The Eye- A Similitude
“Keep me as the apple of the eye.” — Psalm xvii. 8.
THIS prayer is fall of meaning, and is the outflow of a well-instructed mind. It is no parrot cry, but the upleaping of a living desire from a grace-taught and thoughtful heart. The man knows something of himself who sincerely offers this plaintive petition to his God, “Keep me” Is there not a deep and sorrowful confession implied in this brief utterance of the suppliant? as though he should say, “Preserve me from my own heart, for it is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: guard me from the uprising of my natural corruptions, for the carnal mind is enmity against God; it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be: defend me from the turbulence of my own passions, those household foes which are the worst enemies to the peace and purity of my mind: keep me from that evil man, myself.” Has not the man who utters this request a clear perception of the evils surrounding him in his circumstances, and his relations, and his position in life? conscious of danger, he desires to be held back from pride, if he be in prosperity; and withheld from pining and unbelief, if he be in adversity; he would be restrained from sinning in public or transgressing in private; he desires that he may not be imperilled even by the objects of his joy and affection, lest they should become idols, and so provoke the Lord to jealousy, and cause him to withdraw his dear presence and sweet communings from the soul. The prayer has a singular sensitiveness, it seems to shiver like the leaves of the aspen, to shrink like the sensitive plant. Knowing that there are snares all around him, the pleading soul is desirous that God should at all times encompass his path— “Keep me.” The man has some idea of the craft and malice of Satan, therefore he appeals to God that he may be preserved from that fowler, who first decoys, and afterwards destroys unguarded souls. He sees his danger, feels his weakness, and seeks to the strong for help.
“Love and keep us, blessed Jesus,
Keep us from denying thee;
Keep our wayward feet from straying
Into paths of vanity;
Love and keep us, blessed Jesus,
Keep us from denying thee.”
An eye that has looked on the weakness and the wickedness of the little world within our bosom, bedews with briny tears the supplication, ‘Keep me.”
But the man who prays thus intelligently must have some knowledge of the God he prays to. He has learned the vanity of all other reliances, and has left for ever the arm of flesh. The invocation is addressed to the Most High, for he is well aware that no other can respond to his call, or interpose for his aid. He who uses this prayer intelligently perceives the omniscience of Jehovah. “Thou seest all my dangers, thou foreseest all the attacks of my enemies, thou art acquainted with all my ways; to thee, therefore, I look for safeguard. Better than a hundred eyes art thou to me, thou who canst see all my foes, from whichever quarter they may come. Ever watchful guardian, keep thou me.” He believes also in God’s omnipotence, that there is no assailant so strong, but he who is his Israel’s refuge and fortress is stronger, nor is there any danger so imminent that he cannot anticipate and avert it. He relies, moreover, upon the love of God that lie is willing of his own heart to espouse his interests; upon the faithfulness of God that he will perform the mercy promised to the fathers, and upon the immutability of God that he will never turn back, but finally achieve the salvation of his servant through keeping him to the end.
Thus, as I have said , the man who could first offer, and the man who can constantly appreciate this devout prayer, must know something of himself and something of his God. He who has learned these two things has mastered the elements of wisdom. “Man, know thyself,” said the heathen sage, and he uttered a goodly maxim. “Man, know thy God,” says the Christian, and he points to wisdom far more sublime. Put the two together! to know ourselves in our weakness and dangers, and to know our God in his glorious strength and willingness to protect us, is to have the seed of divinest knowledge implanted in our breasts. Knowing these two, we can not only pray this prayer with a fervent spirit, but there are many things which we shall be enabled to do by virtue of the good hand of the Lord our God upon us. Such, then, is the importunate request of the Psalmist, to which I am persuaded everyone that is godly among you will say, “Amen.” “Keep me as the apple of the eye.”
Now, brethren and sisters, I intend only to touch upon one point, and that is the metaphor here used— not, perhaps, limiting myself entirely to the precise and definite meaning which it in this place presents, but uttering with more freedom and latitude some of the thoughts which it suggests.
1. The keeping desired by the earnest Christian is of that kind which men accord to the apple of the eye. What sort of keeping is this?— First, the Psalmist as good as prays, Lord, keep me with many guards and protections. In the providence of God the apple of the eye is defended with peculiar care and transcendent skill. Those who have studied the formation of the pupil itself will tell you with how many coats the retina is preserved. Then the commonest observer knows how the eyebrows, the eyelashes, and the eyelids, are formed as outworks, fences, and barricades, to protect the pupil of the eye, which is thus made to dwell securely like a citizen within the entrenchments of a fortified town. God has bestowed extraordinary pains upon all that concerns the eye; being one of the tenderest organs of the physical frame, he has used many devices that it should be well preserved, notwithstanding its exceeding sensitiveness. Nor is it merely sheltered in its own fastness, but sentries keep ward lest it should be exposed to peril. Whenever it is threatened with even the appearance of danger no time is lost in consultation with yourself, but with agility so brisk that it seems almost involuntary, the arm is lifted up and the hand is raised to screen it from harm or to resist attack. If you are about to stumble, you naturally put out your hands to save your eyes. Instinct seems to teach you at once the value of eyesight, and your whole strength is put forth to preserve it. In fact, all the members of the body may be regarded as a patrol for the wardship of the eye; and all the incorporated powers of manhood are in constant vigilance to guard and protect that precious orb. Admiring then this beautiful arrangement to conserve the delicate organ of vision, we may pray, “Lord, keep thou me as the apple of the eye, with many protections. Thou hast been pleased with the strong bastions of thy providence to surround thy people: I ask for such protection. Lead me not into temptation; do not suffer the events of my career or the incidents of my daily life to entangle me so that I shall be unable to escape out of the perplexing snares. Let the powers of heaven fight for me as of old the stars in their courses fought against Sisera. Let me be in league with the stones of the field, and command the beasts of the forest to be at peace with me. Let my tabernacle be in peace; and let no plague come nigh my dwelling. Do thou, O God, visit my habitation; and so abide with me beneath that lowly roof that I may not by any means through outward circumstances or inward thoughts be led into sin. Guard me, O my God! by all the power of those mysterious wheels, whose motions I cannot understand, but of whose results thou hast said, ‘All things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to his purpose.’” And, Lord, be pleased to shield me by thy grace as well as by thy providence. Keep me as the apple of the eye with tutelage of thy restraining mercy. Teach me to sing—
“Oh, to grace how great a debtor,
Daily I’m constrained to be.”
Brethren, how wonderfully does grace preserve the heirs of heaven with operations marvellously diverse, but all fulfilling one loving purpose! Sometimes grace lowers me into the dust, at other times grace lifts me up to the throne. It is grace that empties and grace that fills my earthen vessel; grace that shows me my ignorance, and grace that makes me wise unto salvation. Let the manifold operations of thy grace, O thou God of all grace, be brought into full play to guard me as the apple of the eye. Whensoever I hear a sermon preached, may it keep me from stumbling, lest otherwise my feet should trip; whensoever I bow my knee in prayer, may it be a safeguard against some temptation or besetting sin, which otherwise might have been too strong to resist. When I read thy book, make its words to be as wholesome counsel and faithful warning, to deliver my soul from the paths of the destroyer. Grant unto me, Lord, that the ordinances of thy house— baptism, and the Lord’s-supper— yea, and whatever else thou hast enjoined to us by precept, or handed down to us with the example of thy holy apostles— things commanded and things set in order— let all these be used as auxiliaries to repel assault, and preserve our peace. From wandering into any false way, from staining the purity of a good conscience, from bringing dishonour upon the name of Christ, “good Lord, deliver us.” “Keep me as the apple of the eye” with the guardianship of thy Holy Spirit. O that the Divine Comforter might always dwell within me, so that when Satan comes to invade my heart, it may be like the house in which abideth the strong man armed who is stronger than the spoiler, and therefore keepeth his goods in peace; thus shall he drive away the thief who would break in to steal my possessions and make me his prey.
“Keep us, Lord, O keep us ever,
Vain our hope if left by thee;
We are thine, O leave us never,
Till thy face in heaven we see;
There to praise thee
Through a bright eternity.”
Holy Spirit, I invoke thee, whether reproving or comforting, whether quickening or enlightening, whether chastening or sanctifying, whether humbling or perfecting me, be pleased to abide with me, and hold thou watch over me in all thy sevenfold power, in all thy diversified operations.
And, O God, let thine angels have charge concerning me, to keep me in all my ways, for I need many guards, even as the eye has many bulwarks. Bid, then, those ministering spirits, who minister to the heirs of salvation, that they bear me up in their hands, lest I dash my foot against a stone. Brethren, do such appeals seem to you like a rhapsody? Do you forget the existence of angels, who excel in strength; or do you give no heed to the capacities with which they are endowed by him who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire? I am aft-aid we are wont to think too lightly of those blessed spirits. Is it necessary to remind you that the being of such an order of God’s creatures is not an allegory of the poets; no, not even of sacred inspired poets? Facts abound in both the Old and New Testaments to attest the reality of their services. Have ye never heard how that in the creation, when God laid the foundations of the earth, the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? And have ye not heard that when the law was given to Moses, it was received by the disposition of angels? You cannot be unaware of the comfort which Daniel found from the mission of Gabriel, when, while speaking in prayer, the angel appeared as a man flying swiftly, touched the prophet, talked with him, brought a message to him from heaven, and came forth to give him skill and understanding? Think, I beseech you, brethren, of the company of angels carolling that sweet hymn of the nativity on the plains of Bethlehem on that night wherein our Saviour was born. And never overlook their visit to the wilderness, where, after Jesus had been tempted forty days and forty nights, “behold, angels came and ministered unto him.” Yet again in the dark night of his betrayal, when our Lord was enduring the agony in the garden of Gethsemane, mind ye not that “there appeared to him an angel from heaven strengthening him”? After such things it may seem needless to tell how angels repaired to the tomb from which Jesus had risen, and there at the sepulchre cheered the hearts of the sorrowing women; or to recount to you the story of Peter, released by an angel of the Lord from the prison into which Herod, willing to please the Jews and vex the church, had cast him. But I must mention this one thing more. Angels were the bearers, not with black wands, methinks, but with flying colours, who carried Lazarus into Abraham’s bosom. Such guard I crave in life and death, I crave it of thee, O my God! My soul is enraptured at the multitude of thy lovingkindnesses and tender mercies. Keep me, with every provision for my safety, keep me with all thy hosts and holy troops, with cherubim and seraphim, with providence, and grace, and love. “Keep me as the apple of the eye.” In such sense, I think, the metaphor is not strained.
2. Secondly, the prayer may be interpreted with a view to the constancy, the unintermitting continuance of that keeping which we require of the Lord.
Is not the eye always guarded? You are not always thinking of it, it is true, for that would distract you from the duties of life; if you had to reckon the dangers and provide against the mishaps to which the eye is exposed, your mind would never rest; but to save you such care, the protections God has provided are always ready. If a grain of dust, perchance, should enter the eye, forthwith by some wonderful arrangement a watery humour is exuded in which, if you cannot extract the impediment, by-and-by it becomes dissolved, and is carried away. Though an intruding substance may pain you, the pain is a mercy, for it makes you restless till you get relief for the priceless eye. When you fall asleep, and are no longer able to protect the eyeballs, the curtains fall, the blinds as it were drop down, and the windows are shut up securely with lash and lid. How graciously does God preserve the health of the eye and renew its brightness! It must need many secretions, and they are all supplied. The fineness of its organisation, and the variety of its curious arrangements, require adequate provisions to keep it in proper condition, and these are all furnished; yes, and continue to be supplied when the eye’s functions are suspended in your times of slumber. Without care or thought on your part, at all times, asleep or awake, the eye is guarded like the bed of Solomon, about which were three-score valiant men. Right well doth the parable of the eye suggest the prayer of the text: Lord, keep me thus, as the apple of an eye is kept. Evermore, O Lord, watch over me. Brethren, permit me to remark here, that I believe at no season is a Christian more in danger than when he has just been in communion with God. Thus I have proved it myself. It is not very often I lose my temper, at least I think not, but it has happened sometimes; and I have noticed that when this sinful frailty has overtaken me, it has been just after I have been near to God in prayer. At such a time somebody has come right across my path and ruffled my spirit. Something has been said or done so cold, so cruel, so un-Christlike, so irritating, and withal on the part of myself so unexpected, that I have in horror spoken unadvisedly with my lips. Ah! I should not wonder if many of you have found the same surprising sin assail you. When you felt happy and blessed, beyond the reach of fear, the baneful action of the world has so grated upon your too susceptible feelings that you have felt as if it were well for you to be angry. Always beware when you are rich with grace in present possession. The footpads in olden times did not meddle with the farmers as they went to the market; it was when they were coming home, having sold their crops and bringing back their money-bags full, that they planned their attacks. When our ships of war went after the Spanish galleons, they did not attack them as they were going to America, but when they came back enriched with bars of gold— when they knew them to beloaded to the water’s edge— it was then they stormed the Spaniard to win his bullion. The devil may not make a dead set upon you when you are poor in grace and indolent, not trading with the merchandise of wisdom, or seriously engaged in the King’s business; but if you have had much spiritual commerce with heaven, whereby your soul has been enriched and your heart has been cheered, and your face has shone, then beware of temptation. In watchfulness and prayer, however, put it thus: “Keep me, Lord, alike in my high estate, and in my low estate. Keep me when I am engaged in business; that I fall not into the tricks of trade, or the excitements of desperate speculation; keep me when I am at the table, that I sin not against thee in the midst of social intercourse with my family or my friends. Lord, whither shall I go from the presence of sin, or whither shall I fly from the reach of temptation? If I seek the desert and become a lonely hermit, sin is there. If I plunge into the thick of the city, and find solitude among the crowds of men, behold, sin reigneth there. If I betake me to my chamber, sin can haunt me there; or if I go abroad into the fields, to listen to the voice of nature, I can be seduced to rebel against thee there in full view of all thy marvellous works. If I should take the wings of the morning, and fly unto the uttermost parts of the earth; if, like the shipwrecked, I lived on a desolate island of the main, and saw not the face of man, even there the face of sin would disquiet me, and rebellious thoughts would rise to taint my daily life.” You need keeping, then, always and at every moment. Seek protection, brethren, seek it constantly. Begin not the day without saying, “Keep me.” Finish it not without crying again, “Keep me.” All day long be not far away from the horns of the altar, to which you may run with the brief ejaculation, “Keep me, keep me, as the apple of the eye.” It means constant care, a perpetuity of divine guardianship. You want that. Seek it.
“Lord, we are blind, and halt, and lame,
We have no stronghold but thy name
Great is our fear to bring it shame.
Let us not fall. Let us not fall.
3. “Keep me as the apple of the eye.” Does it not mean, “Keep me from little evils, the dust and grit of this evil world”?
Your eye needs not to be guarded so much from beams as from motes. You would not say, “It is only a tiny grain of dust, therefore let it enter into my eyes.” By no means. The smallest grain that floats in the summer’s breeze will vex and irritate, and cause the scalding tears to flow, and you know by painful experience how much suffering you may endure from a grain of sand which you could scarcely see. Be this your prayer, then— “Lord, keep me from what the world calls little sins; Lord, keep me from what my callous conscience may make me think to be little sin! Save me, Lord, from thoughts or imaginations, for these are the eggs of which greater mischiefs are hatched. Keep me, Lord, from words which to carnal minds might seem but air, but which, in thy sight are weighty matters, especially as coming from thy children, who have been brought up to understand the law of thy mouth.” I like to see the Christian show the rigidity of that Puritan, who said that he could not even in a word swerve from the truth he believed, though there were a living or an opportunity of preferment to be got by complying. “Oh, but,” said another, “others have made long gashes in their consciences: could not you make a little nick in yours?” Ah, you know what those “little nicks in the conscience” always come to! When once you begin the rent, how swiftly it runs from the top to the bottom of your conscience! Beware of nicks of the conscience; let your prayer be, “Lord keep me! Keep away from me those sins the wrong of which I hardly know, but whose wickedness and woefulness are open before thee. Let me never trifle with a sin because it does not look so black or cause such shame as some other iniquities.” Christians will too often indulge wrong habits and tolerate doubtful customs, till transgressions seem to them as if they were unavoidable, and fain would they persuade themselves that they are harmless. There was an officer who kept in his house a leopard, a tame leopard, which had been born in captivity, and had never known what liberty was. It had grown up as tame as a domestic cat, till one day, when the master was asleep, it gently licked his hand. Now, it so happened that he had abraded the skin during the day, and a little blood oozed out as the creature’s tongue was drawn repeatedly over the wound. The taste of the blood roused the wild demon spirit of the beast at once, and had it not been promptly shot, its once loved master would have been its victim. In like manner those little household sins which look not like the fell destroyers that they are, will one of these days reveal their true nature, and you will have to chase them from your soul, and drive them to their native haunts. It is not meet that they should lodge under your roof. Chase them away before they put you into greater danger. They must be doomed or ye will have no peace. They must be destroyed, for your life is in jeopardy. When the thief cannot break in at the door himself, he finds a child, and puts him through the little window, and then the great door is speedily opened. Thus do little sins open the door for a great sin. Men who have appeared to be proof against open temptations to commit a crime, have often been inveigled by specious allurements. The temptations have come in the garb of virtue, and their disguise has not been cast aside until the way of escape has been cut off. “Keep me, then, as the apple of the eye,” means, “keep me from little things that defile, and little flaws that disfigure or utterly deface godliness of character.”
4. Bo you not think, brethren, that the sensitiveness of the organ of vision may suggest another lesson to be drawn from this prayer, “Keep me as the apple of the eye”? That is to say, make my heart tender, and my conscience quick and impressible. There is nothing more sensitive than the eye. If anything were moved near your hand or arm in the dark, you might not feel its motion, but the eye is keenly perceptive even of a current of air. It is affected by anything passing near it, as you may readily notice for yourselves. God has made the apple of the eye thus sensitive for its own protection, that it may shrink from rash exposure. So, if we are kept as the apple of the eye, we shall be endowed with this peculiar faculty, a tender sensitiveness that shrinks with nervous trepidation from the presence of evil. If the eye grew dull and callous instead of being impressible, it would be in immediate danger, and probably would be soon destroyed. The sensibility of the eye is its own protection: it forecasts the peril and avoids it. Our hearts, my brethren, must in like manner to some extent carry within themselves, by God’s grace, their own instincts of self-protection. Wesley seized on this thought, and paraphrased it aptly when he wrote the verse
“Quick as the apple of an eye,
O God, my conscience make;
Awake my soul when sin is nigh,
And keep it still awake.”
Are there not some men whose senses are never exercised to discern good and evil? They walk in such darkness that they stumble on a sin before they detect it in their path, or a ponderous temptation will roll on them and overturn them without their once perceiving the headway it was making, and the necessity of making their escape. There are some nostrils that would not be disgusted at the foulest smells, nor would they be regaled though the daintiest perfumes were loading the air with their fragrance. But there are other nostrils quick and delicate, which soon perceive the noxious odour; it frets their sense while it pollutes the air. The insensitive are exposed to all kinds of miasma and pestilence because they perceive not the danger; while those to whom the effluvium is repulsive would shun it forthwith, and never rest till the noxious matter that might have bred disease is removed. We want a spiritual sensibility that shall be quick and apprehensive of the faintest smell of sin. Only feel that it is loathsome, and you will easily convince yourselves that it is dangerous. You will not require the minister to come down and admonish you of his suspicions, or exhort you to forbear the first indications of a wrong practice. You will not need a mother or father to say, “My dear child, that is a treacherous step you are about to take.” The conscience should be a ready indicator; if in good keeping it would be a wonderful tell-tale. It will startle you from your lethargy. It will arouse you as with an alarum, for it will cry aloud, “Thou art going astray; thou art falling into error; thou art wandering after evil; thou art setting thyself to do iniquity.” God give us this sensitiveness. I do delight to see it in young converts. Ah, some of us in the early stages. of' conviction were half afraid to put one foot before another for fear of doing wrong. O that you could keep up that tenderness of heart! It ought to increase. Do your diligence to keep the heart holy, for out of it are the issues of life. With some of you I fear there is a degree of dulness that does not betoken the refinement of your taste in spiritual things. We ought as we get nearer to heaven to become more and more jealous of approximation or contact with anything that defileth, abhorring the very trail of the serpent; shuddering at even the appearance of sin; loathing the atmosphere that is corrupted by evil conversation. Keep me, then, like as thou keepest the eye through its own sensitiveness.
5. Should we not make it our prayer, too, that God will keep us as the eye ought to be kept? It should be single. “The light of the body is the eye: therefore, when thine eye is single, thy whole body is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy whole body is full of darkness.” Keep me single-minded, Lord, consecrated wholly, and devoted alone to thee. The eye should be clear. Any speck on its retina would obscure our view of the landscape. With “an inlet so small,” as one of the poets writes, “that a grain might close it,” the eye needs to be cleansed. God has provided arrangements for this without disturbing the beautiful mechanism of the little orb. Take heed, beloved, that the eye of faith is kept clear. We need to be sprinkled with the precious blood, and washed with clean water full often, that we may be always pure, consciously sanctified. The clean water you know is the cleansing water which came with the blood from the heart of Christ, who through the Eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God; thereby the conscience is purged, and the heart made clean, actively and passively sanctified unto God. The eye needs to be far-seeing. It is a great pity when the eye can only see a short distance. We strain our natural eye to see some ship far out at sea, that looks perchance like a speck on the horizon, or we want to stretch our vision far over mountain and valley, river and lake, from some lofty Alp, compassing the entire prospect at a glance. But oh! it is well when our soul can take a wide view, and embrace the grand perspective which revelation unfolds, free from cloud and vapour, not pestered with the cares of the day so as to obscure the immortal joys that await our arrival at the city of the blessed; not earth-bound, and absorbed by incidents that transpire within the tick of this clock, but prospecting the fields of light beyond, where moments, hours, days, years, and centuries of years are unknown. Raise your eyes, Christians. May be ye shall catch a glimpse of the better land,
“Where everlasting spring abides,
And never withering flowers;
Death , like a narrow stream, divides
That heavenly land from ours.”
May the Lord keep us as the apple of the eye, sensitive, clean, clear, single-eyed, and far-seeing.
My brethren, the eye is kept and preserved as an ornament. Certainly the most expressive feature of the human body is the eye, and it is the most capable of making the countenance beautiful. Take away the eye from that fair face— that eye of hazel or of blue, or that black eye that looks you through and through and burns your heart as with coals of fire — how dull, unimpassioned, and senseless it would be! “A beautiful eye,” it has been somewhere said, “makes silence eloquent; a kind eye makes contradiction assent; and an enraged eye makes beauty itself to be deformed; for it is this little member which gives life to every part about us.” Take the sparkling eye away from the sweetest face, and how sadly you have marred it! Your marble statues— some of them almost speak— fail to convey the impression of life, because there is no eye. That lack of eye is lack of all that is lifelike. Let every Christian pray God that, as the eye is the ornament of the body, he may be kept as an ornament to the Christian church. What are the ornaments of the church of God? Are they the wealthy and respectable members? or are they the learned and intellectual members? These , my dear friends, are ornaments from man’s too carnal point of view; they will often secure the most notice among their fellows, but they are not ornaments from God’s point of view unless there is something higher to commend them than the accidents of rank or education. The greatest ornaments of the Christian church are those that labour most diligently, those that pray the most fervently, those that are most filled with love, those that are most Christ like in temper and disposition, the most humble, the most teachable, the most patient in suffering, the most persevering in service, those who commend the gospel of the grace of God by their entire life and conversation— such are the ornaments of the church of God. And the eye of faith sheds lustre on all other features of character. I tell you, that when spirits more pure than ours go round about the church and count the towers thereof, and mark well her bulwarks, it never enters into their thoughts that one part of the building was smeared with the yellow hue of wealth; or that another part of the building was decorated after the classic manner of Corinth and Athens; they only think of the jasper light and of the sapphire glow of spirituality and holiness as it flashes bright in the sunlight of God over hearts that have been sanctified by the Holy Ghost. Pray that you may be made an ornament of the church, your light shining before men, being kept as the apple of the eye to shed lustre on the saints around, and in your degree to irradiate this dark world.
The eye is not only an ornament, but its function in the body is of the greatest usefulness. How sad a privation is the loss of sight, or to lose even a portion of its power how grievous the detriment! The eye is in some respects the most useful part of the mechanism of our bodies; it benefits all our limbs. So, brethren, ought we to be profitable and conducive to the good of others. When we pray, “Keep me as the apple of the eye,” it behoves us to remember the real interest that attaches to our preservation. Are we worth keeping? Not certainly if we are of no use. Who cares to spare and keep a tree that brings forth no fruit? or who is zealous to keep an eye that does not see? I suppose those who wear glass eyes would rather not lose them, but I would be bound to say they do not prize them as if they were as tributary to their pleasure and profit as ours are whose eyes are of God’s making, and answer his ends. A genuine Christian will pray to be useful— to be not like a glass eye, a mere counterfeit for appearance sake; but being of God’s workmanship in Christ Jesus, that he may be preserved with all his faculties in full vigour, lest his strength should be impaired and spoiled, and his capacity to show forth the praises of God, and minister to the welfare of the church, dimmed or utterly extinguished.
My next remark you will perhaps think strange and quaint, but as I have not restricted myself to the immediate sense of the metaphor, as limited by the context, I may be allowed to speak of that which relates to the eye. It occurs to me that Solomon has made this shrewd remark, “The wise man’s eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness;” and I would venture to give this a spiritual turn, and, in beseeching the Lord to keep me as the apple of the eye, would entreat him to keep me in the head, that is, to preserve me in Christ Jesus. Of what use were the eye of a man if it were not in the head? It would have no vitality if it were taken away from the glorious position of honour which is given to it in the countenance of the living man. So if we could be divided from our living Head— if we, as members of Christ, could be separated from him, it were all over with us. When we are united to him, as the branch is to the vine, we flourish, we bring forth fruit; but if we are separated from him we are like the dead withered branches that are gathered up and cast behind the wall where all the rubbish is ignobly burned. The best believer in the world would be only fit for the burning if he were divided from Christ his living Head. “Because I live ye shall live also.” So it stands. Christ’s life is our life. The life of the brain is the life of the optic nerve; the eye lives because the brain lives, and because of its place in the Head. The life of Christ is the Christian’s life. You live because of your connection with Christ — because of your vital indissoluble gracious and eternal union with Jesus Christ your covenant Head. Be this then your prayer, “Lord, let me abide in Christ, and may his words abide in me. Let my thoughts abide in him; may I meditate much on him— may my meditation of him be sweet. Let my purposes and resolves abide in him. May I be determined to follow him whithersoever he goeth, to be and to do always in his strength. May my desires always be towards him, desiring to know him and to be found in him— he himself being the summit of all my hopes and the crown of all my delight. O let my whole soul be in him! Then shall I be useful, then shall I be an ornament of the body, then shall I be preserved and kept.”
I commend this prayer to every believer here. You will often want it: you may want it to-night before you get home. Pray it in the pew now, that you may have protection from sin— even as you pass along the streets — that you may be preserved to your own door. I have met with persons who have broken their leg on their own stairs: mind you do not fall into sin in your own house, where you think you are safest, and at times when you could least suppose that you would be in danger. The Lord succour you, and keep you as the apple of the eye.
Alas! there are some here to whom this prayer is nothing; they are not Christ’s, they have not believed in him. Here is another prayer for you. It is this: “Lord, save me, or I perish.” The fitness of the prayer is obvious, for the reflection appended to it is true. You are near perishing. If you died to-night you must perish for ever. “Lord, save me.” He can do it, he will if you pray to him. His precious blood is shed for the remission of sin. He is always willing to bless sinners. “Lord, save me, or I perish.” Once saved, you may pray to be kept; and he will keep you. “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.”