« ForrigeFortsæt »
bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long: for day and night thy hand was heavy upon me.”
It is not so with you who have de parted from God? Can then the things which you are pursuing deliver you from perpetual uneasiness? Nay, does not the fear of eternal wrath often break in still more severely on your pleasure, and tell you, unless you turn to God, not only will the arrows of God some day or other fix deeply on your consciences, but unless you return, eternal ruin awaits you, that awaits all that are found in the ways of guilt and sin, and opposing their God and Saviour.
God rightly governs his people by fear or love. If they love him, their love casts out fear; but if they cease to love him, and follow vain things, fear must be the principle that is brought into salutary exercise: nor can they retain their ease but must be restless and uneasy until they have found rest in the assured favour and love of a reconciled God in Christ.
to pass into a state of great dejection. He uses frequently then the language of the Psalmist. He will look back to those spiritual joys he once possessed; the memory of which is so dear when they have been once enjoyed, and which he knows not how to recover. "I remembered God, and was troubled. I complained and my spirit was overwhelmed." Then looking forward to the future while dismal apprehensions mix with that memory, he says, "Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore?" To his unhappy experience it seems so: his hopes have been so often mocked, his efforts so often failed, that he again and again renews this language. "Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies?" Does my prayer no longer reach his heaven? Has he departed finally?
The second point of instruction which the prophet addressed to these trembling backsliders was, that THEY
SHOULD HAVE A FILIAL CONFIDENCE IN GOD, IN ORDER THAT THEY MIGHT
NOT DEPART FROM HIM. "Fear not, ye have done all this wickedness: yet turn not aside from following the LORD with all your heart." When persons are surrounded by prosperity, and are in health and spirits and vigour, nothing is apt to alarm them. Perhaps, if they are unconverted persons, they can venture on any sin without alarm: they can hear any menace from the word of God without being touched by it. The most solemn and affecting events of divine revelation cannot move their fears they are incapable of fear : they say in their hearts, "We shall never be moved." This same evil state of mind, it is very possible, a believer may fall into. He also may say in his prosperity, "I never shall be moved," forgetting, that by the favour of the Lord has his mountain been made strong." But when a change of things occurs, when he is laid on a bed of sickness, when he is bereaved of his favourite enjoyments, when any thing fixes the arrow of conviction in his heart, then he is exceedingly apt
Now, my brethren, that disquietude, that desponding state of mind is not sanctifying. It has a strong tendency to turn the soul still further away from God. When there is this feeling accompanied by genuine contrition also, conjoined with faith, it does, indeed, on many accounts, prove salutary; but if it comes alone, how can such a one, discouraged, disconsolate, and dreading the Divine Being, how can he return to him? He cannot pray, because he dreads his prayer will not be answered. He cannot meditate, because he meditates on the idea of an angry God, which is too painful to be dwelt upon. He cannot delight in God, for God is not his God, and Christ is not his Saviour; and he looks upon him as a foe, and is obliged to turn away his face from him. He cannot act because he has little hope; and he thinks he must still be encumbered with those tormenting temptations, the chains of which he has rivetted on his own soul; and he is conscious he has been the cause of his own misery, temporal at least, eternal it may be. In such a state, when he is apprehending the fixed frown of his heavenly Father, how can he return to him; and when he is dreading to be vanquished, how can he assault the foe? Replant hope in his disconsolate bosom, and he is im
therefore, the Prophet says, "Turn not aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart; and turn ye not aside." Well was it that he urged them to have confidence in God by which they might be induced to return. Let them but confide in him." "He is waiting to be gracious."
mediately animated to return; and, | night? What manifestations of the divine goodness he once saw shedding their effulgence around him, and all these he has forsaken. A God so kind-a Saviour so perfect-prospects so enchanting, he has forgone them all-and why? To prey on the miserable substitute for satisfaction which a lying, cheating, miserable world will be able to afford him. Yes, the heavens may well themselves be called upon for surprize; for if that starry host we see above our heads could be animated with an immortal soul like ours, there is not a star that twinkles in them but would utter a groan at such monstrous rebellion against God; there is not one which would not refuse to shine or go out in darkness, as though this rebellious world was unworthy to be shone upon by such pure flames. My brethren, this, therefore, should be fixed deeply in the mind of the backslider, but yet in connection with filial confidence in the God to whom he is invited to return. It is a blessed thing when a backslider can believe all this, when he is penetrated with a view of his sins, and yet feels sweet consolation in the certainty that God is willing to receive and bless him.
While the prophet bids them to confide in God without apprehension, we must notice that this confidence was not in the least built on any endeavour to efface the recollection of their fault. It is never necessary that a backslider should endeavour to extenuate his transgression; on the contrary, the very spirit of Christian consolation more than any other, consists in this, that it is consistent with the full view of truth. That consolation that is built on falsehood is worth little, but that which is consistent with a full, calm, clear display of our own transgression against God, that is valuable indeed. Now this is what the prophet urged on them; he says, "ye have done all this wickedness," he would not in the least make them think, that their sin on account of rejecting the sovereignty of God, was trifling; he would have them fix their mind on its enormity; and yet in the very view of that sin, confide in him as a God that would bless you.
UPON WHICH THEIR CONFIDENCE WAS
So assuredly is it with the backslider. Oh, let him discover how great his sins have been; let him remember that the Lord himself, by his prophet Jeremiah, speaking of his particular sin, calls on heaven to be desolate at the cry, "Be ye astonished, O ye heavens at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the LORD. For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water." Here was their sin, that when they knew what God had done for them, and what God was himself to them, they could prefer the miserable sources of joy which the ungodly world can furnish. Let this base ingratitude be fixed deeply in the heart of every backslider. How much has he once known of God? What sweet and blessed joys
TO REST. "Turn ye not aside: for then should ye go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver, for they are vain. For the Lord will not forsake his people." It is a blessed truth, with which we are all familiar, that there is no extent of sin which can hinder a free and full pardon to the returning penitent. The least sin is damning while the soul remains impenitent; but if brought by the grace of God sincerely to mourn over it, to confess it truly, to cast it at the foot of the cross, there is no more anger against the soul. The Lord will not forsake his son: he is ready to be gracious to every backslider who returns: he is waiting to be gracious. There is not to be found in the history of human forbearance and forgiveness any thing at all comparable to that which is shown continually by a gracious God to his offending servants. once visited him morning, noon, and" Who is a God," saith the Prophet
This leads us to the Third point of instruction addressed by the Prophet to the people, namely, THE GROUND
Micah, "like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage." What being can be found like him to pardon? Who has ever been so insulted, so rebelled against; and yet so freely, so fully, so willingly forgiveth-and why? "He retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy?"
The Lord delights to pardon all those whom he can pardon justly. But as the merits of our Saviour's cross are fully adequate to atone for the worst transgression, in the same way, and to the same extent, that they atone for the smallest; therefore, the Lord can as easily pardon with justice, the worst offence, as he can the smallest, the pardon being on the same grounds, and in the same way. The least sin any one commits cannot be forgiven except in this mode; and the greatest sin any one commits may be pardoned as easily by the free for giveness of this gracious God. He delights in mercy; therefore let every penitent backslider take this consolation to his heart to-night, that if he returns to God, that if he only submits and humbles himself, the Lord delights in forgiving him. He delights in forgiving me, may any backslider here say, all my past offencesI have wandered far-I have sinned strangely I am an abomination to myself-could my brethren see what is within me, they would abhor me as I abhor myself-the Lord sees it all, and he delights to pardon. Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.' Thus, my brethren, there is no sin however great which the backslider may not bring to God with perfect confidence that he will pardon and forgive. Were it not so, how could he have visited with mercy that faithless disciple Peter : how could he have pardoned Solomon endowed so marvellously in early youth, so blessed with heavenly wisdom, and yet he turned unto idolatry, and built in the very neighbourhood of the temple of Jehovah altars to the different idols which were around him? Yet they were forgiven freely; aye, and many offenders
like them have obtained the pardon of the Lord. What a marvellous list of sinners is spoken of in the sixth chapter of the First epistle to the Corinthians, Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified." Is there any one here who has committed these detestable offences, committed some of them, committed all of them, he is not worse than those pardoned Corinthians of whom the Apostle speaks. "Such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified." And if in heaven there are some of these transgressors whose robes were washed white on earth by the blood of the Lamb, whose spirits were washed clean by the influence of God's grace, then, why should not he who is most harassed by temptation, most beset by the vilest habits feel sure, that there is for him a place among the sons of God, that there is for him the blessing of the covenant if he will but return to his offended God?
And if this seem hard to believe, we have then to bring forward the Fourth point of instruction, which is, THE REASON WHY THE LORD THUS DELIGHTS TO BE GRACIOUS. "For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name's sake: because it hath pleased the Lord to make you his people." He had chosen them from the tribes of the earth most freely when there was no other cause than his sovereign pleasure, had brought them into the relation of a favoured people towards himself; had made them his own, as distinguished from the other nations of the earth-then will he not be faithful to the people he hath chosen? His glory was in a manner involved in their preservation, and this is an argument continually used by the Prophet Moses, when he urged on the Lord not to destroy wholly his people, because he had made them his. But his by a much higher relation, his by a far richer purchase has he made believers in Christ, and though they backslide from him, yet will he never leave nor forsake them
"for his great name's sake: because it hath pleased the Lord to make them his people." He chose them when they were in ignorance and rebellion, careful for nothing; when indulging in the most open and desperate rebellion, he made them his. Will he then forsake them when he sees any such backsliders penitent at his footstool? If any man is impenitent, whatever has been his profession, that man has reason to apprehend that he will be cut off. But when the humble penitent, whatever has been his transgression, kneels at the throne of grace let him use this argument, "The Lord will not forsake me for his great name's sake." He has chosen me when I was in a state of rebellion-he hath seen me humbled for my offences--he will bless me, and take me back to his favour.
member this, that when after his worst transgression he returns to God, the Lord Jesus, and not he, is honoured by the blessing he receives. It is the merits of the Saviour, and not his merits, which are regarded by God. It is the covenant and the counsel of peace between Him and his Almighty Father, the covenant made with Him for sinners which is regarded; and no blessing belongs, by necessity or right, to the sinner who is prostrate before his throne.
And how is it that the Lord's glory is involved in the restoration of such transgressors? Has he not made a covenant with his dear Son, that he shall build for him a temple of living stones, a temple of believers in him? Thus we read in the Prophet Zechariah, "Even he shall build the temple of the LORD, and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne, and he shall be a priest upon his throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both"-between him and his Almighty Father. He shall be at once a priest and a king-a priest to offer up spiritual sacrifices a king to possess a spiritual kingdom-a priest and king at once, bringing his people to himself by the sacrifice he made for them. Thus shall he build the temple of the Lord, and the counsel of peace shall be between him and his Almighty Father. God, therefore, has made with him a covenant that he shall build a church to his praise; and is it not for the glory of the Saviour, therefore, when he blesses those whom the Redeemer has brought to himself? If Christ has placed a living stone in the temple which he is to build for God, what force on earth or in hell shall pluck that stone hence? It is placed there by Almighty love: it is fixed there by Almighty fidelity, and never shall any unforeseen calamities pluck it from its safety and its rest.
Let the afflicted backslider then, re
But even the sinner has in one sense acquired a right, even this backslider guilty as he is, is still a child in disposition as well as in his privileges; for though he has gone far from God, let him look into his experience, sad though it be, and most humiliating, let him see whether he has ever lost wholly the spirit of a child. I dare to say, that as God is the same to him, so is he in reality the same towards Godhe has offended him, but he is a child still. Did he ever wholly consent to his sin? Did he ever deliberately and with full purpose of heart forsake the way of salvation? Did he ever cease, in all his wanderings, to approve the righteous law of God even when it condemned him? Did he not always love the way of salvation that God had provided for him? Did he not even in his worst times lift his eyes often to heaven that he might recover the divine favour he had lost? Was there not some yearnings in his heart towards the father he had forsaken? Yes, all this, which the unconverted never knew, the real believer whenever he has backslidden farthest has always known. It is this that shows the covenant is not broken between him and God; and God is, on his part, a father still. Frown he will; he ought to frown upon us when we offend against him. It is right that we should be chastised, that we should learn that sin is an evil and a bitter thing; but never has God forgotten to be gracious.
The backslider who has learned this, as all should learn this in coming back to God, may submit to that parental chastisement, may feel that it is the best thing that his heavenly parent could assign to him; that it is better far than to be resting without it; and that if he still must wait for consolation, and if still many frowns of Pro
vidence should lower upon him, yet may he believe that all is in infinite compassion and divine wisdom; a feeling far different from that dread which alienates and takes us away from God. The dread of punishment, the dread of being cast away, alienates and takes us from God: the dread of sin, the dread of guilt, the dread of a father's frown, when we see our father, thus humbles us in the dust, and makes us value that infinite goodness, by which, again and again, we are reclaimed, and which will not let us finally fall away from him. Thus do we see the instruction afforded by these four points; and may a gracious God impress them on the heart of every backslider, and enable him to apply them to himself.
Take care, my brethren, that you do not pursue your course which tends to apostacy one step further. Be sure that you let not fear alienate you from God. Be sure that you fix in your mind this blessed truth, that the Lord is willing to forgive the greatest, yea, delights in forgiving the greatest sinner, as he forgives the least. Remember that his own glory is involved in blessing those whom he has chosen freely, whom he has brought to the Saviour, and to whom by converting grace is given filial dispositions as well as filial privileges.
But if this passage addresses, most particularly, those who are brought in the relation of children to God, it is full of instruction for the most careless sinners too; and I do beseech any irreligious persons who may be here, any who are convinced that their own lives cannot be called religious, who cannot think that if they are to he saved through any mode peculiar to the Scriptures, they have found that mode-for there is little which they do not share in common with the heathen, except, perhaps, gross idolatry—if there be any such sinners here, let them seriously weigh this passage, for every point of it addresses them in one application, as it also most properly addresses backsliders. Let them also remember that they must not pursue their ungodly courses any further, that if they would be happy in all the blessings of the new covenant, it must be by turning to God.
On this subject there can be no
question; I am not addressing you on a controverted, or a disputed topic. All serious persons concur in this, that if you go on in the world's rebellious wicked courses, whoever is saved, you cannot be. Do you not know it, my careless sinful hearers, do you not know that in your present way of living you must come to a wretched end? Will you not turn now? Is there any better time than this to seek the favour and friendship of that God whose mercies are set before you? Do not let the dread of his righteous vengeance alienate you any longer and make you wander farther. He is willing to be gracious to you. He is waiting to pardon the worst transgressor who may have found his way into this house of prayer to night. And why? The same reason may be adduced. Why did he send his blessed Son if it were not to reclaim such offenders as you? for "the Lord Jesus Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost;" and more than "lost" it is impossible for any of us to be. O, then believe, that he is willing to pardon you freely, and do not dwell on that miserable and destructive self-righteousness, that hope of rendering yourselves more worthy of the divine favour to which you cling after long instruction received from the word of God.
If you will not listen-if there are worldly and sinful persons here who know that their course is such that it must needs be punished, if any are punished-if you turn away from that gracious God, I ask you, and seriously I beg you to answer that question to your own consciences, are you not convinced, that you will richly deserve whatever miseries your ungodly courses shall eventually bring on you? The Lord has declared in the chapter from which our text is taken, " If ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king." Is not this true in every case? If you will go on in the way, that God disapproves, must not those habits lead to your destruction? Whatever may be the means of grace you enjoy, whatever may be the hopes you entertain, whatever invitations are made to you, so long as you go on in any way of sin, you must be destroyed, no matter what the world's judgment respecting your sin may be. Whoever lives in any known sin,