Backsliders Returning

From Octavius Winslow's book, Help Heavenward

"Return, O backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings." "Behold, we come unto You; for You are the Lord our God." Jeremiah 3:22

There are some unveilings of God's heart which can only be understood and met by responsive unfoldings of ours. It is not the flinty, impervious rock that welcomes and absorbs the heaven-distilling dew. Upon such an object in nature, beautiful and grand though it may be—the life-quickening moisture, thus descending, is a thankless and fruitless offering—a useless expenditure of one of nature's richest treasures. But let that dew, noiseless and unseen, fall upon the flower, the herb, the tree—the earth which the ploughshare has upturned and the furrow has broken—and how refreshing is the blessing, and how rich is the return!

Thus is it with such an exhibition of the heart of God as that which we have just presented—inimitable in its tenderness, unsurpassed in its condescension and grace. Let these words distill upon any other than a heart humbled, softened, lying low in a low place, in the consciousness of its sinful departure, its sad backsliding from God—and they awake no tender, holy, grateful response.

How beautiful are the reciprocal influences of the human and the divine, as presented in the narrative! "A voice was heard upon the high places, weeping and supplications of the children of Israel; for they have perverted their way, and they have forgotten the Lord their God." That voice of weeping entered into the ears of God, and lo! the gracious invitation, "Return, O backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings."

And then follows the instant and grateful response, "Behold, we come unto you; for you are the Lord our God."

Mark how divine and restoring grace gently falls upon the lowly, penitent, returning soul; and then how the sin-contrite heart of the child, goes forth to meet and embrace the sin-forgiving heart of the Father.

Few will read the pages of a work designed to offer a helping hand to Zion's travelers to whom that hand will be more needful and acceptable—than the awakened, returning backslider. To such,
languid and fainting,
depressed and despairing,
hesitating to return,
doubting God's welcome,
evidences lost,
fears rising,
hope veiled—
the strongest cordials of God's most gracious, full, and free promises are needful to rouse, revive, and reassure the wanderer that the Lord invites, receives, and welcomes the returning backslider—the child retracing his way back to his forsaken Father.

God addresses them as backsliding CHILDREN. He can never forget His parental relation to them, though they may forget or abuse their filial relation to Him. Children though we are—adopted, sealed, and inalienably entitled to all the covenant blessings of adoption—we are yet backsliding children. The heart is ever swerving from God. The renewed soul possesses the principle of its own departure, contains the elements of its own declension—and but for the electing love, the restraining grace, the illimitable power of God—the soul would destroy itself entirely and forever. Having in a former treatise (Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul) gone somewhat at length into the nature, causes, symptoms, and recovery of spiritual declension; my object now is specifically to meet that state of lukewarmness, tenderness, and hesitancy which marks the tremulousness of the contrite heart returning to God.

The language in which God addresses you is most reassuring. He calls you "children;" though a backslider—yet a child. Can the human parent ever forget, in the deepest provocation of his offspring—that still he is his child?

God here meets His wanderer just where that wanderer stands most in need of a Divine assurance. What relation is it . . .
which spiritual backsliding the most contravenes,
which sin the most obscures, and of
which unbelief and Satan, presuming upon that backsliding, would suggest to the mind the strongest suspicion and doubt?

We answer—the relation of Divine sonship. The backslider reasons thus, "Is my adoption genuine? Can I be a child of God, and yet . . .
prove so base,
sin so deeply, and
depart so far from my God?

If I am a son, why am I so rebellious, disobedient, and unfaithful? Surely I cannot belong to the adoption of God, and grieve and wound the Spirit of adoption thus?"

Now God meets the wanderer just at this critical juncture. He declares that though he is a backslider—yet he is still His child; and that no departure however distant, and that no sin however aggravated, has . . .
impaired the strength,
lessened the tenderness,
tarnished or shaded the luster of that relation.

If God, then, comes forth, and, despite our backsliding, recognizes our sonship, and acknowledges us as His children—then who shall dispute or contravene the fact? "Let God be true, and every man a liar."

Such, beloved, is the first consolation I suggest to your sad and depressed soul. Could it be surpassed by anything else I may offer? What! Does God still call you His child? Does He not disown and disinherit you as a son of God and an heir of glory?

Ah, no! He cannot forget that He has predestined you to the adoption of children, that His Spirit has been sent into your heart, and that in happier days gone by you have often called Him "Abba, Father." And although you have been rebellious, backsliding, and stiff-necked—yet, taking with you words and returning to the Lord your God, He meets you as once He met His repenting, mourning Ephraim, "I have surely heard Ephraim's moaning . . . Is not Ephraim my dear son, the child in whom I delight? Though I often speak against him, I still remember him. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I have great compassion for him!" Jeremiah 31:18-20

Clear is it, then, that God's children do backslide; that it is no strange thing that . . .
their love to Him should wax cold,
their faith decline,
their strength decay,
their zeal slacken,
their godly frames grow sleepy and inert,
the spirit of prayer be restrained,
the means of grace be neglected.

And, as a consequence of all this inward declension, the world has an ascendancy, Satan prevails, and the sin that does most easily beset them attains a momentary triumph.

But still they are God's children—O wondrous grace! O changeless love! And chastened, corrected, rebuked, and humbled, their heavenly Father will restore them to His pardoning love and gracious favor—and they shall again walk with Him filially, humbly, softly, as His dear children. "Then, when I make atonement for you for all you have done, you will remember and be ashamed and never again open your mouth because of your humiliation, declares the Sovereign LORD." Ezekiel 16:63

What an invitation! "RETURN!" It is GOD who speaks it—the God from whom we have revolted, departed, and gone so far astray. It is the word of our Father, against whom we have rebelled, and so deeply, so grievously sinned. He shackles His invitation with no conditions. His simple word is, "Return unto Me!"

And more than this—He has placed before us an open door of return through Jesus His beloved Son. The covenant of works provided no restoration for the soul that departed from God under the first testament. But the covenant of grace has this distinction, this glorious feature: it places before the penitent backslider, the contrite child—an open door of return, a way of restored pardon, joy, and peace—and bids him enter.

The Lord Jesus is this open door.

The sin-atoning blood of Jesus,
the righteousness of Jesus,
the intercession of Jesus,
the grace of Jesus,
the quenchless love of Jesus,
the outstretched hand of Jesus
—all unite in guiding the trembling footstep of the returning soul back to its Father. The present efficacy and the continuous presentation of the Lord's sacrifice in Heaven, blended with His intercessory work, personally and constantly prosecuted before the throne—are a warrant that this door to God shall never be closed while there lives a penitent sinner to enter it.

Beware of shading the luster of this truth—the present efficacy of the blood. "The blood of Jesus Christ CLEANSES us from all sin"—it is in the form of the present tense, that the great truth is put. The past is gone, the future all to us unknown—it is with the present we have to deal:
a present sorrow needing comfort,
a present perplexity needing guidance,
a present burden demanding support,
a present sin asking forgiveness—
with a present Savior prepared to meet and supply it all!

Grasp this truth with all the intensity of your faith under present circumstances.

Do not brood over what is past, yield to no forebodings and fears as to what may be the future, grapple only with the present. For it, you have a door which God Himself has opened, and which neither man, nor Satan, nor sin, shall shut. You have a throne of grace now inviting your approach; and you have the blood of Jesus with which to enter—as new, as efficacious, as prevalent, and as free as when it streamed from His sacred body on the cross!

Let there be no postponement, then, of your return to God. Tarry for no more favorable moment, wait not for a better frame, dream not that Christ will be more willing to present, or that God will be more ready to receive you at any future time than now; or, that by delaying you will be more worthy of His acceptance. Vain reasoning! God says, "Return unto Me," and He means by this, "Return NOW!"

And what is the promise? "I will heal your backslidings." Backsliding from the Lord involves wounds, bruises, dislocation.

It wounds the conscience,
it bruises the soul,
it breaks the bones of our strength, and
causes us to travel in pain and halting many a weary step.

Ah, there is nothing so wounding as departure from God! There is nothing so bruising of the soul's peace and joy and hope, as sin!

Who can heal,
who can bind up,
who can mollify,
who can reset these broken bones so that they shall rejoice again—but our sin-pardoning God?

We have no self-power in this great matter of restoration. All that we can do is to . . .
make burdens,
forge chains,
carve crosses,
inflict wounds
—in a word, destroy our own selves.

Listen to David's experience, "I have gone astray like a lost sheep." This is all that he could do. But mark his conscious helplessness, "Seek your servant." And then observe the imperishable nature of the grace of God in his soul, "for I do not forget your commandments," (Psalm 119:176.)

Of how many who bend over these pages, will this be a faithful portrait! Lord! I can leave Your fold, I can willfully depart from Your ways, I can basely turn my back upon You. But You must go in quest of me, You must seek and restore my soul. And this I may venture to ask, since I have not forgotten the happy days . . .
when Your candle shone upon my head,
when Your light guided me through darkness,
when the name of Jesus was as ointment poured forth,
when I walked in sweet and holy communion with You,
and fed with the flock beside the Shepherd's tent.

"I do not forget your commandments."

God will forgive! Christ will bind up the broken heart! The Comforter will restore joy to the soul! There is still balm in Gilead, and a Physician there. The healing balsam still bleeds from the wounded, stricken Tree of Life. The gate of paradise is yet unclosed, its portal is garlanded with a thousand exceeding great and precious promises—all inviting your entrance and insuring you a welcome to . . .
its sunny banks,
its shaded bowers,
its peaceful quiet streams.

"Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; You will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea!" Micah 7:18-19

What glad tidings these astounding words contain to repentant backsliders! What a rainbow of promise and of hope, do they paint upon the dark cloud of despair which enshrouds the soul! "He will turn again." Though He has turned a thousand times before, yet "He will turn AGAIN!" Not "seven times" only—but "seventy times seven."

And what is the response of the returning soul? "Behold, we come unto You; for You are the Lord our God." Behold, we come! We come just as we are. We come from the swine's trough. We come from feeding upon husks, upon ashes, and upon the wind. We come with the bruise, the wound, the dislocated limb. We come deploring our fall, confessing our departure, mourning over our sin. Receive us graciously, love us freely, and turn your anger away from us.

"I will arise and go unto my Father, and will say unto him: Father, I have sinned." What! after all that I have done—in the face . . .
of my willful transgression,
of my base ingratitude,
of my abused mercies,
of my past restorings,
of my aggravated departures,
of all the past of Your mercy, Your goodness, Your faithfulness, Your love.

Do You still bid me return? Does the overture, the outstretched hand, the first step, come from You? Then, behold, I come unto You, for You are the Lord my God!

Your power draws me,
Your goodness dissolves me,
Your faithfulness binds my heart,
and, lo! I come!

Your grace restores me,
Your love pardons me,
Your blood heals my soul,
Behold! I come.

Your voice, so kind, invites me;
Your feet, so unwearied, seek me;
Your hand, so gentle, leads me;
Your look, so loving, so melting, so forgiving, wins me!

Lord, I must not, I dare not, I cannot stay away.
Behold! I come unto You.

"Jesus, let Your pitying eye
Call back a wandering sheep;
False to You like Peter, I
Would gladly like Peter weep.
Let me be by grace restored;
On me be all long-suffering shown;
Turn and look upon me, Lord,
And break this heart of stone!

"Look as when Your grace beheld
The harlot in distress,
Dried her tears, her pardon sealed,
And bade her go in peace.
Foul, like her, and self-abhorred,
I at Your feet for mercy groan;
Turn and look upon me, Lord,
And break this heart of stone!

"Look as when, condemned for them,
You did Your followers see;
'Daughters of Jerusalem!
Weep for yourselves, not Me.'
And am I by my God deplored,
And shall I not myself bemoan?
Turn and look upon me, Lord,
And break this heart of stone!

"Look as when Your languid eye
Was closed that we might live;
'Father,' (at the point to die
My Savior cried,) 'forgive!'
Surely with that dying word,
He turns, and looks, and cries, 'Tis done!'
O my gracious, bleeding Lord,
O break my heart of stone!"

Thus have we sought to win the strayed one back to Christ, and to help the returning wanderer heavenward. If the Lord has graciously given you to experience His restoring mercy, then forget not one great reason why you are restored—that you might hate and forsake the cause of your departure. If we have succumbed to temptation, it is not enough that we have broken from its snare. If we have fallen into sin, it is not enough that we have escaped from its power. God would have you learn thereby one of your holiest lessons—the deeper knowledge of that sin which tempted and overcame you, that you might go and sin no more.

Restored yourself, seek the restoration of others. Hear the injunction of Christ to Peter in view of his recovery, "When you have turned back, strengthen your brethren." Seek to bring souls to Jesus. Let this be an object of life.

Be especially tender, gentle, and kind to Christians who have fallen into sin, and are thereby wounded, distressed, and despairing. Extend a helping hand to lead them back to Christ. Your deep abhorrence of the sin, must not be allowed to lessen your compassion and sympathy for the sinning one. Jesus did not do this.

If the Church has vindicated her purity and allegiance to Christ by a wise and holy discipline of the offender, "The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him." (2 Corinthians 2:6-8.)

Thus Paul charged the church to which he wrote, and in so doing he but imitates his Lord and Master, who, with a look of forgiving love, could comfort and restore his fallen apostle Peter. "Be imitators of God, as dear children."

It is no uncommon thing for the Lord's backsliding children to be sadly and sorely distressed and cast down by certain portions of God's Word, containing delineations of character and denunciations of woe which they suppose applicable to themselves; and which, so applied, inconceivably aggravate their soul distress and their mental anguish, and incapacitate them from receiving the promises and accepting the comfort which God, in His Word, so profusely and so graciously extends to His children, returning from their backslidings, with weeping and mourning, confession and prayer.

Among the declarations thus referred to, which are supposed to have, the most direct application, and to wear the most threatening aspect, are those, so frequently quoted and as frequently misinterpreted and misapplied, found in the Epistle to the Hebrews: "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame." Hebrews 6:4-6

Such are the solemn words, often perused and pondered with terror and despair by the child of God, which we now propose briefly to consider and explain. But before venturing upon their exposition let me, in the outset, distinctly and emphatically give it as my judgment that they in no way refer to the case of the regenerate; and that by no ingenuity of criticism, and by no perversion of error—can they be made to bear strictly upon a state of real grace, or to invalidate in the slightest degree the revealed doctrine of the final salvation of the elect of God.

Thus affirming our belief that the people referred to by the apostle were not true converts to Christianity, and had never passed into a state of spiritual regeneration—let us take each separate clause of these remarkable passages, and endeavor, in the fear of God, rightly to explain, and properly to apply His own truth.

"Those who were once enlightened." Not spiritually or savingly enlightened. The people to whom these passages refer had some perception of the doctrines and principles of Christianity: the mind was intelligent, the judgment was informed—but nothing more. They had received the knowledge of the truth in the intellect—but not the quickening, sanctifying power of the truth in the heart. It was an illumination of the mind only. They were so enlightened . . .
as to "see the evil effects of sin, but not the evil that is in sin;
to see the good things which come from Christ, but not the goodness that is in Christ;
so as to reform externally, but not to be sanctified internally;
to have knowledge of the gospel doctrinally, but not experimentally;
to have such light into the gospel as to be able to preach it to others, and yet be destitute of the grace of God."

This is the enlightenment of which the apostle speaks, and nothing more.

Their religion would, in modern terms, be denominated the religion of the intellect—a religion which, however sound in its orthodoxy and logical in its reasoning, is but as a palace of ice floating amid the snows and gloom of the polar seas.

But this description cannot apply to you, penitent child of God! The truth as it is in Jesus has enlightened your judgment, and from thence has penetrated your heart; and in its light you see the sinfulness of your backslidings, the consciousness of which has brought you in sorrow and confession to the Savior's feet.

It is safe, therefore, to conclude that you are not one of those people whom the apostle describes as being once enlightened, as having swerved from the truth, whom it was impossible again to recover, seeing they had rejected the evidence upon which they avowed their belief in, and their attachment to, Christianity—the only evidence Christianity offers in proof of its divinity.

"And have tasted of the heavenly gift." A slight difference of opinion has existed as to the "gift" here referred to. Without, however, perplexing the reader with needless criticism, we at once offer it as our opinion that the "heavenly gift" is the same as the "unspeakable gift" referred to in another place and by the same writer. It is quite possible for an apostate from the truth, having the illumination we have spoken of, to have possessed a certain knowledge of Christ, "the heavenly gift," without being spiritually renewed, sanctified, or saved. Does not Paul speak of his "no more knowing Christ after the flesh"—as some still do, with a carnal, fleshly knowledge?

Does he not, in another place, describe the conduct of some who had so far tasted of the heavenly gift as to "preach Christ"—but to preach Him with "envy and strife, and contention, not sincerely?"

And yet again, is it not true that the same apostle warns certain individuals against the sin of "eating the bread and drinking the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner?" What does all this prove but that those who have tasted of the heavenly gift have no other knowledge of Christ than that which is natural, notional, and speculative? They have not Christ in their affections—Christ as the object of supreme delight and love. Nor do they have Christ in them as the hope of glory.

But you have not so learned Christ, O trembling penitent! It has pleased God to reveal His Son in you. You have tasted, felt, and handled—with a living, appropriating faith, the Lord Jesus. Your taste of this heavenly gift has been a heart-experience of His preciousness and fullness. And although you have gone astray like a lost sheep—yet you have not forgotten the power and savor of His precious name, which is now more than ever to you as ointment poured forth. And now your heart pines and your soul yearns . . .
to retrace its steps,
to walk once more with the Shepherd whom you have forsaken,
and to lie down again with the flock from whom you have strayed.

What does this stirring within you prove—this contrition, self-abhorrence, and sin-loathing—but that you are not an apostate from the faith. You are only a wanderer from the fold, going back to whose pasture and repose the faithful Shepherd is gently conducting you?

"And were made partakers of the Holy Spirit." This clause is more clear and definite. How far an individual may be said to partake of the Holy Spirit, and not be savingly converted—has long been a debated question. These words, however, place the matter beyond doubt. The unhappy people to whom they refer were undoubtedly partakers of the Holy Spirit, but in what sense?

Let it be remembered that it was a distinctive feature of the early Church that within its pale there existed those who were endowed—some with ordinary gifts, and others with extraordinary miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. These extraordinary gifts were such as the power of working miracles, of prophesying, and of speaking with tongues. And that these people in our text were possessed of, and exercised in many instances these gifts, as instruments of pride, covetousness, and ambition—the works of the flesh in alliance with the gifts of the Spirit!

Such, for example, was Simon Magus, who sought these supernatural endowments, not for the glory of God—but as sources of gain, and as ministering to his carnal aspirations.

In his famous letter on "charity," addressed to the Church at Corinth, Paul recognizes the fact, that he might be so far a partaker of the Holy Spirit as to speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and understand all prophecies, and all mysteries—and yet be destitute of the Holy Spirit's regenerating grace. And it is clearly to such individuals that our Lord so pointedly and solemnly refers in His solemn description of the judgment, when He says, "Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name? and in Your name have cast out devils? and in Your name done many wonderful works?" To whom He will say, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who work iniquity."

In the absence of the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, which we believe to have ceased in the Church with the last of the apostles—men may still be endowed with many ordinary spiritual gifts, conferring upon them a name, placing them upon a pinnacle of the temple, and winning for them the admiration and homage of their fellows—yet who are destitute of the converting grace of the Spirit. This is all that is meant by having been "made partakers of the Holy Spirit."

But your case, penitent believer, bears no analogy to this. What does your present contrition, your distress and anguish of soul prove—but that you are quickened with spiritual life, and that the Holy Spirit dwells in you? that, despite your sinfulness, waywardness, and follies—the grieving and wounding and quenching He has received at your hands—the Spirit has not utterly departed from you, but that still your body is His temple, and your heart His home?

"And have tasted the good word of God." The meaning of this clause is obvious. The revealed word, more especially the gospel of God—is the only interpretation it will admit. These false professors, these willful apostates, of whom the apostle writes, had heard the word of God with the outward ear, and had so far tasted its power as to yield an intellectual assent to its doctrines, and even to have felt some transient emotion, some stirring of the natural affections by the sublime and solemn tenderness of its revelations. They had marked, too, the extraordinary power and triumph of the truth in the souls of others, and, moved by the law of sympathy, they were for a while the subjects of a natural and evanescent joy. They had witnessed . . .
the power of Satan in the human soul—how the gospel overcame it;
the spell which the world wove around the heart—how the gospel had broke it;
the period of perplexity—how the gospel had guided it;
the season of sorrow—how the gospel had consoled it;
the hour of sickness—how the gospel had strengthened it;
the bed of death—how the gospel had smoothed it;
the darkness of the sepulcher—how the gospel had illumined it;
the fear of perdition—how the gospel had quelled it;
the hope of salvation—how the gospel had confirmed it;
the glory of immortality—how the gospel had unveiled it
—and their hearts were thrilled with a transient glow of gladness.

Such were the emotions of Herod when he sent for John, did many things, and heard him gladly.

And such, too, was the case of the stony-ground hearers, who heard the word, and immediately received it with joy—"But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away!" These are those who had "tasted the good word of God," and this is all that they had experienced of its power.

But not such is your experience, sorrowing soul! You have more than tasted—you have eaten of the good word of God, and His word is unto you the joy and the rejoicing of your heart. In that word your longing, sorrowful soul now hopes. Upon that word, weary and sad, your heart now rests—until God shall fulfill its promise, and restore unto you the joy of His salvation.

"And the powers of the age to come." Clearly the allusion is to the Messianic age, or the time and dispensation of the Messiah. This was the "age to come," to which the apostle refers in another place: "The world to come, whereof we speak." He is clearly referring to the gospel, in contradistinction to the legal dispensation. In the age of the Mosaic law, the word was spoken by angels; in the Messianic age, the word was spoken by Christ. This age, or gospel dispensation, was to be ushered in and distinguished, "both by signs and wonders, and with divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit."

Now, it will not be difficult to trace the application of this to the apostates whom these passages describe. They had lived in the early dawn of the gospel age, and amidst its most wondrous and stirring scenes. They had beheld these signs, had marked these wonders, and perhaps had wrought these miracles. And so they had "tasted of the powers of the world to come."

All this finds no application to your case, O backsliding yet returning child of God!

Now follows the SENTENCE of the Holy Spirit upon these apostates from the profession of their faith. That sentence is the most solemn, the most terrible, that ever lighted upon the human soul: "It is impossible, . . . if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame."

The key to the explanation of this solemn mystery is found in the word "repentance." Could they become the subjects of true repentance there might be hope, but with them this was impossible. For the fearful sin which they had committed, no repentance was provided. For the deep guilt which they had contracted, no sacrifice had been offered. From the apostasy into which they had plunged, no avenue of return had been made. In a word, for the crime with which they were charged, no remission was given! Thus their salvation was impossible!

After having professed to believe in, and to have received the Messiah as the Son of God, as the Savior of men—they had openly and willfully and utterly rejected Him. By so doing . . .
they had repaired to Gethsemane, and justified the treacherous betrayal of Christ by Judas;
they had gone to Calvary, and ratified the cruel murder of Christ by the Jews;
they had fraternized with His enemies, and had joined their shout, "Away with Him! Away with Him! Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" And so they had "crucified the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame."

After having passed through all these stages of sin, of crime, and guilt—having utterly abjured and renounced the only means and object and grace of repentance—it was impossible that they could be renewed, recovered, saved! "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God!" Hebrews 10:26-27

But, beloved child of God! we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation. The Holy Spirit has given you the truest, the strongest evidence of spiritual life in your soul—a broken and a contrite heart. Bring this sacrifice, and lay it upon Christ our "Altar," and God will accept it. Let the holy lessons we learn from the mournful, the irretrievable, the hopeless case of the willful apostate be not to rest . . .
on spiritual illumination, however great,
nor on spiritual gifts, however eminent,
nor on religious feelings, however ecstatic
—but seek after the mortification of sin, a closer communion with the Lord, and still more to abound in those "fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ unto the praise and glory of God."

Upon you these solemn words, fling no darkling shadow; but your path is that of "the just, which is as the shining light, that shines more and more unto the perfect day."

"Welcome, weeping penitent;
Grace has made your heart relent:
Welcome, long-estranged child;
God in Christ is reconciled!

"Welcome to the cleansing fount,
Springing from the sacred mount;
Welcome to the feast divine,
Bread of life, and living wine!

"Oh, the virtue of that price,
That redeeming sacrifice!
Come, you bought, but not with gold,
Welcome to the sacred fold!"