“And He led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation” (Ps 107:7). The Lord finds all His people in spiritual Egypt; in bondage to Satan and under the curse of a broken law. There is no difference in this respect between them and the rest of mankind; they are children of wrath even as others. But the Lord makes a difference. He made a difference in His purpose in eternity, and He makes a difference in His performance in time. He leads them forth out of Egypt. They are not left in bondage for ever; they are set free in a day of power. He leads them forth by “the right way”. It may not be the way they expected or desired; it may not be, in some steps of it, a comfortable way; but it is the Lord’s way. It is a way dictated by infinite love and wisdom; it is a way that leads safely to the appointed end. In one word, it is “the right way”. The Lord leads them by this way, that they may “go to a city of habitation”. They were dwelling at first in a land of sin and darkness and oppression; they have to pass through a wilderness of trial and conflict; but He leads them to “a city” – a scene of light and liberty and joy, a holy city of habitation where they will find a permanent abode, a sphere of sinless activity and a quiet resting place for ever. This is the heavenly Jerusalem, towards which the Lord is leading all His ransomed ones. “And there shall be no night there: and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.”
Our present subject is “the right way”, and we desire to direct the attention of our readers to some things which are true of it.
1. The right way is a way of sharp conviction. This is the general path by which the Lord leads His people out of Egypt. He brings them through painful exercises of conviction. He shows them where they are, what they have done, and what they deserve. Out of the grave of a dead memory He raises up their past sins, presses home the guilt of these on their consciences, and thus arouses them to seek a way of escape and salvation. Again, He confronts them with the righteous curse of the law they have broken, and they are brought to tremble lest they be quickly overwhelmed in the bottomless ocean of God’s wrath. Some He deals with more sharply than others at this part of their course; some pass through greater depths of fear and terror than others; but almost all know a little at the outset of the sharp pathway of conviction. And if it happens that some do not know very much of it then, they will know a good deal of it afterwards. It is sinners – helpless, guilty, hell-deserving – Jesus came to save, and the Spirit will take of the things of Christ and show them unto them. The way of conviction is a right way, it awakens poor souls on the brink of hell, and makes them seek a Saviour who is able to save to the uttermost.
2. The right way is a way of gracious deliverance. In the time of His people’s extremity, the Lord graciously appears as a Saviour and Deliverer. He shows them a way through the mighty waters; He enables them to make choice of this way; and He leads them safely through. These same waters, that before struck unspeakable terror into their hearts, now stand as lofty walls of protection on either side of them; and speedily these walls of law and justice fall upon their pursuing enemies, and destroy them for ever. Jesus Christ is the way of deliverance. He already passed through the sea of wrath and, by His sufferings unto death, purchased a safe passage for His poor people. And so, when a guilty sinner is enabled by grace through faith to lay hold of this glorious Redeemer as offered in the gospel, he experiences a gracious deliverance from sin and hell, and sees his enemies dead upon the seashore. This is the right way out of Egypt. No matter how extreme our terrors may be, these alone will not suffice; we must get a deliverance from the Lord Himself by the Spirit through the Son, ere we are emancipated from Egyptian bondage. Nothing less will do than “the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost”. And the renewed soul who may be oftentimes afraid he never got this deliverance will not be satisfied with anything else. The salvation of God alone will meet his case.
3. The right way is a narrow way. It is a contrast to “the broad way”. The latter is wide enough to afford scope for all kinds and dispositions of men. The debased profligate and the upright moralist may be found walking in perfect comfort along its expansive course. But the narrow way is a spiritual way; and while its gate is open to receive all who are willing to enter upon it, no matter how black or fair their past life has been, yet it is only the spiritual – they who are born of the Spirit – that can and do walk in it. It affords abundant scope for the broken and contrite in heart, who mourn their past and present sins and bedew their steps with the tears of true repentance; It provides many encouragements for those who bemoan a shut Bible, a prayerless heart, and an absent God. But it has nothing but stones of stumbling and broken bones for such as will attempt to walk in it with sin reigning in them or indulged by them. It is “a way of holiness”. All who are truly in it long for deliverance from a body of corruption, and for conformity to the image of Christ. Their cry ascends continually: “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” It is their constant prayer to be kept free from open transgression, and they endeavour in the strength of grace to walk in integrity and uprightness before God and their fellow men. The way is narrow to all manner of moral evil, and therefore supplies not the smallest footpath to Atheist, By-ends, Worldly Wiseman, or even Legality.
4. The right way is a wilderness way. This world is, in large measure, a wilderness to the people of God. Its best comforts cannot satisfy the supreme desires of their souls. It proves to them “a dry and parched land wherein no water is”. Their souls thirst after God, the living God. And, while He grants a little of His presence here, He reserves the full enjoyment of it for “a better country, even an heavenly”. Their pathway through the wilderness is a solitary way. They meet few who understand their language, thoughts or feelings. But they meet many who look askance at them and regard them as a strange company of fanatics. Their individual way also is to some extent solitary among themselves. Each has his or her own inward experiences, and there are difficulties, sorrows and joys that no stranger intermeddleth with.
The wilderness way is a troublous one. They do not always have smooth walking in it. “In the world ye shall have tribulation.” The Lord’s people have troubles which spring directly from their souls, from the darkness of their minds, the workings of corruptions in their affections, the powerful temptations of the devil, and their own frequent shortcomings and backslidings. They have also troubles from causes outside themselves. In times of sunshine they rejoice, for their mountain stands strong; they walk on with a courageous heart. But in an unexpected moment, the sky darkens, the clouds lower, and the tempest begins to beat on them. They meet with losses and crosses and disappointments. The pleasant gourd, under whose shadow they rested, begins to wither, and they find themselves desolate and afflicted. They feel their pathway is strewn with thorns, and often they are much discouraged because of it. But it is the right way after all. Their sins need to be chastised; their desires after Christ need to be quickened; and their progress in the life of grace needs to be increased. The Lord brings them through the fire and the water so that they may be useful to their fellow-travellers on the way to Zion, in directing, stimulating, and encouraging them, and so that they themselves may be sanctified and “made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light”.
5. The right way is a way of faith and hope. “The just shall live by faith.” They are “saved by hope”. By faith they take the Word of the Lord to be their guide in their journey. Their cry is, “Order my steps in Thy Word”. They know that they are safe from danger if their footsteps are planted in the divinely-marked path, for not a few sorrows have they brought on themselves by sometimes taking their own way, and not the Lord’s. By faith they look to the grace of God in Christ Jesus as their only strength for the journey: “I will go in the strength of the Lord God”. Without grace they cannot walk or run in the course set before them; aye, without grace they cannot even creep in it. And so they are shut up to God alone for strength as well as for direction.
When they are in a proper frame of mind, this is no pain to them; they glory in the Lord as the fountain of all their supplies. By faith they lay hold on the promises of present help and final safety. “When thou passeth through the waters, I will be with thee.” “Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed or confounded, world without end.” By promises such as these, they are enabled to go on from strength to strength. The right way is a way of hope. Hope is the child of faith; they are inseparable companions. By hope the soul gets foretastes of “the rest that remaineth”, of the holy sweetness of the city of habitation. The star of hope in the sky of God’s Word encourages the traveller to push on in spite of the darkness that encompasses his path. The “lively hope” enables him to endure manifold temptations, for he has reason to conclude that these are only for a short time, and that beyond them lies “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away.”
6. The right way is the only way to the city. Many may take other ways, ways of their own choosing and devising, and ways that may seem very fair and plausible, but they are wrong ways – ways that will eventually lead, not to heaven, but to hell. The right way is a way of conviction of sin, a way of gracious deliverance; it is a narrow, wilderness way, but a way of faith and hope. Its lines are marked out for us in the Word of God; it is the sure and only way to heaven. Some, by a form of godliness, may appear to be very near this way, yet are not in it. Some may have an immovable confidence that they are in it, when they are far from it. Others again may be afraid that, notwithstanding what they thought to be a past acquaintance with it, they are not in it and have never entered it. It is very probable the latter are on the way; but fears, however wholesome they may prove in stirring up the soul to examination, are not enough in themselves to prove we are in the way, nor will they satisfy the living soul as to this important matter. The Lord Himself by His own Spirit and Word must make clear to the soul where it stands, whether it is in the way or not. And we believe that it is the cry of every poor soul that has been enlightened to see the need, the preciousness and the glory of this way: “O Lord, if I am not in the right way, put me in it now by the exercise of Thy saving power, and enable me to walk in it even to the end”.
“Them also in a way to walk that right is He did guide,
That they might to a city go, wherein they might abide.”
1. This article originally appeared as the editorial for September 1900 in volume 5 of The Free Presbyterian Magazine. This volume has now been reprinted by Free Presbyterian Publications at £16.50.