Psalm 119:112 “I have inclined mine heart to perform thy statutes always, even unto the end.”
The Psalmist had just been rejoicing in his privileges. He now binds himself to his obligations—and that not for a day—but even to the end. Observe where he begins his work—not with the eye—the ear—the tongue—but with the heart, “for out of the heart are the issues of life.” And yet this inclining of the heart to the Lord’s statutes is as much the work of God as to create a world; and as soon could “the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots,” as we could “do good, who are accustomed to do evil.” David was very far from meaning, that any act of his own power could turn the channel of his affections out of their natural course. But prayer, such as he had often poured out, sets every principle of the soul in action, and, in dependence upon the Holy Spirit, he inclines his heart. Thus we do what we do; but God enables us,—not working without or against us, but in us—through us—with us—by us. His preventing grace makes the first impressions, and His assisting grace enables us to follow. Weak indeed are our purposes, and fading our resolutions, unsupported by Divine grace. Yet renewing strength is given to the “waiting” Christian, even to “mount up on eagles’ wings, to run without weariness, and to walk without fainting.” Conscious as we are, that “without Christ we can do nothing,” it is no less true, that we “can do all things through Christ which strengthens us.” Let us exercise, then, the grace already given, in dependence upon a continued supply; and turning to Him with freedom and delight, we shall incline our hearts with full purpose to perform His statutes always, even unto the end. This is God’s way of quickening the dead soul to life and motion; alluring it by an inexpressible sweetness, and at the same moment, by an invincible power, drawing it to Himself.
Every step indeed to the end will be a conflict with indwelling sin, in the form of remaining enmity, sloth, or unbelief. But how encouraging is it to trace every tender prayer, every contrite groan, every spiritual desire, to the assisting, upholding influence of the “free spirit of God!” The continual drawing of the Spirit will be the principle to perseverance. The same hand that gave the new bias for a heavenward motion will be put forth to quicken that motion even unto the end. ‘I can hardly hold on,’—the believer might say—’from one step to another.’ How can I then dare to hope, that I shall hold on a constant course—a daily conflict to the end? But was it not Almighty power that supported the first step in your course? And is not the same Divine help pledged to every successive step of difficulty? Doubt not, then, that “He is faithful that has promised:” dare to be “confident of this very thing, that He which has begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” And in this confidence go on to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.”
Psalm 119:113: “I hate vain thoughts: but thy law do I love.”
The fall of man has misplaced his affections. Love was originally made for God and His law;—hatred, for sin. Now man loves what he ought to hate, and hates what he ought to love. The work of Divine grace is to restore the disordered affections to their proper center, and to bestow them on their right object;—hating vain thoughts, and loving the law of God. Few think of the responsibility of their thoughts; as if they were too trifling to be connected with any solemn account. The enlightened soul, however, learns to make a conscience of his thoughts. Here is the seminal principle of sin. How must a radical remedy be applied?
Vain thoughts are the natural produce of the unrenewed heart, and of the yet unrenewed part of the believer’s heart. Who that “knows the plague of his own heart,” and the spirituality of the Christian walk with God, does not constantly complain of their baneful influence? The child of God longs that his “every thought may be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” But he “sees another law in his members, warring against the law of his mind;” so that “when he would do good, evil is present with him.” When he would “attend upon the Lord without distraction;” many times, even in a single exercise, does he forget his sacred employment. Sin seems to enter into every pore…; and a cloud of vain thoughts darkens every avenue to communion with God. He would gladly say, “My heart is fixed, my heart is fixed;” but he finds his affections wandering, as “the eyes of the fool, in the ends of the earth,” as if there were no object of Divine attraction to his soul. We do not hear the worldling, or indeed the servant of God in his worldly employments, complaining of this burden. He can bring to deep, important, and anxious concerns of this world, all that intensity and fixedness of attention which the emergency may demand. Indeed, the wily adversary would rather assist than hinder this concentration of mind, as diverting the soul from the far more momentous and interesting subjects of eternity.
Vain thoughts are his ceaseless hindrances to our spiritual communion with God. Are we aware of the subtlety, and therefore the peculiar danger, of this temptation? We should instinctively start from an enticement to open transgression. The incursion of defiling or blasphemous thoughts would be such a burden, that we should “have no rest in our spirit,” while they remain undisturbed within us. But perhaps neither of these temptations are so formidable as the crowd of thoughts of every kind, incessantly running to and fro in the mind; the indulgence of which, …restrains the soul from communion with God, as the most hateful injections. Who has not felt a serious thought upon an unseasonable subject, and an unseasonable time, to be in its consequences a vain thought—the secret impulse of the false “angel of light,” dividing the attention between two things, so that neither of them may be wholly done, done to any purpose, done at all? If at any time “iniquity has been regarded in the heart;” if the world in any of its thousand forms has regained a temporary ascendancy; or if lusting imaginations are not constantly “held in” as “with bit and bridle;” these vain thoughts, ever ready to force their entrance, will at such seasons “get an advantage of us.” Restless in their workings, they keep no sabbaths: and can only be successfully met by a watchful and unceasing warfare.
But we must not forget the effective means suggested by David’s experience—the love of God’s law. Here rises the native enmity against God—not as the Creator, but the Law-giver—and therefore against His law as the dictate of His will. Here, then, is the power of grace subduing this enmity. Not only I fear, and therefore through fear I keep, but I love Your law. And ‘He who loves a holy law’—remarks an excellent old writer—’cannot but hate a vain thought.’ For if the law be the transcript of the image of God, the thoughts affectionately drawn out towards him must naturally fix the image of the beloved friend upon the mind, and by a sweet constraint fasten down the thoughts to Divine contemplation. Thus, as love to the law stirs up the powers of the renewed man, “spiritual wickedness” will be abhorred, conflicted with, and overcome.
Blessed contemplation! Jesus prays not for us, as we do for ourselves. His intercession is without distraction—without interruption. If we are then so dead, that we cannot, and so guilty, that we dare not, pray, and so wandering in our vain thoughts, that our prayers appear to be scattered to the winds, rather than to ascend to heaven—if on these accounts combined, we “are so troubled, that we cannot speak:” yet always is there One to speak for us, of whom “a voice from heaven” testified for our encouragement, “saying—This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” With such hopes, motives, and encouragements, let us “continue instant in prayer,” until we pray, and that we may pray. Let us supplicate our Lord with restless importunity, that His omnipotent love would take hold of these hearts, which every moment sin and Satan seem ready to seize. At the same time, conscious of our hatred of every interruption to His service, and of the simplicity of our affection to His holy law, let us hold fast that confidence before Him, which will issue in perfect peace and established consolation.