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sacrifice being almost extinguished. And what helps to make this fact the more deplorable is, that some who have thus declined were once as distinguished for their usefulness as they were for their piety. They were not idlers in God's vineyard ; not merely rank and file in God's army; but active, enterprising leaders, of whom it might be said, “the world was not worthy;" men of courage and prowess, who, having sustained the fury of many conflicts, were crowned with laurels and laden with the spoils of victory. But possibly their success was their ruin. Fortune, with her sunny smiles, lured them from their fortress of safety; and now, beholding their shields battered, swords broken, and colours stained in the mire, we involuntarily exclaim, in the mournful words of Israel's weeping bard, “The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places.” “How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished !”

Now the question before us for discussion is, How are such persons to be dealt with? What is the divinely-sanctioned way in which they are to be met ? The method of Scripture appears to me to be comprehended under two branches, and with as much brevity as possible we shall advert to both.

I. First, there is the RESTORATIVE METHOD. This is referred to in the concluding chapter of Paul's Epistle to the Galatians, and stands out prominently among the practical duties there prescribed. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” The case here supposed is not of a trifling character; it is not that of a Christian committing a minor offence ; but, as a critical investigation of the passage will prove, a veritable transgression, a serious fall. The word which in our version is rendered “ fault,” is translated “transgression," or "fail,” in the excellent critical commentary of Brown and Fausset; and as the great object of the epistle was to fortify the Galatian converts against Judaic error on the one hand, and heathen immorality on the other, a lapse into either of these evils must be the fall referred to. From the nature of the context, as well as from the structure of the passage, I infer that a fall into some of the heathen crimes is intended. Towards the conclusion of the preceding chapter, we have an outline of what those crimes were. The apostle specifies such sins as "Idolatry, fornication, sedition, envy, wrath, drunkenness, murder ;” adding that those who were Christ's did not practice such evils, " having crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." But although the indulgence of such crimes was not common among Christians, he well knew that Christians were not infallible; that saints are still sinners ; that as the clearest fire has some smoke, the brightest sun some spots, and the finest specimen of art some flaw, so every Christian has some vulnerable point where the foe's sudden and impetuous attack might be completely successful. In the event of such an occurrence, if, through unforeseen circumstances, a brother should be surprised, thrown off his balance, and in an ill-favoured moment morally overcome, the passage intimates that the church has a duty to perform towards the erring one. What is that duty ? To give publicity to the fact by making it table-talk? To drag the unhappy victim before the tribunal of the church, have him condemned, and forthwith excommunicated ? Nay. “Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon.” What then? Connive at the failure and treat it with indifference, as if the wretched delinquent, like the life-boat, would regain his integrity by virtue of some self-righting principle? Nay, that were un philosophic and unkind. When an accident occurs, and a member of the human body is dislocated, amputation is not immediately resorted to, neither is the injured member allowed to remain in a state of dislocation without attention ; but the physician is called in, and all his skill is employed in resetting the broken limb. This, then, is the identical duty enjoined by the apostle. If through accident any member of the spiritual body should become dislocated, if through falling into sin any bone should be broken, it was to be immediately restored ; or, more literally, for in the original the term is a surgical one, re-set, or set in joint again. And surely nothing could be more natural or reasonable than this. It has always been a recognised duty, that if a man saw his neighbour's beast in a ditch, or suffering from accident, he should, if possible, rescue the endangered animal. And if nature and Scripture dictated such an act of kindness towards a man's cattle, how much more so towards his precious and never-dying soul. One who well knew the worth of both has asked, “ How much better is a man than a sheep ?” Infinitely better is the only reply; for man has reflection, conscience, responsibility, immortality. If, then, that which is inferior is to be restored, how natural that that which is so much superior should be restored also.

But it is possible to bandage a limb without really setting it. I shall therefore inention a few prescriptions that have suggested themselves to me as embodying the Scriptural method of performing this necessary but very difficult operation.

1. And first, it is of primary importance that the erring one be shown the real nature of his sin. Backsliding, of whatever kind, is a crime, a great crime, and nothing less than a crime. It involves the violation of the most solemn vows, the indulgence of the basest ingratitude, and the perpetration of the most extreme and singular folly. But, strange to say, the backslider is not, as a rule, entirely sensible of this. His declension acts as an opiate on his conscience, it lulls it to sleep, stupefies its faculties, and temporarily deprives it of its sindetecting power. Now, in attempting his recovery it is absolutely necessary that this ill-timed and fatal slumber be disturbed; for as a patient will not submit to an operation for the body unless he is convinced there is disease, neither will a backslider unless he understands the moral turpitude of his wrong-doing. This is strikingly illustrated in the case of David. Though a good man, and even illustrious in some features of excellence, he perpetrated crimes of astounding enormity. He was guilty of adultery, treachery, murder. Knowing his sensitireness to wrong in earlier days, one might have supposed he would be immediately horrified at his deeds, and overwhelmed with sorrow on their account. But no. As if smitten by an infernal paralysis, his conscience became inert, utterly torpid, and appeared not to have disturbed him in the least degree. In effecting his restoration, mark how God acts. He sends his prophet Nathan to address him; puts an inimitable parable into his mouth; thereby kindles the monarch's rage, and leads him unwittingly to pass judgment upon his own conduct. In order that he may be thoroughly penetrated with a sense of his guilt, the prophet is moved to exclaim, with pointed finger, flashing eye, and in tones of terrific energy, “ THOU ART THE MAN.” It is enough. The operation is over. The arrow has reached its mark. The veil is torn in shreds. The sword of divine truth has divided asunder and made bare the thoughts and intents of the heart. David sees himself. His long-concealed sins are set in the light of God's countenance, and now his newly-awakened heart nours forth the penitential confession, "I have sinned against the Lord.” 2 Sam. xii. 1–14. In dealing with backsliders now, a similar plan must be adopted. They must be shown the nature of their sin ; for if à period of self-recognition does not dawn, repentance and restoration will never follow.

2. A second thing that should be attempted is, to convince the backslider that his sin, though heinous, has not severed his relationship with God. This point, like the one already mentioned, is of vital moment. Those who have had any experience in dealing with backsliders well know how apt they are, when reflecting, to regard their state as fixed and unalterable. Having revolted and broken their oath of loyalty, they imagine themselves cast off by the government of heaven, and given over to perpetual ruin. The Devil tells them they never were Christians, or if they had been, they are Christians no longer. Knowing their folly and sin, they readily believe him, and involuntarily exclaim, “ The die is cast; it is all over; there is no hope. I have loved strangers, and after them will I go.” This is an error. Nay, it is a stratagem of Satan to keep them away from Jesus. “Once in Christ, in Christ for ever,” is the teaching of Scripture; and when rightly used, this truth becomes a mighty lever to lift the soul from the sin and doubt into which it has fallen. Of course, those of Arminian tendency will demur to this, and denounce it as pernicious doctrine, and a style of procedure fraught with the gravest consequences. But we humbly suggest that this opposition arises from a limited view of Scripture, and from the absence of true enlightenment as to the indestructibility of divine grace. The Bible teaches very clearly that we are made the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, and that we are as much his children by union with Christ, as we are the children of our natural parents by birth. Gal. iii. 26; John i. 12; Romans viii. 14–16. But can a child's relationship to his parents be destroyed? Can he ever lose his property in them and their affection for him? We think not. He may leave his parents' roof; besmear his garinents with mud and mire; but he is their child still. He may disgrace their time-honoured name, and be sentenced to penal servitude for his crimes, but he is their child still. He may rebel against their authority, break their hearts with anguish, and bring their grey hairs with sorrow to the grave. Still, as in the case of Absalom, he is their child. 2 Sam. xviii. 33. And so it is with the child of God. He may wander from his father's home, contract defilement by falling into sin, disgrace the profession and name by which he is called, grieve his heavenly Father's heart, and ill requite his Saviour's love; still he is God's child, and all the powers of earth and hell cannot unchild him. The prodigal, having

wasted his substance in riotous living, desired to be a servant only; but the father received him with open arms, saying, “ This my son was dead, and is alive again.” Luke xv. 24. The children of Israel committed two evils, in departing from God and adopting idol worship; but a voice said, “Turn, Obacksliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you.” Jer. iii. 14. Though they had backslidden, they were children still. Some will say, “But God poured judgment upon them, sent them into captivity, and made them strangers in a strange land.” Yes, he did. But what says God of this ? “ I have given the dearly beloved of my soul into the hand of her enemies." Jer. xii. 7. Though exiled, and apparently forsaken, they were dearly beloved still. But Paul condemned the church at Corinth for its pride, factions, and immorality, declaring it carnal and not spiritual. True; but he begins his epistle by saying, “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus.” 1 Cor. i. 2. Though guilty of the aforementioned evils, they were still God's church, and still set apart in Christ Jesus. But Christ said to Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan : thou art an offence unto me." Doubtless. But on the fair morn of the resurrection, the angel said, “Tell his disciples and Peter” (Mark xvi. 7), thus giving him special prominence, and proving that though he had shamefully denied his Lord he was a disciple still; and that although he had relaxed his hold on Christ, Christ had not relaxed his hold on him. One can easily imagine how these words came like wine and oil to the broken heart of the denier, diffusing the light of hope in his bosom, and encouraging him to believe that his sin, though grievous, had not deprived him of a position the privileges of which he previously enjoyed." From these remarks it will be seen that this point, so far from being a pernicious doctrine replete with the most disastrous consequences, is really a divinely kindled light,

Shining upon the road,

To lead us to the Lamb." 3. A third thing to be done is, to explain the way in which forgiveness and restoration may be obtained. When made sensible of his wrongdoing, and that his case, however bad, is not hopeless, the poor wanderer's inquiry will be, " Wherewithal shall I come before the Lord ?” and it will add greatly to his comfort if we can at once give him a clear and scriptural reply. Though not generally understood, God's way of restoring the backslider is as simple and rapid as that by which the sinner is converted and saved. It is as simple, because all that God demands of him is a penitential avowal of his sin. This evidently is the teaching of both Old and New Testament Scripture; and to prove it we shall cite a passage from each. The first is from Jeremiah iii. 12,13. “Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God, and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you." Here God tells faithless Israel, in language too plain to be misunderstood, that if they will ONLY ACKNOWLEDGE their sin, he will welcome them back again to his bosom. And he encourages them to take this step by assuring them of the graciousness of his character, " for I am mercifai, saith the Lord.” The other passage is from 1 John i. I. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to torgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Here the inspired apostle tells his fellow-believers, that if they will confess their sins, God will pardon them and cleanse them from every particle of defilement. This passage, as a rule, is applied to the sinner; but a simple glance at the context in the first and second chapters will show that its primary reference is to those who have been already converted. It points out God's provision for the washing of his people's feet from the defilement contracted during their march through the world. How easy, tben, is this ; for when one has done wrong, what more simple as a condition of pardon than that he should frankly acknowledge it? Truly, the yoke here is easy and the burden light. God's terms are not selfmortification, gifts of gold and silver, long series of religious exercises, painful pilgrimages to holy shrines, attending the confessional, repeating litanies, and all such inventions of superstitious man. No; all that God demands, and we would assert it with the weightiest emphasis, is, “ONLY ACKNOWLEDGE thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers.” But, as we have said, God's way is rapid as well as simple. No sooner is the sin confessed than it is forgiven. This is fully implied in the passages we have just quoted, and is beautifully illustrated in the case of David. He had long been silent about his offence; quite a year had elapsed since it was committed; but when charged with its guilt he candidly acknowledged it, saying, “I have sinned against the Lord;” and the moment the words fell from his lip, the prophet, without exordium or hesitancy, announced the joyful news, “The Lord also hath put away thy sin.” 2 Sam. xii. 13. Thus the instant he confessed, the Lord forgave, and the confession and the pardon stand side by side, glistening in the historic narrative like two jewels in a royal crown. There is also another beautiful illustration in the parable of the Prodigal Son. The wayward and improvident youth, having wasted his substance and strength, being reduced to the lowest extremity, resolved, footsore and weary, to return to the long-deserted home of his happy childhood, vaguely hoping he would be allowed a servile place; and that like Absalom, who was two years in Jerusalem before seeing his father's face, he would by degrees regain the favour and position he had so foolishly forfeited. But, greatly to his amazement, he was sooner in sight of the “old house at home,” than his venerable and tender-hearted sire, filled with parental compassion, ran to meet him, and, without giving him time to complete the recital of his pre-arranged confession, fell upon his neck, kissed him, there and then bestowed an immediate pardon, and at once fully restored him to his original place in the family circle.

How touching and encouraging is all this to the backslider, and in it how clearly may he see the road by which he can retrace his steps. His God is not an austere judge, not an implacable deity, but a forgiving, loving Father, ever waiting to be gracious, and ever ready to rejoice over the recovery of his fallen children. Instead, therefore, of styling this allegorical representation the “Parable of the Prodigal Son," let us denominate it, “THE PARABLE OF THE LOVING FATHER;" for the love of the father in receiving the son is much more conspicuous than the prodigality of the son in deserting


Luke xv.

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