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The danger of a backslidden state.
was washed to her wallowing in the mire ?" No wonder that he has proclaimed, in accents terrible as thunder, “ If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him !”—“ No man having put his hand to the plough and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."
Secondly. This backslidden is well nigh a hopeless state, from the difficulty of renewing the subject of it again to repentance. We all know, that in cases of physical disease, where the patient which was convalescent suffers a relapse, the disease fastens itself upon him with increased malignity, and recovery is hardly to be expected. Precisely analogous to this, is a relapse into the malady of sin. When the mind has been aroused to seriousness, and led to seek comfort in the Saviour; if it is subsequently enticed and drawn away, the heart seems ten thousand times harder, and more opposed to God, than it was before. The man, having thus broken loose from his allegiance to God, and given himself up to the guidance of Satan, proceeds with rapid strides in his downward course to the chambers of death. Nothing now seems to move him. Those solemn appeals, which would once have melted his heart, and led him to the feet of the Saviour, he now hears with the utmost apathy and indifference. Amid a thousand voices of warning and admonition, he goes on careless and unconcerned to the judgment bar. This is in accordance with the testimony of Scripture. “If, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, the latter end with them is worse than the beginning.”
Another consideration, showing the danger of the backslidden state, is the wide and irreparable injury that is thereby inflicted upon the cause of Christ. One unfaithful Christian, relapsing into sin and worldly conformity, does more injury to the cause of vital religion than a whole army of infidels. The unbelieving world seize upon the conduct and testimony of one who has thus left following Christ with the greatest avidity, and with an air of triumph, as though it were an unanswerable argument to show that religion produces no change in the heart and conduct, And what gives a seeming plausibility to this argument is the fact to which I just alluded,—that whenever one, who
has entered upon a religious life, returns again to the world, his course is usually more wicked and depraved than ever. • When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out; and when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in and dwell there, and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” There is nothing that so effectually opposes the progress of the gospel as backslidden Christians.
I once visited a place where I found a large portion of the most respectable of its inhabitants skeptics and infidels. Upon inquiry, I ascertained the following facts, which, in my mind, accounted for the state of things then existing there. About six years previous there had been a great attention to religion in the place. Most of the leading men became temporarily interested. The excitement ran high. Under the influence of excited animal feeling, many who had been vicious and abandoned came forward, and professed repentance and amendment of life. In less than two years many of these individuals returned to their former courses, and became vastly more worldly and wicked than before. They called conversion delusion, and were now ready to embrace every species of infidelity. Conscience would not let them rest as long as they regarded the Bible as the word of God. They therefore sought relief in broad infidelity.
One individual, Mr. D. who had been loud in his profession of godliness, and no less bold in his subsequent avowals of infidelity, died in the neighbourhood during my stay at this place. He had become intemperate in his habits, and profane in his ordinary conversation. He was absent several miles from home, superintending the construction of a canal, by which operation he was accumulating much property. So sudden was the attack of disease by which he fell, that he lived only a few hours after he was seized. He sent for his family. He bade them seek that Saviour whom he had neglected that Saviour whom he had crucified afresh, and put to an open shame. Amid the distress and agonies of his mind, he seemed insensible to those excruciating pains of body that were cutting away
Need of divine grace.
the very sinews and ligaments of life. He freely renounced his infidelity, and declared his belief in the truth of the Christian religion. But while his soul was racked with the agonizing throes of despair, and he was bitterly lamenting his apostasy from Christ, and was in the very act of exclaiming, in reference to himself-lost, lost, the silver cord was broken, and the next moment his naked soul stood before the bar of God to receive its unalterable doom.
In this community, though there was much faithful preaching, little fruit seemed to attend ministerial labour. The grand reason we have already adverted to-the apostasy of many who once had joined themselves to the Lord.
And, my dear friends, may all the solemn considerations that have just passed before you, lead you to strive to endure to the end ; being well persuaded that it would have been “ better for you not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after you have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto you."
4. I remark, that in the performance of this part of your covenant vow, as well as in every other Christian duty, you will need the assisting grace of God. You cannot walk a single step in the narrow way without the aid of the Spirit. Hence, in answering this inquiry, whether you will obediently keep God's holy will and commandments, and walk in the same unto your life's end, your reply shows that you are to look to God for your ability to do it—"1 will, by God's help.” Be well assured that you can never keep this vow in your own strength. You must live day by day upon the Son of God. You must lean upon his arm, and stand up in his strength. God must " walk in you and dwell in you," else you cannot be his people. The Holy Spirit must help your infirmities, and his strength be made perfect in your weakness; else you will at last appear before God having nothing to offer but broken vows and violated promises. Look up to God, then, day by day for his Holy Spirit. The gracious influences of that Spirit you can neither expect nor obtain, unless you seek for them by fervent and persevering prayer.
If you wish to enjoy the exalted pleasures of the religion of Jesus, you must go frequently to his feet in earnest prayer. If you desire to be strengthened in the inner man, 80 that you may be enabled to resist temptation, and run
Importance of prayer-Reliance upon Christ.
in the way of God's commandments, you must be often found on your knees before the throne of divine mercy. You cannot keep your vow-you cannot perform your Christian duties—you cannot escape the devouring fames of Almighty wrath-you cannot enter the bright portals of glory, unless the all-powerful Spirit of the living God is continually present with you, to enlighten, purify, invigorate, and guide your soul. And this blessed Spirit will dwell only in an humble and contrite heart; a heart that is looking unceasingly to God with faith and prayer. O be instant then in prayer, and learn, agreeably to the apostolic injunction, to pray without ceasing." You will certainly wander from the Redeemer's fold—you will assuredly fall
away from your steadfastness, and relapse into sin, unless you
cherish and cultivate a devout and prayerful frame of mind. Seek, I entreat you, to have a realizing sense of your own weakness and entire dependence upon God, and go to him daily and hourly for succour and help.
And for your encouragement to be faithful in this duty, allow me to add, that if there ever be granted to mortals a foretaste of those pure and exalted pleasures which flow from God's right hand, it is when they are before the mercy-seat, seeking communion with that glorious Being. In those consecrated moments in which the believer pours out his heart in earnest supplication to God, he tastes the heavenly manna—drinks from the smitten rock, and catches a glimpse of the celestial land that lies beyond the stream of death.
5. The last consideration which I shall present, in connexion with this part of your covenant obligation, is the importance of entire reliance upon Christ for your acceptance. Though you are to strive to walk in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless, and are to be fully purposed in your own hearts, never to commit a single sin never to deviate, in a single instance, from the divine precepts—still the humbling discovery will often flash upon your view, that you have fallen; that notwithstanding all your resolutions, and all your efforts, sin has marked your every step, and stained your best and most holy performances with defilement. And now but for the rich provisions of the gospel, you would sink into utter despair. But listen to its sweet and heavenly accents of mercy-to its
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astonishing treasures of grace. “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not.
And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins."
While, on the one hand, we should seek to avoid the very appearance of evil, and recoil from sin as our deadliest foe, at the same time we should be continually mindful, that it is through the infinite grace of God that we are enabled to walk in any way worthy of our high calling ; and that through our whole course, and on to the very last moment, we shall have to confess ourselves wretched sinners, and look entirely and exclusively to Christ for our salvation. Whatever degree of sanctification we may attain, to whatever extent we may be able to keep the will and commandments of God, we shall at last have to stand before the Lord Jesus Christ with this acknowledgment:
Thou must save, and thou alone;
While this constant liability to sin should make us humble, and lowly, and watchful, and circumspect, the thought that we have an advocate with the Father should keep us from despondency, and lead us to press forward in the narrow way with thankful and rejoicing hearts. In illustration of these remarks under this last head, allow me to give you a sketch of one whom I knew in early life.
J- was educated by Christian parents, and taught to remember his Creator in the days of his youth. At an early period in life, his name was enrolled with the memhers of a Christian church. The views which he heard of the gospel were not the most distinct and perspicuous; and, at this time, though he was not aware of it, his Christian experience had not advanced farther than the obscure and dim twilight of morning. For a while he seemed to glide along smoothly on the stream of Christian profession. But affliction came, and his Christian principles were put to the test. A beloved sister, who was the companion of his childhood, and now in the bloom and May-morning of her existence, suddenly sickened and died. His grief was lamost inconsolable, and led him frequently to murmur, as