“What a place this is for backsliders!”
Such was part of a missionary report which caught my eye and saddened my spirit.
A backslider is one who has belied the truth which he once professed, and in which he found pleasure—one who has denied the Lord.
What is it that leads to backsliding? Idolatry of some kind or other. Something has been allowed to usurp Christ’s proper place in the heart—the love of money, pleasure, worldly friends and associations; or it may be neglect of prayer, reading the Word of God in private, or any conscious unfaithfulness to Him. It may be through a yielding to infidel tendencies and a desire to appear “brainy” before others. The causes may be many, but the disease is fearfully common today.
What place was this where backsliders were so numerous?
Well, it was out in the Colonies, where life was vigorous and the gamble for wealth strenuous. Money, or rather the love of it, was playing mischief with the faith of believers, and causing them to backslide. How sad to think of souls, once constrained by the love of Christ, being overcome by that of money! Sorry exchange, as will be discovered ere long!
The judgment-seat of Christ will show their awful folly and cause bitter remorse in the hearts of all such. “Having food and raiment, let us be therewith content,” says the ever-wise book of God (see 1 Tim. 6:10). But these people—these idolaters—flung up the treasure of contentment for the misery of seeking to be rich; they became backsliders, and brought reproach on the Christ who bought them.
“What a place this is for backsliders!”
But can you tell me of any place, within your ken, where they are not to be found? Alas! they abound everywhere; and—alas! that we should have to say it—they are a standing shame and dishonour to the name of the Lord. Their end is destruction, their God is their belly, they glory in their shame, they mind earthly things (Phil. 3:19). That is the secret, they mind earthly things! That has caused their spiritual ruin, their destruction. Instead of “setting their mind on things above they have concentrated their thoughts and energies on earthly things. They have fallen.
Oh! sad but common spectacle!
That spectacle is to be seen everywhere today, and not in one place alone. I have often wondered, when looking at the usual audiences at gospel meetings, what proportion the backsliders hold to the entire company!
Preachers frequently say that such companies are divided into two classes, the saved and the unsaved. May they not omit this third one?
Then, are backsliders not saved?
Have we any scriptural right to say that they are?
Then, are they lost?
Thank God, they are not yet condemned. More we cannot say. The issue lies with themselves.
We are told, every one of us, to “make or calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10), and this is just the thing the backslider has not done. Had he been faithful to the Lord and to his own spiritual interests he would certainly not have backslidden.
My reader, you know how your own spirit treats this test; you know how far this “making sure” has been your chief object, or whether you have grieved the Holy Spirit of God by carelessness in walk and way, in secret and in public. Certain it is that if all who profess conversion were, instead of backsliding and hiding their lights under bushels, conspicuous by their fidelity to our blessed but rejected Lord, it would be like a return of the early days of Christianity, of power, of unity, of love, of holiness and of immense blessing. It would be seen who was who; the ranks of the world would be greatly thinned, and those of Christ augmented. His sacred name would not be so sadly trailed in the mire, nor His cause so justly derided. That name would be exalted; the Holy Spirit would act in power; the saints would be in holy and happy harmony—as men that wait for their Lord—and the testimony of the gospel would be in corresponding freshness and blessing. The backslider little knows the amount of evil he does; it is disastrous. The true-hearted follower of Christ has no idea of the good that he is accomplishing. He may oft be discouraged, and feel that his weary labour seems in vain; but far otherwise.
“Little acts we had forgotten
He will tell us were for Him.”
Keep on at these “little acts,” which have His glory for their object. They are most prolific. They would prevent backsliding. May I ask my readers very kindly to read over and meditate upon the last chapter of the prophet Hosea?
“Thy life of sin has been
A toilsome path, without one cheering ray
Now on thy Father lean,
And He will guide thee in a better way.
Come, leave the desert land,
And all the husks on which thy soul has fed;
And trust the faithful Hand
That offers thee a feast of living Bread.”