MY SOUL, BE ON THY GUARD
George Heath, 1750–1822
Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (1 Corinthians 9:26, 27)
There is nothing more tragic than to see a Christian negate a lifetime of worthy living and service for God through some spiritual defeat and dishonor to the gospel. Imagine the shame of Job when Eliphaz the Temanite rebuked him with these cutting words:
Think how you have instructed many, how you have strengthened feeble hands. Your words have supported those who stumbled; you have strengthened faltering knees, but now trouble comes to you, and you are discouraged; it strikes you, and you are dismayed. Should not your piety be your confidence and your blameless ways your hope? (Job 4:3–6)
The apostle Paul’s fervent concern for his life, that after he had preached to others he himself might be disqualified by God through careless living, seems to apply to the writer of this hymn text. George Heath was an English independent minister, who in 1770 became pastor of a Presbyterian church at Honiton, Devonshire. Later, proving himself unworthy of this office, he was deprived of his parish “for cause.” Eventually, it seems, he became a Unitarian minister. It is difficult to understand how a person could write such a stirring challenge on the subject of spiritual steadfastness and then change so drastically in later years. Yet the Scriptures are clear that the Christian life is a lifetime of perseverance, and whoever puts his hand to the plow and looks back is unfit for service in God’s kingdom (Luke 9:62). We must have the enabling power of the Holy Spirit each day if we intend to be on guard.
My soul, be on thy guard—ten thousand foes arise. The hosts of sin are pressing hard to draw thee from the skies.
O watch and fight and pray; the battle ne’er give o’er; renew it boldly ev’ry day, and help divine implore.
Ne’er think the vict’ry won, nor lay thine armor down; the work of faith will not be done till thou obtain thy crown.
Fight on, my soul, till death shall bring thee to thy God; He’ll take thee, at thy parting breath, to His divine abode.
For Today: Matthew 26:41; 1 Corinthians 15:58; 16:13; Hebrews 10:23
Be alert to the many distractions that can easily undermine your spiritual life. Resolve to keep short accounts with God. Depend on the Holy Spirit for your inner strength. Reflect on this musical message as you go—