by Theodore VanderGroe
Beloved salvation-seeking reader! It is certain that there are twofold gifts or operations of God’s Spirit: namely, general gifts and operations, which hypocrites and reprobates also enjoy, and particular or saving gifts or operations, which are solely for the elect. It is also just as certain that there are two types of conviction of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of men: one which is general and one which is saving. The second is always the preparatory pathway to a sincere faith in Christ, whilst the other ordinarily leads to a deceiving delusion, or a ruinous despair. For in one of these two muddy canals the general conviction shall sooner or later terminate. Unless we rightly consider this essential distinction between these two types of conviction (both for ourselves and in dealing with others) this cannot but be highly damaging, greatly undermine and corrupt God’s work, and make many souls eternally miserable.
It is well known how often it happens among Christians, that those who live daily under the convicting light of the Gospel, from time to time receive some conviction of their sins, and of the fact that they miss the Lord Jesus and that they lie fatally bound in the bands of God’s curse and wrath. Through this conviction they are troubled and made afraid or concerned for a time. They also begin with some seriousness to strive restlessly to improve their condition and way of life. But because they are moved merely by a general conviction, they do not come to a believing union with Christ, to which the saving conviction of the Holy Spirit leads the true elect. They always remain fixed in the foundation of their natural blindness and gracelessness. They are sometimes as the children which are come to the birth, but there is not strength to bring forth (Is. 37:3). Often the reason for this is that they take their conviction and use it, without realizing it, as a ground of hope. They imagine (and allow others to convince them, who are insufficiently experienced in the work of the Spirit) that their convictions and concern are already a beginning of the divine grace of the new birth in their hearts. They imagine that they are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, those who are poor and spirit and that mourn, who are called blessed by the Lord Jesus (Matt. 5:3-6). By this they believe that this work of God will gradually break through, and that Christ in His time, when it pleases Him, will further reveal Himself to them, and will give them the comforting assurance of His Spirit, which they as yet miss. They think that they merely have to continue in their prayers and seeking, and should in no wise, in unbelief, have doubts about the grace which they image they have received, or grieve the Holy Spirit.
Table of Contents
1. The damaging misuse of a general conviction of sin as a false ground for the soul
2. A description of sincere and saving faith
3. A letter from Rev. by Theodore VanderGroe written to a friend