Beseech sinners to ask the Lord to enable them to believe or just to believe?

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Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Should we beseech sinners to ask the Lord to enable them to believe or just beseech sinners to believe?

Last month I received a mild critique of one of my sermons. Here is it in paraphrase:

At the end of the sermon when you were appealing to the lost you told them to "pray and ask God for a new heart" or something like that. I know what you mean by saying it, I have said it to people to probably, but Brother T-- has pointed out to our church that this isn't actually found in the scriptures. He actually said that it is a wrong conclusion from God's sovereignty. He said that in the scriptures they never say, ask the Lord to save you, they say to believe immediately.

Acts 16:31 And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."
Another example of a call to immediate response it

Acts 2:37-38
37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"
38 And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Mark 1:15 and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."

brother T-- was actually teaching us that to tell the sinner to ask God to save them, or something of that nature can give the person an excuse not to come to Christ or can hinder them from it. The sinner supposedly prays for the Lord to save them and then when he doesn't he blames the Lord for not saving them. Or they are made to feel that they have time to repent because they are waiting on the Lord to save them since they've heard it's a sovereign work of God. He was saying that we are to call people to immediate believe as we see in the new testament. To press people with their responsibility to believe immediately.

What do you think? My mind goes immediately to the man in the Gospels that says, "O Lord I believe, but help my unbelief..." Would the correct response have been to have simply said, "Well..then just believe then!"

Is there anything wrong with imploring sinners in a sermon to pray that the Lord grants them saving faith or should we just tell them then and there to believe savingly?
 

MarieP

Puritan Board Senior
Should we beseech sinners to ask the Lord to enable them to believe or just beseech sinners to believe?
My own pastor says both. Lately, he's been using the latter more. Interestingly enough, I sent him a "mild critique" (well, probably not as mild as that!) 5 years ago or so when I was in the process of being rid of some hyper-Calvinistic tendencies. I didn't like the "ask the Lord for a new heart" because I thought it was misleading. My problem was that I was separating regeneration and faith in a way the Scripture doesn't. To add to your verses, I would add "Son of David, have mercy on me" and "Have mercy on me, the sinner."

Several examples of the verbiage in line with the critique (the first combines the two!): "Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel?" (Ezekiel 18:31). "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:19).
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
The gospel in its essence is set forth by Paul in I Corinthians 15:3-4. What is central is the person and work of Christ, particularly His death, burial, and resurrection.

The exhortation that arises out of the gospel is repentance and faith: this is everywhere in evidence, especially in the apostolic preaching of the cross in Acts. We say "trust in Christ, and in Him alone," "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ," and the like, as well as "see your sin, hate your sin, turn from your sin" and the like. The reason that we say that and the like is not only because this follows the biblical pattern and points them to Christ, but also because beseeching them to "ask the Lord to enable them to believe" tends to point them to look for an experience and not to look to Christ. We are not asking people to have some religious experience; we are calling them to "come to Christ," meaning that we want them to look to Him and Him alone, not look for a particular religious experience, which what you did has the tendency to do.

The man who cried out "I believe, help my unbelief" was believing, brother, not unbelieving. What needs to be said to such a one? "Yes, we are full of unbelief, are we not? What's the remedy? Come to Him who will in no wise cast you out! Draw near to Him and He will draw near to you!" All this is to say--point him to Christ, not to himself (except insofar as you call him to repentance, which is what we are to do when we see ourselves).

What we do is preach Christ in all His merits and mediation and call men to trust in Him: we set Him forth in the all-sufficiency of His person and work and freely offer Him to all who hear. We show the warrant of faith from the free gospel offer to all who hear: why should you believe? Because He calls you to believe, because He commands you to believe, and because He does, he enables and empowers you to believe. Thus we set Him forth in all His glory and tell sinners that Christ has done everything for them from first to last and they need to flee to Him, look to Him, lean upon Him and none other.

Peace,
Alan
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
So we should simply tell people to repent and believe and not ever tell them to pray that the Lord would enable them to do so?

If they are seeking or doubting, does this still hold true or might we tell them to pray that the Lord opens their eyes and removes their unbelief?
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
I agree with Scott, Trevor: the answer lies in that thread and also somewhere like WLC 172. If one doubts, one is to be pointed to Christ. If one seeks, one is to be pointed to Christ. Not to seek some experience.

The hymn "Come Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy" well expresses the proper sentiment.

Peace,
Alan
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
As long as the sinner is called upon to believe it is proper to show him the use of prayer as a means of grace as a part of answering the doubts which arise from an inability to believe by nature.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
From William Guthrie, Christian's Great Interest:

"Therefore, for answer to the objection, I entreat thee, in the Lord's name, to lay to heart these his commandments and promises, and meditate on them, and upon that blessed business of the new covenant, and pray unto God, as you can, over them, "for he will be inquired to do these things," and lay thy cold heart to that device of God expressed in the Scripture, and unto Christ Jesus, who is given for a covenant to the people, and look to him for life and quickening. Go and endeavour to be pleased with that salvation in the way God offers it, and to close with, and rest on Christ for it, as if all were in thy power; yet looking to him for the thing, as knowing that it must come from him; and if thou do so, "he who meets those who remember him in his ways," will not be wanting on his part; and thou shalt not have ground to say, that thou movedst towards the thing until thou couldst do no more for want of strength, and so left it at God's door: it shall not fail on his part, if thou have a mind for the business; yea, I may say, if by all thou hast ever heard of that matter, thy heart loves it, and desires to be engaged with it, thou hast it already performed within thee: so that difficulty is past before thou wast aware of it."
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
Trevor:

Your OP dealt quite specifically with the question of preaching and to what we are to exhort people in preaching. You said "Should we beseech sinners to ask the Lord to enable them to believe or just beseech sinners to believe?" You put the question quite pointedly as an either/or. We are to call sinners to believe, I responded. I stand by that.

You responded by continuing to pose this as a dichotomy. I responded by noting that we call men to trust in Christ. Not to look to something else. Do I tell men, as part of what it means to come to Christ, to trust in Christ, to use the means of grace? Of course, I do; the means of grace are key in this: when I receive the preaching of the Word in faith, I draw near and come to Christ; similarly for the Supper and for prayer. Coming to the Table and praying in faith both involve trusting Christ. So, of course, I tell hearers to use the means of grace (in response to what MW is saying).

I urge hearers to pray for faith, to pray to pray when they can't pray, and so forth. I urge those coming to the Table to bewail their lack of faith and to come in faith. But none of this quite amounts to "asking God for a new heart." It all presupposes a new heart. So does seeing and lamenting one's doubt. So does seeking the Lord (otherwise, there are none who seek Him, Romans 3).

I stand resolutely by what I've said here and beseech all readers to see and think about the difference between saying to those to whom I am preaching, "Come to Christ, poor needy sinners" and "pray and ask God to give you a new heart." One is the gospel invitation and bears the warrant of the gospel. The other points you to ponder "Do I have a new heart?" That is not the pattern of apostolic preaching.

Peace,
Alan
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Dr Strange,

Thanks for your comments. I consider myself evangelistic and I would hate to think I am appealing to people in a way that puts up hindrances to the seeker or the hearer.

I do believe it is the duty of all men to pray, even unbelievers. The debate over whether God hears the prayers of unbelievers or not is a secondary issue for me since it seems clear that prayer is demanded from all.

I also believe that we are to urge unbelievers to pray for salvation, i.e., to pray for true faith and true repentance. This does not mean that I also do not urge them to exercise true faith and true repentance. In the past I have stated that "You must truly believe and truly repent" and I have sometimes added that if they think that they cannot presently do those two things, that they ought to pray that the Lord enable them to do so. I have also sometimes explained that there is nothing that keeps them from salvation except their own will and desire not to come.

Do you find anything objectionable in those statements?


You wrote:

I urge hearers to pray for faith, to pray to pray when they can't pray, and so forth. I urge those coming to the Table to bewail their lack of faith and to come in faith.
How is urging hearers to pray for faith any different than urging hearers to pray for a new heart? Why is it okay to pray for one and not the other, since to urge hearers to pray for one seems the same as to pray for the other? It sounds like my practice is very close to yours.

Also,
How are we to take Jeremiah 31:18, where Jeremiah represents penitent Ephraim as beseeching God so to prepare him that he may indeed "turn."

turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the LORD my God.
How are we to understand David's prayer in Psalm 51:

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
Would it not have been better for Jeremiah to represent Ephraim merely saying, "I'm gonna turn" or David saying, "Seeing that the desire in me for You to renew a right spirit within me is already evidence of your present working, I'm gonna get better..."
 

Don Kistler

Puritan Board Sophomore
The Puritan Thomas Goodwin, and various others, said, "If you can't go to God WITH a right heart, then go to God FOR one."
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
The Puritan Thomas Goodwin, and various others, said, "If you can't go to God WITH a right heart, then go to God FOR one."
I really like that. Do you have a citation? I have also read Gerstner a lot where he explains how Jonathan Edwards appealed to sinners.

I agree that there is an immediacy required for people to repent and believe and take no excuse for delays. I am wondering if my current practice is consistent with that immediacy or if I need to refine how I appeal to hearers.
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
Trevor:

I've always appreciated your humble servant's heart. I also appreciate your response here.

Perhaps I can answer what you've asked by tagging on to Dr. Kistler's excellent Goodwin quote, with which I fully agree: "If you can 't go to God WITH a right heart, then go to God FOR one."

I would always urge one to come to the Lord for everything, which is precisely what Goodwin is doing. He's urging us to come to Him. And if we do, He will never cast us out--only those who are His come to Him for a right heart. Similarly only those who are His can cry "make me yours, Lord." If to seek Him in this needy and helpless way is not coming to Him, I don't know what coming to Him is. One can't pray "give me a new heart" without having a heart to do so. We do believe in total inability. The one who cries out to God, comes to God. He may be full of doubt and every sort of thing, but there's no proper asking God for anything without doing so in faith.

MW often quotes Boston and if there's anyone who knew that you ought not "to let conscience make you linger, nor of fitness fondly dream" and "the only fitness He requireth is to feel your need of Him," and "if you tarry til your better, you will never come at all" it was Boston. Yes, come and seek Him for everything needed but in so doing you manifest that you are His and have all that you need in Him.

Peace,
Alan
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Trevor:

I've always appreciated your humble servant's heart. I also appreciate your response here.

Perhaps I can answer what you've asked by tagging on to Dr. Kistler's excellent Goodwin quote, with which I fully agree: "If you can 't go to God WITH a right heart, then go to God FOR one."

I would always urge one to come to the Lord for everything, which is precisely what Goodwin is doing. He's urging us to come to Him. And if we do, He will never cast us out--only those who are His come to Him for a right heart. Similarly only those who are His can cry "make me yours, Lord." If to seek Him in this needy and helpless way is not coming to Him, I don't know what coming to Him is. One can't pray "give me a new heart" without having a heart to do so. We do believe in total inability. The one who cries out to God, comes to God. He may be full of doubt and every sort of thing, but there's no proper asking God for anything without doing so in faith.

MW often quotes Boston and if there's anyone who knew that you ought not "to let conscience make you linger, nor of fitness fondly dream" and "the only fitness He requireth is to feel your need of Him," and "if you tarry til your better, you will never come at all" it was Boston. Yes, come and seek Him for everything needed but in so doing you manifest that you are His and have all that you need in Him.

Peace,
Alan
Thanks for your guidance.

You wrote that you agree fully with the quote below:

"If you can 't go to God WITH a right heart, then go to God FOR one."
This quote seems to imply to me that we are doing nothing wrong if we pray to God for a new heart or we point others to do the same in our preaching. Am I missing something here?

I do not believe that all those uttering prayers such as, "Lord, help me believe" or "Lord, give me a new heart" already, in fact, have a new heart.

Many say these things with mixed motives or in a time of great need, thus praying out of a love for self rather than a love for God (i.e., the sailor at sea who seems to pray fervently and repent, only to return to his misdeeds once good weather returns). Or some pray these things with true sincerity but have a false view of Christ as not fully God and fully man, etc. Many Arians in the past were profoundly sincere, yet most consider them to err to greatly to be saved until they repair their view of the person of Christ.

The prayer, "Lord help me to truly believe and truly repent, and help me to have true sincerity and understanding as I ask these things" seems like appropriate prayer, does it not?
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
Trevor:

Anyone praying "God give me a new heart" or the like in faith is, by such, coming to Christ and evidencing that he has a new heart. Of course, one may not only pray "Lord, help me believe" but also "Lord, I hereby come to you" and not do so in faith. Whatever one does in faith, one does as a gift of God. Whatever one does that is not in faith, and that includes teaching and/or preaching in a confessional seminary or church, is not truly coming to Christ.

Any true calling on God is efficacious. But what we don't want to do is to ask people to look for a certain experience rather than to look to Christ. "Mixed motives"--really? Do you think that any of us have pure motives? The best of us are always mixed, as we have remaining sin. I grant you that we bewail our mixed motives, as we do all of our sin, but I preach "come to Christ" not some version of "come to Christ if you are the elect," which always leaves the honest person looking to himself not Christ.

Whenever we look at ourselves--we should repent; whenever we look at Christ--we should believe. Tell people all you want to cry out to God for this--any such crying out with a believing heart involves coming to Christ. Do you believe that the one who cried out--"I believe; help my unbelief?" was believing or unbelieving. Clearly, he was believing.

Peace,
Alan
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Dr Strange:

I agree that "Anyone praying "God give me a new heart" or the like IN FAITH is, by such, coming to Christ and evidencing that he has a new heart." However, the phrase "in faith" is sometimes a hard diagnosis to make.

There are people who pray this prayer as unsaved people and still yet remain unsaved afterwards. This is due to lack of pure motives, praying outwardly but not totally believing it inwardly, possessing only a partial and temporary resolve, lack of knowing the basics of the Gospel or who Jesus is, entertaining grossly errant view of God or Jesus, etc. They do not pray this prayer "in faith" and yet believe that they have. People may even deceive themselves. They may feel moved or under conviction and pray and yet emerge out the other side of this time period to prove themselves to be apostate. These apostates may truly believe themselves to have been truly saved and may have believed themselves to have been praying in all correctness and sincerity with pure motives. Because of such, I do not yet believe that all those who pray for the new birth actually have it and I believe that it is impossible to diagnose whether such a prayer was ever prayed "in faith" or not until we come to the Final Judgment.

I agree that we ought not to do anything to point the person to a past experience, yet even the question, "Have you yet truly believed?" may do this, for it forces the hearer to consider himself and to consider whether he has ever truly, in fact, believed and repented. The new birth does, indeed, happen at a moment in time and it seems useful to make the hearer ponder as to whether such a thing has ever yet truly happened to them. Although, it is the believer's present belief that is important, not some past act. How do I fit these two things together? There are so many people who believe they are okay and yet are living under the power of sin and have never truly been converted. How do we wake them up?

I still believe it is appropriate for all those interested in the Gospel (whether such an interest is born out of a converted heart or not) to pray, "Lord, save me" or "Lord, grant me saving faith" or "Lord, help me to believe." I am having trouble understanding how such a prayer could be deficient in any way, except that it might remove the immediacy required...and yet, I recognize that some people who hear the Gospel are not yet ready/willing to believe but are curious. I even believe that some hearers may like and want to believe the Gospel and are enamored by it, and yet are not yet saved ("That is a beautiful story....it is moving...I just wish it were true....I wish I could believe in it. if it is true, Lord, I want to believe it!"). Do you acknowledge that such scenarios might exist?

I believe I was saved at 18, yet for several months prior to that point of true conversion, I began to understand the Gospel and wished that it was true even when I doubted whether it was or not. "This is a wonderful story...if only I could believe that it were true!" was often my sentiment.
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
Dr Strange:

I agree that "Anyone praying "God give me a new heart" or the like IN FAITH is, by such, coming to Christ and evidencing that he has a new heart." However, the phrase "in faith" is sometimes a hard diagnosis to make.

There are people who pray this prayer as unsaved people and still yet remain unsaved afterwards. This is due to lack of pure motives, praying outwardly but not totally believing it inwardly, possessing only a partial and temporary resolve, lack of knowing the basics of the Gospel or who Jesus is, entertaining grossly errant view of God or Jesus, etc. They do not pray this prayer "in faith" and yet believe that they have. People may even deceive themselves. They may feel moved or under conviction and pray and yet emerge out the other side of this time period to prove themselves to be apostate. These apostates may truly believe themselves to have been truly saved and may have believed themselves to have been praying in all correctness and sincerity with pure motives. Because of such, I do not yet believe that all those who pray for the new birth actually have it and I believe that it is impossible to diagnose whether such a prayer was ever prayed "in faith" or not until we come to the Final Judgment.

I agree that we ought not to do anything to point the person to a past experience, yet even the question, "Have you yet truly believed?" may do this, for it forces the hearer to consider himself and to consider whether he has ever truly, in fact, believed and repented. The new birth does, indeed, happen at a moment in time and it seems useful to make the hearer ponder as to whether such a thing has ever yet truly happened to them. Although, it is the believer's present belief that is important, not some past act. How do I fit these two things together? There are so many people who believe they are okay and yet are living under the power of sin and have never truly been converted. How do we wake them up?

I still believe it is appropriate for all those interested in the Gospel (whether such an interest is born out of a converted heart or not) to pray, "Lord, save me" or "Lord, grant me saving faith" or "Lord, help me to believe." I am having trouble understanding how such a prayer could be deficient in any way, except that it might remove the immediacy required...and yet, I recognize that some people who hear the Gospel are not yet ready/willing to believe but are curious. I even believe that some hearers may like and want to believe the Gospel and are enamored by it, and yet are not yet saved ("That is a beautiful story....it is moving...I just wish it were true....I wish I could believe in it. if it is true, Lord, I want to believe it!"). Do you acknowledge that such scenarios might exist?

I believe I was saved at 18, yet for several months prior to that point of true conversion, I began to understand the Gospel and wished that it was true even when I doubted whether it was or not. "This is a wonderful story...if only I could believe that it were true!" was often my sentiment.
I began to understand the Gospel
Is it possible that you were regenerated at this point, but not converted? A man cannot *understand* things of the kingdom outside of regeneration.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Scott,

I believe that the Spirit often does some "ploughing work" before that seed is planted. The Spirit draws people, and some conversions are the result of many years of such slow drawing. Many folks begin to apprehend some of the things of God prior to conversion. I believe that a man can, indeed, understand some of the things of the kingdom outside of regeneration.
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
I believe I was saved at 18, yet for several months prior to that point of true conversion, I began to understand the Gospel and wished that it was true even when I doubted whether it was or not. "This is a wonderful story...if only I could believe that it were true!" was often my sentiment.
That is quite similar to my story, Trevor. What I've since come to see is that I have no clear way of knowing precisely when I believed in that time period. I do know when I first came to an assurance that Christ died for me. But that's not to say that I was not already in the exercise of faith. We can be in the exercise of faith and not know that we are in the excercise of faith. That's just what our Confession says: it does not identify believing with believing that I believe.

Yes, in some sense, as the continental Reformed say, true faith involves a confidence in Christ, which is part of trust; yet such does not necessarily involve my self-awareness of faith. I would challenge you as to your certain knowledge of when your "true conversion" occurred. You came to trust in Christ somewhere in there, though your coming to see that you were believing was not necessarily co-terminous with that.

You note that that whether someone is truly in the exercise of faith is sometimes a "hard diagnosis." Right, this is why we engage in what's called "the judgment of charity." If someone professes to trust in the person and work of Christ, and evidences the understanding requisite for active faith in Christ as well as a life that seeks to serve the Lord, we do not try to diagnose that too closely but accept such, recognizing, as you say, that we rest all this in His hands until the Judgment Day. We even preach the evidences of true saving faith so that persons can be challenged to make sure that they truly trust in Christ, while being careful not to break bruised reeds or quench smoking flax.

Edwards was renown for not looking for a certain narrative of grace (he admitted that he did not have the kind of conversion that many in "Old and New England did") but for teaching that "Charity and Its Fruits" was the chief evidence of saving grace.What this means is that "love to God and to neighbor" is the chief evidence of saving faith. This cuts us all to the quick, doesn't it, because the best of us (whoever that is) little evidence such. Plenty claim all sorts of conversion experiences and the like but the thing is love of God and neighbor (as far as evidences are concerned). You might find this article on Edwards interesting with regards to that: http://www.midamerica.edu/uploads/files/pdf/journal/14-strange.pdf.

Peace,
Alan
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
Scott,

I believe that the Spirit often does some "ploughing work" before that seed is planted. The Spirit draws people, and some conversions are the result of many years of such slow drawing. Many folks begin to apprehend some of the things of God prior to conversion. I believe that a man can, indeed, understand some of the things of the kingdom outside of regeneration.
Trevor,
Christ said that unless a man be born from above, he cannot 'see' the kingdom of God'. I have no references biblically where I can support a 'ploughing' that you describe; as mentioned, if there is 'ploughing', it is secondary to regeneration only. God does not plow ground He will not ultimately use, hence all of the regenerate will be converted.

Spiritual things cannot be perceived by the unspiritual. Until a man be regenerated, it is mental gymnastics alone. As far as drawing goes, I believe the word used in John 6:44 and Acts 16:19 and James 2:6 use the same greek word. If I am not mistaken, in classical greek renderings it is used to describe the tugging of water from a deep well, which is not without a great effort.

Food for thought...
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
"Puritan Evangelism" by Dr. J. I. Packer

"The Puritans taught that, as a general rule, conviction of sin, induced by, the preaching of the Law, must precede faith, since no man will or can come to Christ to be saved from sin till he knows what sins he needs saving from. It is a distinctive feature of the Puritan doctrine of conversion that this point, the need for “preparation” for faith, is so stressed. Man’s first step toward conversion must be some knowledge, of God, of himself, of his duty and of his sin. The second step is conviction, both of sinfulness and of particular sins; and the wise minister, dealing with enquirers at this stage, will try to deepen conviction and make it specific, since true and sound conviction of sin is always to a greater or less degree particularised. This leads to contrition (sorrow for and hatred of sin), which begins to burn the love of sinning out of the heart and leads to real, though as yet ineffective, attempts to break off the practice of sin in the life. Meanwhile, the wise minister, seeing that the fallow ground is now ploughed up, urges the sinner to turn to Christ. This is the right advice to give to a man who has shown that with all his heart he desires to be saved from sin; for when a man wants to be saved from sin, then it is possible for him genuinely and sincerely to receive the One who presents Himself to man as the Saviour from sin. But it is not possible otherwise; and therefore the Puritans over and over again beg ministers not to short-circuit the essential preparatory process. They must not give false encouragement to those in whom the Law has not yet done its work. It is the worst advice possible to tell a man to stop worrying about his sins and trust Christ at once if he does not yet know his sins and does not yet desire to leave them. That is the way to encourage false peace and false hopes, and to produce “gospel- hypocrites.” Throughout the whole process of preparation, from the first awakening of concern to the ultimate dawning of faith, however, the sovereignty of God must be recognised. God converts no adult without preparing him; but “God breaketh not all men’s hearts alike” (Baxter). Some conversions, as Goodwin said, are sudden; the preparation is done in a moment. Some are long-drawn-out affairs; years may pass before the seeker finds Christ and peace, as in Bunyan’s case. Sometimes great sinners experience “great meltings” (Giles Firmin) at the outset of the work of grace, while upright persons spend long periods in agonies of guilt and terror. No rule can be given as to how long, or how intensely, God will flay each sinner with the lash of conviction. Thus the work of effectual calling proceeds as fast, or as slow, as God wills; and the minister’s part is that of the midwife, whose task it is to see what is happening and give appropriate help at each stage, but who cannot foretell, let alone fix, how rapid the process of birth will be.

From these principles the Puritans deduced their characteristic conception of the practice of evangelism. Since God enlightens, convicts, humbles and converts through the the Word, the task of His messengers is to communicate that word, preaching and applying law and gospel. Preachers are to declare God’s mind as set forth in the texts they expound, to show the way of salvation, to exhort the unconverted to learn the law, to meditate on the Word, to humble themselves, to pray that God will show them their sins, and enable them to come to Christ. They are to hold Christ forth as a perfect Saviour from sin to all who Heartily desire to be saved from sin, and to invite such (the weary and burdened souls whom Christ Himself invites, Mt. 11:28) to come to the Saviour who waits to receive them.

The Puritans did not use “conversion” and “regeneration” as technical terms, and so there are slight variations in usage. Perhaps the majority treated the words as synonyms, each denoting the whole process whereby God brings the sinner to his first act of faith. Their technical term for the process was effectual calling; calling being the Scriptural word used to describe the process in Rom. 8:30, 2 Th. 2:14, 2 Tim. 1:9, etc., and the adjective effectual being added to distinguish it from the ineffectual, external calling mentioned in Mt. 20:16, 22:14."
Also, here is a link to Gerstner's book on Jonathan Edwards the evangelist:

Jonathan Edwards, Evangelist (John Gerstner (1914-1996)): John H. Gerstner, John H. Grestner: 9781573580069: Amazon.com: Books

This book was originally published by Westminster Press in 1960 under the title Steps to Salvation: The Evangelistic Message of Jonathan Edwards. Dr. Gerstner said that it is the most extensive treatment anywhere on the Puritan doctrine on seeking, or preparation for salvation, as it explores Jonathan Edwards' evangelistic method.
It seems that "awakening" or conviction of sin often occurs prior (and sometimes for a protracted period) prior to the conversion of some people. As such, it is appropriate to speak of some people as "awakened sinners" or "inquirers" that the Lord may be dealing with and drawing them to salvation. It is not necessary to assume that all of these must be considered already born again to gain such an interest or curiosity.
 

Ask Mr. Religion

Flatly Unflappable
It is not necessary to assume that all of these must be considered already born again to gain such an interest or curiosity.
How do you reconcile this with the plain teachings of Scripture, in that the lost...

- is deceitful and desperately sick (Jer. 17:9);
- is full of evil (Mark 7:21-23);
- loves darkness rather than light (John 3:19);
- is unrighteous, does not understand, does not seek for God (Rom. 3:10-12);
- is helpless and ungodly (Rom. 5:6);
- is dead in his trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1);
- is by nature a child of wrath (Eph. 2:3);
- cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14); and
- is a slave of sin (Rom. 6:16-20).
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
This link also contains many quotes on a sinner's preconversion experience of conviction:

Quotes about Conviction | Puritan Paperbacks & Reformed Quotes

This bruising is required before conversion that so the Spirit may make way for himself into the heart by leveling all proud, high thoughts, and that we may understand ourselves to be what indeed we are by nature. We love to wander from ourselves and to be strangers at home, till God bruises us by one cross or other, and then we `begin to think’, and come home to ourselves with the prodigal (Luke 15:17). It is a very hard thing to bring a dull and an evasive heart to cry with feeling for mercy. Our hearts, like criminals, until they be beaten from all evasions, never cry for the mercy of the judge.
Again, this bruising makes us set a high price upon Christ. Then the gospel becomes the gospel indeed; then the fig leaves of morality will do us no good. And it makes us more thankful, and, from thankfulness, more fruitful in our lives; for what makes many so cold and barren, but that bruising for sin never endeared God’s grace to them?
Likewise this dealing of God establishes us the more in his ways, having had knocks and bruisings in our own ways. This is often the cause of relapses and apostasy, because men never smarted for sin at the first; they were not long enough under the lash of the law. Hence this inferior work of the Spirit in bringing down high thoughts (2 Cor. 10:5) is necessary before conversion. And, for the most part, the Holy Spirit, to further the work of conviction, joins with it some affliction, which, when sanctified, has a healing and purging power. ~ The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes


Also of interest is this article by Dr. William Young entitled "Conversion" (Fall 1993, PRC Magazine)

Preparation for Conversion

By Dr. William Young


"The confessional declaration that the natural man is not able, by his own strength, to prepare himself for conversion has been taken by some to exclude any preparation for conversion. A careful reading of the Confession, however, will show that this inference is unwarranted. That a man cannot prepare himself for conversion certainly does not imply that God, with whom all things are possible, cannot by his common grace prepare an elect person for conversion while that person is yet in a state of nature. It does not even mean that an unconverted person may not perform duties, with the help of God, which may, in the course of providence be preparatory to his conversion. A failure to recognize this may be due to a one-sided preoccupation with the important truth of the radical difference in the state of a sinner before and after the great change.

One contributing factor in this mistake is a confusion of conversion with regeneration. A person is either spiritually dead or alive. There is no intermediate state here, but only an instantaneous change. Conversion, however, may be a process with distinguishable stages, and in a sense may admit of repetition, which is not the case with regeneration. The Apostle Peter was no doubt a converted person when the Lord said to him, “When thou art converted strengthen the brethren.” Luke 22:32. Among Reformed theologians, Maccovius (1588-1644) in his controversy with Amesius (1576-1633)[26] denied preparations to regeneration as being inconsistent with total depravity. More commonly, Calvinistic writers, and especially the Presbyterians and Puritans, have agreed with Amesius. Frequently today one hears loud repudiation of what is called “preparationism” by poorly informed Evangelicals who often fail to make the most elementary distinctions in connection with the subject. Among writers that have recognized the fact of preparations, there have been diverse views expressed, while there is basic agreement in doctrine and practice.

Samuel Rutherford has discussed the question in minute detail (see pp. 275-301 of Christ Dying and Drawing Sinners to Himself, 1803 edition). Negatively, preparations are not the improvement of our natural abilities with a certain issue in conversion: even if “wrought in us by the common and restraining grace of God” they cannot produce our conversion. All such humiliation and displeasure with sin cannot please God and “can be no formal parts of conversion.” They are not moral preparation with any promise of Christ annexed to them. These antecedents to conversion do not detract from the omnipotency of free grace. One may be not far from the kingdom of God, (Mark 12:34), and yet not enter in. Protestant divines do not “make true repentance a work of the law going before faith in Christ.” Rutherford is especially concerned to defend preparations against Antinomian objections, particularly those of the Saltmarsh. Several pages of controversy are followed by a more positive exposition in which a number of interesting observations are made. First, a distinction is made as to whether one’s reason for believing is that one is a needy sinner or because one is fitted for mercy and humbled. The way of humiliation is sweetly subordinate to free pardon. Examples are given from Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, from Paul’s conversion and the argument in Romans 3. Rutherford summarizes in characteristic fashion: “Preparations are penal, to subdue; not moral to deserve a merit; nor conditional to engage Christ to convert, but to facilitate conversion.” (p. 297)

Rutherford grants that in regard of time sinners cannot come too soon to Christ, but adds “in regard of order many come too soon, and unprepared.”

A distinctive representation of preparation to conversion is found in the works of the 17th century New England Puritans. The sermons of Thomas Shepard and Thomas Hooker abound in minute descriptions of the stages of the experience of the awakened sinner prior to conversion. Detailed directions are given to those who are burdened with a sense of sin, including warning against “catching at Christ” prematurely and resting in the carnal security of the evangelical hypocrite.

The most important account of conversion in colonial New England theology is that of Jonathan Edwards, whose extensive experience of conversion in the Great Awakening is reflected in his balanced treatment of the subject. In his masterpiece on The Religious Affections, Part 2, Sec. 8, he argues for the necessity of preparation, while cautioning against misconceptions. After an exhaustive consideration of Scripture instances, he concludes: “If it be indeed God’s manner, (and I think the foregoing considerations show that it undoubtedly is) before he grants men the comfort of deliverance from their sin and misery, to give them a considerable sense of the greatness and dreadfulness of those evils, and their extreme wretchedness by reason of them; surely it is not unreasonable to suppose, that persons, at least oftentimes, while under these views, should have great distress and terrible apprehensions of mind.”

On the other hand, in agreement with Thomas Shepard, Edwards states: “It is no evidence that comforts and joys are right, because they succeed great terrors, and amazing fears of hell.” In a footnote he observes: “Mr, Stoddard, who had much experience of things of this nature, long ago observed that converted and unconverted men cannot be certainly distinguished by the account they give of their experience; the same relation of experiences being common to both.” Edwards, like Norton, also points out, “nothing proves it to be necessary, that all those things which are implied or presupposed in an act of faith in Christ, must be plainly and distinctly wrought in the soul, in so many successive and distinct works of the Spirit, that shall be each one manifest, in all who are truly converted.” Although Shepard is repeatedly cited with approval, yet Edwards appears to propose a correction to prevalent views, when he writes: “Nor does the Spirit of God proceed discernable in the steps of a particular established scheme, one half so often as is imagined.” Edward’s concluding remark is worthy of serious consideration:

“Many greatly err in their notions of a clear work of conversion; calling that a clear work, where the successive steps of influence and method of experience is clear; whereas that indeed is the clearest work, (not where the order of doing is clearest, but) where the spiritual and divine nature of the work done, and effect wrought, is most clear.” The study of Edward’s writings on the Great Awakening will prove rewarding, but especially the careful discrimination between the saving work of God’s spirit and all else, so admirably set forth in the Treatise Concerning Religious Affections. In similar fashion, Thomas Boston in Human Nature in Its Fourfold State describes minutely twelve stages in the breaking off of a branch from its natural stock. Yet he observes that he does not desire to rack or distress tender-consciences, of whom he found but few in his day. He explains: “But this I assert as a certain truth, that all who are in Christ have been broken off from these several confidences; and that those who were never broken off from them, are yet in their natural stock. Nevertheless, if the house be pulled down, and the old foundation razed, it is much the same, whether it was taken down stone by stone, or whether it was undermined, and all fell down together.” (Part 3, Head 2., p. 190 Sovereign Grace Book Club ed.)[28].

Common to the doctrine of these and many other Reformed writers is the recognition of the fact that God’s ordinary method is to prepare his elect for conversion, employing the law and the gospel to produce conviction of sin and an enlightenment of the mind to see the way of salvation in Christ. This preparatory work is common to those who are eventually converted and others who are not. It neither merits salvation not guarantees conversion, but is ordinarily an antecedent to it. God’s sovereignty in the methods he uses in performing this work is acknowledged, while due emphasis is placed upon the work performed. To overlook or minimize the importance of preparation for conversion is to encourage superficial views and practices with respect to the translation of a sinner from darkness to God’s marvelous light. A solid foundation in conviction is indispensable to a sound and lasting conversion."
Here is John Owen, in his third volume of Works (the section, "Works of the Holy Spirit Preparatory Unto Regeneration").

Ordinarily there are certain previous and preparatory works, or workings in and upon the souls of men, that are antecedent and dispositive unto it [i.e. regeneration]. But yet regeneration doth not consist in them, nor can it be educed out of them.
John Owen, Works, vol. 3 (Edinburgh: Banner, repr. 1966), p. 229
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
This link also contains many quotes on a sinner's preconversion experience of conviction:

Quotes about Conviction | Puritan Paperbacks & Reformed Quotes

This bruising is required before conversion that so the Spirit may make way for himself into the heart by leveling all proud, high thoughts, and that we may understand ourselves to be what indeed we are by nature. We love to wander from ourselves and to be strangers at home, till God bruises us by one cross or other, and then we `begin to think’, and come home to ourselves with the prodigal (Luke 15:17). It is a very hard thing to bring a dull and an evasive heart to cry with feeling for mercy. Our hearts, like criminals, until they be beaten from all evasions, never cry for the mercy of the judge.
Again, this bruising makes us set a high price upon Christ. Then the gospel becomes the gospel indeed; then the fig leaves of morality will do us no good. And it makes us more thankful, and, from thankfulness, more fruitful in our lives; for what makes many so cold and barren, but that bruising for sin never endeared God’s grace to them?
Likewise this dealing of God establishes us the more in his ways, having had knocks and bruisings in our own ways. This is often the cause of relapses and apostasy, because men never smarted for sin at the first; they were not long enough under the lash of the law. Hence this inferior work of the Spirit in bringing down high thoughts (2 Cor. 10:5) is necessary before conversion. And, for the most part, the Holy Spirit, to further the work of conviction, joins with it some affliction, which, when sanctified, has a healing and purging power. ~ The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes


Also of interest is this article by Dr. William Young entitled "Conversion" (Fall 1993, PRC Magazine)

Preparation for Conversion

By Dr. William Young


"The confessional declaration that the natural man is not able, by his own strength, to prepare himself for conversion has been taken by some to exclude any preparation for conversion. A careful reading of the Confession, however, will show that this inference is unwarranted. That a man cannot prepare himself for conversion certainly does not imply that God, with whom all things are possible, cannot by his common grace prepare an elect person for conversion while that person is yet in a state of nature. It does not even mean that an unconverted person may not perform duties, with the help of God, which may, in the course of providence be preparatory to his conversion. A failure to recognize this may be due to a one-sided preoccupation with the important truth of the radical difference in the state of a sinner before and after the great change.

One contributing factor in this mistake is a confusion of conversion with regeneration. A person is either spiritually dead or alive. There is no intermediate state here, but only an instantaneous change. Conversion, however, may be a process with distinguishable stages, and in a sense may admit of repetition, which is not the case with regeneration. The Apostle Peter was no doubt a converted person when the Lord said to him, “When thou art converted strengthen the brethren.” Luke 22:32. Among Reformed theologians, Maccovius (1588-1644) in his controversy with Amesius (1576-1633)[26] denied preparations to regeneration as being inconsistent with total depravity. More commonly, Calvinistic writers, and especially the Presbyterians and Puritans, have agreed with Amesius. Frequently today one hears loud repudiation of what is called “preparationism” by poorly informed Evangelicals who often fail to make the most elementary distinctions in connection with the subject. Among writers that have recognized the fact of preparations, there have been diverse views expressed, while there is basic agreement in doctrine and practice.

Samuel Rutherford has discussed the question in minute detail (see pp. 275-301 of Christ Dying and Drawing Sinners to Himself, 1803 edition). Negatively, preparations are not the improvement of our natural abilities with a certain issue in conversion: even if “wrought in us by the common and restraining grace of God” they cannot produce our conversion. All such humiliation and displeasure with sin cannot please God and “can be no formal parts of conversion.” They are not moral preparation with any promise of Christ annexed to them. These antecedents to conversion do not detract from the omnipotency of free grace. One may be not far from the kingdom of God, (Mark 12:34), and yet not enter in. Protestant divines do not “make true repentance a work of the law going before faith in Christ.” Rutherford is especially concerned to defend preparations against Antinomian objections, particularly those of the Saltmarsh. Several pages of controversy are followed by a more positive exposition in which a number of interesting observations are made. First, a distinction is made as to whether one’s reason for believing is that one is a needy sinner or because one is fitted for mercy and humbled. The way of humiliation is sweetly subordinate to free pardon. Examples are given from Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, from Paul’s conversion and the argument in Romans 3. Rutherford summarizes in characteristic fashion: “Preparations are penal, to subdue; not moral to deserve a merit; nor conditional to engage Christ to convert, but to facilitate conversion.” (p. 297)

Rutherford grants that in regard of time sinners cannot come too soon to Christ, but adds “in regard of order many come too soon, and unprepared.”

A distinctive representation of preparation to conversion is found in the works of the 17th century New England Puritans. The sermons of Thomas Shepard and Thomas Hooker abound in minute descriptions of the stages of the experience of the awakened sinner prior to conversion. Detailed directions are given to those who are burdened with a sense of sin, including warning against “catching at Christ” prematurely and resting in the carnal security of the evangelical hypocrite.

The most important account of conversion in colonial New England theology is that of Jonathan Edwards, whose extensive experience of conversion in the Great Awakening is reflected in his balanced treatment of the subject. In his masterpiece on The Religious Affections, Part 2, Sec. 8, he argues for the necessity of preparation, while cautioning against misconceptions. After an exhaustive consideration of Scripture instances, he concludes: “If it be indeed God’s manner, (and I think the foregoing considerations show that it undoubtedly is) before he grants men the comfort of deliverance from their sin and misery, to give them a considerable sense of the greatness and dreadfulness of those evils, and their extreme wretchedness by reason of them; surely it is not unreasonable to suppose, that persons, at least oftentimes, while under these views, should have great distress and terrible apprehensions of mind.”

On the other hand, in agreement with Thomas Shepard, Edwards states: “It is no evidence that comforts and joys are right, because they succeed great terrors, and amazing fears of hell.” In a footnote he observes: “Mr, Stoddard, who had much experience of things of this nature, long ago observed that converted and unconverted men cannot be certainly distinguished by the account they give of their experience; the same relation of experiences being common to both.” Edwards, like Norton, also points out, “nothing proves it to be necessary, that all those things which are implied or presupposed in an act of faith in Christ, must be plainly and distinctly wrought in the soul, in so many successive and distinct works of the Spirit, that shall be each one manifest, in all who are truly converted.” Although Shepard is repeatedly cited with approval, yet Edwards appears to propose a correction to prevalent views, when he writes: “Nor does the Spirit of God proceed discernable in the steps of a particular established scheme, one half so often as is imagined.” Edward’s concluding remark is worthy of serious consideration:

“Many greatly err in their notions of a clear work of conversion; calling that a clear work, where the successive steps of influence and method of experience is clear; whereas that indeed is the clearest work, (not where the order of doing is clearest, but) where the spiritual and divine nature of the work done, and effect wrought, is most clear.” The study of Edward’s writings on the Great Awakening will prove rewarding, but especially the careful discrimination between the saving work of God’s spirit and all else, so admirably set forth in the Treatise Concerning Religious Affections. In similar fashion, Thomas Boston in Human Nature in Its Fourfold State describes minutely twelve stages in the breaking off of a branch from its natural stock. Yet he observes that he does not desire to rack or distress tender-consciences, of whom he found but few in his day. He explains: “But this I assert as a certain truth, that all who are in Christ have been broken off from these several confidences; and that those who were never broken off from them, are yet in their natural stock. Nevertheless, if the house be pulled down, and the old foundation razed, it is much the same, whether it was taken down stone by stone, or whether it was undermined, and all fell down together.” (Part 3, Head 2., p. 190 Sovereign Grace Book Club ed.)[28].

Common to the doctrine of these and many other Reformed writers is the recognition of the fact that God’s ordinary method is to prepare his elect for conversion, employing the law and the gospel to produce conviction of sin and an enlightenment of the mind to see the way of salvation in Christ. This preparatory work is common to those who are eventually converted and others who are not. It neither merits salvation not guarantees conversion, but is ordinarily an antecedent to it. God’s sovereignty in the methods he uses in performing this work is acknowledged, while due emphasis is placed upon the work performed. To overlook or minimize the importance of preparation for conversion is to encourage superficial views and practices with respect to the translation of a sinner from darkness to God’s marvelous light. A solid foundation in conviction is indispensable to a sound and lasting conversion."
Here is John Owen, in his third volume of Works (the section, "Works of the Holy Spirit Preparatory Unto Regeneration").

Ordinarily there are certain previous and preparatory works, or workings in and upon the souls of men, that are antecedent and dispositive unto it [i.e. regeneration]. But yet regeneration doth not consist in them, nor can it be educed out of them.
John Owen, Works, vol. 3 (Edinburgh: Banner, repr. 1966), p. 229
Trevor,
in my opinion, one must consider the order in relation to this subject. The distinction, if not considered can cause one to misinterpret what the men you quote are saying. For instance, many use the terms 'regeneration' and 'conversion' interchangeably. I have been guilty of this at times. When discussing this subject however, it must be considered. For instance:

That a man cannot prepare himself for conversion certainly does not imply that God, with whom all things are possible, cannot by his common grace prepare an elect person for conversion while that person is yet in a state of nature.
Do the scriptures show us this? John 3 tells us no. 1 Cor 1:18 tells us that the gospel is 'foolishness' too them who are not regenerate. 1 Cor 1 tells us that God uses 'foolishness', but not in the way you intend. If man is yet unconverted, is he at enmity w/ God? In the compound sense, he may be elect; in the divided, he remains an enemy. Did God use the torment of Paul's persecution of believers in the regeneration and conversion of Paul? Well, yea in his witness after his conversion; but prior to that, it played no part in the decree to regenerate and convert Paul on that Damascus road. I believe Young is speaking about regeneration vs conversion specifically. This is why, in my personal walk, I have struggled when men tell me that the order is not chronological; in some instances, it can be. For example, a child regenerated in the womb......
 

RPEphesian

Puritan Board Junior
Should we beseech sinners to ask the Lord to enable them to believe or just beseech sinners to believe?

Last month I received a mild critique of one of my sermons. Here is it in paraphrase:

At the end of the sermon when you were appealing to the lost you told them to "pray and ask God for a new heart" or something like that. I know what you mean by saying it, I have said it to people to probably, but Brother T-- has pointed out to our church that this isn't actually found in the scriptures. He actually said that it is a wrong conclusion from God's sovereignty. He said that in the scriptures they never say, ask the Lord to save you, they say to believe immediately.

Acts 16:31 And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."
Another example of a call to immediate response it

Acts 2:37-38
37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"
38 And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Mark 1:15 and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."

brother T-- was actually teaching us that to tell the sinner to ask God to save them, or something of that nature can give the person an excuse not to come to Christ or can hinder them from it. The sinner supposedly prays for the Lord to save them and then when he doesn't he blames the Lord for not saving them. Or they are made to feel that they have time to repent because they are waiting on the Lord to save them since they've heard it's a sovereign work of God. He was saying that we are to call people to immediate believe as we see in the new testament. To press people with their responsibility to believe immediately.

What do you think? My mind goes immediately to the man in the Gospels that says, "O Lord I believe, but help my unbelief..." Would the correct response have been to have simply said, "Well..then just believe then!"

Is there anything wrong with imploring sinners in a sermon to pray that the Lord grants them saving faith or should we just tell them then and there to believe savingly?
It seems that "awakening" or conviction of sin often occurs prior (and sometimes for a protracted period) prior to the conversion of some people. As such, it is appropriate to speak of some people as "awakened sinners" or "inquirers" that the Lord may be dealing with and drawing them to salvation. It is not necessary to assume that all of these must be considered already born again to gain such an interest or curiosity.
This is a subject that's been on my mind a lot in the past few months because I know the church you attended and I heard some messages preached by "Brother T--" on this matter.

As I thought on the comments made in his messages I've come to agree more. John 3:18 says, "He who believes is not condemned; he who believes not is condemned already." As long as a sinner is not believing and repenting they are living in sin whether or not God has given them a new heart; therefore they are to flee immediately to Christ. The stage of "seeking" is not a safe one, assuming the one labeled a seeker is not converted yet, but the wrath of God abides on them.

I do believe God uses preparatory work. He did it with me. He did it with the crowds in Acts 2 who murdered Christ by convicting them with the law first before the way of salvation was opened to them.

However, knowledge of the Puritan doctrine of preparation for grace is dangerous if it gets in the wrong hands. What often happens is an awakened sinner or Christian lacking assurance gets hold of the Puritan teachings on preparation and they interpret them as steps they need to take before they may trust on Christ. They say "I haven't had the John Bunyan style conversion" or "I never felt like I was living in hell above ground", and so their efforts turn into getting this experience. And when they find that their conviction of sin is small, their repentance isn't as deep as others (or they don't see any), that there is still pride in their hearts, or they haven't wept enough they conclude they are not saved. They then focus their efforts on trying to exercise those graces so God might reward them with salvation. They try to increase their sincerity, resignation to God's sovereignty, humility, etc. They catch at everything but the finished work of Christ. If they would look to Christ they would be saved immediately, yet that's the one thing they are not doing.

I wonder if the seeker's praying for a new heart is similar. It's not that they trust Christ, but they trust the new heart. "Well, these graces of resignation, humility and sincerity come with a new heart; so if I get the new heart I will have grounds to trust Christ!" But until they look to Christ, regardless what they see in their hearts, they are not safe.
 

Pilgrim

Puritan Board Doctor
If I'm not mistaken, it was "just beseeching sinners to believe" that got Mr. Spurgeon into trouble with the hyper-Calvinists.
 
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