A Cause of Danger
James Smith, 1860
I have been reading the fifty-second psalm, and have been struck with the representation of a character presented in the seventh verse, "The man who would not make God his refuge." I have looked around me to see if I could recollect any such, and, alas! there are many. Yes, I have known many, and some who professed religion, who did not make God their refuge, and the consequences have been sad. Before I notice them, I cannot but pause to admire God's goodness to me, that while I have seen so many fall — I have been kept. I must ascribe it all to free grace, for if left to myself, I would have trusted my own strength, or rather weakness, and before this have perished through temptation, or in affliction.
Benjamin Jenkins was a man who did not make God his refuge. He professed religion. He had a sound creed, he prayed in public and in his family, and for a time all went on well. But the hour of temptation came, he yielded, he fell. He got into worldly society. He neglected the means of grace. He slighted the warnings given him. He was obliged to be excluded from the church. He is now in the world. His character is a wreck, his profession given up, and he answers the description given by Jude, "Twice dead, plucked up hy the roots." Alas! poor Benjamin, I cannot but grieve over you, and fear that your end will be according to your course, for after years of backsliding, there appears no hope of your restoration. I fear that you are "the man who would not make God his refuge."
William Johns, too, was a very zealous professor — but restless, energetic, and impulsive. He taught in the Sabbath School, and then he must preach in the villages. He might have been seen with a train of young people after him, whose conversion he professed to be seeking. And some professed to be converted by his efforts. But he was proud. He had an overweening opinion of himself. He would not be under control. He believed, or professed to believe, that he was called of God to play with the fire of temptation. He would not listen to advice. His course was always more or less eccentric. He fell into gross sin, and instead of humbling himself for it — he avoided the saints, neglected ordinances, and there he lays, a wreck. He not only ruined himself — but another, and pierced more than one or two through with many sorrows. Providence seems to point to him, and say, "the man who would not make God his refuge."
Evan Thomas was thought to be a good man, and for a time ran well. He excited hope in the saints by his mild spirit, amiable manners, and love to the house of God. We thought he had the root of the matter in him. But when he was tried — he fell. In the day of trouble he prevaricated, pilfered, and practiced deception. He revealed a lack of principle. He dreaded poverty more than sin. He forfeited his character. He gave up religion. He mixed with the crowd. He was generally despised. Alas! he too proved to be one "who would not make God his refuge."
Simon Rogers was a total abstainer, a rigid moralist, an active agent of the Temperance Society, and a useful member of the church. No one suspected him. But how many fall away either in adversity or prosperity. He was tried. The trial placed him in the balance, and he was found lacking. He broke his pledge. He left the society. He fled to the bottle. He was expelled the church. He took to the ale-house. He ruined his family. He brought a reproach on religion. He hardened sinners in their sin. He opened the mouths of infidels. He turned out to be another of the men who "would not make God his refuge."
Patrick Parsons was a very hopeful character. His convictions of sin were deep. His reformation appeared thorough. He received the Word with joy. He was most industrious in distributing tracts, in visiting the sick, and in looking up children for the Sunday School. He bid fair to be a most useful Christian. But he prospered in business, enlarged his premises, became more expensive in his mode of living, indulged his appetite, and speculated largely. By degrees he neglected ordinances, then family prayer, and at length there was little difference between him and the world. Providence frowned on him, one loss followed another, utter ruin in a temporal point of view appeared just before him. He fainted in the day of adversity. His pride could not bear the degradation. He died a suicide — by his own hands. To him also the finger of God seemed to point, saying, "the man who would not make God his refuge."
Samuel Stowe differed from all the former, for he never gave up religion, he never took to drinking, nor did he ever lose his character among his fellow-men. But he was always murmuring and complaining. He seemed to envy everyone that rose higher than himself, and thought himself hardly dealt with. No one ever heard him say, "I am not worthy of the least of all your mercies." Or ask, "What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits?" Times were always bad with him, for pride ruled his heart. No one ever treated him as they should; for he was never stripped of self. If he was an illustration of religion, no one would wish to be religious. Groaning and grumbling, complaining and finding fault, were the articles in which he mainly dealt, and every keen observer who had a spiritual eye could see as plainly as if it was painted on his sign-board — that he was a "man who would not make God his refuge."
But I need not enumerate more instances of such folly, or bring forward other illustrations of the text, for the reader no doubt could call to mind many which he has known. Such there always have been, such there are, and such I suppose there will be. It is for us to be wise enough to learn a useful lesson from them.
Real religion consists principally in receiving from God what he has promised to bestow; and in using for God, what we receive from his hands. We are not saved by our own efforts — but by his grace. We do not stand, or walk, or work, in our own strength — but in his. If we trust in ourselves, either in whole or in part, we shall be sure to fall. Our trust must be in the Lord who made Heaven and earth. God must be our refuge and strength in every time of trouble. Unless the Lord Jesus is our strength — then temptation will be too strong for us, and our crafty foes will be sure to overcome us. O how many have fallen into error, into sin, into apostasy — because "they would not make God his refuge."
But no simple-minded believer, who, conscious of his own weakness, foolishness, and proneness to go astray, trusted in God, cried to God, and sought strength from God — was ever overcome.
Our weakness is our strength,
our ignorance is our wisdom,
our fear is our preservative;
for feeling our weakness — we are obliged to look to God for strength;
realizing our ignorance — we of necessity cry to God for wisdom;
and fearing lest we should fall — our daily, hourly prayer is, "Hold me up — and I shall be safe; and I will have respect unto your statutes continually."
Our weakness, appeals to his strength,
our ignorance, appeals to his wisdom; and
our fear, appeals to his preserving grace.
The appeal is heard, is felt, is acknowledged — and as the result, he puts his fear into our hearts, that we should not depart from him — and we are kept by his power, through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time.
Lord, have you made me know your ways?
Conduct me in your fear,
And grant me such supplies of grace,
That I may persevere!
Let but your own Almighty arm
Sustain a feeble worm,
I shall escape secure from harm
Amid the dreadful storm.
O be my all-sufficient friend
Until all my toils shall cease;
Guard me through life, and let my end
Be everlasting peace!