It is possible to lose the blessing of a clean heart, but, thank God, it is also gloriously possible to keep it. How to do this is a vital question. Two or three years ago, a brother, going to the foreign field, arose in one of my meetings and said, 'I got the blessing three times but lost it twice. The third time I got it the Lord taught me how to keep it through this text "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord so walk ye in Him"' (Col. ii. 6).
That is one of the simplest and completest statements of how to keep the blessing that can be given. The conditions of getting it are the conditions of keeping it.
I. To keep it, there must be continued joyful and perfect consecration. We have put all on the altar to get it. We must leave all on the altar to keep it. 'All the tithes' must be brought into God's house. We must present our bodies to Him as 'a living sacrifice,' recognizing ourselves as no longer our own, but His, by the purchase of His Blood, and ourselves as stewards only of all that is ours. Our health and strength, our time and talent, our money and influence, our body, mind, and spirit, all, all are His, to be used for His glory as fully as the fondest bride would use her all in the interest of her husband. And this consecration must keep pace with increasing light. The journey of life is not always through grassy lawns and flowery gardens, but often over burning, shifting, sandy deserts, rocky steeps, fetid swamps, and dark and tangled jungles, as the Lord leads the soul in ways it has not known. And at such times self-interest may cry out against the sacrifice. But if the consecration be perfect, and grounded in love, there will be no turning back, no plunging into seductive and easy by-paths, but a steady marching forward, if needs be to Gethsemane's lonely agony, Pilate's judgment hall of shame, and Golgotha's dark and awful hour. But. thank God, it will not be alone for He says, 'My presence shall go with thee.' (Exod. xxxiii. 14). Hallelujah!
II. To keep the blessing, there must be steadfast, childlike faith. It took faith unmixed with doubt to grasp the blessing. Unbelief was banished. Doubts were put away. The assurance of God's love in Jesus was heartily believed. His ability and willingness to save to the uttermost was fully accepted, and His word simply trusted when the blessing was received; and, of course, this same faith must be maintained in order to keep it. God cannot require less of the sanctified man to keep the blessing than He did of the unsanctified man to get it. Peter said, 'Who are kept by the power of God through faith' (I Pet. i. 5). Notice it is 'the power of God that keeps us, but it is faith that links us on to the power as the coupling links the railway carriage to the locomotive. Faith is the coupling. Paul said of himself, 'the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God' (Gal. ii. 20). And again he tells us that the Jews were cut off through unbelief, and that we stand by faith.
We may suffer prolonged trials, great perplexities, and fierce temptations -- they are a part of the discipline of life-but we must
Keep on believing, Jesus is near,
Keep on believing, there's nothing to fear:
Keep on believing, this is the way,
Faith in the night as well as the day.
III. To keep the blessing, we must pray to and commune much with the Lord. We pray when we talk to God and ask Him for things. We commune, with Him when we, are still and listen and let God talk to us, and mold us, and show us His love and His will, and teach us in the way He would have us go. We should pray often and not be in too great a hurry, but 'take time to be holy' take time to 'taste and see that the Lord is good,' and to hear what He will say. And this we should do, if possible, in the morning, that we may be strengthened and nourished and gladdened for the day. Backsliding usually begins through neglected, or hurried, secret prayer.
Someone has said, 'Stay with God in prayer, stay till He melts you, and then stay when you are melted and plead with God, and He will answer, and you will get changed and transformed and renewed, and you will do execution.'
IV. To keep the blessing, we must give diligent attention to the Bible. The soul needs the food of truth, and Jesus said, 'Man shall not live, by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.' (Matt. iv. 4) God commanded Joshua saying, 'This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night.' What for? 'That thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein.' And what shall follow? 'For then thou shalt make thy way prosperous and then thou shalt have good success.' (Josh. i. 8). Then thou shalt keep the blessing.
David said of his blessed man, 'His delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His law doth he meditate day and night.' (Ps. i. 2). And Paul tells us that the Scriptures are 'profitable for doctrine, for reproof for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished to all good works' (2 Tim. iii. 16-17). And Peter says, 'as new born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word that ye may grow thereby' (I Pet. ii. 2). Some professors are smaller ten years after birth than when they were born, because they have not fed on God's word. Catherine Booth read the Bible through several times before she was twelve years old, and grew thereby, until it is not to be wondered at that she became a 'mother of nations.' I once gave a talk on the use of the Bible to my Soldiers, and some of them caught the inspiration, and carried their Bibles in their pockets after that and spent all the spare time they had in reading and praying, and we could fairly see them grow, until they became powers for God, and some of them are spiritual giants to this day.
V. To keep the blessing, we must confess it be aggressive, and seek to get others into it. 'For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation' (Rom. x. 10). The man who withholds his testimony to this grace will lose it. This light, hid under a bushel, will go out. God gives it to us that we may put it on a candle-stick and give light to all that are in the house, in the corps, in the community, in the nation. Don't limit the power of testimony by unbelief. A torch loses no light and heat by lighting a thousand other torches.
Touch a piece of steel with a magnet, and it in turn becomes a magnet. It can then be used to turn ten thousand other pieces into magnets with no loss, but rather with increase of power to itself. But hang it up in idleness, and it gradually loses its power. So with us, my comrades. Let the Holy Ghost touch us with cleansing power, and we become divine magnets, and in touching other souls we will quicken them and get added power and clearness of experience to ourselves. But let us withhold our testimony, and we lose our power and, like Samson, soon find ourselves 'as other men.'
Testify, testify, testify -- clearly, definitely, constantly, courageously, humbly -- if you would keep the blessing. When faith is weak and devils all around, definite testimony scatters the devils, strengthens faith and stirs up and brightens the inward witness. Testify to the Lord, tell Him you have the blessing and thank Him for it. Testify to your comrades. Testify to your own heart and to the devil. John tells us that the white-robed multitude in Heaven overcame by the Blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony. So testify, if you would overcome and keep the blessing.
VI. To keep the blessing, we must constantly live in the spirit of self-denial. By yielding to fleshly desires, to selfish ambitions, to the spirit of the world, we may lose the labor of years in an instant. The hard hand of the old enemy is ever stretched forth to snatch from us our treasure. We must watch and pray, and keep low at Jesus' feet in profoundest humility, if we would keep it. It is all summed up in one word, 'walk in the spirit,' 'walk in love.'
Finally, there, must be no resting in present attainments. The Lord has clearer revelations of Himself for us. We may be filled to the limit of our capacity to-day, but we should ever pray, 'Oh, Lord, enlarge the vessel,' and this we should expect. Like Paul, 'forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,' we should 'press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus,' (Phil. iii. 13-14), ever remembering that He 'is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think' (Eph. iii. 20). Not according to some mysterious power to which we are strangers, but 'according to the power that worketh in us,' the power of the Holy Ghost that converted us and made us His 'dear children.' Hallelujah!
How To Keep Holiness
Do you ask, 'How can I keep the blessing?'
1. Do not let your poor heart be burdened with the thought that you have to do it all yourself. In this, as in all else, you are only a worker together with God. He loves you more than a mother loves her little child, and He is going to help you to keep the blessing. Remember that the blessing is simply the result of His indwelling in your heart' and you are not to think so much about keeping the blessing as about keeping Him.
It will not be a hard matter to keep Him in your heart if you are in earnest, for He wanted to get there when you were a sinner, and He certainly desires to stay there as long as you will let Him; and if you will let Him, He will keep you.
One of our leading Officers, who is a personal friend of mine, once told me that when he first heard the doctrine of holiness, he felt that he could not be holy while engaged in worldly business. But one day he read the prayer of Jesus: 'I pray not that Thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldst keep them from the evil.' He saw at that moment that God could keep him, and he sought and found the blessing, and has been rejoicing ever since.
Oh, how it rested me and comforted my heart one day, when, sore tempted by the devil, I read these words, 'Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.' I saw that He was able to keep me, and I knew that He was willing, and my heart rested on the promise; and, bless Him, He does keep me.
'Fear thou not, for I am with thee: be not dismayed, for I am thy God; I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.' (Isaiah xli. 10.)
Paul got fairly jubilant over the keeping power of God, -- it was his boast when he wrote, 'Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels' (fallen angels, or devils), 'nor principalities, nor powers' (no combination of devils or men), 'nor things present, nor things to come, nor height' (of prosperity), 'nor depth' (of adversity), 'nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord' (Rom. viii. 35-39)
Paul trusted God to keep him, and so must we. We should surely fall if God withheld His help for a moment.
But James tells us that 'faith without works is dead;' and so we must not only trust God, but must work together with God if we would keep the blessing.
2. To keep the blessing, you must keep all upon the altar. What you have given to the Lord you must not take back. You gave all to get the blessing, and you must continue to give all to keep it.
My all is on the altar. I'll take it back no more, must be your motto and your song, The devil will try to get you to come down from the cross; the world will allure you; the flesh will cry out against you; your friends may weep over you, or frown upon you, or tease and torment, or threaten you; some of your comrades will criticize you and doubt you, but you must stick to Jesus, and take nothing back that you have given to Him. There is usefulness, and peace, and God's smile, and a crown, and a kingdom before you, but only condemnation, and ruin, and hell behind.
A little heathen boy in Africa heard a sermon about Jesus, and His tender dying love and saving power, and he gave himself fully to the Lord, and Jesus came into his heart. This so enraged his heathen father that he said, 'I'll get this Jesus out of him; I'll beat Him out.' And he beat the little fellow most cruelly.
But the boy was still true. Then the father said, 'I'll smoke this Jesus out of him.' So he put the boy into a hut, shut up the opening in the roof, and nearly smothered him with smoke. That failed also, and then he tried starvation, and he gave the boy nothing to eat for several days. All persecution failed, however, and the little fellow remained true. He had given all to Jesus, and he would have nothing back. When asked how he had endured all the terrible trials he had passed through, he quietly said, 'I just stuck to Jesus.'
3. If you would keep the blessing, you must be quick to obey God. I do not mean by this that you are to get into such haste that you will not take time to think and pray about all that you do. God wants you to use your head and your heart and all the good sense He has given you. He wants you to take time to speak to Him, and consider, and find out His will; but once you have found it out, if you would have His smile and favor, and keep the blessing, you must not delay, but obey at once. Oh, the losses of peace and power and joy and sweet communion with God that people suffer through hesitation at this point! Like Felix, they wait for 'a convenient season,' which never comes! and, like Felix. they lose all. 'Strike while the iron is hot' 'Make hay while the sun shines.' 'Put out to sea while the tide is in.' Do as Abraham did. God told him to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering -- Isaac, the joy of his house, the light of his eyes, the hope of his old age, the treasure of his heart! He did not parley and delay, but rose up early in the morning ..... took Isaac, his son ..... and went unto the place of which God had told him.'
A Salvation Soldier who was greatly used of God told me that he was one day reading a half-religious novel. He had reached a most thrilling point in the story when the Holy Spirit seemed to say to him, 'Stop reading this at once, and you shall never regret it.' He said that he closed the book at once, put it down and never opened it again, and such a blessing came into his soul as he was hardly able to contain. Years after, when he told me this, he was still rejoicing that he had promptly obeyed the voice of the Lord, and left that sort of thing for ever.
If you have lost the blessing through a failure to promptly obey, do not be utterly discouraged, but begin over again, and the Lord will restore you. But do not trifle with God again; pray and believe for His help to obey, lest a worse thing come upon you.
4. If you would keep the blessing, you must not depend upon your feelings, but as a friend of mine used to say, 'Stand by your facts' Young Christians are very likely to be betrayed into mistakes by their feelings -- by their happy feelings as well as their unhappy ones.
When they are happy, they are in danger of thinking themselves better than they are, and of not watching and praying as they should; and when they are not happy, they are likely to get discouraged, cast away their confidence in the Lord, and conclude that it is useless for them to try to be holy. The safest way is to pay attention to your facts, and let your feelings take care of themselves.
If people are kind to you, and your digestion is good, and your sleep sound, you will probably feel well. But if people are unkind. and the east wind blows, and you eat something that lies heavy in your stomach, and your sleep is broken by horrid dreams, you will probably not feel well; but in neither case is your relation to God changed. Your facts are just the same. If you have given yourself to God, and have taken nothing back, but can look up into His dear face and say, 'My all is on the altar, and I trust in Thee,' then you are His, and your business is to stand by that fact, and trust that the Blood keeps you clean.
When you are happy, sing songs, and when you are heavy-hearted pray, and try to sing a little too, and never cast away your confidence, for there is a great reward before you, if you hold fast.
5. One of the greatest helps to keeping the blessing is for two or three young people who have it to meet together as often as possible to read the Bible, and pray with and encourage each other. This can usually be done just before or between the meetings on Sunday. This practice helped me more than anything else, I think, when I first got the blessing. Put a burning coal or sack by itself, and the fire will go out, and it will be cold and black; but put several sticks or coals together, and they will burn brightly. And so it is with hearts full of holy fire.
At such little meetings it is well to unite in prayer for others whom you are eager to see converted, or to enter into the blessing, and as you see them getting saved and sanctified, this will add mightily to your own faith and love.
Finally, wholehearted and continued consecration and self-denial, earnest prayer, joyful and diligent study of God's Word, deep humility before the Lord, aggressive work for others, and humble definite testimony to the blessing, will surely establish us in holiness, and keep us from falling.
How blest are they who still abide Close sheltered in Thy bleeding side:
Who life and strength from Thee derive, And for Thee fight, and in Thee live.