God does not change the soul by an alteration of the faculties, but by an alteration of something in them; not by an inroad upon them, or by mere power or a blind instinct, but by proposing to the understanding something to be known, and informing it of the reasonableness of his precepts, and the innate goodness and excellency of his offers, and by inclining the will to love and embrace what is proposed. And things are proposed under those notions which usually move our wills and affections. We are moved by things as they are good, pleasant, profitable; we entertain things as they make for us; and detest things as they are contrary to us. Nothing affects us but under such qualities, and God suits his encouragements to these natural affections which are in us. His power and wisdom go hand in hand together; his power to act what his wisdom orders, and his wisdom to conduct what his power executes. He brings men to him in ways suited to their natural dispositions. The stubborn he tears like a lion, the gentle he wins like a turtle, by sweetness; he has a hammer to break the stout, and a cord of love to draw the more pliable tempers. He works upon the more rational in a way of gospel reason, upon the more ingenuous in a way of kindness, and draws them by the cords of love. The wise men were led to Christ by a star, and means suited to the knowledge and study that those eastern nations used, which was much in astronomy. He works upon others by miracles accommodated to every one’s sense, and so proportions the means according to the nature of the subjects he works upon.
(Source: Works of Stephen Charnock, Volume II)
This observation by Charnock calls for humility as we listen to the conversion stories of others. We should not expect everyone to have been brought to Christ in the same way because God works on a way suited to our character and experiences. I suspect this is also true at cultural or society level. It is perhaps not surprising that certain cultures emphasise miraculous interventions in their conversion stories while some cultures have conversion stories that are more about reasoned arguments and persuasion. Faith of course comes by hearing, so in the end the person must hear the Word of God and believe in it. Charnock’s point seems to be that the process that process of how someone gets to the point of hearing the Gospel will vary as God as ordained, suited to that person.
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