« PreviousContinue »
the way of truth, and to walk in it; to have the judg ment well informed in all the essential parts of revealed religion, and at the same time feel their quickening and holy influence. This was David's desire, and will be the desire of every real christian.
(4.) The way of holiness and obedience, called in scripture the way of God's statutes, testimonies, &c. This is a plain way, a pleasant way, a safe way; and the longer we walk in it the more apprised we shall be of its excellence, and the advantages arising from it. If there be but little company in it, yet it is the best company; and if difficulties present themselves, they are easily surmounted; because the way itself is strength to the upright. It is the way which God hath appointed; (Mic. vi. 8.) ministers describe; (1 Sam. xii. 23.) and all the saints approve. (Psalm cxix. 28.)
Now this way, in whatever light we consider it, may be called the way everlasting: because, (1.) It was appointed from everlasting. Both the way of justification and sanctification; the way to heaven, which is Christ; and the way of heaven, which is holiness, were so. Hence it is also called, the good old way. Jer. vi. 16.-(2.) It is right in its own nature, and therefore everlasting; being agreeable to the reason and fitness of things, and founded upon the divine perfections. There can be nothing false which God has revealed, and nothing unjust which he has commanded. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. Men may change, times may alter; but the way of salvation is the same, whether it be approved or rejected, in honour or disgrace.
(3.) It is a path which the saints have trod in all ages; the patriarchs and prophets under the old testament, and the apostles under the new. It was the character of good men of old, and is equally applicable to good men in every age, that they walked
with God. God never laid but one foundation for the faith and hope of his saints, and never gave them but one rule of duty. The gospel was preached to Adam in paradise, and the law is of equal force as in the day when it was given on mount Sinai.-(4.) It leads to, and will end in everlasting life. Say ye to the righteous, it shall be well with him-They that have done good shall come forth to the resurrection of life. There is a great difference between the death of a sinner, and that of a saint; and there will be a greater difference afterwards. To the one the judge shall say, Depart ye cursed: to the other, Come ye blessed! We shall now proceed to notice,
2. The desire itself: Lead me in the way everlast_ ing. This implies the following things:
(1.) That the Psalmist stood in need of guidance: and what was needful to him is needful to all. The path in which we are called to go is strait and narrow, and sometimes intricate: it lies through an enemy's country, by the lion's den, and mountains of leopards. We are not always indulged with day-light: for want of which we make many a mis-step. There are also many turnings and windings, and bye-paths, into which we are in danger of wandering before we are aware, and may find it difficult to regain the right road on all which accounts we need an abler guide than our own wisdom, and nothing is more dangerous than to lean to our own understanding. Hence it is a saying of Bernard, "He that is his own teacher, is sure to have a fool for his master." And a greater than Bernard could say, Oh Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.
(2.) That he had a sense of his need. This every one has not; for it is said, A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil; but the fool rageth, and is confident,-confident of his own wisdom and ability, and therefore is stubborn and obstinate.
But grace takes
away the high opinion which a man has of himself, makes him deeply sensible of his ignorance and weakness, and that if left to his own management he will certainly miss the way both of duty and happiness. Hence Saul, when enlightened from above, cries out, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do! He who was self-sufficient before, had now an impressive sense of his own impotency. Similar convictions made the Psalmist to exclaim, Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterwards receive me to glory.
(3.) That he entertained high and exalted thoughts of God, as every way capable of the work which he here assigns to him. He puts himself into his hands, and commits himself to his care; not doubting but that if he undertook the charge, the event would be happy and glorious. The influence of the holy Spirit offers no violence to the human will: God does not drive, as a man does his beast; but leads, as a parent does his child, or a teacher his scholar. I will go with the man, says Rebecca: she was as willing to go with Abraham's servant as he was desirous she should. The Lord acts so upon the soul, that there shall always be room and place for our acting by and under him the power is his, the duty ours. The will is not forced, but sweetly bowed. Thou shalt call, says Job, and I will answer; the call is powerful and irresistible, the compliance voluntary and spon
If secret fraud should dwell
Purge out, O God! that cursed leaven,
And make me wholly thine.
If any rival there,
Dares to usurp the throne,
Oh, tear the infernal traitor thence,
And reign thyself alone.
Is any lust concealed?
Bring it to open view;
Search, search, dear Lord! my inmost soul,
And all its powers renew.
They constrained him, saying, abid with us.
PERSONS who have enjoyed the consolatory presence of Christ, and are again favoured with it after having been deprived of it for a time, may from hence learn what to do: like the two disciples travelling to Emmaus, they should constrain him, saying, abide with us. Such was the conduct of the spouse of Christ: 1 found him whom my soul loveth: I held him and would not let him go. And thus also Jacob to the angel: I will not let thee go, unless thou bless me.-From the words of the disciples we may observe two things; viz. That Christ's presence is exceedingly desirable to the saints: and that a seemingly departing Saviour may be constrained, as it were, to abide with us.
I. Christ's presence is exceedingly desirable to
This appears from their earnest desires after it, and their sorrows when deprived of it. One exclaimed, Oh when wilt thou come unto me! Another lamented, They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him! What are friends, and earthly enjoyments; what is all the world without Christ!
away the is withdrawn, a gracious soul breathes after makes th the most intense desire; and when he is ennesyed, it takes the greatest complacency in him. Nor is it wonderful that it should be so, if the following things be duly considered.
1. The presence of Christ is an evidence of his love. Fellowship is the fruit of friendship. Wherein shall it be known, (says Moses) that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? Is it not in that thou goest with us? Without this we shall be but upon a level with our neighbours. The hidings of God's face are not indeed sufficient indications of his anger; for they are sometimes intended for the most gracious purposes, and are fruits of the most endearing af fection yet the light of his countenance is a certain token of divine good-will. There is no doubting of his favour when we enjoy his presence. We can then use the language of appropriation, saying, with Mary, Rabboni; and with Thomas, My Lord, and my God!
2. Christ's presence is attended with the most desirable effects; none can enjoy it without deriving the greatest advantages from it. It conveys light into the understanding, as well as warmth into the affections; so that in proportion to the measure of Christ's revealing himself to us, will be the measure of our profiting in the knowledge of him. Hence our Lord's surprise at the conduct of Philip; Have ! been so long time with you, and yet thou hast not known me? Are you deficient in knowledge, who have had such opportunities for improvement ?-The presence of Christ is exceedingly comfortable and refreshing to the soul. Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad. Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord. The church rejoices at hearing the voice of her Beloved: her graces are put into exercise, her comforts raised to the highest pitch, and her heart overflows with thankfulness and praise.