Iniquity at my heels. These words remind us that sin is not done with after it is committed. God forgives sin, but He does not obliterate all its consequences, either in our own lives or in the lives of others. A man may have the light of the City of God flashing in his face, and a whole host of shameful memories and bitter regrets crowding at his heels. We do not know what sin is till we turn our backs on it. Then we find its tenacity and its entanglement. What would we not give if only we could leave some things behind us! What would we not do if only we could put a space between ourselves and our past! The fetters of evil habit may be broken, but their marks are upon us, and the feet that bore the fetters go more slowly for them many days. The hands that have been used to grasping and holding do not open without an effort, even though the heart has at last learned that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
Yes, and our sins come to life again in the lives of others. The light word that ought to have been a grave word and that shook another’s good resolution, the cool word that ought to have been a warm word and that chilled a pure enthusiasm—we cannot have done with these things. Parents sometimes live to see their sins of indulgence or of neglect blighting the lives of those to whom they owed a debt of firmness and kindness. It is iniquity at the heels. These passages of carelessness and unfaithfulness haunt men, be their repentance never so bitter and their amendment never so sincere and successful. But all this is for discipline and not for despair. It casts us back upon God’s mercy. It keeps the shadow of the cross upon all our path. It has something to do with the making of ’a humble, lowly, penitent, and obedient heart.’ The memory of the irreparable is a sorrow of the saints.
Saint, did I say? With your remembered
Dear men and women whom I sought and slew!
Ah, when we mingle in the heavenly places,
How will I weep to Stephen and to you!
Only let us not be afraid nor wholly cast down. Rather let us say, ’Wherefore should I fear when the iniquity at my heels compasseth me about?’ By the grace of God the hours of the soul’s sad memory and of clinging regrets shall mean unto us a ministry of humility and a passion of prayer. And through them God shall give us glimpses of the gateway of that life where regret and shame and sorrow fall back unable to enter. There is a place whither the iniquity at a man’s heels can no longer follow him, and where in the perfect life the soul, at last, is able to forget.
THE WINGS OF THE DOVE
And I said, Oh that I had wings like a
Then would I fly away, and be at rest....
I would haste me to a shelter
From the stormy wind and tempest.
Ps. lv. 6, 8.