To make halts or balks in our way of profession, or crooked paths, in neglect of duty or compliances with the world, in time of trial and persecution, is an evidence of an evil frame of heart, and of a dangerous state or condition. When we see persons in such a state, it is our duty to be very careful so to behave ourselves as not to give any occasion to their further miscarriages, but rather to endeavor their healing.
Andrew Fuller states: “I shall describe the nature and different species of backsliding from God–notice the symptoms of it–trace its injurious and dangerous effects–and point out the means of recovery.” When backsliding is identified: “The same way in which, if we are true Christians, we first found rest to our souls must be pursued in order to re-recover it; namely, by repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ.” Andrew Fuller describes the many mindsets and rationalizing of unrepentant sinful behavior and how to overcome it, which is sure to help any earnest believer.
From the sermons of Reynolds on Hosea 14 ” I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them.”
The poor woman in the gospel, which had an issue of blood, “spent all that she had, on physicians, and was never the better:” —so poor sinners empty all the powers of soul, of body, of time, of estate, everything within their reach, upon their lusts; and are as unsatisfied at last as at the first. Like a silk-worm, which works out his own bowels into such a mass, herein himself is buried; it weareth them out, and sucketh away the radical strength in the service of it; and yet never giveth them over, but, as Pharaoh’s task-masters exacted the brick when they had taken away the straw, so lust doth consume and weaken natural strength, in the obedience of it; and yet when nature is exhausted, the strength of lust is as great, and the commands as tyrannous as ever before. We are to distinguish between the vital force of the faculties, and the activity of lust which sets them on work: that decays and hastens to death, but sin retains its strength and vigour still: nothing kills that but the blood of Christ and the decay of nature ariseth out of the strength of sin. The more any man, in any lust whatsoever, makes himself a servant of sin, and the more busy and active he is in that service,—the more will it eat into him, and consume him: as the hotter the fever is, the sooner is the body wasted and dried up by it.
The temptation will give oil and fuel to our lusts,—incite, provoke, and make then tumultuate and rage beyond measure. Tendering a lust, a corruption, a suitable object, advantage, occasion, it heightens and exasperates it, makes it for a season wholly predominant: so dealt it with carnal fear in Peter, with pride in Hezekiah, with covetousness in Achan, with uncleanness in David, with worldliness in Demas, with ambition in Diotrephes. It will lay the reins on the neck of a lust, and put to the sides of it, that it may rush forward like a horse into the battle. A man knows not the pride, fury, madness of a corruption, until it meet with a suitable temptation. And what now will a poor soul think to do? His mind is darkened, his affections entangled, his lusts inflamed and provoked, his relief is defeated; and what will be the issue of such a condition?
These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.
Every departure from God must not be reckoned a mere imperfection which is common to good men. We are extremely apt, in certain cases, to flatter our selves that our spots are only the spots of God’s children, or such as the best of men are subject to, and therefore to conclude that there is nothing very dangerous about them. If, after having been repeatedly drawn into sin by associating in certain companies, or engaging in certain pursuits, we can nevertheless run into them again without fear, we cannot possibly have repented of our deeds. Nay more, though we should fear to plunge ourselves into temptation, yet if when providence brings us into such situations and companies, our hearts secretly rejoice in it, this is no less an evidence of our impenitent state than the other. True repentance will not only teach us to shun the way of evil, but to be averse to every avenue that leads to it. If therefore, we either run into temptation or are glad when we are led into it, we are beyond all doubt under the power of it.
“The priests went into the inner part of the house of the LORD, to cleanse it, and brought out all the uncleanness that they found in the temple of the LORD into the court of the house of the LORD.” (2 Chron. 29:16-17, KJV)
As we look back upon the past and forward to the future, a multitude of thoughts naturally rush upon our minds. But there is one subject that may well supersede the consideration of every other: the welfare of the church of Jesus Christ. We have seen her desolation and felt her reproach, and something must be done for her deliverance and enlargement.
Our text may give us helpful direction for the state in which we now find ourselves. When Hezekiah came to the throne of Judah, he found religion in a low and languishing state. His father, Ahaz, was not only an idolatrous king but notorious for his impiety. The torrent of vice, irreligion, and idolatry had already swept away the ten tribes of Israel and threatened to destroy Judah and Benjamin.
With this state of things, the heart of pious Hezekiah was deeply affected. He could not bear to see the holy temple debased and the idols of the Gentiles exalted. Although he was but a youthful prince, he made a bold, persevering, and successful attempt to effect a revival. He destroyed the high places, cut down the groves, and broke the graven images. He commanded the doors of the Lord’s house to be opened and repaired. He exhorted the priests and Levites to purify the temple, to restore the morning and evening sacrifices, to reinstate the observation of the Passover, and to withhold no exertion to promote a radical reformation in the principles and habits of the people.
The humble man or woman of God will read the account of the benevolent efforts of Hezekiah and his associates with devout admiration. As he looks back, his heart will beat high with hope. Success is not restricted to the exertions of Hezekiah. A revival of religion is as within our reach as it was within his over twenty-five hundred years ago.
If you will be like the world, you must take the world’s lot. It will go with you as it goes with the world. Inquire and see, in the whole book of God, how it will go with the world, — what God’s thoughts are of the world, — whether it saith not, “If it lies in wickedness, it shall come to judgment,” and that “the curse of God is upon it.” If, therefore, you will be like the world, you must have the world’s lot; God will not separate.
7 Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice,8 Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years.10 Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.11 So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.)
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