Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
“Mine enemies would daily swallow me up: for they are many that fight against me, O thou most High.” Psalm 56:2
There are some enemies which only come to us at interludes. But you will note that it was different with the psalmist. It was rarely and briefly that his enemies fell upon him to destroy him. What inspired his bitter cry was that every day he lived he was in peril: “Mine enemies would daily swallow me up.” He never woke with a heart that was at peace saying, “Thank God all is well today.” At any moment he might hear the ringing of the battle cry. And it was that which almost broke his heart and drove him into a wild despair to God and robbed him of all power to be happy.
Now, who the Psalmist’s chief enemy was we don’t know, but if we don’t know his, at least we know our own. The deadliest enemy we have to fight is the sin. That is the power bent on our destruction which we must conquer somehow or be crushed. There are certain sins, like certain enemies, that give us times of rest between their onsets. There are certain temptations which, being foiled today, may not return until a year has passed. But there are others, like the Psalmist’s foes, whose peculiar characteristic is just this, that every morning when we wake up, we dread them, and every day we live we have to battle with them.
I suppose there is no one reading this who cannot remember a day when he fell terribly. Have we not all had hours when we defied the right and broke down every barrier of conscience? My brother and sister, in whose heart such hours are living in all their bitterness, remember that there are other sins than these. When a soldier is out on a campaign, there may come a day when he is wounded. The bullet has found him and his rifle drops and he cries for water as they lift him, but remember that every day that he marches, and many a day there is no thought of wounds, there is the gathering of dust upon his arms. Let that dust gather, and in a little while, you would scarcely recognize him as a soldier. Let that dust gather, and in a week or two, his very rifle will be a useless instrument.
And so with us too as we take up the spiritual warfare; there may come a day when we are badly wounded, but always and every day there is the defilement of the march. There are the dust and soil of the everyday road. There are temptations that reach us not like a storm, but like the gentle falling of the rain.
Although seemingly minor and insignificant, these sins of everyday rob us of our present joy and peace. It is these which write lines upon the brow and bring the look of uneasiness into the eye. You may destroy the lute by breaking it in two, and there are homes and hearts ruined like that. But a little crack within the lute makes all the music mute, and so is it with our little sins.
I read this article I will share with you. Some fifty or more years ago the United Kingdom there was a new weed. It was a pond weed living in the water, and so it found its way to the canals, and it was a little and inconspicuous thing to which nobody except the botanists gave heed. Would you believe it, that in thirty years the canals were being choked by it? It blocked the channel, delayed the passing ships, threatened the very existence of the waterway. And it was far more difficult than ice to deal with for ice can be broken with sufficient pressure, but all the pressure in the world was powerless against this living and compliant tangle.
Brothers and sisters, you may be sure of this, that true peace demands an open channel, an unobstructed way to God if one is to walk with music in his heart. And I say that no tragic fall so blocks the channel between earth and heaven as do these daily little and unnoticed sins that grow and gather in the passing days.
It does not take a wound in the eye to make the eye a source of misery. Lodge only a grain of sand within its orb, and all the pleasure of vision vanishes. And so for multitudes who are not reprobate, who have been saved by Christ, there is no joy, no peace, no song, because of the intrusion of the little sins.
I know a meadow not five miles away from where thirty years ago the trees were beautiful, and men would travel to see them in the summer for there were few elms like them by the Clyde. And now half of these elms are dead, and for the others, summer is a mockery. And it wasn’t a storm that did it: it was the daily pollution of our Babylon. They are still rooted in the finest soil, and you too may be rooted in Christ Jesus. No one would question that your deepest life is hidden with Christ in God. But even so rooted, you may miss the joy of your salvation, and miss it because every day you live you are subtly and insensibly defiled.
Little Sins Foster Despair
Such daily defilements have a peculiar power of fostering despair. They are like sickness in that point of view, and you know that sickness is a type of sin. Let a man be stricken with some sudden illness, and my experience is that he does not despair. Doctors will confirm this. It is not then that he loses hope or meditates to death. He summons all the strength that God has given him that he may battle the disease. Or if he is too weak for that, for disease in a day may make us weak as water, then he lies there, not in dull despair, but in a strange and acquiescent peace.
I shall tell you when it is that even the bravest is brought near the margin of despair. It is when every day and all day there is the gnawing away of some hidden malady. It is when a man goes to work and mingles with his fellows in the street, and all the time, like a dull undertone is conscious that there is something wrong. It is that which leads so often to despair. It is that which makes the thought of death familiar. It is that which is the secret, never guessed at, of many a startling and unexpected suicide. And I feel that in the realm of sin which is so strangely linked with that of sickness, there is something analogous to that. Did you ever know of anyone despairing after a terrible and tragic fall? I never read of any in the Scripture. I never saw any in my ministry. But ah, how many I have seen who come to despair of ever attaining the highest–they were so crushed, so humbled and disheartened by the defilement of their daily sins. It is our little sins and not our great sins which have such a terrible power to make us hopeless. For our great sins cast us upon Jesus, and there is always hope when we are there. But our little sins leave us with ourselves and seem to mock us when we seek the highest, and tempt us to think that what we hoped for once must always be impossible for us.
How to Deal With Daily Defilement
One thing at least is clear, and that is that we must never contemplate escape by flight. If God has given us our work to do, then we must continue with it in spite of all the soiling. There can be no escape from daily sin by flying from the path of daily duty. It is such dreams that build monasteries, and many a monastery becomes like Sodom. You remember how Peter, on the mount of glory, wanted to build tabernacles there. He wanted to live forever in that solitude where all the voices of the world were hushed. And then the Saviour led him down again, right into the jostling of the crowd, and Peter learned that life was not given for a hermitage.
What would you think of a man who left his home here and the business he made his living by all because amid our grimy streets his face and hands grew dirty every day? Yet he who seeks to fly from his daily task because of the temptations which it carries and the defilement it inevitably brings is just as cowardly and absurd. Either you must conquer where you are, or you will not conquer anywhere. Flee from the devil, and he will resist you. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Do you recall that hour when Christ washed His disciples’ feet? Do you recall the word He said to Peter, “He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit”? My brother and sister, in that great word of Christ’s there, lies the Master’s answer to our question. There is His treatment of the daily stain. He that is washed–and Peter had been washed. He had been bathed in the spirit of his Lord. Once and for all, coming to Jesus Christ, his guilt had been washed away forever. And now says Jesus, “Let me wash thy feet; let me cleanse off the soil of the daily walk”; and what He said to Simon Peter then, He says to you and me. I do believe that when a man is saved, he is saved not for a time but for eternity. I do believe that when we look to Christ, in that very moment all our sin is pardoned. But every day we need another cleansing for we have been traveling by dusty roads, and Christ is always stooping and ready to bestow His forgiveness. Do not rest at night till thou hast had it, my sister and brother. Summon the hours of the day before thee. Put forth thy feet and let Him wash them, for they are very dusty with the journey. So when thou awakest, thou shalt again be clean and ready for everything the day may bring, glad about the confidence of him who sang, “When I awake I am still with Thee.”