Edward Payson Archive

Selected Thoughts


Effects of Conversion


When a man stands with his back to the sun, his own shadow and the shadows of surrounding objects are before him. But when he turns towards the sun, all these shadows are behind him. It is the same in spiritual things. God is the great Sun of the universe. Compared with him, creatures are but shadows. But while men stand with their backs to God, all these shadows are before them, and engross their affections, desires and exertions. On the contrary, when they are converted, and turn to God, all these shadows are thrown behind them, and God becomes all in all, so that they can say from the heart, Whom have we in heav­en but thee? and there is none on earth that we desire besides thee.

The effect produced on a sinner who is brought from darkness into God’s marvellous light, may be illustrated in the following manner. The Scriptures teach us that angels are continually present in our world, and employed in executing the designs of God. Being spirits, they are of course invisible to mortal eyes. Hence we are unconscious of their presence, and, therefore are not affected by it. Now, suppose, — for the supposition involves no impossibility, — that God should impart to any one of our race the power of seeing these active and benevolent spirits. It is evident that this power would occasion a great change in the conduct and feelings of that man. He would see angels, where other persons could see nothing. He would be interested by the sight; he would wish to form an acquaintance with these newly-discovered beings; he would frequently speak of them, of their employments and pursuits. Of course he would no longer be like other men; he would become, in one sense, a new creature, and the angels would appear to him so much more interesting than other objects, that his attention would be much diverted. Hence he would be thought a visionary or a distract­ed man. Now, the light of divine truth does not make angels visible, but it makes the Lord of angels, the Father of spirits, in some sense, visible; it makes him, at least, a reality to the mind, or, in the language of Scripture, it enables men to feel and act as if they saw Him who is invisible. It brings God into the circle of objects by which we perceive ourselves to be surrounded; and in whatever circle he is seen, he will be seen to be the most important object in it. Now, if the sight of an­gels would effect a change in a man’s character, much more will seeing the infinite God. His favor will appear all important, his anger dreadful; all other objects will, in a measure, lose their interest, and the man will be thought deluded, or visionary, or distracted.

Suppose a man engaged in some enterprise, for the success of which he is exceedingly desirous. He is surrounded, we will suppose, by a number of persons who have it in their power, either to aid or oppose his designs. Knowing this, he will of course, make it his great object to secure their co-operation; or, at least, to induce- them not to oppose him. Now, suppose another person to be introduced into the circle around him, pos­sessed of far greater power than any or all of these united, to aid or oppose his designs. This circumstance will produce a great alteration in his views and feelings. It will now be his great object to secure the assistance of this new and more pow­erful personage; and if he can obtain this, he will neither desire the aid nor fear the opposition of others. To apply this to the case of a sinner, living without God, in the world. He desires to be happy, and, for this purpose, to obtain those worldly ob­jects which he deems necessary to happiness. He finds himself surrounded by creatures, who have power either to aid or op­pose him in procuring these objects. Of course, his principal aim is, to avoid their opposition, and secure their friendship and assistance. Now, suppose this man to begin to realize that there is a God; a being who superintends, directs, and governs all creatures and events; who can make him happy without their assistance, or render him miserable, in defiance of all their en­deavors to prevent it. Will not the introduction of such a being into the circle around him, produce a great alteration in his plans, his views, and feelings? Before this, he regarded creatures as every thing. Now, they will appear comparatively as nothing. Before, God was nothing to him. Now he will be all in all.


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