Were it not for the hope of being instrumental in saving some from the error of their way, and of inducing others to a greater degree of watchfulness, I should not have written the preceding pages. It can afford no satisfaction to expose the evil conduct of a fellow sinner, or to trace its dangerous effects, unless it be with a view to his salvation or preservation.
It is natural for those who have fallen into sin, unless they be given up to a rejection of all religion, to wish, on some considerations, to be restored. A backsliding state is far from being agreeable. Hence it is that many have prematurely grasped at the promise of forgiveness, and said to their souls, “Peace, peace, when there was no peace.” It is desirable that we be recovered from our backslidings; but it is not desirable that we should think ourselves recovered when we are not so.
As there are many ways by which a convinced sinner seeks peace to his soul, without being able to find it, so it is with a backslider. Self-righteous attempts to mortify sin, and gain peace with God, are not confined to the first period of religious concern. Having, through the power of alarm, desisted from the open practice of sin, many have laboured to derive comfort from this consideration, without confessing their sin on the head, as it were, of the gospel sacrifice. Their sins may be said rather to have been worn away from their remembrance, by length of time, than washed away by the blood of the cross. But this is not recovery! the hurt, if healed, is healed slightly; and may be expected to break out again. The same way in which, if we be true Christians, we first found rest to our souls, must be pursued in order to recover it; namely, “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is the way to which the Scriptures uniformly direct us. “My little children, these things I write unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”—“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This was the way in which David was recovered. He confessed his sin with deep contrition, pleading to be purged “with hyssop that he might be clean, and washed that he might be whiter than snow.” By this language he could not mean that his sin should be purged away by any thing pertaining to the ceremonial law, for that law made no provision for the pardon of his crimes: he must, therefore, intend that which the sprinkling of the unclean with a bunch of hyssop, dipped in the water of purification, was designed to prefigure; which, as We are taught in the New Testament, was the purging of the conscience, by the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus.
This is the only way in which it is possible to find rest to our souls. As “there is no other name given under heaven, or among men, by which we can be saved,” so neither is there any other by which we can be restored. Whatever be the nature of our backsliding from God, this must be the remedy. If it be a relinquishment of evangelical principles, we must return to the way, even the highway whither we went. Paul “travailed in birth” for the recovery of the Galatians; and in what did he expect it to consist? In “Christ being formed in them.” He also strove to bring back the Hebrews; and all his labours were directed to the same point. His Epistle to them is full of Christ, and of warnings and cautions against neglecting and rejecting him. If any man had been perplexed concerning the Deity or atonement of Christ, let him humbly and carefully read that Epistle; and, if his heart be right with God, it will do him good. If our departure from God have issued in some gross immorality, or in the love of the world, or in conformity to it, the remedy must be the same. It is by this medium, if at all, that the world will be crucified unto us, and we unto the world. If we have no heart to repent, and to return to God by Jesus Christ, we are yet in our sins, and may expect to reap the fruits of them. The Scriptures give no counsel to any thing short of this. They are not wanting, however, in directions that may lead to it, and considerations that may induce it.
Excerpt from: “The Backslider: Or an Inquiry into the Nature, Symptoms, and Effects of Religious Declension, with the Means of Recovery.”
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Expositions—Miscellaneous. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 3, pp. 652–653). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.