Bibles Net. Com - For those that have gone Wayward.
"Return, you backsliding children, and I will heal your backsliding's. Behold, we come unto you; for you are the Lord our God."—Jeremiah. 3:22.
There are some unveilings of God’s heart, which can only be understood and met
by responsive unfoldings of ours. It is not the flinty, impervious rock that
welcomes and absorbs the heaven-distilling dew.
Upon such an object in nature,
beautiful and grand though it may be, the life-quickening moisture, thus
descending, is a thankless and fruitless offering—a useless expenditure of one of
nature’s richest treasures. But let that dew, noiseless and unseen, fall upon the
flower, the herb, the tree,—the earth which the plough share has upturned and
the furrow has broken,—and how refreshing the boon, and how rich the return!
Thus is it with such an exhibition of the heart of God as that which we have just presented inimitable in its tenderness, unsurpassed in its condescension and
grace. Let these words distill upon any other than a heart humbled, softened,
lying low in a low place, in the consciousness of its sinful departure, its sad
backsliding from God, and they awake no tender, holy, grateful response. How
beautiful are the reciprocal influences of the human and the divine, as presented
in the narrative! "A voice was heard upon the high places, weeping and
supplications of the children of Israel: for they have perverted their way, and
they have forgotten the Lord their God."
That voice of weeping entered into the
ears of God, and lo! the gracious invitation—"Return, you backsliding children,
and I will heal your backsliding's." And then follows the instant and grateful
response—"Behold, we come unto you; for you are the Lord our God." Mark,
how divine and restoring grace gently falls upon the lowly, penitent, returning
soul; and then how the sin-contrite heart of the child goes forth to meet and
embrace the sin-forgiving heart of the Father.
Few will read the pages of a work
designed to proffer a helping hand to Zion’s travelers to whom that hand will be
more needful and acceptable than the awakened, returning backslider. To such,
languid and fainting, depressed and despairing, hesitating to return, doubting
God’s welcome, evidences lost, soul-beclouded, fears rising, hope veiled,—the
strongest cordials of God’s most gracious, full, and free promises are needful to
rouse, revive, and reassure the wanderer that the Lord invites, receives, and
welcomes the returning backslider—the child retracing his way back to his
God addresses them as backsliding CHILDREN. He can never forget His parental
relation to them, though they may forget or abuse their filial relation to Him.
Children though we are, adopted, sealed, and inalienably entitled to all the
covenant blessings of adoption, we are yet backsliding children. The heart is ever
swerving from God. The renewed soul possesses the principle of its own
departure, contains the elements of its own declension, and but for the electing
love, the restraining grace, the illimitable power of God, would destroy itself
entirely and forever.
Having in a former treatise (Personal Declension and Revival
of Religion in the Soul) gone somewhat at length into the nature, causes,
symptoms, and recovery of spiritual declension, my object now is specifically to
meet that state of lukewarmness, tenderness, and hesitancy which marks the
tremulousness of the contrite heart returning to God.
The language in which God addresses you is most reassuring. He calls you
"children;" though a backslider, yet a child. Can the human parent ever forget, in
the deepest provocation of his offspring, that still he is his child?
God here meets
His wanderer just where that wanderer stands most in need of a Divine
assurance. What relation is it which spiritual backsliding the most contravenes,
which sin the most obscures, and of which unbelief and Satan, presuming upon
that backsliding, would suggest to the mind the strongest suspicion and doubt?
We answer—the relation of Divine sonship.
The backslider reasons thus—"Is my
adoption real? Can I be a child of God, and prove so base, sin so deeply, and
depart so far from my God? If a son, why am I so rebellious, disobedient, and
unfaithful? Surely I cannot belong to the adoption of God, and grieve and wound
the Spirit of adoption thus?" Now God meets the wanderer just at this critical
juncture. He declares that though a backslider, yet he is still His child, and that
no departure however distant, and that no sin however aggravated, has impaired
the strength or lessened the tenderness, tarnished or shaded the luster of that
If God, then, comes forth, and, despite our backsliding, recognizes our
son-ship, and acknowledges us as His children, who shall dispute or contravene
the fact? "Let God be true, and every man a liar."
Such, beloved, is the first
consolation I suggest to your sad and depressed soul. Could it be surpassed by
anything else I may offer? What! does God still call you His child? Does He not
disown and disinherit you as a son of God and an heir of glory? Ah, no! He
cannot forget that He has predestinated you to the adoption of children, that His
Spirit has been sent into your heart, and that in happier days gone by you have
often called Him "Abba, Father." And although you have been rebellious,
backsliding, and stiff-necked, yet, taking with you words and turning to the Lord
your God, He meets you as once He met His repenting, mourning Ephraim— "I
have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself . . . Is Ephraim my dear SON? is
he a pleasant CHILD? for since I spoke against him, I do earnestly remember
him still: therefore my affections are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy
upon him, says the Lord," (Jer. 31:18, 20.)
Clear is it, then, that God’s children
do backslide; that it is no strange thing that their love to Him should wax cold,
their faith decline, their strength decay, their zeal slacken, their godly frames
grow sleepy and inert, the spirit of prayer be restrained, the means of grace be
neglected; and, as a consequence of all this inward declension, the world should
have an ascendancy, Satan prevail, and the sin that does most easily beset them
attain a momentary triumph.
But still they are God’s children,—O wondrous
grace! O changeless love!—and chastened, corrected, rebuked, and humbled,
their heavenly Father will restore them to His pardoning love and gracious favor,
and they shall again walk with Him filially, humbly, softly, as His dear children,
"when He is pacified towards them for all that they have done."
What an invitation! "RETURN!" It is GOD who speaks it—the God from whom we
have revolted, departed, and gone so far astray. It is the word of our Father,
against whom we have rebelled, so deeply, so grievously sinned. He trammels
His invitation with no conditions. His simple word is—"Return unto me!" And
more than this,—He has placed before us an open door of return through Jesus
His beloved Son. The covenant of works provided no restoration for the soul that
departed from God under the first testament.
But the covenant of grace has this
distinction, this glorious feature—it places before the penitent backslider, the
contrite child, an open door of return, a way of restored pardon, joy, and peace,
and bids him enter. The Lord Jesus is this open door. The blood of Jesus, the
righteousness of Jesus, the intercession of Jesus, the grace of Jesus, the
quenchless love of Jesus, the outstretched hand of Jesus, unite in guiding the
trembling footstep of the returning soul back to its Father.
The present efficacy
and the continuous presentation of the Lord’s sacrifice in heaven, blended with
His intercessory work, personally and constantly prosecuted before the throne,
are a warrant that this door to God shall never be closed while there lives a
penitent sinner to enter it. Beware of shading the luster of this truth—the
present efficacy of the blood. "The blood of Jesus Christ CLEANSES"—it is in the
form of the present tense the great truth is put. The past is gone, the future all
to us unknown—it is with the present we have to deal.
A present sorrow needing
comfort, a present perplexity needing guidance, a present burden demanding
support, a present sin asking forgiveness, with a present Savior prepared to
meet and supply it all. Grasp this truth with all the intensity of your faith under
present circumstances. Brood not over what is past, yield to no forebodings and
fears as to what may be the future—grapple with the present. For it you have a
door, which God Himself has opened and which neither man, nor Satan, nor sin,
shall shut. You have a throne of grace now inviting your approach; and you have
the blood of Jesus with which to enter, as new, as efficacious, as prevalent, and
as free as when it streamed from His sacred body on the cross.
Let there be no
postponement, then, of your return to God. Tarry for no more favorable
moment, wait not for a better frame, dream not that Christ will be more willing
to present, or that God will be more ready to receive you at any future time than
now; or, that by delaying you will be more worthy of His acceptance. Vain
reasoning! God says, "Return unto me, and He means by this, "Return NOW!"
And what is the promise? "I will heal your backsliding's." Backsliding from the
Lord involves wounds, bruises, dislocation. It wounds the conscience, it bruises
the soul, it breaks the bones of our strength, and causes us to travel in pain and
halting many a weary step. Ah, there is nothing so wounding as departure from
God! Nothing so bruising of the soul’s peace and joy and hope as sin! Who can
heal, who can bind up, who can mollify, who can reset these broken bones so
that they shall rejoice again, but our sin-pardoning God?
We have no self-power
in this great matter of restoration. All that we can do is to make burdens, forge
chains, carve crosses, inflict wounds,—in a word, destroy our own selves. Listen
to David’s experience—"I have gone astray like a lost sheep." This is all that he
could do. But mark his conscious helplessness,—"seek your servant;" and then
observe the imperishable nature of the grace of God in his soul,—"for I do not
forget your commandments," (Ps. 119:176.)
Of how many who bend over these
pages will this be a faithful portrait! Lord! I can leave Your fold, can willfully
depart from Your ways, can basely turn my back upon Yourself; but You must go
in quest of me, seek and restore my soul; and this I may venture to ask, since I
have not forgotten the happy days when Your candle shone upon my head,
when Your light guided me through darkness, when the name of Jesus was as
ointment poured forth, when I walked in sweet and holy communion with You,
and fed with the flock beside the Shepherd’s tent. "I do not forget your
commandments." God will forgive! Christ will bind up the broken heart! The
Comforter will restore joy to the soul!
There is still balm in Gilead, and a
Physician there. The healing balsam still bleeds from the wounded, stricken Tree
of Life. The gate of paradise is yet unclosed, its portal garlanded with a thousand
exceeding great and precious promises, all inviting your entrance and insuring
you a welcome to its sunny banks, its shaded bowers, its peaceful quiet streams.
"Who is a God like unto you, that pardons iniquity, and passes by the
transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retains not his anger forever,
because he delights in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon
us; he will subdue our iniquities; and you will cast all their sins into the depths of
the sea," (Micah 7:18, 19.) What glad tidings these astounding words contain to
repentant back-sliders! What a bow of promise and of hope do they paint upon
the dark cloud of despair which enshrouds the soul! "He will turn again." Though
He has turned a thousand times before, yet, "He will turn AGAIN;" not "seven
times" only, but "seventy times seven."
And what is the response of the returning soul? "Behold, we come unto you; for
you are the Lord our God." Behold, we come! just as we are. We come from the
swine’s trough; we come from feeding upon husks, upon ashes, and upon the
wind. We come with the bruise, the wound, the dislocated limb. We come
deploring our fall, confessing our departure, mourning over our sin; receive us
graciously, love us freely, and turn your anger away from us. "I will arise and go
unto my Father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned."
What! after all
that I have done—in the face of my willful transgression, of my base ingratitude,
of my abused mercies, of my past restorings, of my aggravated departures, of all
the past of Your mercy, Your goodness, Your faithfulness, Your love, do You still
bid me return? Does the overture, the outstretched hand, the first step, come
from You? Then, behold, I come unto You, for You are the Lord my God! Your
power draws, Your goodness dissolves, Your faithfulness binds my heart, and, lo!
I come. Your grace restores, Your love pardons, Your blood heals my soul, and,
behold! I come. Your voice, so kind, invites me; Your feet, so unwearied, seek
me; Your hand, so gentle, leads me; Your look, so loving, so melting, so
forgiving, wins me: and, Lord, I must not, I dare not, I cannot stay away.
Behold! I come unto You.
"Jesus, let Your pitying eye
Call back a wandering sheep;
False to You like Peter, I
Would gladly like Peter weep.
Let me be by grace restored;
On me be all patience shown;
Turn and look upon me, Lord,
And break this heart of stone.
"Look as when Your grace beheld
The harlot in distress,
Dried her tears, her pardon sealed,
And bade her go in peace;
"Foul, like her, and self-abhorred,
I at Your feet for mercy groan:
Turn and look upon me, Lord,
And break this heart of stone.
"Look as when, condemned for them,
You did Your followers see;
‘Daughters of Jerusalem!
Weep for yourselves, not me.’
And am I by my God deplored,
And shall I not myself bemoan?
Turn and look upon me, Lord,
And break this heart of stone.
"Look as when Your languid eye
Was closed that we might live:
‘Father,’ (at the point to die
My Savior cried,) ‘forgive;’
Surely with that dying word,
He turns, and looks, and cries, ‘Tis done!’
O my gracious, bleeding Lord,
You break my heart of stone!"
Thus have we sought to win back to Christ the strayed one, and to help the
returning wanderer heavenward. If the Lord has graciously given you to
experience His restoring mercy, do not forget one great reason why you are
restored—that you might hate and forsake the cause of your departure. If we
have succumbed to temptation, it is not enough that we have broken from its
snare; if we have fallen into sin, it is not enough that we have escaped from its
God would have you learn thereby one of your holiest lessons—the
deeper knowledge of that which tempted and overcame you, that you might go
and sin no more. Restored yourself, seek the restoration of others. Hear the
injunction of Christ to Peter in view of his recovery,—"When you are converted,
strengthen your brethren." Seek to bring souls to Jesus. Let this be an object of
Be especially tender, gentle, and kind to Christians who have fallen into sin,
and are thereby wounded, distressed, and despairing. Extend a helping hand to
lead them back to Christ. Your deep abhorrence of the sin must not be allowed
to lessen your compassion and sympathy for the sinning one. This did not Jesus.
If the Church has vindicated her purity and allegiance to Christ by a wise and
holy discipline of the offender, "sufficient to such a man is this punishment,
which was inflicted of many. So that contrariwise you ought rather to forgive him
and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with
Wherefore I beseech you that you would confirm your love
toward him," (2 Cor. 2:6-8.) Thus charged Paul the church to which he wrote,
and in so doing he but imitates his Lord and Master, who, with a look of forgiving
love, could comfort and restore his fallen apostle Peter. "Be you imitators of God,
as dear children."
It is no uncommon thing for the Lord’s backsliding children to be sadly and
severely distressed and cast down by certain portions of God’s Word, containing
delineations of character and denunciations of woe which they suppose
applicable to themselves; and which, so applied, inconceivably aggravate their
soul distress, their mental anguish, and incapacitate them from receiving the
promises and accepting the comfort which God, in His Word, so profusely and so
graciously extends to His children, returning from their backsliding's., with
weeping and mourning, confession and prayer.
Among the declarations thus
referred to, which are supposed to have, the most direct application, and to wear
the most threatening aspect, are those, so frequently quoted and as frequently
misinterpreted and misapplied, found in the 6th chapter of the Epistle to the
Hebrews from the 4th to the 6th verse:—"For it is impossible for those who were
once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made
partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God, and the
powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto
repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put
him to an open shame." Such are the solemn words, often perused and
pondered with terror and despair by the child of God, which we now propose
briefly to consider and explain.
But before venturing upon their exposition let me,
in the outset, distinctly and emphatically give it as my judgment that they in
nowise refer to the case of the regenerate, and that by no ingenuity of criticism,
and by no perversion of error, can they be made to bear strictly upon a state of
real grace, or to invalidate in the slightest degree the revealed doctrine of the
final salvation of the elect of God. Thus affirming our belief that the persons
referred to by the apostle were not true converts to Christianity, had never
passed into a state of spiritual regeneration, let us take each separate clause of
these remarkable passages, and endeavor, in the fear of God, rightly to explain,
and properly to apply His own truth.
"Those who were once enlightened." Not spiritually or savingly enlightened. The
persons to whom these passages refer had some perception of the doctrines and
principles of Christianity,—the mind was intelligent, the judgment informed,—but
nothing more. They had received the knowledge of the truth in the intellect, but
not the quickening, sanctifying power of the truth in the heart. It was an
illumination of the mind only. They were so enlightened as to "see the evil
effects of sin, but not the evil that is in sin; to see the good things which come
from Christ, but not the goodness that is in Christ; so as to reform externally, but
not to be sanctified internally; to have knowledge of the gospel doctrinally, but
not experimentally; yes, to have such light into it as to be able to preach it to
others, and yet be destitute of the grace of God."
This is the enlightenment of
which the apostle speaks, and nothing more. Their religion would, in modern
terms, be denominated the religion of the intellect—a religion which, however
sound in its orthodoxy and logical in its reasoning, is but as a palace of ice
floating amid the snows and gloom of the polar seas. But this description cannot
apply to you, penitent child of God! The truth as it is in Jesus has enlightened
your judgment, and from thence has penetrated your heart, and in its light you
see the sinfulness of your backsliding's., the consciousness of which has brought
you in sorrow and confession to the Savior’s feet. It is safe, therefore, to
conclude that you are not one of those persons whom the apostle describes as
being once enlightened, as having swerved from the truth, whom it was
impossible again to recover, seeing they had rejected the evidence upon which
they avowed their belief in, and their attachment to, Christianity—the only
evidence Christianity offers in proof of its divinity.
"And have tasted of the heavenly gift." A slight difference of opinion has existed
as to the "gift" here referred to; some expositors, among whom is Owen, make
the next clause exegetical of the present one. Without, however, perplexing the
reader with needless criticism, we at once offer it as our opinion that the
"heavenly gift" is the same as the "unspeakable gift" referred to in another place
and by the same writer. It is quite possible for an apostate from the truth,
having the illumination we have spoken of, to have possessed a certain
knowledge of Christ, "the heavenly gift," without being renewed, sanctified, or
Does not Paul speak of his "no more knowing Christ after the flesh," as
some still do, with a carnal, fleshly knowledge? Does he not, in another place,
describe the conduct of some who had so far tasted of the heavenly gift as to
"preach Christ," but to preach Him with "envy and strife, and contention, not
sincerely?" And yet again, is it not true that the same apostle warns certain
individuals against the sin of "eating the bread and drinking the cup of the Lord
unworthily?" What does all this prove but that those who have tasted of the
heavenly gift have no other knowledge of Christ than that which is natural,
notional, and speculative? They have not Christ in their affections,—Christ as the
object of supreme delight and love,—nor Christ in them the hope of glory.
you have not so learned Christ, O trembling penitent! It has pleased God to
reveal His Son in you. You have tasted, felt, and handled, with a living,
appropriating faith, the Lord Jesus. Your taste of this heavenly gift has been a
heart-experience of His preciousness and fullness. And although you have gone
astray like a lost sheep, yet you have not forgotten the power and savor of His
precious name, which is now more than ever to you as ointment poured forth.
And now your heart pines and your soul yearns to retrace its steps, to walk once
more with the Shepherd whom you have forsaken, and to lie down again with
the flock from whom you have strayed. What does this stirring within you
prove,—this contrition, self-abhorrence, and sin-loathing,—but that you are not
an apostate from the faith, a wanderer only from the fold, back to whose pasture
and repose the faithful Shepherd is gently conducting you?
"And were made partakers of the Holy Spirit." This clause is more clear and
definite. How far an individual may be said to partake of the Holy Spirit, and not
be savingly converted, has been long a mooted question. These words, however,
place the matter beyond doubt. The unhappy persons to whom they refer were
undoubtedly partakers of the Holy Spirit, but in what sense? Let it be
remembered that it was a distinctive feature of the early Church that there
existed within its pale those who were endowed, some with ordinary, and others
with extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit; such as the power of working miracles,
of prophesying, and of speaking with tongues, and that these persons were
possessed of, and exercised in many instances these gifts, as instruments of
pride, covetousness, and ambition,—the works of the flesh in alliance with the
gifts of the Spirit!
Such, for example, was Simon Magus, who sought these
supernatural endowments, not for the glory of God, but as sources of gain, and
as ministering to his carnal aspirations. In his famous letter on "charity,"
addressed to the Church at Corinth, Paul recognizes the fact, that he might be so
far a partaker of the Holy Spirit as to speak with the tongues of men and of
angels, and understand all prophecies, and all mysteries, and yet be destitute of
the Holy Spirit’s regenerating grace. And clearly it is to such individuals our Lord
so pointedly and solemnly refers in His dreadful description of the judgment,
when He says, "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not
prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your
name done many wonderful works?"
To whom He will say, "I never knew you;
depart from me, you that work iniquity." In the absence of the miraculous gifts
of the Spirit, which we believe to have ceased in the Church with the last of the
apostles, men may still be endowed with many ordinary spiritual gifts, conferring
upon them a name, placing them upon a pinnacle of the temple, and winning for
them the admiration and homage of their fellows, who yet are destitute of the
converting grace of the Spirit. This is all that is meant by having been "made
partakers of the Holy Spirit." But your case, penitent believer, bears no analogy
What does your present contrition, your distress and anguish of soul
prove, but that you are quickened with spiritual life, and that the Holy Spirit
dwells in you? that, despite your sinfulness, waywardness, and follies,—the
grieving and wounding and quenching He has received at your hands,— the
Spirit has not utterly departed from you, but that still your body is His temple
and your heart His home?
"And have tasted the good word of God." The meaning of this clause is obvious.
The revealed word, more especially the gospel of God, is the only interpretation
it will admit. These false professors, these willful apostates, of whom the apostle
writes, had heard the word of God with the outward ear, and had so far tasted
its power as to yield an intellectual assent to its doctrines, and even to have felt
some transient emotion, some stirring of the natural affections by the sublime
and dreadful tenderness of its revelations.
They had marked, too, the
extraordinary power and triumph of the truth in the souls of others, and, moved
by the law of sympathy, they were for a while the subjects of a natural and
evanescent joy. They had witnessed the power of Satan in the human soul—how
the gospel overcame it; the spell which the world wove around the heart—how
the gospel had broke it; the period of perplexity—how the gospel had guided it;
the season of sorrow—how the gospel had consoled it; the hour of sickness—
how the gospel had strengthened it; the bed of death—how the gospel had
smoothed it; the darkness of the sepulcher—how the gospel had illumined it; the
fear of perdition—how the gospel had quelled it; the hope of salvation—how the
gospel had confirmed it; the glory of immortality—how the gospel had unveiled
it;—and their hearts were thrilled with a transient glow of gladness.
the emotions of Herod when he sent for John, did many things, and heard him
gladly. And such, too, was the case of the stony-ground hearers, who heard the
word, and anon received it with joy, but by and by they were offended, and fell away, not having root in themselves. These are they who had "tasted the good
word of God," and this is all that they had experienced of its power. But not such
is your experience, sorrowing soul! You have more than tasted, you have eaten
of the good word of God, and His word is unto you the joy and the rejoicing of
your heart. In that word your longing, sorrowful soul now hopes,—upon it, weary
and sad, your heart now rests, until God shall fulfill its promise, and restore unto
you the joy of His salvation.
"And the powers of the world to come." The age to come, as the word has been,
and we think properly, rendered. Clearly the allusion is to the Messianic age, or
the time and dispensation of the Messiah. This was the age, or the "world to
come," to which the apostle refers in another place: "The world to come,
whereof we speak." He is clearly referring to the gospel, in contradistinction to
the legal dispensation; in the latter the word was spoken by angels, in the
former the word was spoken by Christ. This age, or gospel dispensation, was to
be ushered in and distinguished, "both by signs and wonders, and with diverse
miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit." Now, it will not be difficult to trace the
application of this to the apostates whom these passages describe. They had
lived in the early dawn of the gospel age, and amid its most wondrous and
stirring scenes. They had beheld these signs, had marked these wonders, and
perhaps had wrought these miracles. And so they had "tasted of the powers of
the world to come." All this finds no application to your case, O backsliding yet
returning child of God!
Now follows the sentence of the Holy Spirit upon these apostates from the
profession of their faith. That sentence is the most solemn, the most terrible,
that ever lighted upon the human soul. "It is impossible, . . . if they shall fall
away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves
the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame." The key to the
explanation of this dreadful mystery is found in the word "repentance."
they become the subjects of true repentance there might be hope, but with them
this was impossible. For the fearful sin which they had committed, no repentance
was provided,—for the deep guilt which they had contracted, no sacrifice had
been offered,—from the apostasy into which they had plunged, no avenue of
return had been made,—in a word, for the crime with which they were charged,
no remission was given! Their salvation was IMPOSSIBLE! After having professed
to believe in, and to have received the Messiah as the Son of God, as the Savior
of men, they had openly and willfully and utterly rejected Him.
By so doing they
had repaired to Gethsemane, and justified the treacherous betrayal of Christ by
Judas; they had gone to Calvary, and ratified the cruel murder of Christ by the
Jews; they had fraternized with His enemies, and had joined their shout, "Away
with Him! away with Him! Crucify Him! crucify Him!" And so they had "crucified
the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame." After having passed
through all these stages of sin, of crime, and guilt,—having utterly abjured and
renounced the only means and object and grace of repentance,—it was
IMPOSSIBLE that they could be renewed, recovered, saved! For them "there
remained no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment
and fiery indignation, which should devour the adversaries."
But, beloved child of God! we are persuaded better things of you, and things that
accompany salvation. The Holy Spirit has given you the truest, the strongest
evidence of spiritual life in your soul—a broken and a contrite heart. Bring this
sacrifice, and lay it upon Christ our "Altar," and God will accept it. Let the holy
lessons we learn from the mournful, the irretrievable, the hopeless case of the
willful APOSTATE be—not to rest on spiritual illumination, however great, nor on
spiritual gifts, however eminent, nor on religious feelings, however ecstatic, but
seek after the mortification of sin, a closer communion with the Lord, and still
more to abound in those "fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ unto
the praise and glory of God." Upon you these dreadful words fling no darkling
shadow, but your path is that of "the just, which is as the shining light, that
shines more and more unto the perfect day."
"Welcome, weeping penitent;
Grace has made your heart relent:
Welcome, long-estranged child;
God in Christ is reconciled.
"Welcome to the cleansing fount,
Springing from the sacred mount;
Welcome to the feast divine,
Bread of life, and living wine.
"Oh, the virtue of that price,
That redeeming sacrifice!
Come, you bought, but not with gold,
Welcome to the sacred fold."
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