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Turning Winter To Spring

by Theodore Cuyler (1822-1909)
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"Turn us, O God, and cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved."
                                            —Psalm 80:3, 7, 10
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At the midwinter season many people fall, naturally, into the error that the sun emits less heat than during the midsummer. But while we are shivering with the cold, the fact is that the mighty furnace of the sun is glowing with the same heat as in July, a heat so intense that every square foot of its vast surface gives off enough energy to drive the colossal engine of the Centennial exhibition, a heat that, concentrated, would melt a column of ice fifty miles in diameter as fast as it shot towards the sun, even though it flew with the speed of light! The simple reason why we all shiver in February is that our globe lies at another angle towards the solar furnace, and only receives its indirect radiations. The change is in our position. 

This astronomic fact gives a new freshness and vividness to that prayer of the Psalmist: "Turn us, O God, and cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved." God's love is inexhaustible and unchangeable. He is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. The reason why a Christian is cold, or why a church gets frozen up, is that they have swung off from God, and put themselves into the same position towards him that our globe has towards the winter sun. When a Christian backslides from duty, he throws himself out of the sunlight of God's countenance. His spiritual winter is of his own making. So with an ice-bound church, in which formality and fashion and frigidity have so lowered the spiritual temperature that the plants of grace are frostbitten. Sermons lie like icicles upon its floor; its prayer-room becomes a refrigerator, and no poor sinner is ever attracted in thither to be warmed and melted. This is hardly a caricature of those churches in which conversions have sunk down to zero. 

The first duty of a cold Christian, or a church of cold Christians, is to recognize and confess a wrong position towards God. He that never mourns never mends. He who covereth his sins must take the consequences. But when we are ready to say and do say, "O God! I have wandered away from thee; I have fled from thy face into the cold atmosphere of worldliness and selfishness and unbelief; help me to turn from my backslidings;" when our hearts utter this prayer, there is the first step taken towards recovery. Such an honest, contrite confession as this, made without any attempt at concealment or excuse, would be the harbinger of a revival in scores of churches to-day. God never blesses one of his children while in an attitude of disobedience. The change needed is not a change of our circumstances, although we often make a scapegoat of the word and talk about '*our unfavorable circumstances." The change demanded is one of character and conduct. The love of the world -the silly ambition to walk in a vain show - and that "big house-devil" of self-indulgence, have drawn the soul away from Christ. "He that is nearest to me is nearest to the fire," is one of the traditional utterances of our Lord, not reported by the evangelists. Whether Christ ever uttered this or not, it is undeniable that he who is farthest from him is the most frozen and lifeless. 

The first step, then, is a reconversion. The word "conversion" signifies a turning from sin to the Saviour. Reconversion is not regeneration, for the Bible never speaks of such a thing as being *'born again" a great many times. Reconversion means simply the return of a backsliding Christian to God and to the path of forsaken duties. Peter was thus reconverted after his shameful fall in Pilate's judgment-hall. The very gist of the prayer, "Turn us, O God," is that the Holy Spirit will move us with mighty power, and so work in us that we shall return to the Lord and begin a new style of holy living. As Spurgeon pithily puts it, "All will come right when we are right."  All will come right with me the moment that I get into the right position towards God. All will come right with the minister's sermons, and with the prayer-meetings and with 
the Sabbath-school; a new converting power will descend into the church just as soon as it swings back from the polar regions of sin into the light of God's countenance. 

There is only one way by which nature turns winter into spring; it is by bringing the face of the earth into a new position towards the sun-rays. Then the snow-banks vanish, the seeds sprout, the grass peeps out, the buds open, and the sun reneweth the face of the year. Even so there is but one way to be delivered from a spiritual winter which blights our graces and kills all spiritual activity. It is by coming back to God so that his face may shine upon us. Then we shall walk in the broad, full light of his countenance without stumbling. Then our aflfections will thaw out, and, with some Christians, one of the first symptoms will be seen in the opened purse. Then tongues long frozen up will begin to be heard in the prayer-meeting. A new quickening power will descend and make the buried seeds of gospel truth to start up into the awakening and conversion of souls. God's face, God's favor will accomplish all this and divers other rich and wonderful blessings. In short, we shall be saved. 

Christians will be saved from the guilt of neglected duty. We shall be saved from the deadly malaria of the world, and saved from the dominion of the adversary. The impenitent will be reached, and so turned from the error of their ways as to save their souls from death eternal. This, my dear brethren, is the urgent, imperative need of the hour -- even a thorough, hearty turning back into the full blaze and light and heat of God's face. Oh, what a revival that will bring! Faithless praying and fruitless preaching will disappear like ice in April. God will cause his face to shine upon us and restore unto us the joys of his salvation. Then shall transgressors be taught his ways, and sinners (both in the church and out of it) be converted to the Lord. The winter will be past and gone, and the time of the singing of souls will come again. 
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