Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul
by Octavius Winslow (1841)
Chapter 9: The Lord, the KEEPER of His People
"The Lord is Your Keeper." (Psalm 121:5)
How frequently, clearly, and solemnly does the Holy Spirit unfold this great truth in his word, that salvation is entirely in and of God, irrespective of all worth, worthiness, or power of the creature; and that as the salvation of his covenant people is supremely and solely his own work, so in every respect it is infinitely worthy of himself. God can do nothing but what harmonizes with his own illimitable greatness: he can never act below himself. All the productions of his creative power in nature, all the events of his directive wisdom in providence, bear the impress, from the smallest to the greatest, of his "eternal power and Godhead." But in salvation, it is supremely and pre-eminently so. Here, the whole Deity shines: here, the entire Godhead is seen; here, Jehovah emerges from the veiled pavilion of his greatness and glory, and by one stupendous exercise of power, and by one august act of grace, and by one ineffable display of love - before which all other revelations of his glory seem to fade away and well-near disappear - walks abroad among men in his full-orbed majesty: "And I heard a great voice out of heaven, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them and be their God." This glorious "tabernacle" that is "with men," what less is it than the manifestation of Jesus in our own nature - God manifest in the flesh? Truly may we say, "His glory is great in our salvation." Is he the only-wise God? - his salvation must needs be the most profound result of that wisdom. Is he most holy? - his salvation must be holy. Is he just? - his salvation must be just. Is he gracious? - so must be his salvation. It bears the imprint of every attribute; it embodies in its nature the manifestation of every perfection. No other conception of his wisdom, no other product of his power, no other revelation of his greatness, gives any adequate conception of God, but the cross of his beloved Son. "It is here that he appears under the new and unequaled aspect of the God of our salvation; and hence that he desires a renewal of praise, not only for his excellent greatness, or his marvelous works, but for what he is in his inherent and illimitable goodness, and for what he imparts in the fruitions of his love. The very thought of such a discovery, is itself a new creation. It is the product of inspiration, not of mortal intelligence: it could proceed only from him by whom it is to be substantiated and accomplished; it constitutes its own evidence, it authenticates itself. Divinity is not more its object than its essence: incommunicable majesty is impressed on every feature, and diffused over all its form. Well may it be said of such a system, even as of Him who is its author, that herein God is manifested in the flesh, beheld in his express image and his uncreated brightness."
Now this salvation, thus so completely and entirely out of the creature, in God, takes in all the circumstances of a child of God. It is not only a salvation from wrath to come - that were an immeasurable act of grace - but it is a present salvation, anticipating and providing for every exigency of the life that now is, including deliverance from all evil, help in all trouble, comfort in all sorrow, the supply of all want, and through all conflicts, assaults, and difficulties, perfect safety and final triumph. But the single point with which we now have to do, is, the present and certain security of the believer, provided for in the covenant of grace, made sure in Jesus the covenant head, and revealed in this glorious covenant plan of salvation. We have, in the preceding chapter, been considering the inherent tendency and the constant liability of a child of God to departure from God; we now would look up to the Holy Spirit to unfold to us this great and consoling truth, that in the midst of all their weakness, waywardness, and tendency to wander, the Lord is the keeper of his people, and that they whom he keeps are well and eternally kept. "The Lord is your keeper."
We cannot rightly discuss our subject, without laying its foundation in the perfect weakness of the believer himself. If this were not so, - if there were anything of self-power in the believer, any ability to keep himself, - if he were not weakness, all weakness, and nothing but weakness, - then the Lord could not in truth be said to be the keeper of his people. This truth, we repeat, is the ground-work of our subject, and of it the believer needs to be perpetually put in remembrance. The principle of self-confidence is the natural product of the human heart: the great characteristic of our apostate race, is, a desire to live, and think, and act, independently of God. What is the great citadel, to the overthrow of which Divine grace first directs its power? what is the first step it takes in the subjection of the sinner to God? what, but the breaking down of this lofty, towering, independent conceit of himself, so natural to man, and so abhorrent to God? Now, let it be remembered, that Divine and sovereign grace undertakes not the extraction of the root of this depraved principle from the heart of its subjects. The root remains to the very close of life's pilgrimage: though in a measure weakened, subdued, mortified, still it remains; demanding the most rigid watchfulness, connected with ceaseless prayer, lest it should spring upward, to the destruction of his soul's prosperity, the grieving of the Spirit, and the dishonoring of God. O how much the tender, faithful discipline of a covenant God may have the subjection and mortification of this hateful principle for its blessed end, who can tell? We shall never fully know until we reach our Father's house, where the dark and, to us, mysterious dealings of that loving Father with us here below, shall unfold themselves in light and glory, elevating the soul in love and praise!
That no mere creature, angelic or human, can keep itself, is a truth fairly written out in the word of God, and illustrated by some of the most solemn and affecting examples. In the history of the fallen angels, God has revealed and confirmed this truth. If any creature could have kept itself from falling, why not a pure angelic spirit? All that the creature could possess in itself favorable to its security, they had; God created them in perfect uprightness and holiness; they were bound by a law implanted in their nature, - the same as the law of nature inscribed on Adam's heart, and which in substance corresponds with the moral law, - they were bound, we say, by this law to love God supremely, to obey him implicitly, to serve him devotedly and everlastingly. No power could release them from this obligation; nor did they want the moral capacity to obey it. The bent of their wills, the bias of their minds, the desire of their affections, were all towards it. And yet they fell! Why? Because God left them to the freedom of their wills, which were mutable; and that instant they were left to themselves, they fell as lightning from heaven. " I beheld," said Christ, "Satan as lightning fall from heaven." If it had been possible for created power to have sustained itself, here was the glorious theater for the display of that power. Their natures were holy, the God whom they served was holy, the place they inhabited was holy, their companions were holy, their employments were holy, and yet they fell! Again we ask why? - because no creature ever has or ever can, by any innate, inherent strength or power of his own, keep himself; that moment God leaves him to himself, that moment he falls.
Look at Adam: he too was created in perfect holiness; not a taint of sin originally in his nature; not a cloud darkened his mind; not the least bias of his will, or a single inclination of his heart, but centered in God: and yet, he fell from his original holiness. And why? Because he could not keep himself: God left him to his natural and moral ability, which in the creature is natural and moral weakness, he left him to his own free-will, he left him to his own innate power, and the sad consequence was, he instantly fell, and in him, as their federal head, fell the whole human race. Adam was poor in himself, - he was a pensioner upon the free bounty of the God of heaven; even when he reposed amid the beauty and luxuriance of paradise, and trod the earth as the monarch of a new and a glorious world, every object of which paid him homage and submitted to his will, even then was he, as all creatures necessarily must be, poor in himself, and hung as a weak dependent creature upon the God that created him. And the moment that God withdrew his sustaining power, that moment Adam tore the crown of creature glory from his head, and trampled it into atoms in the dust!
Look at the histories of some of the most eminent of God's saints. What affecting confirmation do they afford to the most important truth we are now upon, that the creature left to itself is perfect weakness! If the angels in their purity, if Adam in his state of innocence, fell in consequence of being left in the sovereign will of God to their own keeping, what may we expect from a fallen, sinful, imperfect creature, even though renewed? Do we look into God's blessed word, and read what is there declared, touching the power of a renewed creature to keep itself? How affecting, and at the same time conclusive these declarations are: "Having no might"; "Without strength"; "Weak through the flesh"; "Out of weakness were made strong." Could language more forcibly set forth the utter weakness of a child of God ? And what are the figures employed to impress upon the mind the same truth? They are most expressive; the believer is represented as a "lamb among wolves," - as a dove ready to be fastened upon by the vulture, - as a "lily among thorns," - as "a bruised reed," - as "smoking flax," - as a feeble branch hanging upon the vine. And what are their own acknowledgments? "The Lord is the strength of my life"; "The Lord is my shepherd"; "Hold you me up, and I shall be safe"; "Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins"; "Hold up my goings in your paths, that my footsteps slip not"; "We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves"; "Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me"; "By the grace of God I am what I am." And what are the examples? To select but a few from among many: look at the intemperance of Noah, the unbelief of Abraham, the adultery and murder of David, the idolatry of Solomon, the self-righteousness of Job, the impatience of Moses, the self-confidence, and trimming, temporizing policy of Peter. Solemn are these lessons of the creature's nothingness; affecting these examples of his perfect weakness!
But why speak of others? Let the reader, if he is a professing child of God, pause and survey the past of his own life. What marks of perfect weakness may he discover; what evidences of his own fickleness, folly, immature judgment, may he trace; what outbreakings of deep iniquity; what disclosures of hidden corruption; what startling symptoms of the most awful departure and apostasy from God, does the review present! And this, too, let it be remembered, is the history of a believer in Jesus, a renewed child of God, a partaker of the Divine nature, an expectant of eternal glory! Holy and blessed are they who, as they read and lay aside this book, shall relinquish all their fond conceit of self-power, and of self-keeping, and shall pray, and cease not to pray, "Lord, hold you me up, and I shall be safe!" "Let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall."
But the Lord will cause his people to know their perfect weakness and insufficiency to keep themselves, and that, too, not notionally, not theoretically, nor from what they hear, or from what they read, but from their own deep personal experience of the truth: yes, he is perpetually causing them to learn it. I do not allude merely to that blessed period when the Holy Spirit first lays his axe at the fabric of their self-righteousness, - truly they first learn it then, - but it is a truth they become growingly acquainted with; it is a lesson they are made daily to learn; and he becomes the most perfectly schooled in it, who watches most narrowly his own heart, is most observant of his own way, and deals most constantly and simply with the cross of Jesus. With regard to the way which the Lord adopts to bring them into the knowledge of it, it is various. Sometimes it is by bringing them into great straits and difficulties, hedging up their path with thorns, or paving it with flints. Sometimes it is in deep adversity after great prosperity, as in the case of Job, stripped of all, and laid in dust and ashes, in order to be brought to the conviction and the confession of deep and utter vileness. Sometimes it is in circumstances of absolute prosperity, when he gives the heart its desire, but sends leanness into the soul. O how does this teach a godly man his own utter nothingness! Sometimes it is by permitting the messenger of Satan to buffet, - sending and perpetuating some heavy, lingering, lacerating cross. Sometimes by the removal of some beloved prop on which we too fondly and securely leaned, - putting a worm at the root of our pleasant out-spreading gourd, drying up our refreshing spring, or leading us down deep into the valley of self-abasement and humiliation. But the great school in which we learn this painful, yet needed and wholesome lesson, is, in the body of sin which we daily bear about with us. It was here Paul learned his lesson, as the seventh chapter of his letter to the church at Rome shows, and for which epistle the saints of God will ever have reason to praise and adore the blessed and Eternal Spirit: "I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" In this school and in this way, did the great apostle of the Gentiles learn that the most holy, deeply taught, useful, privileged, and even inspired saint of God, was in himself nothing but the most perfect weakness of sin. Be not you cast down, dear reader, if the Lord the Spirit is teaching you the same lesson in the same way; if he is now ploughing up the hidden evil, breaking up the fallow ground, discovering to you more of the evil principle of your heart, the iniquity of your fallen nature, and that, too, it may be, at a time of deep trial, of heavy, heart-breaking affliction. Ah! you are ready to exclaim, "All these things are against me: ' I was at ease, but he has broken me asunder; he has also taken me by my neck, and shaken me to pieces, and set me up for his mark. His archers compass me round about; he cleaves my thoughts asunder, and does not spare; he pours out my gall upon the ground. He breaks me with breach upon breach, he runs upon me like a giant.' Job xvi. 12-14. Am I a child of God ? Can I be a subject of grace, and at the same time be the subject of so much hidden evil, and of such deep, overwhelming trial? Is this the way he deals with his people?" -
"I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace,
Might more of his salvation know,
And seek more earnestly his face.
"Twas he who taught me thus to pray,
And he, I trust, has answered prayer;
But it has been in such a way
As almost drove me to despair.
"I hoped that in some favored hour.
At once he'd answer my request.
And by his love's constraining power.
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.
"Instead of this, he made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry powers of hell
Assault my soul in every part.
"Yes, more; with his own hand he seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe:
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed.
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.
"'Lord, why is this?' I trembling cried,
'Will you pursue your worm to death?'
"Tis in this way,' the Lord replied,
'I answer prayer for grace and faith.
"'These inward trials I employ,
'From self and pride to set you free,
'And break your schemes of earthly joy,
'That you may seek your all in me.'"
Yes, dear believer, you are not solitary nor alone: for along this path, all the covenant people of God are traveling to their better and brighter home. Here they become acquainted with their own weakness, their perpetual liability to fall; here they renounce their former thoughts of self-power and of self-keeping; and here, too, they learn more of Jesus as their strength, their all-sufficient keeper, more of him as their "wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption." Cheer up, then, for the Lord your God is leading you on by a safe and a right way to bring you to a city of rest.
But, the Lord is the keeper of his people. To the consideration of this point, let us direct our remaining meditations. If what we have advanced touching the perfect helplessness, the proneness to constant departure of the child of God, be true, surely it needs no argument to show, that the believer stands in need of just such a keeper as God is. If he cannot keep himself, no mere creature can keep him - none but God in Christ.
Our blessed Lord has himself declared this truth. Mark the double security of the believer in his and his Father's hands: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life: and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and none is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one." John x. 27-30. Here they are declared to be his own chosen peculiar people, his sheep; given to him of his Father, and perfectly safe in the hands of both. Listen to the breathing of his soul on behalf of his people: "And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to you. Holy Father, keep through your own name those whom you have given me, that they may be one as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in your name; those that you gave me I have kept."
That the Lord Jesus is able to keep his people from falling, is a view of our subject worthy of especial and grateful consideration. This is the ground-work of our faith, - that Christ has power to keep, through all time and to all eternity, the people entrusted to his care. They are his portion, his bride, his jewels; they were committed to him of his Father, and therefore he is responsible for their present and eternal salvation. Let us see how he is in all respects fitted for this great undertaking.
As God, Christ is able to keep his people. When Jehovah made promise of any blessing to his ancient people, with a view of confirming their faith in his ability to perform what he had promised, he was accustomed to append to his name Almighty, "the Lord that created the heaven and the earth": so that, however great and stupendous, and seemingly impossible, might appear the thing promised, He who '"created heaven and earth" was able to perform it. Now this very perfection of God, this work that stamps his omnipotence, and which answers all question and silences all doubts as to his "eternal power and Godhead," belongs and is ascribed to Christ the Keeper of his people. Thus, - "By him (Christ) were all things created that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist." Col. i. 16, 17. Not less strikingly is the same exercise of omnipotent power applied to Christ in the epistle to the Hebrews, - "Who being the brightness of his [Father's] glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." Ch. i. 3. In this passage, Jesus is invested with a creative and a sustaining power, - attributes that can be predicated only of God. Here lies, then, the great ability of Christ, as the Keeper of his covenant people. The same perfection which qualified him as the covenant head and surety of his people; the same almighty strength which enabled him to work out their salvation, to bear the burden and the curse of their sins, enables him to preserve them while "dead in trespasses and in sins," and to keep them after they have been called and renewed by the operation of the Holy Spirit. As God, then, he is able to keep his saints from falling.
But, as God-man Mediator, he is also able to keep his people. As the covenant Head and preserver of his church, "it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell." The Father knew what his beloved family would need. He knew what corruptions would threaten them, what temptations would beguile them, what foes would assail them, what infirmities would encompass them, and what trials would depress them; therefore it pleased him, it was his own good and gracious pleasure, that in his Son, the mediator of his beloved people, should all fullness dwell; - a fullness of merit, a fullness of pardon, a fullness of righteousness, a fullness of grace, wisdom, and strength, commensurate with the varied, multiplied, and diversified circumstances of his family. It is "all fullness." "Full," as Owen beautifully remarks, "to a sufficiency for every end of grace; full for practice, to be an example to men and angels as to obedience; full to a certainty of uninterrupted communion with God; full to a readiness of giving supply to others; full to suit him to all the occasions and necessities of the souls of men; full to a glory not unbecoming a subsistence in the person of the Son of God; full to a perfect victory in trials over all temptations; full to an exact correspondence to the whole law, every righteous and holy law of God; full to the utmost capacity of a limited, created, finite nature; full to the greatest beauty and glory of a living temple of God; full to the full pleasure and delight of the soul of his Father; full to an everlasting monument of the glory of God, in giving such inconceivable excellencies to the Son of man." As the Mediator, then, of his people, he keeps them in perfect safety by night and by day. No man, no power, can pluck them out of his hands; he has undertaken their full salvation. To die for their sins, and to rise again for their justification, and yet not to provide for their security while traveling through a world of sin and temptation, - to leave them to their own guardianship, an unprotected prey to their own hearts' corruptions, the machinations of Satan, and the power of worldly entanglement, - would have been but a partial salvation of his people. Opposed by a threefold enemy, - Satan and the world in league with their own imperfectly renewed and sanctified hearts, that treacherous foe dwelling within the camp, ever ready to betray the soul into the hands of its enemies, - how could a poor, weak child of God bear up and bosom this powerful phalanx? But he who was mighty to save, is mighty to keep; in him provision is made for all the trying, intricate, perilous circumstances in which the believer may be placed. Grace is laid up for the subjection of every inbred corruption, - an armor is provided for every assault of the foe, - wisdom, strength, consolation, sympathy, kindness, - all, all that a poor believing sinner can possibly require, is richly stored in Jesus, the covenant Head of all the fullness of God to his people.
But how is the child of God to avail himself of this provision? The simple but glorious life of faith exhibits itself here. It is by faith in Christ the soul is made strong in battle; this is the channel through which the fullness of Jesus comes to the believer. By faith he travels up to this rich and ample supply; by faith he takes his nothingness to Christ's all-sufficiency; by faith he takes his unworthiness to Christ's infinite merit; by faith he takes his weakness to Christ's strength, his folly to Christ's wisdom; his fearful heart, his timid spirit, his nervous frame, his doubtful mind, his beclouded evidences, his rebellious will, his painful cross, his peculiar case of whatever nature it may be, in the way of believing, in the exercise of simple faith, he goes with it to Jesus, and as an empty vessel hangs himself upon that "nail fastened in a sure place," the glorious Eliakim on whom is hung "all the glory of his Father's house, the offspring and the issue, all vessels of small quantity; from the vessels of cups, even to all the vessels of flagons." Isaiah xxii. 24. Thus may the weakest believer, the most severely assailed, the most deeply tried, the most painfully tempted, lay his Goliath dead at his feet, by a simple faith's-dealing with the fullness that is in Christ Jesus. O how mighty is the believer, who, in deep distrust of his own power, casting off from him all spirit of self-dependence, looks simply and fully at Jesus, and goes not forth to meet his enemy, only as he is "strong in the strength that is in Christ."
But what is the great evil of which the true saints of God most stand in jeopardy, and which their timid, fearful hearts most dread? Is it not secret and outward backsliding from God, after conversion? Surely it is, as the experience of every honest, upright, God-fearing man will testify. It is his consolation then to know, that Jesus is "able to keep him from falling"; "Unto him that is able to keep you from falling." Jude 24. This is the most overwhelming evil that stares the believer in the face. Some, but imperfectly taught in the word, are dreading awful apostasy from the faith here, and final condemnation from the presence of God hereafter, - believing that though Christ has made full satisfaction for their sins to Divine justice, has cancelled the mighty debt, has imputed to them his righteousness, has blotted out their iniquities, has called, renewed, sanctified, and taken full possession of them by his Spirit, and has ascended up on high, to plead their cause with the Father; that yet, after all this stupendous exercise of power, and this matchless display of free grace, they may be left to utter apostasy from God, and be finally and eternally lost. If there is one doctrine more awful in its nature, distressing in its consequences, and directly opposed to the glory of God and the honor of Christ, than another, methinks it is this.
Others, again, more clearly taught by the Spirit, are heard to say, "I believe in the stability of the covenant, in the un-changeableness of God's love, and in the faithfulness of my heavenly Father, but I fear lest some day, under some sharp temptation, some burst of indwelling sin, when the enemy shall come in as a flood, I shall fall, to the wounding of my peace, to the shame of my brethren, and to the dishonoring of Christ." Dear believer, truly you would fall, were he to leave you to your own keeping for one moment; but Jesus is able to keep you from falling. Read the promises, believe them, rest upon them. Concerning his redeemed church, what does he say? "I, the Lord, do keep it; I will water it every moment, lest any hurt it; I will keep it night and day." Isa. xxvii. 3. "The Lord upholds the righteous." Psalm xxxvii. 17. "The righteous shall hold on his way, and he that has clean hands shall be stronger and stronger." Job xvii. 9. " They go from strength to strength; every one of them in Zion appears before God." Psalm Ixxxiv. 7. "Those who trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abides forever. As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people, from henceforth, even for ever." Psalm cxxv. i, 2. "Kept by the power of God, through faith, unto salvation." i Pet. i. 5. "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence comes my help. My help comes from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer your foot to be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper." Psalm cxxi. 1-5.
A simple glance at these passages will present to the believer's eye, a threefold cord, by which he is kept from falling. In the first place, God the Father keeps him, - " kept by the power of God"; the power that created and upholds the world, keeps the believer. The eternal purpose, love, and grace of the Father keeps him: this is the first cord.
Again, God the Son keeps him: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." The covenant engagements, the perfect obedience, the atoning death of Immanuel, keeps the believer: this is the second cord.
Yet again, God the Holy Spirit keeps him: "When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him " (marg. shall put him to flight). The effectual calling, the personal indwelling, the tender love, the covenant faithfulness, and the omnipotent power of the Eternal Spirit, keep the believer: this is the third cord. And "a threefold cord is not quickly broken." Eccles. iv. 12. Exceeding great and precious promises! Well may we sing with the poet -
"More happy, but not more secure.
The glorified spirits in heaven."
But with these promises of the triune God to keep his people from falling, he has wisely and graciously connected the diligent, prayerful use of all the means which he has appointed for this end. The believer is nowhere in the Bible spoken of, or addressed, as a lifeless machine, a mere automaton; but as one "alive unto God," Rom. vi. 11, - as "created in Christ Jesus," Eph. ii. 10, - as a "partaker of the Divine nature," 2 Pet. i. 4. As such he is commanded to "work out his own salvation with fear and trembling," Phil. ii. 12, - to "give diligence to make his calling and election sure," 2 Pet. i. 10, - to "watch and pray, lest he enter into temptation," Matt. xxvi. 41: and the apostle Jude thus affectionately and earnestly exhorts the saints to whom he addressed his brief epistle, "But you, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life," 20, 21. Thus does God throw a measure of the responsibility of his own standing upon the believer himself, that he might not be slothful, unwatchful, and prayerless, but be ever sensible of his solemn obligations to "deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world," remembering that he is "not his own, but is bought with a price."
Let the reader guard against the slightest abuse of any of the great truths discussed in this work, especially the one insisted upon in this chapter. If the power of God is the efficient cause of the eternal security of the believer, yet, as auxiliaries which God has appointed, and by which he instrumentally works, the believer is to use diligently all holy means of keeping himself from failing; as a temple of the Holy Spirit, as the subject of the Divine life, as a pardoned, justified man, he is called to labor perseveringly, to pray ceaselessly, and to watch vigilantly. He is not to run wilfully into temptation, to expose himself needlessly to the power of the enemy, to surround himself with unholy and hostile influences, and then take refuge in the truth, that the Lord will keep him from falling. God forbid! This were most awfully to abuse the "doctrine that is after godliness," to "hold the truth in unrighteousness"; and to make "Christ the minister of sin." Dear reader, watch and pray against this!
And lastly: Let the cheering prospect of that glory unto which you are kept, stimulate you to all diligent perseverance in holy duty, and constrain you to all patient endurance of suffering. In all your conflicts with indwelling sin, under the pressure of all outward trial, let this precious truth comfort you, - that your heavenly Father has "begotten you again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fades not away, reserved in heaven for you who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation"; that soon - O how soon! - all that now loads the heart with care, and wrings it with sorrow - all that dims the eye with tears, and renders the day anxious and the night sleepless, will be as though it had never been. Emerging from the entanglement, the dreariness, the solitude, the loneliness, and the temptations of the wilderness, you shall enter upon your everlasting rest, your unfading inheritance, where there is no sorrow, no declension, no sin; where there is no sunset, no twilight, no evening shades, no midnight darkness, but all is one perfect, cloudless, eternal day - for Jesus is the joy, the light, and the glory thereof.
"Now unto him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever." Amen.