If I have refrained my feet from sin—if I have not departed from God's judgments—to Him be all the glory. Oh, my soul! Are you not a wonder to yourself? So prone to depart—to be carried away by uncertain notions—by the oppositions of Satan—by the example or influence of the world—how is it, that you are able to hold on your way? Because the covenant of the Lord engages Your perseverance, "I will put My fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from Me." While conscious of my own corrupt bias to depart, let me humbly and thankfully own the work of Divine teaching. Man's teaching is powerless in advancing the soul one step in Christian progress. The teaching from above is "the light of life." It gives not only the light, but the principle to make use of it. It not only points the lesson, and makes it plain: but imparts the disposition to learn, and the grace to obey. So that now I see the beauty, the pleasantness, the peace, and the holiness of the Lord's judgments, and am naturally constrained to walk in them. Oh, how much more frequent would be our acknowledgment of the work of God, did we keep nearer to the Fountain-head of life and light! How may we trace every declension in doctrine and practice—all our continual estrangement from the Lord's judgments—to following our own wisdom, or depending upon human teaching! "Trusting in man," is the departing of the heart from the Lord. I never shall depart from sin by the influence of human persuasion. I never shall depart from the Lord, so long as I have the witness in my heart—You teach me.
Reader! what has been your habit and progress in the judgments of God? Have you been careful to avoid bye-paths? Has your walk been consistent, steady, advancing "in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit?" If there has been no allowed departure from the ways of God, it has been the blessed fruit of "ceasing from your own wisdom," and the simple dependence upon the promise "written in the prophets—And they shall be all taught of God." And how delightfully does this heavenly teaching draw your heart with a deeper sense of need and comfort to the Savior! For, as He Himself speaks, "Every man therefore that has heard, and has learned of the Father, comes unto Me." Remember—it was no superior virtue or discernment that has restrained your departure from God, but—You have taught me the way to come to God; the way to abide in Him—Christ the way—Christ the end. And His teaching will abide with you. It will win you by light and by love, and by a conquering power allure your heart with that delight in His judgments, and fear of offending against them, that shall prove an effectual safeguard in the hour of temptation. Watch the first step of departure—the neglect of secret prayer—the want of appetite for the sincere word—the relaxing of diligence—the loss of the savor of godliness. Be careful therefore that the teaching of the Lord be not lost upon you. Inquire into your proficiency in His instructive lessons. And do not forget to prize His teaching rod—that loving correction, of which David had felt the blessing, and which He so often uses, to keep His children from departing from His judgments.
Lord! do lead me by the hand, that I may make daily progress in Your judgments. Restrain my feet from "perpetual backsliding." All human instruction will be ineffectual to keep me from departing from Your judgments, except You teach me. Neither grace received, nor experience attained, nor engagements regarded, will secure me for one moment without continual teaching from Yourself.
They are well taught whom God teaches. What we learn from the Lord we never forget. God's instruction has a practical effect—we follow his way when he teaches us; and it has an abiding effect—we do not depart from holiness. Read this verse in connection with the preceding, and you get the believer's "I have," and his "I have not": he is good both positively and negatively. What he did, namely, "refrained his feet," preserved him from doing that which otherwise he might have done, namely, "departed from your judgments." He who is careful not to go an inch aside will not leave the road. He who never touches the intoxicating cup will never be drunk. He who never utters an idle word will never be profane. If we begin to depart a little, we can never tell where we shall end. The Lord brings us to persevere in holiness by abstinence from the beginning of sin; but whatever be the method, he is the worker of our perseverance, and to him be all the glory.
God's word pronounces judgments as to moral actions, and we shall do well to maintain those judgments as our infallible rule of thought and life.