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ON WALKING WITH GOD.
For the Christian Observer. To what subject can the readers of the Christian Observer be more pro.
1 fitably directed at the opening of a new year, than to the duty and blessedness of walking with God? The topic may be trite, but it is not the less interesting or important; and earnestly would the writer of the following remarks upon it pray that himself and his readers may, if spared another year, enjoy, more than ever they have yet done, this unspeakable privilege.
The striking expression, walking with God, is taken from the concise account of Enoch, of whom it is said that he so walked. It supposes communion, and communion necessarily involves union. “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” Till union can be effected, God and man are, so to speak, walking different ways. “What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness ?” “These are contrary the one to the other." It therefore follows, that no merely natural man can be walking with God, and that conversion of heart is indispensable to such a walk. Neither ought this to be a matter of surprise, though we find that it always was so : “ Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” For want of this divine principle, the merely moral and amiable man (however moral and amiable), not only is not himself walking with God, but is offended that any other persons should do so, as considering them mere pretenders and hypocrites, and in mockery calling them “ Saints," His legal morality is a stumbling block which keeps him from an Evangelical morality, and leads him to deny that the righteous have either. He cannot endure that any should even seem to walk with God; and in his heart he hates the very shadow and appearance of truth as well as truth itself, because, in fact, he is not himself walking with God, and feels secretly condemned by those who are.
Again : such a walk as that of Enoch's with God, supposes not only union, but perfection; that is, so far as it is attainable upon earth; for in what other way can“ vain man” be “ wise” than as he is guided by Infinite Wisdom, and walks, in order to it, with “the only wise God ?" Hence, not merely the negative vanity, but the positive sin, of all knowledge which is substituted for the knowledge of God. With the Cains, Esaus, and Ishmaels, of our own time, the phrase “ useful knowledge" means, that all other knowledge is useless, just as the same men have called the lower classes “ the useful classes,” as if the middle and higher classes (not working for their livelihood by manual labour) were of no use at all. Now, so far is this from affording a correct view of the case, that if it be true that “one thing” is eminently and indispensably“ needful,” then the
CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 373.
word " utility” will be strictly applicable to godliness alone, and the only way of walking usefully will be to walk with God. It is not meant to disparage mental attainments, in their right place and for their proper objects. Solomon, whose information in natural science extended - from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that springeth out of the wall,” attributed all his knowledge to God; but mere“ philosophy, falsely so called,” will do nothing for a man in his way to heaven ; for this he must constantly lean upon the arm of God, which to so abject and wretched a creature as fallen man, is the only stable support. His sole approach to perfection consists, then, in walking with God, as did Zachariah and Elizabeth, both of whom were “righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless;” that is, blameless in spirit and principle, though not in absolute strictness : blameless, comparatively, though not positively; evangelically, though not legally ; as Nathaniel was “ without guile,” though not without guilt. Philosophy has been called human wisdom teaching independently of Divine Revelation ; but what can this do for a man, if it be true that God has furnished him with another rule? “Wherefore (said Samuel to Saul) dost thou ask of me, seeing the Lord is departed from thee?” And it is observable, that the wise magicians of Egypt never pretended to remove the judgments which befel Pharaoh, but only added to them, causing there to be more blood, and more frogs, which increased the evil, but did not lighten a single plague. “The proper trial of skill,” says Henry, “ would have been to have attempted to remove the terrible judgment, and to remedy its consequences; but this the magicians did not pretend to do. They only engaged Pharaoh's attention, and increased the distress of Egypt.”
But while such a walk as Enoch's with God supposes perfection, in the manner above defined, it supposes imperfection also; since, though it is man walking with God, it is but man who is so walking. “That which is perfect is not yet come ;' nor will it, till “ mortality shall be swallowed up of life.” “Not as though I were already perfect,” is then the Christian's motto. Hence, not Enoch himself, and still less his spiritual descendants, are either what they should be, or what they desire to be. Although they are renewed in part, are candidates for the dignity of the saints in light and heirs of heaven, they are yet infirm and sinful. The seventh chapter of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans aptly describes their case, and is their preservative from despair. They are as far from the holiness they love and desire, as from the heaven they pursue ; and yet they are close to both, for it is but the breath in their nostrils that keeps them from either. This conviction of indwelling sin abases pride, and inculcates humility and charity. Fallen and sinful as we are in common, such a consideration may well keep us from leaning too much on each other. Our privilege, as Christians is, that we are walking with God; and while we know in whom we believe, we are persuaded that he is able to keep that which we have committed to him against the great day.
But further : walking with God supposes progress ; though the Christian may move but slowly, he is not stationary. If it be not yet bright day-light with him, yet “the night is far spent, and the day is at hand.” In striving against the stream of corruption, life is necessarily supposed ; for a dead object would be carried down the stream, and could not swim against it, and thus the Christian is “alive unto God, through Jesus Christ his Lord.” Progressive, however, as is his course, this does not exclude the possibility of backsliding; only by the grace of God he is enabled to retrace his steps and recover his ground. On the other hand, so far from this progression in good ever appearing where the bias is wrong, the course is in that case entirely the other way; as any person will perceive who observes how little he can effect with those who have not acquired this right direction of the soul by means of conversion, and how little wiser they grow by age or experience. The reason is, they want first principles, and not being able to rise above their original level, the consequence only follows the cause. They are yet in their sins.
Such a walk of Enoch's with God supposes, yet further, alienation from the creature, and satisfaction in the Creator. Hence, says the divine Sir Wm. Waller (though he was no divine), “the best walk in a man's garden is Enoch's walk ;” meaning, that if he could even boast such a garden as Lord Shrewsbury's at Alton, or the hanging gardens of Babylon, with which that has been compared, still if he did not walk with God in it, it would be no paradise to him, for he would only see (if his eyes were open to spiritual discernment) the flaming sword of wrath at every turning. How should this consideration tend to reconcile the want of wealth, and the absence of secular enjoyment. Even a heathen could sing
“ Cedes coemtis saltibus et domo
Villâque flavis quam Tiberis lavit
Uxor; neque harum quas colis arborum
Ulla brevem dominum sequetur;" but the Christian alone can properly appreciate, and he only inadequately, the infinite superiority of the things that are unseen and eternal, above those which are seen and temporal. The alliance between earthly prosperity and a reversion of heavenly bliss, is comparatively so rare, that the exclamation of one who abounded in earthly prosperity was, “ What! all this bounty, and yet heaven at the end !”
Again : such communion as that of Enoch supposes a visible walk with God. The Scripture injunctions to “ let our light shine,” in order that we may glorify God, “ not to hide it under a bushel, but to set it in a candlestick;” “when we are converted, to strengthen our brethren;" and, having “ freely received, freely to give," are very plain, and of frequent occurrence. If we really love God, we cannot but love our brother also, and that love will appear in desiring the perfection of the object beloved. Surely no one of us is doing what he might to recommend a walk with God to those who are not so walking; and one of our peculiar temptations in the present age, is rather just to secure our own salvation, than to bless and benefit the world around us. Even if we are not positively ashamed of God, and silent in his cause, we are not loud in his praise, and zealous in his service. Where is the eager invitation, “ Come and I will tell you what God has done for my soul ?” The world is aggressive in its wickedness, and ought not the Christian to be so in the cause of God? We are too ready to act on the defensive alone ; but every tactician in another warfare knows the advantage of the attacking party. It is only in legal contests, that the maxim holds, and not always there, “Melior est conditio defendentis.” Every where else, a daring assault is half the battle. This was the almost infallible secret of Charles XII. of Sweden, and most commonly that of Bonaparte. In our own age of active wickedness and lax profession of religion, the servants of God must begin to occupy a more prominent position, and not always wait to be attacked. Many a Christian has personally found the advantage of this active assailancy of evil, and will acknowledge it with the deepest gratitude to Him“ without whom nothing is strong, pothing is holy:" but who is yet pleased to bless moral means, and assuredly that of courage (inadequately translated virtue in 2 Peter i. 5) among others, and not among the least. The Christian lias the best cause, the best Protector, and a rewarder of them that diligently scek
him. Backwardness, with such advantages, is cowardice, and cowardice is treason. There is holy omnipotence in the simple cause of eternal truth, which, quite independently of human aids and talents, puts a man who takes that side in the same ranks, if I may so express it, with the highest archangel; for the highest archangel is but a servant of God: and Satan with all his subtlety, cannot but tremble when he goes out against the unarmed stripling, who meets him clad in the armour of faith ; for God has ever been pleased to "choose the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty; and base things of the world, and things that are despised, hath God chosen; yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are," and all with this grand intent-" that no flesh should glory in his presence.” “ If God, then, be for us, who can be against us?”
Such a walk, then, is not an exclusive walk, not a solitary walk. All the fallacious pretences of the members of a corrupt church, to honour God by so walking with him as to let no others do so too, and to invite none else to do so, were, like the other parts of their creed, not derived from the Revelation of His own will to a fallen world. Religion is eminently social. Look at the grievous evils and licentiousness which followed monastic seclusion, and vows of solitude and abstraction. “ The life of a solitary man,” says the author of Rasselas, “ will be certainly miserable, but not certainly devout.” Man was formed for society; for He who best knew what was best for him pronounced, in the very infancy of his existence, that it was “not good for him to be alone ;” neither is it good for others that he should be. Heaven is a social place. We cannot doubt that the “ ten thousand times ten thousand ” of the celestial world must exceedingly augment each other's happiness ; while we can as little doubt, from the fear, expressed by the rich man in hell, of his brethren coming into that place of torment, that he dreaded the aggravation of sorrow which would accrue from such an accession to the society of guilt.
Such a walk as Enoch's, also, supposes a decided protest on the side of God against an ungodly world which is not so walking.-The Apostle Jude's view of Enoch's walk is conclusive on this subject : “ And Enoch also prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh, with ten thou. sand of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts ; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words ; having men's persons in admiration, because of advantage.” All this supposes the walkers with God to be preachers of righteousness, condemners of sin, and predictors of judgment. So“ just Lot's righteous soul was vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked :” and how much of the affliction of the people of God is made up of the same ingredient! “ Mine eyes gush out with water, because men keep not thy law.” A peculiar source of the Christian's sorrows is the daily evil he witnesses, and cannot prevent. The world in which he lives is, in one sense, not his Father's world ; nor are the people with whom he must associate his Father's children. “The foundations of the earth are out of course ;” and “ the earth hath he given into the hands of the wicked.” Too often, through the influence of general corruption, the minister of truth spends his breath comparatively for nought; the civil magistrate bears the sword in vain. “Truth is perished, and is cut off from their mouth” (Jer. vii. 28); and “the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time” (Rev. xii. 12). The Christian cannot see God's day dishonoured, his people despised, his name profaned-nor, above
all, can he see religion wounded in the house of her friends, the professed church of Christ itself walking disorderly and even absurdly, as at presentwithout protesting against error, and avowing himself on the Lord's side. An inevitable consequence of all this is, the reaction of opposition and hatred on the part of the world : and the Christian thus becomes a man of strife and contention, in spite of himself. However desirable it may be “ as much as possible to live peaceably with all men,” still, they who affect to abhor all controversy, and almost to unchristianize those who engage in it, know nothing of this peculiar experience; which has yet been ever the experience of the people of God. While, therefore, they talk of peace, they should be quite sure that they are not “ saying, Peace, peace, when there is no peace ;" and equally sure that “a quiet life" is not another phrase for idleness or indifference. The terms we keep with the world are never safe terms: Christ did“ not come to send peace upon earth, but a sword ;” and so it has ever been with his disciples, who are no greater than their Lord. Such was the portion of Lot : as long as he was quiet in the land, we do not find that he was molested; but when he boldly charged the people with doing wickedly, they said, “ Stand back; this fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with thee than with them.” Nay, a prophet of their own (Voltaire) has said, that a decent usage from the worldly is absolutely conditional upon our letting them alone : “ Soyez tranquille, et on vous laissera tranquille." Happy they who, like Luther, knowing what manner of spirit they are of, do not indeed seek permission to call for fire from heaven, but are under the influence of the legitimate and lambent flame of the Holy Spirit; both purifying themselves, even as He is pure, and at the same time, as far as others are concerned, separating the dross from the gold, and distinguishing between the precious and the vile.
Such a walk as Enoch's, whatever men may say to the contrary, is a happy walk. After making every possible deduction for the peculiar sources of trial to which the believer is exposed—and for the fullest extent of persecution which all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall more or less endure the Christian has still the vantage-ground, even as far as the present world is concerned. It is “ godliness ” alone “ that has the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come :" and perhaps this truth is not sufficiently urged from the pulpit, nor acknowledged in private. We should be unwilling to concede any argument to the world which we can lawfully use on the side of religion. If there be a sense in which the sinner has his good things here, he does not monopolize all the good things which are yet to be had here ; and the good man can always say, with the Psalmist David, “Thou hast put gladness into my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased ;” or, in our Lord's own words, “Every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sister, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, fo my Name's sake, shall receive an hundred fold, and shall inherit eternal life” (Matt. xix. 29). All the legitimate and innocuous pleasures of life are eminently his : its false and corrupt joys only are absent : and he is every way better without them; not merely in reference to a future account, but even as far as concerns his present experience. He enjoys all the real pleasures and comforts of life without indulging in an idolatrous and unsatisfying excess; and his conscience and health alike witness to himself and to others, that while he is on the side of God, God is on his side also; even that Divine and best of friends, who has been pleased to establish a connexion between holiness and happiness as indissoluble as that between sin and suffering; and who does not (as Dr. Young says)“ wait to own his friends until they shall have passed into another state of being.” “The blessing of the Lord,