Or How God Saves Men

A study of God’s Varieties of Religious Experiences in the Book of Acts




William Ward Ayer, D. D.,

Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, New York City


Other Books by Dr. Ayer:

The Christian and World Wars, Present Shadows of Prophesied Events, etc.


Copyright © 1937


Zondervan Publishing House

edited for 3BSB by Baptist Bible Believer in the spirit of the Colportage ministry of a century ago

~ In the public domain ~

Public Domain under Rule 6 of the U.S. Copyright Statutes

During online Internet searches of the Library of Congress database in Washington D.C.,
performed on 9-16-2010, no evidence of a current copyright renewal within 28 years of copyright prior to 1964 was found for this publication

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To Lucile,
a Companion and Co-Worker
in a Blessed Soul-Winning Ministry




A careful study of that great book on evangelism, The Acts of the Apostles, will reveal that there are just seven individual conversions recorded. The study of these conversions shows that they are typical conversions, and that they doubtless present God’s varieties of religious experience. Each one portrays a distinctly different human condition, and in most cases a different emotional accompaniment. The results, from the human standpoint, often differ widely, but in every case it is the saving Gospel which brings about the change in the life, and evidences in every case the ability of an all-wise and an all-powerful God to meet human need.

As we give these pages to the public we have a twofold purpose in mind which will easily be seen as the book is perused. In each case we have given a brief semi-technical study of the conversion and its results under the following headings:

1. The Occasion;
2. The Subject;
3. The Agent;
4. The Accompaniment;
5. The Result;
6. Significant Lessons.
7. The sermon on the theme.

These sermons do not follow the outlines of the technical study, but those adapted to appeal to the hearts of listeners. The messages have been preached in four localities and in two countries, and broadcast over four different radio stations in the United States and Canada. In almost every case when these messages were presented, souls found Christ as their Saviour; and we have discovered that in the presentation of these varieties of religious experience, others were encouraged to find God in Christ and their own blessed conversion experience.

We would not be dogmatic about the matter, but we feel after much study of these conversions that they are typical, and universal in their typicalness; that is, that practically every conversion could be grouped, in a general way, under the experience of one of these conversions found in The Book of Acts. These are God’s varieties of religious experience.

In a careful study of these seven religious experiences we note the following facts:

1. Six of the seven converts recorded were men.

2. Previous preparation of one kind or another is evident in almost every instance. There is only one apparent “immediate” conversion of “raw” soul. Note, further, these facts:

(a) The Eunuch was doubtless a Jewish proselyte, before Philip led him to Christ,
(b) Saul, though rebellious, was well trained in the Scriptures,
(c) Cornelius was a religious man with some knowledge of, and faith in, God,
(d) Sergius Paulus’ preparation seems to have been of an adverse nature through Elymas, the false prophet, yet he was in a religious frame of mind when the apostles approached him with the Gospel,
(e) Lydia was a devout Gentile, probably a Jewish proselyte, whose heart God had visited in a preparatory way,
(f) The Philippian jailer may be the one exception to the rule. If we are to consider his question, “What must I do to be saved?” a non-religious one—which we believe it was—there is little evidence of any previous knowledge of the Gospel or of the true God.
(g) Apollos was “almost a Christian” when he came to Ephesus, being trained in religion and the Scriptures in the city of Alexandria, in Egypt.

How widely differentiated are the emotional accompaniments of these conversions! If we divide them into two general classes, “calm” and “hilarious,” we would place the Eunuch, Sergius Paulus, Lydia and Apollos in the first group; and Saul, Cornelius and the Philippian jailer in the second.

The outward accompaniments of the experiences could be divided into classifications of “quiet” and “uproarious.” These classifications reveal the Eunuch, Cornelius, Lydia and Apollos as “quiet” conversions; Saul, Sergius Paulus and the Philippian jailer as “uproarious.” It is plain that according to God’s varieties of religious experience, the “quiet” and “calm” predominate, while the “hilarious” and the “uproarious” may be expected on occasion.

The genuineness of conversion is attested in the Scriptures by either rejoicing of heart, as the case of the Eunuch, or resultant good works, of which Lydia is an example; or both, as in the case of the Philippian jailer and Apollos. Sergius Paulus stands without comment in his reaction to belief, and we know nothing more of his life.

Conclusions which may be reached concerning our soul-saving ministries in the analysis of these conversions embrace the following facts:

(1) The majority of our converts must be prepared for that experience.
(2) We must expect wide divergence of human reaction to the same saving truth, and much variation in the outward accompaniments of conversion.
(3) God is a God of variety.
(4) We have a right to expect evidence of genuineness in manifested joy and new life motives in every true Christian conversion.

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