“Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the Lord our God.”—Jeremiah. 3:22.
Few will read the pages of a work designed to proffer a helping hand to Zion’s travellers 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, soul-beclouded, fears rising, hope vailed,—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, would destroy itself entirely and forever.
If ever there were a more encouraging chapter in all of christen dome and in all works ever penned by the hand of man, this chapter and this opening verse must be it. Who of us cannot immediately relate and benefit of its rich blessing and comfort? Who of us had not, even in the quiet of our very souls, slidden away from our true Love and sought solace in the futility of another’s earthly arms? Wretched men and women that we are! Though we be saved, redeemed, and regenerated, who of us does not need to hear this opening word to us? “Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings.” He does not call us enemies or rebels here, He calls us children! Blessed thought!
He goes on. This excerpt is a little long, but it really needs to be read:
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 real? Can I be a child of God, and prove so base, sin so deeply, and depart so far from my God? If 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 a backslider, yet he is still His child, and that no departure however distant, and that no sin however aggravated, has impaired the strength or lessened the tenderness, tarnished or shaded the lustre of that relation. If God, then, comes forth, and, despite our backsliding, recognizes our son-ship, and acknowledges us as His children, 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 predestinated 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 stiffnecked, yet, taking with you words and turning to the Lord your God, He meets you as once He met His repenting, mourning Ephraim— “I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself . . . Is Ephraim my dear SON? is he a pleasant CHILD? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord,” (Jer. 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 should have an ascendancy, Satan prevail, and the sin that does most easily beset them attain 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 favour, and they shall again walk with Him filially, humbly, softly, as His dear children, “when He is pacified towards them for all that they have done.”
After reading that excerpt, stop a moment and let it fall on you. Mediate and taste all that is in it! If your heart is not firmly planted within the clouds after reading that you are not alive!
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, so deeply, so grievously sinned. He trammels His invitation with no conditions. His simple word is—“Return unto me!”
The Lord Jesus is this open door. The 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, 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.
Brood not over what is past, yield to no forebodings and fears as to what may be the future—grapple 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.
As Winslow said, the door is wide open for the adopted sons and daughters of God and no one, NO ONE can or will ever shut it! Do not fret yourself believer that if you return He may be disgusted or displeased with you. He is now your Father and as such He cannot disown you. Though you have run from Him and have tasted of the worlds foolishness and fickle idols, He ever waits to embrace you once more. And as you return your gaze to Him from afar, He runs to you and welcomes you willingly and openly! He loves you believer! HE LOVES YOU!
Backsliding from the Lord involves wounds, bruises, dislocation. It wounds the conscience, it bruises the soul, it breaks the bones of our strength, and causeth us to travel in pain and halting many a weary step. Ah, there is nothing so wounding as departure from God! 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.
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 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.
What glad tidings these astounding words contain to repentant back-sliders! What a bow 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.”
When we do return to the Savior of our soul, we are promised and assured He will bind our wounds, heal our hurts, and pour salve on our conscience. I the embrace of a Father’s arms in humble repentance, all things are made anew and all becomes well again with our souls. He will not continue to chasten us upon our return, but He has promised to re assure us over and over and over again that we are His and we will always be the apple of His eye and the joy of His heart through His Son Jesus Christ. No matter how many times we have departed or how cold our hearts have grown, He will always be ours and we will always be His… thanks be to God!
If the Lord has graciously given you to experience His restoring mercy, 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 which tempted and overcame you, that you might go and sin no more. Restored yourself, seek the restoration of others.
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.
Therein lies the importance of belonging to a local body of believers and realizing that these trials are not only sent for our own sanctification and growth, but to now go and help others who are struggling in their earthly war and need help heavenward. Ask yourself, during your times of brokenness and trial, wouldn’t you have wanted a kind word or an open ear to help you in your time of need? Such a blessing you can be to a fellow traveler on the King’s highway with you!
From here Winslow jumps off into a bit of exposition of Hebrews 6:4-6, of which, I think I will not touch on at this moment as I feel his treatment of this text is of such weight and has caused much damage to many a fragile soul that it really needs its own post here on the blog. So please look for that in days to come. I will leave you this week with his introduction to this brief exposition:
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, 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 6th chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews from the 4th to the 6th verse:—“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 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.”
Please read Chapter 10: The Swelling of the Jordan for March 28!