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A Sermon by Charles Hodge

[Oct. 1st, 1865.]There are two kinds of backsliding mentioned in the Scriptures.

  1. that of professors; and
  2. that of the true people of God.

I. The backsliding of professors.To the former class belong the backslidings of the Israelites, which consisted in their falling away from the worship of God and the observance of his law, and in their worship of idols and following the customs of the heathen.

Such backsliding was in their case generally, so far as individuals were concerned, final, and ended in their destruction.

To the same class is to be referred the backslidings of Christian churches and communities. The Eastern, Latin, the English, Scotch, Holland, German, Swiss churches have all experienced such backsliding. In some there is a perpetual apostacy, in others, a temporary one. To the same class belongs the backsliding of professors of religion; persons who have experienced more or less of the power of religion, and have regarded themselves and been regarded by others as true converts, and have joined the full communion of the church and subsequently gone back to the world, given up their profession, and in many cases become immoral or sceptical. The last case of such persons is worse than the first. In some cases it is impossible to renew such persons unto repentance. Hebrews 6.6-10 shows how great may be the attainment and how varied and deep the religious experience of such persons, and how awful and hopeless may be their fall.

II. The backsliding of the people of God.

This for a time may not be distinguishable from the former. It is possible that a true child of God may so fall away that he may lose all evidence within of his being a true Christian, and he may fail to exhibit such evidence to others. There is, however, all the difference between these two cases that there is between a swoon and death. In appearance the two are alike. But, 1. In a swoon there is still a dormant principle of life. 2. It is sure to revive. Whereas, in the other, the principle of life is absent and revival is out of the question.

In the backsliding of the people of God, there is,

  1. A decline in the power of the inward principle of spiritual life, and
  2. A decline in all its normal manifestations. These go on increasing,

    a. The neglect of fellowship with God.
    b. Neglect of the more private duties of religion.
    c. Neglect in watching the heart, the thoughts, and words.
    d. neglect of outward duties,
    e. Conformity to the world.
    f. Commisson of open sin.

Decline merely in fervor of feeling, whether penitential or joyful, is not an evidence of backsliding. Our feelings depend on many circumstances. They sometimes vary with the hours of the day, with .the weather, with the season of the year, with the state of the body, or with period of life. The young are full of emotion. The old are calm. People often distress themselves unnecessarily. The true test is to be founded in the power of the principle of piety to determine our faith, our habits and our conduct.
III. Danger of backsliding arises

  1. From its insidiousness.

  2. From its tendency to become worse and worse.

  3. From its offensiveness to God, as a great sin.

  4. From the certainty that it will end in perdition, if not arrested. There is nothing in us to stop its progress, or in anything around us, or in others, Christians, ministers or means of grace. It depends alone on the purpose of God.

  5. It necessarily involves much suffering and loss, and entails great disgrace on the cause of Christ.

IV. Its cure.
Those who are conscious of having backslidden must,

  1. Repent;
  2. Do their first works.

Their repentance includes,

  1. A just apprehension of their true condition, and their guilt as connected with it.

  2. A settled purpose to renounce everything inconsistent with a holy conversation.

  3. Humiliation and sorrow for the sin they have committed, and the evil they have done.

Doing their first works, includes their return to God by the very means and steps by which they first found his Favor.

  1. They sought earnestly with tears and supplications, long, continual and persevering.

  2. They sought it through Christ, and by application to his blood; or, by the exercise of faith in him.

  3. They sought it in the diligent use of all the means of grace.

  4. In humble dependence on the undeserved and forfeited aid of the Holy Spirit.


  1. Thank you for effort,but i need more clarifiction on the eternal security of the beliver;can a christian lose his salvation?.

    Comment by Fabunmi Sunday — October 22, 2007 @ 2:32 am

  2. Your website was so helpful it had given me some clarrifications with the things I’m dealing with at present. But I still want deeper explanations so if you could help and someone could give me more assurance about salvation. Thanks a lot and hope to hear from you soon. Godbless

    Comment by Esperanza — June 2, 2008 @ 11:16 am

  3. It is very possible to loose ones salvation dts why the bible is complete.d bible says shall we continue in sin dt grace may abound, GOD forbid.if u have by any means lost urs there is alway room for repentance. Shallom. D only assurance of our salvation is the resurrection of Jesus christ on the cross dt is way He said it is finished.so if there is no resurection,salvation is not complete.

    Comment by Temitayo — February 17, 2009 @ 2:03 pm

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