Mind Your Steps!
George Everard, 1884
Oftentimes an Alpine climber meets with a fatal accident. It was so especially in the year 1882.
On the further side of Mont Blanc, a young Cambridge professor of high promise lost his footing, and both he and his guide lost their lives.
On another steep ascent, a tutor of Durham, with two guides, fell down a terrible precipice of some three thousand feet, and all three were found dead on the plain below.
In each case, and in others also, it would seem that a single false step was the cause of the disaster. One false step, and a precious life lost, and sorrow brought to a whole circle of friends and relations.
But more than this: one false step involved the loss of others. The drag on the guide in the first case, and on the two guides in the second case, proved too great a strain, linked together as they were, so that several homes were robbed of those dear to them.
In higher matters, in the moral and spiritual life of man — a false step is no less dangerous. It often leads to a fall from which there is no recovery. It often brings untold sorrow to those beloved. It often draws others into a similar peril, so that, through the sin of one, many perish.
Mind Your Steps is the message the thought brings home to us. And it is one which we have given to us very plainly in the Epistle to the Ephesians. The Apostle Paul speaks of six points in which the Christian is to take care how he walks.
He must walk in the path of good works (2:10).
He must walk worthy of his high calling (4:1).
He must walk in a separate course from the ungodly. He must not go with the crowd, but set his face in the very opposite direction. Like Christian in Vanity Fair, he must be ready to die rather than follow evil practices and customs (4:17).
He must walk "in love," even after the pattern of the Savior's self-sacrificing death (5:2).
He must walk as a child of light, hating the darkness, and reproving it by word and example (5:8).
Then there is one other feature of the Christian. He must "mind his steps." It is written, "Be very careful, then, how you walk — not as unwise but as wise" (5:15).
No doubt faith is the great leverage in holy living. It is the only power by which we can please God. But Holy Scripture tells of another side of truth. Men are bidden . . .
to watch and pray always,
to deny themselves,
to take up their cross daily,
to put off the old man and to put on the new,
to "live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world."
In fact, we seem to have a summary of almost half the Bible in the subject of this address. There is not a day, an hour, a moment, in a Christian's whole life, but he needs to "mind his steps."
Mind Your Steps!
Christian, think of these words before you go further on your way. It is no bondage, but safety, and peace, and comfort, and privilege, to pick your steps, and to walk warily and carefully. Had you done it sooner, you might have been much further on your way. And if you do it now . . .
with your hand in Christ's,
with the Spirit to teach and guide you,
with a loving Father close by to cheer and uphold you
— the rest of your life shall be with new blessing and increasing usefulness; and, at its close, you will be found on the King's highway of holiness, and have an abundant entrance into the King's Palace.
I am writing this address with a desire to help those who love and follow the Savior; but there is a preliminary word I wish to speak to all who may read it.
When the late Wilberforce was once asked the way to Heaven, by one who seemed to put the question rather lightly, he is said to have replied, "Take the first turn to the right, and then keep straight on." The advice is to the point. But have you taken "the turn to the right?" Do you know from experience the meaning of true conversion? Do you take the sinner's place, and put all your confidence in the sinner's Friend? Do you heartily renounce all past sins, and seek to walk in God's commandments?
Some years ago I met with the narrative of a Swedish sailor, telling how, in his case, this great change was brought about. It was at a time of much prayer, and when far away from land, crossing the Atlantic, the Holy Spirit convinced him of sin, and night and day he could get no rest. "I was ready to cry out," he said, "Who will deliver, who will help me? My heart sunk down in despair. Oh, what a miserable sinner I felt I was! My heart was sick and sore. I knew not what to do. I had no one to guide me, and what was to become of me? One night I was standing at the helm. I thought of Christ, and my heart turned to Him for help; and, with my very first thoughts of Him, He met me; and what words He spoke. "Come to Me, you weary, heavy-laden one — come to Me; I cast out none! I am meek and lowly in heart. Learn of Me. Take My yoke upon you — it is easy. Take My burden — My grace shall make it light."
There, at the helm, the Savior showed Himself to me. 'I love Him because He first loved me.' I cannot speak your language well, but Christ understands me, and I understand Him. And ever since I met Him at the helm, as the poor sinner's Friend, I live close to Him. I hear Him tell me to hold up my sails to the gales of His blessed Spirit, and He will waft me straight to Heaven."
Here is conversion — have you known its mighty power?
Have you seen something of the greatness of your sin?
Have you learned to despair of self-help?
Have you been taught by the Spirit to draw near to Jesus?
Have you fled to Him as your only refuge?
Have you learned to trust Him, and love Him, and serve Him?
If not, He calls you today. He invites you to come — even now — just as you are!
He is ready to save.
Mountains of guilt, He will remove.
Huge barriers of hindrance and difficulty, He can level to the ground.
Strong temptations, He will overcome.
Free forgiveness, complete righteousness, all-sufficient grace, He will bestow.
Will you hearken?
Will you believe?
Will you come near and take His free forgiveness?
Will you make Christ your All?
An epitaph I once saw in Essex tells the blessedness of thus coming:
"His trembling hand, the heavenly Hope embraced,
His feeble foot, upon the Rock was placed;
That Rock was Christ — the spirit's trust and stay,
When earth shall melt and Heaven shall pass away."
But when you have turned to the right, you must "keep straight on." When you have entered by the appointed gate, you must walk steadily in the narrow path. You must "mind your steps," if you desire a safe and prosperous journey.
Mind Your Steps! For you must ever remember the vast debt of obligation under which you lie. Think of what God has done for you.
Imagine a desolate orphan, without friends and without means, received into the home of a wealthy or noble family — educated with the other children, and treated as the rest — sharing the comfort, position, and property that belonged to them. What would be the spirit of such a one, if he had a spark of gratitude and right feeling? Would he not be most careful never to grieve his kind benefactor, nor by any means bring a stain or reproach on the family into which he had been introduced? Now, if you are a Christian indeed, if you are a true-born child of God by faith in Christ — is not this your standing?
Once you were a stray one,
wandering on the world's highway,
orphaned and desolate as to the only true Home,
separated from the great Father of spirits —
but now you are brought near, put among the children, highly favored and accepted in the Beloved. You are loved, guarded, and cared for, and are one of the great household of faith. All things are yours, both in Heaven and in earth; for you are Christ's, and in Him an heir of God and a joint-heir with Christ. Should not this be a motive strong enough to engage you to the most careful and devoted service? Should you not walk ever before God, and aim to glorify Him in the minutest events of your daily life?
Mind Your Steps! For evil is always near! You have still the old nature cleaving to you. There is sin in you, and around you on every side. Even among true Christians, there is continual danger from the selfishness or unruly temper of one or another. And among those who are yet of the world, there is still greater peril. Even when engaged in the holiest duties — in prayer, in public worship, at the Holy Communion — wicked and vain thoughts are apt to come in and mar all your service. Besides, there is a strong enemy who waylays you when you least expect it, and in most unlooked-for disguises.
A story is told of the American War, which may illustrate this. At one of the outposts the sentinel was found stabbed, and lying in his blood. Two or three of the most trusty men were on duty successively to the same spot, with special directions to be always on their guard. But the same fate befell them. At length an officer requested to be allowed to take the post. In the dead of the night he noticed a wild hog, as he imagined, rooting about. He carefully watched it, and noticed that wherever he went it always made its way nearer to him. At length he fired; and an Indian leaped up with a yell of distress, and fell at his feet dead! By means of this strange disguise, night after night he had fallen upon the soldier who was on the watch. It is thus that the adversary succeeds. He hides himself, and comes in a form in which you do not recognize him. It may be concealed beneath some base or low desire, or in the guise of an angel of light he strives to inflict some fatal soul-wound.
He comes to lead you to the commission of some breach of God's law, or to neglect some plain duty; or it may be he beguiles you to accept some perilous error, or to question some necessary and precious truth — therefore, you need to be on your guard. Keep a constant look-out. Welcome no intruder who comes with doubtful intent. Maintain a tender conscience. Resist every approach of temptation.
"Gird your heavenly armor on,
Wear it ever night and day;
Ambushed lies the evil one:
Watch and pray!"
Mind Your Steps! For every false step makes your own path more difficult. One mistake, one error, one fault or sin, often leads to a second one — and perhaps a long succession of the same evils, growing worse at every step. You may be caught in a net of your own weaving, or be fast bound with a chain of your own forging. You may place stumbling-blocks in your own path, over which you cannot but fall.
You accept some teaching or doctrine which is unscriptural, through the earnestness of a preacher whom you hear. You take a situation in a shop or a family without knowing the morals or Christian character of those you will be under. To pass the time you take up a novel in which poison lurks in every page! In some such way as this you may be hindered in the heavenly race, or possibly drawn into sin which once you utterly abhorred.
I have known this to be the case repeatedly. Even theft, forgery — nay, suicide and murder — have often occurred as the outcome of far lesser evils, and in those moreover who have long professed to be the followers of Christ.
Eagerness to get rich,
an hour at the billiard-table,
an unchaste thought permitted and nourished,
an unruly temper,
a spark of jealousy or unjust suspicion fanned into a flame,
an unguarded use of alcohol —
something of this sort has been the death of all vital religion, and has been the first downward step to a fathomless abyss of misery and distress! Therefore, mind your steps! Nip the evil in the bud. As soon as you discover it, turn your foot in another direction. Be wise in time! Don't wait until the harm has reached a crisis.
Mind Your Steps! For many eyes are upon you.
The eye of the Adversary is ever upon you, searching out some weak point in the armor, spying out a slip or a fall that he may trouble your peace and make a wide breach between you and God. "Be self-controlled and alert. Your Adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour!" 1 Peter 5:8
The eye of the infidel is upon you, that he may discover something in your conduct by which he may justify his own unbelief.
The eye of the worldling is upon you, that he may point to some flaw or fault and make out that Christians live no better lives than others.
The eye of your fellow-disciple is upon you, and your inconsistency may be a cause of much injury to him.
The eyes of those who live with you, of parents or children, of brothers or sisters, can easily discern where you fail; and your influence over them will depend mainly on your daily life in the home.
Neither forget that the eye of the King is upon you. He loves you and cares for you, and is very gentle and forbearing — yet it grieves Him when He detects in you any mark of insincerity or anything that brings a slur upon His name. He chides you for your forgetfulness. He says, "Is this your kindness to your Friend?" Thus would He reprove you, and bring you to a better mind.
Yes, the eye of the King is upon you, and you know not the hour or the moment when He may appear in the clouds. Would you wish Him to find you sleeping at your post? Would you like Him to come while you were neglecting His work, or wasting your talents, or sitting down at ease among His enemies? Then, mind your steps. Walk before Him as you would desire to be found when the King shall come on His chariot-cloud.
Mind Your Steps! But HOW shall you do it? How may you avoid the stumbling blocks which lie on your path? How may you escape peril in slippery places, and make sure and steady progress in the way to Zion?
Be very careful as to the exercise of your faith.
Only by faith can you stand.
Only by faith can you overcome any temptation.
Only by faith can you go forward in peace and holiness.
Here, then, must be your first care. By all means seek abiding, increasing faith.
If, through any past failures, you stand in any doubt as to your acceptance and present standing in the favor of God, go back at once to the foundation of all peace. Humble yourself afresh, and then rely fully on the great atoning sacrifice which Christ made for sin. Through the blood and mediation of Christ, draw near to God, and believe assuredly that He welcomes and restores you.
Remember, too, that faith is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, therefore earnestly pray for it.
It is found in more knowledge of God, therefore study that Word, where such knowledge can be found.
It is strengthened by looking unto Jesus, therefore fix your eye steadfastly on Him.
Behold Him as the Good Shepherd, ever ready to restore and heal you, to lead you and to keep you from first to last.
Behold Him as your King, ruling in you and for you, putting all enemies under your feet and working all things after the counsel of His infinite wisdom.
Behold Him as your great Advocate, High-Priest, and Intercessor, pleading your cause before the Mercy-seat, making your feeblest petitions fragrant before the Father through His merit and all-powerful mediation.
Behold Him as God's Almoner — His merciful hands filled with precious gifts, delighting to bestow them even on rebels and enemies who only yield themselves to Him.
Beware lest anything dim your faith. Let no false view of truth come between. Let no consciousness of your own unworthiness hinder your full trust in Christ's salvation. Let no troubles, or cares, or losses, make you think hardly of Christ — but rather drive you closer to His heart of love. Let no temptations make you doubt Christ's ability and faithfulness in saving you.
Trust Him more and more.
Put your hand into His.
Nestle under His sheltering wing.
Depend upon His promise.
Wait upon Him continually.
"You will my every want supply,
Even to the end, Whatever befall;
Through life, in death, eternally,
You are my all."
Be careful to nourish a right aim and purpose in life. If you permit lower motives to come in and rule, you will easily turn aside into forbidden paths. But, by God's grace, keep your eye single. Make it your one great object to do God's will, and to do it faithfully. Put this above all else. Thank God . . .
if He gives you prosperity in temporal matters,
if He gives you comfort in your home,
if He grants you your heart's desire as to any lawful blessing.
But go back again and again to the great purpose of His calling.
You are to be about your Father's business.
You are to seek first His kingdom and righteousness.
You are to glorify Him in your body and in your spirit which are His.
You are to fight manfully against sin, the world, and the devil.
You are to let the love of Christ constrain you.
You are not to live for yourself, but for Him.
Be careful to guard against all occasions of sin and evil. There is no safety without setting a watch against all that is likely to prove an injury or a stumbling-block.
I read one day of the remarkable precautions which are taken to avoid danger in a gunpowder manufactory. The walls are all of stone, and no wood is allowed to be in the place. Anyone who walks through has to take off his shoes, lest the nails in them should strike a spark. Then, if he has any metal, or the like on him, he must leave it at the door. The danger is so great, that everything must be done to avoid any approach to it.
Oh that Christians would take heed in a similar way to keep from the peril of sin! Keep far away from any approach to temptation. You have gunpowder hearts — so ready to ignite from the least spark. A look, a word, an evil example, a sentence in a book, a suggestion from a bad companion — any of these may be the cause of a world of mischief.
Therefore, make it your firm resolve to keep out of harm's way. Beware of all places, and scenes, and people — that will turn you from the right course. Don't imagine you are strong enough to go, and get no harm. Better to keep far from the edge of the precipice. Better keep out of the lion's mouth! Better keep from the long grass where the cobra is coiled up! Stop while you can; you may go so far that it may be impossible to escape. "Avoid every kind of evil!" 1 Thessalonians 5:22
Be careful as to keeping up your seasons of devotion. Apostasy begins at the closet door. Those who leave off prayer, or get careless and remiss about it — will soon be left without shield or breastplate, at the mercy of a thousand enemies! Cleave to prayer, and wait upon God continually.
Do not forget the benefit of silent, humble breathings of prayer offered in Jesus' name throughout the day. One upward glance, one short petition, may save you from some great temptation, or help you in some important work.
Let a diligent study of your Bible go side by side with it. Prayer will throw light on the Scriptures — and the promises and examples of the Word will strengthen and encourage you in prayer. Make up your mind that prayer is the most important business of every day, and morning, noon, and night besiege the Mercy-seat for fresh help, and grace for yourself and others.
Nor should you be less careful about the public means of grace. They are great feeders of the divine life. Going to Church regularly, and going to the same Church — not wandering from place to place; sparing a week-day evening for the House of God; not failing to renew your covenant with Christ at His table at least every month; laying hold of any special opportunities, as a meeting, to forward God's work in the world — all these are precious aids to devotion, and will each in their place strengthen your heart in the fear and love of God.
Be careful to make the very best use of your time. Make the most of each passing day. Instead of trying to kill time — strive to make it so fruitful of good to yourself and others. Hours and moments are golden — yes, more valuable than pearls and diamonds — and to squander and waste them is folly beyond description! Until we reach eternity, we shall never know how much good has been obtained or wrought . . .
by a moment's earnest prayer,
by a passing opportunity seized,
by five minutes given to read a helpful book,
by a quarter of an hour given to visit some suffering saint.
How much Christ accomplished in the three years of His public ministry! He was always intent on the work He had to do, so that tens of thousands were taught and benefitted. And though we are so sinful, and our power so feeble in comparison — is not His life to be a pattern for ours?
Oh, do not waste life. Map it out prudently, and think well of the work to which you yourself are called.
No lost hours through late rising in the morning!
No mornings or evenings worse than lost in drinking in the poison or the vanity of a worthless novel!
No moments thrown away in idle gossip and foolish talking!
No, no — not for this was life given to us! Use it far better and more wisely. Remember that . . .
the time is short,
the work is great, and
the outcome is for eternity!
Soon will the great bell toll, which will usher you into a future state. Brother, sister, make, haste to do all the work allotted to you — to do it well, that the Master may be glorified, and your crown the brighter.
Be careful in the expenditure of money. You can never be reminded too often that you are only a steward of whatever you possess. The gold and the silver belong to the Lord Almighty, and He puts them into your hand to use according to His will.
What would you think of a steward, through whose hands ten or twenty thousand pounds were received yearly in rents — were he to go and expend it in waste and luxury, or to use it in speculation, or risk it in gambling?
And what must Christ think of you, if thousands of dollars a year are in your hands — if you spend it upon self and pleasure and the world — and neglect to honor Him with the first-fruits, and give but little for His cause and the interests of His kingdom? "Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise!" Ephesians 5:15
Be careful in the matter of common domestic duties. To most people, especially to ladies and young women and mothers of families, the daily home life is the chief part of the discipline which God appoints them. It is equally so to elderly people and invalids of both sexes.
To endure the rubs of home life patiently;
to avoid irritability and touchiness;
to exercise constant forbearance;
to be giving out hour by hour the oil of congenial kindness from a heart at peace with God and itself;
to keep to the Apostolic rule, "Do not be overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good;"
for all, both old and young, to fill well their own niche in the family, and each to bring a quota of happiness to all the rest —
this is the sort of religion that is worth possessing, and that will have a marvelous effect on all who enter the home.
Are you doing your part to bring about a spirit of this kind? Is love, gentleness, kindness, diligence, and willingness to lend a helping hand — that which you are ever aiming at? Are you a sunbeam or a dark cloud in the house? Are all in the family the better for your being one of them?
Lastly, I would say, be careful to guard well the various gates of access to the heart — and of egress into the world.
Guard well the eye. Keep it from vanity. Remember that one look cost Achan his life — and a lustful look embittered the whole of David's years. Let the eye look straight onward, and right upward to the throne.
Guard well the ear. Receive nothing that will pollute or defile you. Hearken to no voice of flattery or persuasion to evil. Welcome every message of the word of truth.
Guard well the memory and imagination. Let no vision or image tarry there, which will chain and enthrall the soul. If unclean birds fly over your head — do not let them settle in your hair.
Nor be less mindful . . .
to curb the tongue,
to guide the foot,
to use the hand according to God's holy will.
The words you utter,
the path you go,
the deeds you perform,
or the letters you write —
tell mightily on yourself and on others. And none should be permitted to act except under the control of the fear and love of God.
In all these points be circumspect. I know not where your danger mostly lies — but God knows — and you may know, if you desire. But, in everything, you need daily prayer and daily watchfulness. Above all, moment by moment, abide in Christ.
It was the saying of a godly woman: "A hundred times a day I pray myself out of my own keeping, into the keeping of Jesus." For, remember, that it is not your careful walking, but Christ's careful keeping — which will ensure your final victory.
Your enemies are legion,
your strength is nothing,
your resolutions soon fail,
your heart is easily beguiled and turned aside —
but the good Shepherd will keep His own redeemed people.
He will point out your danger — and enable you to flee from it.
He will uphold you in perilous places-and lift you up when you fall.
He will keep you from falling — and save you even to the uttermost!