While I do not think that someone who is soundly saved will backslide, the ‘advice’ from Ebenezer Erskine in this sermon seems a particularly useful measure of the faithfulness of our own Christian walk as well as providing for sound strategies in the avoidance of the pitfalls of temptation.
1. Take care that the foundation be well laid, upon the everlasting Rock Jesus Christ; for this is the foundation that God hath laid in Zion, and another foundation can no man lay. You must be cemented to this foundation by the Spirit and faith, otherwise you can never stand in a day of trial; for your root being rottenness, your "blossom shall go up as the dust." The house built upon the sand fell, when the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon it; but the house founded upon this rock shall stand out against the utmost efforts of the gates of hell.
2. Maintain an everlasting suspicion over your own hearts; for "he that trusteth in his own heart is a fool," considering that it is "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." Particularly take heed of the workings and sproutings of the bitter root of unbelief, which causes to depart from the living God, Heb. 3:12.
3. Keep your eyes upon the promises of persevering grace, particularly that, Jer. 32:40: "I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me." If you plead and improve this promise by faith, it is impossible you can draw back; for it is "impossible for God to lie." God stands on both sides of the covenant, to fulfil both his and our part of the same; and therefore plead, that he may fulfil his in you, that he would keep you by his "power, through faith unto salvation."
4. Keep a steady eye on Christ, the blessed Mediator of the covenant." Eye him as the store-house and fountain of all your supplies of grace and strength; for it is "out of his fulness that we receive, and grace for grace." Eye him as your Captain, to fight all your battles against sin and Satan; for he has "spoiled principalities and powers;" and if ever we overcome, it must be in the blood and strength of the Lamb. Eye him as your guide, to lead you through all the dark and difficult steps of your pilgrimage; for "he leads the blind in a way that they have not known." Eye him as your pattern; endeavour to imitate him in all his imitable perfections; run your Christian race, "looking unto Jesus." Remember how steady and firm he was in carrying on the great work of redemption; he set his face like a flint against all the storms and obstacles that lay in his way; "he did not faint, nor was he discouraged," but "travelled on in the greatness of his strength, enduring the cross, and despising the shame;" for he said on the cross, "It is finished." So study ye, after his example, to run your Christian race, your course of obedience, and press oil against all temptations and difficulties, till ye "have finished your course with joy," and arrive at "the mark and prize of the high calling of God in Christ."
5. Beware of the first beginnings of defection and backsliding; for one trip makes way for another. Defections, are like the rolling of a stone upon the brow of a high mountain; if once it begin to roll, it is likely never to rest till it be at the bottom. You have been upon the mount of God, sirs; and if you begin once to roll down the hill of your high professions and resolutions, it is a hundred to one if you do not land in the depths of apostacy, and at last in the depths of hell.
6. Lastly, Study to be well skilled in unmasking the mystery of iniquity, and in detecting the wiles and stratagems of the tempter, and to provide yourselves with suitable antidotes against every attack of the enemy. For instance, if he tell thee sin is pleasant, ask him, if the complaints of the worm of conscience be pleasant too? and if "one day in God’s house" be not "better than a thousand in the tents of sin?" If he tell thee, that nobody sees, ask him if he can shut the eye of an omniscient God, whose "eyes are as a flame of fire," and who "setteth our most secret sins in the light of his countenance?" If he tell thee, that it is but a little one, ask him, If there be a little God? Or if His displeasure be a little thing? If he tell thee, that sin is profitable, ask him, "What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" By considerations of this nature, the mind comes to be fortified against the attacks and onsets of that grand enemy of salvation, and prove a notable ballast to keep the soul firm and steady against the most violent storms and tempests that may blow either from earth or hell.
Acknowledgement: A number of months ago I was introduced to the writings of Ralph Erskine through a friend who referred me to this post on Mike Ratliff’s blog. Through reading Ralph Erskine I discovered his brother Ebenezer. I guess there is something to that whole six degrees of separation thing after all.