I have been lately thinking of some great Scripture truths or principles, the firm practical belief of which would be of great use to a Christian, and have a mighty influence upon the right ordering of his conversation.
1. That “all things are naked and open unto Him with whom we have to do” (Heb 4:13): a firm belief of God’s all-seeing eye always upon us, wherever we are, and whatever we are doing, would be a mighty restraint upon the spirit, to keep it serious and watchful. Dare I omit a known duty, or commit a known sin while I am under the eye of a just and holy God, who hates sin and cannot endure to look on iniquity? It was a significant name which Hagar gave to the well where God appeared unto her: Beerlahairoi (Gen 16:14) – “the well of him that lives and sees me”, for she said, “Thou God seest me” (v 13). This would be a very seasonable thought when we are entering either into duty or into temptation, to lift up our heart in these words: “Thou God seest me”; and therefore let duty be carefully done and sin carefully avoided, considering that He who sees all now will tell all shortly before angels and men, in the day when the secrets of all hearts shall be made manifest (Luke 12:2).
2. That our “adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet 5:8). We do not see him, and therefore we are apt to be secure; but certainly it is so, and therefore we should never be off our watch. What folly it is for us to be slumbering and sleeping while such a cruel crafty enemy is awake and watching and ready to do us a mischief! You know that, when Saul slept, he lost his spear and his cruse of water. Many a Christian has lost his strength and comfort by sleeping.
3. That “the grace of God, which bringeth salvation”, teaches us “that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly” (Titus 2:11,12) – that the gospel, as it is a gospel of grace, requires a holy conversation. Christ died to save His people from their sins, not in their sins. The gospel has its commands as well as its promises and privileges, and therefore there is such a thing as a gospel-becoming conversation (Phil 1:27), living up to gospel love as well as gospel light.
4. That Jesus Christ died to deliver us from “this present evil world” (Gal 1:4). We are apt to think Christ died to deliver us only from hell, and if that be done we are well enough. No, Christ died to deliver us from this world. So if our hearts are glued to present things and our affections fixed upon them, we do directly thwart the great design of our Lord Jesus Christ in coming to save us.
5. That we are “not under the law, but under grace” (Rom 6:14). This is a mighty encouragement to us to abound in all manner of gospel obedience, to consider that we are not under the law that required perfect personal obedience and pronounced a curse for the least failure, but under the covenant of grace, which accepts the willing mind and makes sincerity our perfection. What a sweet word is grace! What a savour doth it leave upon the lips! And to be under grace, under the sweet and easy rule of grace, how comfortable it is!
6. That the soul is the man, and that that condition of life is best for us that is best for our souls. It fares with the man as it fares with his soul. He is the truly healthful man whose soul prospers and is in health. He is the truly rich man, not who is rich in houses, land and money, but who is rich in faith and an heir of the kingdom. Those are our best friends that are friends to our souls, and those are our worst enemies that are enemies to our souls; for the soul is the man, and if the soul be lost, all is lost.
7. That we have here “no continuing city” (Heb. 13:14) – that we are in this world as in an inn, and must shortly be gone. Why should we then conform ourselves to this world, or cumber ourselves with it? Should we not then sit loose to it, as we do to an inn? And what if we have but ill accommodation? It is but an inn; it will be better at home. If our lodging here be hard and cold, it is no great matter; our lodging in our Father’s house will be soft and warm enough.
8. That “every man at his best estate is altogether vanity” (Ps 39:5). We ourselves are so, and therefore we must not dote on any temporal enjoyments. We carry our lives as well as our other comforts in our hands and know not how soon they may slip through our fingers. Every one is vanity, therefore cease from man, from fearing him and from trusting in him.
9. That “God shall bring every work into judgement, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil” (Ecc 12:14) – that every man must shortly give an account to God. Serious thoughts of this would engage us to do nothing now which will not pass well in our accounts then.
10. That “the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 6:23). Heaven and hell are great things indeed and should be much upon our hearts. They should be improved by us as a spur of constraint to put us upon duty, and a bridle of restraint to keep us from sin. We should labour to see reality and weight in invisible things, and live as those that must be somewhere for ever. See hell as the wages and due desert of sin, and heaven as the free gift of God through Jesus Christ.
Many other such truths might be mentioned, which those need not be directed to that are acquainted with the Scriptures and with their own hearts. It would be of use to a Christian to take some one such truth into his mind in the morning, and upon occasion in the day to be thinking frequently of it, and to say, “This is the truth of the day; this is to be an answer to this day’s temptations; this is to be a spur to this day’s duties; and this is to be the subject of this day’s meditation and of this day’s discourse, as we have opportunity”. I am apt to think such a course would be very beneficial. Hereby a good stock of truths might be treasured up against a time of need, and we might be able to bring forth things new and old for the benefit of others. For certainly it is our duty, as we have ability and opportunity, to help our friends and neighbours in their spiritual necessities, to strengthen the weak, confirm the wavering, direct the doubting, and comfort the feeble-minded; to say to them that are of a fearful heart, “Be strong”.
1. Extracted from a letter to a friend, and taken from The Lives of Philip and Matthew Henry. Henry was the eminent Puritan and Bible commentator.