“Our backslidings are many; we have sinned against you.” Jeremiah 14:7
All spiritual declension in the true believer necessarily implies the actual possession of grace. We must not lose sight of this truth. Never, in the lowest condition of the believer, does Christ deny His own work in the soul. “You have a little strength,” are His heart-melting words to the backsliding church in Sardis. Oh, what a gracious, patience Savior is ours! But let us briefly trace this melancholy state to some of its causes, that we may be better able to point out its appropriate remedy.
The first cause undoubtedly is, the unguarded state of the soul. A Christian living in the daily neglect of self-examination must not marvel if, at a certain period of his religious course, he finds himself trembling upon the brink of gloomy despondency, his evidences gone, his hope obscured, and all the past of his Christian profession appearing to his view as a fearful delusion. But here let me suggest the cure.
Examine before God the real state of your soul. Ascertain where you have lost ground. Retrace your way. Look honestly and fairly at your condition. Discouraging and repelling as it may appear, look it fully in the face, and lay it open before God exactly as it is, in the spirit and language of the Psalmist: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
The grieving of the Spirit of God is a most fruitful cause of spiritual relapse. We have yet much to learn of our entire dependence upon the Holy Spirit, and of our eternal obligation to Him for all the blessings of which He is the author and the conveyancer. What themes for grateful contemplation to the spiritual mind are the love of the Spirit—the faithfulness of the Spirit—the tenderness of the Spirit—the patience of the Spirit!
And yet in the long catalogue of the believer’s backslidings, not the least is his grieving this Holy Spirit of God. But there is a remedy. Seek that Spirit whom you have driven from your presence; implore His return: beseech Him for Jesus’ sake to revisit you, to breathe His reviving influence as of old upon your soul. Then will return the happy days of former years, the sweet seasons of your early history, and you shall “sing as in the days of your youth, and as in the day when you came up out of the land of Egypt.”
“Return, O holy Dove, return,
Sweet messenger of rest;
I hate the sins that made You mourn,
And drove You from my breast.”
Distance from the cross contributes greatly to a state of spiritual declension. Retiring from beneath its shelter and its shade, you have left the region of safety, light, and peace, and, wandering over the mountains of sin, worldliness, and unbelief, have lost yourself amid their darkness, solitude, and gloom. Turning away from the cross of Jesus, you have lost the view you once had of a sin-pardoning, reconciled Father; and judging of Him now by His providences and not by His promises, and contemplating Him through the gloomy medium of a fconscience unsprinkled with the blood of Christ, you are disposed to impeach the wisdom, the faithfulness, and the love of all His conduct towards you.
But listen to the remedy. Yield yourself afresh to the attractions of the cross. Return, return to it again. No burning cherubim nor flaming sword guards its avenue. The atoning blood there shed has opened the way of the sinner’s approach, and the interceding High Priest in heaven keeps it open for every repentant prodigal. Return to the true cross. Come and sit down beneath its grateful shade.
Poor, weary wanderer! there is life and power, peace and repose, for you still in the cross of Christ. Mercy speaks from it, God smiles in it, Jesus stands by it, and the Holy Spirit, hovering above it, is prepared to reveal it to you afresh, in all its healing, restoring power.