Page images
PDF
EPUB

shut up. Having once transgressed the law of God, they stood exposed to the full execution of that curse, which doomed them to eternal death. This cut off all their hopes of heaven, and threw them into total despair of ever attaining it. The way of innocence being shut up, they could see no other. And as a striking emblem of this, the tree of life was guarded by a flaming sword, which turned every way to obstruct every passage to it. Had not God, therefore, opened a new and living way to heaven, by a divine Redeemer, the whole human race must have perished in their sins. But in that important crisis, when all hope was lost, God was pleased to assure Adam, that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head. This opened the way to heaven for all mankind ; and all who have ever been saved, have gone to heaven in this way. Hence the way to heaven is an old way. It is a path, which has been travelled by more or less, in every age, from the fall of man to this day. Hence God directs sinners to inquire for this old path, in which so many had gone before to the world of glory. For near four thousand years, there has been a small company of mankind walking to their long home, in the strait and narrow way God has opened to heaven Adam, Abel, Seth, Noah, Abraham, all the patriarchs, prophets, and a postles, and in a word, all good men have walked in one and the same path, wbich leads to eternal lise. It is a very old path, and has never been altered, since it was first opened, and revealed to fallen men.

2. The way to heaven is a good way. “Ask for the old paths, where is the good way.” It was devised by unerring wisdom and perfect goodness. Had it been a way devised by man, or any created being, it might have been a bad way ; but since the ever wise God devised it, it must be as good a way to heaven as possible. God saw all possibles, when he devised the way to heaven, and chose absolutely the best. It is the best way, that the wisest and best of Beings could point out for his sinful, perishing creatures. And this is confirmed by the experience of all who bave walked in this way. Many have left their solemn testimony in favor of the way which God has opened to heaver. Solomon calls it the way of wisdom, whose paths are peace. Samuel said, “it was the good and the right way." David ran in this way with great delight. Enoch walked with God, while walking in the way to heaven. Moses took more pleasure in walking in the path to heaven, than in all the wealth of Egypt. In short, all the most eminent saints, whose characters are recorded in the Old and New Testaments, are represented as enjoying peculiar happiness, in walking with God and one another, in the way to heaven. So that they found by experience, God's promise to sioners in the text, to be true. « Ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.The path to heaven is the most pleasant patb, that men can possibly walk in. All other paths are full of misery; but this is full of happiness.

This leads me to observe,

3. That the way to heaven is a way of holiness. “It is written, be ye holy, for I am holy.” And it is said, “ Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord.” The prophet Isaiah, in describing the way to heaven, says, “ 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 those : the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.” Holiness consists in conformity of the heart to God. God is love. Conformity to his moral image consists in pure, disinterested, universal benevolence. And this benevolence is the essence and comprehension of all pious and virtuous affections and actions. All who have gone to heaven, have possessed the spirit of true benevolence. The Apostle represents good men as forming one body, and possessing one spirit. 'For,' says he, 'as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. Foroby one spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we are Jews or Gentiles, whether we are bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one spirit.' All good men have been born of the Spirit, and conformed to the moral image of God. Here then, I would particularize,

1. That the way to heaven is a way of love. All who have gone to heaven have possessed a spirit of supreme love to God. He has always required men to love him with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the mind, and with all the strength. This first and fundamental command the heirs of heaven have always obeyed. Many of them expressed this affection by the most disinterested conduct. Abraham was the friend of God, and he manifested his friendship to him, by forsaking his father's house, his friends, his native country, becoming a pilgriin and stranger in the earth, and by erecting altars to bim, and paying bim public homage and worship, in the midst of idolatrous nations. Moses loved God supremely, and was willing to sacrifice every thing to his glory. When God offered to make him a great nation, he refused, and chose to havə bis name blotted from his book, rather than the glory of his Maker should be eclipsed. Job loved God supremely, and would heartily bless his name at all times, even when stripped of every outward token of divine favor. David had a supreme affection for his Maker, and could sincerely say to him, 'Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon earth, that I desire besides thee.' Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, displayed astonishing love to the only living and true God, before the eyes of an idolatrous world. The Apostles and primitive christians manifested the same spirit through the course of their lives, and in their death. Supreme love to God has been one distinguishing quality of the saints in every age of the world. Nor have they been destitute of universal love to their fellow-men. Moses, David, Daniel, the prophets and apostles manifested a most disinterested concern for the temporal and eternal good of all around them, whether friendly or unfriendly to their personal characters and interest. They prayed for their en

emics, and expressed the tenderest emotions of pity, compassion and universal benevolence. All who have gone to heaven have gone in the way of love.

2. The way to heaven is the way of faith. Good men hare aiways been firm and cordial believers in the Being, Providence and Word of God. Adam, Abel, Seth and Noah, and Abraham and Job, offered sacrifices before the law; and all good men under the law did the same, by which they expressed not only their faith in the being and word of God, but in the death and atonement of the divine Redeemer. The prophet before the gospel day, says, “The just shall live by faith.' But the apostle in the eleventh of Hebrews has most expressly told us, that all the ancient patriarchs and good men lived a life of faith, and trusted in a Savior to come for salvation. See verse 1–16. The new and living way of salvation is emphatically the way of faith. Those who have gone to heaven, have gone in the exercise of faith.

3. The way to heaven is a way of submission. God in his word and providence has always called his friends to the duty of unconditional submission, and this duty they often performed to the astonishment of the world. He called his friend Abraham to offer up his beloved son Isaac, as a burnt offering Abraham without the least complaint or hesitation, or delay, did really and sincerely submit to the sovereign will of God. Job exercised entire submission under the sorest bereavements. Eli submitted to the denunciation of the divine displeasure, when he said, 'It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth good in his sight." David displayed remarkable resignation to the will of God, in the time of Absalom's rebellion, and the awful pestilence. The Shunnamite cordially said, 'It is well,' when bereaved of ber beloved child. Hezekiah said, 'Good is the word of the Lord,' after hearing the predictions of impending judgments. It is unnecessary to mention all the signal expressions of submission, which are recorded of the heirs of heaven. They all felt and acted as pilgrims and strangers in the earth, and went through their course, with a spirit of unconditional submission.

4. The way to heaven is the way of prayer. Those who love God, believe in his word, and have confidence in his providence, are given to prayer. They acknowledge God in all their ways, and habitually call upon his name for every needed favor. Accordingly we find those who have gone to heaven, have lived a life of prayer. Noah, Job and Daniel, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, David, and many others, were men of great devotion, and called upon God in secret, in private and public. The way to heaven lies through a dangerous and ensnaring world, and hence good men in their journey to heaven, have always found abundant need of calling upon God. Besides, this is the most proper way of holding communion with him, and enjoying the clearest prospect of future and eternal realities. I may add,

5. The way to heaven is a way of universal obedience to the divine commands. Godliness will not only produce all rigbt affec

tions, but lead the subjects of grace to a life of universal obedience. Good men have, in all ages, distinguished themselves, by their holy lives as well as holy affections. Enoch and Noah walked with God, and before the world, with a perfect beart. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, were obedient to God. Job was exemplary in all his conduct. He feared God and eschewed evil. Zacbarias and Elisabeth walked in all the ordinances and commandments of the Lord blameless. Paul kept a conscience void of offence towards both God and man. In short, the patriarchs, the prophets, the apostles and saints in all ages exhibited a shining example of virtue as well as piety, of external obedience as well as of internal holiness. Hence it appears from the character and conduct of those, who have gone to heaven, that the way thither, is a way of holiness in heart and life. And for this reason, the scripture sets the way of the godly, the way of the righteous, the way of the just, in contrast with the way of the ungodly and sinners. The way to heaven is calculated to prepare those who walk in it, for that rest and happiness, which God bas provided for them. They live as they die, and die as they will live in a state of holiness.

I now proceed to show,

II. That sinners have always been opposed to the way toheaven. “But they said, 'We will not walk therein.' This has been the feeling and language of siuners in all ages. The way to heaven was laid open to the first family of mankind. While Adam lived, all his children knew the way to heaven. His children might have conveyed the samne knowledge to theirs, and theirs to future generations. All mankind in every age of the world, might bave known the way to heaven, if they had chosen to walk in it. And nothing but a dislike to the way to heaven, led mankind to lose the knowledge of it. But in spite of the opposition of sinners to tbis knowledge, God has always maintained it, in some part of the world. There has been one uninterrupted stream of divine knowledge, shining in this dark world, from the fall of man to this day. Hence there has been always an opportunity for sinners to manifest their opposition of heart to the way to heaven. And this opportunity they have always improved. Enoch has recorded the feelings, the language, and conduct of sinners from Adam to this day. Ungodly sinners then were most heartily opposed to the way of holiness. Other inspired writers have recorded the feelings and conduct of sinners from Enoch to Noah. In his day, sinners had a fair opportunity to walk in the way to heaven, while the way to destruction was clearly pointed out. But they all said to a man, 'Let destruction come, we will not walk in the way to heaven, but in the way of our hearts, and in the sight of our eyes.' After this, the godly were reduced to a single family, by which religion and virtue might have been propagated through the world. Bnt though the way to heaven for several hundred years was pointed out to sinners, yet they said they would not walk therein. And the consequence wa's God suffered all nations to walk in the way of their hearts, until the days of Abraham. With him and his

son he continued the knowledge of the way to heaven. But the seed of Abraham his friend, became his inveterate enemies; and notwithstanding God sent his prophets, rising up early and sending them ; and calling upon them to stand, and consider, and ask for the old and good way to heaven, yet they said, “We will not walk therein. When Christ came and brought life and immortality to light, aud pointed out the way to heaven in a clearer manner, than it ever had been before, sinners still refused to strive to enter into the strait gate, and walk in the narrow way to eternal life. The apostles made another experiment : they carried the gospel to those who had never heard of it, but when sinners understood it, they turned from the way to heaven, and determined to walk in their own chosen way, which leads to destruction. The same disposition sinners have manifested ever since the time of the apostles to this time. When the way to heaven is pointed out, they practically, if not verbally say, 'We will not walk therein.' In a word, the conduct of sinners, in all ages has clearly shown, that they are totally opposed in heart to the way to hearen. Though they sometimes wish to arrive at that holy and happy place ; yet they will not walk in the path, which leads to it. That sinners do voluntarily refuse to walk in the way to heaven is capable of clearest proof. For,

In the first place, the way to heaven is altogether intelligible. Though sinners could not have found the way of themselves; yet after it is revealed, it is easy to understand, wayfaring men, though fools, may walk therein. Hence sinners not walking in it cannot be owing to ignorance. They may, and often do know it as well as those who walk in it.

In the next place, the way to heaven is reasonable. It is proper, that just such creatures as sinners are, should walk in just such a manner as God has required. It is reasonable they shonld walk in all the ways of holiness. They ought to be holy, as their Creator is.

In the last place, is is to be observed, that the way to heaven has been found a most easy and pleasant way to all who have chosen to walk in it. Hence it is evident there are no natural difficulties or obstacles to hinder sinners from walking in it. They have as much power to walk in the way to heaven, as to walk in any other way. And this they always feel, when they feel to blame for refusing to walk in the way to heaven. And they often do feel self-condemned for turning aside from the path to heaven, aud walking in their own chosen, crooked paths, which lead to ruin. It is, beyond doubt, therefore, that sinners have always been unwilling to walk in the good, old way to heaven.

HEADS OF IMPROVEMENT. 1. If sinners have always been.opposed to that way to heaven, which God has pointed out to them, we may see why they have taken so much pains to find out different ways to heaven. The wise man represents the world as having employed their strongest

« PreviousContinue »