If indeed they have escaped the corruption of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, only to be entangled and overcome by it again, their final condition is worse than it was at first”(2 Peter 2.2)
There is probably a case of believers who once have to know the word of truth but were drawn away from it. They fell into the deception of the false teachers and false doctrine. They had started the race to salvation very well but have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness. It is possible that they may still appear to others as believers or as churchgoers yet they are like springs without water and mists driven by a storm.
The consequence of this state of deception is to expect to be abandoned by the Spirit of God. If they should continue to remain in their state of deception, they may expect the Holy Spirit to abandon them forever. God’s Spirit will not always strive with man. He gave up the Israelites because they vexed and grieved his Spirit. He abandoned the old world for the same reason. And many individuals, and families, and nations, in every age of the world have been given up because they have refused to come out of deception into the light of the truth.
What follows as a matter of course from the absence of the Spirit’s influences is spiritual blindness. Men are naturally blind and deaf to all the great truths which should sanctify their souls. Not that they have not naturally eyes and ears with which to see and hear, but “having eyes they see not, and ears, they hear not.” And being unwilling to retain God in their knowledge they blind their own eyes, and deafen their own ears, and harden their own hearts. And when once the Spirit of God has given them up, their blindness though voluntary is as certain and eternal as their existence.
This will produce a conscience seared as with a hot iron. This will naturally follow from their great spiritual blindness. A silent or seared conscience is a state of mind to be infinitely dreaded. For if its voice is silenced they may go on in security crying peace and safety until sudden destruction cometh upon them. It is an unspeakable blessing to have a quick and tender conscience, one that will enforce the slightest obligation with great power. But you should by all means, as you would the murder of your own soul, avoid that which will silence your conscience and hush its warning voice.
4. If God abandons you, you will become the confirmed and complete slave of that sin, whatever it be, on account of which he has given you up. If it is some vile indulgence in some form of intemperance or the love of money, the love of pleasure, passion under any form of infidelity or error. Whatever sin has been persevered in until God has given you up or the Holy Spirit departed from you, that sin has become your master.
It will chain you like a slave, and rule over you with a rod of iron. It will impose on you its galling yoke until you shall be filled with your own ways. How many cases of this kind have come under my own observation, where persons have tempted God by indulging in some form of sin until he has given them up to its reigning power; and then how feeble are all their efforts to overcome it. Their resolutions are as yielding as air. Every breath of temptation carries them away. And finding themselves all weak and swept away by temptation as with a flood, they throw up the reins and drive furiously to destruction.
Backsliders, who refused to come out of deception may expect God to “send strong delusions upon them that they may believe a lie, that they may be damned because they obey not the truth but have pleasure in unrighteousness.” It is said that an “evil spirit from the Lord troubled Saul,” and that a “lying spirit” was suffered by the Lord to deceive Ahab to his own destruction. A man who grieves the Holy Spirit and who is hiding away from the light receives not the truth but has pleasure in some form of unrighteousness. It is remarkable to see in how many ways the providences of God will help a man, in this state, forward to some fatal delusion. Infidel books or lecturers, universalist ministers or publications, wicked companions and associates, and often times the prince of hell, is suffered to delude and lead such a soul into impenetrable darkness, and destructive delusion.
Their final condition is self-disgrace. It is remarkable to see when an individual who once has received the truth and has escaped the corruption of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, only to be entangled and overcome by it again. Such a person will now be blind in regard to the light in which his conduct is and will be viewed by those around him. Such a person will probably go from step to step, beginning perhaps with indulgence in levity, next he will discover an irritable spirit and show that he has no command of his temper, then a spirit of worldly-mindedness may develop itself, next a spirit of licentiousness may be plainly discerned by those around him and then some form of intemperance may get the mastery of him, then a spirit of exaggeration and perhaps of lying may take possession of his soul and thus in the midst of his blindness wander on until he finds himself deeply disgraced in the eyes of men, and forever lost in the eye of God.
He may then be left to inflict the deepest disgrace on his family and friends and perhaps ruin many over whom he has influence. “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” Men naturally have great influence over each other, and with great facility do “evil communications corrupt good manners,” because wicked example so falls in with the corrupt state of the human heart. It is exceedingly easy to influence individuals to sin because they are already so inclined to sin. A slight amount of temptation therefore may lead those around him to follow his example, until all together, at last, they sink to the depths of hell.
The status of backsliders will of course greatly wound and dishonor Christ. Thus he may be given up to Satan “to be led captive at his will.” Such was the case of Saul and Ahab as being given up to Satan for their wickedness. Paul speaks of having delivered a certain man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, and it doubtless often occurs when the Spirit of God has left a man, that Satan takes full possession of his heart. Christ seems to teach this in the following language. “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and finding none. Then he saith, I will return into my house whence I came out; and when he comes, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” Now here it is plainly taught by Christ himself that when the Holy Spirit has left a man, his heart is like a room swept and garnished waiting to entertain the devil and that he may be expected to take possession, to exert over him at least sevenfold more influence than ever before.
10. If any man is backslidden, he may expect to become very insensible and blind in regard to the state of his own soul. he may be left to think that he is engaged in religion and mistake the silence of his conscience for the peace of God, and the absence of all concern about his soul for a good hope through grace. It doubtless has often occurred and I think I have myself seen cases, where persons seem to have the most undoubting assurance of mind that they were in a gracious state when their temper and conduct manifest anything else than the Spirit of Christ. Christ himself represents some as being in such a state of delusion as to carry their false hopes and delusions to the very bar of God. He represents them as saying, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works?” But hear his answer. “Then will I profess unto them, I never knew you. Depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
A backslidden person will have no heart to offer prevailing prayer, and if he attempts to pray, he will find that his mouth is shut, and if opened it will only be opened to mock God. And he will find as a matter of fact, that instead of being benefited he is only hardened by engaging in prayer. Such a person will wax worse, and worse and still may not observe it. Examine yourself, and if you will be honest with yourselves, by comparing your recent with your former experience, you may see that you are waxing worse and worse.
A backslider may be certain of damnation, God has said. “Woe unto them when I depart from them.” If left to yourself, remember that you are as certain of being lost as if you had already been a thousand years in hell. Because all things will work together for your destruction. The very means that should make you better will make you worse. The efforts that God makes to save those around you will only confirm your sins. God’s providences, with all the influences of his grace that surround you, will be but so many stumbling blocks to your poor blinded soul. The Sabbath with its cheerful light and solemn stillness will rise upon you to harden your heart. “The sound of the Church-going bell,” and the voice of the living preacher, the song of praise and everything in the sanctuary as well as everything within and without yourself, will conspire to work out for you an exceeding great and eternal weight of damnation.