The Fear of Final Falling
DARK FEAR haunts the minds of many who are coming to Christ; they are afraid
that they shall not persevere to the end. I have heard the seeker say: "If
I were to cast my soul upon Jesus, yet peradventure I should after all draw back
into perdition. I have had good feelings before now, and they have died away. My
goodness has been as the morning cloud, and as the early dew. It has come on a
sudden, lasted for a season, promised much, and then vanished away."
I believe that this fear is often the father of the fact;
and that some who have been afraid to trust Christ for all time, and for all
eternity, have failed because they had a temporary faith, which never went far
enough to save them. They set out trusting to Jesus in a measure, but looking to
themselves for continuance and perseverance in the heavenward way; and so they
set out wrongly, and, as a natural consequence, turned back before long. If we
trust to ourselves for our holding on we shall not hold on. Even though we rest
in Jesus for a part of our salvation, we shall fail if we trust to self for
anything. No chain is stronger than its weakest link: if Jesus be our hope for
everything, except one thing, we shall utterly fail, because in that one point
we shall come to nought. I have no doubt whatever that a mistake about the
perseverance of the saints has prevented the perseverance of many who did run
well. What did hinder them that they should not continue to run? They trusted to
themselves for that running, and so they stopped short. Beware of mixing even a
little of self with the mortar with which you build, or you will make it
untempered mortar, and the stones will not hold together. If you look to Christ
for your beginnings, beware of looking to yourself for your endings. He is
Alpha. See to it that you make Him Omega also. If you begin in the Spirit you
must not hope to be made perfect by the flesh. Begin as you mean to go on, and
go on as you began, and let the Lord be all in all to you. Oh, that God, the
Holy Spirit, may give us a very clear idea of where the strength must come from
by which we shall be preserved until the day of our Lord's appearing!
Here is what Paul once said upon this subject when he was
writing to the Corinthians:
Our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall also confirm you unto the
end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is
faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our
Lord (1 Cor. 1:8, 9).
This language silently admits a great need, by telling us
how it is provided for. Wherever the Lord makes a provision, we are quite sure
that there was a need for it, since no superfluities encumber the covenant of
grace. Golden shields hung in Solomon's courts which were never used, but there
are none such in the armoury of God. What God has provided we shall surely need.
Between this hour and the consummation of all things every promise of God and
every provision of the covenant of grace will be brought into requisition. The
urgent need of the believing soul is confirmation, continuance, final
perseverance, preservation to the end. This is the great necessity of the
most advanced believers, for Paul was writing to saints at Corinth, who were men
of a high order, of whom he could say, "I thank my God always on your
behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ." Such men
are the very persons who most assuredly feel that they have daily need of new
grace if they are to hold on, and hold out, and come off conquerors at the last.
If you were not saints you would have no grace, and you would feel no need of
more grace; but because you are men of God, therefore you feel the daily demands
of the spiritual life. The marble statue requires no food; but the living man
hungers and thirsts, and he rejoices that his bread and his water are made sure
to him, for else he would certainly faint by the way. The believer's personal
wants make it inevitable that he should daily draw from the great source of all
supplies; for what could he do if he could not resort to his God?
This is true of the most gifted of the saints--of
those men at Corinth who were enriched with all utterance and with all
knowledge. They needed to be confirmed to the end, or else their gifts and
attainments would prove their ruin. If we had the tongues of men and of angels,
if we did not receive fresh grace, where should we be? If we had all experience
till we were fathers in the church--if we had been taught of God so as to
understand all mysteries--yet we could not live a single day without the divine
life flowing into us from our Covenant Head. How could we hope to hold on for a
single hour, to say nothing of a lifetime, unless the Lord should hold us on? He
who began the good work in us must perform it unto the day of Christ, or it will
prove a painful failure.
This great necessity arises very much from our own selves.
In some there is a painful fear that they shall not persevere in grace because
they know their own fickleness. Certain persons are constitutionally unstable.
Some men are by nature conservative, not to say obstinate; but others are as
naturally variable and volatile. Like butterflies they flit from flower to
flower, till they visit all the beauties of the garden, and settle upon none of
them. They are never long enough in one place to do any good; not even in their
business nor in their intellectual pursuits. Such persons may well be afraid
that ten, twenty, thirty, forty, perhaps fifty years of continuous religious
watchfulness will be a great deal too much for them. We see men joining first
one church and then another, till they box the compass. They are everything by
turns and nothing long. Such have double need to pray that they may be divinely
confirmed, and may be made not only steadfast but unmoveable, or otherwise they
will not be found "always abounding in the work of the Lord."
All of us, even if we have no constitutional temptation to
fickleness, must feel our own weakness if we are really quickened of God. Dear
reader, do you not find enough in any one single day to make you stumble? You
that desire to walk in perfect holiness, as I trust you do; you that have set
before you a high standard of what a Christian should be--do you not find that
before the breakfast things are cleared away from the table, you have displayed
enough folly to make you ashamed of yourselves? If we were to shut ourselves up
in the lone cell of a hermit, temptation would follow us; for as long as we
cannot escape from ourselves we cannot escape from incitements to sin. There is
that within our hearts which should make us watchful and humble before God. If
he does not confirm us, we are so weak that we shall stumble and fall; not
overturned by an enemy, but by our own carelessness. Lord, be thou our strength.
We are weakness itself.
Besides that, there is the weariness which comes of a long
life. When we begin our Christian profession we mount up with wings as eagles,
further on we run without weariness; but in our best and truest days we walk
without fainting. Our pace seems slower, but it is more serviceable and better
sustained. I pray God that the energy of our youth may continue with us so far
as it is the energy of the Spirit and not the mere fermentation of proud flesh.
He that has long been on the road to Heaven finds that there was good reason why
it was promised that his shoes should be iron and brass, for the road is rough.
He has discovered that there are Hills of Difficulty and Valleys of Humiliation;
that there is a Vale of Deathshade, and, worse still, a Vanity Fair--and all
these are to be traversed. If there be Delectable Mountains (and, thank God,
there are,) there are also Castles of Despair, the inside of which pilgrims have
too often seen. Considering all things, those who hold out to the end in the way
of holiness will be "men wondered at."
"O world of wonders, I can say no less." The days
of a Christian's life are like so many Koh-i-noors of mercy threaded upon the
golden string of divine faithfulness. In Heaven we shall tell to angels, and
principalities, and powers, the unsearchable riches of Christ which were spent
upon us, and enjoyed by us while we were here below. We have been kept alive on
the brink of death. Our spiritual life has been a flame burning on in the midst
of the sea, a stone that has remained suspended in the air. It will amaze the
universe to see us enter the pearly gate, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus
Christ. We ought to be full of grateful wonder if kept for an hour; and I trust
If this were all, there would be enough cause for anxiety;
but there is far more. We have to think of what a place we live in. The world is
a howling wilderness to many of God's people. Some of us are greatly indulged in
the providence of God, but others have a stern fight of it. We begin our day
with prayer, and we hear the voice of holy song full often in our houses; but
many good people have scarcely risen from their knees in the morning before they
are saluted with blasphemy. They go out to work, and all day long they are vexed
with filthy conversation like righteous Lot in Sodom. Can you even walk the open
streets without your ears being afflicted with foul language? The world is no
friend to grace. The best we can do with this world is to get through it as
quickly as we can, for we dwell in an enemy's country. A robber lurks in every
bush. Everywhere we need to travel with a "drawn sword" in our hand,
or at least with that weapon which is called all-prayer ever at our side; for we
have to contend for every inch of our way. Make no mistake about this, or you
will be rudely shaken out of your fond delusion. O God, help us, and confirm us
to the end, or where shall we be?
True religion is supernatural at its beginning, supernatural
in its continuance, and supernatural in its close. It is the work of God from
first to last. There is great need that the hand of the Lord should be stretched
out still: that need my reader is feeling now, and I am glad that he should feel
it; for now he will look for his own preservation to the Lord who alone is able
to keep us from failing, and glorify us with His Son.