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Hence the encourageinent given us to rely on the intercession of Christ

Hence the encouragement given us to regard it under every backslidingh· Hence the encouragement given us to rest assured of Christ's power to save INFER 1. What need have we to be ever on our guard!

[Perhaps at this moment Satan may be desiring to sift

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And what if God should give us up into his hands?

If suffered to exert his strength, he could soon dissipate whatever is good in us

Nor should our past zeal in God's service remove our apprehensions

That would rather provoke Satan to more activity against usLet us then “not be high-minded but fear"

Let us follow the salutary advice which our Lord has given us?

Let us plead with fervour those important petitions

At the same time let us put on the whole armour of God"

And prepare, as God has taught us, for the assaults of our enemy ] 2. What a mercy is it to have an interest in Christ!

[They who know not Christ are wholly under the power of Satan

But they who are Christ's have a watchful and almighty guardian

Our Lord provided for Peter's safety, before Peter every knew his danger

Thus “ will he keep the feet of all his saints”-
He will suffer none of them to be plucked out of his hand"

If he permit Satan to sift them, it shall be only for the rem moving of their chaff

He has pledged his word for the security of the weakest of his peoplek

Let us therefore commit ourselves entirely into his hands--

Let us beg him to remember our unworthy names in his intercessions

And to deal with us as with Joshua of old-]

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* Rom. viii. 34. B1 John ii. 1. e Heb. vii. 25. A Matt. xxvi. 41. e Matt. vi. 13. f Eph. vi. 13-18. 62 Tim. ii. 26. h John X. 28. i Compare 2 Cor. xii. 7. with Hleb sii. 10, 11. Amos ix. 9.

i Zech. iii. 2-----4.

CCCCXXI. THE EVIL OF BACKSLIDING.

Jer. ii. 19. Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy

backsliding's shall reprove thee: know therefore and see, that it is an evil thing, and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God.

SIN and misery are very nearly connected; and the nearer we are to God by relation or profession, the more immediately will our transgressions be followed by tokens of his displeasure. The Israelites were God's chosen people; yet, while the Amorites, and other idolatrous nations, were left to fill up the measure of their iniquities, before they were visited according to their deserts, the Jews, especially while journeying through the wil. derness, were speedily chastened for their iniquities, and made to feel the evil and bitterness of sin.' Thus, only in a more secret and silent manner, does God now punish the backslidings of his people; nor does he notice only the grosser violations of his law, but the more hidden abominations of the heart, and secret declensions from the spiritual life. Indeed, he makes sin its own punishment, according to what is written in the text: to elucidate which, we shall show I. In what respects our own backslidings correct us

It is not unfrequently that, even in our temporal concerns, we suffer loss by relaxing our diligence in spiritual duties: but it is invariably found that backslidings from God are attended with very painful consequences 1. They wound our conscience.

[Conscience, if duly attended to, is a faithful monitor, and will upbraid us for declensions, however secret, and transgressions, however small: and when it testifies of wilful deliberate sin, when it summon's us into the divine presence, and accuses us before God, it will make a Felix tremble, and a Judas abhor his very existence. This is a correction, which, as no enlightened person would willingly endure, so neither, till he return to God, or have his “conscience seared as with an hot iron,” can he hope to escape.] 2. They intercept our views of God

(God is exceeding gracious to those who walk circunSpectly before him; but he has warned us that, “ if we forsale

b

him, he will forsake us." This his people of old experienced to their cost, w the prophet told them; “Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.' And is this a slight correction? Let the cries, and terrors of persons under dereliction, be to us a beacon, for our effectual admonition.]

3. They indispose us for spiritual exercises and enjoyments

[While we maintain close fellowship with God, our duties are a source of the sublimest happiness: but when we decline from his ways, the whole work of religion becomes a burthen. Have we neglected prayer for a season, or been inattentive in it to the frame of our minds? how irksome a task is it to approach our God! the most glorious of all privileges is turned into a detested rite, to which we are goaded by a guilty conscience. The same indisposition instantly extends itself to every other office of religion; so that the visiting of the sick, the conversing on spiritual subjects, the reading of the holy scriptures, and indeed the whole life of religion is bereft of vital energy, and degenerates into an empty and unproductive form. What an awful punishment is this!] 4. They lay us open to the incursions of sin and Satan

[Righteousness is, as it were, a breast-plate that guards our vitals, and proves an armour on the right hand and on the left:d but unwatchfulness deprives the soul of its defence, and exposes us to the envenomed darts of our great adversary. If we have secretly declined from God, the temptations, which once were easily overcome, have a deep and lasting effect: our spirits are soon ruffled; our evil passions are soon awakened; and, if God interpose not for our recovery, we shall soon

return with the dog to his vomit, and with the sow to the wallowing in the mire.” Sin, of any kind, makes a breach in the soul, which, if not stopped at first, will widen, till our desolation is inevitable, and our ruin final.]

Additional light will be retlected on this subject, while we consider II. The evil and bitterness of a backslidden state

The sinfulness of an ignorant and carnal state, heinous as it is, is by no means comparable to the guilt of backsliding from God. To view backslidings in their real malignity we must remember that they involve in them

a 2 Chron. xv. 2.
e Ps. lxxvii, 1-9. & lxxxviii, 3-16.
VOL. IV.

b Isaiah lix. 2.
d Epii. vi. 14. Cor. vi. 7.

Ss

1. A violation of the most solemn engagements

[The man, who professes to be a follower of Christ, pledges himself by that very profession to devote himself entirely to the service of his God: he declares, as it were, his approbation of his baptismal covenant, and his determination through grace to adhere to it in all things. But, in proportion as he yields to open sin or secret declensions, he revokes all his promises, and renounces all his expectations of the divine favour. How vile, and how desperate, must such a conduct be in the eyes of God!] 2. A contempt of the 'richest mercies

(While we serve God aright, we never find him backward to recompense our worthless endeavours: the more diligently we have sought him, the more abundantly has he enriched us with

grace

and
peace.

When therefore we forsake him, we say, in fact, that we despise his. mercies, and prefer the pleasures of sin before any of the pleasures which he can afford us. What base ingratitude, what daring insolence is this!]

3. A vindication of God's open and avowed enemies

(Practical piety condemns the world; but impiety, as far as it extends, proclaims to all, that God is not worthy to be | loved and served. The backslider goes further still; and says

to all around him, I have tried God, and found him to be “a wilderness to his people:”e I once was weak enough to think that the more religious I was, the more happy I should be: but I was disappointed in my hopes; and now revert to my. former ways, that all may know the superior happiness, which, in my opinion at least, is to be enjoyed in freedom from restraints, and in the gratifications of time and sense. Alas! on what a precipice does the backslider stand! and, what an account will he have to give at last, if he do not instantly return to God in penitence and faith!]

Nor is the bitterness of such a state easy to be appreciated

[If we would “ know and see” what bitter thing” it is to forsake the Lord, let us consult the declarations of God, and the experience of his ancient people. What “ broken bones" did the fall of David occasion! And where was the blessedness which the Galatian church had once enjoyed, when, through the influence of their false teachers, they had declined from the simplicity of the gospel?6 Indeed, let any man consult the records of his own conscience, and he will soon perceive, that, as there is no happiness to be compared with a state of nearness to God, so there is no misery like that which a sense of his departure from us will occasion. As for

a

e Ver. 31. ,

f Ps. li. 8.

& Gal. iv, 15.

the bitterness of it to apostates in the day of judgment, that cannot be described; and we pray God we may never be left to feel and endure it. But let us study to “know and see" it in its true light, that we may be stirred up by the consideration of it to cleave unto our God with full purpose of heart.”]

CCCCXXII. THE DANCER OF BACKSLIDING.

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Prov. xiv. 14. The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways: and the good man shall be satisfied from himself.

THOUGH God does not select those as objects of his mercy, who are most diligent in external duties, yet he increases his favours to those whom he has cho. sen, in proportion as they themselves are earnest in im. proving what he has already bestowed upon them. In the dispensations of his providence it is generally found, that “the diligent hand maketh rich:” but in the dispensations of his grace, this seems to be an unalterable rule of his procedure: “his ways with respect to these things are equal;” “whatsoever a man sows, that he may assuredly expect to reap”—To this effect are the declarations before us; in which we may observe 1. The danger of backsliding

Open apostasy is confessedly a certain road to de. struction; but we may also perish by indulging the more specious, and equally dangerous habit of secret declen. sion. Not that every variation in our frame constitutes us backsliders in heart; (for who then could be saved?) but

We come under this description
When we are habitually remiss in secret duties

[It is possible we may once have run well, and enjoyed much blessedness in the service of our God; and yet have been so hindered in our course, as to have relapsed into a state of coldness and formality. The word, which was once precious, may have lost its savour; and prayer, which was once delightful, may have become an irksome task. Both public and private ordinances inay have degenerated into an empty form, in

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a Gal. i. 6. and v. 7. and iv, 15.

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