerful exclamation is, “I feel like singing all the time,” for he is enjoying the clear shining after the rain. I should like to encourage any here tonight who are going through the rain time. Believe me, it will not last for ever; you shall yet say, “Lo, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come.” It will come all the sooner to you if you at once come to Christ. Look to him as lifted up on the cross for you; and you are now saved. God grant that you may do so at once!
Well, now, what happens after this? We have come as far as the clear shining after rain; what follows this? Why, then everything grows. The grass is sure to grow when we have mist and heat together; and when a soul, having felt its need of Christ, at last beholds the light of his countenance, then it begins to grow. I love to see young converts with all the freshness of their new-born faith; they have not borrowed their language from other people. I like to see them with their zeal; they are not quite so prudent as some of us older people are. You will find that they are doing this, and doing that, and doing the other good thing, and the prudent people tell them not to do too much. My dear young friend, do not listen to them! There is many an old saint who has been spokesman for the devil when he has tried to hold a young Christian back from doing more for Christ. I had a number of kind friends when I began laboring for the Lord, and especially when I began to preach; and these kind friends provided me with an unlimited quantity of blankets, and very wet blankets they were, too. They were afraid that I should get too hot in my Master’s service, so they were always ready with wet blankets to damp my ardor. I do think that, sometimes, when Satan wants to repress the zeal of young converts, he finds more efficient servants among good people than he does among bad ones. Brethren, let the young converts grow; they will not grow too fast. Let them serve God zealously; they will not do too much for him. Let them burn with vehement zeal; there are plenty in the world who will try to cool it down. God grant that our young friends may be able to resist that chilling influence, and still may be full of earnest might and spiritual strength in the service of their Savior!
That, then, is the usual method of the progress of a convert; clouds, rain, clear shining, and then growth. We pray that we may see this process perfected in very many.
Charles H. Spurgeon, vol. 38, Spurgeon’s Sermons: Volume 38, NO. 2284, electronic ed., Logos Library System; Spurgeon’s Sermons (Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1998).