An admirable resolution! the blessed fruit of the quickening power of the word in his deep affliction. He had before acknowledged this supernatural efficacy, "Your word has quickened me." Now he more distinctly mentions it, as the instrumental only—not the efficient—cause—With them You have quickened me. Had the power been in the word, the same effect would have immediately and invariably followed. Nor should we have been constrained to lament the limited extent of its influence. How many, Christian, shared with you in the outward privileges; but perhaps unto none was the life-giving blessing given, save unto yourself—the most unlikely—the most unworthy of all! Thus does "God work in us both to will and to do"—not according to any prescribed law, but "of His good pleasure." The grace therefore is not from, but through, the means. Almighty God is the source of the life. The word is the instrument—yet so "quick," so melting, so attractive, that we might ask, out of what rock was that heart hewn, that is proof against its power? Yet while the precepts work nothing without the agents they are the ordinary course, by which the Lord quickens whom He will.
And do not we find them still lively channels of refreshment? Surely, then, we will hold to our purpose of not forgetting the precepts. The leaves of the word of God are the leaves of the tree of life, as well as of the tree of knowledge. They not only enlighten the path, but they supply life for daily work and progress. "The words that I speak unto you"—said Jesus, "they are spirit, and they are life:" so that the times when we have been most diligent in our meditation and obedience to the precepts, have been uniformly the seasons of our most holy consolation.
Men of the world, however, with accurate recollections of all matters, connected with their temporal advantage, are remarkably slow in retaining the truths of God. They plead their short memories, although conscious that this infirmity does not extend to their important secular engagements. But what wonder that they forget the precepts, when they have never been quickened with them—never received any benefit from them? The word of God is not precious to them: they acknowledge no obligation to it: they have no acquaintance with it. It has no place in their affections, and therefore but little abode in their remembrance.
But this resolution is the language of sincerity, not of perfection. The child of God is humbled in the conscious forgetfulness of the Lord's precepts. And this consciousness keeps his eye fixed upon Jesus for pardon and acceptance: while every fresh sense of acceptance strengthens his more habitual remembrance. Then, as for his natural inability to preserve an accurate recollection of Divine things—let him not estimate the benefit of the word by the results in the memory, so much as by the impression upon the heart. The word may have darted through the mind, as a flash of lightning, that strikes and is gone; and yet the heart may have been melted, and the passing flash may have shed a heavenly ray upon a dubious path. If the heart retains the quickening power, the precepts are not forgotten, even though the memory should have failed to preserve them.
But whatever word of conviction, direction, or encouragement, may have come to us, affix this seal to it—I will never forget Your precepts. It may be of signal use in some hour of temptation. The same Spirit that breathed before upon it may breathe again; if not with the same present sensible power, yet with a seasonable and refreshing recollection of past support.
When we have felt the quickening power of a precept we never can forget it. We may read it, learn it, repeat it, and think we have it, and yet it may slip out of our minds; but if it has once given us life, or renewed our life, there is no fear of its falling from our recollection. Experience teaches, and teaches effectually. How blessed a thing it is to have the precepts written on the heart with the golden pen of experience, and graven on the memory with the divine stylus of grace! Forgetfulness is a great evil in holy things; we see here the man of God fighting against it, and feeling sure of victory because he knew the life-giving energy of the word in his own soul. That which quickens the heart is sure to quicken the memory.
It seems singular that he should ascribe quickening to the precepts, and yet it lies in them and in all the words of the Lord alike. It is to be noted that when the Lord raised the dead he addressed to them the word of command. He said, "Lazarus, come forth," or, "Maid, arise." We need not fear to address gospel precepts to dead sinners, since by them the Spirit gives them life. Remark that the Psalmist does not say that the precepts quickened him, but that the Lord quickened him by their means: thus he traces the life from the channel to the source, and places the glory where it is due. Yet at the same time he prized the instruments of the blessing, and resolved never to forget them. He had already remembered them when he likened himself to a bottle in the smoke, and now he feels that whether in the smoke or in the fire the memory of the Lord's precepts shall never depart from him.