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Become a Christian
(The First Step)
It was a time of revival in college. A young man had left the breakfast-hall, and stood upon the steps of the building, gazing thoughtfully on the scene before him. It was early in summer; the college grounds were covered with their richest verdure, and the leafy tresses of the overshadowing elms hung motionless in the balmy atmosphere. One by one the students were passing to their rooms, exclaiming with each other here and there a morning greeting, but mostly silent, as if feeling the awe of an invisible presence resting upon all hearts.
The person spoken of was struck with this peculiar aspect of stillness and solemnity. For several weeks the Spirit of God had been working there, and already not a few souls had found peace in believing. Many others were deeply impressed; some seeking to resist their convictions by affected levity, others borne down by them as by an insupportable burden. Every recitation showed how far the lessons were from having the first place in the thoughts; every hour of morning and evening prayer witnessed countenances bright with new-born hope, or downcast under the gloom and anguish of conscious sinfulness.
Young “S.” had been trained by pious parents, and was irreproachable in principles and habits. But he was not a Christian. The visible solemnity which rested upon the college excited his attention, and pressed that fact with unwonted force upon his heart. The thought of the venerated father and saintly mother, who, he knew, prayed for him daily with unutterable desire, rushed as never before upon his mind. Suddenly the inquiry sprung up within him, "Why should not I be a Christian too? Often have I promised myself that in the next revival I would attend to this subject. Is not this the time? Why not now?"
He descended the steps of the breakfast hall, and slowly sauntered to his room. The inquiry rung in his ear; Why not? He entered his room, and seated himself for study. But he hesitated. A silent voice within disquieted him; the thought of God, of eternity, of his own guilt and need of salvation, pressed upon him with unwonted force, and urged him to defer the momentous decision no longer.
"What," thought he at length, "is it to be a Christian? How shall I begin?"
"To be a Christian," he said, "is to love God, and to live to please Him. This I know I have not done. I have been a diligent student; but it was because I was interested in my studies, and was ambitious to excel. I have come to college in hope of fitting myself for distinction in life. Alas! I have not thought of God in all this; I have not cared to please Him; I have not asked His will. This was all wrong. Of course, therefore, if I would be a Christian, I must entirely change my life in this respect. I must begin to act as God would have me; I must begin by doing the first thing I have to do, to please him. This lesson," laying his hand on his book, " is to be learned from regard to Him; this day, in all its duties and occupations, is to be given to His service; my college training is to be made preparatory to a life devoted to His glory. And so I am to give myself to Him,—my soul, my body, my talents, my acquisitions, my all.” "Yes," said he, after some moments of profound thought, "I WILL. First, I will kneel down and say so to Him, and ask His aid and His blessing." He did so.
A classmate came in just at that moment, to urge him to seek his salvation. "It is done," he replied; "that question I have settled. I have given myself to God, and henceforth I purpose to serve Him." Surprised at this unexpected avowal, and fearing lest he was deceiving himself, his friend suggested that he should seek
an interview with Prof. G., for instruction. He assented readily, but remarked that, so far as the decision was concerned, it was unnecessary,—that had been made. And the sequel proved it indeed true.
With characteristic promptness, “S.” took his place among the most active Christians in his class. He graduated with high honour as a scholar. Afterward he passed the preparatory course of all three of the liberal professions, receiving his degree in each, and then devoted himself to the work of missions, in which, after a few years of the most self-sacrificing toil, he died, leaving a name endeared to all who knew him, as an eminent servant of the Lord.
It is not affirmed, of course, that that mere resolution was his conversion. There was a work of the Spirit with and beneath it, undoubtedly, of which he was not conscious at the time, producing conviction, and renewing his heart, at the divine will. Neither was there, at the moment, any very distinct perception of the mode of pardon through Christ, or of personal application for forgiveness in His name. Had his resolve stopped at that first act, it would have been of little worth. Still it was a right beginning. As related by himself to the writer, it was the turning point in his course, from which he ever dated the commencement of his religious life. He then entered the school of Christ, and receiving humbly the first of its lessons, was prepared by it for others in due time, until he attained a well-balanced and most devoted piety.
Have you, dear reader, ever been led to inquire, "How shall I begin to be a Christian?" You have been told to repent, to believe in Christ, to give yourself to God. Do you ask still, "Yes, but how shall I do this? How shall I begin to do it?" I reply, Begin by doing the first thing you have to do to please God. At the same time cast yourself on the mercy of Christ for salvation,—a salvation not earned by your obedience, but given you as an undeserved favour by Him who died for your sins. And let each act done to please Him be the offering of your gratitude for His goodness, like the affectionate service of a child to the mother whom it loves.
Dear reader, will you begin this reasonable service? Will You Begin It Now?
Taken from the British Messenger, October 1, 1870. Originally reprinted with permission from a Tract of the American Tract Society.