by George Whitefield
What a great cloud of witnesses have we presented to our view in the eleventh chapter to the Hebrews—beginning with the proto-martyr Abel. Next to him we find Enoch, not only because he was next in order of time, but also on account of his exalted piety. We have here a short but very full and glorious account, both of his behavior in this world, and the triumphant manner of his entry into the next.
“He was not”; that is, he was not taken away in the common manner, he did not see death; for God had translated him (Heb. 11:5). Who was this Enoch? If we may credit the Apostle Jude, he was a flaming preacher. For he quotes one of his prophecies, “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them, of all their ungodly deeds….”
The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews says that before his translation he had this testimony, “that he pleased God”—and his being translated was a proof of it beyond all doubt. Enoch walked with God. If this can be truly said of you and me after our decease, we shall never complain that we have lived in vain.
I. What Is Implied in Walking With God?
First, it implies that the prevailing power of the enmity of a person’s heart is taken away by the blessed Spirit of God.
Our own experience daily proves what the Scriptures in many places assert, that the carnal mind, the mind of the unconverted natural man—indeed, the mind of the regenerate, so far as any part of him remains unrenewed—is enmity against God. All the open sin and wickedness, which like a deluge has overflowed the world, are only so many streams running from this dreadful contagious fountain, the enmity of man’s desperately wicked and deceitful heart.
Before a person can be said to walk with God, the prevailing power of this heart-enmity must be destroyed. The in-being of it will never be totally removed till we bow down our heads and give up the ghost.
The Apostle Paul, no doubt, speaks of himself, and that, too, not when he was a Pharisee, but a real Christian; when he complains that when he would do good, evil was present with him—not having dominion over him, but opposing and resisting his good intentions and actions, so that he could not do the things which he would, in that perfection which the new man desired. This is what he calls sin dwelling in him.
But as for its prevailing power, it is destroyed in every soul that is truly born of God, and gradually more and more weakened as the believer grows in grace, and the Spirit of God gains a greater and greater ascendancy in the heart.
Second, walking with God implies that a person is reconciled to God the Father, in and through the all-sufficient righteousness and atonement of his dear Son. Jesus is our peace as well as our peace-maker. When we are justified by faith in Christ, then, but not till then, we have peace with God; and consequently cannot be said till then to walk with Him.
Third, walking with God implies an abiding communion and fellowship with God—what in Scripture is called the Holy Ghost dwelling in us. This, I believe, is what the Apostle John would have us understand, when he talks of a person “abiding in Christ, and this is what is particularly meant in the words of our text, “And Enoch walked with God.” Walking with God, then, consists especially in the fixed habitual bent of the will for God, in an habitual dependence upon His power and promise, in an habitual voluntary dedication of our all to His glory, in an habitual eyeing of His precept in all we do, and in an habitual satisfaction in His pleasure in all we suffer.
Fourth, walking with God implies our making progress in living the divine life. “Walking” presupposes a progressive motion. And so it is with those that walk with God. They go on, as the Psalmist says, “from strength to strength”; or, in the language of the Apostle Paul, “they pass from glory to glory, even by the Spirit of the Lord.”
Of course, when a soul is born of God, he is a child of God; and though he should live to the age of Methuselah, yet he would still be only a child of God. But in another sense, the divine life admits of decays and additions. Thus it is that the apostle exhorts Timothy “to let his progress be made known to all men.” And what is required of Timothy in particular, is enjoined on all Christians in general:
II. How Can Believers Maintain Their Walk With God?
First, believers keep up their walk with God by reading His holy Word. “Search the scriptures,” says our blessed Lord, “for these are they that testify of me.” And the royal Psalmist tells us that one property of a good man is “that his delight is in the law of the Lord,” and that he exercises himself therein day and night.
Till we see Jesus face to face we must see and converse with Him through the glass of His word. We must make His testimonies our counselors, and daily, with Mary, sit at Jesus’ feet, by faith hearing His word. We shall find that they are spirit and life, meat indeed and drink indeed, to our souls.
Second, believers maintain their walk with God by private prayer. The spirit of supplication is the very breath of the new creature, the fan of the divine life, whereby the spark of holy fire, kindled in the soul by God, is raised into a flame. A neglect of private prayer has been frequently an opening for many spiritual diseases, and has been attended with fatal consequences. It is one of the most noble parts of the believers’ spiritual armor.
Prayer raises man up to God, and brings God down to man. O believers, be much in regular private prayer. “Watch and pray,” says our Lord, “that ye enter not into temptation.”
Third, frequent meditation is another blessed means of keeping up a believer’s walk with God. “Prayer, reading, temptation, and meditation,” says Luther, make a minister.’ And they also make and perfect a Christian. Meditation to the soul is the same as digestion to the body. Meditation is a kind of silent prayer
“Whilst I was musing,” says David, “the fire kindled.” And while the believer is musing on the works and word of God—especially that mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh, the Lamb of God slain for the sins of the world—he frequently feels the fire of divine love kindle. Be frequent therefore in meditation.
Fourth, believers keep up their walk with God by noting His providential dealings with them. If we believe the Scriptures, we must believe what our Lord declared, that the very hairs of His disciples’ heads are all numbered; and that a sparrow does not fall to the ground, (either to pick up a grain of corn, or when shot by a fowler), without the knowledge of our heavenly Father. Every cross has a call in it, and every particular dispensation of divine providence has some particular end to answer in those to whom it is sent. If it is an affliction, God thereby says, “My son, keep thyself from idols”; if it prospers us, He says by a small still voice, “My son, give Me thy heart.” If believers, therefore, would keep up their walk with God, they must from time to time hear what the Lord has to say concerning them in the voice of His providence.
Fifth, In order to walk closely with God, his children must also heed the stirrings of His blessed Spirit in their hearts and give up themselves to be guided, as a little child gives its hand to be led by a nurse or parent “As many as are the sons of God, are led by the Spirit of God.” But always try the suggestions or impressions that you may at any time feel, by the unerring rule of God’s most holy Word. If they are not found to be agreeable to that, reject them as diabolical and delusive. By observing this caution, you will steer a middle course between over-heated enthusiasm on the one hand, and deism and downright infidelity on the other.
Sixth, They that would maintain a holy walk with God, must walk with Him in ordinances as well as providences. All rightly-informed Christians will look upon ordinances, not as beggarly elements, but as so many conduit-pipes, whereby the infinitely condescending Jehovah conveys His grace to their souls. They will look upon them as children’s bread, and as their highest privileges. Consequently they will be glad when they hear others say, “Come, let us go up to the house of the Lord.” They will be very eager to embrace all opportunities to show forth the Lord Christ’s death till He come.
Seventh, If you would walk with God, you will associate with those that do walk with him. David’s delight was in them that excelled in virtue. And the primitive Christians, no doubt, kept up their vigor and first love by continuing in fellowship one with another. The Apostle Paul exhorts the Christians to not forsake the assembling of themselves together. For how can one be warm alone? Those that would walk with God should meet together as they have opportunity, in order to provoke one another to love and good works.
Enoch, though he be dead, yet speaks to us. Enoch walked with God, though he lived in a wicked and adulterous generation! Let us then follow him, as he followed Jesus Christ. He is not yet entered into his rest, but a little while and we shall enter into ours. And if we are zealous for the Lord of hosts we shall ere long shine as the stars in the firmament, in the Kingdom of our heavenly Father, for ever and ever. To Him, the blessed Jesus, and eternal Spirit, be all honor and glory, now and to all eternity. Amen, and Amen.
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Abridged from a sermon in the Works of George Whitefield,
About the Author:
George Whitefield (1714–1770) has been called the “lightning rod of the Great Awakening.” In the 1730s and 1740s England was foul with corruption and crippled by spiritual decay. Into this society came George Whitefield, then barely 22 years old, fresh from a deep experience with God. Though a member of the Holy Club at Oxford, he had become aware that he was not born again. In his intense struggle to achieve the new birth, he imperiled his health through self-denial. During a prolonged period of bed rest that followed he dropped all of his own efforts and began to really listen to God. At one point he cried out, “I thirst!” in utter helplessness. At this moment of total surrender to Almighty God a new thought came to his heart: “George, you have what you asked! You ceased to struggle and simply believed and you are born again!” It was so simple that it made Whitefield laugh. And as he laughed the floodgates of heaven burst and he felt “unspeakable joy.”
He began to speak from the pulpit with fervor and power. And soon no church could hold the multitude that flocked to hear him. He quickly became the foremost figure in the movement of the Holy Spirit called the Great Awakening.
He was soon joined by John and Charles Wesley and many others, triggering a tremendous chorus of praise and preaching throughout the land which was sustained for at least fifty years. The revival changed the entire temper of English society and the church was restored to life and activity.
He made seven trips to America, lasting from half a year to four years. Much of his reputation rests on the sensation he created during his second journey, where he, along with Jonathan Edwards and Gilbert Tennant, served the Great Awakening at its peak.
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