"REVIVAL: The Depression and Revivification of Spiritual Life"

"O spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be no more." -Psalm 39:13.

A dying bed is a solemn and searching standpoint from where to review the personal and past history- its lights and shadows of spiritual life! All is stern reality! The fictions and deceptions of religion now yield to the tremendous conviction that the soul, disengaging itself from the relations and delusions of time, is about to confront the dread realities and changeless decision of eternity! Such was David's position, and such his feelings, when he breathed the prayer- "O spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be no more." His mental powers were waning, and the scepter of a long and prosperous reign was falling from his death stricken grasp. But, a more startling and solemn fact was unveiling to his mind!
  Now it was that the real state of his soul, as before God, burst upon him in all its reality! In the true and searching light of that tremendous hour he discovered a declension and loss in the tone and evidence of his spiritual life which filled him with dismay. At the moment that he was about to confront the 'last enemy,' and fight the last battle, lo! the 'standard-bearer faints' by reason of exhausted spiritual power! The subject is singularly instructive and profoundly solemn. May the Spirit of life make its consideration a quickening power to our soul!
  The first point raised is the spiritual state which David thus deeply deplores: it was the declension and decay of the life of God in his quickened soul. And, before we unfold this state, it may be necessary to remark that, this is not the condition or the prayer of a soul utterly destitute of spiritual life. A corpse is insensible of feeling- it has no consciousness of the absence of life. But where there is life, there is the intelligent and acute consciousness of waning health and vigor. So is it with the living soul. The fact of a believer's possession of spiritual life is evidenced by the consciousness of its decay. The felt loss of spiritual power proves to demonstration its previous existence just as pining sickness brings home to the sufferer the painful consciousness of the loss of vigorous health.
  We should, therefore, in considering this condition, be careful to mark the distinction between a soul actually "dead in trespasses and sins," and a living soul lamenting, as David does, the decay of spiritual life. It is thus the Lord often teaches us by its negative, the real value of a positive blessing. He will have a thankful and praiseful heart. "Whoever offers praise glorifies me." And when, undervaluing His mercies, gratitude congeals in the heart, and praise sits silent upon the lips, He most wisely and righteously suspends His favor for a while, that we might appreciate more fully the value of the gift and the goodness of the Giver. "Open my lips; and my mouth shall show forth Your praise."
  It is thus with the greatest of all gifts- the gift of spiritual life. We may not have valued that life, as we should have done; we have not employed it in the service of Christ and for God's glory, as He intended; and so He has allowed it for a while to decay, and permitted sin to have the ascendancy; and that thus we more deeply estimate its value, and learn to watch against its declension. We now turn to the case before us. A believer, in the near prospect of his departure, may deplore the loss of the sense of his adoption. At the moment that he plants his foot upon the threshold of his heavenly home, he discovers that- like Bunyan's pilgrim- he has "lost the white stone with the new name," and has to retrace many steps to find it. And thus, in place of the joy and hope he should experience in the near prospect of his arrival at his father's house, he is filled with doubt and dismay, and cannot enter glory with "Abba, Father," breathing from his lips.
  May not this loss of the sense of adoption be attributed to two causes- the little filial dealing of the heart with God, and to the spirit of bondage in which the soul had been allowed too long to travel? If, then, receiving instruction from this fact, we would find ourselves in full and undoubted possession of the "white stone, and the new name written therein," at the moment when we shall need all the consolation and succor it is possible from every source to receive, let us be careful of our filial and close walk with God. Examine each day the evidences of our sonship- see that nothing shades a fact so divine and precious, and so walk in the holy liberty with which Christ has made us free from the power of sin and the fear of death- the liberty of filial communion with our Heavenly Father, and of submission to His paternal will- that thus living in a sense of our adoption, we may not drag our slavish chains to a dying bed, but meet our last enemy with the shout of liberty and the paean of triumph!
  Not less conscious may the departing saint be of the loss of his sense of a present and complete acceptance in Christ. His prayer is "O spare me, that I may know my standing in Christ: my acceptance in the Beloved." And, alas just at the moment that he is summoned to the Banquet, he is casting about in search of evidence of his possession of the robe in which he is to appear! To what may this sense of loss be attributed? May it not, in part, be traced to those activities of religious life which too much draw off the believer's care of his personal and spiritual interests? The white robe may be loosely girded, and carelessly worn; it may hang slovenly, and trail heedlessly. And when most we need to know our full, free, and present justification our possession of the 'wedding garment' and the 'best robe'- the plaintive cry is heard, issuing as from the dying pillow- "O spare me, that I may recover strength."
  We have ventured to ascribe this sense of loss to the Christian life lived too much in the region of social and public religious engagements; and to this we may add the deteriorating, deadening influence of theological polemics and ecclesiastical controversy. Scarcely any causes are more prolific of a loss of the vigor and evidence of spiritual life than this. Baxter speaks of his "hand as crushed in the vice of religious controversy." Now many a man of God will confirm this testimony of the worthy puritan, touching the spiritual loss of the soul experienced in the heat and strife of religious conflict- contending, it may be- not for some vital tenet of the faith- but for a non-essential rite, or a denominational shibboleth. A solemn lesson is taught us here!
  We live in an age of great religious activity: the active, rather than the reflective and devotional element, would seem to be the leading characteristic of modern Christianity. It behooves us, then, to be doubly vigilant and prayerful, that we allow no earnestness and labor for others to draw us off from the state of our personal religion- our present standing before God, lest the lamentation is wrung from our lips in the hour of our departure- "They made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept."
  But, a fresh view of Jesus in death brings back the departing soul to its right position; faith is enabled to come to Christ, just as though it had never come before- and looking to Him, if not as an accepted believer, yet as a poor empty sinner, thankful to be able to come as such, the departing soul, having recovered strength, enters the valley with the victor's song upon its lips- "O death, where is your sting?"
  The departing believer may discover that he was equally at fault in the distance at which he traveled from the "Open Fountain" thus finding himself on a dying bed without the clear sense of the applied blood- the sweet, joyous consciousness of the present and full pardon of all his sins. This is traceable, as we have hinted, to the too infrequent washing in the blood of Christ. The dwelling-place was pitched too far from the stream; the travel was at too remote a distance from the laver: and so the feet- dusty and soiled- when they smote the cold waters of the River, found the need of a renewed application to "the blood of Jesus that cleanses from all sin." "O spare me, that I may recover strength."
  We need scarcely trace the declension and decay of spiritual life to its many exciting and proximate causes, since they will for the most part be obvious to every devout and observant mind. We may, however, briefly group a few of the more ordinary and fruitful ones. Among which we may cite: the distance of the soul in following Jesus; the restraining of secret prayer before God; the absorbing influence of the world- its calling, its conformity, its pleasures; sin indulged, unrepented and unconfessed; cold neglect of the means of grace; the walking by sight and not by faith; a separation in charity, affection, and communion from other saints; covetousness in withholding from the cause of Christ and of truth of our worldly substance more than is fit; the neglect of a daily washing in the fountain of Christ's blood, thus keeping the conscience tender, and the feet of our Christian travel constantly purified from the habitual contraction of earth.
  All these are among the more immediate causes of the decay and declension of the spiritual life of the soul- fully discerned, it may be, only at the moment of its departure, with the prayer, breathing from the expiring lip, "O spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be no more!"
  But there is revivification of spiritual life, the existence of, and the provision for, which we must not overlook. This fact is implied in the prayer of David- "That I may recover strength." If spiritual life has its decays, it has also its recoveries; if its depressions, it has also its revivings. Nothing is more imperishable than the life of God in the regenerate; nothing more deathless than a spiritually living soul. The revivification may not transpire, in some cases, until the soul's near approach to eternity, yet, come it will, before the soul takes its flight to heaven.
  It is the quaint remark of an old divine, that "God never puts any of His children to sleep in the dark;" that is, He does not allow them to die without some clear evidence, that, in death they are in life "dying in the Lord," who is their life, and are passing to that blessed "hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before the world began." But every true believer will feel it too solemn and momentous a thing to postpone the work of a renewed spiritual life until 'heart and flesh are failing,' and his feet smite the cold river over which he is about to pass.
  It is our true wisdom to be laying up for a dying hour- living as those who are watching and waiting for the Royal Chariot that is to bear us to the King. Dying grace is, indeed, reserved for the dying hour; but it is the privilege of the child of God to "die daily," -dying to the power of inbred sin, the lusts of the flesh, and the pride of life; dying to the attractions of the world, the idolatry of the creature, and the still greater idolatry of self. Then, when we really come to die, having detached ourselves one by one from the "things that are seen and temporal," and, with a carefully-trimmed and brightly-burning lamp- the evidence of adoption, acceptance, and pardon, unquestionable and undimmed- we shall have nothing to do but to die!
  Oh seek, then, a daily supply of spiritual life from Christ! Not merely has He come that you might have life, but that you might have it more abundantly. Christ is prepared to impart so richly and freely of this divine and precious blessing that you shall rise to a higher life- not another life- but a higher degree of the same spiritual life you already possess; a loftier standard of holiness and love and service- ascending the rungs of the spiritual ladder-the type of which Jacob saw in his midnight vision- until you plant your foot upon the summit, and find yourself- oh sweet surprise! -in heaven, 'safe in the bosom of Jesus!'
  Among the most fruitful means of spiritual revival, overlook not the hallowed results of sanctified affliction. Times of trial are times of restoring and growth in the history of spiritual life. "Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me." The cloud of sorrow may be upon your heart, the shadow of death upon your tabernacle, but this may be the appointed way of quickening your soul to more spiritual sensibility, of recalling the truant affections, and of drawing you nearer, and still nearer to God. Oh blessed discipline of trial that quickens, revives, and strengthens the life of God in the soul!
  Above all means of spiritual revival, seek to be "filled with the Spirit." All spiritual life is of His breathing; all communications of grace are of His conveyancing; of all evidences of our sonship, and pardon, and acceptance, He is the Witness; and of our hope of glory He is the earnest and the seal. "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby you are sealed unto the day of redemption." Honor the Spirit- worship the Spirit- obey the Spirit- walk in the Spirit, and your peace will flow like a river, and your righteousness as the waves of the sea.
  And if 'clouds'- dark and depressing- sometimes shade the picture of your spiritual life, 'lights'- luminous and cheering will throw a pleasant and hopeful radiance across the scene: and thus, through sunshine and shade you will be preparing for the glorious world of which it is said- "There shall be no night there, for the Lord God and the Lamb are the light and glory thereof." Oh, then, let your faith's eye- afresh anointed with Christ's true 'eye salve'- look from the present shadows of your spiritual life to the light beyond, where no shadow will ever fall upon your soul, but where all will be perfect and eternal sunshine- undimmed, unclouded forever! "Your sun shall no more go down; neither shall your moon withdraw itself: for the Lord shall be your everlasting light, and the days of your mourning shall be ended."
 "Beyond the stars that shine in golden glory,
Beyond the calm, sweet moon,
Up the bright ladder saints have trod before you,
Soul! you shall venture soon.
Secure with Him who sees your heart-sick yearning,
Safe in His arms of love,
You shall exchange the midnight for the morning,
And your fair home above.
 "Oh, it is sweet to watch the world's night wearing,
The Sabbath morn come on!
And sweet it were the vineyard labor sharing
Sweeter the labor done.
All finished! all the conflict and the sorrow,
Earth's dream of anguish over,
Deathless there dawns for you a nightless morrow
On Eden's blissful shore.
 "Patience! then, patience! soon the pang of dying
Shall all forgotten be,
And you, through rolling spheres rejoicing, flying
Beyond the waveless sea,
Shall know hereafter where your Lord does lead you,
His darkest dealings trace,
And by those fountains where His love will feed you
Behold Him face to face!"