III. What are evidences of backsliding in heart. Print E-mail
Charles Finney

   1. Manifest formality in religious exercises. A stereotyped, formal way
   of saying and doing things, that is clearly the result of habit, rather
   than the outgushing of the religious life. This formality will be
   emotionless and cold as an iceberg, and will evince a total want of
   earnestness in the performance of religious duty. In prayer and in
   religious exercises the backslider in heart will pray or praise, or
   confess, or give thanks with his lips, so that all can hear him,
   perhaps, but in such a way that no one can feel him. Such a formality
   would be impossible where there existed a present, living faith and
   love, and religious zeal. 
   2. A lack of religious enjoyment is evidence of a backslidden heart. We
   always enjoy the saying and doing of those things that please those
   whom we most love; furthermore, when the heart is not backslidden,
   communion with God is kept up, and therefore all religious duties are
   not only performed with pleasure, but the communion with God involved
   in them is a source of rich and continual enjoyment. If we do not enjoy
   the service of God, it is because we do not truly serve Him. If we love
   Him supremely, it is impossible that we should not enjoy His service at
   every step. Always remember then, whenever you lose your religious
   enjoyment, or the enjoyment of serving God, you may know that you are
   not serving Him aright. 
   3. Religious bondage is another evidence of a backslidden heart. God
   has no slaves. He does not accept the service of bondsmen, who serve
   Him because they must. He accepts none but a love service. A backslider
   in heart finds his religious duties a burden to him. He has promised to
   serve the Lord. He dare not wholly break off from the form of service,
   and he tries to be dutiful, while he has no heart in prayer, in praise,
   in worship, or in any of those exercises which are so spontaneous and
   delightful, where there is true love to God. The backslider in heart is
   often like a dutiful, but unloving wife. She tries to do her duty to
   her husband, but fails utterly because she does not love him. Her
   painstaking to please her husband is constrained, not the spontaneous
   outburst of a loving heart; and her relationship and her duties become
   the burden of her life. She goes about complaining of the weight of
   care that is upon her, and will not be likely to advise young ladies to
   marry. She is committed for life, and must therefore perform the duties
   of married life, but it is such a bondage! Just so with religious
   bondage. The professor must perform his duty. He drags painfully about
   it, and you will hear him naturally sing backslider's hymns: 
   Reason I hear, her counsels weigh, 
   And all her words approve 
   And yet I find it hard to obey, 
   And harder still, to love. 
   4. An ungoverned temper. While the heart is full of love, the temper
   will naturally be chastened and sweet, or at any rate, the will keep it
   under, and not suffer it to break out in outrageous abuse, or if at any
   time it should so far escape from the control of the will as to break
   loose in hateful words, it will soon be brought under, and by no means
   suffered to take control and manifest itself to the annoyance of
   others. Especially will a loving heart confess and break down, if at
   any time bad temper gets the control. Whenever, therefore, there is an
   irritable, uncontrolled temper allowed to manifest itself to those
   around, you may know there is a backslidden heart. 
   5. A spirit of uncharitableness is evidence of a backslidden heart. By
   this, I mean a lack of that disposition that puts the best construction
   upon every one's conduct that can be reasonable a lack of confidence in
   the good intentions and professions of others. We naturally credit the
   good professions of those whom we love. We naturally attribute to them
   right motives, and put the best allowable construction upon their words
   and deeds. Where there is a lack of this there is evidence conclusive
   of a backslidden or unloving heart. 
   6. A censorious spirit is conclusive evidence of a backslidden heart.
   This is a spirit of fault-finding, of impugning the motives of others,
   when their conduct admits of a charitable construction. It is a
   disposition to fasten blame upon others, and judge them harshly. It is
   a spirit of distrust of Christian character and profession. It is a
   state of mind that reveals itself in harsh judgments, harsh sayings,
   and the manifestation of uncomfortable feelings toward individuals.
   This state of mind is entirely incompatible with a loving heart, and
   whenever a censorious spirit is manifested by a professor of religion,
   you may know there is a backslidden heart. 
   7. A lack of interest in God's Word, is also an evidence of a
   backslidden heart. Perhaps nothing more conclusively proves that a
   professor has a backslidden heart, than his losing his interest in the
   Bible. While the heart is full of love, no book in the world is so
   precious as the Bible. But when the love is gone, the Bible becomes not
   only uninteresting but often repulsive. There is no faith to accept its
   promises, but conviction enough left to dread its threatening. But in
   general the backslider in heart is apathetic as to the Bible. He does
   not read it much, and when he does read it, he has not interest enough
   to understand it. Its pages become dark and uninteresting, and
   therefore it is neglected. 
   8. A lack of interest in secret prayer is also an evidence of a
   backslidden heart. Young Christian, if you find yourself losing your
 interest in the Bible and in secret prayer, stop short, return to God,
   and give yourself no rest, till you enjoy the light of His countenance.
   If you feel disinclined to pray, or to read your Bible; if when you
   pray and read your Bible, you have no heart; if you are inclined to
   make your secret devotions short, or are easily induced to neglect
   them; or if your thoughts, affections, and emotions wander, you may
   know that you are a backslider in heart, and your first business is to
   be broken down before God, and to see that your love and zeal are
   9. A lack of interest in the conversion of souls and in efforts to
   promote revivals of religion. This of course reveals a backslidden
   heart. There is nothing in which a loving heart takes more interest
   than in the conversion of souls in revivals of religion, and in efforts
   to promote them. 
   10. A lack of interest in published accounts or narratives of revivals
   of religion, is also an evidence of a backslidden heart. While one
   retains his interest in the conversion of souls, and in revivals of
   religion he will, of course, be interested in all accounts of revivals
   of religion anywhere. If you find yourself, therefore, disinclined to
   read such accounts, or find yourself not interested in them, take it
   for granted that you are backslidden in heart. 
   11. The same is true of missions, and missionary work and operations.
   If you lose your interest in the work, and in the conversion of the
   heathen, and do not delight to read and hear of the success of
   missions, you may know that you are backslidden in heart. 
   12. The loss of interest in benevolent enterprises generally is an
   evidence of a backslidden heart. I say, "the loss of interest," for
   surely, if you were ever converted to Christ, you have had an interest
   in all benevolent enterprises that came within your knowledge. Religion
   consists in disinterested benevolence. Of course, a converted soul
   takes the deepest interest in all benevolent efforts to reform and save
   mankind; in good government, in Christian education, in the cause of
   temperance, in the abolition of slavery, in provision for the needs of
   the poor, and in short, in every good word and work. Just in proportion
   as you have lost your interest in these, you have evidence that you are
   backslidden in heart. 
   13. The loss of interest in truly spiritual conversation is another
   evidence of a backslidden heart. "Out of the abundance of the heart the
   mouth speaketh" (Matthew 12:34). This our Lord Jesus Christ announced
   as a law of our nature. No conversation is so sweet to a truly loving
   heart, as that which relates to Christ, and to our living Christian
   experience. If you find yourself losing interest in conversing on heart
   religion, and of the various and wonderful experiences of Christians,
   if you have known what the true love of God is, you have fallen from
   it, and are a backslider in heart. 
   14. A loss of interest in the conversation and society of highly
   spiritual people, is an evidence of a backslidden heart. We take the
   greatest delight in the society of those who are most interested in the
   things that are most dear to us. 
   Hence, a loving Christian heart will always seek the society of those
   who are most spiritually minded, and whose conversation is most
   evangelical and spiritual. If you find yourself wanting in this
   respect, then know for certain that you are backslidden in heart. 
   15. The loss of interest in the question of sanctification is an
   evidence of a backslidden heart. I say again, the loss of interest,
   for, if you ever truly knew the love of God, you must have had a great
   interest in the question of entire consecration to God, or of entire
   sanctification. If you are a Christian, you have felt that sin was an
   abomination to your soul. You have had inexpressible longings to be rid
   of it forever, and everything that could throw light upon that question
   of agonizing importance was most intensely interesting to you. If this
   question has been dismissed, and you no longer take an interest in it,
   it is because you are backslidden in heart. 
   16. The loss of interest in those newly converted, is also an evidence
   of a backslidden heart. The Psalmist says: "They that fear Thee will be
   glad when they see me; because I have hoped in Thy word" (Psalm
   119:74). This he puts into the mouth of a convert, and who does not
   know that this is true? There is joy in the presence of the angels of
   God, over one sinner that repenteth, and is there not joy among the
   saints on earth, over those that come to Christ, and are as babes newly
   born into the Kingdom? Show me a professor of religion who does not
   manifest an absorbing interest in converts to Christ, and I will show
   you a backslider in heart, and a hypocrite; he professes religion, but
   has none. 
   17. An uncharitable state of mind in regard to professed converts, is
   also an evidence of a backslidden heart. Charity, or love, "believeth
   all things, hopeth all things" (1 Corinthians 13:7), is very ready to
   judge kindly and favorably of those who profess to be converted to
   Christ, and will naturally watch over them with interest, pray for
   them, instruct them, and have as much confidence in them as it is
   reasonable to have. A disposition, therefore, to pick at, criticize,
   and censure them, is an evidence of a backslidden heart. 
   18. The lack of the spirit of prayer is evidence of a backslidden
 heart. While the love of Christ remains fresh in the soul, the
   indwelling Spirit of God will reveal Himself as the Spirit of grace and
   supplication. He will beget strong desires in the soul for the
   salvation of sinners and the sanctification of saints. He will often
   make intercessions in them, with great longings, strong crying and
   tears, and with groanings that cannot he uttered in words, for those
   things that are according to the will of God. Or, to express it in
   Scripture language, according to Paul: "Likewise the Spirit also
   helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we
   ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings
   which cannot be uttered. And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what
   is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the
   saints according to the will of God" (Romans 8:26, 27). If the spirit
   of prayer departs, it is a sure indication of a backslidden heart, for
   while the first love of a Christian continues he is sure to be drawn by
   the Holy Spirit to wrestle much in prayer. 
   19. A backslidden heart often reveals itself by the manner in which
   people pray. For example, praying as if in a state of
   self-condemnation, or very much like a convicted sinner, is an evidence
   of a backslidden heart. Such a person will reveal the fact, that he is
   not at peace with God. His confessions and self-accusations will show
   to others what perhaps he does not well understand himself. His manner
   of praying will reveal the fact that he has not communion with God;
   that instead of being filled with faith and love, he is more or less
   convicted of sin, and conscious that he is not in a state of acceptance
   with God. He will naturally pray more like a convicted sinner than like
   a Christian. It will be seen by his prayer that he is not in a state of
   Christian liberty that he is having a Seventh of Romans experience,
   instead of that which is described in the Eighth. 
   20. A backslidden heart will further reveal itself in praying almost
   exclusively for self, and for those friends that are regarded almost as
   parts of self. It is often very striking and even shocking to attend a
   backsliders' prayer meeting, and I am very sorry to say that many
   prayer meetings of the Church are little else. Their prayers are timid
   and hesitating, and reveal the fact that they have little or no faith.
   Instead of surrounding the Throne of Grace and pouring their hearts out
   for a blessing on those around them, they have to be urged up to duty,
   to "take up their cross." Their hearts do not, will not, spontaneously
   gush out to God in prayer. They have very little concern for others,
   and when they do, as they say, "take up their cross and do their duty,"
   and pretend to lead in prayer, it will be observed that they pray just
   like a company of convicted sinners, almost altogether for themselves.
   They will pray for that which, should they obtain it, would be
   religion, just as a convicted sinner would pray for a new heart; and
   the fact that they pray for religion as they do, manifests that they
   have none, in their present state of mind. Ask them to pray for the
   conversion of sinners, and they will either wholly forget to do so, or
   just mention sinners in such a way as will show that they have no heart
   to pray for them. 
   I have known professed Christian parents to get into such a state that
   they had no heart to pray for the conversion of their own children,
   even when those children were under conviction. They would keep up
   family prayer, and attend a weekly prayer meeting, but would never get
   out of the rut of praying round and round for themselves. A few years
   since I was laboring in a revival in a Presbyterian Church. At the
   close of the evening sermon I found that the daughter of one of the
   elders of the Church was in great distress of mind. I observed that her
   convictions were very deep. We had been holding a meeting with
   inquirers in the vestry, and I had just dismissed the inquirers, when
   this young lady came to me in great agitation and begged me to pray for
   her. The people had mostly gone, except a few who were waiting in the
   body of the church for those friends who had attended the meeting of
   inquiry. I called the father of this young lady into the vestry that he
   might see the very anxious state of his daughter's mind. After a short
   personal conversation with her in the presence of her father, I called
   on him to pray for her, and said that I would follow him, and I urged
   her to give her heart to Christ. We all knelt, and he went through with
   his prayer, kneeling by the side of his sobbing daughter, without ever
   mentioning her case. His prayer revealed that he had no more religion
   than she had, and that he was very much in her state of mind under an
   awful sense of condemnation. He had kept up the appearance of religion.
   As an elder of the Church, he was obliged to keep up appearances. He
had gone round and round upon the treadmill of his duties, while his
   heart was utterly backslidden. It is often almost nauseating to attend
   a prayer meeting of the backslidden in heart. They will go round,
   round, one after the other, in reality praying for their own
   conversion. They do not so express it, but that is the real import of
   their prayer. They could not render it more evident that they are
   backsliders in heart. 
   21. Absence from stated prayer meetings for slight reasons, is a sure
   indication of a backslidden heart. No meeting is more interesting to
   Christians than the prayer meeting, and while they have any heart to
   pray, they will not be absent from prayer meeting unless prevented from
   attending by the providence of God. If a call from a friend at the hour
   of meeting can prevent their attendance, unless the call is made under
   very peculiar circumstances, it is strong evidence that they do not
   wish to attend, and hence, that they are backsliders in heart. A call
   at such a time would not prevent their attending a wedding, a party, a
   picnic, or an amusing lecture. The fact is, it is hypocrisy for them to
   pretend that they really want to go, while they can be kept away for
   slight reasons. 
   22. The same is true of the neglect of family prayer, for slight
   reasons. While the heart is engaged in religion, Christians will not
   readily omit family devotions, and whenever they are ready to find an
   excuse for the omission, it is a sure evidence that they are
   backslidden in heart. 
   23. When secret prayer is regarded more as a duty than as a privilege,
   it is because the heart is backslidden. It has always appeared to me
   almost ridiculous, to hear Christians speak of prayer as a "duty." It
   is one of the greatest of earthly privileges. What should we think of a
   child coming to its parent for its dinner, not because it is hungry,
   but as a duty. How would it strike us to hear a beggar speak of the
   "duty" of asking alms of us. It is an infinite privilege to be allowed
   to come to God, and ask for the supply of all our wants. But to pray
   because we must, rather than because we may, seems unnatural. To ask
   for what we want, and because we want it, and because God has
   encouraged us to ask, and has promised to answer our request, is
   natural and reasonable. But to pray as a duty and as if we were
   obliging God by our prayer, is quite ridiculous, and is a certain
   indication of a backslidden heart. 
   24. Pleading for worldly amusements is also an indication of a
   backslidden heart. The most grateful amusements possible, to a truly
   spiritual mind, are those engagements that bring the soul into the most
   direct communion with God. While the heart is full of love and faith,
   an hour, or an evening, spent alone in communion with God, is more
   delightful than all the amusements which the world can offer. A loving
   heart is jealous of everything that will break up or interfere with its
   communion with God. For mere worldly amusements it has no relish. When
   the soul does not find more delight in God than in all worldly things,
   the heart is sadly backslidden. 
   25. Spiritual blindness is another evidence of a backslidden heart.
   While the eye is single the whole body will be full of spiritual light,
   but if the eye be evil (which means a backslidden heart) the whole body
   will be full of darkness. 
   Spiritual blindness reveals itself in a lack of interest in God's Word,
   and in religious truth generally. It will also manifest a lack of
   spiritual discrimination, and will be easily imposed upon by the
   insinuations of Satan. A backslidden heart will lead to the adoption of
   lax principles of morality. It does not discern the spirituality of
   God's law, and of His requirements generally. When this spiritual
   blindness is manifest it is a sure indication that the heart is
   26. Religious apathy, with worldly wakefulness and sensibility, is a
   sure indication of a backslidden heart. We sometimes see persons who
   feel deeply and quickly on worldly subjects, but who cannot be made to
   feel deeply on religious subjects. This clearly indicates a backslidden
   state of mind. 
   27. A self-indulgent spirit is a sure indication of a backslidden
   heart. By self-indulgence, I mean a disposition to gratify the
   appetites, passions, and propensities, to "fulfill the desires of the
   flesh and of the mind" (Ephesians 2:3). 
   This, in the Bible, is represented as a state of spiritual death. I am
   satisfied that the most common occasion of backsliding in heart is to
   be found in the clamor for indulgence of the various appetites and
   propensities. The appetite for food is frequently, and perhaps more
   frequently than any other, the occasion of backsliding. Few Christians,
   I fear, apprehend any danger in this direction. God's injunction is:
   "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the
   glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31). Christians forget this, and eat
   and drink to please themselves, consulting their appetites instead of
   the laws of life and health. More persons are ensnared by their tables
   than the Church is aware of. The table is a snare of death to
   multitudes that no man can number. A great many people who avoid
   alcoholic drinks altogether, will indulge in tea and coffee, and even
   tobacco, and in food that, both in quantity and quality, violates every
   law of health. They seem to have no other law than that of appetite,
   and this they so deprave by abuse that, to indulge it, is to ruin body
   and soul together. Show me a gluttonous professor, and I will show you
   a backslider. 
   28. A seared conscience is also an evidence of a backslidden heart.
   While the soul is wakeful and loving, the conscience is as tender as
   the apple of the eye. But when the heart is backslidden, the conscience
   is silent and seared, on many subjects. Such a person will tell you
   that he is not violating his conscience, in eating or drinking, or in
   self-indulgence of any kind. You will find a backslider has but little
   conscience. The same will very generally be true in regard to sins of
   omission. Multitudes of duties may be neglected and a seared conscience
   will remain silent. Where conscience is not awake, the heart is surely
   29. Loose moral principles are a sure indication of a backslidden
   heart. A backslider in heart will write letters on the Sabbath, engage
   in secular reading, and in much worldly conversation. In business, such
   a person will take little advantages, play off business tricks, and
   conform to the habits of worldly business men in the transaction of
   business; he will be guilty of deception and misrepresentation in
   making bargains, will demand exorbitant interest, and take advantage of
   the necessities of his fellow-men. 
   30. Prevalence of the fear of man is an evidence of a backslidden
   heart. While the heart is full of the love of God, God is feared, and
   not man. A desire for the applause of men is kept down, and it is
   enough to please God, whether men are pleased or displeased. But when
   the love of God is abated, "the fear of man," that "bringeth a snare"
   (Proverbs 29:25), gets possession of the backslider. To please man
   rather than God, is then his aim. In such a state he will sooner offend
   God than man. 
   31. A sticklishness about forms, ceremonies, and nonessentials, gives
   evidence of a backslidden heart. A loving heart is particular only
   about the substance and power of religion, and will not stickle about
   its forms. 
   32. A captiousness about measures in promoting revivals of religion, is
   a sure evidence of a backslidden heart. Where the heart is fully set
   upon the conversion of sinners and the sanctification of believers, it
   will naturally approach the subject in the most direct manner, and by
   means in the highest degree calculated to accomplish the end. It will
   not object to, nor stumble at, measures that are evidently blessed of
   God, but will exert the utmost sagacity in devising the most suitable
   means to accomplish the great end on which the heart is set.

   IV. What are consequences of backsliding in heart.

    V. How to recover from this state.