“TREATMENT DUE TO YOUNG CONVERTS
vi. Impress the young convert with the danger of the least departure from duty, of taking the first step in the way of spiritual decline.
It rarely happens that an individual becomes a great backslider at once. On the contrary, it is usually the work of time, and generally has a small and almost imperceptible beginning. When the first step is taken, there is probably, in most cases, an intention not to take another, certainly not to go far; but it is a law of our moral constitution that one step renders the next easier; and hence the facility with which we form habits, especially evil habits. The young convert, upon the mount of Christian enjoyment, is able to from but an inadequate idea of the conflicts of the religious life, he realizes then, much less than in subsequent parts of his course, the need of constant watchfulness against temptations; and this lack of vigilance throws open the doors of the heart, and not infrequently the tempter has planted himself there, and begun his work, before any danger has been apprehended. And the soul which was just now burning with ecstasy wakes to the fact, not only that its joys are rapidly upon the wane, but that its desires are becoming earthly, and its impressions of invisible things feeble and inconstant.
Caution the young Christian then, against the least allowed violation of duty. Admonish him that, if he enter such a course, he can never know where it will end. Point him to the examples of those who have taken the first step with a firm purpose never to take another, who have nevertheless continued to backslide, until there was scarcely the semblance of Christian character remaining. Let him understand that no degree of joy, or even of spirituality, which he can possess on earth, can be any security against his losing his evidences and his comforts and sinking into a state of the most chilling spiritual indifference. And if, at any time, he find that he has actually begun to wander, let him know that he has the best reason to be alarmed, and that every hour that he continues his wanderings he is making work for bitter repentance and bringing a dark cloud over his religious prospects.
vii. Put the young convert on his guard against neglecting the duties of the closet.
It is in the closet especially that every Christian must labor to keep alive the flame of devotion in his own soul. Here, more than anywhere else, is carried forward the silent communings of the soul with its God in acts of confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. Here the believer becomes acquainted with his sins and his wants, and while he unburdens his soul before the throne of mercy, gathers strength and grace by which he is sustained and carried forward amidst the various duties and trials which meet him in the world. Hence it always happens that, in proportion as the duties of the closet are neglected, religion languishes in the hart and the exhibition of it in the life becomes faint and equivocal. It is manifest to those who see him and converse with him that there is a canker corroding the principle of his spiritual life. And he himself knows that his joys have fled, his conscience has become his accuser, and he has no evidence which ought to satisfy him that he is walking in the path to heaven.
But this evil of neglecting the closet is one to which the young convert is exceedingly liable. He may not be liable to it in the very earliest stage of his Christian experience; for then the duties of the closet are usually a delight to him; but when his first joys have partially subsided and he has begun to be conversant with the more sober realities of the religious life, there is great danger that he will find some apology for a partial and irregular attendance on these duties. One source of danger is found in the fact that he may neglect them, and still be unobserved by the world; that he may neglect them without forfeiting, even in the view of his fellow Christians, who of course are ignorant of it, his claim to Christian character. And then these duties, being of a peculiarly spiritual kind, are the very first to lose their attractions to a Christian who is losing his spirituality. Other duties bring him before the world. These bring him only before his own conscience and the searcher of his heart. And besides, where circumstances may seem to render it inconvenient to engage in closet devotion, it is too easy a matter to satisfy the conscience with an indefinite resolution that it shall be attended to at a consequent period; and no resolution is more easily broken than this; and let it be broken in a few instances, and a habit of comparative indifference to the closet is the consequence.
I doubt not that I might appeal to the experience of a large part of those who have professedly entered on the Christian life for evidence of the facts that no habit is formed with more ease than that of neglecting, in a greater or less degree, this class of duties.
If then the faithful discharge of private religious duties be so essential to a vigorous and healthful tone of religious feeling and action, and if there be peculiar temptations to neglect them, then every person at the commencement of the Christian life ought be admonished of his danger on the one hand, and exhorted to fidelity on the other. Counsel him to take heed that he does not substitute the form for the spirit of prayer; that he do not satisfy his conscience by appearing before God with the bended knee, without the broken heart. Counsel him to mingle with is private prayers self-examination and the reading of God’s Word, that thus his communion with God may be more intelligent on the one hand, and more spiritual on the other. Counsel him never to turn his back upon his closet because he may find his affections low and languid, and may imagine that he should have little enjoyment in attempting to pray. Let this rather be urged as an argument for hastening to his closet and confessing and lamenting his indifference and endeavoring to get the flame of devotion rekindled in his bosom. In short, urge the importance of private meditation and devotion in all circumstances; urge him to redeem time for that purpose under the greatest pressure of worldly care; and keep him mindful of the connection which this duty has with everything that belongs to Christian character and Christian enjoyment.”
-From Lectures On Revivals Of Religion by William B. Sprague First Published 1832 Published by The Banner of Truth Trust Carlisle, PA 2007 Pages 156-159