Bit and Bridle

Not all conferences I have attended over the years yielded a memorable statement, something a speaker said that stuck. One did, however. It must’ve been ten years ago (by the way, I find myself say that a lot lately—everything was about ten years ago! Upon further reflection, it’s either much longer than or not nearly the imagined ten years). The keynote speaker was maybe six or seven years older than I, and as best as I recall he said,

When I was a younger man, I used to think by the time I got to this stage of my life some of the sins and temptations I struggled with would be overcome. Instead, I find the battle more intense.

That gave me pause. For one thing, the candor struck me. For the first 30 years of my ministry career, conference speakers were my seniors. I hadn’t recalled any offering such an admission. But most compelling was the stark reality of his experience. “This is what I have to look forward to?” I pondered. His point, of course, was to be forewarned is to be forearmed.

What this highly respected seminary president admitted is consistent with an aphorism penned 350 years earlier. Thomas Manton, the English Puritan and personal chaplain to Oliver Cromwell wrote,

Not only colts, but horses broken, need a bridle.

I’ve referred often in these devotional writings to Charles Spurgeon’s little book, Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden in which he comments on “flowers” from Manton’s garden of writings. Concerning this statement, he wrote the following.

Indeed they do, and so do we who are advanced in years and full of experience. Old men are not always wise men. Passions which should have been by this time quite subdued still need bit and bridle, or they may hurry us into fatal errors. Flesh does not improve by keeping, nor do corruptions sweeten by the lapse of years. New converts need to watch in the morning of their days, but old saints must be equally on their guard, for the hours become no safer as they draw toward evening. We are all within gunshot of the enemy as long as we are on this side of Jordan.

“Without me you can do nothing,” is as true of strong men as of babes in grace. Temptation, like fire, will burn where the wood is green, and certainly it hath no less power where the fuel is old and [dry]. We shall need to be kept by grace till we are actually in glory. Those who think themselves at heaven’s gate may yet sin their souls into deepest hell, unless the unchanging love and power of God shall uphold them to the end.

Lord, Spurgeon closes in prayer, bit and bridle me, I pray thee, and never let me break loose from thy divine control. Conduct me every mile of the road till I reach my everlasting home.

And may all God’s “senior saints” say, “Amen!”


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