The Backslider (Birmingham AL: Solid Ground, 1801, 2005)

Andrew Fuller wrote about backsliding in 1801, but he might as well have been writing to many in the church today.

Listen to some of these gems from J.A. James’ Introduction:

…the symptom of declension [backsliding] were but too evident, in a diminished interest on the subject of religion, and in less frequent attendance on its public ordinances, till at length, nothing but the form of godliness remained, and even that so mutilated or wasted, as to have lost all its symmetry as well as its vitality.

Living in an age of commercial and political excitement, and acted upon by surrounding scenes, they have little time and less inclination for those exercises of devotion, self-examination, and watchfulness, which at all times are necessary, and especially so in the present, for maintaining ore regaining the vitality of religion; and thus they slide down into a lukewarm state, and settle at length in a confirmed departure from God.

Diminished interest, declining attendance, and lack of attention to devotion, self-examination and watchfulness. Was he a time traveler?

Fuller exposes love for the world as a primary manifestation of backsliding:

It has long appeared to me that this species of covetousness will, in all probability, prove the eternal overthrow of more characters among professing people, than almost any other sin; and this is because it is almost the only sin which may be indulged, and a profession of religion at the same time supported. If a man be a drunkard, a fornicator, an adulterer, or a liar; if he rob his neighbour, oppress the poor, or deal unjustly, he must give up his pretences to religion; or it not, his religious connexions, if they are worthy of being so denominated, will give him up: but he may love the world, and the things of the world, and at the same time retain his character.

Fuller might be surprised, a bit, at just what we tolerate now, but he was absolutely right about the problem of worldliness.

Here are some other prescient observations:

  • Regarding believers with imprudent interest in politics: “While gazing on the splendid spectacle, it did not occur to them that the wicked, whatever name they assumed, would do wickedly.”
  • “Sin, when we have committed it, loses its sinfulness, and appears a very different thing from what it did in others. … it is common for it to assume another name; and by means of this we become easily reconciled to it…”

This edition is a photographic reprint, so the characteristics of the original typeset and spelling remain, but it is well worth taking the time to read.

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