God's Word, a Preservative from Sin
William Nicholson, 1862
"Your word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against you." Psalm 119:11
This Psalm is one continued eulogy on the sacred Scriptures; and though little more than the five books of Moses were then known — yet the Psalmist finds in them such an assemblage of beauty and excellence, as to demand his highest admiration and esteem. He not only perceived their excellencies, but he felt their power. He deposited the precepts and promises of God in his heart, and proved their value and efficiency . . .
to preserve him from sin,
to comfort him in trouble, and
to cheer him in a dying hour.
Just so, Christians must "let the word of Christ dwell in them richly, in all wisdom," which will preserve them from sin, and make them wise unto salvation.
I. The Great Object Which David Wished To Secure."That I might not sin against you."
1. It is natural to man to sin. The heart is corrupt. The fountain of moral action is impure. All true believers know and feel this. Though they are saved by grace — yet they feel that in consequence of inherent depravity, they are prone to sin. Romans 7:18, etc.
2. Christians are surrounded by many temptations to sin. The world is full of enticements and snares, which often attract and conquer the unwary. The heart of the Christian, therefore, needs fortifying by the Divine word and the Spirit.
3. There are two special reasons why the Christian is anxious to avoid sin.
(1.) Its evil nature. Faint are the conceptions which we can form of the malignity of sin. What must it be in the estimation of Him who is infinitely pure, who regards it as abominable, and who cannot look upon it with the least degree of allowance! It is so hateful to him, that he declares it shall not go unpunished. "The heavens are not clean in his sight, and he charges the angels with folly."
Its malignity arises from the consideration of the glorious and holy Being against whom it is perpetrated. It is against God. "Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight!" Psalm 51:4
It arises from the equity of the Divine government. Had its requirements been unreasonable and injurious, there would have been something to lessen the guilt of violation; "but the law is holy, and the command is holy, just, and good." Sin is an insult against our great Benefactor, our Creator, the Father of our spirits, who daily loads us with his benefits. It is rebellion and ingratitude the most foul.
(2.) Its awful effects both in time and eternity.
As it regards the lost sinner, it has darkened his understanding, and alienated his affections from God. He spreads an evil and destructive influence around him. He is the subject of misery. "There is no peace, says my God, to the wicked." He is planting thorns in his dying pillow. And what are his prospects, but a fearful looking for of judgment? For he is under the curse!
As it regards the believer, if he should relapse into sin, what mental agony! See it in David, Psalm 38 and 51. What a source of sorrow to the Church — what a source of triumph to the wicked — and how it impedes the progress of the truth!
II. The Important Expedient Adopted by the Psalmist to Preserve Him From Sin."Your word have I hid in my heart."
It is evident that the Psalmist regarded the Word as a most precious and efficient remedy — and as a treasure. Hence he hid it in his heart, that it might be ready to him whenever he required the use of it. It must be deposited in our hearts, inwoven in our natures:
By carefully reading and studying it.
By attentively hearing it, with self-examination.
By prayer for the Holy Spirit to enable us to understand it, and to rivet it on our hearts, that it may dwell in us richly in all wisdom.
If we have the word only in our houses and hands — enemies may take it from us; if only in our heads — our memories may fail us; but if it is hid in our hearts, and molds them, and makes an impression there — all is safe! "Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads!" Deuteronomy 11:18. "Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful." Joshua 1:8
But, it may be inquired, in what way does the word of God preserve from sin?
When hid in the heart, the Christian regards it,
1. As the word of God, and not as the word of man. As really inspired — as perfectly true. Such a belief causes the Christian to regard the Scriptures as authoritative, and binding upon his regard and supreme obedience, 1 Thessalonians 2:13. Without such a cordial and hearty belief, the power of the Divine word cannot be felt.
2. As the perpetual standard of all moral excellence. All its precepts tend to purity. "Follow after holiness." "Be holy — as I am holy." By the purity of its precepts, the believer is convinced of his short-comings. He is stimulated to fresh acts of obedience, and renewed efforts to mortify the deeds of the body.
The word of God is also regarded as the test by which every doctrine is to be tried. "To the law and to the testimony — if they do not speak according to this word, then there is no light in them."
The Christian sees such a glory in the Divine character, that he could not admit any doctrine that diverges from it, however specious it may appear.
The notion of universal salvation of the wicked, at some future period in eternity, is an error of this description. It wears a plausible aspect, and pretends to be founded in a principle of universal benevolence — while it opens the floodgates of iniquity, by impugning all the Divine threatenings, and offering the fallacious hope of deliverance, at some future time, to the lost. The direct tendency of this doctrine of universal salvation, is to lessen the obligations, and relax the efforts of men to obedience; it quells the conscience, hardens men in an evil course, and says it shall be well with them at last — while God says, It shall be ill with the wicked.
Then the Antinomian notion, which affirms that the Scripture is not a rule of life, is equally pernicious and dangerous. Every Divine injunction is delivered to us in the form of a law, whether written in the Decalogue or in the New Testament. The dignity and authority of the great Legislator so pervades the revelation of his will, as to make it eternally binding, and nothing can release from obligation but the repealing of his law. The Christian, therefore, feels bound to hate sin. He says, "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" Romans 6:1-2
3. Its doctrines present the most powerful motives against sin. The Christian looks at the sufferings and death of the Redeemer.
In that intense agony,
in that bloody sweat,
in that transfixing on the cross,
in the desertion of his Father,
in the endurance of the penalty of sin
— he sees in all these complicated and unparalleled sorrows, "the exceeding sinfulness of sin!"
Why is he redeemed? "Christ gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good!" Titus 2:14
Why is he regenerated? "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" 2 Corinthians 5:17
Why is he adopted into God's family? But to bear the image of him who adopts.
What is the tendency of all the doctrines of grace which he has received? "For the grace of God . . . teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age!" Titus 2:11-12
Why is he preserved? "May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ!" 1 Thessalonians 5:23. "But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation!" Colossians 1:22
4. The Christian is influenced by the exemplary piety of the Scriptures, and is anxious to become a follower of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. He reads the biography of Bible saints, not merely as a spectacle for his contemplation, but that he may kindle a torch at their blazing altar, and aspire after their attainments.
When he reads of . . .
the chastity of Joseph,
the courage of three Hebrew children,
the zeal of David, and
the love of John —
he feels enraptured by the beautiful picture of moral excellence, and his heart is enlarged. He is stimulated to pray for their spirit, and to imitate their conduct.
When he reads of the ardor and magnanimity of Paul — he catches a sort of seraphic zeal, and accompanies the hero in his march through the Heathen world, sympathizing with him in all his perils. Contrasting himself with that holy veteran, he feels his insignificance, and prays for more grace.
And, above all, when he contemplates the character of his Savior . . .
his ardent love,
his ineffable meekness,
his profound humility, and
his unexampled obedience —
he perceives such a bright constellation of virtues, that he is dazzled by their splendor, and longs and prays to be impressed with his image and likeness.
Thus the Christian is encompassed about with a great cloud of witnesses, whose brilliant and holy career has a tendency to influence him to lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily besets him, and run with endurance, the race that is set before him. Hebrews 12:1, 2.
The word of God is hidden in his heart . . .
as his counselor,
as his guide,
as his pattern!
The word of God is the compass and chart by which he is steered safely over the tempestuous ocean of life. This is its glorious effect, "that I might not sin against you."
5. He is influenced by the hopes and promises of the Gospel — and these preserve from sin. He has a good hope, through grace, of entering Heaven. "Every man that has this hope purifies himself, even as he is pure." 1 John 3:2, 3.
A view of the purity of Heaven causes him to mourn his impurity. It leads him again to the fountain which cleanses from all sin and immorality. It deadens his affections to this world. It leads him to greater conformity to God. He expects to reign with him in ineffable purity and glory forever, and he wishes to enjoy as great a degree of that purity here as possible.
Ask the believer why he hopes for Heaven, and he will tell you because it is a place of purity. He does not rejoice in it so much as a state of felicity, or of high enjoyment — but as a state where he will be wholly free from sin. This it what vibrates upon his inmost soul, and fills his lips with unutterable praise. It is true that with pleasure he contemplates Heaven as a state of felicity, but it is its purity which enhances its worth, and mingles itself with all his delightful anticipations.
The promises hid in the Christian's heart, ever intimate to him that he is destined to live in a pure Heaven, with Jesus, with holy angels, with perfected spirits, etc. Can he, therefore, willfully indulge in sin? No! he passes the time of his sojourning here in fear, abhorring that which is evil, etc. "That I might not sin against you!"
1. What an invaluable treasure is the word of God!
2. Aim to experience its purifying influence in every scene of your pilgrimage.
Hide it in your heart — and in affliction it will preserve you from murmuring, and make you patient, and confident in God.
Hide it in your heart — and in prosperity it will humble you, and cause you to aspire after a more enduring substance.
Hide it in your heart — and in your interaction with the world, it will make you watchful and cautious — the sons of God without rebuke.
Hide it in your heart — and it will give you many a rich foretaste of the powers of the world to come.
Hide it in your heart — and it will cheer you in the dark valley of life, and in the desert, cause you to utter songs of joy.
Hide it in your heart — and when you come to die, it will animate your drooping spirits. As the chart of your predestined inheritance, it will disclose to the eye of your faith, its unutterable felicities. Then it will be sweeter to you than honey, yes, sweeter than the honeycomb!