« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
paths before us, many of them broad and inviting. At the entrance of one of them stands Honour, beckoning to us to come that way, saying, “If you have any ambition of making a figure in the world, or ranking among the great or learned, follow me I will shew you the way to fame. In another of these paths stands Riches, in the habit of a miser, almost weighed down with gold, crying, "" Ho. nour's a puff of noisy breath:" come along with me: I will lead you to something more substantial; I will show you how you shall soon get rich, and increase in goods, and want for nothing. Do not hearken to either of them,' cries Pleasure (pointing to a path the most flowery and enchanting of all).
If you would enjoy life, come along with me: here you shall be “ clothed in purple and fine linen, and fare sumptuously every day:" here you may walk after the ways of your own heart, and the sight of your own eyes, and have nothing to do but to “ eat, drink, and be merry. "-Our eyes dazzled, and our hearts captivated, by these syrens, we were upon the point of consenting to one or other -nay, perhaps we had actually consented, and were gone on some way with them, and thought ourselves quite happy, or expected soon to be sowhen God called to us, and said, "" Stand ye in the way and see, and inquire which is the good old
way :” the path you are now in leads down to the chambers of death: I will shew you the only path of life; “incline your ears, and come unto me; hear, and your souls shall live.”. And then he pointed us to a road narrow and solitary, with only here and there a traveller, and overgrown besides with briars and thorns, that we
never should have taken notice of it, or at least never should have gone into it, if God had not given us counsel.
Here it may be asked, How doth God shew us this path of life?-I answer:
1. By his word.
“ All Scripture is given by inspiration from God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” There “ he hath shewed thee, O man, what is good :" and “ what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Mic, vi. 8.) “ If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matt. xix. 17.) “ An highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called the way of holiness: the unclean shall not pass over it, but it shall be for those : the way-faring men, though fools, shall not err therein.” (Isai. xxxv. 6.) All the turnings, to the right hand, or to the left, are distinctly marked; and we never take a material step in life, but, if we consult those oracles of truth, they would quickly inform us whether we were going right or wrong. That so many go astray, is not for want of information: they know “ the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death :" they are told that “neither fornicators, nor idolatérs, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners,' shall inherit the kingdom of God.” “ The grace of God hath appeared unto all men, teaching them to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in the world.”
And, to make it still plainer (and plainer he could not make it), the Lord Jesus Christ came down from heaven on purpose to walk before us, saying, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life ; no man cometh to the Father but by me.” (John xiv. 6.)—
“ Is he a way? He leads to God;
Till we arrive at Zion's hill." But yet, after all, this is but holding up a map of the road to a blind, man. The light “ shineth in darkness, but the darkness comprehendeth it not.” The plainest and most awful declarations of Scripture are unheeded or mistaken. And we should all have continued wandering among the highways and hedges, till we had perished in our iniquity, if God had not taken some other, and more effectual, method to compel us to come in. It is therefore with great pleasure and thankfulness that I add
2. God shews us the path of life by his Spirit.
“ It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing:" the bare words of Scripture in themselves are a dead letter, which,“ hearing, we hear, but do not understand ; and, seeing, we see, but do not perceive." How many melancholy proofs of this have I now before me! Persons who have sat twenty, thirty, forty-I had almost said fourscore years, under the sound of the Gospel ; who have been warned, a thousand and a thousand times over, to “ flee from the wrath to come ;” and yet are going on as secure and jocund in the paths of sin as if they had never heard a word of their guilt and danger. That this is not the case of all ;
that any of us have thought on our ways, and turned our feet unto God's testimonies, and are inquiring the way to Zion with our faces thitherward; is owing, not to our superior sagacity and resolution, but only, and entirely, to the secret instigation and assistance of the Holy Spirit of God; who, as a voice behind us, whispered, " This is the way, walk ye in it;" and by his sweetly constraining influence inclined and enabled us to do
He overcame in us, and for us, all the obstacles and oppositions in our way; enlightened our understandings, and led us into all truth: and then it was that the prayer of the Psalmist, and the promise of Jehovah, received their full accomplishment; * Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy Spirit is good : lead me into the land of uprightness,” (Ps. cxliii. 10); and, “ I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. (Ezek. xxxi. 27.)
In this manner doth God show us the path of life: and the recollection of it gives the highest satisfaction to gracious souls, even in circumstances of the greatest outward gloom and distress. When they have been a long while languishing under a painful and incurable distemper; their body at last emaciated, and their strength gone, and “ heart and flesh failing;” in the midst of all, how cheerfully they look, and say: “None of these things move me.' I believe it seems worse to standers-by than to myself. “My heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth ; my flesh also shall rest in hope :' for God hath shown me the path of life. He passed by me as I lay in my blood. He looked; he loved ;
and he said unto me, Live. He breathed into me the breath of life, and I became a living soul:'a mercy for which I can never be thankful enough. This is that which hath sweetened all the bitter trials I have passed through. This is that which supports me now in the manner you see, under bodily infirmities and decays. I care not what becomes of this vile body-let it die, and be thrown into the grave, and left there, a prey to worms and putrefaction. I rejoice, yea and I will rejoice, in the Lord; for my soul shall live to praise him.”
II. The Christian rejoices in the assurance of being conducted safe to glory.
“ Thou wilt show me the path of life.” It bath been a difficulty with many a dying saint, when he has found himself just ready to quit this world and launch into eternity, How shall a poor stranger, in such a dark and untried abyss, find the path of life? I read of principalities and powers, and spiritual wickednesses in high places; and my inveterate adversary, the devil, is called the prince of the power of the air : will he not molest my spirit in its passage through his territories ? What if I should lose my way! What if I should be assaulted and overcome by those powers of darkness, and never get to heaven after all !-Here faith comes in to his relief; reminds him of the divine perfections and promises'; what God hath said, and what he hath done, for his security and comfort; quotes these and such-like texts of Scripture to him: “ The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them” (Ps. xxxiv. 7); for he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways (Ps. xci. 11);