A clip from the recent 2019 animated version by Revelation Media.
A clip from the recent 2019 animated version by Revelation Media.
Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. — 1 Timothy 6:6-12
The man of God is told to flee from the ungodly pursuit of wealth: not that money itself is evil. But generally, the forms of employment that men often get tempted and ensnared by, and the kinds of worldly-wise friendships they get involved in—cause them to lose faith in God’s providence (supernatural provisions,) and instead place their trust in their job skills, beefed up resumes, capitalistic philosophies, and cut throat attitudes. Losing trust in God to provide for their financial needs, and misplacing their trust in “the strength of their own hands” (Deut. 8:17), men tend to stop reading, studying, and living by the Bible. Casting off its restraints, they adopt “many foolish and harmful desires,” just like every other non-Christian. These are they which only arise from greed: foolish desires which are expensive and unnecessary; and they are harmful, because they can lead to destructive outcomes, such as losing lots of money from a gambling addiction. Adam Clarke had this to say about the temptation to get rich in verse 9:
It is in consequence of the temptation of the devil that they have determined to be rich; this temptation once received, others quickly succeed: and when they have swallowed down the temptation to the thing, then they drink in a thousand temptations to the means; and all these lead them, into an unforeseen and concealed trap. This Greek word signifies a net, trap, gin, snare, springe, or pit dug in the ground filled with sharp stakes, and slightly covered over; so that when a man, or any animal, steps upon it, he tumbles in, and is taken or destroyed. Such a snare is that into which those who will be rich must necessarily fall.
These lusts or desires are not only foolish, but they are hurtful; the mind is debased and narrowed by them; benevolent and generous feelings become extinct; charity perishes; and selfishness, the last and lowest principle in mental degradation, absorbs the soul; for these foolish and hurtful lusts drown men in destruction and perdition—the soul is destroyed by them here, and brought through them into a state of perdition hereafter.
Godliness is the first word used in this passage and so it is the priority. Reminiscent of Job 1:21, the thought is that we carry nothing into this world, and we will take no money with us out of it. We enter this world with a body and soul; and leave it only as a soul. This world, under the guidance of the devil, would have you believe that you should max out on possessions; whereas Jesus and the apostles would have us to live as simply as we can: acquiring as little as possible. We are directed to look forward to heavenly rewards much more so than for earthly gains and possessions. Worldly-wise men would have us to enjoy and show off our affluence and possessions. But if we were to follow their counsel, we would have to be worried—living in fear of thefts, burglary, bankruptcy, jealousy, and even murder: since money is usually the primary motivator for that heinous crime. Rich men, provided they follow worldly ideas—as most do—tend to have poor relationships, because by looking down on 75% percent of mankind, most if not all of their energy, like Ebenezer Scrooge, is focused on money, and not upon the glory of God, or on developing Christian friendships. They become like the rich man in Luke 16, called Dives by theologians, perhaps because he dived into Hell fire, for refusing to offer financial help to a poor and homeless saint named Lazarus.
Jesus said, “You cannot serve both God and money” (Matt. 6:24). Either one has to be your lord. If Jesus is your Lord, then all of your decisions will be based on your submission to Christ: seeking to obey what he has taught us in the Bible. But if money is your lord, then all of your decisions will be aimed at what can give you a financial advantage. When money is a man’s lord and master, he can be heartless to people and icy cold about the Word of God. Certainly that is what happens when a man’s opinions and decisions are mainly motivated by financial gain. Proverbs 30:8-9: “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God!” Matthew Henry, commenting on 1 Timothy 6:8, asked, “What will worldlings do when death shall strip them of their happiness and portion, and they must take an everlasting farewell of all these things, on which they have so much doted?” and again on 6:10: “Covetous persons will quit the faith, if that be the way to get money.”
Greed and grief go hand in hand. When a man is greedy for money, and all his decisions are based on gain, then it grieves the Holy Spirit. Grief comes to the man as worry of financial loss enters his mind, through any of the many ways that such losses may come; not having the comforts of the Holy Ghost are a grief to him, as he does not have the Comforter to help him through the hardships of life, because even the rich are discontent, often driven by selfish and materialistic desires, not being grounded in the faith, in orthodox Christian doctrines (see Adam Clarke’s Christian Theology and P. C. Nelson’s Bible Doctrines for starters on that, by the way); and grief will come to the greedy man through the loss of relationships with people who have not yet attained to his high level of financial status—with financial competition and economic judging being his prevailing attitudes towards other human beings. So, if you see yourself making decisions in your life based on money alone, and not on hearing God’s voice, and not on a clean conscience about matters—then run the other way and strive for purity!
The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways.–Prov. 14:14
I cannot conclude this course of lectures, without warning converts against backsliding. In discussing this subject, I will state,
I. What backsliding in heart is not.
II. What backsliding in heart is.
III. What are evidences of backsliding in heart.
IV. Show what are consequences of backsliding in heart.
V. How to recover from this state.
I. What backsliding in heart is not.
1. It does not consist in the subsidence of highly excited religious emotions. The subsidence of religious feeling may be an evidence of a backslidden heart, but it does not consist in the cooling off of religious feeling.
II. What backsliding in heart is.
1. It consists in taking back that consecration to God and his service, that constitutes true conversion.
2. It is the leaving, by a Christian, of his first love.
3. It consists in the Christian’s withdrawing himself from that state of entire and universal devotion to God, which constitutes true religion, and coming again under the control of a self-pleasing spirit.
4. The text implies that there may be a backslidden heart, when the form of religion and obedience to God are maintained. As we know from consciousness that men perform the same, or similar acts from widely different, and often from opposite motives, we are certain that men may keep up all the outward forms and appearances of religion, when in fact, they are backslidden in heart. There is no doubt, that the most intense selfishness often takes on a religious type, and there are many considerations, that might lead a backslider in heart, to keep up the forms, while he had lost the power of godliness in his soul.
III. What are evidences of a backslidden heart.
1. Manifest formality in religious exercises. A stereotyped formal way of saying and doing things, that is clearly the result of habit, rather than the outgushing of the religious life. This formality will be emotionless and cold as an iceberg, and will evince a total want of earnestness in the performance of religious duty. In prayer and in religious exercises the backslider in heart will pray or praise, or confess, or give thanks with his lips, so that all can hear him, perhaps, but in such a way that no one can feel him. Such a formality would be impossible where there existed a present, living faith and love, and religious zeal.
2. A want of religious enjoyment is evidence of a backslidden heart. We always enjoy the saying and doing of those things that please those whom we most love; furthermore, when the heart is not backslidden, communion with God is kept up, and therefore all religious duties are not only performed with pleasure, but the communion with God involved in them, is a source of rich and continual enjoyment. If we do not enjoy the service of God, it is because we do not truly serve him. If we love Him supremely, it is impossible that we should not enjoy His service at every step. Always remember then, whenever you lose your religious enjoyment, or the enjoyment of serving God, you may know that you are not serving Him right.
3. Religious bondage is another evidence of a backslidden heart. God has no slaves. He does not accept the service of bondmen, who serve him because they must. He accepts none but a love service. A backslider in heart, finds his religious duties a burden to him. He has promised to serve the Lord. He dare not wholly break off from the form of service, and he tries to be dutiful, while he has no heart in prayer, in praise, in worship, in closet duties, or in any of those exercises which are so spontaneous and delightful, where there is true love to God. The backslider in heart is often like a dutiful, but unloving wife. She tries to do her duty to her husband, but fails utterly because she does not love him. Her painstaking to please her husband is constrained, not the spontaneous outburst of a loving heart, and her relation, and her duties, become the burden of her life. She goes about complaining of the weight of care that is upon her, and will not be likely to advise young ladies to marry. She is committed for life, and must therefore perform the duties of married life, but oh, it is such a bondage! Just so with religious bondage. The professor must perform his duty. He drags painfully about it, and you will hear him naturally sing backslider’s hymns.
“Reason I hear, her counsels weigh,
And all her words approve;
And yet I find it hard to obey,
And harder still, to love.”
4. An ungoverned temper.
While the heart is full of love, the temper will naturally be chastened and sweet, or at any rate, the will will keep it under, and not suffer it to break out in outrageous abuse, or if at any time, it should so far escape from the control of the will as to break loose in hateful words, it will soon be brought under, and by no means suffered to take the control and manifest itself to the annoyance of others. Especially will a loving heart confess and break down, if at any time bad temper gets the control. Wherever, therefore, there is an irritable, uncontrolled temper allowed to manifest itself to those around one, you may know there is a backslidden heart.
5. A spirit of uncharitableness is evidence of a backslidden heart. By this, I mean a want of that disposition that puts the best construction upon every one’s conduct that can be reasonable–a want of confidence in the good intentions and professions of others. We naturally credit the good professions of those whom we love. We naturally attribute to them right motives, and put the best allowable construction upon their words and deeds. Where there is a want of this there is evidence conclusive of a backslidden or unloving heart.
6. A censorious (nitpicky) spirit is conclusive evidence of a backslidden heart. This is a spirit of fault-finding, of impugning the motives of others, when their conduct admits of a charitable construction. It is a disposition to fasten blame upon others, and judge them harshly. It is a spirit of distrust of Christian character and professions. It is a state of mind that reveals itself in harsh judgments, harsh sayings, and the manifestation of uncomfortable feelings toward individuals. This state of mind is entirely incompatible with a loving heart, and wherever a censorious spirit is manifested by a professor of religion, you may know there is a backslidden heart.
7. A lack of interest in God’s Word, is also an evidence of a backslidden heart. Perhaps nothing more conclusively proves that a professor has a backslidden heart, than his losing his interest in the Bible. While the heart is full of love, no book in the world is so precious as the Bible. But when the love is gone, the Bible becomes not only uninteresting but often repulsive. There is no faith to accept its promises, but conviction enough left to dread its threatenings. But in general the backslider in heart is apathetic about the Bible. He does not read it much, and when he does read it, he has not interest enough to understand it. Its pages become dark and uninteresting, and therefore it is neglected.
8. A lack of interest in secret prayer is also an evidence of a backslidden heart.
Young Christian! If you find yourself losing your interest in the Bible and in secret prayer, stop short, return to God, and give yourself no rest, till you enjoy the light of his countenance. If you feel disinclined to pray, or read your Bible, if when you pray and read your Bible, you have no heart in it, no enjoyment, if you are inclined to make your secret devotions short, or, are easily induced to neglect them, if your thoughts, affections and emotions wander, and your closet duties become a burden, you may know that you are a backslider in heart, and your first business is, to break down, and see that your love and zeal are renewed.
9. A lack of interest in the conversion of souls and in efforts to promote revivals of religion. This of course reveals a backslidden heart. There is nothing in which a loving heart takes more interest than in the conversion of souls in revivals of religion, and in efforts to promote them.
10. A lack of interest in published accounts or narratives of revivals of religion, is also an evidence of a backslidden heart. While one retains his interest in the conversion of souls, and in revivals of religion he will, of course, be interested in all accounts of revivals of religion anywhere. If you find yourself, therefore, disinclined to read such accounts, or find yourself not interested in them, take it for granted that you are backslidden in heart.
11. The same is true of missions, and missionary work and operations. If you lose your interest in the work, and in the conversion of the heathen, and do not delight to read and hear of the success of missions, you may know that you are backslidden in heart.
12. The loss of interest in benevolent enterprises generally is an evidence of a backslidden heart. I say the loss of interest, for surely, if you were ever converted to Christ, you have had an interest in all benevolent enterprises that came within your knowledge. Religion consists in disinterested benevolence. Of course, a converted soul takes the deepest interest in all benevolent efforts to reform and save mankind. In good government, in Christian education, in the cause of temperance, in the abolition of slavery, in provisions for the poor, and in short, in every good word and work, just in proportion as you have lost your interest in these, you have evidence that you are backslidden in heart.
13. The loss of interest in truly spiritual conversation is another evidence of a backslidden heart. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matt. 12:34). This our Lord Jesus Christ announced as a law of our nature. No conversation is so sweet to a truly loving heart, as that which relates to Christ, and to our living Christian experience. If you find yourself losing interest in conversing of heart religion, and of the various and wonderful experiences of Christians, if you ever knew what the true love of God is, you have fallen from it, and are a backslider in heart.
14. A loss of interest in the conversation and society of highly spiritual people, is an evidence of a backslidden heart. We take the greatest delight in the society of those who are most interested in the things that are most dear to us. Hence, a loving Christian heart will always seek the society of those who are most spiritually-minded, and whose conversation is most evangelical and spiritual. If you find yourself wanting in this respect, know for certain that you are backslidden in heart.
15. The loss of interest in the question of sanctification is an evidence of a backslidden heart. I say again, the loss of interest, for, if you ever truly knew the love of God, you must have had a great interest in the question of entire consecration to God, or of entire sanctification. If you are a Christian, you have felt that sin was an abomination to your soul. You have had inexpressible longings to be rid of it forever, and everything that could throw light upon that question of agonizing importance, was most intensely interesting to you. If this question has been dismissed, and you no longer take an interest in it, it is because you are backslidden in heart.
16. The loss of interest in those newly converted, is also an evidence of a backslidden heart. The Psalmist says, “All who fear thee will be glad when they see me, because I have hoped in thy Word.” This he puts into the month of a convert, and who does not know that this is true? Why, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God, over one sinner that repents, and is there not joy among the saints on earth, over those that come to Christ, and are as babes newly born into the kingdom of heaven? Show me a professor of religion, who does not manifest an absorbing interest in converts to Christ, and I will show you a backslider in heart, and a hypocrite; he professes religion, and has none.
17. An uncharitable state of mind in regard to professed converts, is also an evidence of a backslidden heart. Charity or love, hopes all things, and believes all things, and is very ready to judge kindly and favorably of those who profess to be converted to Christ, will naturally watch over them with interest, pray for them, instruct them, and have as much confidence in them as it is reasonable to have. A disposition therefore, to pick at, criticize, and censure them, is an evidence of a backslidden heart.
18. The want of the spirit of prayer is evidence of a backslidden heart. While the love of Christ remains fresh in the soul, the indwelling spirit of Christ will reveal himself as the spirit of grace and supplication (Zech. 12:10). He will beget strong desires in the soul for the salvation of sinners and the sanctification of saints. He will often make intercessions in them, with great longings, strong crying and tears, and with groanings that cannot be uttered in words, for those things that are according to the will of God, or to express it in Scripture language, according to Paul, in Romans 8:26-27: “Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities, for we know not what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit itself, makes intercession for us, with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searches the hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because he makes intercession for the saints, according to the will of God.” If the spirit of prayer departs, it is a sure indication of a backslidden heart, for while the first love of a Christian continues he is sure to be drawn by the Holy Spirit to wrestle much in prayer.
19. A backslidden heart often reveals itself by the manner in which people pray. For example, praying as if one was in a state of self-condemnation, or very much like a convicted sinner, is an evidence of a backslidden heart. Such an one will reveal the fact, that he is not at peace with God. His confessions and self-accusations will show to others what perhaps he does not well understand himself. His manner of praying will reveal the fact, that he has not communion with God; that instead of being filled with faith and love, he is more or less convicted of sin, and conscious that he is not in a state of acceptance with God. He will naturally pray more like a convicted sinner, than like a Christian. It will be seen by his prayer that he is not in a state of Christian liberty–that he is having a Romans 7 experience, instead of that which is described in Romans 8.
20. A backslidden heart will further reveal itself in praying almost exclusively for self, and for those friends that are regarded as parts of self. It is often very striking and even shocking to attend a backslider’s prayer meeting, and I am very sorry to say that many prayer meetings of the church are little else. Their prayers are timid and hesitating, and reveal the fact that they have little or no faith. Instead of surrounding the throne of grace and pouring their hearts out for a blessing on those around them, they have to be urged up to duty, to take up their cross. Their hearts do not, will not, spontaneously gush out to God in prayer. They have very little concern for others, and when they do, as they say, take up their cross and do their duty, and pretend to lead in prayer, it will be observed that they pray just like a company of convicted sinners, almost altogether for themselves. They will pray for that, which, should they obtain it, would be religion, just as a convicted sinner would pray for a new heart, and praying for religion as they do, manifests that they have none, in their present state of mind. Ask them to pray for the conversion of sinners, and they will either wholly forget it, or just mention them in such a way as will show that they have no heart to pray for them. I have known professed Christian parents to get into such a state that they had no heart to pray for the conversion of their own children, even when those children were under conviction. They would keep up family prayer, and attend a weekly prayer meeting, and never get out of the old rut, of praying round and round for themselves. A few years since, I was laboring in a revival in a Presbyterian church. At the close of the evening sermon, I found that the daughter of one of the elders of the church, was in great distress of mind. I observed her convictions were very deep. We had been holding a meeting with inquirers in the vestry, and I had just dismissed the inquirers, when this young lady, came to me in great agitation, and begged me to pray for her. The people had mostly gone, except a few that were waiting in the body of the church for those friends to be dismissed that had attended the meeting of inquiry. I called the father of this young lady into the vestry that he might see the very anxious state of his daughter’s mind. After a short personal conversation with her in the presence of her father, I called on him to pray for her, and said that I would follow him, and urged her to give her heart to Christ. We all knelt, and he went through with his prayer, kneeling by the side of his sobbing daughter, without ever mentioning her case. His prayer revealed that he had no more religion than she had, and that he was very much in her state of mind–under an awful sense of condemnation. He had kept up the appearance of religion. As an elder of the church, he was obliged to keep up appearances. He had gone round and round upon the tread-mill of his duties, while his heart was utterly backslidden. It is often almost nauseating to attend a prayer meeting of the backslidden in heart. They will go round, round, one after the other, in reality praying for their own conversion. They do not so express it, but that is the real import of the prayer. They could not render it more evident that they are backsliders in heart, if they were every one to take his oath of it.
21. Absence from stated prayer meetings for slight reasons is a sure indication of a backslidden heart. No meeting is more interesting to a wakeful Christian than the prayer meeting, and while they have any heart to pray, they will not be absent from prayer meetings unless prevented from attending by the providence of God. If a call from a friend at the hour of meeting, can prevent their attendance, unless the call be made under very peculiar circumstances, it is strong evidence that they do not wish to attend, and hence, that they are backsliders in heart. A call at such a time would not prevent their attending a wedding, a party, a picnic, or a comedy routine. The fact is, it is hypocrisy for them to pretend that they really want to go, while they can be kept away for slight reasons. If it were any place where they much desired to go, they would excuse themselves, and say, “I was just going to ride,” or, “I was just going to such a place,” and away they would go.
22. The same is true of the neglect of family prayer, for slight reasons.
While the heart is engaged in religion, Christians will not readily omit family devotions, and whenever they are ready to find an excuse for the omission, it is a sure evidence that they are backslidden in heart.
23. When secret prayer is regarded more as a duty than as a privilege, it is because the heart is backslidden. It has always appeared to me almost ridiculous, to hear Christians speak of prayer as a duty. It is one of the greatest of earthly privileges. What should we think of a child’s coming to its parent for its dinner, not because it was hungry, but as a duty. How would it strike us to hear a beggar speak of the duty of asking alms of us. It is an infinite privilege to be allowed to come to God, and ask for the supply of all our wants. But to pray because we must, rather than because we may, seems unnatural. To ask for what we want, and because we want it, and because God has encouraged us to ask, and has promised to answer our request, is natural and reasonable. But to pray as a duty and as if we were obliging God by our prayer, is quite ridiculous, and is a certain indication of a backslidden heart.
24. Pleading for worldly amusements, is also an indication of a backslidden heart. The most grateful amusements possible, to a truly spiritual mind, are those engagements that bring the soul into the most direct communion with God. While the heart is full of love and faith, an hour, or an evening spent alone, in communion with God, is more delightful than all the amusements which the world can offer. A loving heart is jealous of everything that will break up or interfere with its communion with God. For mere worldly amusements it has no relish. When the soul does not find more delight in God than in all worldly things, the heart is sadly backslidden.
25. Spiritual blindness is another evidence of a backslidden heart. While the eye is single the whole body will be full of spiritual light, but if the eye be evil, (which is a backslidden heart) the whole body will be full of darkness.
Spiritual blindness reveals itself in a lack of interest in God’s Word, and in religious truth generally. It will also manifest a lack of spiritual discernment, and will be easily imposed upon by the suggestions of Satan. A backslidden heart will lead to the adoption of lax principles of morality. It does not discern the spirituality of God’s law, and of His requirements generally. When this spiritual blindness is manifest it is a sure indication that the heart is backslidden.
26. Religious apathy, with worldly wakefulness and sensibility, is a sure indication of a backslidden heart. We sometimes see persons who feel deeply and quickly on worldly subjects, but who cannot be made to feel deeply on religious subjects. This clearly indicates a backslidden state of mind.
27. A self-indulgent spirit is a sure indication of a backslidden heart. By self-indulgence, I mean a disposition to gratify the appetites, passions and propensities, “to fulfill the desires of the flesh and of the mind” (Eph. 2:3).
This, in the Bible, is represented as a state of spiritual death. I am satisfied that the most common occasion of backsliding in heart, is to be found in the clamor for indulgence of the various appetites and propensities. The appetite for food is frequently, and perhaps more frequently than any other, the occasion of backsliding. Few Christians, I fear, apprehend any danger in this direction. God’s injunction is, “Whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). Christians forget this, and eat and drink to please themselves–consult their appetites, instead of the laws of life and health. More persons are ensnared by their tables than the church is aware of. The table is a snare of death to multitudes that no man can number. A great many people who avoid alcoholic drinks altogether, will indulge in tea and coffee, and even tobacco, and in food, both in quantity and quality that violates every law of health. They seem to have no other law, than that of appetite, and this they so deprave by abuse that, to indulge it, is to ruin body and soul together. Show me a gluttonous professor, and I will show you a backslider.
28. A seared conscience is also an evidence of a backslidden heart. While the soul is wakeful and loving, the conscience is as tender as the apple of the eye. But when the heart is backslidden, the conscience is silent and seared, on many subjects. Such an one will tell you that he is not violating his conscience, in eating or drinking, or in self-indulgence of any kind. You will find a backslider has but little conscience. The same will be true in regard to sins of omission very generally. Multitudes of duties may be neglected and a seared conscience will remain silent. Where conscience is not awake, the heart is surely backslidden.
29. Loose moral principles are a sure indication of a backslidden heart. A backslider in heart, will write letters on the Sabbath, engage in secular reading, and in much worldly conversation. In business, such an one will take little advantages, and play off business tricks, conform to the habits of worldly business men, in the transaction of business, will be guilty of deception and misrepresentation in making bargains, will demand exorbitant interest, and take advantage of the necessities of his fellow men.
30. Prevalence of the fear of man, is an evidence of a backslidden heart. While the heart is full of the love of God, God is feared, and not man. A desire for the applause of men is kept down, and it is enough for such an one to please God, whether men are pleased or displeased. But when the love of God is decreased, “the fear of man, that bringeth a snare,” gets possession of man (Prov. 29:25). To please man rather than God, is then his aim. In such a state he will sooner offend God than man.
31. Being a stickler about forms, ceremonies, and non-essentials, is evidence of a backslidden heart. A loving heart, is particular only about the substance and power of religion, and will not nitpick about its forms.
32. A fault-finding attitude about measures in promoting revivals of religion, is a sure evidence of a backslidden heart. Where the heart is fully set upon the conversion of sinners, and the sanctification of believers, it will naturally approach the subject in the most direct manner, and by means in the highest degree calculated to accomplish the end. It will not object to, and stumble at, measures that are evidently blessed of God, but will exert its utmost sagacity in devising the most suitable means to accomplish the great end on which the heart is set.
IV. Show what are consequences of backsliding in heart. The text says, that the backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways.
1. He shall be filled with his own works. But these are dead works, they are not works of faith and love, which are acceptable to God, but are the filthy rags of his own righteousness. If they are performed as religious services, they are but loathsome hypocrisy, and an abomination to God, there is no heart in them, and to such a one, God says, “Who hath required this at our hands?…You are they that justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men, is an abomination in the sight of God…I know you, that you have not the love of God in you” (Isa. 1:12; Luke 16:15; John 5:24).
2. He shall be filled with his own feelings. Instead of that sweet peace and rest, and joy in the Holy Ghost, that he once experienced, he will find himself in a state of unrest, dissatisfied with himself and everybody else, his feelings often painful, humiliating, and as unpleasant and unlovely, as can be well conceived. It is often very trying to live with a backslider. They are often have pet peeves, are nitpicky, and irritating, in all their ways. They have forsaken God, and in their feelings is more of Hell than Heaven.
3. They will be filled with their own prejudices. Their willingness to know and do the truth has gone. They will very naturally commit themselves against any truth that bears hard upon their self-indulgent spirit. They will endeavor to justify themselves, will neither read nor hear that which will rebuke their backslidden state, and they will become deeply prejudiced against everyone that shall cross their path. If anyone reproves them, they account him as an enemy. They hedge themselves in, and shut their eyes against the light, stand on the defensive, and criticize everything that would search them out.
4. A backslider in heart will be filled with a hostile attitude. Such a man will almost surely tally up grudges against those with whom he has any business or other relations. He will chafe in almost every relation of life, will allow himself to be vexed and angry, and get into such relations with some, and perhaps many persons, that he cannot pray for them honestly, and can hardly treat them with common decency. This is an almost certain result of a backslidden heart.
5. The backslider in heart will be fallen of his own mistakes. He is not walking with God. He has fallen out of the divine order. He is not led by the Spirit, but is walking in spiritual darkness. In this state he is sure to fall into many and grievous mistakes, and may get entangled in such a way as to mar his happiness, and, perhaps, destroy his usefulness for life. Mistakes in business, mistakes in forming new relations in life, mistakes in using his time, his tongue, his money, his influence–all will go wrong with him as long as he remains in a backslidden state.
6. The backslider in heart will be filled with his own lusts. His appetites and passions, which had been kept under, have now resumed their control, and having been so long suppressed, they will seem to avenge themselves by becoming more clamorous and despotic than ever. The animal appetites and passions will burst forth, to the astonishment of the backslider, and ten to one, if he does not find himself more under their influence, and more enslaved by them than ever before.
7. The backslider in heart will he filled with his own words. While in that state, he will not, and cannot, control his tongue. It will prove itself to be an unruly member, full of deadly poison, will set on fire the course of nature, and is itself set on fire by Hell. By his words he will involve himself in many difficulties and perplexities, from which he can never extricate himself, until he comes back to God.
8. He will be full of his own trials. Instead of keeping out of temptation, he will run right into temptation. He will bring upon himself multitudes of trials that he never would have had, had he not departed from God. He will complain of his trials, and yet constantly multiply them. A backslider feels his trials keenly, and, while he complains of being so tried by everything around him, he is constantly aggravating them, and being the author of them, he seems industrious to bring them upon himself like an avalanche.
9. The backslider in heart shall be full of his own follies. Having rejected the divine guidance, he will evidently fall into the depths of his own foolishness. He will inevitably say and do multitudes of foolish and ridiculous things. Being a professor of religion, these things will be all the more noticed, and of course bring him all the more into ridicule and contempt. A backslider is, indeed, the greatest fool in the world. Having experimental knowledge of the true way of life, he has the infinite folly to abandon it. Knowing the fountain of living water, he has forsaken it, and hewed out to himself cisterns–broken cisterns that can hold no water. Having been guilty of this infinite folly, the whole course of his backslidden life must be that of a fool, in the Bible sense of the term.
10. The backslider in heart will fall of his own troubles. God is against him, and he is against himself. He is not at peace with God, with himself, with the church, or with the world. He has no inward rest. Conscience condemns him. God condemns him. All that know his state condemn him. “There is no peace to the wicked, saith my God” (Isa. 57:21). There is no position in time or space in which he can be at rest.
11. The backslider in heart will be full of his own cares. He has turned back to selfishness. He counts himself and his possessions as his own. He has everything to care for. He will not hold himself and his possessions as belonging to God, and lay aside the responsibility of taking care of himself and all that he possesses. He does not, will not, cast his care upon the Lord, but undertakes to manage everything for himself, and in his own wisdom, and for his own ends. Consequently, his cares will be multiplied, and come upon him like a deluge.
12. The backslider in heart will be full of his own perplexities. Having forsaken God, having fallen out of his order, and into the darkness of his own folly, he will be filled with perplexities and doubts in regard to what course he shall pursue to accomplish his selfish ends. He is not walking with, but contrary to God. Hence, the providence of God will constantly cross his path, and baffle all his schemes. God will frown darkness upon his path, and take pains to confound his projects, and blow his schemes to the winds.
13. The backslider in heart will be filled with his own anxieties. He will be anxious about himself, about his business, about his reputation, about everything. He has taken all these things out of the hands of God, and claims them and treats them as his own, and having faith in God no longer, and being unable to control events, he must of necessity be filled with anxiety with regard to the future. These anxieties are the inevitable result of his madness and folly in forsaking God.
14. The backslider in heart will be filled with his own disappointments. Having forsaken God, and taken the attitude of self-will before him, God will inevitably disappoint him in pursuing his selfish ends. He will frame his ways to please himself, without consulting God. Of course God will frame his ways so as to disappoint him. Determined to have his own way, he will be greatly disappointed if his plans are frustrated, and the certain course of events under the government of God must of course bring a series of disappointments upon subjects that have rebelled against him.
15. The backslider in heart must be full of his own losses. He regards his possessions as his own, his time as his own, his influence as his own, his reputation as his own. The loss of any of these he accounts as his own loss. Having forsaken God, and being unable to control the events upon which the continuance of those things is conditioned, he will find himself suffering losses on every side. He loses his peace. He loses his property. He loses much of his time. He loses his Christian reputation. He loses his Christian influence, and if he persists he loses his soul.
16. The backslider in heart shall be full of his own crosses. All religious duty will be irksome, and, therefore, a cross to him. His state of mind will make multitudes of things into crosses, that in a Christian state of mind, would have been pleasant in a high degree. Having lost all heart in religion, the performance of all religious duties are crossing to his feelings. There is no help for him, unless he returns to God. The whole course of divine providence will run across his path, and his whole life will be a series of crosses and trials. He cannot have his own way. He cannot gratify himself by accomplishing his own wishes and desires. He may beat and dash himself against the everlasting rocks of God’s will and God’s way, but break through and carry all before him he cannot. He must be crossed and recrossed, and crossed again, until he will fall into the divine order, and sink into the will of God.
17. The backslider in heart will be filled with his own tempers. Having forsaken God, he will be sure to have much to irritate him. In a backslidden state, he cannot possess his soul in patience. The vexations of his backslidden life will make him nervous and irritable; his temper will become explosive and uncontrollable.
18. The backslider in heart shall be full of his own disgraces. He is a professor of religion. The eyes of the world are upon him, and all his inconsistencies, worldly-mindedness, follies, bad tempers, and hateful words and deeds, disgrace him in the estimation of all men who know him.
19. The backslider in heart will be full of his own delusions. Having an evil eye, his whole body will be full of darkness. He will almost certainly fall into delusions in regard to doctrines, and in regard to practices. Wandering on in darkness, as he does, he will, very likely, swallow the grossest delusions. Spiritism, Mormonism, universalism, and every other “ism” that is wide from the truth, will be very likely to gain possession of him. Who has not observed this of backsliders in heart?
20. The backslider in heart will be filled with his own bondage. His profession of religion brings him into bondage to the church. He has no heart to consult the interests of the church, or to labor for its up-building, and yet he is under covenant obligation to do so, and his reputation is at stake. He must do something to sustain religious institutions, but to do so, is a bondage. If he does it, it is because he must and not because he may. Again, he is in bondage to God. If he performs any, that he calls religious duty, it is rather as a slave than as a freeman. He serves from fear or hope, just like a slave, and not from love. Again, he is in bondage to his own conscience. To avoid conviction and remorse, he will do or omit many things, but it is all with reluctance, and not at all of his own cordial good will.
21. The backslider in heart is full of his own self-condemnation. Having enjoyed the love of God, and forsaken him, he feels condemned for everything. If he attempts religious duty, he knows there is no heart in it, and hence condemns himself. If he neglects religious duty, he of course condemns himself. If he reads his Bible, it condemns him. If he does not read it, he feels condemned. If he goes to meeting, the services condemn him, and if he stays away, he is condemned. If he prays in secret, in his family, or in public, he knows he is not sincere, and feels condemned. If he neglects or refuses to pray, he feels condemned. Everything condemns him. His conscience is up in arms against him, and the thunders and lightnings of condemnation follow him, wherever he goes.
V. How to recover from a state of backsliding.
1. Remember whence you are fallen (Rev. 2:5). Take up the question at once, and deliberately contrast your present state with that in which you walked with God.
2. Take home the conviction of your true position. No longer delay to understand the exact situation between God and your soul.
3. Repent (turn away from your sins) at once, and do your first work over again.
4. Do not attempt to get back, by reforming your mere outside conduct. Begin with your heart, and at once set yourself right with God.
5. Do not act like a mere convicted sinner, and attempt to recommend yourself to God, by any impenitent works or prayers. Do not think that you must reform, and make yourself better before you can come to Christ, but understand distinctly, that coming to Christ, alone, can make you better. However much distressed you may feel, know for a certainty that until you repent and accept His will, unconditionally, you are no better, but are constantly growing worse. Until you throw yourself upon His sovereign mercy, and thus return to God, he will accept nothing at your hands.
6. Do not imagine yourself to be in a justified state (the state of salvation), for you know you are not. Your conscience condemns you, and you know that God ought to condemn you, and if he justified you in your present state, your conscience could not justify him. Come, then, to Christ at once, like a guilty, condemned sinner, as you are, own up, and take all the shame and blame to yourself and believe that even with all your wanderings from God, he loves you still–that he has loved you with an everlasting love, and, therefore, with loving kindness is drawing you.
“Will the Lord absent himself for ever And will he be no more entreated Is his mercy clean gone for ever And is his promise come utterly to an end for evermore” Ps. 77:7, 8.
1. Presumption is one grand snare of the devil, in which many of the children of men are taken. They so presume upon the mercy of God as utterly to forget his justice. Although he has expressly declared, “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord,” yet they flatter themselves, that in the end God will be better than his word. They imagine they may live and die in their sins, and nevertheless “escape the damnation of hell.”
2. But although there are many that are destroyed by presumption, there are still more that perish by despair. I mean, by want of hope; by thinking it impossible that they should escape destruction. Having many times fought against their spiritual enemies, and always been overcome, they lay down their arms; they no more contend, as they have no hope of victory. Knowing, by melancholy experience that they have no power of themselves to help themselves, and having no expectation that God will help them, they lie down under their burden. They no longer strive; for they suppose it is impossible they should attain.
3. In this case, as in a thousand others, “the heart knoweth its own bitterness, but a stranger intermeddleth not with his grief.” It is not easy for those to know it who never felt it: For “who knoweth the things of a man, but the spirit of a man that is in him” Who knoweth, unless by his own experience, what this sort of wounded spirit means Of consequence, there are few that know how to sympathize with them that are under this sore temptation. There are few that have duly considered the case; few that are not deceived by appearances. They see men go on in a course of sin, and take it for granted, it is out of mere presumption: Whereas, in reality, it is from the quite contrary principle; — it is out of mere despair. Either they have no hope at all, — and while that is the case, they do not strive at all, — or they have some intervals of hope, and while that lasts, “strive for the mastery.” But that hope soon fails: They then cease to strive, and “are taken captive of Satan at his will.”
4. This is frequently the case with those that began to run well, but soon tired in the heavenly road; with those in particular who once “saw the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” but afterwards grieved his Holy Spirit, and made shipwreck of the faith. Indeed, many of these rush into sin, as a horse into the battle. They sin with so high an hand, as utterly to quench the Holy Spirit of God; so that he gives them up to their own heart’s lusts, and lets them follow their own imaginations. And those who are thus given up may be quite stupid, without either fear, or sorrow, or care; utterly easy and unconcerned about God, or heaven, or hell; to which the god of this world contributes not a little, by blinding and hardening their hearts. But still even these would not be so careless, were it not for despair. The great reason why they have no sorrow or care is, because they have no hope. They verily believe they have so provoked God, that “he will be no more entreated.”
5. And yet we need not utterly give up even these. We have known some even of the careless ones whom God has visited again, and restored to their first love. But we may have much more hope for those backsliders who are not careless, who are still uneasy; — those who fain would escape out of the snare of the devil, but think it is impossible. They are fully convinced they cannot save themselves, and believe God will not save them. They believe he has irrevocably “shut up his lovingkindness in displeasure.” They fortify themselves in believing this, by abundance of reasons; and unless those reasons are clearly removed, they cannot hope for any deliverance.
It is in order to relieve these hopeless, helpless souls, that I propose, with God’s assistance,
I. To inquire what the chief of those reasons are, some or other of which induce so many backsliders to cast away hope; to suppose that God hath forgotten to be gracious. And,
II. To give a clear and full answer to each of those reasons.
I. I am, First, to inquire, what the chief of those reasons are, which induce so many backsliders to think that God hath forgotten to be gracious. I do not say all the reasons; for innumerable are those which either their own evil hearts, or that old serpent, will suggest; but the chief of them; — those that are most plausible, and therefore most common.
1. The first argument which induces many backsliders to believe that “the Lord will be no more entreated,” is drawn from the very reason of the thing: “If,” say they, “a man rebel against an earthly prince, many times he dies for the first offence; he pays his life for the first transgression. Yet, possibly, if the crime be extenuated by some favourable circumstance, or if strong intercession be made for him, his life may be given him. But if, after a full and free pardon he were guilty of rebelling a second time, who would dare to intercede for him He must expect no farther mercy. Now, if one rebelling against an earthly king, after he has been freely pardoned once, cannot with any colour of reason hope to be forgiven a second time; what must be the case of him that, after having been freely pardoned for rebelling against the great King of heaven and earth, rebels against him again What can be expected, but that `vengeance will come upon him to the uttermost'”
2. (1.) This argument, drawn from reason, they enforce by several passages of Scripture. One of the strongest of these is that which occurs in the First Epistle of St. John: (1 John 5:16.) “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and God shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death. I do not say that he shall pray for it.”
Hence they argue, “Certainly, I do not say that he shall pray for it, is equivalent with, I say he shall not pray for it. So the Apostle supposes him that has committed this sin, to be in a desperate state indeed! So desperate, that we may not even pray for his forgiveness; we may not ask life for him And what may we more reasonably suppose to be a sin unto death, than a wilful rebellion after a full and free pardon
(2). “Consider, Secondly,” say they, “those terrible passages in the Epistle to the Hebrews; one of which occurs in the sixth chapter, the other in the tenth. To begin with the latter “If we sin wilfully, after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no other sacrifice for sins; but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing, and done despite to the Spirit of grace For we know him that hath said, Vengeance is mine; I will recompense, saith the Lord. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!’ (Heb. 6:26-31.) Now, is it not here expressly declared by the Holy Ghost, that our case is desperate Is it not declared, that `if, after we have received the knowledge of the truth,’ after we have experimentally known it, ‘we sin wilfully,’ — which we have undoubtedly done, and that over and over, — ‘there remaineth no other sacrifice for sin; but a certain looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries’
(3.) “And is not that passage in the sixth chapter exactly parallel with this `It is impossible for those that were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, — if they fall away,’ (literally,and have fallen away,) `to renew them again unto repentance: Seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.’ (Heb. 6:4-6.)
(4.) “It is true, some are of opinion, that those words, it is impossible, are not to be taken literally as denoting absolute impossibility; but only a very great difficulty. But it does not appear that we have any sufficient reason to depart from the literal meaning; as it neither implies any absurdity, nor contradicts any other Scriptures. Does not this then,” say they, “cut off all hope; seeing we have undoubtedly, `tasted of the heavenly gift, and been made partakers of the Holy Ghost’ How is it possible to `renew us again to repentance;’ to an entire change both of heart and life Seeing we have crucified to ourselves `the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame”‘
(5.) “A yet more dreadful passage, if possible, than this, is that in the twelfth chapter of St. Matthew: `All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: But the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men: And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him. But whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come.’ (Matt. 12:31, 32.) Exactly parallel to these are those words of our Lord, which are recited by St. Mark: `Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost shall never be forgiven, but is in danger of eternal damnation.’ (Mark 3:28, 29.)
(6.) It has been the judgment of some, that all these passages point at one and the same sin; that not only the words of our Lord, but those of St. John, concerning the `sin unto death,’ and those of St. Paul concerning `crucifying to themselves the Son of God afresh, treading underfoot the Son of God, and doing despite to the Spirit of grace, `all refer to the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost; the only sin that shall never be forgiven. Whether they do or no, it must be allowed that this blasphemy is absolutely unpardonable; and that, consequently, for those who have been guilty of this, God `will be no more entreated.’
3. To confirm those arguments, drawn from reason and Scripture, they appeal to matter of fact. They ask, “Is it not a fact, that those who fall away from justifying grace, who make `shipwreck of the faith,’ that faith whereof cometh present salvation, perish without mercy How much less can any of those escape, who fall away from sanctifying grace! who make shipwreck of that faith whereby they are cleansed from all pollution of flesh and spirit! Has there ever been an instance of one or the other of these being renewed again to repentance If there be any instances of that, one would be inclined to believe that thought of our poet not to be extravagant: —
“E’en Judas struggles his despair to quell, Hope almost blossoms in the shades of hell.”
II. These are the principal arguments drawn from reason, from Scripture, and from fact, whereby backsliders are wont to justify themselves in casting away hope; in supposing that God hath utterly “shut up his lovingkindness in displeasure.” I have proposed them in their full strength, that we may form the better judgment concerning them, and try whether each of them may not receive a clear, full, satisfactory answer.
1. I begin with that argument which is taken from the nature of the thing: “If a man rebel against an earthly prince, he may possibly be forgiven the first time. But if, after a full and free pardon, he should rebel again, there is no hope of obtaining a second pardon: He must expect to die without mercy. Now, if he that rebels again against an earthly king, can look for no second pardon, how can he look for mercy who rebels a second time against the great King of heaven and earth”
2. I answer: This argument, drawn from the analogy between earthly and heavenly things, is plausible, but it is not solid; and that for this plain reason: Analogy has no place here: There can be no analogy or proportion between the mercy of any of the children of men, and that of the most high God. “Unto whom will ye liken me, saith the Lord” Unto whom either in heaven or earth Who, “what is he among the gods, that shall be compared unto the Lord” “I have said, Ye are gods,” saith the Psalmist, speaking to supreme magistrates. Such is your dignity and power compared to that of common men. But what are they to the God of heaven As a bubble upon the wave. What is their power in comparison of his power What is their mercy compared to his mercy Hence that comfortable word, “I am God, and not man, therefore the house of Israel is not consumed.” Because he is God, and not man, “therefore his compassions fail not.” None then can infer, that because an earthly king will not pardon one that rebels against him a second time, therefore the King of heaven will not. Yea, he will; not until seven times only, or until seventy times seven. Nay, were your rebellions multiplied as the stars of heaven; were they more in number than the hairs of your head; yet “return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon you; and to our God, and he will abundantly pardon.”
3. “But does not St. John cut us off from this hope, by what he says of the `sin unto death’ Is not, `I do not say that he shall pray for it,’ equivalent with, `I say he shall not pray for it’ And does not this imply, that God has determined not to hear that prayer that he will not give life to such a sinner, no, not through the prayer of a righteous man”
4. I answer: “I do not say that he shall pray for it,” certainly means, he shall not pray for it. And it doubtless implies that God will not give life unto them that have sinned this sin; that their sentence is passed, and God has determined it shall not be revoked. It cannot be altered even by that “effectual fervent prayer” which, in other cases, “availeth much.”
5. But I ask, First, What is the sin unto death And, Secondly, What is the death which is annexed to it
(1) And, First, what is the sin unto death It is now many years since, being among a people the most experienced in the things of God of any I had ever seen, I asked some of them, What do you understand by the “sin unto death,” mentioned in the First Epistle of St. John They answered, “If anyone is sick among us, he sends for the elders of the Church; and they pray over him, and the prayer of faith saves the sick, and the Lord raises him up. And if he hath committed sins, which God was punishing by that sickness, they are forgiven him. But sometimes none of us can pray that God would raise him up. And we are constrained to tell him, We are afraid that you have sinned a sin unto death;’ a sin that God has determined to punish with death; we cannot pray for your recovery. And we have never yet known an instance of such a person recovering.”
(2.) I see no absurdity at all in this interpretation of the word. It seems to be one meaning (at least) of the expression, “a sin unto death;” a sin which God has determined to punish by the death of the sinner. If, therefore, you have sinned a sin of this kind, and your sin has overtaken you; if God is chastising you by some severe disease, it will not avail to pray for your life; you are irrevocably sentenced to die. But observe! This has no reference to eternal death. It does by no means imply that you are condemned to die the second death. No; it rather implies the contrary: The body is destroyed, that the soul may escape destruction. I have myself, during the course of many years, seen numerous instances of this. I have known many sinners (chiefly notorious backsliders from high degrees of holiness, and such as had given great occasion to the enemies of religion to blaspheme) whom God has cut short in the midst of their journey; yea, before they had lived out half their days: These, I apprehend, had sinned “a sin unto death;” in consequence of which they were cut off, sometimes more swiftly, sometimes more slowly, by an unexpected stroke. But in most of these cases it has been observed that “mercy rejoiced over judgment.” And the persons themselves were fully convinced of the goodness as well as justice of God. They acknowledged that he destroyed the body in order to save the soul. Before they went hence, he healed their backsliding. So they died that they might live for ever.
(3.) A very remarkable instance of this occurred many years ago. young collier [coal miner] in Kingswood, near Bristol, was an eminent sinner, and afterwards an eminent saint. But, by little and little, he renewed his acquaintance with his old companions, who by degrees wrought upon him, till he dropped all his religion, and was two-fold more a child of hell than before. One day he was working in the pit with a serious young man, who suddenly stopped and cried out, “O Tommy, what a man was you once! How did your words and example provoke many to love and to good works! And what are you now What would become of you, if you were to die as you are” “Nay, God forbid,” said Thomas, “for then I should fall into hell headlong! O let us cry to God!” They did so for a considerable time, first the one, and then the other. They called upon God with strong cries and tears, wrestling with him in mighty prayer. After some time, Thomas broke out, “Now I know God hath healed my backsliding. I know again, that my Redeemer liveth, and that he hath washed me from my sins with his own blood. I am willing to go to him.” Instantly part of the pit calved in, and crushed him to death in a moment. Whoever thou art that hast sinned “a sin unto death,” lay this to heart! It may be, God will require thy soul of thee in an hour when thou lookest not for it! But if he doth, there is mercy in the midst of judgment: Thou shalt not die eternally.
6. “But what say you to that other scripture, namely, the tenth of the Hebrews Does that leave any hope to notorious backsliders, that they shall not die eternally; that they can ever recover the favour of God, or escape the damnation of hell “If we sin wilfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no other sacrifice for sins; but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy. Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and done despite unto the Spirit of grace”
7. “And is not the same thing, namely, the desperate, irrecoverable state of wilful backsliders, fully confirmed by that parallel passage in the sixth chapter “It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and partakers of the Holy Ghost, — and have fallen away,” — so it is in the original, — “to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.'”
8. These passages do seem to me parallel to each other, and deserve our deepest consideration. And in order to understand them it will be necessary to know, (1.) Who are the persons here spoken of; and (2.) What is the sin they had committed, which made their case nearly, if not quite, desperate.
(1.) As to the First, it will be clear to all who impartially consider and compare both these passages, that the persons spoken of herein are those, and those only, that have been justified; that the eyes of their understanding were opened and “enlightened,” to see the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. These only “have tasted of the heavenly gift,” remission of sins, eminently so called. These “were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,” both of the witness and the fruit of the Spirit. This character cannot, with any propriety, be applied to any but those that have been justified.
And they had been sanctified too; at least, in the first degree, as far as all are who receive remission of sins. So the second passage expressly, “Who hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctifed, an unholy thing.”
Hence it follows, that this Scripture concerns those alone who have been justified, and at least in part, sanctified. Therefore all of you, who never were thus “enlightened” with the light of the glory of God; all who never did “taste of the heavenly gift,” who never received remission of sins; all who never “were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,” of the witness and fruit of the Spirit; — in a word, all you who never were sanctified by the blood of the everlasting covenant, you are not concerned here. Whatever other passages of Scripture may condemn you, it is certain, you are not condemned either by the sixth or the tenth of the Hebrews. For both those passages speak wholly and solely of apostates from the faith which you never had. Therefore, it was not possible that you should lose it, for you could not lose what you had not. Therefore whatever judgments are denounced in these scriptures, they are not denounced against you. You are not the persons here described, against whom only they are denounced.
(2.) Inquire we next, What was the sin which the persons here described were guilty of In order to understand this, we should remember, that whenever the Jews prevailed on a Christian to apostatize, they required him to declare, in express terms, and that in the public assembly, that Jesus of Nazareth was a deceiver of the people; and that he had suffered no more punishment than his crimes justly deserved. This is the sin which St. Paul, in the first passage, terms emphatically “falling away;” “crucifying the Son of God afresh, and putting him to an open shame.” This is that which he terms in the second, “counting the blood of the covenant an unholy thing, treading under foot the Son of God, and doing despite to the Spirit of grace.” Now, which of you has thus fallen away Which of you has thus “crucified the Son of God afresh” Not one: Nor has one of you thus “put him to an open shame.” If you had thus formally renounced that “only sacrifice for sin,” there had no other sacrifice remained; so that you must have perished without mercy. But this is not your case. Not one of you has thus renounced that sacrifice, by which the Son of God made a full and perfect satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. Bad as you are, you shudder at the thought: there fore that sacrifice still remains for you. Come then, cast away your needless fears! “Come boldly to the throne of grace.” The way is still open. You shall again “obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
9. “But do not the well-known words of our Lord himself cut us off from all hope of mercy Does he not say, `All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: But the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: But whosoever speaketh a word against the Holy Ghost, it shall never be forgiven him; neither in this world, nor in the world to come’ Therefore, it is plain, if we have been guilty of this sin, there is no room for mercy. And is not the same thing repeated by St. Mark, almost in the same words `Verily I say unto you,’ (a solemn preface! always denoting the great importance of that which follows,) `All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is under the sentence of eternal damnation.'”
(1.) How immense is the number in every nation throughout the Christian world of those who have been more or less distressed on account of this Scripture! What multitudes in this kingdom have been perplexed above measure upon this very account! Nay, there are few that are truly convinced of sin, and seriously endeavour to save their souls, who have not felt some uneasiness for fear they had committed, or should commit, this unpardonable sin. What has frequently increased their uneasiness was, that they could hardly find any to comfort them. For their acquaintances, even the most religious of them, understood no more of the matter than themselves; and they could not find any writer who had published anything satisfactory upon the subject. Indeed, in the “Seven Sermons” of Mr. Russell, which are common among us, there is one expressly written upon it; but it will give little satisfaction to a troubled spirit. He talks about it, and about it, but makes nothing out: He takes much pains, but misses the mark at last.
(2.) But was there ever in the world a more deplorable proof of the littleness of human understanding, even in those that have honest hearts, and are desirous of knowing the truth! How is it possible that any one who reads his Bible, can one hour remain in doubt concerning it, when our Lord himself, in the very passage cited above, has so clearly told us what that blasphemy is “He that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness: Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.” (Mark 3:29-30.) This then, and this alone, (if we allow our Lord to understand his own meaning,) is the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost: The saying, He had an unclean spirit; the affirming that Christ wrought his miracles by the power of an evil spirit; or, more particularly, that “he cast out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils.” Now, have you been guilty of this have you affirmed, that he cast out devils by the prince of devils No more than you have cut your neighbour’s throat, and set his house on fire. How marvellously then have you been afraid, where no fear is! Dismiss that vain terror; let your fear be more rational for the time to come. Be afraid of giving way to pride; be afraid of yielding to anger; be afraid of loving the world or the things of the world; be afraid of foolish and hurtful desires; but never more be afraid of committing the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost! You are in no more danger of doing this, than of pulling the sun out of the firmament.
10. Ye have then no reason from Scripture for imagining that “the Lord hath forgotten to be gracious.” The arguments drawn from thence, you see, are of no weight, are utterly inconclusive. Is there any more weight in that which has been drawn from experience or matter of fact
(1.) This is a point which may exactly be determined, and that with the utmost certainty. If it be asked, “Do any real apostates find mercy from God Do any that have `made shipwreck of faith and a good conscience,’ recover what they have lost Do you know, have you seen, any instance of persons who found redemption in the blood of Jesus, and afterwards fell away, and yet were restored, — `renewed again to repentance'” Yea, verily; and not one, or an hundred only, but, I am persuaded, several thousands. In every place where the arm of the Lord has been revealed, and many sinners converted to God, there are several found who “turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.” For a great part of these “it had been better never to have known the way of righteousness.” It only increases their damnation, seeing they die in their sins. But others there are who “look unto him they have pierced, and mourn,” refusing to be comforted. And, sooner or later, he surely lifts up the light of his countenance upon them; he strengthens the hands that hang down, and confirms the feeble knees; he teaches them again to say, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit rejoiceth in God my Saviour.” Innumerable are the instances of this kind, of those who had fallen, but now stand upright. Indeed, it is so far from being an uncommon thing for a believer to fall and be restored, that it is rather uncommon to find any believers who are not conscious of having been backsliders from God, in a higher or lower degree, and perhaps more than once, before they were established in faith.
(2.) “But have any that had fallen from sanctifying grace been restored to the blessing they had lost” This also is a point of experience; and we have had the opportunity of repeating our observations, during a considerable course of years, and from the one end of the kingdom to the other.
(3.) And, First, we have known a large number of persons, of every age and sex, from early childhood to extreme old age, who have given all the proofs which the nature of the thing admits, that they were “sanctified throughout;” “cleansed from all pollution of the flesh and spirit;” that they “loved the Lord their God with all their heart, and mind, and soul, and strength;” that they continually “presented” their souls and bodies “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God;” in consequence of which, they “rejoiced evermore, prayed without ceasing, and in every thing gave thanks.” And this, and no other, is what we believe to be true, scriptural sanctification.
(4.) Secondly. It is a common thing for those who are thus sanctified, to believe they cannot fall; to suppose themselves “pillars in the temple of God, that shall go out no more.” Nevertheless, we have seen some of the strongest of them, after a time, moved from their steadfastness. Sometimes suddenly, but oftener by slow degrees, they have yielded to temptation; and pride, or anger, or foolish desires have again sprung up in their hearts. Nay, sometimes they have utterly lost the life of God, and sin hath regained dominion over them.
(5.) Yet, Thirdly, several of these, after being thoroughly sensible of their fall, and deeply ashamed before God, have been again filled with his love, and not only perfected therein, but stablished, strengthened, and settled. They have received the blessing they had before with abundant increase. Nay, it is remarkable, that many who had fallen either from justifying or from sanctifying grace, and so deeply fallen that they could hardly be ranked among the servants of God, have been restored, (but seldom till they had been shaken, as it were, over the mouth of hell,) and that very frequently in an instant, to all that they had lost. They have, at once, recovered both a consciousness of his favour, and the experience of the pure love of God. In one moment they received anew both remission of sins, and a lot among them that were sanctified.
(6.) But let not any man infer from this longsuffering of God, that he hath given any one a license to sin. Neither let any dare to continue in sin, because of these extraordinary instanced of divine mercy. This is the most desperate, the most irrational presumption, and leads to utter, irrecoverable destruction. In all my experience, I have not known one who fortified himself in sin by a presumption that God would save him at the last, that was not miserably disappointed, and suffered to die in his sins. To turn the grace of God into an encouragement to sin is the sure way to the nethermost hell!
(7.) It is not for these desperate children of perdition that the preceding considerations are designed; but for those who feel ” the remembrance of their sins is grievous unto them, the burden of them intolerable.” We set before these an open door of hope: Let them go in and give thanks unto the Lord; let them know that “the Lord is gracious and merciful, longsuffering, and of great goodness.” “Look how high the heavens are from the earth! so far will he set their sins from them.” “He will not always be chiding; neither keepeth he his anger for ever.” Only settle it in your heart, I will give all for all, and the offering shall be accepted. Give him all your heart! Let all that is within you continually cry out, “Thou art my God, and I will thank thee; thou art my God, and I will praise thee.” “This God is my God for ever and ever! He shall be my guide even unto death.”A
Revival Principles from an Intercessor, Revivalist, and Evangelist
Leonard Ravenhill was a man of God; and in my estimation a saint. Some have gone so far as calling him a prophet, and maybe he was. He was not the type of person to have tons of dreams and visions; or share prophecies and supernatural words of knowledge, but I think its possible he had moments like that, since in this book he at least expresses sympathy for those things (pp. 102-103). If anything, he was what you might call an intercessor. Aside from that label, I’d say he was a revivalist and an evangelist. He represented the Wesleyan holiness tradition until his death in 1994; and he was and still is the best modern holiness preacher, in my view. But as an intercessor, he was absorbed with the idea of prayer and the practice of it. Prayer was everything to him, especially the kind taught by E. M. Bounds, who although he doesn’t mention him in this book, he did compile some of his writings in A Treasury of Prayer. I personally believe that his intercessions for national revival, which spanned over many years, were finally answered after he died in 1994. Steve Hill and Michael Brown were mentored by him in his final days, and both of them led the Brownsville Revival, which was national, involved several million people, was mentioned in The New York Times, and lasted from 1995 to 2000, until it was shut down by Pharisees in the Assemblies of God, who didn’t like people shaking in response to God’s Spirit.
For those of you who have read his signature book Why Revival Tarries, you will find in the Preface of Revival God’s Way, that it is meant to be a sequel, or part 2 to that original book. This was the last book that Ravenhill published. It was in 1983, just after what I call the Lindale, Texas revival (1979 – 1982), where he often preached at Last Days Ministries, and lived nearby Keith Green and David Wilkerson. This was the time that the video sermons on SermonIndex and YouTube were recorded. If you read Revival God’s Way, you get the sense that this is the Ravenhill you’ve come to know and love from those videos on the internet: that fiery, sin-rebuking critic of the Church, who breaks down idols, and challenges Christians to spend more time alone with God in prayer. Peppered throughout, you will also find a good amount of Christian poems, which probably came from him being around a songwriter like Keith Green.
Intercessory Prayer Comes Out As a Main Revival Principle
Its clear to me that he was a man of prayer and that this book was written in the spirit of prayer. But with that–and this is my main critique of the book–comes a sort of random, unstructured presentation of the principles of revival. The same approach was in Why Revival Tarries. Unless you have a highlighter, and a pen, and are taking careful notes, you might get lost trying to follow his train of thought. You might not remember much of what you read, because the subjects change so often. But then again, there is enough repetition on the theme of intercessory prayer, that its hard to forget that revival principle. In this way, his unstructured approach to spiritual subjects is not that different than Charles Finney’s Lectures on Revivals of Religion; but in my view, Finney’s book is a little bit more structured so far as the Table of Contents are concerned: at least with him, its not hard to grasp his revival thesis, just from skimming the contents: that revival involves intercessory prayer, the baptism in the Holy Spirit, preaching the Gospel correctly, and understanding the hindrances to revivals. Because of the allegorical chapter titles in Ravenhill’s books, however, you really have to read the chapters to see what they are about; and after finding what they are about, you then find that the subjects change often, and its hard to grasp a consistent thesis on the nature of revival. This can be sort of frustrating, but I did take notes on what they are about! And what is of value to the Church should be found in this: that while Ravenhill may not have been a really organized academic theologian, he was by far more advanced in the spiritual life of prayer than most evangelical church leaders. Of this I am deeply persuaded; and anything he has to say, while you may not always agree with it, is still worth considering with the Word of God in hand.
A Summary of Chapter Themes
His chapter themes touch on the following subjects: the joy of obedience to God vs. greed: a nice alternative to John Crowder’s antinomian view of joy (ch. 1), intercession (ch. 2), lukewarm preachers on TV (ch. 3), cults and cheap grace antinomianism (ch. 4), prayer and revival linked (ch. 5), Hell (ch. 6), morally weak sermons, a skeptical critique of Vinson Synan’s claim that 5 million people have been baptized in the Holy Spirit as of the 1980s (ch. 7), the relation of Puritan and Wesleyan preaching to the presence of God, and of revival changing the moral climate of the community: not just one church (ch. 8), Evan Roberts’ weeping and tears in prayer: something I think Ravenhill emphasized too much, and which has unfortunately been faked by certain of his fans, crying fake “revival” tears. Most men are just not that sensitive. This could be because David Matthews, who wrote I Saw the Welsh Revival, and whom he quotes on page 73, played a role in leading his dad to Christ. John Wesley called it the gift of tears; and I would grant that, but its not something that should be faked or manufactured. I was given this gift once, when I was driving to a spot for street preaching, listening to a Robin Mark song. I was suddenly overwhelmed with intense, heartfelt crying, and I cried like a little boy, with a voice that was much higher pitched than I would have liked: it was with “strong crying and tears” (Heb. 5:7), because after so much of my street preaching efforts, I thought of how so many people would just walk by unfazed and seem completely unconcerned about their spiritual conditions (ch. 9).
True prophets (ch. 10), prayer and contemplation leads to prophecy during “pulpit prayer” (ch. 11), purity and prayer with preachers (ch. 12), prophetic intercession: this stood out to me as practical and supernatural: compare with James Goll’s The Prophetic Intercessor (chs. 13-14), prophetic thorns for intercessors (ch. 15), intercession: praying for salvations, makes me think of using prayer lists with people’s names: “God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you” (1 Sam. 12:23) (ch. 16), hunger for God (ch. 17), carnal pastors, the rarity of intercessors (ch. 18), social ills all around: to prayer! (ch. 19), Christian suffering (ch. 20), social ills: prayer! (ch. 21), and finally, America must either experience a national revival or face the judgment of God (ch. 22). Regarding the last chapter, I’d say that the Brownsville Revival, if anything, might have held back national judgment: 4 million people, they say, attended those Ravenhill-like meetings. What did God say to Elijah? “I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal” (1 Kings 19:18). In that case, only seven thousand true followers of the Lord were needed to spare the country from destruction. Ravenhill wrote something eerily prophetic on page 74:
Cotton Mather devoted 490 days and nights in intercession for revival in New England. Mather died in 1727 just prior to the First Great Awakening. Dr. Lovelace noted, “Where prayer is, revival cannot be far behind.”
As it was with Cotton Mather, Jonathan Edwards, and the Great Awakening–so also, it seems, it was with Leonard Ravenhill, Steve Hill, and the Brownsville Revival. Ravenhill died in 1994; and the Brownsville Revival, as I have mentioned, began in 1995.
If God has called you to be truly like Jesus in all your spirit, He will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility. He will put on you such demands of obedience that you will not be allowed to follow other Christians. In many ways, He seems to let other good people do things which He will not let you do.
Others who seem to be very religious and useful may push themselves, pull wires, and scheme to carry out their plans, but you cannot. If you attempt it, you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent.
Others can brag about themselves, their work, their successes, their writings, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing. If you begin to do so, He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.
Others will be allowed to succeed in making great sums of money, or having a legacy left to them, or in having luxuries, but God may supply you only on a day-to-day basis, because He wants you to have something far better than gold, a helpless dependence on Him and His unseen treasury.
The Lord may let others be honored and put forward while keeping you hidden in obscurity because He wants to produce some choice, fragrant fruit for His coming glory, which can only be produced in the shade.
God may let others be great, but keep you small. He will let others do a work for Him and get the credit, but He will make you work and toil without knowing how much you are doing. Then, to make your work still more precious, He will let others get the credit for the work which you have done; this to teach you the message of the Cross, humility, and something of the value of being cloaked with His nature. The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch on you, and with a jealous love rebuke you for careless words and feelings, or for wasting your time, which other Christians never seem distressed over.
So make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign and has a right to do as He pleases with His own, and that He may not explain to you a thousand things which may puzzle your reason in His dealings with you.
God will take you at your word. If you absolutely sell yourself to be His slave, He will wrap you up in a jealous love and let other people say and do many things that you cannot. Settle it forever; you are to deal directly with the Holy Spirit, He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue or chaining your hand or closing your eyes in ways which others are not dealt with. However, know this great secret of the Kingdom: When you are so completely possessed with the Living God that you are, in your secret heart, pleased and delighted over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, you will have found the vestibule of heaven, the high calling of God.
Hardships and Temptations:
Jesus Had Them and So Will True Christians
This book is broken up into two main parts. Part 1 is about the temptations of Jesus (hence the word Tried or trial in the title); and Part 2 is about the transfiguration of Jesus (hence the word Transfigured or sanctified with Spirit-baptism in the title). Most of the book is a Bible study about these experiences in Jesus’ life; and explaining what they mean. But occasionally the suggestion is drawn that Christians are to expect the same things in their own lives, in different ways. Ravenhill advances the thesis that true Christians, who are reflections of Jesus, will go through both trials (painful hardships) and temptations (pleasurable, sinful seductions) in order to prove the genuineness of their faith in God. 1 Peter 1:6-7: “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that THE PROVEN GENUINENESS OF YOUR FAITH—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” Ravenhill said, “Gold tried in a fire is of greater value than gold which still has a mixture of alloys. Gold that is shaped into an ornament has yet more value. Of still higher worth is gold purified, then shaped into a vessel, and finally beautifully engraved” (p. 64). I also think about Job 1:8-12, when Satan himself was allowed to test Job’s faith with hardships, in order to prove to the spirit world that Job feared God with no strings attached.
All kinds of trials. When thinking about Jesus, he refers to Jesus in the desert for 40 days, fasting, hungering, starving, getting challenged by the devil to make bread out of stones in order to prove to Himself that he was the Son of God (implied was a suggestion to Jesus that he was not the Son of God but illegitimate), to throw Himself down from the temple and see if the angels would come and levitate Him, and to seduce Him with worldwide religious and political authority if He would only bow down and worship the devil—perhaps an appeal to follow Roman religion and have influence in the Roman empire as a chief magician, like Jannes and Jambres were for Pharaoh (Exod. 7:22; 2 Tim. 3:8).
With each demonic vision or voice, Jesus appealed to the authority of Scripture, saying, “It is written” (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10); and after the third time “the devil left Him, and angels came and attended Him” (4:11). The angels would have come to strengthen His faith. Even Jesus needed to live by faith, because He lived as a man. So, after proving His spiritual strength by conquering bodily cravings, by shunning the vanity of materialism and earthly authority, by placing His faith verbally in Scripture all by Himself in isolation from other people, by rejecting the Dark Side of the Force and Satan’s lure to become the next Darth Vader, and by overcoming the devil in the desert unlike Adam had in the Garden—Jesus proved to the spirit world that He had authority over all evil spirits: even over Satan himself. Before the desert, there is no mention of Jesus casting out demons. But afterwards, it happened almost constantly for three years until He was crucified.
Baptism in the Holy Spirit, Empowerment to Face Even Greater Trials
When we come to the transfiguration part of the book, which is longer, we see different themes touched on. In its Introduction, conditional security is mentioned: the possibility of backsliding after mountaintop experiences with the Lord. Peter denied Jesus three times after he saw the transfiguration of Jesus (his body shining with the bright white light of the Holy Spirit), and Moses, Elijah, the bright white cloud of God, the audible voice of God, falling into a trance, feeling the fear of God (Matt. 17:1-9). Even after all of that, Peter still weakened and buckled under pressure when his life was threatened. The moral of the story is that spiritual highs in the present are no guarantee against losing your faith in the future. Salvation is by faith (Eph. 2:8); so much for the doctrine of once saved, always saved! We must keep ourselves in check, God helping us. 1 Corinthians 10:12: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” Biblical scholars generally date the transfiguration one year before the crucifixion. So, after this extremely supernatural experience of God, it took about one year for Peter to backslide to the point of denying Jesus three times, when threatened with martyrdom (Matt. 26:69-75).
I was pleasantly surprised to see Ravenhill favorably refer to Evelyn Underhill’s The Mystic Way on page 81, a 400 page book on Catholic mystical theology from an Anglican perspective. At first I was a little concerned, because in her book Mysticism, she takes a pluralistic approach, mixing the religions, but in the one quoted by Ravenhill, it looks like she had cleaned up her theology and only turned to sources like Catholic saints. It was about how contemplation can lead to transfiguration or even encounters with the shekinah glory (light of the Holy Spirit): St. Francis of Assisi and St. Catherine of Bologna are mentioned as examples. I recently wrote about this in my booklet on Supernatural Lights, drawing from Alexander Golitzin’s St. Symeon the New Theologian: On the Mystical Life, vol. 3, where he shares at length about the role of shekinah glory in the life of this Greek Orthodox saint. Foreign sounding to Baptist, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and other Protestant ears, but it begs the question of whether they are missing out on something due to a theological blind spot.
When referring to these mountaintop or transfiguration-like experiences, he brings it down a notch for the rest of Christianity. Not everyone is like St. Francis of Assisi, not everyone is literally going to light up like Jesus or Moses did. (Why not!?) But seriously, though, there are lower level experiences from the Holy Spirit that can follow the same pattern, following periods of trial and temptation, only to be followed by worse ones later on. Ravenhill said:
Christ’s glory-baptism on the Mount must have been a special means of ministry for His soul’s fortification. This was the entrance to a future, gloomy tunnel of soul-strain that led to the waste places of the valley of humiliation. It was a special anointing for service…Christ had this glory-baptism, this unique anointing of majesty on the Mount of Transfiguration. It was a gateway through which He began to tread the Via Dolorosa (pp. 127-128).
In other words, His transfiguration was a supernatural empowerment of confidence and divine protection, to energize Him for the greater trials that lied ahead (Matt. 17): namely, negative repercussions from cleansing the temple, persecution from politically empowered Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, Gethsemane where He sweat blood, Judas Iscariot’s betrayal and suicide, kangaroo court proceedings, mockery from Roman soldiers, the crown of thorns, Peter’s denials, beatings, scourgings, His crucifixion (definitely that), and knowing that most of His disciples did not believe He would rise from the dead (Matt. 21-28). Ravenhill also saw the transfiguration as a kind of baptism in the Holy Spirit, without speaking in tongues: and no doubt, it was: the glory cloud of the Holy Spirit was permeating the atmosphere to where you could both feel it and see it! All of them were Spirit baptized in a sense, but especially Jesus, since He shone with light. It might have been the greatest Spirit baptism He ever experienced. But by the time He’s on the cross a year later, He couldn’t feel God’s presence, and He cried, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me!” (Matt. 27:46). No presence of God was felt on the cross. It seems that the transfiguration baptism had all dried up by then. By the time of Gethsemane, just before the crucifixion, He needed extra encouragement from an angel (Luke 22:43). But He got there. Jesus didn’t run away, even though God told Him through Moses and Elijah what He wanted to happen. Luke 9:30-31: “There talked with Him two men, which were Moses and Elijah: who appeared in glory, and spake of His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem.” Does it look like I’m presenting an all-too-human Jesus to you? How human can you get…dying on a cross. That is one of the most humiliating ways to die. Compare that with the way the Pharisees probably died: with honors and respect, as rabbi-saints, respected in the community, lying on their deathbeds, blessing and prophesying to a group of loving admirers. Not Jesus. He died with probably nothing more than a loin cloth on His body, with shredded skin and muscle tissue hanging out, with huge holes in His hands and feet, gasping for His final breaths while thugs laughed at him. Jesus was and is the Son of God, but He lived as a human being and was “tempted in every way, just as we are—yet He did not sin” (Heb. 4:15). He was the Son of God yes, but he was also the Son of Man (through the virgin Mary), and that is what qualifies Him to be a mediator, or middleman, between God and humankind. But this same Jesus definitely needed encouragement from the Holy Spirit, the voice of God, saints from Heaven, and from angels sometimes! And SO DO WE!
I disagree with Ravenhill’s doctrine of entire sanctification in ch. 16, which is what he thinks the transfiguration symbolizes for the life of the believer. On the contrary, I think it more so symbolizes what we have in Acts 2:4: “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” The presence of God part, more so than the tongues part, but they aren’t mutually exclusive now that we live in the Pentecostal age. But along with Wesley and all the confused Methodists and holiness people who hold to entire sanctification, Ravenhill at least said that backsliding from perfection was possible, which to me, nullifies the entire claim of the doctrine: “I am not inferring that this endowment is a kind of perpetual nonforfeitable” thing (p. 143). Well, then brother Ravenhill, I would say then that although God is omnipotent, the flesh will always remain sinful (Rom. 7:23), and only physical death will eradicate bodily sin entirely (glorification). There is no entire sanctification before death. However, SPIRIT-BAPTISMS should be the focus, because it is SPIRIT-BAPTISMS, or FEELING GOD’S PRESENCE that strengthens our faith and resolve to fight sin, when things get dry. And how do we get them? They are “maintained only by prayer and close submission to the will of God” (p. 143). Pentecostal praise and worship is a form of prayer. Bible study and faith-based obedience to Scripture is the best form of submission to God that I know of. James 4:7: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”