"Your vows are upon me, O God; I will render praises unto You—for You have delivered my soul from death" (Ps. 56:12, 13). This musing of the Psalmist is surely most befitting and appropriate for me on a retrospect of today's approach to the Holy Table. But he does not stop with this treble assertion. He adds a fervid appeal, a votive prayer—if I may so call it—to the God he has covenanted to serve. May I not endorse it also as my own earnest pleading in this votive hour—"Will You not deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?" (Ps. 56:13).
Let me note that it is when under the deepest and most solemn consciousness of his covenant engagement—"Your vows are upon me, O God"—he anticipates the possibility of his feet stumbling. In the hour of elation and victory he contemplates the certainty of fresh encounters with spiritual foes. The past deliverance and the present vow are no guarantees against the seductive wiles of temptation. At the very moment when he has that votive resolution on his lips, and the hymn of praise on his tongue—when his bark is on placid waters and no cloud disturbs his sky, he dreads and forecasts the storm. He would be forearmed as well as forewarned; and looking to the God who had put his vow on record, he cries—'Lord! in this very hour of my strength, I feel the reality of my weakness! You have delivered my soul from death—(that is my present rapturous theme). But the future—that unknown and often treacherous deceitful future!—will You not—who has promised "as your days, so shall your strength be"—will You not help me in it?' "Will YOU not deliver my feet from failing?" Communions and Sacraments cannot keep me. The most sacred vows may be broken like airy spider webs. But hold You me up and I shall be safe. With Your voice behind me saying, 'This is the way,' I may, in the expressive words of Israel's singer—"walk before God in the light of the living!"
And what is this, but the lesson and resolution of 'new obedience'? What a befitting season, by God's grace, to adopt fresh resolves, and to aspire after a higher standard of life and duty! Not to mystify so solemn a subject with figure—If, in looking back on past months, or past years, I am conscious of the dominating influence of some evil temper, some ungodly passion—some flaw in Christian consistency—some neglect or omission of well-known duty, either regarding myself or with respect to others—what an appropriate season is this to initiate and inaugurate a new and better life—to turn over, as the common saying is, a new leaf—to make this renewed votive service today, a fresh starting-point for eternity as expressed in the words just quoted—"I will walk before God!" What a sure preservative against sin, to walk with the consciousness of His pure eye upon me! Seeking to go only where He leads—to love only what He loves—His paths my paths—my longing aspiration and aim the coinciding of my will with His! This is obedience. No "snare for the falling feet" successful then. "Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird" (Prov. 1:17). Rising on the wings of faith, and prayer, and love, and new obedience—these wings bathed in the light of God and heaven—they will be kept from being soiled by the degrading contacts of earth—"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."