“When He comes, He will convict the world of sin.” John 16:8
Spiritual conviction reaches to all sins; to sins of heart—as well as sins of life; to the sin of our nature—as well as the sins of practice; to the sin which is born in us—as well as the sin which is done by us. Where the Spirit of the Lord comes to work effectually in any soul—He holds the looking-glass of the Word before the sinner’s eyes, and then opens his eyes to look into the looking-glass, to see all that deformity and filthiness which is in his heart and nature!
How blind was Paul to his sinfulness—until the Spirit of the Lord revealed it to him by the Word! The Spirit alone, can make the sinner see all the deformity and filthiness which is within! It is He alone, who pulls off all the sinner’s rags, and makes him see his naked and wretched condition! It is He alone, who shows us:
the blindness of the mind,
the stubbornness of the will,
the disorderedness of the affections,
the searedness of the conscience,
the plague of our hearts,
the sin of our natures,
the desperateness of our state!
Natural conviction carries the soul out to look more on the evil which comes as a result of sin—than on the evil which is in sin. The soul which is under natural conviction, is more troubled at the dread of hell, and wrath, and damnation—than at the vileness and heinous nature of sin!
But spiritual convictions work the soul into a greater sensibleness of the evil which is in sin—than of the evil which comes as a result of sin. The dishonor done to God by walking contrary to His will; the wounds which are made in the heart of Christ; the grief which the Holy Spirit is put to—this wounds the soul more than a thousand hells!
Natural convictions are not durable, they quickly die out. They are like a slight cut in the skin, which bleeds a little, and is sore for the moment—but is soon healed again, and in a few days not so much as a scar is seen.
But spiritual convictions are durable, they cannot be worn out, they abide in the soul until they have reached their end—which is the change of the sinner.
The convictions of the Spirit are like a deep wound which goes to the vital organs, and seems to endanger the life of the patient, and is only healed by the great skill of the heavenly Physician. And when it is healed, there are the tokens of it remaining in the soul, which can never be worn out!
Spiritual conviction is an essential part of sound conversion. True conversion begins in convictions—and true convictions end in conversion. Until the sinner is convinced of sin—he can never be converted from sin. Christ’s coming was as a Savior to die for sinners. The Spirit’s coming is to convince us of sin—that we may close with Christ as our Savior. So long as sin is unseen—Christ will be unsought. “Those who are whole need not the physician—but those who are sick.”
Slight convictions, when they are but skin-deep, are the cause of much hypocrisy. Slight convictions have filled the church with hypocrites! Nay, this is not only the spring of hypocrisy—but it is also the spring of apostasy! What was the cause that the seed was said to wither away? It was because it had no depth of soil. Just so, where convictions of sin are slight—there the seed of the Word withers for lack of depth! But where there is thorough conviction, there is a depth of soil in the heart—and there the seed of the Word grows!
— Matthew Mead, “The Almost Christian” 1661