The Fallen Professor
James Smith, 1865
"He feeds on ashes, deceived heart has turned him aside! He cannot save himself, or say: Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?" Isaiah 44:20
This is true of very many in the present day. They professed religion, for a time they did run well, we were full of hope respecting them--but they are turned aside. Self-examination is always important--but especially so before we make a public profession of Christ. Let a man examine himself thoroughly--and so let him be baptized and be joined to his people. Some are for delaying a profession of religion too long, and some rush into it too hastily. Few things are more difficult for a pastor, than to know whom to encourage to come forward, and whom to keep back.
We have a character in our eye, let us look at him: "a deceived heart has turned him aside."
This will apply to a professor, one who has numbered himself with God's people. He was sound in the truth. He embraced the doctrines of the gospel. He took the precepts for his guide. He professed to rely on the promises. The bible was his book, and a sound gospel ministry his delight. He was regular in his attendance upon the means of grace. He came not only to the sermons--but to the prayer meetings. His attention and apparent devotion, were pleasing and encouraging. His fixed eye, and serious behavior, inspired us with confidence. There was nothing light, or restless, or unfitting; he was in behavior as befits godliness. He was useful in his station in life. He spoke for Christ to his fellows, he took a class in the Sunday school, he wrote religious letters, he distributed gospel tracts, he appeared desirous of benefitting all around him. He was his pastor's hope, the church's joy, and a lesson to the world!
We wished there were many like him, for his talents were respectable, his education was good, his manners were pleasing, and everything seemed to indicate that he would be a useful character. But a change has taken place! A blight has settled upon the flower! A cloud has obscured the prospect. The pastor's heart is grieved. The weak of the flock are stumbled. The church mourns. The enemy triumphs.
What has happened?He is turned aside! He has turned from God. The closet is forsaken--he prays no more. The truth is given up--and lax, if not infidel, principles are embraced, propagated, and defended. Duty is disregarded; he feels like Pharaoh, if he does not speak like him, when he said, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey him?" The church is despised and forsaken.
The prayer-meeting was first neglected, then he only attended the public services once on the Lord's-day. Then he only came occasionally. At last he gave up altogether. He was warned--but he despised the warning. He was exhorted--but he rejected the exhortation.
The world flattered him,
pride took possession of him, and
Satan gained the complete mastery over him!
He withdrew from his old Christian associates, and from the field of labor; as he did not enjoy religion, he could not, he would not, labor to bring others to seek it. The bible was left unopened, the voice of conscience was stifled, the company of the godly was shunned--and he turned aside to folly.
The world, which he once despised--he now values. The evil company he once avoided--he now seeks. Vanity is his characteristic, and vanity will be his recompense. He is turned aside after Satan, who now rules in his heart, leads captive his affections, bewilders his judgment, stupefies his conscience, and powerfully works upon his imagination.
Worldly men gather him into their company--he is courted,
flattered, and captivated! He is completely led away by the lust of the
flesh, the lust of the eye, and the sinful pride of life. He cannot bear
reflection, he avoids being much alone, he has become the friend of the
world, and is completely turned aside.
But what did it?
A deceived and a deceitful heart has turned him aside.
Error was presented in a fascinating dress.
Pride of intellect was fostered.
Satan laid his snares, adapted his temptations to his age, temperament, disposition, and circumstances: he took the bait, and was caught by the hook!
His natural lusts were pampered, and the reins were thrown upon their neck.
He became giddy, bewildered, and was deceived!
But how was he brought to this state?
He walked on the very edge of Christian liberty, instead of getting and keeping as near to the Savior as he could.
He yielded to temptation, first secretly, and in reference to little things--which paved the way for greater sins; for if Satan can get us to yield to a small temptation today--he will entice us with a greater one tomorrow.
He tampered with sin, lowering the standard, making allowance for the weakness of nature, the force of circumstances, and the custom of the times.
He listened to false teachers, whose business is
always to lead us to think . . .
lightly of sin,
lowly of the Savior,
highly of self, and
unscripturally of God.
He read improper books--such as . . .
lead away from God,
unfit for prayer, and
secretly undermine vital piety.
He became deluded,
laughed at his former fears,
ridiculed his conscientious scruples,
questioned the truths of Scripture, and
scorned those 'fanatics' who . . .
talk of experimental religion,
incessantly dwell upon Scripture doctrines,
and old-fashioned practices.
Thus the Holy Spirit was grieved and vexed--so that he was given up to his own heart's lusts, and he walked in his own vain counsels.
Lively Christians were forsaken and treated with contempt.
The cultivation or preservation of the heart was entirely neglected.
The eye was left at liberty to rove and pry into improper objects and subjects.
The ear became the entrance to what was polluting, misleading, and degrading.
The carnal desire sought to know practically, and indulge in the lowest degrees of sin.
And so the text was fulfilled in him, "A deceived
heart has turned him aside!"
Where is he now?In the path of DANGER--for "he walks in the counsel of the ungodly, he stands in the way of sinners, he sits in the seat of the scornful."
A deceived soul. ""He
feeds on ashes! He cannot save himself, or say: Is not this thing in my
right hand a lie?"
What is he now?
What does his conduct say to you?Let us, therefore, fear! "Beware lest, being led away with the error of the wicked, you fall from your own steadfastness." "Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." "Trust not in your own heart, lean not unto your own understanding; for he who trusts in his own heart is a fool." "Watch and pray--lest you enter into temptation." "Let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall."
Get close to God, and keep close to God. Dwell in the fear of the Lord all the day long.
Keep at the greatest possible distance from temptation!
If Satan can get you to listen--he may get you to
if he gets you to look--he may get you to desire;
if he gets you to desire--he will get you to yield!
"Resist the devil--and he will flee from you."
Cry to the strong for strength. Cultivate a sense of your own weakness. Live and walk in fellowship with Jesus. Often think of the words of the Holy Spirit, by Peter, of tempters and the results, "These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity--for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them!" 2 Peter 2:17-21
Young men, beware.
Curious, critical hearers, take heed.
Men of business, who are much in the company of the world--stand in fear. Your adversary, the devil, goes about seeking whom he may devour!
Let us all daily pray, "Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of your wing! Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Hold me up--and I shall be safe: and I will have respect unto your statutes continually."