"Thy own wickedness shall correct thee. Thy backsliding shall reprove
thee. Know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter that thou
hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the
Lord God of Hosts." Jeremiah 11:19.
Many start the voyage of the Christian life under sending skies and
upon smooth waters, but as they sail out of the harbor the sky becomes
dark and the craft of their religion crashes upon the rocks. At first they
are careful to obey the command of God, but after the revival they neglect
their duties and finally come to wreck.
God speaks much of the sin of backsliding, and in the Bible has spoken
of it in many places. There are all kinds of backsliding.
First, there is the careless kind. The invitation is never given at the
revival but there are those who will respond to it, and for a time will
live as Christians should. Then, when the revival is over and the routine
of everyday life begins, they slip gradually back into their former ways.
They become negligent and drift back to the old haunts and the old gang.
Oh, it is easy to think of things divine when the revival is on and
there is inspiration on every side and the bands are playing and the
crowds are marching.
I've sometimes thought, almost, that it might be a Godsend to many a
community if it could only be swept by typhoid fever or pneumonia or
scarlet fever just after a good revival and before the people have a
chance to slide back.
The second class of backsliders is the class that started soberly and
seriously, but not seriously enough. They do not make a complete
surrender. If you secure a balloon with 100 ropes and cut 99 of them, the
balloon will still be held, but don't cut the shore lines, they have
failed to cut loose from sin, and it is drawing them back.
A friend of mine holding a meeting, asked how many who were present had
been Christians, but were now backsliders. Finally forty fessed up. Then
he asked them for the reasons for their falling away. Finally a man got up
and said he backslid through believing that he could be a Christian and
keep his store open on Sundays.
A young lady arose and said that she backslid because of cards. A
friend had given a card party and she had to give one in reciprocity. She
said she had invited a young man to attend, but that he didn't know what
kind of a party it was to be. He came, but when he found out he said he
was sorry, but he must go, for he could not stay there. "I admired him for
his loyalty to his religion, he made me feel that I wasn't worthy to have
my name as a church member," the young lady said.
Another man stood up and said: "I backslid when I voted for the
saloon." You bet he did or he would not have voted for the dirty, rotten
thing. Why, he backslid before he voted that ticket, or he wouldn't have
A young lady said: "I thought I could be a member of the church and
dance." Sure she could. You can be a member of the church and a burglar
too, but not a member of the body of Christ. She said, "I attended a dance
and found my desire to pray diminishing. I attended another and I found my
desire to pray had become nebulous. And then," she said, "my desire to
I tell you I never saw a drinking, dancing, card playing Christian who
amounted to anything. The dance is a quagmire of wreckage. It's as rotten
as hell. You wait until I get at it.
I believe more people in the church backslide because of the dance,
card playing and theatre gadding then through the saloons. But hold on
there, don't you think for a minute that I'm in favor of the dirty,
stinking, rotting saloons.
I'm against a lot of amusements popular among church members, as you
people are going to find out before I am through in Boston. I don't give
that (snapping his fingers) whether you like my preaching or not.
Understand? It's a question of whether you are interested in decency. If
you live wrong you can't die right. Emerson said: "What you are speaks so
loudly that I cannot hear what you say.
This is an age of incompleteness of unfinished things. Life is full of
half done things. Education is begun and abandoned. Obedience to the law
of God is begun - and given up. People start in business - and fail. They
attempt to learn a trade - and don't do it thoroughly. A hound once
started running after a stag and after running for a while it saw a fox
and turned after it. A little farther along it saw a rabbit and ran after
that, and finally wound up holing a field mouse. So it is with so many who
enter the Christian life. They started to hunt and compromised on a glass
of booze. They enter a royal race, but compromised on a glass of beer or
on some little gain through dishonesty.
Not every backslider is an apostate, but every apostate is a
backslider. Peter was a backslider, but he came back and preached that
sermon at Pentecost. Judas was a backslider, and what he did so preyed
upon his mind that he did not want it. He went out but he never came back.
I have never tabooed but two towns in my life and one of them was a
little town in Iowa, where I once held a meeting before I really became an
evangelist. That town had an infidel club of 150 members. There were only
two church members in the place, and there was an interrogation point
after them at that. They could have started a founding asylum of their own
in that community. My life was not safe there - they threw stones at me in
A storekeeper there told me he was going to sell out and leave the town
for purely moral reasons, at a loss of about $8000.00. He said that he had
daughters and that there wasn't a young man in the town that he would
trust with them. He said that any young man in that town were to call on
any of his daughters he wouldn't go upstairs to bed unless he had a
Gattling gun he could train on the visitor at a moments notice. It is not
only for here and now, it is not only for a time, but it is for eternity.
It is one of the great things. All other things are incidents.
The leader of that God - forsaken, iniquitous gang was a man named
Dickson, who ran a one - horse country grocery business in a place about
as big as a boxcar. He had been a Christian - used to be a classleader in
a Methodist church. He kept a store. I used to pass the store as I went to
preach, and I would see the bunch, as many as 40 sometimes, sitting around
in the little store.
Whenever a new preacher came they would assemble to talk him over, and
if old Dickson gave consent, they would go to church to hear him. I
remember one old brush rat. He had bushy whiskers with a dirty brown
streak down the middle, and he could spit 30 yards and hit a fly. I'll bet
my life he could hit a post down there. He used to come in late, with one
pant leg tucked in his boot, no coat or vest, no galoshes - just a rope
around his paunch - the old son of perdition.
He'd sit down and turn the hose on the wall. He looked to me as if he
had had only one bath in his life and that one when he was born. He came
clattering down the aisle - old hair and beard twisted - looked like a
cows tail. He started as a backslider, ended in apostasy, just as disease
ends in death if not checked.
In business life, crises come unforeseen. Hard times come. When they
do, you may be able to get away with a overdraft at the bank if the
cashier knows you too well. At the bank of heaven no checks on God's
mercy, when signed by God's loyal followers have ever been turned down. If
you come with honest heart God will honor the appeal if your hands are red
In a campaign like this, for some little thing many men will sell out.
There are men whose honor hang like meat in butcher shop, for sale for so
much a pound. I thank God though, that most men are honest and most women
are virtuous, and that even the minority can be made to yield when you
preach the gospel right.
I ask about a man. "Has he reached the burning bush?" They answer,
"Yes, and got past it." I ask, "Is he a K. of P.?" They say he is. I ask,
"Has he jumped?" They say, "Yes." I don't know what it means to jump, for
I am not a K. of P. I heard a couple of K. of P.'s talking, though ? they
didn't leak. I suppose it has something to do with the initiation. I ask.
"Is he an Odd Fellow?" "Yes" They tell me he will share his last dollar
with a needy person, die for the widow or the orphan, put his head on the
track ahead of the Black Diamond or allow himself to be shot to pieces
before he would be false to the vows he took amid the scent of the orange
That sounds like a good man, but there are lots of men who will be true
in all these things, and false to Jesus Christ. They will go to church and
partake of the communion, then will line up in front of some bar and tell
smutty stories. True in business, true to lodge, true in society, true in
the home, but a perjurer in the sight of God. If you are such a man you
are a backslider - a backslider, sir, and a liar.
If I were to go to a man and say: "They say you're an old liar." Would
he say, "Well, Bill, I suppose I am, but you mustn't put the standard too
high for poor, weak humanity, and I'm only human." If I were to say to
him, "They say you are an old thief and that they have to hide everything
when you come around." Would he say he supposed it was true, but I mustn't
set the standard too high for poor human nature? If I say, "They tell me
that you are a rotten old libertine and that you have ruined many innocent
girls, that you would crush a woman's virtue as quickly as a snake beneath
your foot." Would he say he supposed it was true, but I mustn't set the
standard too high for poor human nature?
No sir. If he were anything of a man at all he would say, "I demand,
sir, that you prove your charges." But that's not what a man does when you
charge him with being a backslider or to say that he is a liar. Oh, for
the Presbyterian or Baptist or Episcopal backslider who stands up and
talks about poor human nature - yet to say a man is a backslider is to say
that he is a liar. Of, for power to come to you and show what you ought to
I can imagine a man being untrue in business. I can imagine him being
untrue in politics. I can even - but it is difficult - imagine him being
untrue to the vows made at the altar - but to be untrue to God! Be untrue
to God and you will lose heaven and lose all. Be true to God and you will
lose hell. I pray that God will so work upon the consciences of you
backsliders who hear me that you will cry salt tears and turn and roll
upon your pillows when you go home tonight and seek a dry spot that he may
reproach you until you have been stung into a return to the God to whom
you have been false.
A heathen woman named Panathea was famous for her great beauty, and
King Cyrus wanted her for his harem. He sent his representatives to her
and offered her money and jewels to come, but she repulsed them and
spurned their advances. Again he sent them, this time with offers more
generous and tempting; but again she sent them away with scorn. A third
time she said "Nay." Then King Cyrus went in person to see her and he
doubled and tripled and quadrupled the offers his men had made, but still
she would not go. She told him that she was a wife, and that she was true
to her husband.
He said "Panathea, where dwellest thee?"
"In the arms and on the breast of my husband." She said.
"Take her away." Said Cyrus. "She is of no use to me."
Then he put her husband in command of the charioteers and sent him into
battle at the head of the troops. Panathea knew what this meant - that her
husband had been sent in that he might be killed.
She waited while the battle raged and when the field was cleared she
shouted his name and searched for him and finally found him wounded and
dying. She knelt and clasped him in her arms, and as they kissed, his lamp
of life went out forever.
King Cyrus heard of the mans death and came to the field. Panathea saw
him coming, careening on his camel like a ship in a storm. She called,
"Oh, husband! He comes - he shall not have me. I was true to you in life
and will be true to you in death." And she drew her dead husband's poniard
from its sheath, drove it into her own breast and fell dead across his
King Cyrus came up and dismounted. He removed his turban and knelt By
the dead husband and wife and thanked his God that he had found in his
kingdom one true and virtuous woman that his money could not buy nor his
A person of Boston, preachers, the problem of this century is the
problem of the first century. We must win the world for God and we will
win the world for God just as soon as we have men and woman who will be
faithful to God and will not lie and will not sell out to the devil.