David's wisdom was of a practical—not of a merely intellectual or speculative—character. It taught him to "keep the Lord's precepts;" and in order to this, to refrain his feet from every evil way. And will not advancing wisdom show itself by increasing tenderness of conscience and carefulness of conduct? The professor is afraid of hell; the child of God—of sin. The one refrains from the outward act—the other seeks to be crucified to the love of sin. Observe not only the practice, but the motive—that he might keep the word. Shall we not "abhor that which is evil," that we might "cleave to that which is good" "abstaining from all appearance of evil" lest unconsciously we should be drawn into the atmosphere of sin, "hating even the garment spotted by the flesh"—fearing the infection of sin worse than death? But how fearful the danger of self-deception! What need to entreat the Lord to "see if there be any wicked way in us?" Oh! for the large supply of grace and unction, to maintain an upright walk before a heart-searching God; to "keep ourselves from our iniquity;" and in dependence upon the promises, and in the strength of the gospel, to "perfect holiness in the fear of God!"
But how awful to hear men talk of keeping the word in a loose and careless profession! For how can it be kept, if the heart has not felt its holiness? For this is its beautiful peculiarity; that, in order to keep it, there must be a separation from sin. The two things are incompatible with each other. The two services are at variance at every point; so that the love of sin must be cast out, where the love of God is engrafted in the heart. Yet so strongly are we disposed to every evil way, that only the Almighty power of grace can enable us to refrain from one or another crooked path. Often is the pilgrim (yes, has it not too often happened to ourselves?) held back by a temporary ascendancy of the flesh—by a little license given to sin—or by a relaxed circumspection of walk. At such seasons, the blessed privilege of keeping the word is lost. We are sensible of a declining delight in those spiritual duties, which before were our "chief joy." And "is there not a cause?" Have we not provoked our gracious God by harboring his enemy in our bosom—no more—by pleading for its indulgence? Has not "the Holy Spirit been grieved" by neglect, or by some worldly compliance: so that His light has been obscured, and His comforting influence quenched? No consolations, consistent with the love and power of sin, can ever come from the Lord. For the holiness of the word of God cannot be either spiritually understood, or experimentally enjoyed, but in a consistent Christian walk. And yet, such is the true blessedness of the word, that the very expectation of keeping it may operate as a principle of restraint from every evil way.
Is there any bondage in this restraint from sin? Oh, no! Sin is slavery; and therefore deliverance from it is "perfect freedom." There is indeed a legal restraint much to be deprecated, when the conscience is goaded by sins of omission or of wilfulness; and the man, ignorant of, or imperfectly acquainted with, the only way of deliverance, hopes to get rid of his burden by a more circumspect walk. But not until he casts it at the foot of the cross, and learns to look wholly to Jesus his deliverer, can he form his resolution upon safe and effectual grounds. Oh, may I therefore seek to abide within a constant view of Calvary! Sin will live everywhere but under the cross of Jesus. Here it withers and dies. Here rises the spring of that holiness, contrition, and love, which refreshes and quickens the soul. Here let me live: here let me die.
Blessed Lord! You know that I desire to keep Your word. Prepare my heart to receive and to retain it. May I so "abide in Christ," that I may receive the sanctifying help of His Spirit for every moment's need! And while I rejoice in Him as my Savior, may I become daily more sensible of every deviation from the straight path! May my eye guide my feet! "Looking to Jesus," may I have light and grace! And may daily grace be given to refrain my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word!
There is no treasuring up the holy word unless there is a casting out of all unholiness: if we keep the good word, we must let go the evil. David had zealously watched his steps and put a check upon his conduct—he had refrained his feet No one evil way could entice him, for he knew that if he only went astray in one road he had practically left the way of righteousness; therefore he avoided every foul way. The by-paths were smooth and flowery, but he knew right well that they were evil, and so he turned his feet away, and plodded along the strait and thorny pathway which leads to God. It is a pleasure to look back upon self-conquests—"I have refrained," and a greater delight still to know that we did this out of no mere desire to stand well with our fellows, but with the one motive of keeping the law of the Lord. Sin avoided that obedience may be perfected is the essence of this verse; or it may be that the Psalmist would teach us that there is no real reverence for the book where there is not carefulness to avoid every transgression of its precepts. How can we as servants of the Lord keep his word if we do not keep our own works and words from bringing dishonor upon it?