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332 MOTIVES FOR RETURSING TO GOD. bear him say, You forsook me in yonder burning worlddepart—depart for ever! What bitter groans would burst from your heart! What bitter tears, if tears can then be shed, flow from your eyes! How would you wish that you had watched, and prayed, and bore all crosses, and endured all hardships, and denied all allurements, and even died for Jesus rather than forsaken him!
“ Go through a church-yard, Sarab. Look at its graves, and think, Here lie the young, the healthy, and the strong. Here lie those whom the world once charmed, and those who for it slighted their immortal souls, and what is the world to them now! and soon shall this youthful and healthful body, like theirs, be mouldering dust; and soon shall these active limbs be common earth. Soon will my eyes be shut upon the world, and all its cares, and all its pleasures will neither pain nor please me in the grave; but then where will be my immortal spirit? That cannot die; that lives for ever; and shall I sell that soul to Satan, and get this world only for it? and shall I give up my Saviour, and throw my hopes away? Oh, foolish heart, that ever thought of doing it! Oh, deceived and miserable creature that I have been ! for I began to do so.
“My dear friend, what shall I say more? I mourn the thought of seeing you hereafter at the left hand of the eternal Judge. I mourn the thought of never meeting you in the world of peace, to whom I have often broken the bread of life. Could I prevent your departure, never should you depart. Return to God, and peace will again be yours. Return to Jesus, and you will yet be happy. But let it be with full purpose of heart. Let it be with earnest prayer. Let it be with a watchful jealousy lest you should deceive yourself in a concern of endless consequence. Learn to live on Christ. Depend on him. Look to him. Resist the world for a little time, and you shall reach a better. Fight the good fight of faith, and you will soon receive the crown of glory. The conflict is short, the rest eternal.—Then, at length, beyond the reach of sin, Satan, the world, and a deceitful heart, may you there praise the grace which first awakened you; the greater grace that brought you back to God. May God grant it! Amen!"
THE BACKSLIDER ADDRESSED.
333 $ 6. Do I address a backslider? Probably all that has now been said will have no more effect on you, than I fear it had on her to whom it was originally written, and who is since gone to her dread account. Yet shall I leave you for ever, and not make one more attempt to restore you to the paths of life! Stop then, I beseech you, before the shades of death close round your head, before the voice of mercy is withdrawn for ever; stop, I beseech you, and a little more consider your ways.
Think of your sin: many are its aggravations. You have sinned against the world. You have thrown a stumbling-block in the way of the unconverted, and exposed them and yourself to the woe denounced by the Lord Jesus Christ : Woe unto the world because of offences; but woe unto that man by whom the offence cometh. And are not you that wretched
creature! Oh, how awful is it for one that has professed reli. gion, to injure the immortal souls of others! and to assist Satan in leading multitudes to perdition !
You have sinned against your relatives. If they are the disciples of Jesus, how have you blasted their hopes respecting you, and how ill requited them for all their tenderness, kind. ness, and care ? If they know him not, you have probably hardened them in carelessness and sin, and thus contributed to sink those who are dearest to you down to hell.
You have sinned against yourself. You might have been respected and beloved, esteemed and useful in life; and have * possessed a bright inheritance in heaven; but alas ! how low
has your conduct sunk you! how has it deprived you of respect and affection in this life, and of every cheering hope for the eternal world!
You have sinned against your Christian friends. You professed to be their friend, yet have acted the part of the worst enemies. The world is ready to reproach them without cause;
but you have given the world occasion to do so, and those to who pity you, yet abhor your conduct and disown you, may 1 share in your reproach.
You have sinned against the Lord Jesus Christ. He died to redeem you from sin. Often have you heard of his dying love. You professed to ground your hopes upon it. But oh! for all his dying love and living care, for all his sorrows, and his bitter death, what a return have you made him! You have 334
THE BACKSLIDER ADDRESSED, pleased Satan, and displeased your Redeemer! Have done the will of the devil, and injured your gracious Saviour, and brought reproach upon his holy cause.
Think how different is your state now from what it was, when you solemnly yielded yourself up to your Redeemer. Look back to that day. Who would then have thought of this? How will the profession you then made rise in the judg. ment against you! How will every opportunity you have had of sitting down at the Redeemer's table, every sermon you have heard, every warning you have had, aggravate your guilt and double your condemnation! How may the serious friends, who once were your companions, and the ministers, who have preached to you the everlasting gospel, appear as witnesses that you once knew the ways of God, and then turned back unto perdition! They who now pity and pray for you, will then pity you no longer, but own that your destruction is just.
And are all your professions come to this ? Did you profess religion, but to make yourself more completely a child of the devil by forsaking it ? Has that Redeemer who shed his blood for you deserved no better than this at your hands ? Do you thus requite all his sufferings, all his love, and all his goodness? Have you found something more worthy of your love than Christ ? That should be a treasure indeed for which you sell your own soul to the devil, and renounce God, and Christ, and hope, and holiness, and happiness, and heaven. Will your irreligious companions make up to you this dreadful loss? Oh, poor deceived unhappy creature, if you go on in your way, they who are now your companions in folly will soon be your companions in hell! How will you meet your injured and forsaken Redeemer ?
You have sinned against the Holy Spirit. Sin grieves and quenches the Spirit. O beware, lest he leave you to yourself; for then you would be sealed up under eternal impenitency of heart.
You have sinned against God. David mentions this as a peculiar aggravation of his iniquity. “ Against thee, thee only, havo I sin ned.” If your profession was sincere, how awfully have you sinned against God! Did you not profess, that he had by his Spirit opened your eyes to see your ruined state?
id you not believe that through his love he gave his Sou
THE BACKSLIDER'S GUILT.
335 to die for you? and by the workings of his Spirit led you to the Saviour ? and made you a child of his own, instead of an heir of wrath ? And is this your return to your merciful Creator ?
Your sin against God is of the most dreadfully heinous kind. Are you not under the most solemn vows to be the Lord's ? Should you forget them, God will not forget them, and if you break them your soul will lie under the horrible guilt of lying unto God. How many solemn engagements have you made to be the Lord's! How many vows in private, when no eye but God's saw you, no ear but God's heard you ! What solemn professions before the church and the Lord ! The engagements of your baptism, and those repeated again and again at the table of the Lord ! Will you break all these promises, and become guilty of telling not one lie only to God, but many? How hateful is a lie! all liars shall have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone. The Lord Jesus describes the devil as the father of lies, and of liars. If lying to men is so hateful, what must it be to lie to God? Of this horrible crime you will be guilty, if you forsake the way of peace. It may be said at last, You promised to be the Lord's; but, miserable liar! you broke all those promises; you took the vows of God upon you, and then became a poor, perjured wretch, by slighting all those vows. O my fellow sinner! no lies are so aggravated as the backslider's lies to God. They are wilful lies; for he goes wilfully from Christ, and will not stop, though God and man entreat him to return. They are lies whose guilt is heightened by the base ingratitude of forsaking a good God and a gracious Saviour, and heightened still more by the horrible choice he makes: he leaves Christ for the world that crucified his Lord ; and forsakes God for sin and the devil. I have read of a backslider that said, “ I will not have salvation-nothing for me but hell. Come, O devil, and take me."
Few speak thus plainly; but all that wilfully forsake Jesus, make this dreadful choice; and would they speak whät in reality they do, each would say, Lord Jesus, I renounce thee, I leave thee. Satan, I choose thee as my Lord.
leaven I forsake. Come, devil, you shall be my owner, and hell shall be my home. Like Altamont, every backslider
THE BACKSLIDER'S MISERY. may say, “ I have been too strong for Omnipotence, I have plucked down ruin.”
O when the Judge comes to pronounce the doom of every liar, what will be their state who have lied to God !
Oh, my fellow-sinner ! how can you live with such a load of guilt upon you ! how can you make a choice so horrible! Does not eternity haunt your guilty hours ? eternal damnation gained-eternal salvation trampled under foot-eternal despair-eternal enmity to God-eternal likeness to the damned-eternal hellishness acquired ?-Oh, dreadful choice! Perhaps you laugh; but will you laugh in misery ? Perhaps you jest; but will you jest in hell ? Perhaps you call that place of woe a bugbear; will you on a dying bed ? Did Voltaire ? did Tom Paine? did the unhappy wretch once an infidel, who cried, “ O thou blasphemed, yet most indulgent Lord God! hell itself is a refuge if it hide me from thy frown?"
Oh listen not to the delusions of unbelief, and the suggestions of an infernal foe! Rather seek mercy. Flee from the wrath to come. Is not death already clad in terrors? Then turn to him who would take the sting of death away.
Behold your once dying, but now risen, Lord ! shall all his dying love be lost on you? Will you reject that gracious, heavenly friend ? Behold his dying sorrows, his nameless agonies, his torturing cross, his flowing blood-and think of the immense eternal love, that prompted him to bear those surrows for you. Can you see this, and yet forsake the Lord who bought you? Or think of his kingdom. Think of the meeting of his friends, when all his ransomed flock shall meet in heaven. O unhappy creature ! shall your pious friends miss you there? Shall your minister see that you are absent? Shall those, with whom you have often sat down at the Saviour's table here, sit down without you there? When the little flock that you belonged to, are landed safely, and those who were baptized, or who otherwise professed the gospel, with you, i rest above, where will you be ? and millions of years beyond the day of doom, where will you be ? If sorrow could be felt in heaven, your Christian friends might mourn while they exclaim, Where now is our poor companion, our brother of sister, that professed to set out in the way to heaven with us, and then, O foolish creature ! turned aside ? Where now the