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(caption) An Appeal to Backslidden Christians
Rev. Theo. Whitfield
Call number 4923 Conf. (Rare Book Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
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Are you not a Christian? Then why is it you live so unlike a Christian? Have you not been redeemed from death by the precious blood of Christ? Have you not been made a citizen of heaven, a son of the Great King and a joint heir with the Lord Jesus? Then why do you live so unlike such an one? Why do unclean words fall from your lips? Why are sinful actions found in your hands? Why are unholy thoughts cherished in your heart? You are ashamed to be called by the name of Christ; I pray God He may not be ashamed to call you by that name in the day of judgment. Let me appeal to you, O backslider. Return to a consistent Christian life. Take up the cross, and "walk worthy of the vocation wherewith you are called."
1. Let your mind revert to the time when first you perceived yourself in the horrible pit of sin exposed to all the curses of God's Law and to the fiery vengeance of the wrath to come. You deserved to die, and a portion with the devil and his angels was justly allotted to you. In such a miserable plight, felt and acknowledged by yourself, did Christ offer himself through the gospel even to you, saying "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls." Matthew ii: 28, 29. This offer you embraced, in it you confided, and from it your heart drew hope and joy, Christ had therein promised to save you. But what did you promise to Him? Was it not to wear His yoke and receive His commandments. Far it be from me to say that because of your promise to be His servant, He saved you, that because you gave yourself to, HimHe gave Himself to you, or that when you cast off His yoke, He also cast you from His grace. But if you have indeed embraced Him as your Saviour, you did at the same time embrace His cross and covenanted to carry it so long as you should live. And oh! how have you kept that covenant! What yoke are you now wearing but that of sin? What commandments do you keep save the rude promptings of your own passions or the demands of a sinful world? How much more careful are you not to break friendship with your sin loving companions than not to wound your Saviour friend? How much more anxious not to sacrifice the good opinion of the world than not to sacrifice your faith plighted to Christ! How much more ready to indulge your unworthy passions than dare to serve your Redeemer! Do you esteem the most sacred of all vows? Then remember those which you made to Christ when you committed your soul to Him, as your only Saviour. Then He rescued you from the jaws of Hell and adopted you into the family of heaven--will you not keep vows with Him? His mercy is now your only possible salvation--will you not keep vows with Him? He only can be your intercessor with God, your Advocate in the Judgment and your friend in Heaven--will you not keep vows with Him? Then hear His inviting words,
"Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord, and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you; for I am merciful, I will not keep anger for ever."--Jer. iii: 12.
2. And have you not still some love for the Saviour, although you have been very unfaithful to Him? Does not your heart desire that He might be loved and honored even by yourself and by all others? Then consider how much reproach your sins cast upon Him, upon His gospel, and upon His kingdom. Will not men observing your conduct say, 'Ah! here is a subjeet of the grace of Christ, such grace has little efficacy in saving from sin! Here is exemplified the power of the gospel unto salvation. Indeed it has little power to convert a man from sin! Here is an example from the kingdom of Christ; indeed that kingdom Las little influence in checking sin! And has not Christ said to His disciples "Ye are my witnesses?" What a sad testimony does your sinful life offer concerning Him! From your testimony surely men would conclude that religion is worthless; that Christ does not by His salvation deliver from the love and power of sin. Oh, what a false witness is that! What reproach, what dishonor is this uponHis name! Will not a love for His precious name and a regard for His honor prevail with you to forsake sin? Compare your conduct with that of one who loved the honor of his country Regulus a Roman general, was captured by the Carthagenians. By them he was sent to Rome to adjust a peace. In case of failure, he was bound by oath to return to Carthage and threatened with cruel tortures. But the terms proposed by the Carthagenians were dishonorable to Rome and Regulus was foremost in denouncing them. Therefore he returned to Carthage and suffered death by having spikes driven through his body which was confined in a barrel. You are a soldier in the kingdom of Christ, a kingdom infinitely more worthy to be honored by you than was Rome to be honored by its soldiers. Christ has done more for you than Rome could do for the noblest of her generals. Regulus would not for his life wound his country; will you for a momentary pleasure in sin wound Him who loved you and gave Himself for you? Regulus would not for his life dishonor Rome; will you for a short indulgence in sin, dishonor Him who redeemed you with His precious blood and made you a child of God? Oh, let not this be done by you! Make no more treaties with sin! No more dishonor your Saviour, His gospel and His church? Rather endure the greatest self-sacrifice, reproach and suffering than yield to temptation. Be a Regulus for Christ. You may suppose your influence cannot be very important for good or evil. In this you greatly mistake. What! your influence unimportant and you a Christian--a professed follower of Christ? You occupy a new relation to the unregenerate. They regard you as having felt the power of the gospel and as exemplifying the salvation of Christ; therefore your example is clothed with new power; by a sinful life you will influence them to place a low estimate upon the gospel, for they will perceive that you a Christian, are no better than themselves. What destructive evil will thus be done! Does your influence import but little when it leads souls to perdition? The lamp is a little thing, and in itself of little importance, but when hoisted in a light-house to signal some dangerous shoal, how full of import! While burning, how many vessels warned keep safely to the channel or out to the sea! But if that light go out, what noble ships and how many precious lives are wrecked in the breakers! Thus your example, while not professing Christianity, had little influence inducing men either to seek or neglect the salvation of God; but now that you are esteemed a Christian, men expect to find in you a warning light, if danger indeed be nigh, you are a light-house for the world; can your influence be unimportant? Your example will either by the light of godliness, warn men to seek a Saviour or by the darkness of sin lure them into a fatal security until their souls be wrecked in perdition. What! your influence unimportant when by it immortal souls may be thereby seduced
into eternal disaster? Alas! how many sinners have by false professors or careless Christians been led to fancy themselves secure, never waking from their dreams till hurried into the presence of God!
3. Again, consider how useful you may be if maintaining a consistent Christian life; so long as your conduct is inconsistent with your profession, usefulness is impossible; you may be potent to do evil but powerless to do good. Your only efficiency will be to dishonor the name of Christ, to wound His people and be a stumbling block for the destruction of sinners. Indeed it were far better for you not to live in the world than to continue a life so injurious by its inconsistency. But if you would be useful your greatest efficiency will consist in a Christian life. Who does not know that example is more powerful than precept? Then let your Christian example daily proclaim a Saviour to mankind. Let His power to save be seen in yourself. Let your renewed life like the healed maniac of Gadara shew to your fellow men "how great things the Lord hath done for thee and hath had compassion on thee," and they will not only marvel, but seek the Physician whose power and grace have been manifested in you.
A gentleman relating his first convictions of sin, said, "Walking alone at evening, I heard a childish voice in prayer. Unseen I drew near, and saw a young girl whom I knew well; she was confessing her sins to God and earnestly asking forgiveness. Oh! thought I, if one so pure and young has need of confession and forgiveness what is my need, who have lived many years only to forget God and sin against Him!" See here the power of Christian example! Is not its feeblest voice like the trumpet blasts of the priests of God about Jericho before which the walled city falls down?
Thus also may you by a Christian conduct, convict of sin and direct to Christ those whom you neither see nor know. The benefits which may be effected simply by a Christian example are incalculable. It speaks with silent power to every beholder. It arrests the eye of a thoughtless sinner, and he reflects thus, "That man has truly been regenerated and saved by Christianity, but I who am so different from him, must surely be in the bonds of inquity. He is surely journeying toward heaven and I alas! must be journeying toward perdition." Through the blessing of God this conviction of sin ripens into conversion and a soul is saved from perdition. Often had this power of Christian example been verified; persecutors have been convicted of sin by martyrs, the sick proprietor by his Christian tenant and the master by his Christian servant. Suppose your Christian conduct draws one sinner to Christ, or recovers one backslider from his erring way, you will have covered a multitude of sins. That soul will be a jewel of immortal lustre in the Redeemer's crown and therefore you will have brought inestimable honor to His name, yet more, that soul will dwell in immortal bliss, and therefore you will have secured to a sinner once lost, more happiness than the wealth and glory of a world could bestow. Yet more, you will have done something, perhaps much, in completing the Redeemer's kingdom. That one may bring others to Christ, and they in turn many others; and thus the blessed work springing from your good example shall never cease, till at the end of time, a multitude of souls shall come home to glory. And thus shall the angels rejoice not only once for the sinner that through you came to repentance, but a thousand times and for a thousand sinners strike their harps giving glory to God for your Christian example.
The smallest means will through the blessing of God effect great results. Leonidas with his faithful band withstood the myriads of Xerxes at the pass of Thermopylee. So you may, with the advantage of a Christian name and a faithful example withstand a host of sinners, and with the blessing of God save many. But remember, that one traitor led the Persians by a pathway to the rear of Leonida's army. That little army was lost, Attica desolated and Athens reduced to ashes. So also will an unfaithful example you
treacherously give advantage to the enemies of religion, and then alas; what incalculable evil is done! What dishonor to Christ, what wounding of His church? What ruin of souls!
4. A consistent Christian life is a life of happiness, said Jesus to His disciples, "In me ye shall have peace." And again we learn that Christians have "joy and peace in the Holy Spirit," yea, and that they may even "glory in tribulations." Faithful Christians are indeed the happiest persons in the world, for peace flows into their hearts from heavenly fountains. There is a river the streams whereof shall make glad the city of our God." But it will be vain for a Christian to seek gladness from the polluted waters of a sinful world. Even the unregenerate who love sin and have no pleasure in righteousness cannot find peace in the sins they love. God has doomed them to disappointment. "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked." How much less should the Christian expect happiness in sin, which he really hates, which is distasteful to his highest nature and loathsome to his purest affections! If indeed you delight in worldliness, if you both commit sins and have pleasure in them that do them," you can indeed have no pleasure in works of righteousness. But neither is there happiness for you from any other source. You are in the "gall of bitterness" as truly as in "the bonds of iniquity." You must have a "new heart" ere you can have a happy one. But if you have a new heart, it can never draw happiness from sin. If you love God, can you be happy in offending Him? If you love the Lord Jesus can you be happy in dishonoring Him, wounding His people and betraying His kingdom? If you love the Holy Spirit, can you be happy in grieving Him from your heart? I may appeal to your own experience; have you found happiness while seeking it in worldliness? I know you have not. She was not in the circles of honor or the halls of learning; she was not in the dance or at the card table; far was she from the sparkling bowl, and listened not to the call of profanity. Have you been seeking her in forbidden paths. You should have remembered that Happiness is obedient to God if you are not--she never treads forbidden paths or haunts forbidden fruit. And have you forsaken the heavenly viands of religion to feed on the debauchees or even the dainties of sin? I do not wonder that your comfort in Christian hope is gone and that you have almost banished hope itself. You are unhappy; every backslidden Christian is so. It may be because you are regenerate and your heart loathes the sins you indulge. When I see the King's son among enemies or debased among menials I am not surprised to find him wretched. The child of God and citizen of heaven, having tasted the sweetness of peace in Christ can be only wretched when feeding on the husks of sin. Therefore break off your sins and return to Christ the Shepherd of your soul and He will lead you to green pastures and beside still waters. Then with a peaceful heart you will say with David "He restoreth my soul; He leaded me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake; yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will foar no evil, for Thou art with me. Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. Thou anointest my head with oil, my cup runneth over."--Psalm xxviii.
In the proportion of your faithfulness to Christ will be your happiness as also your usefulness. "The joy of the Lord will be your strength," also for greater usefulness, and your usefulness will in turn exhilerate your joy anew. What pure and exalted happiness is awarded even in this life to faithful discipleship let the following example attest. The happiest person whom God has ever permitted me to see was an old negro man who lived in the town of A. His name was Godfrey. All external circumstances were such as would have conspired, had he not been a Christian, to his misery; and yet no Christian could converse with him without feeling more of emulation than pity. On one of his limbs below the knee on incurable and loathsome sore was eating away his life. He was a freed man and entirely dependent on
charities for the necessaries of life; he was living when I first saw him in a room so broken in the roof that not even his couch was secured from the rain. Yet his face was radiant with a sweet and pleasant smile. With emotion he thanked God for putting it into any heart to come to see him. He would not talk of his pains or his poverty except to offset them with the greater blessings of God; and he foiled me in several efforts which I made to direct the conversation to his sufferings. He seemed to realize that he only lived, using his own words, "to tell of the goodness of God." I had a servant with me; the old man turned to him and said, "my son, if you only knew what old Godfrey knows, you would be on your knees day and night till you found Jesus! Wait not till to-morrow, Come now while all things in Christ are ready, come!" Often in every day and sometimes at night, his trembling and broken voice was heard singing, praying, shouting and praising God. This was not the occasional but the daily occupation of his life. Rarely could the passer by fail to hear the voice of shouting Godfrey, and should he open the door to see who was there he would find none but Godfrey and his God. In that condition of outward distress and inward glory he had continued for about six years. The sight of him was a more eloquent appeal for Christianity than the most learned effort of the pulpit. No' sinner could behold him without being warned of hell and invited to heaven: No Christian could see him without desiring grace, which dwelt in him: None could see him and forget him. His death was suitable to his life: for the sweetest peace pervaded his heart and mind--it was seen on his face and heard from his lips, so that none who beheld him, could refrain from saying "Oh! that I may die as Godfrey died." The glory to Christ and blessings to men redounding from this noble Christian example can never be adequately known till the day when Christ shall be glorified in His saints and reward them that diligently serve Him.
5. If you live in sin, whatever be your religious profession, you will certainly be lost." Let no man deceive you--he that doeth righteousness is righteous. He that cemmitteth sin is of the Devil."--1 John iii: 7, 8. "He that loveth the world, the love of the Father is not in him."--1 John ii: 15. Applying this plain rule to the habitual life, it must be a criterion of rational hope infallible as the word of God. In what degree you indulge sinful actions or cherish sinful feelings, in that degree have you evidence of your lost estate. A "faith that works by love" is the only genuine faith in the gospel: and only as your faith appears in works of love, have you rational hope of a saved estate. Far be it from me to say that a Christian never falls into sin, but it is characteristic of a Christian not to continue habitually in known sin. It is not certain that at any hour he will not fall into sin, but it is certain that from known sin he will repent.
Perhaps you expect to forsake your sins at some future time; but so long as you are willing to remain in sin, overwhelming evidence indicates that you are in the "bond of iniquity" having "neither part nor lot." in the salvation of Christ. Your fall into sin is not so strong a testimony to your sinful estate, as your willingness to remain in your backsliding. For any one may fall into company which is distasteful to himself, but cannot remain therein. And never will men cleave to that for which they have less affection by leaving that for which they have the greater. As to your expectation to repent at some future period, the vilest sinner cherishes a like thought. But this expectation entertained by both does not render it even probable that either will escape the perdition of ungodly men.
You may say 'Surrounding temptations are too strong for my present return.' This may be sadly true, but let it not even suggest that you have received the Spirit of Christ. It is approximate proof of the reverse. Said Christ "Because iniquity shall abound the love of many shall wax cold, but he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved."--Matthew xxiv: 12, 13.
From which it is evident that a spurious faith and a love but superficial, will not long maintain under trial, even the appearance of godliness, which genuine faith will persevere, exhibiting its Christianity through abounding temptations. The ship which cannot stem the perils of the ocean cannot reach the distant harbor. Nor can the mere professor unable to withstand the assaults of sin, ever reach the haven of eternal bliss." Whatever is born of God overcometh the world and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."--1 John v: 4. Therefore while you remain without a struggle in subjection to worldliness and sin, think not that you have been born of God. Were you a prince of that Royal blood you would not live in such slavery. Rather conclude that you are a servant of sin, "led capture by the devil at his will." But be assured while you cast off the service of Christ before men that He will cast you off before the face of angels.
Be assured that while sinners are stumbling over you into perdition your portion is with "everlasting burnings." But if you be indeed one of the Redeemer's fold you will hearken to His iuvitations.s Saith He "my heep hear my voice." If you will return, the arms of mercy extend as freely to you as to any sinner. He saith "Return, thou backsliding Israel, and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you, for I am merciful, I will not keep anger for ever."
The keeper of the lighthouse at Calais was once boasting to a traveller of the brilliancy of his lantern, which can be seen ten leagues at sea, when the visitor said to him, "What if one of the lights should chance to go out?" "Never; impossible!" he cried, with a sort of consternation at the bare hypothesis. "Sir," said he, pointing to the ocean, "yonder, where nothing can be seen, there are ships going by to all parts of the world. If to-night one of my burners were out, within six months would come a letter--perhaps from India, perhaps from America, perhaps from some place I never heard of--saying, that on such a night, at such an hour, the light of Calais burned dim, the watchman neglected his post, and vessels were in danger. Ah, sir, sometimes in the dark nights in stormy weather I look out to sea, and I feel as if the whole world were looking at my light. Go out? burn dim? Oh, never!"
Was the keeper of this lighthouse so vigilant; did he feel so deeply the importance of his work and its responsibility; and shall Christians neglect their light, and suffer it to grow dim--grow dim when, for need of its bright shining, some poor soul, struggling amid the waves of temptation, may be dashed upon the rocks of destruction? No. "Hold forth the word of life," This is the way to save souls. "Holding forth the word of life," says the apostle; why? "That I may rejoice, in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, nor labored in vain."
"For sadder sight the eye can know,
Than proud bark lost, or seaman's woe--
The shipwreck of the soul."
Reader never trifle with little sins. A smal! leak will sink a great ship, and a small spark will kindle a great fire, and a little allowed sin, in like manner, will ruin an immortal soul. Take my advice, and never spare a little sin. Israel was commanded to slay every Canaanite, both great and small. Act on the same principle, and show no mercy to little sins. Well says the book of Canticles, "Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines." Cant. 2:15.
Depend on it, no wicked man ever meant to be so wicked at his first beginnings. But he began with allowing himself some little transgression, and that led on to something greater still, and thus he became the miserable being that he now is.
There are two ways of coming down from the top of a church steeple: one is to jump down, and the other is to come down by the steps; but both will lead you to the bottom. So also there are two ways of going to hell: one is to walk into it with your eyes open--few people do that; the other is to go down by the steps of little sins; and that way, I fear, is too common. Put up with a few little sins, and you will soon want a few more. Even a heathen could say, "Who ever was content with only one sin?" And then your course will be regularly worse and worse every year. Well did Jeremy Taylor describe the progress of sin in a man: "First it startles him, then it becomes pleasing, then easy, then delightful, then frequent, then habitual, then confirmed: then the man is impenitent, then obstinate, then resolves never to repent and then he is damned."
Reader, the devil only wants to get the wedge of a little allowed sin into your hearts, and you will soon be all his own. Never play with fire. Never trifle with little sins.
"Who can tell," writes one, "the results of such a fact as these two lines disclose? The Rev. Newman Hall's little book, entitled, 'Come to Jesus,' has just passed through its five hundred and forty-sixth thousand." How extensively, how long, and how loudly will such works speak, and how differently from the productions of such men as Byron, Paine, or Bolingbroke. If any earth-born joys, remarks a modern writer, are admitted as visitants amidst the celestial choirs, the joy that springs from having written saving and sanctifying works,
is the sweetest that reaches the hearts of the saved. And if, as we believe, any poignant recollections from this earth reach the memories of the lost, not the least bitter will be the rememberance of having written volumes which are circulated by every library, and sold by every vender, in which the foundations of morality are sapped, and the youth of our world poisoned throughout the whole range of their moral character and future hopes.
READER, do you ever think? You have a soul as well as a body.--You must die one day. After death comes judgment. Do you ever think?
Want of thought is one simple reason why thousands lose their souls for ever. They will not consider. They will not look forward. They will not reflect on their latter end, and the certain consequences of their present ways. And at last they find they are damned for want of thinking.
Believe me, this world is not a world in which we can do well without thinking. Least of all can we do well in the matter of our souls. 'Don't think," whispers Satan: he knows that an unconverted heart is like a dishonest tradesman's books, it will not bear close inspection. "Consider your ways," says the word of God--stop and think--consider and be wise.
Well says the Spanish proverb, "Hurry comes of the devil." Just as men sometimes marry in haste, and repent at leisure, so they make mistakes about their souls in a minute, and then suffer for it for years. Just as a bad servant does wrong and then says, "I never gave it a thought" so men run into sin, and then say, "I did not think about it--it did not look like sin." Not look like sin! What would you have? Sin will not come to you saying, "I am sin:" it would do little harm if it did. Sin always seems "good and pleasant and desirable," at the time of commission. Oh, get wisdom, get discretion. Remember the words of Solomon: "Ponder the paths of thy feet, and let thy ways be established." Prov. 4: 26. It is a wise saying of Lord Bacon, "Do nothing rashly. Stay a little, that you may make an end the sooner."
Oh, learn to be thoughtful. Learn to consider what you are doing, and whither you are going. Take time for calm reflection. Commune with your own heart, and be still. Remember my caution. DO NOT BE LOST MERELY FOR WANT OF THOUGHT.