the Lord make His face shine upon thee,
and be gracious unto thee;
the Lord lift up His countenance upon thee,
and give thee peace."Numbers 6:24-26
1. EVIL: I need hardly observe that the first and foremost is to be kept from positive evil. The Lord asked of the Father for His disciples, "I pray not that Thou shouldst take them out of the world"—no; let them suffer there as I have suffered before—"but keep them from the evil." They must be in the world, they must be brought into contact with the world, but O keep them from the evil that is in the world! And this will be first and foremost in the petitions of every child of God who knows his own evil heart and has suffered from its weakness and treachery, that the Lord will keep him from open evil, that he may bring no distress and guilt upon his own conscience or reproach upon the cause of God.
2. ERROR: But another thing from which the Lord alone can keep His people is, error. Satan does not attack all alike. He knows the bent of our natural minds. Some men's animal passions are strong; in others the animal passions are comparatively weak, but there is much mental speculation. Satan does not tempt the latter as he tempts the former. The passions of the one he inflames; but it is upon the speculative mind of the other that he works. Nothing is so easy for some minds as to drink down error. Their reasoning faculties are caught by the bait of some logical argument, or their speculative imagination by some deep mystery; or their pride gratified by some wonderful piece of knowledge. Now, under all this, error is usually concealed. The sweetness of the draught hides the arsenic in the cup. But no man can take even a few grains of error with impunity; it will stupefy, if it do not kill; it will weaken the soul, if it do not at once destroy life. It will and must affect his head or his heart, his hands or his feet, his faith or his walk. No man can drink down error and the spirit of error without being injured, his spiritual strength weakened, and his spiritual limbs paralysed. We are to beware of error as we would of poison. There is something in error alluring as well as sweet to the carnal mind. Many a child has been allured by the berries of the deadly nightshade first to taste, and, when tasted, their sweetness has drawn it on largely to eat. Let error once hang down its alluring berries from the pulpit, there are plenty in the congregation to pluck and eat. Therefore beware of error, and of erroneous men. I am jealous of error in proportion as I love and value the truth.
3. SPIRIT OF DELUSION: But there is a third thing, perhaps more fearful still, from which the Lord's people need to be kept, a thing perhaps little thought of and little noticed, and that is, a spirit of delusion. Many, many persons are under a spirit of delusion, whose lives are consistent and whose creed is sound. Their minds are mostly of a peculiar cast. They are not persons usually of strong animal passions, nor of speculative reasoning minds, but dreamy, visionary, imaginative, with a strong tinge of superstition and a tendency to natural enthusiasm. Now upon such minds Satan specially works, for he is a spirit, and, as such, has access to our animal spirits, breathing into them a spirit of delusion. It was thus he acted upon the four hundred prophets whom honest Micaiah withstood at the court of Ahab; and so with the damsel mentioned in the Acts as "possessed with a spirit of divination" (Acts 16:16.) The Romish Church is full of the dreams and visions, trances and revelations, of their pretended saints; the visions of their St. Catherines and St. Bridgets fill volumes. So even where a sounder creed is professed there are continually found persons all whose religion consists in dreams and sights, in whom there is neither faith nor repentance, neither a sense of sin nor a knowledge of salvation. With these "light and airy dreams," as Hart calls them, they are wonderfully elated and puffed up, and feed on them instead of the riches of Christ's blood.
How we need the Lord to keep us! We stand upon slippery places. Snares and traps are laid for us in every direction. Every employment, every profession in life, from the highest to the lowest, has its special temptations. Snares are spread for the feet of the most illiterate as well as the most highly cultivated minds; nor is there anyone, whatever his position in life may be, who has not a snare laid for him, and such a snare as will surely prove his downfall if God keep him not.