Words of Counsel to the Newly Converted
George Everard, 1866
The question that is here proposed must naturally arise in the minds of all those who have truly given themselves to God.
The vow you have lately made has been marked in Heaven. God has heard that profession which your lips have uttered — and He calls upon you henceforth to serve Him only. If you understand the character of the service in which you have engaged, if you have been thoroughly honest in the promise you have made — will you not pause and consider how you may faithfully carry out these obligations? Will you not ask in all earnestness — Lord, what will You have me to do?
I will endeavor, from the Word of God, to answer this inquiry. I will strive to point out to you the path which, by God's grace, you should daily tread.
First of all, let me remind you, that steadfast perseverance in well-doing is the best proof that your profession is sincere. You must not depend on any mere feelings, or any temporary excitement — these may be only as the morning cloud that passes away. Neither must you rely upon any resolutions and determinations which you have formed — these may prove as the new ropes with which Sampson was bound, and may be snapped asunder in the first moment of temptation.
It is not by these, however necessary they may be — but by a quiet, abiding continuance in holy living and holy walking, that you will prove yourself to be in truth one of the Lord's followers. Hearken to the words of Christ Himself: "If you continue in my Word then are you my disciples indeed; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Hear again the words of Paul: "We are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end."
How may you hope to do this? By what means may you be enabled to continue Christ's faithful soldier and servant to your life's end?
Go back again — and yet again, to foundation truths. There are great truths which we need to carry with us as our companions even to the last day of our pilgrimage, and all our strength and progress in the Divine life depends upon the grasp we take of them. We never get beyond them. They are as necessary when we are close to the promised inheritance — as when we first set out.
Our own exceeding sinfulness,
the utter worthlessness of any righteousness that we can bring,
our utter inability to do anything good of ourselves,
the cleansing power of the blood of Christ,
the might and grace of His Spirit to mortify sin and to renew the soul in the image of God,
the perfect freeness of His invitations to all who will come to Him,
His faithfulness and tender care towards the nearest of His flock —
such truths as these the Christian needs every day, every hour of his life. Make them the subject of frequent meditation. Let them, by the Spirit's power, be engrafted more and more deeply upon your heart and memory.
Especially remember, that by the exercise of faith in Christ, you will receive all spiritual gifts and blessings out of His fullness, and thus daily grow in grace.
What was the secret of Paul's zeal and steadfastness in the service of Christ? He himself has told us: "The just shall live by faith." This was the key-note of his ministry, and his strength in every conflict. Thrice he repeats this sentence. In writing to the Church at Rome, to the Galatians, and to the Hebrews, he lays it down in each case as a truth which should never be forgotten. What this faith is by which the Christian is to be upheld, he declares in another place: "The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me." (Galatians 2:20.)
To exercise the same faith in the Son of God is most necessary. In every need, we must make a fresh application to Him for the grace that is requisite. "There is one promise upon which I live," said a Christian woman, "and it is this, 'Him that comes unto Me, I will never cast out.' I go to Christ in the strength of this promise a hundred times a day." Follow in your life an example like this. Never be weary of calling upon Christ — and He will never be weary of hearing your cry. Whatever doubts may cross your mind as to your salvation, whatever fears as to whether you be indeed a Christian — yet this is certain — the door is still open, Christ is still full of grace and mercy, and He will never reject a sinner on his first application, or a backslider on his return to Him. Therefore turn again in faith, and every fear shall flee away.
No good word, or work, or thought
Bring I to gain Your grace:
Pardon I accept unbought,
Your offer I embrace.
Coming, as at first I came,
To take and not bestow on Thee;
Friend of sinners, spotless Lamb,
Your blood was shed for me!
Feed constantly in the green pastures which the good Shepherd provides for His flock. Especially would I name five of these green pastures where Christ nourishes and strengthens the souls of those that love Him.
1. Be diligent in the study of Holy Scripture. Make it your daily practice to read some portion of your Bible with real attention, and with dependence upon the Spirit's aid. As you read, often stay awhile and ask yourself:
What does this mean?
What duty does this teach me?
Of what sin does this remind me?
How does this warning or promise speak to myself?
Read mostly the plainest and most practical parts — as the Psalms, the Gospels, and the Epistles — yet neglect not from time to time carefully to peruse the whole, since "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." "This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; but you shall meditate therein day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written therein — for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success." (2 Timothy 3:16, 17; Joshua 1:8.)
And if you would find true delight in those blessed truths which the Bible contains, be very careful to read no book that will unfit the mind for heavenly meditation. Don't waste your time in reading foolish tales, and still less, such books as make light of sin. With little difficulty you may always find some interesting book that may give you profitable instruction, and thus prove a help instead of a hindrance to you.
2. Resort continually to the throne of grace. "Pray without ceasing." "In everything by prayer and petition, let your requests be made known unto God."
When you arise in the morning, lift up heart and voice in seeking the strength you require to perform the day's duties, and to meet its various temptations. When you retire to rest, forget not to confess the sins of the day, and to commit yourself into the keeping of your heavenly Father. Store your memory with the short prayers that God Himself has taught us, and offer them in the midst of your ordinary work. Come often to the mercy seat with some such petitions as these:
"Hold me up — and I shall be safe."
"Keep me as the apple of Your eye."
"Create in me a clean heart, O God!"
"Lord help me!"
"Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"
And at all times be very earnest in prayer that God would bestow upon you the grace and power of the Holy Spirit. Remember that it is by the Spirit alone, you can have any right views . . .
of the world,
of the character of God,
of the love of Christ.
It is by the Spirit also that right feelings and dispositions can be implanted in the heart. Would you be a humble, contrite, meek, holy, loving, happy Christian — would you live for God and be ever doing Christ's work on earth — it can only be as you depend continually upon the aid of the Spirit.
Therefore plead with God His own promise, "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children — how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him."
3. Value highly the services of the sanctuary. Never be absent from Church, either on the Sunday or weekday, when it is possible for you to be there. Great are the blessings you may find in a devout and regular attendance at Divine worship. Always go desiring to meet with God, and to hear His voice — and you will not be sent empty away. Join heartily in the holy prayers and praises. Listen to the sermon that is preached with self-application. Specially mark anything that makes you feel uneasy in conscience, or anything that tells you more of the love of Christ. Then try to lift up your voice in singing the praises of God.
When you enter the Church and when you leave it, be careful to avoid all light and worldly conversations, but pray for yourself, your Minister, and those who worship with you.
Here let me add also — come regularly to the Holy Communion. Do not turn your back upon that table to which Christ Himself so lovingly invites you. You are not to wait until you are perfect, or until you imagine you have made some great progress in holiness — but Christ would have you come now. If only you trust in His grace, He will not reject you however unworthy you may be. All are welcome who confess their sins, and truly turn to the Savior. Thus coming in faith and repentance, your souls will be strengthened and refreshed. Do not imagine indeed that there is any change in the bread and wine, or that we eat the literal flesh and drink the blood of Christ, as the Church of Rome teaches. It is not thus, that our souls could be fed. Take and eat the bread in remembrance that Christ died for you, and feed on Him in your heart by faith with thanksgiving.
The season of preparation also will be useful in recalling you to quiet thought and prayer, if you have been going astray — and in the ordinance itself Christ will draw near to you, and fix your heart on Himself.
4. Maintain a clear and distinct witness for Christ in the world. In spite of all hindrances within and without, in spite of all that may occur to draw you back, in spite of your great adversary, the devil, and your own evil heart — be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Be steadfast and bold as a soldier of the cross. Do not be afraid to own the Master whose servant you are. Even the most ungodly will in their hearts respect one who is consistent in his life, and fearless in his confession of Christ.
Remember too that He has said, "Whoever shall be ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation — of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father, with the holy angels."
5. Be separate from a world that lies in wickedness. Of course in some measure you must mix in the world, while you live on earth — but let it be evident that you rise above it. Don't be the slave of worldly amusements. God loves that His people should be cheerful and happy — but there is little true enjoyment in the excitement of the theater, the race-course, the ball-room, the gambling-table, and the like. Choose something higher and better.
Consider how such things, by late hours and in other ways, check the growth of true piety. If you err, let it be on the safe side. Do not ask, "How far may I go, and yet be guiltless?" Rather ask,
"How may I walk closely with God?"
"How may I enjoy most of the love of Christ?"
"How shall I best glorify my Father in Heaven?"
Whenever you stand in doubt as to whether it is right or not to go to any place, bear in mind the old rule. Ask yourself, "Can I kneel down and with a good conscience ask the Lord to go with me?" If not, be sure that it is not safe for you.
Above all, bear witness for Christ in the world by a very holy and consistent life. Manfully resist sin in every shape and form. Watchfully guard against the least approach to youthful lusts. In thought, word, and deed, be pure, be chaste. Regard the least allusion to anything impure, as the poison of the old serpent which is death to the soul.
Beware of any companion, in whose society you are not safe from such temptations. Beware of any place where there may be reason to fear them. After the example of Joseph, utterly abhor such iniquity: "How" said he, "shall I do this great wickedness and sin against God?" So likewise shrink from every other sin.
Keep a very tender conscience. Don't make light of little sins, as you may think them. Little acts of dishonesty, of selfishness, of neglect, indulged vanity, and self-conceit, and the love of dress, petty deceits and half-untruths — who can tell how much harm is often done by these things, and to what far greater evils they often lead?
Do not judge of sin by the standard of those around you — but . . .
in the light of God's Word,
in the light of the cross, and
in remembrance of the day of judgment.
If you do this, you will have something of the spirit of a converted Hindu; when asked whether he never committed sin, since he boasted of Christ having done so much for him — his reply was "I cannot say I never sin — Oh would to God I could! — but one thing I can say which I could not when I was a heathen — that there is nothing, nothing in the world which I so much fear as sin!"
But while you watch against sin, do not be content even with this. Be zealous in doing good. Follow in Christ's footsteps. Strive to diminish the need, the suffering the sorrow, above all, the sin that is in the world. Lay out yourself for the welfare of your fellow men. Give money, time, talents, to win souls for the kingdom of God. In your own house strive to be a sunbeam, or if you fear you cannot be this, be as the glow-worm which sends forth its little light on the dark evening. Wherever you may be placed, let your influence for good be felt by those with whom you have to do. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven."
"To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy — to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen." Jude 1:24-25
O help us, Lord; each hour of need
Your heavenly support give,
Help us in thought, and word, and deed,
Each hour on earth we live!
O help us when our spirits bleed
With contrite anguish sore;
And when our hearts are cold and dead,
O help us, Lord, the more!
O help us, through the prayer of faith,
More firmly to believe,
For still the more the servant has,
The more shall he receive.
O help us, Jesus, from on high,
We know no help but Thee!
O help us so to live and die
As Yours in Heaven to be!