Book Review

When it pleases God

It was 1715 and Isaac Watts, the great hymn writer, penned an introduction to the memoir of his friend Thomas Halyburton. As I read it I was encouraged by one of his reasons for endorsement.

“Another thing that gave me an esteem of this work, was the account that is given of an evangelical conversion, after the author had been long struggling with sharp convictions of conscience, and labouring under sharp agonies and terrors. He had been fighting with guilt and corrupt nature to attain holiness, pardon, and peace, by all the methods that the reason of man would naturally suggest, and by the doctrines and duties of the gospel itself, used in a more legal way and manner; and found his labours repeated and vain, and his work still to begin. Here he describes at large the utter insufficiency of all convictions and awakening words and providences, all tears and repentance, all religious duties of worship, public and private, all vows and promises, covenants and bonds with which he bound his soul to God; and how sin prevailed and triumphed over them all when they were practised only in a legal manner, as a mere task of conscience, and without the delightful taste of the grace of the gospel. All these left him still under guilt, under the power of sin, and in the utmost confusion, near to despair, till it pleased God to open his eyes to behold the mercy and comfort of the gospel as the way to holiness and peace; till divine grace brought him as a dying sinner, empty of all good, and helpless, to the full salvation that is in Christ, and sweetly constrained him to receive peace and holiness together; till he learned the way of sanctification by faith and hope in a pardoning God, a God reconciling sinners to himself, through Jesus the Redeemer. This overwhelmed his soul at once with deep humility and repentance, with wonder and holy joy, with hope and love, and constrained him to pleasant obedience. This renewed his nature, this wrought in him all the powers and principles of Christian holiness, and raised and supported them in a glorious degree.”

Yes and amen.

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