"Walk in the Spirit."
The life of a Christian must be one of progress. S. Paul says, "Walk in the Spirit;" he does not say, stand still. It is not enough for us to have been born again of Water and the Holy Ghost, and to have received the Gifts of the Spirit from time to time through the different means of grace. We are bidden "to stir up the gift that is in us;" we are told to "grow in grace." God has set us upon our feet in the right road. He has taken us by the hand, that is, the Holy Spirit is our leader and guide; but we have something to do -- we must walk. There are some who tell us that everything has been done for us in the past, and that everything will be done for us in the future; and those who believe that doctrine never do a day's work for Jesus. They never go into His vineyard; they never make any use of their five talents, or even of one; they never put on the whole armour of God. They tell us they have nothing to do, all is done for them. I should be sorry to hold so selfish, idle, and unmanly a doctrine as that. I know very well that God has done, and is doing, for me what I could not do for myself. I know how weak I am, and how much need I have of God's guiding, strengthening Hand: but I know also that He expects something from me. He bids me fight and struggle against temptation; He tells me to press forward towards the mark -- to go up higher, to seek those things which are above, to forget those things which are behind. He would have me labour and strive to enter in at the strait gate, and to work out my own salvation. He commands me to take up my cross and follow, and all this means work, struggle, progress. "Walk in the Spirit." When Jesus had opened the eyes of the blind man, he did not continue to sit by the wayside begging, he arose and followed Christ. It is only blind folks, whose eyes Jesus has not yet opened, who are content to sit by the roadside of life and do nothing. God says to each one of us -- "This is My way, walk ye in it." Let us see what this walking means. First, I think it means going forward. There is no standstill in God's natural world, nor is there in God's spiritual world. If a child is healthy, he is growing: getting on, as the phrase is. So a true child of God is getting on, making progress, going forward every day. He goes on growing in grace till he comes of age, then God takes him to His Home, and gives him his inheritance. If you look at the tombs in a churchyard, you will see that those lying there died at all kinds of ages. Here is the tiny grave of an infant, snatched from its parents' arms almost as soon as the cross was written on its brow. But in God's sight that little one had come of age, and so was taken Home. Here is the grave of a child who had begun to do some work for God, and was as sunshine in its home, and the joy of its friends. When death took the child, people mourned because he died so young; but God had said of him, and his work, "He has come of age -- it is finished." Here is the grave of an old man, a village patriarch. It required nearly a hundred years before he came of age, and he had to walk for many a weary day, and carry his cross, before God saw that the time of harvest had come, and sent "the reaper, whose name is death." And now comes the solemn question -- are we making progress, going forward; are we striving to do the work which God has given us to do? Next, walking in the Spirit means discipline, self-denial. "I keep under my body," is the motto for every Christian man. We must turn our eyes from the sight which tempts us to leave the right path; we must close our ears to the whisper of those who would lead us aside. We must keep our mouth, as it were, with a bridle; we must lay aside every weight. Each of us has his special temptation, which becomes a weight, a hindrance. One man is so weighted with the cares of business and money-getting, that he cannot walk in the right path. The gold and the silver weigh him down, and make him stumble. Another has piled up such a load of troubles and worries upon his shoulders that he cannot advance. One woman is so cumbered with her domestic concerns that she makes no progress towards Heaven. Another is overwhelmed with pleasures and amusements which cling about her, and hinder her from going forward.
My brethren, do not let the world over-weight you, or drag you back from the right way. There is one weight, however, which we must all carry -- our cross. I have heard of a picture which represents two pilgrims along the road of life. One bears his cross on his shoulders, and steps forward manfully, looking up to Heaven; the other is dragging his cross after him along the rough road, with painful and unwilling labour. We must take up our cross and bear it if we would walk in the Spirit. If we suffer it to drag behind us, it will only hinder instead of helping us. Each sorrow, each loss, or bereavement, is as a nail to fasten us closer to our cross. Let us stretch out our hands willingly to receive the nail, sharp though it be. Remember we must be crucified with Jesus if we are to be glorified with Him. Again, walking in the Spirit means patient perseverance. A religion of fits and starts is worth nothing. There are many who come running to Jesus, like the young ruler, but when they know what being a Christian means, they go away. There are many who, at the time of a Confirmation or a Mission, declare that they will follow Christ whithersoever He goeth. But, after a little while, the enthusiasm dies out, they grow weary in well-doing, unstable as water, they follow no more after Him. If we would reach our journey's end, we must keep on walking, steadily, patiently, perseveringly. "He that endureth to the end shall be saved." Again, walking in the Spirit means looking forward along the road. Too much of our religion is short-sighted. We see the pleasure or the sorrow at our feet, but we see nothing of the glorious future, the rest that remaineth for the people of God. We are like those who see the clod of earth against which their foot strikes, but never lift their eyes aloft to look on the towering mountain. Men of science tell us that shortness of sight is greatly on the increase amongst us, especially with those who live in great cities. The reason for this is that the city dwellers wear out their eye-sight by looking constantly on objects close to them, without having any wider or more distant prospect. So it is with our spiritual sight. We wear it out by fixing our eyes on some worldly object close to us. One man has grown near-sighted by gazing day after day at his money bags, till he can see nothing else; and another has studied his ledger and cash book till he has no eyes left for God's fair Heaven above him; another has looked at his own picture till he sees his own cleverness or greatness reflected everywhere.
My brothers, look forward, look up: see God's love and mercy on all sides of you. Come out into God's sunshine; ask Him to open your eyes that they may see the wondrous things of His law. I think, too, that walking in the Spirit means having perfect trust in God -- walking with our hand in His. If you see a man fearful about to-morrow, dreading the future, always expecting and anticipating evil, meeting misfortune half-way, be sure he is not walking in the Spirit. Hold fast to God's Hand -- trust Him. Do you remember the story of the little Russian boy who trusted in God? He and a younger sister were left utterly destitute on the death of their father. Left alone in the house, without money and food, the little boy knew not how to comfort his baby sister. At last, urged by the tears of the little one, the boy wrote on a piece of paper, "O God, please to send me three copecks (a penny) to buy my little sister some bread," and then hurried away with this strange letter to the alms box of a neighbouring church, believing in his simplicity that in this way his letter would reach Heaven. A Priest saw the little boy trying to force the paper into the alms box. He took the letter from him and, having read it, gave the child food and assistance. Next day the Priest preached in the church on behalf of the orphans, and when he had related the story of the child's letter to God, a liberal offertory was given.
Lastly, I think that walking in the Spirit means walking in hope. If we trust God and do our best, we cannot despair. We shall find the road hard and stony at times, but let us hope and go steadily forward. We shall fall sometimes, we shall make mistakes, we shall suffer defeats, we shall be cast down, and weary. Still let us hope, and go steadily forward.
"Hope on, hope ever, tho' dead leaves be lying