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PROGRESS OF BACKSLIDING. The Lord's table is slighted. Social meetings for prayer and [ religious conversation are altogether abandoned. Their incli
nation is turned another way: they had rather spend two 1 hours a-day in trifling tittle-tattle, than half an hour a-week
in seeking spiritual benefit. They grow more and more wearied of the strictness of religion. Their taste for its pleasures gradually dies. Their Christian friends are forsaken. They
grow tired of true friends, and pleased with false ones; like no the Israelites who were pleased with the spies, but thought
Joshua and Moses their enemies. They form new intimacies, or revive old ones, with those that are strangers to the path of peace. At length they become again mere followers of the world; and their conduct and deportment are commonly suited to their fallen condition. Do Christian friends endeavour to stop them in their progress to destruction, in some a few painful feelings are excited, some half-formed resolutions are made; but all soon vanishes, and again they pursue their declining path. Others receive with disgust the warnings of Christian friendship; and go on without perceiving their folly and insensible of their guilt. “I do not perceive that I am fallen,” says the lukewarm professor. Unhappy man! why then do all else perceive it? Why is your place at the house of God so often empty? Why are all religious exercises with your Christian friends neglected ? Why is the table of the Lord slighted? Why is the prosperity of the Saviour's cause a matter of no concern to you? Why so different from what you once were ? « Oh," replies the self-deceiver, “ I am dissatisfied. The minister does not preach as he used to do, nor friends behave as they formerly did.” Such are the excuses and complaints of many backsliders. Unhappy creatures! they are like a man that having lost his sight, finds fault with the sun instead of his eyes, and says of that bright luminary at noon-day, “ It does not shine as it used to do.”
$ 5. On the guilt and mischiefs of backsliding, the writer will insert with some small alterations a letter, written several years ago to a young female, who had fallen from religion, but of whose restoration there appeared some flattering, though alas ! delusive hope.
“My dear friend, “ Allow me by writing a few lines to you, to give you
LETTER TO A BACKSLIDER. another expression of my anxious concern for your eternal welfare; yes, your eternal welfare ; for what will long seem worth a single thought, except the blessings of eternity! Soon, Sarah, will you find that nothing else was worth one.
“I would hope, that the repentance and grief for your conduct, which you expressed last sabbath but one, have not again vanished, like the morning cloud or the early dew. I prayed for you, not merely at that time, but often before, and if you truly return to the paths of peace, shall think these prayers answered.
* And what, Sarah, is now the state of your heart? Is it again thoughtless ? again hardened ? God forbid! and grant that it may be tender, humble, and penitent! My dear friend, you have need of repentance. I do not wish to upbraid you with any thing that is passed ; yet love to your soul makes it needful to say to you. You have need of repentance, of deep repentance. Surely you must have fallen away far from God. But are you penitent? If you are, I would not break the bruised reed. Rather would I direct you to the promises of your loving, though lately forsaken, God, Then hear him saying in his word, .Return unto me, and I will return unto you. •Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings.' I will heal their backslidings, I will love them freely.' • If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all uurighteousness.' • The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin. To you these promises are made; let them not be made in vain. Still God is willing to receive you; still Jesus is willing to welcome you. His blood may yet cleanse you from your sins, and his kind hand support your feeble steps. Behold backsliding Peter. He found mercy; and, gone from this world, joins in the songs of the redeemed above. Oh, Sarah, seek the Saviour's grace afresh; you will not seek in vain :
• His bleeding heart will make you room,
His opened arms will take you in.' Yet he would give you peace, give you pardon, give you heaven, and join you soon to his redeemed above. And does it not melt your heart to think-And would my injured Saviour again receive me? and would my forsaken God again welcome me? He would, indeed he would.And may I sit
EVILS OF BACKSLIDING.
329 down with his saints above? and may my happy spirit adore his love, when this now healthful body is a lifeless corpse, and this cold heart is colder in the grave ? 0 ! may eternal blessedness then be mine? It may. And shall I slight it longer ? Shall I turn from the way of life? Shall I forsake my kind Redeemer ? Break, O my God! the hard heart that has de. ceived me, and let it never deceive me more!
“ But, my dear friend, while the promises of grace should encourage your return; to strengthen your earnestness, you may profitably unite with the motives they furnish, the consideration of what you were doing. You had, I am persuaded, nearly given up religion altogether. If you had done so quite, think what you would have done. Where would have been your hopes, your friends, your comforts, and where ere long your soul? In such a state, if turning your eyes to heaven, you might have said, There dwells the Lord : once I could say, There dwells my God; but alas ! no longer mine. Once he was my friend; but now I have made him my enemy. His love was my portion ; but it is mine no more. There dwells the Saviour, once my Saviour ; but now I have no interest in him. Others are happy in his love; but I have lost that happiness : others are safe under his care; but I am out of his protection : others have their sins blotted out in his blood; once I thought mine were; but I have crucified him afresh, and brought a double load of guilt upon my own soul. There dwell also his faithful friends. They toiled and suffered here, but rest in heaven; and once I hoped to partake of their joys; but now that hope is gone. God is my God no longer: Christ is my Saviour no longer : heaven my hopedfor home no longer.
.“ I do not say, Sarah, that these should be your melancholy reflections now. I pray that this letter may find you returning to God. But they might have been so, if you had continued backsliding; and should be so, if you ever fall from Christ. And let the thought of the dreadful danger you have been in, fill you with watchfulness and humility, and lead you to prayer. Great has been your danger; for, oh! it is beyond human power to describe the evils of backsliding from the living God. To backslide altogether, is to give up God; to give up Christ; to give up hope, comfort, and heaven ; to make yourself the slave of Satan; to prepare your 330 DREADFUL GUILT OF BACKSLIDING. soul for a miserable eternity; to throw eternal life away, and choose eternal death. To backslide, is to slight your best friends, and please your worst enemy; to make heaven mourn, and hell rejoice; to act as guilty a part as Satan himself acted; to treat with the basest ingratitude a loving God; and to trample under foot the pains, and groans, and sorrows of a dying Saviour. To backslide, is to choose devils for your companions instead of angels; hell for your home instead of heaven; weeping, wailing, and despair for your portion, instead of peace and praise. In fine, Sarah, to backslide, is to act so wicked, so mad, so hellish a part, that even devils themselves can scarcely wish any to act a worse. And had you begun to act this part? God be praised, if you now mourn that you did so! Flee to him, my friend, afresh! Plead with him the promises I have mentioned from his word. Praise him that he did not give you over to a hardened heart! and O! may you hereafter praise him for this in heaven.
« Depend upon it, my dear friend, the view now given you of the guilt of backsliding is not too strong. The word of God represents confirmed backsliders as “ turned aside after Satan;' as having damnation because they have cast away their faith ;' as drawing • back unto perdition ;' as being shut out of the eternal rest; as crucifying to themselves the Son of God afresh, and putting him to an open shame; as having trod. den under foot the Son of God, and counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith they were sanctified, an unholy thing; as doing despite to the Spirit of grace; as falling into the hands of the living God, and he is a consuming fire to them; as having their latter end worse than the beginning. For them there remains a certain fearful looking for of judgment and of fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. They are those, who having fallen into the snare of the devil, are taken captive by him at his will. What awful descriptions! how should they rouse you ! how alarm you, lest you should turn aside again! To be led captive by Satanwhat can be worse ? Could you see that dreadful enemy drag. ging an unhappy soul to perdition, how would you tremble! yet remember that the backslider, though he see it not, is led captive by the devil at his will. Oh, let these awful thoughts lead you to watch and to pray; to look into your own heart;
EVILS OF BACKSLIDING. . 331 to examine your own state ; to distrust yourself; to depend on your Redeemer ; and to dread the guilt of backsliding, more than the wretchedness to which it leads.
“ Again, Sarah, if you have felt the pangs of a wounded conscience, seek for peace afresh, through the blood of the Lamb; and let the unhappy hours you have passed, and the tears your fall has occasioned, be so many motives with you to return to God, and to cleave to Christ. Surely you have found that thoughtlessness and laughter cannot make the backslider's state happy. You know something of this truth, many others know much of it. I reminded you of a friend, who told me how happy he was in the ways of God. Peace with God made life pleasant. The night and the day were alike comfortable, and fear fled far from him: but the tempter suggested to him, What need so much ado about religion ? These words, or something to this effect, run in his mind. At length he yielded; he went backward; and the tempter triumphed. And now his comforts were gone. He could not lie down at night, without fear of waking in eternal torment before the morning. He found it was a bitter, as well as guilty, thing, to forsake his Redeemer. Learn wisdom, Sarah, from your own unbappiness. Learn it from that of others. You have been near the edge of a precipice, from which many who reach it, never return, but fall from God to rise no more. O be thankful, that you have not fallen quite so low! O be watchful, lest you should ! O strive! O pray! that your repentance be not this time, what it was a few months back.
“ Should I say more, Sarah ; then again I would admonish you to look forward to future things. Think of your dying bed, of your pulse fluttering, your heart failing, your friends bidding you a last farewell, and you departing to meet your God. What comfort it will give you, if you have a Saviour then! What misery it will cause you, should you then be found a backslider, and then have to think that this friendly warning did you no good! Think yourself standing before your Judge. How happy if you meet his smile! if you find his blood has blotted out every sin, and the sin of forsaking him among the dreadful list! And, Sarah, this happiness will be yours, if you return and cleave to him. But, oh! how wretched would you be, if you should meet his frown, and