Perseverance in the Lord's ways, is every professor's duty — and it is the privilege and mark of a true believer. Others may apostatize — but the Christian will hold on his way. Yet all are to be warned, cautioned, and advised. Every man's responsibility is to be recognized, and his duty pointed out. This accounts for many things the apostle Paul said, and for some things the apostle did. Like a wise father, like a loving mother — he wrote to the professors of his day, to prevent evil, and to stimulate them in the right path. To the Hebrews he said, quoting from the prophet, "If any man draws back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him." Hebrews 10:38.
Here is, A PLEASING FACT IMPLIED. The Lord has pleasure in some. Yes, in all those who believe his word, receive his unspeakable gift, and walk in his ways — he has pleasure.
He is pleased with their persons — as a father with his children.
He is pleased with their progress — as the teacher with his scholar.
He is pleased with their devotion to his cause — as the sovereign with his subject.
He is pleased with their poor services — as the master with the servant, who serves him out of love.
Yes, he is pleased with their desires, motives, and prayers — as a God of love, mercy, and compassion.
Sweet thought! God takes pleasure in his poor, weak, and infirm children. He is pleased with that in them, which few if any beside would be.
But here is, A DANGEROUS COURSE REFERRED TO. "If any man draws back." The Bible gives every man credit for being what he professes to be — until he proves the opposite. Therefore some, who profess to be the Lord's, are spoken of as drawing back unto perdition; and others who are his, draw back for a time — but are recovered again.
Let us beware of drawing back. It begins almost imperceptibly . . .
first in the heart,
then in the closet,
and then in the Church.
Private prayer loses its attractions,
lively and spiritual conversation ceases,
and then the means of grace are neglected.
Drawing back very often manifests itself . . .
in trifling with divine things,
in undue attachment to the world,
in levity of mind and manners,
in carelessness about the soul's prosperity, and
in putting the prospect of death and eternity into the far off distance.
Then we have, AN ALARMING THREATENING DELIVERED. "My soul shall have no pleasure in him!" It God is not pleased with us — then he is offended, and then he will not hear our cry, or take pleasure in our prayers. He will not pity our distress, or arise to relieve our sufferings. He will not appear for us in our troubles, or save us out of our distress.
In the case of a mere professor — God will forsake him, deliver him over to Satan, and at last punish him with eternal fire.
In the case of a genuine believer — God will correct, chastise, and bring him back, with deep sorrow, distress and woe.
Let us then beware of the first backward step. We know the beginning of evil — but God alone knows to what it may lead. If we yield to go one step with the tempter — he will at once propose two, and step by step will he lead us on, until like Israel, we are found wandering upon every mountain and every hill, having forgotten our resting place!
If we have at all departed from the Lord — let us return at once! He is calling us back, and saying, "Return, O backsliding children." He desires to see us . . .
at his feet in contrition,
at his throne in devotion,
and in his ways filled with joy.
He says, "I will receive you graciously, I will love you freely, I will pardon you fully!"
Let us examine ourselves — are we living by faith? Does confidence in God, reliance on Jesus, and fellowship with the Holy Spirit characterize us? Are we walking with God? If we are not, we are wandering from God. If we do not keep God's company — we shall be sure to run into mischief. He who does not press forward, draws back.
Are we then drawing back from God? Let us beware of self-confidence, and false security, listening to the apostle's words, "Let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall."
Drawing back does not alarm many, it is so gradual. No man falls away from God all at once. He has approached the precipice, he has been looking over, and then his head turned giddy. The backslider never thought of being what he is, or where he is. The apostate never dreamed that he would turn his back so completely on the Lord's ways.
Let us close with those fearful words of Peter, "It had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them."
Never let me leave your breast,
From you, my Savior stray;
You are my Support and Rest,
My true and living Way!
Never let me go, until I
Upborne on wings of love,
Gain the region of the sky,
And take my seat above!
See you by all Heaven adored,
And all your glorious fullness know;
Keep me, keep me, gracious Lord,
And never let me go!