James Smith, 1865
"Keep yourself pure." 1 Timothy 5:22
What cleanliness is to the body — holiness is to the soul: essential to its health, happiness, and beauty. But many who have clean bodies — have very filthy souls. They pay attention to the outward man — but altogether neglect the hidden man of the heart. Yet nothing impure can enter Heaven — nothing unholy can enjoy the gracious or glorious presence of God. The thrice holy God cannot hold fellowship with impurity or sin: where iniquity is indulged, communion with God is effectually prevented. Therefore he says, "Wash yourselves. Cleanse yourselves. Remove your evil deeds from my sight. Stop doing evil."
Purity flows from grace. It is the effect of a living faith in Christ. It evidences the indwelling and work of the Holy Spirit of God. Where the Spirit dwells — sin is hated; the defilement of sin causes loathing, mourning, and fervent prayer. Those who are much with God — contract a natural dislike to sin, a love to holiness, and a growing desire for perfection. But "if we say that we have fellowship with God, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth." Light has no fellowship with darkness — but chases it away; God has no fellowship with sin — but condemns it in his law, crushes it by his Spirit, and cleanses it away by his gospel, brought home with power.
He purifies the heart by faith. He sanctifies us through his truth. He washes us in the laver of his word, and effectually cleanses us by the power of the Holy Spirit. Blessed Lord, carry on the purifying process in our hearts! Set our whole hearts against sin, make it the abhorrence of our souls. Fill us with the deepest hatred to it, and make us groan whenever we in any measure indulge in it. Oh, to find sin — the plague of our lives, the loathing of our souls, and holiness our element and delight!
But Paul was writing to a holy man: To one who was washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. To one who was serving the Lord with a pure conscience. To his dearly beloved son. To a minister of the gospel of Christ. To one who had received both the grace and gifts of the Holy Spirit. To one eminent alike in station, usefulness, and grace. Still to Timothy, he says, "Keep yourself pure."
The purest vessels may be soiled.
The cleanest garments will contract defilement.
The holiest may be overcome by temptation.
The best need caution, counsel, and exhortation.
None of us are safe any longer than God keeps us, and we have no right to expect that God will keep us but in the exercise of watchfulness, prayer, and faith. The best of men have fallen — and the best may fall. Those whom we least expected have, in an evil hour — given way to temptation; and what has been — may be again.
There is now very much impurity in the church. Few think that there is such a depth of defilement as there is. The curtain is now and then partially drawn to the side, and we are astonished at what some professors do in the dark. Our young men need the exhortation of the apostle especially, "Keep yourself pure;" but they are not the only parties on whom it should be enforced.
"Keep yourself pure" from mental uncleanness. Some seem to revel in mental debauchery and filthiness. Their speech at times betrays them, and their actions at others. Sin is very generally acted over in the mind, first. Men do in thought — what they would not do in deed; they become familiarised with the evil, and then, by-and-bye, it is acted out in the conduct. Sin always hardens the heart, brutalises the passions, and sears the conscience. It is by degrees, that we are led into open transgression. The world within — is far worse than the world without — as bad as it is. The eye of God sees what would make us ashamed to lift up our heads among our fellows, if it was known to them.
Some do not seem to realize the evil there is in mental impurity. They yield to temptation, give way to folly, and perpetrate crimes in the chamber of their imagery; and do not feel ashamed, because no eye but God sees it; nor do they humble themselves, just because men are unacquainted with it. Some have reason to say with Solomon, though in a different sense to that in which he used the words, "I have come to the brink of utter ruin, and now I must face public disgrace." Oh, what does God's eye behold of impurity, even in his own house, and among his own professed people! If the pulpit was exposed to the pews, or the pews to the pulpit — we would not be able to endure the presence of each other!
"Keep yourself pure" from actual uncleanness. He who indulges in unclean thoughts, will soon use unclean words, and then fall into unclean practices. God only knows the vast amount of impurity which is practiced by professors of religion in the present day. We dare not write what we know, or even whisper to others what has been communicated to us. Beloved, let us cultivate purity of thought, purpose, speech, and action. Let us live under the impression that everything impure is odious in the sight of God; and that while he hates uncleanness anywhere, he especially hates it in his own people.
Young men, who live in large towns and cities, who are thrown into the company of loose professors particularly — be cautious! Keep a tender conscience. Realize that the ever-waking eye of a sin-hating, sin-punishing God is upon you — and fear. But especially realize the tenderness and greatness of God's love to you in Jesus, and that nothing can offend or grieve him but sin; and so from love, keep yourselves pure.
Impurity weakens faith, confuses the judgment, degrades the affections, hardens the heart, alienates the soul from God, and renders our efforts to do good ineffectual. Many wonder that their work is not successful; but the real secret of the lack of success, often lies in the lack of holiness. We are not fit for God's hands to touch. We are not fit for the Holy Spirit to sanction. The apostle, referring to evil men, evil principles, and evil practices, says, "If a man therefore purges himself from these — he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and fit for the master s use, prepared unto every good work." Then he immediately adds, "Flee also youthful lusts; but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart." (2 Tim. 2:21, 22.)
We need . . .
more entire consecration to God;
more inward hatred to all sin;
more self-denial in all its thousand forms;
more non-conformity to the world;
and a more exact copying of the example of our blessed and beloved Lord and Master.
We must not expect much success without this; nor must we expect this until we are thoroughly broken and humbled before God, and take this word for our guide, "Keep yourself pure!"
No holiness — no Heaven! "Without holiness — no one will see the Lord!"
Before we can have power with God, we must be reconciled to him. By nature we are enemies. We are rebels up in arms against him. We are opposed to him, and can have no power with him. When the Holy Spirit convinces us of sin, burdens us with a sense of guilt, alarms us with an apprehension of everlasting destruction — we then feel the sad consequences of alienation from God. We try various means to make peace with him — but all fail.
At length he leads us to the cross, unfolds to us the wondrous love of God, explains to us the nature of the Savior's work, and fixes the eye of the mind upon the Crucified One! And then the heart softens, the tears begin to flow, enmity is subdued, hope springs up, reliance is placed on the glorious sacrifice, God appears a friend, and reconciliation is effected. The love of God is shed abroad in the heart, and the sinner heartily loves God as the effect of it. Friendship for eternity commences. God and man are upon the best possible terms. It was the righteous Judge meeting with the guilty criminal; it is now the gracious Father meeting with his tenderly beloved child. The soul has "power with God," it asks and receives, that its joy may be full.
There must he faith in God. We must give a warm-hearted credit to God's word, and exercise confidence in God's veracity and faithfulness. We must endeavor to understand just what God means in his promises and proclamations, and give credit to them; and we must go to God, expecting that he will prove himself true and faithful to his word. Without faith it is impossible to please God, therefore we can have no power with God. Neglect or disbelief of his word, pours contempt upon him; but attention to it, and confidence in it, does him honor. And when he sees us struggling with unbelief, fighting against the vile insinuations of Satan, and endeavoring to confide in his truthfulness — he looks upon us with approbation, sympathizes with us in our conflicts, and receives us at his throne with pleasure. Crediting his testimony, and confiding in his faithfulness, we have "power with God."
There must be an abiding sense of our own weakness. It was not until the patriarch felt himself unable to combat, and was broken down before God, that he prevailed. Weak Jacob, overcomes the omnipotent angel. Nothing has such an influence upon our covenant God — as the sighs, groans, and tears of his weak and humbled children. The weak believer takes hold upon God's strength, when, with the promise in his hand, the cross in his eye, ardent desires in his heart, and the plaintive language of supplication on his lips — he bows before the throne of mercy, and appeals to a Father's love. When we are weak — then are we strong. When we feel that we have no power to go against the great army of our foes, and our eyes are up unto our God — then victory is certain. Out of weakness — we are made strong. The Lord fights for us and we hold our peace. Oh, to see the Lord's people thoroughly emptied, and stripped of the last rag of their own righteousness; to see them broken down before God's throne, under a deep sense of their weakness and insufficiency — for then we may expect that great good will be done! But so long as we imagine that we are strong, boast of our native powers, and rejoice in our own resources — we shall be weak, feeble, and easily overcome!
There must be earnest application to the Lord for his blessing. Prayer is conceived in the depth of a believer's heart, under the prolific influences of the Holy Spirit — and is poured out before God's gracious throne in the dear Redeemer's name. The deeper our feeling of the importance and necessity of what we ask — the more earnest will be our prayers before God, and the greater our "power with God." A cold acquiescence in divine statements, a formal confession of our needs, and a matter-of-course application to God — will do no good. We must feel, and we must feel deeply — before we shall be powerful on our knees. Too many talk before God — rather than plead with God. They pray from custom — not from necessity. Oh, if we realized that we were the friends of God, if we had strong faith in God, if we were deeply sensible of our weakness before God, if we with downright earnestness applied to God — it would soon be seen that we had "power with God."
There must be an habitual hatred of all sin. For if we indulge iniquity in our hearts — the Lord will not hear our prayers. The 'idol that provokes to jealousy' set up in our hearts, be it what it may, will deprive us of all power with God. He will ask, "Do you provoke the Lord to jealousy?" He will say, "Put away every man his idols from before my eyes."
If we indulge covetousness, gluttony, uncleanness, worldly conformity, deceit, intemperance, hatred, strife, evil speaking, frivolity, or any other sin in our hearts — we cannot have power with God. His word to us is, "Wash — and be clean; put away the evil of your doings, cease to do evil, learn to do well." One cherished sin, let it he what it may — will effectually prevent our having "power with God." This accounts for so many prayers being offered in vain. They are scriptural in form, suited to our circumstances, earnestly expressed, and devoutly presented — but secret sin indulged prevents their success.
Beloved, if we have power with God, we shall have power
over SELF. Energetic prayer will bring the arm of God to bear . . .
on our corruptions — and subdue them;
on our tempers — and control them;
on our improper habits — and we shall conquer them.
No power short of Divine, can really conquer one sin, or effectually subdue one corruption of the heart!
If we have power with God, we shall have power with men — with good men to influence them, with bad men to benefit or silence them.
Power with God brings a secret energy into the soul, by which we conquer and accomplish what would otherwise be impossible.
If we have power with God — we shall have power over Satan. What an awful description is given of him in the Apocalypse, "That old serpent, the devil, which deceives the whole world." How astonishing is his power! How amazing his influence! And this power and influence is opposed to, and brought to bear upon, the church of God. How many professors are deceived by him. How many are led captive by him at his will. The head laid on Delilah's lap, has been shorn of its locks — and our Samsons are now, many of them, the sport of the infernal Philistines! Satan has proved himself too powerful and too crafty for thousands of professors; he has induced them to settle down in a mere form of religion, or to indulge in some secret sin, or to substitute external services for the internal experience of the power of God's truth, and they have no power with God. Nothing will conquer Satan — but power from God. He cares for no foot, but that which crushed his head on Golgotha!
We can never conquer self, succeed in our efforts to do lasting good to men, or overcome Satan who overcomes such millions — but as we have power with God. Oh, Holy Spirit, the Spirit of power, break us down before God, set our hearts against all sin, give us faith in God, indulge us with a vivid sense of our reconciliation to God, and enable us to pray with fervor, that so we may have power with God!