Testimony is a good Christian word, isn’t it? It is a word we use to describe a person’s account of their conversion. At Grace Fellowship Church we ask people to share their testimony aloud before they are baptized, and to send it in printed form to the members of the church as they apply for church membership. Sometimes at an evening service we will invite someone to come to the front and to tell us how the Lord saved her. We even keep a big binder full of these testimonies for anyone who would like to read through them—an amazing collection of stories that are so very different and yet all tell the same story.
Do you talk about your conversion? Do you find yourself thinking back to it and recounting its circumstances? Do you remember and share your testimony? John Flavel considers this one of the great joys and responsibilities of the Christian life saying, “This is a subject which every gracious heart loves to steep its thoughts in. It is certainly the sweetest history that ever they repeated; they love to think and talk of it.” Do you?
In chapter 3 of Flavel’s book The Mystery of Providence, Flavel instructs his reader in the importance of considering and recounting God’s providence in our salvation.
In nothing does Providence shine forth more gloriously in this world than in ordering the occasions, instruments and means of conversion of the people of God. However skilfully its hand had moulded your bodies, however tenderly it had preserved them and however bountifully it had provided for them; if it had not also ordered some means or other for your conversion, all the former favours and benefits it had done for you had meant little. This, O this, is the most excellent benefit you ever received from its hand. You are more indebted to it for this, than for all your other mercies. And in explaining this performance of Providence, I cannot but think your hearts must be deeply affected.
But with all the emphasis we place on testimony, there is one kind of person that can sometimes feel a little bit inadequate—the person who grew up in a Christian home, who put his faith in Christ at a very young age and through circumstances that may have long since been lost to the mists of time.
Flavel acknowledges this person, stating that not every Christian can recount the circumstances of their salvation in quite the same way. While for some people salvation was “wrought in person of riper years, who in their youthful days were more profane and vile,” for others salvation came to “persons in their tender years, into whose hearts grace was more imperceptibly and indiscernibly instilled by God’s blessing upon pious education.”
In the former sort, the distinct acts of the Spirit, illuminating, convincing, humbling, drawing them to Christ and sealing them are more evident and discernible. In the latter, these are more obscure and confused. They can remember that God gave them an esteem and liking of godly persons, care of duty and conscience of sin; but as to the time, place, instruments and manner of the work, they can give but a slender account of them.
There is a clear difference between these people, but it is not the difference between genuine and false salvation. Rather, God has simply chosen to bring about the miracle of conversion in a different way.
However, if the work is savingly wrought in them, there is no reason they should be troubled because the circumstances of it are not so evident to them as they are to others. Let the substance and reality of the work appear and there is no reason to afflict yourselves because of the lack of evidence of such circumstance.
In other words, salvation is no more genuine to those who can clearly remember and recount the circumstances that led to their conversion. And I would go so far as to say that the “boring” testimonies of childhood conversions are the most blessed of all. After all, aren’t these exactly the testimonies we wish for our children?
We will continue our reading next week with chapter 4: “God’s Providence in Our Work.” Read it by next Thursday and check in to see what I (and others) have to say about it.
The purpose of this project is to read classics together. So do feel free to leave a comment if you have something you would like to say. Alternatively, you may leave a link to your blog or Facebook or anywhere else you have reflected on what you have read.
If you would like to read along with us, we have only just begun, so there is lots of time to get caught up. Simply get a copy of the book and start reading…
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