“Cast Me Not Away From Thy Presence”
“Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.” (Psalm 51:11)
There is nothing more terrible to a child of God then to think of being cast away from Christ’s presence. It was sin which brought these dreadful fears on David, and which caused Adam to back-sliding, that he might show to us how bitter a thing he found sin to be. He was made to dread lest the LORD should finally cut him off, and felt his sin ever before him, and that it entered deeply for he says God desires truth in the inward parts. He felt that no outward cleansing would reach the heart, and he knew it was that which God looked at; therefore he prays, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; for unless Thou dost wash me, there can be no effectual cleansing, nor can any right spirit be found.” (Psalm 51:7) He perceived God had convicted him of what he could not remove; and lay under the fearful apprehension of altogether losing the presence of God and all the tokens he had heretofore enjoyed. This is a dreadful place to fall into; yet we find David saying there was mercy with the LORD, that He might be feared.
We all do well to remember Peter’s fall. Yet there is great encouragement that the LORD will not cast away those who confess their iniquities, and that have walked contrary to Him: but he says “If then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, I will remember My covenant.” (Leviticus 26:41-42)
“For the LORD will not cast off His people, neither will He forsake His inheritance.” (Psalm 94:14)
Yet how true it is that ungodly unions, or seeking to combine with those from whom God by His grace has separated us, is a snare that will bring death. We are not aware how God will one day sober those who venture upon such forbidden ground, by horrible affliction. We cannot join in such communications but the effect must be death. It is this venturesome spirit, which dares to go so near to the brink of danger as to produce the fruit of light and trifling spirit, which becomes a stumbling-block to many. If we belong to the LORD, He will not cast us off utterly, but He will bring us down by hard labour, to feel how bitter and dangerous such a spirit is, both to ourselves and those about us. All who fear God can easily see how much at a loss such are to find the LORD, and how on this account they seek refuge in temporal vanities of all sorts.
Asaph fell into great troubles, which made him ask this question: “Will the LORD cast off forever? will He be favourable no more?” (Psalm 77:7). It is a good sign when our foolishness leads to such enquires: we are sure then to be a little more cautious, and to watch more tenderly the coming and going of the LORD. If the LORD has shown us our unprofitableness, we shall in the same light and by the same spirit make use of the means which He dictates for our recovery: but if our convictions are only natural, we shall seek to some temporal amusement to heal the wound, which is only to be healed by the precious blood of Christ. We may call to mind all those times and seasons in which the Lord Jesus Christ has appeared for us, and we shall find they were seasons when our fears ran very high, and we began to be alarmed lest we should indeed be cast away, and our prayers was, “Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.” Then came these sweet words, “Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, … I have chosen thee, be not dismayed, for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee: yea, I will help thee: yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness” (Isaiah 41:9-10).
“If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 31:37). When we are made partakes of these sweet things, it is a sign that the Spirit helps our infirmities, and we find the true tokens of our belonging to the LORD. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His“ (Romans 8:9): but if he is a partaker of the Spirit, he shall cry, “Thou art my Farther, my God and the Rock of my salvation.” (Psalm 89:26) Therefore take heed and grieve not the Holy Spirit, by which you are sealed. The LORD has declared He will hear cry of the humble. “Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose Name is Holy, I dwell in the high and holy place; with him also who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the con trite ones. For I will not contend for ever” (Isaiah 57:15-16). It is pride and independence which causes the LORD to hide His face; and if we know anything of the coming and going of the LORD, we are made to feel a sad sinking when these things are discovered. “Thou hidest Thy face, they are troubled” (Psalm 104:29); but the LORD in mercy hears our cry of sorrow, and becomes our Helper, and turns our mourning into dancing, and girds us with gladness. If we neglect these things, the LORD will resent it. If the LORD speaks such endearing and tender language, He will be attended to. The profession of religion with some is so exceedingly trifling that they evidently show they have no idea of the holiness of God, and therefore cannot say with David “my son is ever before me.” (Psalm 51:3) And though the Scriptures warn us, yet are we carried away as with a flood, and cannot commune with our own heart and be still: but the least trifling circumstance which comes be fore us, will take us from the serious instructions which the Spirit is seeking to impart. We are too apt to break through that hedge, and go give our immediate attention to what really amounts to nothing. All this shows that the plough has not made deep the furrows; therefore these weeds grow up, and choke the tender, godly fear, that would otherwise be for our safety. For want of attention to these things our latter days become clouded, and though we lose not the light of the truth, yet we lose the life of it; whence we are not, as we ought to be, examples of the power of godliness. If the LORD tenderly invites, and says, “Open to Me, My sister, My love, My dove, My undefined; for My head is filled with dew, and My locks with the drops of the night,” (Song of Solomon 5:2) how can we expect such tenderness to continue, if all the answer we can give is, “I have put off my coat, how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet, how shall I defile them?” (Song of Solomon 5:3) Oh how awful are the excuses of a slothful spirit, and how little is laid to heart the empty chatter of hours! I am sure the LORD will resent such a life and walk, and make us feel greatly ashamed, and to cry from the heart “Take not Thy Holy Spirit from us.” If this cry really comes from the heart, the LORD will hear it, and return with kind endearing words. “Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, …I have seen his ways and will heal him.” but let him not return again to folly, lest as the Saviour said to one “a worse thing come upon you.” The LORD upbraids Solomon for His untenderness, and was angry with him, because his heart was turned from Him after He had appeared unto him twice (1st Kings 11:9). Also Hezekiah rendered not again for the mercies received (2nd Chronicles 32:25).
How then shall we escape, if we walk in a trifling spirit, gossiping with every idle worldling we meet with, and make all sorts of excuses, and they say are relations or friends or in someway needful?
This is the reason why the Spirit helps not our infirmities. Prayer is dull work without the Spirit. The Holy Spirit helps our infirmities, makes intercession for us, seals our adoption, gives us the earnest, and teaches us to run in the way of God’s commands. Where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is liberty; if we are left of the Spirit in the hands of Satan, and shall believe lies; as Adam and Eve did, when Satan said unto them, “Thou shalt not surely die.” Make the Spirit your Guide, and all shall be well. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty… He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou hast made the Lord, which is my Refuge, even the Most High thy Habitation, there shall no evil befall thee” (Psalm 91:1, Psalm 91:4, Psalm 91:9-10).
Few lay to heart the mysterious depths of man’s redemption. and the way in which it is brought about. The prophet complains, “Who hath believed our report?” It pleased the LORD to bruise His beloved Son, and put Him to grief; and it is added, this pleasure of the LORD shall prosper. “He shall see of the travail of His soul,” and be quite satisfied, when He looks upon the thousands of thousands which His precious blood has redeemed “For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14).
“For Thou, Lord, art good and ready to forgive, and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon Thee” (Psalm 86:5).
They who attain to the truth of this plenteous redemption, will exceedingly value the presence of the LORD, and know it to be salvation; and when troubles come and clouds gather, then bitter cries arise: “O Lord, hear my voice: let Thine ears be attentive to the voice of my cry. Enter not into judgment with Thy servant, and uphold me with Thy free Spirit.” Then and not till then, can we either walk in the fear of God in our house, or set an example of sobriety of mind like those who are in earnest to maintain spiritual life in the soul, and show to all around what a dear Saviour they have found. “The sacrifices of God are broken” – not a light – “spirit: a broke and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.” These will be an ornament in their family, and instead of bustle and confusion, there will evidently be the true fear of God which always proves a fountain of life to depart from all the snares of death (Proverbs 14 27). May the LORD work in us a tender spirit quickly to feel what He says; and as it is written, “He that hath spiritual ears, let him hear,” and attend to what the Spirit says upon his conscience, if he hopes to die in peace. Amen.
By James Bourne