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THE WAY EVERLASTING.
Psalm cxxxix. 24.
“This is the only way that can be worth the pursuit of an immortal being :-a way that may hold on with him through his entire career, and not stop short and deceive him in the middle of his course.
“Now of all the ways, and they are innumerable, which the world has to offer us--which of them is there that can boast of this momentous and indispensable requisite? which of them can style itself A WAY EVERLASTING? Instead of being everlasting, there is not one of them that can engage to accompany us through the present life-some of them not through a twelvemonth of it,-while by far the greater number fail as soon as we enter upon them, and prove their vanity at the very outset.
“ It is, therefore, a very subordinate inquiry, what are the kinds of pleasure that any of these have to offer? Nor is it of much more importance to be informed whether they can make good their pretensions ? which, after all, few, if any of them, are able to do. For admitting they can realize what they hold out to us, our mortification must only be the greater when we find that the crop of fruition is exhausted, the season of enjoyment at an end, and that there is no new harvest to succeed to it.
“ What we want, and without which we should never be satisfied, is that which the psalmist here longs for-A WAY EVERLASTING; a something that shall run the whole race of the soul, and keep up with its illimitable duration. Can ambition give us any thing of this kind ? Every one who looks the least
beyond his own person must say-no! The man who treads in this way, seldom indeed holds on so far as even the way itself lies open ;-worn out by the hectic that consumes his enfevered frame, or cut down in the midst of his hey-day by some fatal mischance that he did not calculate upon. Yet, let him reach the goallet him be crowned with the guerdon he has sighed for, and which his sweat and his labour have more than merited. Are the laurels, indeed, perennial? Has he, in reality, acquired the precise object he has been in pursuit of ? Let the Alexanders, the Cæsars, the Charlemagnes, the Cromwells, the Buonapartes of the world answer the question. Instead of A WAY EVERLASTING they have only acquired a
Monumentum ære perennius; a pyramid more lasting than brass: and their only real guerdon is a HIC JACET on a marble tablet. . This is all we know of them on this side the grave, and there have been but few of their companions here who would wish to be companions with them beyond it.
“But the ways of the world are innumerable, and this is only one of them. There is the way of WEALTH; the way of POMP and OSTENTATION; the
of POPULAR APPLAUSE; the way of GALLANTRY; the way of GLUTTONY; the way of INDOLENT REPOSE ; and the way of wit and LEARNING. These, too, have their respective attractions. Over their portals are engraven the most alluring mottos, the most specious promises; like the philacteries over the shoulders and foreheads of the Pharisees of old; and, like them too, making an open mock of those who placed them there.
“I do not mean to say that they are all exactly upon a level, equally hollow and deceitful, and alike
unworthy the pursuit of an immortal spirit. But take the best of them -- the way of sound, illuminating science; that which unfolds to us the beautiful order of nature, and the adamantine rock of moral obligations. It accompanies us only to the end of the present life, and vanishes at the very point where we stand most in need of a guiding clue. It leads us to the grave—but it leads us no further; and its end, like that of all the rest, is destruction. This, in truth, is the iron that entered into the soul of the best and the wisest sages of antiquity, when engaged in the momentous inquiry before us. They had their hopes and their surmises, but they had nothing more. The strongest part of the Epicurean philosophy is that which points out the unsatisfactory nature of all those arguments which mere reason is able to offer in favour of a future state. And hence, he who apparently knew them all (for they are of very ancient rise, and for the most part only reached Greece from the East) is fully justified in asserting that ‘in much wisdom is much grief; and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.'* 'Life and immortality are brought to light (alone) by the gospel.'+ This is a doctrine that cannot be too strongly insisted upon: for though it is not the only, nor even the chief doctrine the gospel communicates, it is that without which every
other would be but of little importance. “ THE ONLY WAY EVERLASTING, then, that we can ever know-if we except that of everlasting destruction-and consequently the only way that is fitted to the nature of an immortal soul, is THE WAY OF RELIGION—and of religion as expressly revealed to us by
God himself; and it is a way not more distinguished by this peculiar attribute of perpetuity than by every other that it possesses.
“Instead of captivating by the magnificence or decorations of its vestibule, and the beauty of its opening scenery, nothing can be more staggering or repulsive: • Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.'* Its ensign is a Cross; and the discipline it demands of every one who enters it is a course of mortification at his commencement, and a life of humility through his whole career. But, equally different from every other path in which we can possibly tread, it widens and brightens, and grows delightful as we proceed; and gives at length to the astonished eye every charm of real worth, every unmingled beauty of scene, in rich and uncontracted profusion, which every other path makes an empty boast of, and gives them in perpetuity; for death itself is not allowed to destroy the extatic prospect. The dark valley of the shadow of death must, indeed, be passed through; but the beams of the Sun of righteousness will ever illume it, and display, beyond its beclouded vista, “the path of life' still spreading, the 'fulness of joy' that is in God's presence, the pleasures that are at his right hand FOR EVERMORE.T
“ It is this last part of the description that gives the finishing stroke to the whole, and forms the sum of the happiness of heaven--the way that it displays to us is a WAY EVERLASTING. Were it not so, indeed, it would be heaven no longer. The single thought that the joys of the blest above could have a close, would * Matt. vii. 14.
+ Psalm xvi. 11.
give a sting to every delight, and raise a sigh in the midst of every hallelujah. And it is on this point, therefore, that the holy psalmist concentrates his attention in the passage before us; with this he concludes his supplication, overlooking all the rest, as though swallowed up in the grand and momentous idea of perpetuity, and totally inadequate to the vast grasp of his aspirations without it-0, LEAD ME IN THE WAY EVERLASTING!"
“ BE OF GOOD CHEER: IT IS I; BE NOT AFRAID.
Matt. xiv. 27.
“We are perpetually hearing of the troubles and calamities of life: and God knows there is reason enough for the complaint in every quarter. Where is the breeze that does not waft a sigh? the sun that is not at times veiled in clouds ? the harvest that does not produce thorns and briars? where is the house without its mourning? the city without its place of graves ? How constantly is congratulation exchanged for condolence; and the joyous peal for the knell of death? Life is a series of griefs and harassments; and we no sooner escape from one evil, than we have to encounter another. And as the man is the daily sport of wayward facts, so is the mind of wayward fancies. As though we were not satisfied with the sorrows that actually lie in our way, we create visionary ones in our imagination, or anticipate those that are approaching; and, descrying them through the mist of our own fears, give them a horror and gigantic gauntness that does not naturally belong to them.