CONSIDER, O devout soul, the difficulty of being saved, and thou wilt easily cast aside all sense of absolute security. Never and nowhere is such security possible; neither in heaven, nor in paradise, much less in this world. An angel fell even in the presence of God. Adam fell into sin in that delightful abode in which God placed him. Adam was created in the image of God (Gen. i. 27), and yet he was deceived by the wiles of the devil. Solomon was the wisest of men (1 Kings iii. 12), yet he was led away from the Lord through the enticements of the flesh (1 Kings xi. 3). Judas belonged to the very circle of Christís disciples (Luke xxii. 3), and was under the daily instruction of that greatest of all teachers, and yet he was not safe from the snares of the great seducer; he cast himself headlong into the pit of avarice, and from that into the dark abyss of eternal woe. David was a man after Godís own heart (1 Sam. xiii. 14), and was as a most precious son to Jehovah, but through the awful sins of adultery and homicide he made himself a son of death (2 Sam. xii. 5). Where then in this life is there real security against falling into sin? Cling with a firm confidence of heart to the promises of God, and thou shalt be safe from the assaults of the devil. There can be no security in this life, except that afforded by the sure promises of Godís word to those who believe and walk in the way of the Lord. When we finally attain the blessedness of heaven, then we shall enjoy perfect security. In this life fear and religion have a close connection, nor ought there to be the one without the other. Cherish not a sense of security simply because thou art suffering adversity; but rather regard thine adversities as scourgings for thy sins. God often chastises us openly for our secret faults. Reflect upon the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and then fear the righteous avenger of sin. Neither feel secure because thou art enjoying prosperity; nor to be wholly unreproved in this life is rather a mark of Godís wrath. What are the afflictions of the godly? They are as bitter arrows to the soul, and yet sent from the merciful hand of God. God apparently does not chastise in this world, whom He will nevertheless punish eternally. Uninterrupted human happiness here is frequently a sad token of eternal condemnation in the other world. Nothing is more unhappy than the happiness of those living in sin, and nothing is more miserable than the man who is ignorant of his miserable condition in sin. Whithersoever thou turnest thine eyes thou findest cause for grief, and beholdest much to forbid any sense of security. Turn thy thoughts upwards to thy God whom we have offended; downwards to the hell which we have merited; backwards to the sins we have committed; forward to the judgment which we fear; inwardly to conscience which we have befouled with sin; outwardly to the world which we have loved. Behold, whence thou camest, and blush; where thou now art, and grieve whither thou art going, and tremble. Narrow indeed is the door of salvation, but the way that leads to it is still narrower (Matt. vii. 14).
God hath given thee the treasure of faith, but thou carriest that treasure in an earthen vessel (2 Cor. iv. 7). God hath given holy angels to guard thee (Ps. xci. 11), but the devil waits not far off to lead thee astray. He hath renewed thee in the spirit of thy mind (Eph. iv. 23), but still thou hast the oldness of the flesh to struggle with. Thou hast been established in the grace of God, but art not yet confirmed in eternal glory. A heavenly mansion is prepared for thee, but first thou must struggle with a wicked world. God hath promised pardon to the penitent, but He hath not promised to give the inclination to repent to anyone while wilfully persisting in sin. The consolations of eternal life await thee, but yet thou must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God (Acts xiv. 22). A crown of eternal glory hath been promised thee, but thou must pass through a severe conflict before thou canst wear that crown. Godís promises are unchangeable; but then thou must not relax for a moment thy zeal in a holy life. If the servant fail to do what is commanded, the Lord will do what He threatens. Therefore laying aside all false security we must continually mourn and lament on account of our sins, lest God desert us in an act of just and secret judgment, and we are left in the hands of devils to be destroyed.
While Godís grace is thine, rejoice in it, and yet think not that thou possessest this gift of God by hereditary right, and that thou art so securely in possession of it, that thou canst never lose it, lest if God should suddenly take away His gift and withdraw His hand, thou shouldst become disheartened and fall into despair.
Happy art thou, indeed, if thou takest all care to avoid a careless indifference, that fruitful cause of so many evils. God will not forsake thee, but take good heed lest thou forsake God. God hath bestowed His grace upon thee, pray that He may give thee also perseverance unto the end. God so orders the economy of grace that we may have assurance of our salvation, and yet not in such a way that one may indulge in self-security. Thou must fight the good fight of faith (2 Tim. iv. 7) bravely, that at length thou mayest triumph gloriously. Thy flesh within thee fighteth against thee; a more formidable enemy to thee because so much nearer thee than any others. The world without thee fighteth against thee; a more formidable enemy to thee than any other because so much more powerful. In the strength of God thou needest not fear to engage with all these enemies, and by that strength thou shalt gain the victory. But such enemies as these thou wilt never conquer by a mere sense of security, but by waging an incessant warfare against them. Life is the time to fight this fight of faith; and when thou art apparently unconscious of the conflict, thou art in more peril from the assaults of these foes; for when they seem to be observing a truce, then are they really massing their forces for a more powerful attack upon thy soul. They are vigilant, and art thou sleeping? They are preparing themselves to injure thee, and wilt not thou prepare thyself to resist them? Many fall by the way before reaching the heavenly fatherland. Alas! how many of the Children of Israel perished in the wilderness, not one of whom obtained the promise (Deut. i. 35). And how many of the spiritual children of Abraham miserably perish in the wilderness of this life, before obtaining the promised inheritance of the heavenly kingdom! Nothing should more effectively lead us to cast away false security than the thought of the comparatively small number of those who persevere to the end. Therefore let us cherish such a desire for the heavenly glory, and with it such a passionate longing to attain it, such a sense of sorrow that we have not as yet gained it, and such a fear that after all we may not, that we shall take joy in nothing that does not afford us aid in, or confirm our hope of, coming into possession of it at last. What profit is there in enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season, if we must spend eternity in woe? What joy can there be in this life if what delights us here is only temporary, but what torments us is eternal?
We live on in false security, just as though we had already passed the hour of death and the judgment. Christ says that in such an hour as we think not (Matt. xxiv. 44, 50), He will come to judge us. Thus the Truth speaks, and in one way and another solemnly repeats it; give ear then and take heed! If our Lord shall come in an hour when we are not looking for Him, then we ought to fear greatly lest we be unprepared to appear before Him at the judgment. And if we go thither unprepared how shall we ever endure the awful test of that judgment? What we shall lose in that one moment, that sentence is pronounced upon us, we cannot regain forever. In the brief space of a moment it shall be determined what we shall be through all eternity; in that single moment, life and death, condemnation and salvation, eternal punishment and eternal glory shall be awarded to each soul according to its desserts.
O Lord do Thou, who hast given me grace to live a holy life, give me also grace, to persevere in that life to the end!