The Backslider's Petition
"Restore unto me the joy of your salvation!" Psalm 51:12
Backsliding not only dishonors God — but it strips the believer of his joy, and leaves him disconsolate and dejected. This was the case with David; he had suffered much, and he feared more; and looking back upon his past experience, he prayed for the return of his joy. He had been happy, for he had known the joyful sound, and walked in the light of the Lord's countenance.
There is happiness in true religion. The gospel is glad tidings of great joy. A knowledge of a saving interest in all its privileges and blessings, causes us to rejoice in God; and its application by the power of the Holy Spirit, produces the most delightful effects:
guilt is purged from the conscience,
peace flows into the heart,
acceptance with God is realized,
access to God with confidence is enjoyed,
and Heaven appears to be opening to the view.
But sin robs the soul of all comfort — the backslider cannot be happy. There may be a sense of need — but there is no feeding on the bread of life; there may be clear views — but there is no heart-warming appropriation; there may be the form of godliness kept up — but there is little of the power of it known in experience. There is prayer to God, perhaps — but no fellowship with God. Christ is honorable in the judgment — but not sensibly precious to the heart. The life and savor of godliness is gone; for these can only exist in connection with . . .
a clear eye,
a tender conscience,
an honest heart,
and a holy walk; for unless we walk with God, we shall not savor of God.
In such a state of declension, a backslider may be allowed to remain for some time; but the Lord will look upon him again; and this will produce . . .
bitter remorse, and
deep humbling of soul before God.
Then the man . . .
sees his folly,
feels his guilt,
condemns his conduct,
mourns over his condition,
and pants for a revival of piety in his soul.
Now the backslider prays, prays in bitterness of soul, prays for a restoration. He cannot comfort himself, he refuses to be comforted by others, and is only willing to be comforted by God. Now he feels that he can sin away his comforts — but that none but God can restore them. This . . .
shows our weakness,
teaches us our dependence,
exhibits our folly, and
corrects us for wandering from God.
The joy of salvation is a gift from God, as well as salvation itself; and though we may be saved by grace, we shall not enjoy our salvation, unless God anoints us with, "the oil of joy." To feel that we are saved, to have the Spirit witnessing with our spirits to the fact, is joy unspeakable; and it was for this the Psalmist prayed, and for this every backslider pleads.
But he seeks not only a restoration of joy — but the upholding of the Spirit of adoption; his past conduct and the present experience taught him the need of the constant presence and power of the Spirit. His prayer now is, "Hold me up — and I shall be safe!" He perceives that . . .
his way is slippery,
his heart is false,
his corruptions are strong,
his foes are watchful, and
his temptations are powerful
— and he cries: Let your free Spirit watch me, influence me, guide me, and preserve me from sin and folly!
The Lord, who knows our need, has promised his Holy Spirit, and He warns us against self-confidence. But it is seldom that anything but bitter experience convinces us of our need of His daily supplies.
Reader, are you a backslider? Have you left your first love, and lost your sweet joys? Are you convinced of your folly and your sin? Do not despond — but pray. Yield not to fear — but mourn over your folly. Go to the throne of grace, place yourself before your injured Savior, and encourage that sorrow which is unto repentance. Frankly confess your sin, do not palliate it or attempt to excuse it, for it is inexcusable. Appeal to the mercy of your God,
plead His promises to the backslider,
hope in His Word,
wait His time,
and He, "will restore comfort unto you."
Do not despair, however keen your sense of guilt may be; but like Jonah, "look again;" with Ephraim, "bemoan yourself;" and with David pray, "Cast me not away from your presence, take not your Holy Spirit from me; restore unto me the joy of your salvation!"
Beware of spiritual declension in future; keep a jealous eye over self; be especially careful over yourself in reference to the closet — there backsliding generally begins; but though it begins there, it never ends there.