The Place Of Safety
When we remember the immortality of the soul, its coming destiny of happiness or woe, and especially the fearful assaults made upon it now for its overthrow and ruin, we may well ask where is the spot or what is the condition in which it can be said to be safest.
We all well know that absolute and complete deliverance from all danger is to be found alone in Heaven. When the Gates of Pearl close behind the entering soul, no human or infernal power can ever assail, distress, endanger or injure it again. Until the foot then presses the golden streets there is no such thing as certain and unconditional safety.
But while this is so, yet there is no question but there are places or conditions where even this side of heaven a person can be said to be safer than in other localities or states, and one that must be the safest outside of glory. It is quite amazing to see the mistakes made by different classes of people in regard to this most important fact. As usual false saviors and sandy foundations come to the front, a will-o’-the-wisp is taken for the Star of Bethlehem, and a bank of intellectual fog for the Rock of Ages.
One fictitious hope or resting place is Innocence.
It is remarkable how many land and glorify this negative state of spirits this infantile or unformed stage of character. Men write, and sigh, and rave about the spotless whiteness of “childhood’s sunny years.” They sing, “I would I were a boy again,” whereas when they were in that interesting stage of life they were certainly in mischief with its resultant penalties, and as anxious not to be a boy. Poems are written about the purity of a baby’s heart, when such is not the case, and can never be, until the Holy Ghost with his baptism of fire makes the nature holy.
Innocence is nothing but ignorance of evil, and the rule is that if God and religious training have not come in, all that such an individual needs is to behold the sin, and he at once falls into guilt.
Adam and Eve were both innocent, but when temptation came in alluring form, they both fell and that at once.
A second false hope is built on what we would call Place. That is, men ascribe peculiar sanctity and protective power to spots where there is strong religious influence and social restraint.
In sending the children to school or college great comfort is felt if the boy can be boarded at the house of one of the professors, or the daughter brought into the family circle of the resident minister. Others would save their children by keeping them at home. Another told the writer in desperation about her boy who had a desire to run upon the streets, “If he does not stay at home and behave himself, I will get a rope and tie him to my rocking chair.” and still another lady told us her servant maid was a piece of perfection as long as she kept her under strict surveillance in the four walls of the family mansion.
As we brooded upon these confidences, we could but marvel at the quality of that virtue which only existed by restraint in a house, and melted like snow in the street. We moreover thought if ropes could save, God would have thrown down countless millions of coils of such material with information as to the best knots, and mode of tying.
The Bible thoroughly explodes the delusion by the history of the first pair in paradise. Could there be a better place than Eden for keeping right? And has there ever been a more heaven-favored spot in its guileless history, its peaceful, happy days, and heavenly associations? Yet says the Scripture, Adam and Eve fell into sin in just such a spot.
A third wrong confidence is placed in Position. Many crave for their friends and relations appointments in the church which they regard as guarantees for present and future safety.
It is true that certain offices and works are helpful, and the use of the means of grace which they require can be made to react in great spiritual benefit upon the soul: and yet it is equally true that many harden under the constant touch and contact with holy and heavenly things, actually becoming gross sinners.
Anyhow, just as one is about to conclude that position is desirable for the increased safety which it brings to the soul, the eye falls upon the dreadful statements of the Bible about the sins of the sons of Eli, the uncleanness of Joshua the high priest, and the fall of Judas from the apostolic college into all everlasting hell.
We scarcely recover from this before we read of the moral ruin of the famous Brooklyn preacher, and grow even sicker at heart with the sound of character downfalls still nearer home.
The true hope and safest resting place this side of the skies is to be found in Christian integrity.
We do not mean the character of the moralist, the outwardly blameless and respectable life of law-abiding citizens; but the bloodwashed character. We refer to the man who has been converted, then sanctified, and after that rooted, grounded, settled, established and confirmed in holiness. There is a maturity after purity. There is after pardon and sanctification a sweet, blessed settling into God which comes with the tests and trials of time, and the faithful dealings of the providence of Heaven. The soul rests under the shadow of the Almighty, and dwells in the Secret Place of the Most High.
Such a man becomes as fixed in good, as sinners are set in evil. There is indeed less prospect of moving him to do wrong, than there is to stir the transgressor to righteousness. Men do not look for such characters to fall. They are weaned from sin; and are spoiled for this world. Wicked people have given them up. They are no more expected to do wrong because they happen for a while to be in evil surroundings, than vile men are expected to change because they walk through a company of godly people.
Something has happened in the soul that makes its possessor superior to circumstances and environments. The man is no longer like a chameleon taking the moral hue of every locality and company, but is like a palm tree that can flourish in a desert. His salvation is within. His Saviour abides with keeping power in his heart. He is fixed in truth and on truth. He carries his atmosphere with him. Though still out of heaven, he is already a saved man.
Such a condition is seen at a glance to be vastly superior to the three false hopes we have mentioned. In the first instance, innocence which is but ignorance of evil, can be destroyed in a single moment’s time. In the second, if our trust is in place, then we can be safe only in certain localities, when we desire to be secure no matter where we are. If certain ministerial or official positions is our barrier against evil, then we are not delivered, for we may not remain in the office, and graver still, the great adversary makes particularly violent assaults upon men in high places.
Prohibition is excellent in its way; but what a sad thought it is that some can only he saved from alcoholism simply by destroying all temptations to drunkenness. It is like causing men to be pure by making them eunuchs. Or like an honesty produced by handcuffimg thieves, or burning up pocketbooks and all stealable things.
We crave something more robust, and real, and virtuous than this. We want to hear the ring of genuine character. We do not want mere negation, but something positive with lightning force in it in the moral world. God has so set the soul of the writer against alcohol, that if the Mississippi river ran with red whiskey, and the hills on the banks were loaf sugar, and mint grew on the shore as tall as pine trees, and tumblers and spoons were in stacks on every side, yet he would not take a single drink.
The Lord can, by the blood of Christ, and the Spirit’s purifying, settling, establishing work, fix a soul in this attitude towards every sin. You can go to a great city, be unknown in it, and yet behave yourself. You can be tempted and not fall. You can be thrown with ungodly people, and yet remain godly. Like Enoch, you can live a lifetime in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, yet walk with God the whole time, and at the end of your days gather your feet up into the bed, turn your face to the wall, and fall asleep in Jesus to awaken instantly in glory.
The history of the life of Joseph in Egypt was given to show what character could do for a man in the midst of temptation and cruel wrong. Innocence was not his savior, for he knew what sin was. He had not place as a refuge; and position had made of him a target; but he had the character of the redeemed. The Bible says God was with his and so we see him achieving such wonderful victories in the face of persecution and suffering, that he has become the admiration of the moral world.
The life of Daniel in Babylon was given us to show the superiority, power and victory belonging to character. The pleadings of appetite for the rich viands of the feast, the invitations, then threats of the king, all alike fell powerless before this marvellous, spiritual reality which dwelt in the soul of the young Judean. By this something which he possessed, and which really was himself, he flung aside temptation as one would brush down from a garment. In the same moral fixedness and fearlessness he raised his windows that looked towards Jerusalem, and contrary to the command of the monarch of the land, prayed thrice a day to the God of heaven.
He came through all his difficulties and perils victoriously. His enemies were destroyed instead of himself. His consistent life transformed idol worshippers into adorers of the true God. His name is felt to be a synonym for integrity and righteousness, for steadfastness in duty and faithfulness to God. The explanation of his triumphant life was his holy, heaven-wrought character. May we all enter upon this safest of places to be found this side of the Gates of Pearl.
The forces of heaven are not exhausted, the Blood continues to cleanse, the Spirit to fall, and God can still cause a man to stand in the face of every trial of earth and assault of hell. He can create as pure a heart, fashion as heavenly a character, and produce as loyal a life now, as at any previous age of the world’s history. Oh for more such hearts and lives; hearts that are
“Perfect and right, and pure and good, A copy, Lord, of Thine,”
and lives that shall be epistles seen and read of men, the authorship unmistakable, and the argument unanswerable.