The Puritans were convinced that both preacher and listener are totally dependent on the work of the Spirit to effect regeneration and conversion when, how, and in whom He will.4 The Spirit brings God’s presence into human hearts. He persuades sinners to seek salvation, renews corrupt wills, and makes scriptural truths take root in stony hearts. As Thomas Watson wrote, “Ministers knock at the door of men’s hearts, the Spirit comes with a key and opens the door.”5 And Joseph Alleine said: “Never think you can convert yourself. If ever you would be savingly converted, you must despair of doing it in your own strength. It is a resurrection from the dead (Eph. 2:1), a new creation (Gal. 6:15; Eph. 2:10), a work of absolute omnipotence (Eph. 1:19).”6
Modern evangelists need to be persuaded that the Spirit’s regenerating action, as John Owen wrote, is “infallible, victorious, irresistible, and always efficacious”; it “removeth all obstacles, overcomes all oppositions, and infallibly produces the effect intended.”7 All modes of action which imply another doctrine are unbiblical. As Packer writes: “All devices for exerting psychological pressure in order to precipitate ‘decisions’ must be eschewed, as being in truth presumptuous attempts to intrude into the province of the Holy Ghost.” Such pressures may even be harmful, he goes on to say, for while they “may produce the outward form of ‘decision,’ they cannot bring about regeneration and a change of heart, and when the ‘decisions’ wear off those who registered them will be found ‘gospel-hardened’ and antagonistic.” Packer concludes in a Puritan vein: “Evangelism must rather be conceived as a long-term enterprise of patient teaching and instruction, in which God’s servants seek simply to be faithful in delivering the gospel message and applying it to human lives, and leave it to God’s Spirit to draw men to faith through this message in his own way and at his own speed.”8
4 Packer, A Quest for Godliness, pp. 296–99.
5 A Body of Divinity, p. 154.
6 An Alarm to the Unconverted, pp. 26–27.
7 Works, 3:317ff.
8 A Quest for Godliness, pp. 163–64.
 Beeke, Joel R. Puritan Evangelism: A Biblical Approach. 2nd edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2007. Print.