Sinners Admonished to Return to God
William Nicholson, 1862
"Return now every man from his evil way, and amend your doings, and do not go after other gods to serve them — and you shall dwell In the land which I have given to you and to your fathers." Jeremiah 35:15
God does not desire the death of a sinner. To save men from present and eternal ruin, he appointed Christ as the mediator. He has sent his servants to proclaim this mercy, and to invite sinners to return to the enjoyment of his favor. So it was in the time of Jeremiah. The Israelites were a rebellious people; but he "sent his servants the prophets, rising up early," verse 15. And what is the design of the Gospel ministry now? It is "to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me!" Acts 26:18
I. What the Exhortation Presupposes
1. That there has been a departure from God. "Return every man from his evil way." They had departed from . . .
the truth of God's word,
the pure worship of God, to the worship of idols,
trust and confidence in him,
the practice of piety and holiness.
Sin, therefore, is a departure from God. Backsliding comes on gradually.
2. This departure is universal. "Every man." "For all have sinned." etc. Romans 3:10, 19, 23.
3. This departure is flagrantly wicked. "Evil way."
Sin is evil in its nature — for it is committed against God, the Fountain of goodness, love, and purity. It defies the power and wisdom of God.
Sin is evil in its influence. It darkens the mind. It debases the affections. It corrupts others. It injures society.
Sin is evil in its consequences. It leads to ruin in this world, and to eternal perdition in the world to come. "Sin when it is finished, brings forth death."
II. The Nature of the Exhortation."Return now every man from his evil way, and amend your doings, and do not go after other gods to serve them."
This Exhortation implies,
1. Deep conviction of the evil and dangerous nature of a wicked life. Without such a conviction, salvation can never be enjoyed. Such a sensibility is the foundation of all vital godliness. Why are there so many formal and apathetic professors? Because conviction of sin has either been absent, or partial.
2. Contrition of heart, and confession of sin to God. See David returning to God with penitential weeping, Psalms 51 and 38. Sin, so evil, and so disastrous in its consequences, is enough to make a sinner weep!
3. Faith in Christ. It is a return to God through the mediation of his Son. Hence the sinner is "reconciled unto God through Jesus Christ." See 2 Corinthians 5:18-20. Faith recognizes Christ as the Surety, the Sacrifice, etc.
4. The Renunciation of every evil way. Every evil course must be abandoned, and the sinner must apply to God for grace to enable him to "amend his doings." There will be a reformation of conduct. "Cease to do evil — learn to do good." True faith will produce good works. "I will show you my faith by what I do!" James 2:18
5. Supreme love to God. "Do not go after other gods." The Israelites were often guilty of idolatry. And thousands now worship the world, the creature, wealth, pride, prestige, pleasure, possessions etc. God alone must be loved and adored.
6. All this will lead to union with God's people. All believing penitents who are detached from the world, seek associates of a kindred disposition. They "give themselves first to the Lord, and then to his Church, according to his will."
III. The Compliance with this Request must Be Immediate."Return now!"
1. Return now, because life is short and uncertain. "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth!" Proverbs 27:1. "Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes!" James 4:14
How often does the fairest flower perish in its early beauty! A robust constitution, a strong athletic frame — have frequently been suddenly prostrated by the relentless hand of death. Health, youth, beauty, strength, must yield to death's power, and often when least expected. What a motive to "return now!"
2. Return now, because sin is hardening and deceitful. Convictions may be vivid, and desires strong today. But tomorrow, through the influence of depravity, the power of the world, and fellowship with sinners, they may decline and ultimately evaporate. Hebrews 3:7-13.
3. Return now, because you will escape the greatest evils, and realize the most exalted pleasures. You will escape guilt, condemnation, wrath, and eternal perdition! You will enjoy pardon, liberty, peace, adoption, divine fellowship, hope, and, compared with the state of the wicked, Heaven upon earth. Your "peace shall flow as a river." Isaiah 48:18. The sooner you return, the longer you will enjoy the "loving-kindness of God."
4. Return now, because the longer you delay the less probability there is that you will ever return. The lapse of every day, month, and year, renders your return less probable. How seldom do we see the aged return to God! Their passions, mental powers, and physical energies, have been expended in sinful pursuits — which expenditure, combined with depraved apathy and hardness of heart, render it next to impossible for an aged sinner to return to God. "O you young, seek the Lord early while he may be found!"
5. Return now, for the present is the only time in which we are authorized to tell you that you can be saved. The language of ministers is, "Behold now is the accepted time! Behold now is the day of salvation!" They are not authorized to say, "Return tomorrow, repent next week, believe in a short time." No. Their cry is, "Today, if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts."
IV. The Happy Result of Returning to God."You shall dwell in the land."
1. The land. The Israelites entered Canaan, and dwelt in it. It was a glorious land; a land of fertility and beauty. Deuteronomy 8:7. But Canaan was a faint type of Heaven, to which believers are called. Human language, with all its figures and comparisons, cannot give an adequate description of it. "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him!" 1 Corinthians 2:9. Heaven is infinite, and therefore finite powers cannot describe it. The Scriptures give us a representation of it in the most endearing manner. See Revelation 21, etc.
2. It will be the residence of God's people. "You shall dwell in the land." You shall . . .
see God there,
love and praise there,
understand divine mysteries there,
and be infinitely happy there!
You shall dwell where you will be filled with joy in God's presence, with eternal pleasures at his right hand! You shall be citizens of that heavenly Canaan forever! "Your sun will never set; your moon will not go down. For the LORD will be your everlasting light. Your days of mourning will come to an end!" Isaiah 60:20