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THE BACKSLIDER'S MISERY.
337 thoughtless youth, that loved a dying world, and left our Lord ? and where all his vain delights? Where now the unhappy girl, that once promised fair for glory ? and where all for which she denied her Redeemer, and sold her soul? Ah, had she persevered how different had been her lot! That hapless soul, which is now overwhelmed with eternal night, had then been one of our happy band; had then enjoyed the crown that fadeth not away.
Ah, my friend! these things are not cunningly devised fables. The time will come, when your Christian friends, who cleave to the Saviour, will rest in heaven; and when, if you return not to him, you and they must part for ever. Oh! if you leave them now, this wilful parting is the dread forerunner of an eternal separation. Now to be parted from the flock of God perhaps you feel but little; but what will it be to be parted from it for ever ?
If you would return to the ways of peace, inquire seriously, what has been the occasion of your fall ? and forsake it, though it may cause you as much pain as to cut off a right hand. Forsake especially worldly associates; or every attempt to return to God will be in vain. Begin with religion again as you began at first. Seek salvation through the blood of Jesus. Pray much. Frequent divine ordinances. Cherish religious conversation : and God will hear your prayers, and help your soul, and give you grace to escape from the snare of the devil. Then who will sing of redeeming love with a heart so warm as you? All the motives that love and gratitude can furnish, urge you to return. All the motives that can spring from pity for yourself, urge your immediate return. All the blessings of eternal life invite you back to God. All the sorrows of the Saviour urge you to flee to him. And all the terrors of eternal death should frighten you from the paths of the destroyer.
§ 7. Shall I, by a statement of painful facts that I have witnessed, endeavour to offer one motive more for your immediately returning to the Saviour, who is willing to have mercy upon you, or for your watching, praying, and persevering.--I was once called to see a person in much distress of mind, who professed religion, but who declared that his conduct had been inconsistent with his profession. He spoke of the extreme distress that he then felt, and observing that he 338
THE BACKSLIDER'S MISERY. had been two months in that condition, said, that those two months seemed like two millions of years. At another time he said, “ If I possessed it, I would give ten thousand millions of worlds to be out of my present misery." Depend upon it, if you forsake the Saviour, or if vou have forsaken him, and return not to him, you are hastening to sorrows thus excruciating and severe. On another occasion I repeatedly visited a young woman, who had been a professor of religion, but who had fallen, and led a life of carelessness. She was confined to a bed of affliction, and apparently near the grave. With a countenance full of bitter distress, she often spoke of her guilt and folly in such expressions as the following: “I once knew the way; I once could look at death with comfort; but now I cannot-I fear there is no mercy for me.” Unexpectedly her illness took a favourable turn; she would then say, “ I have suffered much, but not half so much as I deserve for my base ingratitude to God.” Speaking of her views when at the worst, she observed, size would have given the world to have had her sins forgiven; and said, that at that time she saw nothing before her but death, and hell along with it! How dismal a prospect for the day of suffering or dissolution! Yet if you are, or ever become, a backslider, what other prospect can be yours! O watch and pray. Return to the Saviour, or cleave to him. So, when your fainting head can rise from its pillow no more; when the blood grows cold at your heart, and your spirit is about to take its final flight; your prospect may be bright as eternal life, and your peace unshaken as the promises of Christ.
CONSOLATIONS AND ENCOURAGEMENTS FOR THE
CHRISTIAN IN HIS SPIRITUAL PILGRIMAGE.
§ 1. YOU have now contemplated some of the duties of
the Christian life, and some of the trials of the
ENCOURAGEMENT FROM DIVINE PROMISES. 339 Christian warfare ; yet many are the fountains of consolation to which the sacred Scriptures direct the thirsty pilgrim's view. For happiness, look to your Redeemer, to your God, and to your home.
Look to your Redeemer, and listen to the gracious words that proceed from his compassionate lips. “Let not your heart be troubled ; ye believe in God, believe also in me. He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."a “ The Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.” “ My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”
Perhaps your soul may, at times, be cast down and distressed; but remember, when friends are absent, the Lord Jesus is present. The chief Shepherd is for ever near you; and he who laid down his life for you, will doubtless make your comfort and welfare his care. Let your faith but repose aright upon the Saviour's love, and nothing will seem dark on this side the grave, and all appear bright beyond it. If at times you sow in sorrow, you will doubtless reap in joy. Hear your Lord saying, “ I will never leave thee nor forsake thee." Above all, hear him saying, “ My grace is sufficient for thee. Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”d What more can you desire ? Jesus always with you--can you then ever indulge distress ? Jesus always with you-can you then ever want a counsellor? Jesus always with you--can you then ever despair of final conquest ? Me who laid down his life for you, ever attentive to your welfare
—no moment passing in which he is absent; no moment coming when he shall leave you, or his helping hand be far away. O rejoice in these promises ! they are worth more than all the world. (a) John xiv. 1, 21, 28, 27. • 1, 21, 2
(6) John x. 14, 27, 28. (c) Heb. xiii. 5. Cor. xii. 9. Matt. xxviii. 20.
ENCOURAGEMENT FROM $ 2. Let the consideration of what the Saviour is, fill your soul with comfort. There is nothing in him to render him an object of dread to the suppliant at his feet. When the apostle John saw his glory, beheld “his countenance as the sun shining in his strength,” and “ his eyes as a flame of fire,” while he heard “ his voice as the sound of many waters,"e he fell as dead at his Redeemer's feet; but Jesus said, “ Fear not; I am the First and the Last: I am he that liveth and was dead." Though he appeared in such tremendous majesty, his humble follower had no cause for fear; and he still remembered what he had borne for man. Doubtless the same compassion still dwells in his breast. The flight of a few short years changes man ; but the revolution of eternal ages will not change the compassionate Son of God. Think what tenderness he displayed, in a thousand forms, during his short sojourn below. His business was to save. His office, to heal the brokenhearted. Imperfect friends and bitter foes received the tokens of his tender compassion. Behold the Saviour in his intercourse with friends. Sympathizing with them in their sorrows, he wept at the grave of Lazarus. He bore with the dulness and errors of his disciples; and though he corrected their faults, treated them with one unvarying flow of kind. ness. When they, who should have watched with him in his agony, slept, instead of severely reproving them, he tenderly excused their fault, and said, “ The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak.” When Peter denied him, and afterwards repented, he still owned him as a brother, and said, when sending a message to him and the other disciples, that had so lately been fugitives in the hour of his sorrow, “ Go, tell MY BRETHREN that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.'f When Thomas, after his resurrection, said, “ Éxcept I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe," he gratified his unreasonable scruples; and said to Thomas, “ Be not faithless, but believing."! Even when he severely rebuked the dreadful lukewarmness of his professed friends at Laodicea, he did not conclude the solemn warning without expressing affection for them. “ As many as I love I rebukeand chasten; be zealous, therefore, and repent.”h To the sons and daughters of affliction, wt20 (e) Rev. i. 14, &c. () Matt. xxviii. 10. () John xx.25, 27. (k) Rev, iü. 19. THE SAVIOUR'S COMPASSION.
341 sought his aid, he ever showed tenderness and love. The centurion besought him to heal his servant, and Jesus said, "I will come and heal him."i Jairus, worshipping him, said, “My daughter is even now dead; but come, and lay thy hands on her, and she shall live."k' Attentive to the cry of sorrow, Jesus arose and went. The leper said, “ Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” Jesus answered, “ I will; be thou clean."! Blind Bartimeus cried, “ Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.” The disciples, less compassionate than their Lord, rebuked the importunate sufferer ; but Jesus said unto him, “ Receive thy sight; thy faith hath saved thee.”'m The widow of Canaan implored his help for her
afflicted daughter. At first he seemed to hesitate ; but only - hesitated to prove her faith ; and then said to her, “ O woman,
great is thy faith ; be it unto thee even as thou wilt.”. Often unsolicited he bestowed his aid. Thus to him, who lay by the pool of Bethesda, he said, “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.” Wben he met the widow, who mourned the loss of her only son, he said, “ Weep not;" and with a voice, pow. erful as that which shall at length awaken all the dead, he said to the lamented object of her affection, that lay stretched lifeless on the bier, “ Young man, I say unto thee, arise."p Even the poor guilty adulteress, that was conveyed into his presence, experienced his mercy. When Jesus said to her, “ Hath no man condemned thee?” and she said, “ No man, Lord ;" he said, “ Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more,"q The tenderness of Jesus was strongly displayed even to his bitterest foes. He wept over impenitent Jerusalem;" shed tears at the misery of those, who were about to shed his blood. He prayed for his murderers, and desired their life who wrought his death; their happiness who loaded him with woe. Not in an hour of cool reflection, before or after his dreadful sorrows; but in the midst of those sufferings he prayed, “ Father, forgive them; for they know not what they are doing." And after his resurrection, breathing forth the same unconquered tenderness, he directed the tidings of mercy to be proclaimed first to his murderers; and commanded his apostles to begin publishing forgiveness at Jeru(i) Matt. viii. 7. (k) Matt. ix. 18. (1) Matt. viii. 2, 3.
(m) Luke xviii. 38, 42. (n) Matt. xv, 28. (0) John v. 8. (P) Luke vii 11.
9) John viii. 10, 11. (1) Luke xix. 41. () Luke xxiii, 34.