We are now on chapter 8 of this wonderful book, Help Heavenward by Octavius Winslow. (we still have three more chapters to go.)
“…Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still”—Psalm 4:4
This chapter asks hard questions; the same questions that Winslow thought necessary to ask in the 1800's when he said these words which not only describe his days but ours as well,
"We are fallen upon times of great religious, as well as worldly activity and excitement. So strong and rushing, indeed, is the tide, that there exists a fearful and fatal liability in those who profess to walk with God, as did Noah and Enoch, to neglect entirely one of the most essential and effectual helps heavenward—the due, faithful, and constant examination of the spiritual state and condition of their own hearts."
There is nothing new under the sun, the heart of men is the same since the fall, I read Winslow's words and it seems that he is describing our days,
"With everything but themselves the great mass of human beings by whom we are surrounded are in the closest communion. Man is in communion with nature in its glories, with science in its wonders, with art in its triumphs, with intellect in its attainments, with power in its achievements, with the creation in its attraction. There is but one object with which he holds no rational, sacred, and close communion,—from which, though the nearest and the most important, he seems the most widely isolated; that object is—himself! He studies not the wonders of his being, the spirituality of his nature, the solemnity of his relations, the accountability of his actions, the immortality of his destiny. He thinks not of himself, and of death, and judgment, and eternity at the same moment."
We need to recover the disposition and the discipline to commune with our heart upon our bed and be still, and Winslow encourages us to this, by asking us hard questions concerning the true spiritual state before God, about the existence and condition of the love of God in our own heart, about our heart's feelings for the Lord Jesus, about the ruling principles of our actions, about the heavenly tendencies of our own heart questions about our real and habitual fellowship, about our progress in the Divine life, with God, about our thanksgiving and praise to God, about the certainty of our possession of heart's religion; questions "which we must weigh... personal and serious questions, which must not, which cannot, be evaded without imperilling all that is most dear and precious to your everlasting well-being."
"Your love to Christ will never increase by feeding upon itself. You must light your torch of affection at the altar of Calvary. You must go there, and learn and believe what the love of Jesus is to you: the vastness of that love,—the self-sacrifice of that love,—how that love of Christ laboured and wept, bled, suffered, and died for you. Can you stand before this love—this love so precious, so great, so enduring, so self-consuming, so changeless, and know that for you was this offering, for you this cross, for you this agony, for you this scorn and insult, for you this death, and feel no sensibility, no emotion, no love? Impossible!"
The questions keep on coming, we still have hard questions to answer in the solitude, on our bed.
"It is not for your worth that you are saved, but for Christ’s worth. It is not on the ground of your personal merit that you are justified, but on the ground of Christ’s merit alone. It is not upon the plea of your fitness, your tears, your confessions, your prayers, your duties, that God forgives and accepts you, but simply and exclusively upon the one plea of the Saviour’s sacrifice. The BLOOD of Christ pardons, the RIGHTEOUSNESS of Christ justifies you, and this is all that you require, or that God demands. The great work is all done—it is not to be done. It is complete, finished, accepted, sealed. And you, as a lost sinner, without holiness, without strength, without one plea that springs from what you are, have nothing to do. Believe, and you are saved. Believing is not doing, it is not meriting, it is TRUSTING—it is the simple exercise of a faith in Christ which God gives, and which the Holy Ghost produces in the heart; so that your salvation, from beginning to end, is entirely out of yourself, in another."
"Oh, how needed and wholesome and precious is self-communion now! Never, perhaps, before has your heart been laid open to such inspection, subjected to such scrutiny, submitted to such tests. Never have you been brought into such close contact with yourself; never has self-communion appeared to you so needed, so solemn, and so blessed as in this quiet chamber. Ah, much-abused, much-neglected heart! how have I allowed thee to wander, to be enanmoured, enchained, won, and possessed by others! How has thy spiritual verdure withered, how have thy fresh springs dried, thy beauty faded, and thy strength decayed! How cold, how inconstant, how unfaithful, how unkind hast thou been to thy best, thy dearest, thy heavenly Friend! But for the restraints of His grace and the constraints of His love, and the checks of His gentle corrections, whither, oh, whither wouldst thou have gone? I thank thee, Lord for Thy discipline—for the shaded path, the severed tie, the lonely sorrow, the loving, lenient correction that recalls my heart to Thee!"
Do I know that my sins are pardoned through Christ?
This chapter is so important; I wish you could take some time to read it (no need to read the previous ones to understand this one); there are so many riches in it! And what a better time to examine ourselves than today? What a better season than Lent, when we are considering all that it means that Jesus willingly set his face to go to Jerusalem to be hanged on a cross?
Matthew Blair, the host of this reading group wrote an excellent summary of this chapter here.