"Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip" (Heb. iii. 1).
The truth that saves the soul is not picked up as we would pick up the pebbles along the beach, but it is obtained rather as gold and silver, after diligent search and much digging. Solomon says: "If thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures, then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God" (Prov. ii. 3-5). The man who seeks to obtain the truth will have to use his wits; he will need much prayer, self-examination and self-denial. He must listen diligently in his own soul for God's voice. He must watch lest he fall into sin and forgetfulness, and he must meditate in the truth of God day and night.
Getting saved is not like taking a holiday outing. The men and women who are full of the truth -- who are walking embodiments of the troth -- have not become so without effort. They have digged for truth; they have loved it; they have longed for it more than for their necessary food; they have sacrificed all for it. When they have fallen they have risen again, and when defeated they have not yielded to discouragement, but with more care and watchfulness and greater earnestness, they have renewed their efforts to attain to the truth. They have counted not their lives dear unto themselves that they might know the truth. Wealth, ease, a name among men, reputation, pleasure, everything the world holds, has been counted as dung and dross in their pursuit of truth, and just at that point where truth took precedence over all creation they found it -- the truth that saves the soul, that satisfies the heart, that answers the questions of life, that brings fellowship with God and joy unutterable and perfect peace.
But just as it costs effort to find the truth, so it requires watching to keep it. "Riches have wings," and, if unguarded, flee away. So with truth. It will slip away if not earnestly heeded. "Buy the truth, and sell it not (Prov. xxiii. 23). It usury slips away little by little. It is lost as leaking water is lost -- not all at once, but by degrees.
Here is a man who was once full of the truth. He loved his enemies and prayed for them; but, little by little, he neglected that truth that we should love our enemies, and it slipped away, and instead of love and prayer for his enemies, has come bitterness and sharpness.
Another once poured out his money upon the poor, and for the spread of the Gospel. He was not afraid to trust God to supply all his wants. He was so full of truth that all fear was gone, and he was certain that if he sought "first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, all other things would be added" (Matt. vi. 33) unto him. He did not fear that God would forget him and forsake him and leave his seed to beg bread. He served God gladly and with all his heart; was satisfied with a crust, and was happy and careless as the sparrow that tucks its tiny head under its little wing and goes to sleep, not knowing from where its breakfast is to come, but trusts to the great God, who "openeth His hand and satisfieth the desire of every living thing, and gives them their meat in due season." But, little by little, the devil's prudence got into his heart, and, little by little, he let the truth of God's faithfulness and fatherly, provident care slip, and now he is stingy and grasping and anxious about the morrow, and altogether unlike his liberal, loving Lord.
Here is another man who was once praying all the time. He loved to pray. Prayer was the very breath of his life. But, little by little, he let the truth that "men ought always to pray and not faint" (Luke xviii. 1) slip, and now prayer is a cold, dead form with him.
Another once went to every meeting he could find. But he began to neglect the truth that we should "not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is," (Heb. x. 25), and now he prefers going to the park, or the riverside, or the club-room, to going to religious meetings.
Another once sprang to his feet the moment an opportunity to testify was given, and whenever he met a comrade on the street he must speak of the good things of God; but, little by little, he gave way to "foolish talking and jesting, which are not convenient" (Eph. v.4)" and let the truth that "they which feared the Lord spake often one to another" slip, and at last he quite forgot the solemn words of our Lord Jesus, "that for every idle word that men shall speak they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment" (Matt. xii. 36). He no longer remembers that the Bible says, "Life and death are in the power of the tongue" (Prov. xviii. 21), and that we must let our "speech be always with grace seasoned with salt" (Col. iv. 6), and so, now he can talk glibly on every subject but that of personal religion and holiness. The old, thoughtful, fiery testimony that stirred the hearts of men, that brought terrible warning to careless sinners, that encouraged fainting, timid hearts, and brought cheer and strength to soldiers and saints, has given place to a few set phrases which have lost their meaning to his own heart, which have about the same effect upon a meeting that big icicles would have on a fire, and which are altogether as fruitless as the broken shells in a last year's bird's-nest.
Another once believed with all her heart that "women professing godliness" should "adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety, not with broidered hair or costly array, but with good works" (I Tim. ii. 9); but, little by little, she let the truth of God slip; she listened to the smooth whisperings of the tempter, and she fell as surely as Eve fell when she listened to the devil and ate the forbidden fruit. Now, instead of neat, "modest apparel," she is decked out with flowers and feathers and "costly array"; but she has lost the "ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price" (I Pet. iii. 4).
But what shall these people do?
Let them remember whence they have fallen, repent and do their first works over again. Let them dig for truth again as men dig for gold, and search for her as for hid treasures, and they will find her again. God "is a rewarder of all them that diligently seek Him" (Heb. xi. 6).
This may be hard work. So it is hard to dig for gold. It may be slow work. So it is to search for hidden treasure. But it is sure work. "Seek and ye shall find" (Luke xi. 9). And it is necessary work. Your soul's eternal destiny depends upon it.
What shall those who have the truth do to prevent its slipping?
1. Heed the word of David to his son Solomon: "Keep and seek for all the commandments of the Lord your God" (I Chron. xxviii. 8).
2. Do what God commanded Joshua: "Meditate therein day and night." For what? "That thou mayest observe to do according to" -- some of the things "written therein"? No! "All that is written therein" (Joshua i. 8).
A young rabbi asked his old uncle if he might not study Greek philosophy. The old rabbi quoted the text: "This Book of the Law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night," and then replied: "Find an hour that is neither day nor night; in that thou mayest study Greek philosophy."
The "blessed man" of David is not only a "man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful, but," notice, "his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law doth he meditate day and night" (Ps. i.).
If you want to hold the truth fast and not let it slip, you must read and read and re-read the Bible. You must constantly refresh your mind with its truths, just as the diligent student constantly refreshes his mind by reviewing his textbooks, just as the lawyer who wishes to succeed constantly studies his law books, or the doctor his medical works.
John Wesley, in his old age, after having read and read and re-read the Bible all his life, said of himself: "I am homo unius libri" -- a man of one book.
The truth will surely slip, if you do not refresh your mind by constantly reading and meditating in the Bible.
The Bible is God's recipe book for making holy people. You must follow the recipe exactly, if you want to be a holy, Christ-like person.
The Bible is God's guide-book to show men and women the way to Heaven. You must pay strict attention to its directions, and follow them accurately, if you are ever to get there.
The Bible is God's doctor's book, to show people how to get rid of soul-sickness. You must diligently consider its diagnosis of soul-diseases, and its methods of cure, if you want soul-health.
Jesus said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matt. iv. 4); and again He said, "The words I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life" (John vi. 63).
3. "Quench not the Spirit" (I Thess. v. 19). Jesus calls the Holy Spirit "the Spirit of truth." Then, if you do not wish the truth to slip, welcome the Spirit of truth to your heart, and pray Him to abide with you. Cherish Him in your soul. Delight yourself in Him. Live in Him. Yield yourself to Him. Trust Him. Commune with Him. Consider Him as your Friend, your Guide, your Teacher, your Comforter. Do not look upon Him as some school-children look upon their teacher -- as an enemy, as one to be outwitted, as one who is constantly watching a chance to punish and reprove and discipline. Of course, the Holy Spirit will do this when necessary, but such a necessity grieves Him. His delight is to comfort and cheer the children of God. He is love! Bless His holy name! "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption" (Eph. iv. 30).
There was a law among the Hebrews that for sore poverty or debt or crime one man might become the servant of another, but he could not be held in servitude beyond a certain period; at the end of six years, he must be allowed to go free. (Ex. 21:1-6; Deut. 15:12-17). But if he loved his master and preferred to remain with him as his slave, then the master, in the presence of judges was to place the man against a door or door post and bore a hole through his ear, and this was to be the mark that he was his master's servant slave forever. It was not the slavery of compulsion and law but the willing and glad slavery of love.
And this was the voluntary attitude of Paul of Peter and James. Jesus won them by love. They had sat at the feet of the Great Servant of Love, who came not to be served but to serve, to minister to others, to give His life a ransom for all. They had seen Him giving Himself to the poor, the weary, the heavy laden, the vile, the sinful, and the unthankful. They had seen Him "wounded for our transgressions, ...bruised for our iniquities", chastised for our peace, and stricken that we might be healed, and their hearts had been bowed and broken by His great love; henceforth they were His bond-slaves, no longer free to come and go as they pleased but only as He willed, for the chains of love held them, and the burning passion of love constrained them. Such bondage and service became to them the most perfect liberty. Their only joy was to do those things that were pleasing in His sight. Set at liberty to do this, their freedom was complete, for he only is free who is permitted to do always that which pleases Him.
The love-slave has no pleasure like that of serving his master. this is his joy, and his very "crown of rejoicing." The love-slave is altogether at his master's service. He is all eyes for his master. He watches. He is all ears for his master. He listens. His mind is willing. His hands are ready. His feet are swift to sit at the master's feet and look into his loved face, to listen to his voice and catch his words; to run on his errands, to do his bidding, to share his privations and sorrows, to watch at his door, to guard his honor, to praise his name, to defend his person, to seek and promote his interests, and, if needs be, to die for his dear sake; this is the joy of the slave of love, and this he counts his perfect freedom.
A fine black fellow was placed on a slave block in an Egyptian slave market. His master was selling him. Men were bidding for him. A passing Englishman stopped, looked, listened, and began to bid. The slave saw him and knew that the Englishman was a world-traveler. He thought that if the Englishman bought him, he would be taken from Egypt, from friends and loved ones, and that he would never see them any more. So he cursed the Englishman, raving and swearing and tugging at his chain that he might reach and crush him. But the Englishman, unmoved, at last out-bid all others, and the slave was sold to him. He paid the price, received the papers that made the slave his property, and then handed them to the black man. "Take these papers; you are free," he said. "I bought you that I might give you your freedom."
The slave looked at his deliverer and his ravings ceased. Tears flooded his eyes, as, falling at the Englishman's feet and embracing his knees, he cried, "O sir, let me be your slave forever. Take me to the ends of the earth. Let me serve you till I die!" Love had won his heart, and now love constrained him, and he felt there could be no joy like serving such a master.
"My yoke is easy, and My burden is light," said Jesus. And this is His easy yoke and light burden. His yoke is the yoke of love, and it is easy. Love makes it easy. His burden is the burden of love, and it is light. Love makes it light. To the sinner the yoke looks intolerable, the burden looks unbearable. But to those who have entered into the secret of the Master, His yoke is the badge of freedom, and his burden gives wings to the soul. This is Holiness. It is wholeness of consecration and devotion. It is singleness of eye. It is perfect love which casts out fear. The love slave does not fear the master, for he joys in the master's will. "Not My will, but Thine be done"; "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him," says the slave of love. There can be no fear where there is such love. This is heart purity accomplished by the expulsive power of a new and over mastering affection and purpose. Sin and selfishness are consumed on the hot fires of this great love. Hallelujah! This is religion made easy. This is God's Kingdom come, and His will done, on earth as it is in Heaven. For what more can the angels do than to serve God with this unselfishness and passionate love?
The love-slave is gentle and forbearing and kind to all the children of the household and to all the other slaves for the sake of his master. Are they not dear and valuable to the master? Then they are dear and valuable to him for the master's sake. And he is ready to lay down his life to serve them even as to serve the master. Such was the spirit of Paul when he wrote, "Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all." (Philippians 2:17". And so likewise was it the spirit of beautiful Queen Esther when, in uttermost consecration for the salvation of her people, she sent word to Mordecai, "So will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish." (Esther 4:16). This slave of love counts not his life dear unto himself. (Acts 20:24). It belongs to his master.
The interests of the master are his interests. He has no other. He wants no other. He will have no other. He cannot be bribed by gold or honors. He would rather suffer and starve for his master than feast at another's table. Like Ruth, he says, "Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God; where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried; the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me." (Ruth 1:16,17).
Do you ask, "How shall I enter into this sweet and gentle and yet all powerful bondage of love?" I answer, "By your own choice and by God's revelation of Himself to your soul." If your love to Him now is a very poor and powerless thing, it is because you do not know Him; you do not draw near enough to see the beauty of Him. To the men of this world He is not beautiful, for they have not sought to see Him. Let Him show Himself to you that you may fall in love with Him. St. Paul had seen His glory and been blinded by it. The other Apostles had lived with Him and walked at His side. They loved Him because they knew Him so well. For this reason they could make the great decision. Like Moses they chose "rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt." SO YOU MUST CHOOSE! The choice must be complete, and it must be final.
Then as a love-slave you must wait upon the Master. If He is silent to you, watch. When He speaks to you, listen. What He says to you, do. His will is recorded in His Word. Search the Scriptures. Meditate therein day and night. Hide His Word in your heart. Be not forgetful. Take time to seek His face. Think of a slave being too busy to wait on his master, to find out His wishes! Take time, find time, make time to seek the Lord, and He will be found of you. He will reveal Himself to your longing, loving soul, and you shall know the sweet compulsions of the slavery that is love.