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