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CHAPTER XIII.


MAY THE BLESSING BE LOST?

A charge to keep I have,
A God to glorify;
A never-dying soul to save,
And fit it for the sky.

To serve the present age,
My calling to fulfill, —
O may it all my powers engage,
To do my Master's will!

Arm me with jealous care,
As in thy sight to live;
And O, thy servant, Lord, prepare
A strict account to give.

Help me to watch and pray,
And on thyself rely,
Assured, if I my trust betray,
I shall forever die.

Charles Wesley.


Soldiers of Christ, arise,
And put your armor on,
Strong in the strength which God supplies
Through his eternal Son;

Strong in the Lord of hosts,
And in his mighty power,
Who in the strength of Jesus trusts
Is more than conqueror.

Stand, then, in his great might,
With all his strength endued;
But take, to arm you for the fight,
The panoply of God:

That, having all things done,
And all your conflicts passed,
Ye may o'ercome through Christ alone,
And stand entire at last.

Leave no unguarded place,
No weakness of the soul
Take every virtue, every grace,
And fortify the the whole:

Indissolubly joined,
To battle all proceed;
But arm yourselves with all the mind
That was in Christ, your Head.

Charles Wesley.


Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run that ye may obtain. For every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air; but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. — I Cor. ix, 24-27

Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. — I Cor. xvi, 13

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. — Gal. v, 1

Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall. — 1 Cor. x, 12



IF there were not ten thousand instances where those who have enjoyed the fullness of the blessing have fallen into sin, surely these passages from the Bible would clearly indicate the possibility of such falling. Paul, who knew the human heart, and who had a wide and protracted opportunity for observation, knew the danger, or he would never have written such imperative and urgent admonitions and exhortations and commands. Again and again his heart was grieved as he was compelled to witness the defection of those who had run well for a season, but had turned aside, lost their first love, and had denied the Lord that bought them. The messages of the Lord Jesus to the seven Churches abound in commands in harmony with the words of Paul.

It will not do to say that a state of religious experience is ever realized in this world where all peril is passed, and we are beyond the reach of the tempter's power. Nor need we flatter ourselves that those whose hearts have been cleansed, and who have received the unction of the Holy One, may not yield to temptation. Certainly there is no necessity of yielding. If clad with the whole armor of God, the soul may resist every fiery dart of the enemy, and wisely and courageously wielding the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, may come off victorious in every spiritual battle and go on from conquering to conquer.

We need to remember that pure and holy angels, surrounded by all helpful influences, fell from their first estate, and lost forever the hope of restoration. Adam and Eve were absolutely pure and sinless as they came from the hand of God. True they had the same natures as our own, yet without the slightest taint of depravation, and still they gave way to temptation and fell. The commands and requirements of God were neither severe nor onerous. They had abundant strength to resist; their Creator was ever near, and their fellowship with him was personal and blessed. It would seem as though it might have been an easy thing for them to spurn the temptation and the tempter; but they did not, and so brought wreck and ruin upon themselves and all their posterity.

In these days the danger is greatest to those who are utterly confident of their imperviousness to temptation; to those who are sure that they will never stray away into sin, to those who neglect to recognize that the law of liberty will not tolerate any infraction of the moral law. When one presumes that he has attained a position where the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, and the strictest teachings of the Bible in regard to moral conduct do not apply to him, then constantly he is in the greatest possible danger. The world, the flesh, and the devil must be recognized as the foes of all goodness, purity, and holiness. Careless souls are ever in peculiar danger. Boastful and overconfident souls are above all others in greatest peril.

Let the tried and tempted cry out:

Unto thee, my Help, my Hope,
My Safeguard, and my Tower,
Confident I still look up,
And still receive thy power;
All the alien's hosts I chase,
Blast and scatter with mine eyes;
Satan comes; I turn my face,
And, lo! the Tempter flies.


Charles Wesley.

But what says John Wesley to this important question? Can those who have found the fullness of the blessing lose it?

I am well assured they can; matter of fact puts this beyond dispute. Formerly we thought, one saved from sin could not fall; now we know the contrary. We are surrounded with instances of those who lately experienced all that I mean by perfection. They had both the fruit of the Spirit, and the witness; but they have now lost both. Neither does any one stand by virtue of anything that is implied in the nature of the state. There is no such height or strength of holiness as it is impossible to fall from. If there be any that can not fall, this wholly depends on the promise of God. — Wesley's "Plain Account."

I went to Sheffield, and on Tuesday met the select Society. But it was reduced from sixty to twenty; and but half of these retained all that they once received! What a grievous error, to think those that are saved from sin can not lose what they have gained! It is a miracle if they do not; seeing all earth and hell are so enraged against them. — Wesley's Journal, July, 1774.

As long as we dwell in a house of clay, it is liable to affect the mind; sometimes by dulling or darkening the understanding, and sometimes more directly by damping and depressing the soul, and sinking it into distress and heaviness. In this state, doubt or fear, of one kind or another, will naturally arise. And the prince of this world, who well knows whereof we are made, will not fail to improve the occasion, in order to disturb, though he can not pollute, the heart which God hath cleansed from all unrighteousness. — Wesley's Works, Vol. VI, p. 776.

A will steadily and uniformly devoted to God is essential to a state of sanctification; but not a uniformity of joy, or peace, or happy communion with God. These may rise and fall in various degrees; nay, and may be affected either by the body or by diabolical agency, in a manner which all our wisdom can neither understand nor prevent. As to wanderings, you would do right well to consider the sermon on "Wandering Thoughts." — Wesley's Works, Vol. VII, p. 58.

It is a common thing for those who are sanctified, to believe they can not fall; to suppose themselves pillars in the temple of God, that shall go out no more. Nevertheless, we have seen some of the strongest of them, after a time, moved from their steadfastness. Sometimes suddenly, but oftener, by slow degrees, they have yielded to temptation; and pride, or anger, or foolish desires, have again sprung up in their hearts. Nay, sometimes they have utterly lost the life of God, and sin hath regained dominion over them.

Several of these, after being thoroughly sensible of their fall, and deeply ashamed before God, have been again filled with love, and not only perfected therein, but stablished, strengthened, and settled. They have received the blessing they had before, with abundant increase. — Wesley's Sermons, Vol. II, p. 247.

Q. Can those who fall from this state recover it?

A. Why not? We have instances of this also. Nay it is an exceeding common thing for persons to lose it more than once before they are established therein. It is therefore to guard them who are saved from sin from every occasion of stumbling that I give the following advice.

Q. What is the first advice that you would give them?

A. Watch and pray continually against pride. If God has cast it out, see that it enter no more; it is full as dangerous as evil desire, and you may slide back into it unawares, especially if you think there is no danger of it. "Nay, but I ascribe all I have to God." So you may, and be proud nevertheless. For it is pride not only to ascribe anything we have to ourselves, but to think we have what we really have not. You ascribe all knowledge you have to God, and in this respect you are humble. But if you think you have more than you really have, or if you think you are so taught of God as no longer to need man's teaching, pride lieth at the door.

Do not, therefore, say to any that would advise or reprove you, "You are blind; you can not teach me;" do not say, "This is your wisdom, your carnal reason;" but calmly weigh the thing before God. — Wesley's "Plain Account."

I was considering how it was, that so many who were once filled with love are now weak and faint. And the case is plain; the invariable rule of God's proceeding is, "From him that hath not, shall be taken away even that which he hath." Hence, it is impossible that any should retain what they receive without improving it. Add to this, that the more we have received, the more of care and labor is required, the more watchfulness and prayer, the more circumspection and earnestness in all manner of conversation. Is it any wonder, then, that they who forget this should soon lose what they had received? Nay, who were taught to forget it? Not to watch! Not to pray — under pretense of praying always! — Wesley's Journal, February, 1765.


True the blessing may be lost, but there is no compelling power in the universe. God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are constantly ready to afford all needed help and grace. All good angels are ministering spirits, "sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation." (Heb. i, 14.) Not all the powers of darkness, however malignant and persistent, can overthrow the child of God and turn him from his course unless he himself consents. It needs a firm and steadfast will, a will inspired by love and loyalty, and acting with wide-open-eyed intelligence. Then there must be genuine honesty and sincerity of soul, so that the heart-searching and rein-trying God may walk unhindered through every chamber of the whole being. Then, there must be the constant and faithful performance of every duty to God and man. Then there must be much study of God's Word, and meditation thereon, and all the more will the truth give great help and comfort if it be stored away in memory, so, that, like the Savior when he was tempted, we can instantly recall some precious passage that precisely suits the moment's need. Then it will greatly help if we read good books, and especially the lives of saintly men and women. Then there may be found in our Christian hymns, and especially in the hymns of the Wesleys, much that will strengthen faith, inspire hope, and develop undaunted courage. Then there remains the refuge of prayer. It will greatly help to hold frequent personal intercourse with those who have a rich experience of Divine things, and it will be especially profitable to meet with them for seasons of united prayer; but the greatest help will usually he found in the closet; when alone with God the soul pours out its glad tribute of thanksgiving, converses with God as a man converses with his friend, talks with Jesus, and listens for the voice of the Comforter. Then, if there are burdens too heavy for human strength, perplexities too great for finite wisdom to solve; if there are sorrows that wound and crush; if there are conflicts and trials and temptations that seem too great to be borne, the soul may tell the blessed heavenly Father all about these things and ask him, in Jesus' name, to send relief, deliverance, and victory, and prayer will be answered, and the soul will find that God is nigh at hand, and not afar off to those who really put their trust in him.