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Dangerous Symptoms That Your Falling Back Will Be Restored Only with Difficulty

{Since the Heavenly Trade Is the Best Trade…

Exhortation to Those Who Began the Heavenly Trade But Have Backslidden

Advice: Be Deeply Affected by Your Evil Condition

Dangerous Symptoms That Your Recovery Will Be Very Difficult}


But, on the other side, there are five dangerous symptoms that your falling back will be restored only with great difficulty.1292


Dangerous Symptom: You Fell Back before You Ever Committed Yourself to Christ

{Since the Heavenly Trade Is the Best Trade…

Exhortation to Those Who Began the Heavenly Trade But Have Backslidden

Advice: Be Deeply Affected by Your Evil Condition

Dangerous Symptoms That Your Recovery Will Be Very Difficult

You Fall Back before Ever Committing Yourself to Christ}


If you fell back away from Christ before you went all the way to Christ and closed with Him in truth, then you decayed before you became spiritually alive. This is dangerous. If your house was built on the sand, and the towering heights of your Christian stature and profession from which you have fallen were merely structures of your own construction in which the sanctifying Spirit had no hand, then your decays are unlikely to be repaired. Are you a stranger to the new birth and to any inward change to your soul? If so, the actuating principle of your new profession and actions is still an old heart. You never did take the Lord for your God and only treasure, nor have you had any heart-union with the Lord Jesus to this day; your fall is dangerous (Matthew 7:26–27; 1 John 2:4, 19; 2 Timothy 3:5).1293


Dangerous Symptom: You Fell Off from the Foundations

{Since the Heavenly Trade Is the Best Trade…

Exhortation to Those Who Began the Heavenly Trade But Have Backslidden Advice: Be Deeply Affected by Your Evil Condition

Dangerous Symptoms That Your Recovery Will Be Very Difficult

You Fell Off from the Foundations}


To fall off from the foundation is dangerous. When people depart from the Christian faith and turn to another [false] Gospel, it is greatly to be feared that they will not be restored. Such people deny the Lord that bought them. They fall from the doctrine of grace after having been enlightened; instead, they turn to a covenant of works and lay a foundation for their hopes on their own works and on self-improvement. They go from the rule of faith and the Word of truth to natural light and seducing spirits that have no evidence or sanction from the Scriptures. They disclaim dependence on the true foundation [Christ] and disclaim God’s right to rule them by the Scriptures (Galatians 1:6, 5:4; Hebrews 10:26, 39; 2 Peter 2:15; Hebrews 6:4–6).1294



Dangerous Symptom: Making Merchandise of the Truth, Selling Yourselves to Work Wickedness

{Since the Heavenly Trade Is the Best Trade…

Exhortation to Those Who Began the Heavenly Trade But Have Backslidden

Advice: Be Deeply Affected by Your Evil Condition

Dangerous Symptoms That Your Recovery Will Be Very Difficult

You Sell the Truth and Yourself for Wickedness}


When people make merchandise of the truth1295 or sell their Christian profession for worldly reasons or gain, they love the reward of iniquity and swap [all] their Christianity for worldly advantage. This is a mighty provocation to the Holy Spirit when people can sell themselves to work wickedness; they value the great things of God’s law, truth, and salvation at a low price when they part with them for a bowl of stew (Genesis 25:30–33)1296 and the dirty, demonic doctrines of this world. It is seldom that such people find repentance though they seek it with tears; for example, Judas, Simon Magus, Balaam, Demas, and Spira.1297 What examples of furious indignation does God display regarding such apostates who can part with their Christianity for worldly interests (2 Timothy 4:10; 1 Kings 21:20; 2 Peter 2:3, 15; Acts 1:18)!1298


Dangerous Symptom: Choosing and Delighting in Your Backsliding

{Since the Heavenly Trade Is the Best Trade…

Exhortation to Those Who Began the Heavenly Trade But Have Backslidden

Advice: Be Deeply Affected by Your Evil Condition

Dangerous Symptoms That Your Recovery Will Be Very Difficult

Choosing and Delighting in Your Backsliding}


Backsliders in heart, that is, those whose falling back is of free choice and delight, will surely perish and be filled with their own ways (Proverbs 14:14).1299 They are as a deceitful [archery] bow that has no tension when its string is broken (Psalm 78:57).1300 When a person throws off Christianity as one does a burden and an animal its yoke (Jeremiah 5:5)1301 and is glad to be rid of his troublesome work as one that got out of prison (Romans 1:32),1302 this is strong evidence of a spirit of Belial1303 and a dangerous condition. Many have taken up the lamp of Christianity due to constraint,1304 custom, fashion, curiosity, interest, or for companionship as did the foolish virgins (Proverbs 14:14; Psalm 78:57; Jeremiah 5:5; Matthew 25:1).1305 But when opportunity offers itself for an easy riddance of their Christianity, they soon show what they really are by their cheerful return to Egypt (Numbers 14:3–4),1306 and to the broad way of error and looseness, engaging in other interests and finding pleasure in them. The world, reputation, and pleasure carry off their hearts and they are well-pleased with other lovers. This is a bad sign of a desperate state of soil that is marshy and will never be healed (Ezekiel 47:11).1307




Dangerous Symptom: You Are Prejudiced against the Means of Recovery

{Since the Heavenly Trade Is the Best Trade…

Exhortation to Those Who Began the Heavenly Trade But Have Backslidden

Advice: Be Deeply Affected by Your Evil Condition

Dangerous Symptoms That Your Recovery Will Be Very Difficult

You Are Prejudiced against the Means of Recovery}


People are in a dangerous state when:

These things show a dangerous state. The condition of such people seems desperate and not far from the chambers of death [Hell].


Oh, you who are fallen back in Christianity: get your hearts affected by it. Do you begin to decay? You do not know where it will end. Are you backslidden? It is questionable whether you can ever return—and then what will your latter end be? Your last state will be worse than your first. If you are twice dead, you will be plucked up by the roots (Jude 12).1311 If after rain showers and cultivation you decay, your end will be to be burned [eternally in Hell].1312




1292The editor wishes to remind the reader that all things are possible with God, and no one should despair, but seek the Lord. Ashwood offers specific advice below.

1293But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall” (Matthew 7:26–27 NKJV). “The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4 NASB). “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19 NASB). “…having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people” (2 Timothy 3:5 ESV). Ashwood references 1 John 5:14, which does not fit the context; the editor has substituted the two 1 John passages just given.

1294I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel” (Galatians 1:6 NKJV). “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace” (Galatians 5:4 ESV). “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” (Hebrews 10:26 NASB). “But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:39 NASB). “Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing” (2 Peter 2:15 ESV). “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt” (Hebrews 6:4–6 ESV).

1295One can make merchandise of the truth by abandoning or weakening the truth of God for worldly gain. Or, one might use the truth with wrong motives: “For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:17 NKJV). This does not mean that it is wrong to receive income from honest labor, even when that labor is some form of Christian ministry or service. “For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,and, ‘The laborer is worthy of his wages’” (1 Timothy 5:18 NKJV).

1296And Esau said to Jacob, ‘Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!’ (Therefore his name was called Edom.) Jacob said, ‘Sell me your birthright now.’ Esau said, ‘I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?’ Jacob said, ‘Swear to me now.’ So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob” (Genesis 25:30–33 ESV).

1297Likely a reference to Francis Spira. See https://history.hanover.edu/courses/excerpts/260spira.html (accessed January 28, 2020). Spira was reportedly a convert from Roman Catholicism to Protestantism who, under pressure from the Inquisition, recanted, and thus (most probably wrongly) despaired of eternal salvation.

1298For Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia” (2 Timothy 4:10 NKJV). “Ahab said to Elijah, ‘Have you found me, O my enemy?’ And he answered, ‘I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do evil in the sight of the Lord’” (1 Kings 21:20 NASB). “And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep” (2 Peter 2:3 ESV). “Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing” (2 Peter 2:15 ESV). “Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out” (Acts 1:18 NASB).

1299The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways, But a good man will be satisfied from above” (Proverbs 14:14 NKJV).

1300But turned away and acted treacherously like their fathers; they twisted like a deceitful bow” (Psalm 78:57 ESV).

1301I will go to the great men and speak to them, For they have known the way of the Lord, The judgment of their God. But these have altogether broken the yoke And burst the bonds” (Jeremiah 5:5 NKJV).

1302Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:32 ESV).

1303Belial: This word often appears in phrases such as sons/daughters of Belial, and may appear alone. It does not actually appear to be another name for Satan, but for wickedness personified. It refers to worthlessness, wickedness, destruction, evil, and ungodliness to a high, even the worst possible degree.

1304Constraint of children by parents is a large part of the category of due to constraint. People who were raised in the Christian faith possess a rich and precious heritage, but must personally commit themselves to Christ, putting their trust in Him alone for salvation, and all things, or face a far worse eternal punishment in Hell than those who never had their opportunity.

1305The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways, and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways” (Proverbs 14:14 ESV). “But turned back and acted treacherously like their fathers; They turned aside like a treacherous bow” (Psalm 78:57 NASB). “Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom” (Matthew 25:1 NASB).

1306“‘Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?’ So they said to one another, ‘Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt’” (Numbers 14:3–4 NASB).

1307But its swamps and marshes will not be healed; they will be given over to salt” (Ezekiel 47:11 NKJV). See also Matthew 13:3-9, the parable of the sower.

1308They hate him who reproves in the gate, and they abhor him who speaks the truth” (Amos 5:10 ESV). In ancient times, rulers would frequently sit at the city gate. Ashwood’s reference is thus to those backsliders who will not listen to those who have authority over them.

1309And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (John 3:19 ESV).

1310Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent word to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, ‘Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel; the land is unable to endure all his words’” (Amos 7:10 NASB).

1311These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots” (Jude 12 NKJV).

1312The popular image of a cliff is one of a sharp and sudden drop-off. At state and national parks, these are often left without fences; the danger is obvious. But there is another kind of cliff that is often fenced off with warning signs; these deceptively roll off gradually, the ground getting steeper and steeper until the descent is vertical. The farther down one goes, the harder it is to keep one’s footing, the easier it is to go farther downhill, and the harder it is to get back up safely. Ashwood is warning us that backsliding is the same way.

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