Such is my sense of need and peril, that my only refuge lies in "continuing instant in prayer." I must send up one cry after another into my Father's ear for the support of His upholding grace. For not only the consciousness of my weakness, but the danger of the slippery path before me, reminds me, that the safety of every moment depends upon my upholding faithful God. The ways of temptation are so many and imperceptible—the influence of it so appalling—the entrance into it so deceitful, so specious, so insensible—my own weakness and unwatchfulness so unspeakable—that I can do nothing but go on my way, praying at every step—Hold me up, and I shall be safe. Often, indeed, can I remember, when "my feet were almost gone, my steps had well-near slipped:" that I have been enabled to record, "Your mercy, O Lord, held me up."
How beautiful is the picture given of the church of old! "Who is this that comes up from the wilderness, leaning upon her Beloved?" This state of dependence was familiar to the Psalmist, and aptly delineates his affectionate, though conflicting, confidence. "My soul follows hard after You: Your right hand upholds me." The recollection of the care of his God, from his earliest life, supplied encouragement for his present faith, and matter for unceasing praise, "By You have I been held up from the womb; You are He who took me out of my mother's affections: my praise shall be continually of You." We cannot wonder, then, that this confidence should sustain his soul in the contemplation of the remaining steps of his pilgrimage, and his prospects for eternity. "Nevertheless"—says he, "I am continually with You: You have holden me by Your right hand. You shall guide me with Your counsel, and afterwards receive me to glory." And, indeed, the more lively my spiritual apprehensions are, the more I shall realize the Lord by the operations of His grace as well as of His providence, "compassing my path and my lying down;" lest any hurt me, keeping me night and day."
Is it inquired—how the Lord holds up His people in this slippery path? "Of the fullness of Jesus they all receive, and grace for grace;" so that "the life which they now live in the flesh, they live by the faith of the Son of God." And, therefore, if I am upheld, it is by the indwelling of the Spirit, who supplies from His infinite fountain of life all the strength and support I need throughout my dangerous way. By His Divine influence the dispensations of Providence also become the appointed means of drawing and keeping me near to my God. If, therefore, prosperity is endangering my soul, and strengthening my worldly bonds, may I not trust to the ever-watchful kindness of the Lord, to keep me low, and not to permit me to be at ease in my forgetfulness? If the pleasures of sense, if the esteem of the world, or the good report of the church, are bringing a bewitching snare upon my soul, my God will lead me into the pathway of the cross—in the "valley of humiliation."
Here, then, is the secret of an unsteady walk—the neglect of leaning upon an Almighty arm! How fearfully is the danger of self-confidence unveiled! Standing by my own strength, very soon shall I be made to feel, that I cannot stand at all. No "mountain" seemed to "stand stronger" than Solomon's: yet when he became the very "fool" that he describes, "trusting in his own heart"—how quickly was it removed!
Peter thought in the foolishness of his heart, that he could have walked upon the water unsupported by the arm of his Lord: but a moment's sense of weakness and danger brought him to his right mind: "and, beginning to sink, he cried, saying—Lord! save me!" Well would it have been for him, if his deliverance at that moment of peril had effectually rebuked his presumption. We should not then have heard from the same lips that language of most unwarranted self-confidence: "Although all shall be offended, yet will not I:—if I should die with You, I will not deny You in any wise." Poor deluded disciple! You are on the brink of a grievous fall! Yet was he held up from utterly sinking. "I have prayed for you"—said the gracious Savior, "that your faith fail not." And thus held up by the same faithful intercession of my powerful friend (whose prayers are not weak as mine, "nor will He fail or be discouraged" by my continual backslidings), "I" too—though in the atmosphere of danger, in the slippery path of temptation, shall be safe—safe from an ensnaring world—safe from a treacherous heart—safe in life—safe in death—safe in eternity. Thus does an interest in the covenant encourage—not presumption—but faith, in all its exercises of humility, watchfulness, diligence, and prayer; in this appointed way does the Lord securely "keep the feet of His saints."
Let me not, then, forget, either my continual liability to fall if left to myself, or the faithful engagements of my covenant God, to "keep me from falling." While I recollect for my comfort, that I "stand by faith," still is the exhortation most needful, "Be not high-minded, but fear." "By faith I stand," as it concerns God; by fear as it regards myself. As light is composed of neither brilliant nor somber rays, but of the combination of both in simultaneous action, so is every Christian grace combined with its opposite, "that it may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." Hope, therefore, combined with fear, issues in that genuine, evangelical confidence, in which alone I can walk safely and closely with God. Let, then, the self-confident learn to distrust themselves, and the fearful be encouraged to trust their Savior; and in each let the recollection of grace and help given "in time of need," lead to the steadfast resolution—I will have respect unto Your statutes continually. However self-denying they may be in their requirements: however opposed in their tendency to "the desires of the flesh and of the mind," I take my God as the surety of my performance of them; and I desire to love them as the rule of my daily conduct, and the very element of heavenly happiness to my soul.
"Hold me up!"--as a nurse holds up a little child. "And I shall be safe," and not else; for unless you hold me up I shall be falling about like an infant that is weak upon its legs. We have been saved by past grace, but still we are not safe unless we receive present grace. Our version first translates the word "uphold," and then "hold up"; and truly we need this blessing in every shape in which it can come, for in all manner of ways our adversaries seek to cast us down. To be safe is a happy condition; there is only one way to it, and that is by divine upholding: thank God, that way is open to the least among us.
"Hold me up" may also be a plea for elevation of mind. "Nearer, my God, to you," is the same prayer. We would be held up above self and sin, and all else that grovels; for then are we surely safe.
"And I will have respect unto your statutes continually." Thus, being held up, we obey; and in obeying we are safe. No man will outwardly keep the Lord's statutes for long together unless he has an inward "respect" for them, and this will never be unless the hand of the Lord perpetually upholds the heart in holy love. Perseverance to the end, or continual obedience, comes only through the divine power; we start aside as a deceitful bow unless we are kept right by him who first gave us grace. Happy is the man who realizes this verse in his life: upheld through his whole life in a course of unswerving integrity, he becomes a "safe man," a trusted man. Such a safe man manifests a sacred delicacy of conscience which is unknown to others. He feels a tender "respect" for the statutes of the Lord, which keeps him clear of those inconsistencies and conformities to the world which are so common among others. Hence he becomes a pillar in the house of the Lord. Alas! we know some professors who are not upright, and therefore they lean to sin until they fall over; even when they are restored and set up again, they are never safe or reliable, neither have they that sweet purity of soul which is the charm of those who have been kept from falling into the mire.