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fallen from the Lord God, there would have been no propriety in the address. Israel is addressed as fallen by her iniquity; in consequence of which she was estranged from the Lord. Many of the Lord's called ones are frequently in backsliding frames and cases. There are some of them, who again and again fall into their old constitutional sins. Some conceive such as are really converted to the Lord, never fall after their regeneration, into the same constitutional sins into which they fell before. Beloved, the regenerate are saved from the state of sin. They are not under the dominion of it; yet they have sin in them, yea, the whole body of the same. They have inherent in them, every lust and corruption they ever had; and some of them are sorely beset and frequently assaulted, and by the wiles of the devil overcome, and fall from their own steadfastness; and thus they backslide from the Lord. It is so, let us be willing freely to acknowledge it or not, that some sin more before conversion, and some more afterwards. Some of the elect fall into actual sin after they have been favored with the knowledge of the Lord, and with real communion with him, and some very peculiar consolations and enjoyments of him. And sometimes their sins consist in sensuality; sometimes in temper; sometimes in a neglect of the Lord's own worship; sometimes in their own Pegality and unbelief; in their neglect of Christ,
and their treating the gospel with irreverence and contempt. I believe I have briefly enumerated all the ways in which the Lord's people can possibly backslide from him; which can only be in thought, word, and deed. As there can be no departure from the Lord, but it must produce its consequences; so none but backsliders know and feel the sorrows which arise from the same. The heart knoweth its own bitterness. If there are any here, who, with the speaker, know the plague of their own hearts, and have fallen, and still find themselves prone to fall from their Lord and Saviour by their iniquity, how sweet and most truly acceptable to them must the words here before us be: O Israel, return unto the Lord, thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.
This address from the Lord to his Israel, even to such of them as have backslidden from him, is all-sufficient, in the hands of the Holy Spirit, to restore and invigorate their minds. I will, therefore,
Secondly, observe one substantial reason ex, pressed in the text, for the return of backsliding Israel to God. O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God. It lays in their relation to him, and his relation to them. He is the Lord their God. Return unto the Lord thy God.
Every act of
All sin is the effect of unbelief. departure from the Lord is the fruit of it; let it be mental, or let it be open and manifest. To
give full and implicit credit to what the mouth of the Lord has spoken is the best, yea, it is the only preservative from sin of all sorts. The apostle says, Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God-Heb. iii, v. 12. As by unbelief we depart from God, so it is by faith we draw nigh unto him. And as sinners by the free and generous declarations of the grace of Father, Son, and Spirit, under the influences of the same, are at first divinely drawn to Christ to believe on Him, to receive Him, to trust in Him, and centre in Him for life everlasting; so when they have at any time backsliden from Him, it is by the same declarations of free grace, they are encouraged to return back again in heart and affection to Him. Backsliders need great encouragement, even from the Lord himself, to return to him. He is pleased to give it them. He does it in the words before us. He says, O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God. Here is every encouragement the Lord himself can give. There cannot be a greater evil or misery, than that which is contained in departing from the Lord. No words can speak it. No heart can fully conceive it; yet, whilst it contains the worst of evils, and is the greatest which can possibly befal any of the called children of the Most High, here is an all-sufficient remedy for the case. An exuberancy of grace; such as none but the Lord could declare; and
which he only, it having pleased him to express it in his most holy word, can make effectual. Every word is fraught with grace. It is the language of everlasting love. It fully proves that the Lord God hates putting away, and clearly evidences that he delighteth in mercy. As nothing in us makes us the Lord's, so there never was, neither is there in us, any thing which can destroy our relation unto the Lord; it being all founded upon sovereign, free, and everlasting favour. God's love is an act of his own will. The elect and chosen in Christ, are the objects and subjects thereof. These were created pure and holy in one man, Adam, their nature head; and they all fell in him into a state of condemnation. They were equally, and alike, corrupted by the fall. They have been redeemed, and raised above, and beyond all the ruins of the fall, by the covenant which obtained between Jehovah and the Brauch, before the foundation of the world. When the Lord breaks forth in the revelation and manifestation of the same, in regeneration and effectual calling, there is a glorious display of his love and mercy. This is expressed thus: God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ. It is also thus spoken of: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again to a lively hope
by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. See Ephes. ii, v. 4, 5.; 1 Peter, i, v. 3. As the Lord's people have sin in them, so it cannot but be that it will in a variety of instances prevail over them. It cannot have dominion, because the Lord hath said, Sin shall not have dominion over you. It may operate within them. It does; so that some real saints fall into actual sin more after they are brought to the knowledge of Christ, than it may be they ever did before. The Lord, who from everlasting foresaw all this, was pleased to make a provision in the covenant of grace for such, by inserting this clause therein. If my children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; Then will I visit their transgressions with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless my lovingkindness I will not utterly take from them, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. My covenant I will not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David-Psalm lxxxix, v. 30-35. Here are the worst cases of backsliding, and of backsliders expressed. And, beloved, what are the words of my text, but the fulfilment of this nevertheless, contained in the grace-part of the same Scripture? The Lord says to Israel, Return unto the Lord thy God. The interest the Lord God hath in his people can never be broken in upon;