Can You Remember the Time of Your Conversion?

But lest any poor soul should be discouraged under the display of this providence [in conversion], because he cannot remember the time, place, instruments, and manner, wherein and by which his conversion was wrought; I will therefore premise this necessary distinction, to prevent injury to some, whilst I design benefit to others.

Conversion, as to the subjects of it, may be considered two ways; either as it is more sensibly wrought in persons of riper years, who in their youthful days were more profane and vile; or in persons in their tender years, into whose hearts grace was more insensibly and indiscernibly instilled, by God’s blessing upon pious education. In the former sort, the distinct acts of the Spirit, as illuminating, convincing, humbling, drawing them to Christ, and sealing them, are more evident and discernible; in the latter, 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. However, if the work is savingly wrought in them, there is no reason that 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 inevidence of such circumstances.

But yet where the circumstances as well as substance are clear to a man, when we can call to remembrance the time when, the place where, the instrument by whom the work was wrought, the recollection must needs be exceedingly sweet, and cannot but yield a fresh delight to the soul every time it is reflected on. — John Flavel, The Mystery of Providence


3 Replies to “Can You Remember the Time of Your Conversion?”

  1. If only I’d had this when I had to answer the question: “When were you saved?” on my graduate school application!

    But, in all seriousness, the emphasis that is put on a conversion experience by the general evangelical culture is very great. So great, in fact, that it is easy to lose sight of the evidences of a conversion, as Flavel points out. This was an encouraging post. Thanks, Wes!

  2. There’s place in my past (a stormy evening in June 1998) that I regarded for a long time as the point when my conversion occurred. But as time went on, I came to recognize more and more that God was at work for years upon years before then laying down groundwork in my salvation. It ends up being a rich tapestry and a lifetime of memories that are so organically interconnected that it become impossible to put my finger on some moment in time. Perhaps it’s just inadvisable to do so, and it’s better to recognize covenant succession and nurture. I look back on that stormy evening in June 1998 and find it to be more aptly described as a moment of spiritual crisis—one of many instances of death and resurrection in a life lived.

    To paraphrase a bit, as best as I can remember it: “It doesn’t matter what time the sun rose in the morning now that it’s midday, and the sun is shining brightly.” – Doug Wilson

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