What an awful error it is to deny backsliding! What ignorance it manifests of a man's own heart! How it stamps a man as a perverter of truth, and one that trifles with sin and the displeasure of the Most High! Who that knows himself and the idolatry of his fallen nature, dares deny that he backslides perpetually in heart, lip, or life? Can any of us deny that we have backslidden from our first love? backslidden from simplicity and godly sincerity, backslidden from reverence and godly fear, backslidden from spirituality and heavenly-mindedness, backslidden from the breathings of affection and pouring forth of the heart into the bosom of the Lord? And if we have not been suffered to backslide into open sin, if the Lord has kept us, and not suffered us to be cast down into the mire, yet have we not committed that twofold evil which the Lord charges upon his people: "They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water" (Jeremiah 2:13)?
And what do we reap from backsliding? do we reap pleasure, comfort, or peace? do we reap the smiles of God, or the solemn testimony of the Spirit in the conscience? No. If conscience speaks in your bosom, what does it say? That every departure from the Lord has brought grief and trouble; that so far from justifying yourself in your sin, you have been ready almost to weep tears of blood, that you have so wickedly departed from the Lord.
It has been our mercy that the Lord has not given us up to hardness of heart and searedness of conscience, that we have not been allowed to say with Israel of old, "I am innocent, I have not sinned" (Jer. 2:35); but that he has "led us with weeping and with supplications." Have not some of us (I am sure I have for one) been obliged "to go and weep," and tell the Lord a piteous tale of backsliding; how we have departed from his fear, and sinned basely against him; how unwilling we have been to take his yoke upon us, and walk in his precepts? Have we not been forced to tell him that we have been disobedient and stubborn, filthy and vile, and has he not, in some faint measure, led us "to turn our faces Zionward," to turn our back upon all false ministers, upon all idol shepherds, upon all the strength and wisdom and righteousness and will of the creature, and given to us some simplicity, uprightness, and integrity of heart and conscience, whereby we have turned our face Zionward, looking for a blessing to come out of Zion, looking for grace, looking for glory?
"I will make thee sick in smiting thee," says the Lord (Micah 6:13), alluding to the feeling of sickness produced by a wound, ("I am made sick," 1 Kings 22:34, margin.) And have not these wounds in our conscience made us, in our measure, sick of the world, sick of the professing church, sick of hypocrites, sick of whitewashed Pharisees, sick of carnal professors, sick of our backslidings, sick of all but the word of God revealed with power, sick of all but the blood and love of the Redeemer, of all teachings but the teachings of the Holy Ghost, of all company but the company of the children of God?
Can you say thus much? that you have turned your back upon everything but Christ, and him crucified? that you have turned away from all doctrines but those which centre in the blood of the Lamb? that you have turned away from universal charity and general philanthropy, as substituted for the power of vital godliness, (though you would desire to love and serve your fellow men as men,) and that your spiritual affections are toward God and his people? And has there been in your soul any such feeling as Ruth had when she said, "Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God?" Any sweet response in your bosom to the voice of the Lord, "My son, give me thine heart?" "Take it, Lord, with all that I have and am!" Any casting yourself at the foot of the cross, and there entreating the Lord of life and glory to speak peace to your soul?