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The Almost Christian Discovered (PDF)

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This tract is excerpted from a book by Matthew Mead, 1661.

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The Almost Christian Discovered
An excerpt from Matthew Mead, 1661

Now then, to sum up all under this head, if to be almost a Christian hinders the true work of conversion, if it be easily mistaken for conversion, if this be that which quiets conscience, if this subjects a man to commit the unpardonable sin, if it provokes God to give us up to spiritual judgments, and if it be that which exceedingly aggravates our damnation, sure then it is a very dangerous thing to be almost and yet but almost a Christian. O labour to be altogether Christians, to go farther than they who have gone farthest, and yet fall short! This is the great counsel of the Holy Ghost, so run that ye may obtain; give diligence to make your calling and election sure.

Question. But you will say, possibly, how shall I do? What means shall I use that I may attain to a thorough work in my heart; that I may be no longer almost, but altogether a Christian?

Answer. Now I shall lay down three rules of direction, instead of many, to further and help you in this important duty, and so leave this work to God’s blessing.

Direction 1. First, break off all false peace of conscience—this is the devil’s bond to hold the soul from seeking after Christ. As there is the peace of God, so there is the peace of Satan; but they are easily known, for they are as contrary as heaven and hell, as light and darkness.

The peace of God flows from a work of grace in the soul and is the peace of a regenerate state; but the peace of Satan is the peace of an unregenerate state; it is the peace of death; in the grave, Job saith, there is peace—the wicked one troubleth him not.

The peace of God in the soul is a peace flowing from removal of guilt by justifying grace; Being justified by faith in his blood, we have peace with God, but the peace of Satan in the soul arises and is maintained by a stupidity of spirit, and insensibility of guilt upon the conscience.

The peace of God is a peace from sin that fortifies the heart against it; The peace of God, that passeth all men’s understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. The more of this peace there is in the soul, the more is the soul fortified against sin, but the peace of Satan is peace in sin: The strong man armed keeps the house, and there all is peace. The saint’s peace is a peace with God, but not with sin; the sinner’s peace is a peace with sin, but not with God; and this is a peace better broken than kept—it is a false, a dangerous, an undoing peace. My brethren, death and judgment will break all peace of conscience, but only that which is wrought by Christ in the soul, and is the fruit of the blood of sprinkling; when he gives quietness, who can make trouble? Now that peace that death will break, why should you keep? Who would be fond of that quietness which the flames of hell will burn in sunder? And yet how many travel to hell through the fool’s paradise of a false peace!

O break off this peace! For we can have no peace with God in Christ whilst this peace remains in our hearts. Christ gives no peace to him that will not seek it, and that man will never seek it that does not see his need of it; and he that is at peace in his sins sees no need of the peace of Christ. The sinner must be wounded for sin, and troubled under it, before Christ will heal his wounds and give him peace from it.

Direction 2. Labour after a thorough work of conviction; every conviction will not do it; the almost Christian hath his convictions as well as the true Christian, or else he had never gone so far; but they are not right and sound convictions; God will have the soul truly sensible of the bitterness of sin before it shall taste the sweetness of mercy. The plough of conviction must go deep and make deep furrows in the heart before God will sow the precious seeds of grace and comfort there, that so it may have depth of earth to grow in. This is the constant method of God, first to show a man his sin, then his Saviour; first his danger, then his Redeemer; first his wound, then his cure; first his own vileness, then Christ’s righteousness. We must be brought to cry out unclean, unclean, to mourn for him whom we have pierced, and then he sets open for us a fountain to wash in for sin and for uncleanness. That is a notable place. Job 33:17,28, He looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not: he will deliver his soul from going down into the pit, and his life shall see the light. This is the unchangeable method of God in working grace, to begin with conviction of sin.

O therefore labour for thorough conviction, and there are three things we should especially be convinced of.

First, be convinced of the evil of sin, the odious and heinous nature of it, for sin is the greatest evil in the world; it wrongs God, it wounds Christ, it grieves the Holy Spirit, it ruineth a precious soul; all other evils are not to be named with it. My brethren, though to do sin is the worst work, yet to see sin is the best sight, for sin discovered in its vileness makes Christ to be discovered in his fulness.

But above all, labour to be convinced of the mischief of an unsound heart; what an abhorring it is to God, what certain ruin it brings upon the soul.

Secondly, be convinced of the misery and desperate danger of a natural condition, for till we see the plague of our hearts, and the misery of our state by nature, we shall never be brought off ourselves to seek help in another.

Thirdly, be convinced of the utter insufficiency and inability of any thing below Christ Jesus to minister relief to thy soul in this case; all things besides Jesus Christ are physicians of no value; duties, performances, prayers, tears, self-righteousness avail nothing in this case—they make us like the troops of Tema, to return ashamed at our disappointment from such failing brooks.

Alas! it is an infinite righteousness that must satisfy for us, for it is an infinite God that is offended by us. If ever thy sin be pardoned, it is infinite mercy that must pardon it; if ever thou be reconciled to God, it is infinite merit must do it; if ever thy soul escape hell, and be saved at last, it is infinite grace must save it.

O therefore, if you would be sound Christians, get sound convictions; ask those that are believers indeed, and they will tell you, had it not been for their convictions, they had never sought after Christ for sanctification and salvation; they will tell you, they had perished if they had not perished; they had been in eternal bondage, but for their spiritual bondage; had they not been lost as to themselves, they had been actually lost as to Christ.

Direction 3. Never rest in convictions till they end in conversion; this is that wherein most men miscarry; they rest in their convictions and take them for conversion, as if sin seen were therefore forgiven, or as if a sight of the want of grace were the truth of the work of grace.

You that are at any time under convictions, O take heed of resting in them; though it is true that conviction is the first step to conversion, yet it is not conversion. A man may carry his convictions along with him into hell.

What is that which troubleth poor creatures when they come to die but this—I have not improved my convictions; at such a time I was convinced of sin, but yet I went on in sin in the face of my convictions. My brethren, remember this: slighted convictions are the worst deathbed companions.

There are two things especially which above all others make a deathbed very uncomfortable: 1) Purposes and promises not performed; 2) Convictions slighted and not improved. When a man takes up purposes to close with Christ, and yet puts them not into execution, and whenhe is convinced of sin and duty, and yet improves not his convictions, O this will sting and wound at last.

Now, therefore, hath the Spirit of the Lord been at work in your souls? Have you ever been convinced of the evil of sin, of the misery of a naturalstate, of the insufficiency of all things under heaven to help, of the fulness and righteousness of Jesus Christ, of the necessity of resting upon him for pardon and peace, for sanctification and salvation? Have you ever been really convinced of these things? O then, as you love your own souls, as ever you hope to be saved at last and enjoy God forever, improve these convictions, and be sure you rest not in them till they rise up to a thorough close with the Lord Jesus Christ and perfect conversion. Thus shalt thou be not only almost, but altogether a Christian.

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