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The Favour of God is Life to converted Persons in
AVING considered the text as applicable to
the case of finners at their first conversion, I now proceed to observe,
2, That the favour of God is life to returning backsliders. God's dear children are sometimes permitted to turn aside from the path of duty, to fall into open acts of fin, or into a course of fecret remissness, negligence, and unwatchfulness. When that is the case, divine comforts are suspended, or, in the language of inspiration, the Lord hides his face, and leaves the foul in darkness, gloominess, and despondency. Through the power of indwel. ling sin, through the violence of Satan's tempta. tions, or through the snares of the present evil world, they forsake the Fountain of living waters, leave their first love, and turn aside after lying vanities, till their hearts being hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, they at length, perhaps, are overtaken with faults inconsistent with their christian character, or fall into dishonourable and scandalous practices. This is greatly to be lamented. Butthe good Shepherd restores his wandering sheep.
** * He brings them to a just sense of the evil of their doings, and opens afresh the springs of godly for- ' row. He says to them, “ Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee ;' know therefore and see, that it is an evil thing and bitter that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, faith the Lord God of hosts.” That peace, which ariseth from a view of interest in Jesus, is loft. The grieved Spirit suspends his gracious influences, and the soul is filled with disquietude, distress and anguish.
When this is the case, the man is brought, in deep humiliation, to lament after an absent God, and to cry to him, with the Pfalmift, “ Restore unto me the joys of thy falvation.” To the con. folations of God I am now, alas! a stranger. Be. hold, for peace I have great bitterness! My case is sad and deplorable. When I first gave myself to the Lord, I promised constancy; but I have now forgotten and forsaken him and am quickly turned aside after vain things which cannot profit. Woe is me, ungrateful wretch that I am! My un. kind dealing with God is unparalleled! Who ever turned aside unto folly as I have done ? My guilty conscience now accuseth me, God frowns upon me, all my former fins are set in array against me,
they stare me in the face. I am ready to question whether ever there were a saving change wrought in me. I think within myself, surely, none of God's children ever carried it towards him as I have done. Such a backslider in heart and life as I am, may justly expect to be filled with his own ways. I sometimes even fear that I have finned beyond the reach of mercy; having been once enlightened, and after that fallen away, how is it possible that I should be renewed again unto repentance ? May I not look rather for fiery indignation, than for a gracious acceptance into favour? Or if my sins have not reached to that degree, I am certain they have been attended with awful aggravations. I have sinned against light and love; I have been guilty of frequent and dreadful relapses; I have violated conscience, and grieved the Holy Spirit of God. These considerations wound me to the very heart, and cover my face with shame and blushing, so that I am not able to look up. Had I provoked a fellow-creature as I have provoked the Most High, what favour could I expect ? But this thought relieves me, I have to do with God, and not man. I will study, I will plead his gracious and merciful declarations. He hath said, “ My people are bent to backsliding from me; though they called them to the Most High, none at all would exalt
> . him. How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee, Ifrael? How shall I make thee as Admah? How shall I set thee as Zeboim? Mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together. I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim; for I am God, and not man, the Holy One in the midst of thee. I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely : for mine anger is turned away from him." *
The backsliding christian stands in great need of the manifestation of divine favour, in restoring life and vigour to his languishing graces. “ I have,” says he, “ by my wanderings from God, not only loft the sweet sense of his favour, but I have impoverished my own soul, and brought it into a lean and languishing condition. My leanness, my lean
*Depth of mercy! can there be
Jesus speaks, and pleads his blood!
ness, woe is me! My faith staggers, my love is cold and feeble, my hope of heaven languishes, the springs of godly sorrow are dried -up, or run very faintly. My heart is smitten and withered like grass. A cold winter has benumbed all the active powers of my soul, and nothing but the flowers of grace, and the shining of the Sun of righteous
If I rightly read thy heart,
Pity from thine eye let fail ;