Jeremiah 6:16

Men are surrounded from their earliest years with various religious systems, the claims of which conflict. To a conscientious mind, intellectual disquietude is the first result of this; in those less in earnest it produces and justifies indifference. All religious tend, under these circumstances, to assume the aspect of speculative questions, and the moral life is increasingly detached from religious sanctions. Morality must thereby be impaired, if it do not ultimately disappear. The prophet, therefore, recalls the people to the consideration of religion as a practical question. It is with him a question not of pure theory, but of conduct and experience. He urges the settlement of the conflict upon these grounds, and furnishes certain criteria by which to determine it.

I. ANTIQUITY IS A TEST OF TRUE RELIGION. Man is a religions being by nature, and God has never left himself without a witness in the world. There has been no generation in which some have not sought and found him. From the very first, therefore, there must have been religions conditions observed, which from their nature must be, as they were intended to be, permanent. The argument for the existence of God, for instance, is greatly strengthened by the evidence of the recognition of him by primitive and ancient peoples. Even in their errors and mistakes, when their views and observances are collated and compared, witness is given to fundamental truths. But the argument is stronger still when the people appealed to are those who, like Israel, have an historical faith. Ages of faith were behind them, illustrated by mighty heroes and saintly men of God, For ages a certain communion had been observed between the nation and its theocratic Head. What was the secular character of those' ages? Were they marked by political strength, social order and purity, and commercial prosperity? Were the leaders of the people men whose ideal of life and actual behavior commended themselves to the general conscience of the world? Was it to be supposed that any essential truth for the spiritual guidance of men had to be discovered thus late in the day? Were men to be always on tiptoe to learn what the last finding of research might be? There were paths that had been tried by holy men. When the nation was at its best, it acknowledged God in these ways. The vast majority of those who were holiest and best had tried them and found them satisfactory.

II. BUT DISCRIMINATION IS REQUIRED, The children of Israel were to "stand in the ways," i.e. to examine the different systems of religion and morals that laid claim to their attention. Critical and historical judgment had to be exercised. It is not simply the oldest religion that is to be retained and followed, but that in the religious history of the past which has most evidently conduced to noble action, spiritual health, and well-being. The' heathenisms of the world are self-condemned; immorality has ever tended to destruction. The Englishman, therefore, is not to look to the Druids for infallible teaching; nor Christians to the saints of the Old Testament times. The dictum of Ignatius is sound: Nobis vera antiquitas est Jesus Christus. But the teaching and personality of Jesus were commended by their essential agreement with Mosaicism in its most ancient form; as that in turn was but a confirmation and elaboration of patriarchal convictions, experiences, and revelations. The truth that has been held in all ages is retained in each new development of revelation and history, but it is spiritualized and grounded upon deeper and wider sanctions.

III. THE NATURAL HUMAN DESIRE FOR MERE NOVELTY HAS TO BE OVERCOME. True religion is not to be despised because it is old. The truth, when carefully studied and spiritually realized, is ever new and fresh. And the "new truths" to which advancing time introduces us are justified only as we can organically and spiritually evolve them from their archaic predecessors. Obligations which are merely relative will change or disappear with the relations upon which they are founded, but the cardinal truths of heart and life must ever retain their authority, and new experience will but tend to deepen and strengthen their hold upon the religious nature. If, on the other hand, the teachings of experience and the warnings of prophets are despised, new heinousness will be added to the wickedness of the wicked. It will be willful disobedience, and as such will be more severely punished.

IV. OBEDIENCE TO THESE DOCTRINES OF EXPERIENCE WILL CONFIRM AND SATISFY THE SOUL. If, in spite of these corroborations, the doctrines were productive of misery and spiritual unrest, then they would go for nothing. But this is the final and absolute criterion - Do they tend to the welfare and increase of spiritual life, and to the satisfaction of the deepest longings of the soul? - M.

Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein.
Were you called together to listen to the present preacher only, courtesy might demand at your hands an attentive hearing for him; but if an apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ were the preacher, he would have far higher claims; and if one of the ancient prophets were the speaker, or at any rate, could an angel or an archangel be permitted now to address you, we think you would all admit that to be inattentive to his words would be highly unbecoming: how much more so to be inattentive if the God of the whole earth were addressing you! And is He not? "Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see," etc.

I. TO THE WAY RECOMMENDED IN THE TEXT. "Ask for the old paths, where is the good way." The words of the text are metaphorical, and represent true religion under the aspect of a pilgrimage or a journey. If, then, you ask me, "What is the way to heaven?" I refer to the words of the Lord Jesus when speaking to Thomas. "I," said He, "am the way." "No man cometh unto the Father but by Me." Christ is the way. He is the way from sin to holiness, — from darkness to light, — from bondage to liberty, — from misery to happiness, — from the gates of hell to the throne of heaven. But how is He the way? By His example: for "leaving us an example, we should follow His steps." By His doctrine: for "we know that He is true, and teaches the way of God in truth." By His sacrificial death: for "we have boldness to eater into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh." By His Spirit: when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all the truth. How, then, are we to walk in the way? By "repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ." "Except ye repent ye shall all perish." Believe m the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. "He that believeth shall not perish." But what are the epithets by which the way is described in our text? The way is not "the broad way" that leadeth to destruction; nor "the hard way," pursued by transgressors; nor the way that only seemeth right to a man, while the end thereof is death; but it is the good way, and the old path.

1. It is an old way. True, there are persons who more than insinuate that the way, as just described to you, is a new thing. They say the way to heaven is not now what it formerly was, if our definition is correct. But what have we said? Have we not affirmed that salvation is by Christ, and through Him only? Have we not said that repentance and faith are the conditions of obtaining it from Him? And is this new doctrine? Why, this doctrine is as old as the days of Wesley and Whitfield, for they proclaimed it in England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, and America. But go a step further back. What were the leading doctrines of the illustrious Reformers? For what were they traduced, slandered, excommunicated, and martyred, but for this? They asserted that penance was a human prescription — that works of supererogation were a delusion — that images, beads, holy water, crucifixes, and relics were but "sanctified nonsense" — that Christ was the only mediator between God and man. But we go further still. What did our Lord and the apostles themselves teach? They preached "repent and believe!" Nor do we stop here. What did the prophets — Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Micah, Malachi, and the rest — who flourished from seven hundred to a thousand years anterior to the Christian era teach? Did not they speak of the promised seed, the Messiah, the Redeemer, in whom men should believe, and by whom they should be saved? Go to that splendid treasury of ecclesiastical biography — the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and look at the fourth verse: "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead, yet speaketh." Well, then, some three thousand years elapsed between the time of Abel's believing and that of Jeremiah's preaching, and the way had been tried during the whole of that long period, and was therefore properly called by the prophet "the old path." Oh no; we bring no new doctrine to your ears, no new way before your eyes. We grant you that some of the circumstantials of religion have been changed since the days of Abel; but the essentials have remained the same. A Saviour, a mediator, a sacrifice, an atonement; repentance, faith, prayer, and holy living — thane all abide ever. The way is called new by the apostle, in reference to that fuller and clearer development of it furnished by the life and death of the Lord Jesus; and even when contrasting it with those ritualistic observances on which the Jews had long laid more than sufficient stress: but in all ages Christ has been the Saviour of men, and faith in Him the prime condition of salvation.

2. The text speaks of this way as a good one. "Where is the good way?" It is not only a good way, but the good way — good emphatically; the only good way, therefore, par excellence, the good way. God is the author of it, and He is good. He is the good Being: His name God implies this, as it is a contraction of the adjective "good." Christ is the way, and He is good. Pilate's question, "What evil hath He done?" remains still unanswered. The Holy Spirit recommends this way; and He would not recommend anything evil. The Bible is a good book — all insinuations by scoffers to the contrary notwithstanding, —and it strongly urges us to pursue this way. There have been — and, thank God! still are — some good men in the world, bad as it is; and they have travelled, or are travelling in this way. However vile they may have been ere entering this way, they became virtuous and happy when they began to travel on this path. Men have said the way of salvation by faith in the merits of another is not good, for it will lead to licentiousness — to latitudinarianism. But such men speak without experience. The faith that saves us is not a nominal thing — not merely speculative, but practical, evangelical faith. "Show me thy faith without thy works," O objector, "and I will show thee my faith by my works." Ah, there it is. This faith of ours works, and has works; "it works by love, and purifies the heart." While we repose on the merits of the Saviour, we copy the example of the Saviour; while we believe He died for us, we exhibit the genuineness of our belief by a holy life.

II. THE DUTY THE TEXT ENJOINS. "Stand ye in the ways," etc.

1. "Stand in the ways, and see." These words seem to refer to the position of a traveller on foot, who, in prosecuting his pilgrimage, has reached a point where there is a junction of several roads; and who is perplexed by this circumstance, and at a loss which way to pursue. What can he do in this case? The text says, "Stand," halt, ere you go astray, and try to ascertain the proper direction, or you may lose time in losing your way, and perchance may haw to retrace your steps, amid the jeers of witnesses, and under the self-inflicted penalty of regretful reproach. He takes from his pocket a book and a map, from which he learns that the road to the right goes to one place, that to the left to another, but the one straight on to the place of his destination. He then, after due examination, prosecutes his pilgrimage with pleasurable satisfaction; having no tormenting doubts as to his course, but a strong assurance of reaching, by and by, the desired end. Now, the traveller to eternity — the man in search of "the path of life" — has been graciously provided with an "itinerary"; that is, God's own road book, the Bible. Hence, says the Saviour, "Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of Me." Go, then, fellow traveller, to the ever-blessed book; pore over its lessons; study its precepts; imitate its examples; and realise its promises.

2. "Ask for the way." See that man with his map and book; he is still perplexed somewhat; he wants counsel; he needs a guide; let him ask advice of those who know by experience what he has yet to learn. Ah! up comes a person who knows the road intimately, who has travelled along it these many years, and who loves to give his best practical advice to all inquirers. Well, ask him. He is a Gospel minister, or some old weather-beaten pilgrim, who has borne the heat of many a summer, and the stormy blasts of many a winter; he will be right glad to tell thee the way thou shouldst go. And, if he fail, there is a Guide who never will; for, "when the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all the truth."

3. "Walk therein." Yes, it avails not what we read, how much information we acquire, with whomsoever we converse, or even how often we pray, unless we "walk in the way." John Bunyan tells us of a Mr. Talkative, who was very ready and fluent in religious discussions and conversations; but who left the practical part of religion to others. Alas! that the descendants of that personage are not extinct. Remember that no man can get to heaven by looking at maps of the road, or conversing with those who are journeying thitherward; we must all "walk in the way."

III. TO THE BLESSING PROMISED. "Ye shall find rest for your souls." The word "rest" is one of the sweetest monosyllables in our language. Robert Hall said he could think of the word tear till he wept; I could think of the word rest till I smiled. After a paroxysm of pain, how delicious is ease and rest after a hard day's toil, how delightful to retire to rest! And if rest of the body be sweet, sweeter still is rest for the soul. "The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmities, but a wounded spirit who can bear?" Rest for the soul we all long to find; we cannot help it. We must be in quest of rest do what we may. Peace, happiness, mental quietude, rest, every man of all things desiderates. But where may it be found? Secularists and quondam socialists say in gratifying our animal passions; the miser — significant name, literally miserable — hopes to find it among golden gains; the ambitious climbs up the rugged heights of power and fame, and hopes to descry it there; but the Christian is the only man who can exclaim with the exulting Greek, Eureka! Eureka! I have found it!

(W. Antliff, D. D.)

Transition is easy from an outward physical path to a moral meaning: roads men walk with their feet suggest the road men's thoughts habitually walk in, the path in which their feelings are accustomed to move, the way in which their conduct naturally flows. In this secondary sense, use text to point out the necessity, in all who would go right, of keeping upon the old ways, the ascertained ways, which, in the experience of mankind, have been proved beneficial.

I. OUR BOAST OF NOVELTY, OUR GLORYING IN OUR NEWNESS, AS IF WE WERE IN ADVANCE OF EVERYBODY AND EVERYTHING ELSE, IS A FANCIFUL MISTAKE. Our thoughts, and all the channels of our thoughts, are the result of the thought and experience of thousands of years that are gone by. Political habits and customs, knowledge of right and equity, have been gradually unfolded from ages past. Combinations are new, elements are old.


1. Men are inclined to doubt generally the social and moral results of past experience, to repudiate long-accepted social maxims and customs.

2. General distrust is being thrown upon religions teachings: not positive unbelief, but uncertainty. And by having confidence in religion its real power is destroyed. Thus thousands are abandoning old paths — old thoughts, usages, customs, habits, convictions, virtues.


1. Moral and social progress can never be so rapid as physical developments. Men cannot be changed in their principles, feelings, and inner life in the same ratio as external changes go on.

2. There is danger in giving up any belief or custom which has been entwined in our moral sense. Regard as sacred the first principles of truth.

3. In the transition from a lower to a higher form of belief there is peril. Hence, we are not to think it our duty in a headlong way to change men's beliefs simply because they are erroneous. As if changing from one mode of belief to another was going to change the conscience, reason, moral susceptibility, and character.

IV. THE RELINQUISHMENT OF TRUST OR OF PRACTICE SHOULD ALWAYS BE FROM WORSE TO BETTER. If you want a traveller to have a better road, make that better road, and then he will need no argument to persuade him to walk in it. If you are teaching that one intellectual system is better than another, and that one religious organisation, church, or creed, is better, prove it by presenting better fruit than the other, and men will need little argument beyond. If a Church breeds meekness, fortitude, love, courage, disinterestedness; if it makes noble men — uncrowned but undoubted princes, — then it is a Church, a living epistle which will convince men.


1. All truths are at first on probation; must be scrutinised, ransacked, vindicated.

2. Guard against wild and unseasonable urgency in throwing off traditional faiths and truths, for those you can discover for yourselves. Accept what other men construct for you. We are so related, by the laws of God, one to another, that no man can think out everything for himself.

VI. WE DO WELL TO LOOK CAUTIOUSLY AT NEW TRUTHS AND THOSE WHO ADVOCATE THEM. There is a conceit, a dogmatism, a bigotry of science, as really as there is of religion. Application —

1. All the tendencies which narrow the moral sense and enlarge the liberty of the passions are dangerous.

2. All tendencies which increase self-conceit are to be suspected and disowned.

3. Those tendencies which extinguish in a man all spiritual elements, such as arise from faith in God, in our spirituality and immortality, must inevitably degrade our manhood.

4. All tendencies which take away your hope of and belief in another world, take away your motive for striving to reach a higher life. Without this hope men will have a weary pilgrimage in a world of unbelief.

(H. W. Beecher.)

I. THE OLD PATHS ARE TO BE DISTINGUISHED FROM THEOLOGICAL CREEDS AND DOGMAS. Lifted upon the shoulders of many generations, with opportunities for interpreting the Bible in the light of a developing Christianity, it would be strange if our horizon had not increased. Think as those men thought — not necessarily what they thought.

II. A RETURN TO THE "OLD PATHS" DOES NOT CALL US AWAY FROM VIGOROUS LIFE. Wherever human thought, in obedience to its best nature, essays to got wherever desire for higher and better things reaches out, there are the paths of the Lord. They are as "the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." Treading them, "every power finds sweet employ."


1. They are plain. True, the fogs sometimes hang low upon them as upon worldly ways; but we can always, in the darkest hour, see one step before us, and that taken, we can see another. The engineer cannot see his track all the way from New York to Albany, but in the heaviest night he trusts his headlight and keeps on his way. So let the Christian do.

2. They are unchanging. God's paths, like Himself, are "the same yesterday, today, and forever."

3. They are paths of righteousness (Psalm 23:3). Old coins lose their royal stamp by much handling. So with some of our grandest words. Righteousness is one of them. It is not formalism, it is not morality. It is right living, with a pure heart as its source.

4. They are paths of mercy (Psalm 25:10).

5. They are paths of plenty (Psalm 65:11). What a struggle men have for mere existence! They rise early and sit up late and eat the bread of affliction. They have left the paths of the Lord. They have chased phantoms. They must endure for the time the fruit of their doings. Yet, notwithstanding these seeming exceptions, the precious promise abides (Psalm 37:3).

6. They are paths of life (Proverbs 2:19). What a path that where Christ is the support of our steps, guide of our way, and the crown of our journey's end!

7. They are paths of peace (Proverbs 3:17; Isaiah 26:3). There is no peace but in the narrow way where God gives pardon and reconciliation.

8. They are His paths (Isaiah 2:3). It is not possible, in a spiritual sense, that God should give us anything and not give us Himself. Without Himself the graces of the Spirit are only names.


1. By standing. How hard it is to stop and stand still and think and search!

2. By seeing. With open eyes we may see whether the path be an old path, whether it is macadamised with living truth, whether they who are upon it wear the livery of the Great King.

3. By asking. Men are ever ready to ask counsel in worldly things. Why not of God and His servants in regard to heavenly things? "Ask, and ye shall receive."

4. By walking. Having used sight and tongue and thoughts, we are then to act. God has united faith and works, prayer and activity.


(E. P. Ingersoll, D. D.)

Novelty is a term which, when applied to man, always involves a degree of previous ignorance. The astronomer finds out new stars, the botanist new plants, the linguist new tongues, the geometrician new modes of proof and illustration, the politician new laws, the geographer new islands, the navigator new creeks, anchorages and havens, the tradesman new articles of commerce, the artificer and mechanic new methods of accomplishing the work of their hands. Each successive generation, in a civilised country especially, makes advancement on the experiments of the former. In religious matters, however, it is different. We am to expect no new Bible, no new ordinances, no new Messiah, no new discoveries in the substance of truth and piety, any more than we look for a new sun, moon, and seasons, in the institutions of nature. We allow, indeed, that in ourselves, as we pass from a state of unregeneracy to that of renewal, "old things pass away, and all things become new"; that in the progress of sanctification, there is a succession of discoveries, as we grow in knowledge and grace; that in the pursuit of schemes of usefulness, new modes of operation may be struck out; but as to all the rest, it is established by the Great Head of the Church to be subjected to no alteration until the time of the restitution of all things, when there shall be a "new heaven and earth," etc.


1. There is the way of theory. This will be found in its grand and essential elements in the Word of truth; for this is the chart or map in which the path is laid down in which the pious have walked from the beginning.

2. There is the way of experience, or the application of these truths to the mind by such an influence and in such a way as to render them living principles of activity and enjoyment. Repentance for sin, dependence, devotion, etc.

3. There is the way of practice; and this with regard to God and our fellow creatures.


1. Primarily, to institute a serious, a deliberate and cautious inquiry, that you may ascertain whether you are in the right way. One grand reason why many who profess to make the inquiry "What is truth?" do not succeed, is, that they indulge in a light, trifling temper of mind, quite unsuited to the character of their avowed engagement, and highly offensive to God.

2. Steadily pursue the path you have ascertained to be right. Aim to be established, strengthened, settled on your most holy faith, and guard against that versatility which will be an effective preventive to sanctification, comfort, and usefulness. With walking we always connect the idea, not of habit only, but of progress. Your knowledge, your sacred virtues, your practical obedience should be always on the advance.Conclusion —

1. The lamentable consequences of a refusal to walk in this way.

2. The inestimable advantages of walking in the good old way.

(John Clayton.)

Perhaps the chief danger attending modern progress is the neglect of antiquity. This does not apply to literature and art, but to science and religion. A man who aspires to excellence in letters or art must go on pilgrimage to the old paths, and having found them must abide in them. Take the single example of sculpture. What has been gained for this art in the advancement of later times? Nothing has been gained, but much lost which can never be recovered. The most celebrated work of recent artists in stone is little more than an imitation of the masterpieces of Athens executed between two and three thousand years ago. The hope of the learner in this profession is to stand in the old paths. With some qualifications the same is true of literature. The Greek and Roman classics are still our teachers; and there is no prospect of the immediate declension of their authority. No liberal education is supposed to be possible without the languages of antiquity and the compositions that adorn them. Scientific culture has been repaid by abundant fruit in recent years: but the losses sustained by science through our ignorance of antiquity are inconceivable. Students in science will be the first to acknowledge and deplore this loss. But while literature cannot neglect the old paths, and science is devoutly engaged in retracing her lost ways, religion is in imminent danger of drifting from her ancient landmarks. The peril I desire to point out is not new in the history of the Christian faith. There is something in his nature which makes a human being feel after a God; and this act of search would be far more likely to touch the object sought when the race was young, when the impressions received were new, uncorrupted by speculation, unfettered by tradition, than at this time when the race is old and our impressions of the self within us, and of surrounding nature, are unconsciously weighted and often made false by hereditary influences, and by misleading ideas that swarm about us in childhood and are the spring of errors which it is the most difficult task of education to discover and correct. This invariable tendency to look for truth and wisdom and goodness, not to the possibilities of the present, not even to the lessons of the immediate past, but to the records and traditions of a remote age, is a striking confirmation of the biblical history of mankind. That wistful looking back on the part of the nations is a pathetic sign that something is missing which once was ours when heaven and truth were nearer to this earth than they are now. When I bring these problems to the ancient ways of God that, setting out from the creation of man and following the race, converge upon Christ, I discover the clue that leads to their interpretation. The old paths ran into Christ. His attitude towards the men who flourished before Him was neither hostile nor independent. He spoke of them with reverence; He quoted their teaching in support of His own claims; He proved that that teaching when divided from Himself was not only incomplete, but in some cases had no meaning; that He, in fact, was the complement of the older wisdom. He dwelt not only with contemporaries, but in the old paths as the Illuminating Presence of the past. "Before Abraham was, I am." He lighted up the parables of the sages; He harmonised prediction with history, and type with the fulfilling event or person. And as the old paths met in Christ — as He was the "Way" to which all other paths and ways led the traveller, not only thoroughfares defined and laid down in systems of law and belief, but irregular tracks made by earnest but wandering feet in search of the Highway; as He was the "Truth," in which all moral intimations, ideas, and aspirations found their fulfilment and satisfaction; as He was the "Life," in which all the nobler elements of the heart attained their highest purity and their perfect expression — so He is now the centre and resting place of all doctrine, of all inquiry, and of all faith. What will be the result of the attempt to make the New Testament a modern publication? We smooth a hardness here, we read in a meaning there, we hide the significance of this doctrine behind the assumed importance of that, on the plea of keeping the Book in touch with a scientific age. There will be no end to this recasting until we end the Bible itself. We share the conquests of science, and partake the renown of scientific men; but theirs is the truth of research, ours is the truth of revelation. Their conclusions are necessarily subject to revision; many of them perish outright; but the Word of our God abideth, and shall stand forever.

(E. E. Jenkins, LL. D.)

I. EXCELLENT GENERAL ADVICE. "Stand, and see, and ask." I take these words to be a call to thought and consideration. Now, to set men thinking is one great object which every teacher of religion should always keep before him. Serious thought, in short, is one of the first steps towards heaven. There are but few, I suspect, who deliberately and calmly choose evil, refuse good, turn their back on God, and resolve to serve sin as sin. The most part are what they are because they began their present course without thought. They would not take the trouble to look forward and consider the consequences of their conduct. By thoughtless actions they created habits which have become second nature to them. They have got into a groove now, and nothing but a special miracle of grace will stop them. There are none, we must all be aware, who bring themselves into so much trouble by want of thinking as the young. Too often they choose in haste a wrong profession or business, and find after two or three years, that they have made an irretrievable mistake, and, if I may borrow a railway phrase, have got on the wrong line of rails. But the young are not the only persons who need the exhortation of the text in this day. It is preeminently advice for the times. Hurry is the characteristic of the age in which we live. On every side you see the many driving furiously, like Jehu, after business or politics. They seem unable to find time for calm, quiet, serious reflection about their souls and a world to come. Men and brethren, consider your ways. Beware of the infection of the times.

II. A PARTICULAR DIRECTION. "Ask for the old paths." We want a return to the old paths of our reformers. I grant they were rough workmen, and made some mistakes. They worked under immense difficulties, and deserve tender judgment and fair consideration. But they revived out of the dust grand foundation truths which had been long buried and forgotten. By embalming those truths in our Articles and Liturgy, by incessantly pressing them on the attention of our forefathers, they changed the whole character of this nation, and raised a standard of true doctrine and practice, which, after three centuries, is a power in the land, and has an insensible influence on English character to this very day. Can we mend these old paths? Novelty is the idol of the day. But I have yet to learn that all new views of religion are necessarily better than the old. It is not so in the work of men's hands. I doubt if this nineteenth century could produce an architect who could design better buildings than the Parthenon or Coliseum, or a mason who could rear fabrics which will last so long. It certainly is not so in the work of men's minds. Thucydides is not superseded by Macaulay, nor Homer by Milton. Why, then, are we to suppose that old theology is necessarily inferior to new? I ask boldly, What extensive good has ever been done in the world, except by the theology of the "old paths"? and I confidently challenge a reply. There never has been any spread of the Gospel, any conversion of nations or countries, any successful evangelistic work, excepting by the old-fashioned distinct doctrines of the early Christians and the reformers.

III. A PRECIOUS PROMISE. "Ye shall find rest to your souls." Let it never be forgotten that rest of conscience is the secret want of a vast portion of mankind. The labouring and heavy laden are everywhere: they are a multitude that man can scarcely number; they are to be found in every climate and in every country under the sun. Everywhere you will find trouble, care, sorrow: anxiety, murmuring, discontent, and unrest. Did God create man at the beginning to be unhappy? Most certainly not. Are human governments to blame because men are not happy? At most to a very slight extent. The fault lies far too deep to be reached by human laws. Sin and departure from God are the true reasons why men are everywhere restless, labouring, and heavy laden. Sin is the universal disease which infects the whole earth. The rest that Christ gives in the "old paths" is an inward thing. It is rest of heart, rest of conscience, rest of mind, rest of affection, rest of will.

(Bishop J. C. Ryle.)

I. THE DANGERS OF JUDGING OF RELIGION, WITHOUT LONG AND DILIGENT EXAMINATION. Happy would it be for the present age if men were distrustful of their own abilities.

II. THE REASONABLENESS OF SEARCHING INTO ANTIQUITY, OR OF ASKING FOR THE OLD PATHS. With regard to the order and government of the primitive Church, we may doubtless follow their authority with perfect security; they could not possibly be ignorant of laws executed, and customs practised, by themselves; nor would they, even supposing them corrupt, serve any interests of their own, by handing down false accounts to posterity. Nor is this the only, though perhaps the chief use of these writers; for, in matters of faith, and points of doctrine, those, at least, who lived in the ages nearest to the times of the apostles, undoubtedly deserve to be consulted. The oral doctrines, and occasional explications of the apostles, must have been treasured up in the memory of their audiences, and transmitted for some time from father to son.

III. THE HAPPINESS WHICH ATTENDS A WELL-GROUNDED BELIEF AND STEADY PRACTICE OF RELIGION. Suspense and uncertainty distract the soul, disturb its motions, and retard its operations; while we doubt in what manner to worship God, there is great danger lest we should neglect to worship Him at all. There is a much closer connection between practice and speculation than is generally imagined. A man disquieted with scruples concerning any important article of religion, will, for the most part, find himself indifferent and cold, even to those duties which he practised before with the most active diligence and ardent satisfaction. Let him then ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and he shall find rest for his soul.

(S. Johnson, LL. D.)

The appeal to antiquity is worth your closest observation, as one which may as well be made in our own days as in those of the prophet Jeremiah. The paths which are to be sought for are "the old paths," and it is their age which seems represented as giving them safety. Now it were quite idle to assert that this is in all cases a sound view, or that it will necessarily hold good when applied to the businesses and sciences of life. If we attempted, for example, to introduce into natural philosophy, the principle that the old paths are the best, we should only be urging men to travel back to a broad waste of ignorance, and to settle themselves once more in the crudest and most erroneous of opinions. We are quite ready with the like admission, in matters of civil polity. We hold unreservedly that nothing human can come to its perfection at once; and that whilst there are certain fundamental principles which can never be swerved from with safety, the determination of the best form of government for a community demands many successive experiments; so that one generation is not to hand down its institutions to the next, as not to be violated because not to be improved. The legacy of the fathers should be their experience, and that experience should be carried by the children as a new element into their political competitions. But the principle which applies not to sciences or governments may be applicable, without reservation, to religion. Religious truth is matter of revelation, and not therefore left to be searched out and determined by successive experiments; whereas truth of any other description is only to be come at by painful investigation; and until that investigation has been carried to the farthest possible limit, we have no right to claim such a fixedness for our positions, that those who come after us must receive them as irreversible. Yet we would not have it thought, that even in matters of religion, we yield unqualified submission to the voice of antiquity. We hold that there is room for discovery, strictly and properly so called in theology, as well as in astronomy or chemistry. We ourselves must necessarily be more advantageously circumstanced than any of our fathers, when the matter in question is the fulfilment of prophecy. Prophecy is of course nothing but anticipated history; and the further on, therefore, we live, in the march of those occurrences which are to make up the story of our globe and its tenants, the more power have we to find the foretold in the fulfilled, and thus to lessen the amount of unaccomplished prediction. Now when this exception has been made, we do not hesitate to apply our text to the disclosures of revelation, and to assert that in all disputes upon doctrines, and in all debates upon creeds, it is the part of wise men to appeal to antiquity.

1. When we speak of antiquity, we refer to Christianity in its young days, whilst the Church was still warm with her first love, and her teachers were but little removed from those who had held intercourse with Christ and His apostles. It is in this manner, for example, that we introduce the authority of antiquity into the question of infant baptism. Unless apostles baptised infants, and unless they taught that infants were to be received into the Church, it seems well-nigh incredible that those who lived near their times, and must have obtained instruction almost from their very lips, should have adopted the custom of infant baptism. We would advance another illustration of the worth of the witness of antiquity, and we fetch it from a fundamental matter of doctrine. We believe, undoubtedly, that the Bible is adapted to all ages of the world and all ranks of society; and that the Spirit which indited it, is as ready now, as in the early days of Christianity, to act as its interpreter and open up its truths. We are assured, therefore, that the sublime doctrine of the Trinity, if it, indeed, be contained in the Word of inspiration, will be made known to every prayerful and diligent student; and that there will need no acquaintance with the creeds or the commentaries of primitive Christians, in order to the apprehending of this grand discovery of the nature of Godhead. But, at the same time, when all kinds of opinions are broached, diametrically at variance with the doctrine of the Trinity, and men labour to devise and support interpretations of Scripture which shall quite overthrow this foundation stone of Christianity, we count it of no mean worth, that in writings which have come down to us from days just succeeding the apostolic, we can find the Trinity in unity as broadly asserted, and as clearly defined, as in any of the treatises which now professedly undertake its defence. Now you will understand, from these instances, the exact use of antiquity, in matters of religion; and the sense in which it may fairly be expected that the old paths are the right. "Where was your religion till Luther arose?" is the question broached in every dispute between the Romish Church and the Reformed. The Romish Church prides itself on being the old Church, and reproaches the Reformed with being the new. And we admit, in all frankness, that if the Romish Church made good its pretensions — if it could win for itself the praise of antiquity, and fix fairly on the Protestant newness, Popery would gain an almost unassailable position; for we are inclined to hold it as little less than an axiom in religion, that the oldest Christianity is the best. But we are quite ready to meet the Roman Catholic on the ground of antiquity; and to decide the goodness by deciding the oldness of our paths. We contend, that whatever is held in common by the two Churches may be proved from Scripture, and shown to have been maintained by the earliest Christians; but that everything received by the Romish and rejected by the Protestant, can neither be substantiated by the Bible, nor sanctioned by the practice of the primitive Church.

2. There is not one amongst you, who ought not to know something of this appeal to antiquity. We may make the like assertion in regard to the Christian Sabbath. If asked for our authority for keeping holy the first day of the week, in place of the seventh, you cannot produce a direct scriptural command; but we are in possession of such clear proof, that the apostles and their immediate successors made the first day their Sabbath, that we may claim to the observance all the force of Divine institution. This, however, we must all see, is employing the practice of antiquity where we have not a distinct precept of Scripture; in other words, we prove the right paths by proving the old paths. We are not, indeed, able to appeal to primitive Christians, and to show you this union of Church or State as being sanctioned by apostolical practice. Of course, until the rulers of the kingdom embraced the faith of Christ (and this was not of early occurrence), Christianity could not become established. But, as Milner observes, from the earliest ages of patriarchal government, when holy men were favoured with a Divine revelation, governors taught the true religion, and did not permit their subjects to propagate atheism, idolatry, or false religion. There was, as under the Jewish constitution, an unquestionable authority which the magistrates possessed in ecclesiastical regulations: so that union between Church and State, in place of being novel, can be traced up almost from the beginning of the world.

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

Sermon Framework.

1. "Old paths." Way of —




2. "Old," because —

(1)Ordained from eternity.

(2)Herein all the saints haw walked.

(3)Tried, and found pleasant and profitable.

II. THE DESPOT. "Good way."

1. A path may be "old," yet not "good"; this is both.

2. When may a path be called "good"?

(1)When safe.




(5)Firm and passable.

III. THE DIRECTIONS. They who seek this path should bell.

1. Cautious in their observations.

2. Earnest in their inquiries.

3. Prompt in entering thereon.


1. In the journey many blessings of rest will be enjoyed, as contentment, satisfaction, cheerfulness, security.

2. Afterwards there will be fulness of rest: the path leads to eternal repose, happiness, glory.

(Sermon Framework.)

Men are travellers. No continuing city here; no rest. Days upon earth but a shadow; none abiding. Must go on — from earth, with its cares and sorrows and privileges and joys — either to heaven or hell.


1. We should ascertain what path we are walking in. Men do not think enough about spiritual things. Many a poor misguided traveller would enter the right path and obtain eternal life if he gave heed to the things which make for his peace.(1) This examination of the path should be made immediately. Not a moment to be lost. Next step may plunge you in some deadly pit.(2) This examination should be made faithfully. Not superficially. Our being different from those around us is not enough, for we may still be wrong. Must bring our conduct and habits of life to the standard of God's Word, and compare them with that.(3) This examination should be made prayerfully. It is useless for us to make it in our own strength or wisdom; but, influenced and guided by the Spirit of Christ, we cannot err.

2. We must not only ascertain if our way be wrong, but inquire for the right path.(1) It is here termed the old path. The way of patriarchs, prophets, apostles, good and holy of every clime and age. The everlasting Gospel has existed from eternity.(2) It is to be sought out. Eternity depends on the issue.

3. Having found the right path, we are to walk in it. Knowledge alone is not sufficient; there must be practical application of it.


1. The rest promised is of the highest kind. For the soul. The soul requires it. Burdened with sin; filled with feverish anxiety; like a ship tossed on a troubled sea.

2. This rest can be bestowed by God alone. It is the fruit of our union with Him, the result of our being His dear children.

3. In what does it consist? In our being forgiven; in our being conscious of the Divine favour; in our having the Spirit of Christ in our souls; in our dependence upon the promises.

(H. B. Ingrain.)


1. The way of self-denial. As this principle involves resistance to temptation, control of temper and overthrow of natural inclinations and habits, it is necessarily an important ingredient of true religion; from the nature of the case, from the bare fact of its being amenable to the superior will of the Almighty, an indispensable requisite of finite perfection in all instances whatsoever.

2. The way of implicit dependence upon God. Until the foul spirit of restless discontent took possession of his breast Adam was sufficed to rest and rely for everything upon the wisdom, power, love and benignity of Him who created him content to know no more than what He taught him, and to exercise his mental faculties and reasoning powers in entire subordination to his Superior's wish, questioning nothing, but taking everything as perfect that came from Him. The knowledge, service and worship of God were the objects of all he thought, saw, or did. Beyond them there was nothing he eared to desire or know.

3. The way of humility. "Knowledge" says St. Paul, "puffeth up, but charity edifieth." What knowledge? Not the chastened, subdued, heaven-taught and heaven-tempered wisdom which guided the soul and enlarged the understanding of Adam before he fell, but that meretricious counterfeit of it — that now delusive light, whose pride-awakening, man-flattering beams, brought first to bear on his foolish heart by the arch destroyer at the fall, allured him to his destruction.

II. HOW WE MAY OBEY THE COMMAND OF THE TEXT IN RETURNING TO THIS WAY. Whoever in earnest desires to recover his lost innocence, and the forfeited favour of his Creator, and to return to that better land, that state of ineffable bliss and purity, which was the original birthright of us all, are taught in the Gospel of the grace of God that the first step in that direction is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of sinners; which is nothing else than that filial trust or confidence we have already mentioned as displayed by Adam before he fell.


(S. H. Simpson.)

It has been well said by Lord Bacon, that the antiquity of past ages is the youth of the world — and therefore it is an inversion of the right order, to look for greater wisdom in some former generation than there should be in our present day. "The time in which we now live," says he, "is properly the ancient time, because now the world is ancient; and not that time which we call ancient, when we look in a retrograde direction, and by a computation backward from ourselves." There must be a delusion, then, in that homage which is given to the wisdom of antiquity, as d it bore the same superiority over the wisdom of the present times, which the wisdom of an old does over that of a young man. It is in vain to talk of Socrates, and Plato, and Aristotle. Only grant that there may still be as many good individual specimens of humanity as before; and a Socrates now, with all the additional lights which have sprung up in the course of intervening centuries to shine upon his understanding, would be a greatly wiser man than the Socrates of two thousand years ago. But however important thus to reduce the deference that is paid to antiquity; and with whatever grace and propriety it has been done by him who stands at the head of the greatest revolution in philosophy. — we shall incur the danger of running into most licentious waywardness, if we receive not the principle, to which I have now adverted, with two modifications. Our first modification is, that though, in regard to all experimental truth, the world should be wiser now than it was centuries ago, this is the fruit not of our contempt or our heedlessness in regard to former ages, but the fruit of our most respectful attention to the lessons which their history affords. We do right in not submitting to. the dictation of antiquity; but that is no cause why we should refuse to be informed by her — for this were throwing us back again to the world's infancy, like the second childhood of him whom disease had bereft of all his recollections. And so, again, in the language of Bacon, "Antiquity deserveth that reverence, that men should make a stand thereupon, and discover what is the best way; but when the discovery is well taken then to make progression." But there is a second modification, which, in the case of a single individual of the species, it is easy to understand, and which we shall presently apply to the whole species. We may conceive of a man, that, after many years of vicious indulgence, he is at once visited by the lights of conscience and memory; and is enabled to contrast the dislike, and the dissatisfaction, and the dreariness of heart, which now prey on the decline of his earthly existence, with all the comparative innocence which gladdened its hopeful and happy morning. As he bethinks him of his early home, of the piety which flourished there, and that holy atmosphere in which he was taught to breathe with kindred aspirations, he cannot picture to himself the bliss and the beauty of such a scene, mellowed as it is by distance, and mingled with the dearest recollections of parents, and sisters, and other kindred now mouldering in the dust, he cannot recall for a moment this fond, though faded imagery, without sighing in the bitterness of his heart, after the good old way. Now, what applies to one individual may apply to the species. In a prolonged course of waywardness, they may have wandered very far from the truth of heaven. And after, perhaps, a whole dreary millennium of guilt and of darkness, may some gifted individual arise, who can look athwart the gloom, and descry the purer and the better age of Scripture light which lies beyond it. And as he compares all the errors and the mazes of that vast labyrinth into which so many generations had been led by the jugglery of deceivers, with that simple but shining path which conducts the believer unto glory, let us wonder not that the aspiration of his pious and patriotic heart should be for the good old way. We now see wherein it is that the modern might excel the ancient. In regard to experimental truth, he can be as much wiser than his predecessors, as the veteran and the observant sage is wiser than the unpractised stripling, to whom the world is new, and who has yet all to learn of its wonders and of its ways. The voice that is now emitted from the schools, whether of physical or of political science, is the voice of the world's antiquity. The voice emitted from the same schools, in former ages, was the voice of the world's childhood, which then gave forth in lisping utterance the conceits and the crudities of its young unchastened speculation. But in regard to things not experimental, in regard even to taste, or to imagination, or to moral principle, as well as to the stable and unchanging lessons of Divine truth, there is no such advancement. For the perfecting of these, we have not to wait the slow processes of observation and discovery, handed down from one generation to another. They address themselves more immediately to the spirit's eye; and just as in the solar light of day, our forefathers saw the whole of visible creation as perfectly as we — so in the lights, whether of fancy, or of conscience, or of faith, they may have had as just and vivid a perception of nature's beauties; or they may have had as ready a discrimination, and as religious a sense of all the proprieties of life; or they may have had a veneration as solemn, and an acquaintance as profound, with the mysteries of revelation, as the men of our modern and enlightened day. And, accordingly, we have as sweet or sublime an eloquence, and as transcendent a poetry, and as much both of the exquisite and noble in all the fine arts, and a morality as delicate and dignified; and, to crown the whole, as exulted and as informed a piety in the remoter periods of the world, as among ourselves, to whom the latter ends of the world have come. In respect of these, we are not on higher vantage-ground than many of the generations that have gone by. But neither are we on lower vantage ground. We have access to the same objects. We are in possession of the same faculties. And, if between the age in which we live, and some bright and bygone era, there should have intervened the deep and the long-protracted haze of many centuries, whether of barbarism in taste, or of profligacy in morals, or of superstition in Christianity, it will only heighten, by comparison, to our eyes, the glories of all that is excellent; and if again awakened to light and to liberty, it will only endear the more to our hearts the good old way.

(T. Chalmers, D. D.)

In what respect should we follow old times? Now here there is this obvious maxim — what God has given us from heaven cannot be improved, what man discovers for himself does admit of improvement: we follow old times then so far as God has spoken in them; but in those respects in which God has not spoken in them, we are not bound to follow them. Now knowledge connected merely with this present world, we have been left to acquire for ourselves. How we may till our lands and increase our crops; how we may build our houses, and buy and sell and get gain; how we may cross the sea in ships; how we may make "fine linen for the merchant," or, like Tubal-Cain, be artificers in brass and iron: as to these objects of this world, necessary indeed for the time, not lastingly important, God has given us no clear instruction. Here then we have no need to follow the old ways. Besides, in many of these arts and pursuits, there is really neither right nor wrong at all; but the good varies with times and places. Each country has its own way, which is best for itself, and bad for others. Again, God has given us no authority in questions of science. If we wish to boast ,bout little matters, we know more about the motions of the heavenly bodies than Abraham, whose seed was in number as the stars; we can measure the earth, and fathom the sea, and weigh the air, more accurately than Moses, the inspired historian of the creation; and we can discuss the varied inhabitants of this earth better than Solomon. But let us turn to that knowledge which God has given, and which therefore does not admit of improvement by lapse of time; this is religious knowledge. God taught Adam how to please Him, and Noah, and Abraham, and Job. He has taught every nation all over the earth sufficiently for the moral training of every individual. In all these cases, the world's part of the work has been to pervert the truth, not to disengage it from obscurity. The new ways are the crooked ones. The nearer we mount up to the time of Adam, or Noah, or Abraham, or Job, the purer light of truth we gain; as we recede from it we meet with superstitions, fanatical excesses, idolatries, and immoralities. So again in the case of the Jewish Church, since God expressly gave them a precise law, it is clear man could not improve upon it; he could but add the "traditions of men." Lastly, in the Christian Church, we cannot add or take away, as regards the doctrines that are contained in the inspired volume, as regards the faith once delivered to the saints. Other foundation can no man lay, than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11). But it may be said that, though the Word of God is an infallible rule of faith, yet it requires interpreting, and why, as time goes on, should we not discover in it more than we at present know on the subject of religion and morals? But this is hardly a question of practical importance to us as individuals; for in truth a very little knowledge is enough for teaching a man his duty: and, since Scripture is intended to teach us our duty, surely it was never intended as a storehouse of mere knowledge. Little knowledge is required for religious obedience. The poor and rich, the learned and unlearned, are here on a level. We have all of us the means of doing our duty; we have not the will, and this no knowledge can give. We have need to subdue our own minds, and this no other person can do for us. Practical religious knowledge is a personal gift, and, further, a gift from God; and, therefore, as experience has hitherto shown, more likely to be obscured than advanced by the lapse of time. But further, we know of the existence of an evil principle in the world, corrupting and resisting the truth in its measure, according to the truth's clearness and purity. Our Saviour, who was the truth itself, was the most spitefully entreated of all by the world. It has been the case with His followers too. The purer and more valuable the gift which God bestows, far from this being a security for the truth's abiding and advancing, rather the more grievously has been the gift abused (1 John 2:18; 2 Timothy 3:13). Such is the case as regards the knowledge of our duty, — that kind of knowledge which alone is really worth earnest seeking. And there is an important reason why we should acquiesce in it; — because the conviction that things are so has no slight influence in forming our minds into that perfection of the religious character at which it is our duty ever to be aiming. While we think it possible to make some great and important improvements in the subject of religion, we shall be unsettled, restless, impatient; we shall be drawn from the consideration of improving ourselves, and from using the day while it is given us, by the visions of a deceitful hope, which promises to make rich but tendeth to penury. On the other hand, as we cease to be theorists we shall become practical men; we shall have less of self-confidence and arrogance, more of inward humility and diffidence; we shall be less likely to despise others, and think of our own intellectual powers with less complacency. It is one great peculiarity of the Christian's character to be dependent; to be willing to serve, and to rejoice in the permission; to be able to view himself in a subordinate place; to love to sit in the dust. To his ears the words of the text are as sweet music: "Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths," etc. The history of the old dispensation affords us a remarkable confirmation of what has been argued; for in the time of the law there was an increase of religious knowledge by fresh revelations. From the time of Samuel especially to the time of Malachi, the Church was bid look forward for a growing illumination, which, though not necessary for religious obedience, subserved the establishment of religious comfort. Now, observe how careful the inspired prophets of Israel are to prevent any kind of disrespect being shown to the memory of former times, on account of that increase of religious knowledge with which the later ages were favoured; and if such reverence for the past were a duty among the Jews when the Saviour was still to come, much more is it the duty of Christians. Now, as to the reverence enjoined and taught the Jews towards persons and times past, we may notice first the commandment given them to honour and obey their parents and elders. This, indeed, is a natural law. But that very circumstance surely gives force to the express and repeated injunctions given them to observe it, sanctioned too (as it was) with a special promise. But, further, to bind them to the observance of this duty, the past was made the pledge of the future, hope was grounded upon memory; all prayer for favour sent them back to the old mercies of God. "The Lord hath been mindful of us, He will bless us"; this was the form of their humble expectation. Lastly, as Moses directed the eyes of his people towards the line of prophets which the Lord their God was to raise up from among them, ending in the Messiah, they in turn dutifully exalt Moses, whose system they were superseding. Samuel, David, Isaiah, Micah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, each in succession, bear testimony to Moses. Oh, that we had duly drunk into this spirit of reverence and godly fear. Doubtless we are far above the Jews in our privileges; we are favoured with the news of redemption; we know doctrines, which righteous men of old time earnestly desired to be told, and were not. Yet our honours are our shame, when we contrast the glory given us with our love of the world, our fear of men, our lightness of mind, our sensuality, our gloomy tempers. What need have we to look with wonder and reverence at those saints of the old covenant, who with less advantages yet so far surpassed us; and still more at those of the Christian Church, who both had higher gifts of grace and profited by them!

(J. H. Newman, D. D.)


1. It is an ancient path. The Gospel is coeval with the Fall. All the Mosaic rites and ceremonies were typical of the blessings of the Gospel dispensation, and taught the faithful worshipper to look forward to the Saviour.

2. It is a good way.(1) This is the way which God Himself, of His infinite wisdom and goodness, hath marked out for us.(2) Those who walk in it may expect all necessary guidance and direction.(3) In wisdom's way we have the best of company.(4) It will afford the purest pleasure, as we advance in it, and will infallibly conduct us to perfect and endless happiness and glory.


1. We are to use every endeavour to become acquainted with the ways of religion.(1) If we are accountable beings, what shall we think of those who seem to have formed a resolution to banish serious reflection from their minds; who plunge themselves into vice, dissipate themselves in pleasure, in vanity, and in every trifle that strikes their imagination; and devote themselves to those things, body and soul, without ever stopping to consider what they are doing, whither they are going, and what the consequences must be of their madness and folly!(2) To self-reflection we add reflection on the Word of God.

(a)The way therein marked out is a way of holiness and purity.

(b)The superior excellence of the Scriptures, as a rule of life, will be still further evident if we consider their high authority.

2. Our knowledge must be reduced to practice; when we have found the good way, we must walk in it.(1) We should immediately enter upon a religious course, after due information concerning it.(2) We should proceed in a religious course with the greatest care and circumspection.(3) We should endeavour to make continual progress in a religious course.

3. It is our duty to persevere in a religious course, it will not answer a traveller's purpose, who has a necessary journey before him, to proceed a little way in it, and then give over, or take a different path that leads a contrary way. So, in the ways of religion, he, and he only, who holds out to the end shall be saved.


1. In our being delivered from those uneasy doubts and anxieties of mind which arise from an uncertainty as to the way in which we ought to go.

2. Those who walk in the good way of religion find rest to their souls, as they are thereby delivered from the great cause of inward uneasiness — the sense of unpardoned guilt; or, in other words, from the terrors of an accusing conscience.

3. They who walk in the ways of religion find rest to their souls, as they are thereby delivered from those sources of disquietude which spring from sinful and unruly passions.

4. This good way infallibly conducts those who walk in it to uninterrupted and everlasting happiness in the world to come.

(James Ross, D. D.)

Jeremiah was the most unpopular of the prophets. First because he was somewhat of a pessimist, uttering predictions which the events proved true enough, but which were painted in too gloomy colours to suit the tastes of the people. Secondly, because he never flattered. And a third, and even greater, reason for the dislike, was that they regarded him as old-fashioned, out of date, an antiquated, obsolete old fogey, with his eyes behind. He was always harping on the old times when people lived simple lives and feared God. And the people sneered at him as a sort of fossil, as a man who had been born a century too late. The people had a disease upon them which might be called Egyptomania. They wanted to form a close alliance with Egypt, and to adopt all their modes of life, their dress, furniture, luxuries, self-indulgences, political ideas, military system, laws, morals, and religion. There was to be a clean sweep made of all that Israel had loved and believed in and by taking heathen Egypt as a model they would speedily attain to Egypt's greatness and splendour. This was the craze against which the prophet set himself, and protested in vain. For there are times when a people are determined to destroy themselves. Are the old paths always Divine, and the new ways always as dangerous as this prophet thought them? The answer has to be qualified, and there are more answers than one. The Bible does not always speak in the same voice about it. If Jeremiah looked back with lingering affection, St. Paul, who had seen the higher truth in Christ, had his eyes in front, and advised us to forget the things which are behind. And a greater than Paul has told us that every wise man will bring out of his treasury things new and old. The man who sneers at everything which is old, and fancies that wisdom always wears a brand new face, has precious little of the latter article himself. The alphabet and the simple rules of arithmetic are as ancient as an Egyptian mummy, but they are not out of date yet. We still need some of the things which Noah and Abraham prized. On the other hand, the man who sets his face against everything new is shutting his eyes to the light.

I. TO BIND OURSELVES TO THE OLD PATHS IS, FOR US AT LEAST, IN MANY THINGS IMPOSSIBLE. We live in the midst of rapid movement and change, and we are carried along by it in spite of ourselves. And if we could do it, it would be paralysing. It would be the end of all healthy life and action. It is the distinguishing feature of Christian nations to be forever casting off the old and putting on the new. It is a dead religion which stands still and makes men stand still. The spirit of life in Christ Jesus urges the world on, away from a dead past nearer to the golden age which is to be. I hardly dare bring before you the things which are going on in China. And it all comes from a blind, brutal, obstinate clinging to the old paths. The world moves on, and the Chinese refuse to move. God in His mercy has brought us out of all that, and given us eyes to see that through the ages one unceasing purpose runs, and the minds of men are widened with the process of the suns. There are a hundred things in nearly every department of life which we do and know and understand better than our fathers. We should never dream of going back in science, machinery, politics, government, freedom of thought and speech, or in religion.

II. TO FORSAKE ALL THE OLD PATHS IS A FOLLY QUITE AS BLIND AND SELF-DESTRUCTIVE AS TO CLING TO THEM ALL. Wisdom was not born in the present century. It dwelt with God before the foundation of the world, and He gave some of it to men who lived thousands of years before our time. We are cleverer than the ancients in some things, but not in all. The Greek thinkers were superior to the best thinkers of today. We could not now produce such books as Plato wrote, and the Hebrew prophets and psalmists put all our cleverest writers into the shade. We cannot build temples as the men of old built. We cannot paint pictures or carve statues or create things of beauty as they did. We have no Homers and Virgils, Dantes, Miltons, Shakespeares, Bunyans. In moral and religious things many of those greatest men were far in advance of our best, and we can only reach some of their excellence by learning of them and treading in the old paths. In fact, in the greatest things of life the old ways are the everlasting ways, and the only ways of safety. They have stood the test of time. For the momentous questions of morality and righteousness, worship and reverence, sin and human need, God and immortality, spiritual mysteries and things unseen, we have still to sit like children at the feet of those giants of faith, those great souls from Moses to St. Paul, who walked with God and spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. We cannot dispense with the Ten Commandments yet. And as for the Sermon on the Mount, its very perfection is our despair. If you want to find the highest types of manhood, you will stand rather in the old paths than the new; you will look back rather than around you. If we want to know what sin is, we must go to the Bible and the Cross of Jesus Christ, and not to the modern ideas, which often make light of sin and treat it as irresponsible disease. If we want to learn the depth of penitence we must go to the soul-stricken David or the weeping Peter. And if we would see light beyond the grave we must go all that way back and stand with the women and the disciples before an open sepulchre. Yes, and perhaps above all things, if we would learn how to live and love, to endure and to hope, to suffer and to die, it is only in the old Bible paths that we can get the lesson. The new lights will show us how to get money faster, and to make life smoother and more comfortable, but they will not help us to be brave in difficulties, patient in cross bearing, and fearless in the hour of death.

(J. G. Greenhough, M. A.)

Christian Age.
"You must not be discouraged," said a Kiowa Indian, "if we Indians come slow. It is a long road for us to leave our old Indian ways, and we have to think a great deal; but I am sure that all the Indian people will come into the Jesus road. for I see that these white Jesus people are here to help us, and I thank them for coming. Tell the Christian people to pray for us. We are ignorant, but we want to be led aright, that we may come into the Jesus road." The quaint Indian expressions are very suggestive. It is indeed a "long road" to leave our old ways; and when we feel that we are safe in the "Jesus road," we should take time to ask ourselves if we are sure we are treading it as we should, if we are sure we are not walking in some path that seems to run parallel with it, but which in reality is leading us farther and farther away.

(Christian Age.)

Ye shall find rest for your souls.
It is the distinguishing mark of the "good" and "old" way that in it men find rest for their souls. You may judge between the true Gospel and the false, between that which is of God and that which is of man, by this one test. As "by their fruits ye shall know them," so by this one fruit among the rest: Does it bring rest into the soul? If not, it is not of God; but if it brings a clear, sure, true, honest rest into the soul, then it cometh of standing in the good way. Remember that rest was the promise of the Saviour. "Come unto Me" — not to anything else, but "unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I" — Myself personally — "will give you rest" But what next? "Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, and ye shall find rest" — that is another rest, still deeper, which you find in service. Oh, what a blessed Saviour we follow, who everywhere giveth us rest! Rest is enjoyed by believers now. But you will never find it anywhere else; as in no other form of religion, so in no other form of pursuit. If you follow wealth you will not find rest there. I spoke some time ago with a gentleman whom I believed to own more than a million, and I ventured to say that I should think after a man had got a million, it would not be worth while to have any more, because he could not get through that lot. "Ah," he said, "I did not know"; and, truly, I did not know; but yet I knew enough to perceive that if a man had a million millions he would not be content. And if you go in for health and pursue that with all diligence, as you might readily do, yet even in the best health there is no rest. It is a noble gift; they who lose it know how precious it is; but there is no rest in that. And as in honour, or any earthly thing, of themselves they are the occasion of disquiet; they often are a seed plot wherein thorns grow that pierce us. But there is rest in Jesus, there is rest in a solid, simple faith in Him, but there is no rest anywhere else.


1. There is the way of pardon by an atonement. What a rest that brings to the conscience! A crushed conscience is but an echo of a truth. There is that in the nature of God and in the necessity of things, of which the conscience is but a faint echo, and when your conscience tells you sin must be punished, it tells you the truth; there is no escape from that necessity, and because Jesus suffered in our room and stead here is a glorious gate of salvation, but there is no other. So the way of pardon by an atonement gives rest to the conscience.

2. The way of believing the Word of God as being inspired of God, and being our authoritative guide, is a great rest to the understanding, "But do you understand it all?" No, sir, I do not; I do not want to. I want to love a great deal more, but I do not care so much about growing in that particular direction of finding out riddles and being able to thread the spheres. But if I could love my Lord better, and be more like Him, I would be happy. "Well, but you do not understand it, and yet you believe it." Yes, I do; I find it is such a great thing to move my little bark side by side with a great rock, so high that I cannot see the top of it, because then I know I shall be sweetly sheltered there. Well, it is almost as good not to know as it is to know about a great many things, and sometimes better not to know, because then you can adore and consider that when faith bows before the majesty of an awful mystery she pays to God such homage as cherubim and seraphim pay Him before His throne.

3. There is a way which Christians learn of trusting their affairs with God which gives a general rest to their minds. You see, if you are truly a Christian you have not got anything, you have given it all to the Lord. Cannot you therefore trust Him with it? And pray which part of your business would you like to manage yourself? Mark it off and then make a black mark against it, for you will have no end of mischief and trouble there. Oh, happy is that man who leaves everything, soul and body, entirely in the hands of God, and is content with His Divine will.

4. The way of obedience to the Lord gives rest to the soul. He that believes in Jesus obeys Jesus. Oh, if you do right and stand fast in your integrity you shall wear that little herb called "heart-ease," and he that weareth that is more happy than a king! and if you can go home at night, and that little bird in your bosom, called conscience, can sweetly sing to you that you have done a right thing, you shall rest in peace. And, mark you, even as to temporal things in the long run you shall be no loser; but if you should be, you will count it an honour to lose for Christ's sake and for the right, and in the end, if you lose silver you shall gain gold. The way of obedience to Divine command gives rest to the soul.

5. The way of close communion with Christ is a way of profound rest unto the soul. Once get to be in Him, and to abide in Him, let your communion with Him be unbroken day after day, month after month, and year after year, and ye shall find rest unto your soul.


1. There is a rest which rusts and injures the soul; but Gospel rest is of a very peculiar kind; it brings satisfaction, but it never verges on self-satisfaction. Oh, to be satisfied in Christ Jesus! Full, and therefore craving to be fuller; fed, and therefore hungering to have more.

2. Next, the rest that comes with Christ is a sense of safety, but it is not a sense of presumption. The man that is most safe in Christ is just the man that would not run any risks whatever. Secure, but not carnally secure; in safety, but not presumptuous.

3. This blessed rest creates content, but it also excites a desire of progress. The man that is perfectly content to be saved in Christ Jesus is also very anxious to grow in grace.

4. He that rests in God is also delivered from all legal fears, but he is supplied with superior motives for holiness. The fear of hell and the hope of heaven are poor motives to effort; but to feel "I cannot be lost; the blood of Christ is between me and the everlasting fire; I am bound for the everlasting kingdom, and by the certainties of the Divine promise as a believer I shall never be ashamed."

III. REST OF THIS KIND OUGHT TO BE ENJOYED NOW BY EVERY CHRISTIAN. It is enjoyed by many of us, and it is a grievous error when it is not the case with all real Christians. Some of you say: "I trust I am a Christian, but I do not get much of this rest." It is your own fault. I will tell you one thing, though — you would find more rest if you walked in the middle of the way. The best walking to heaven is in the middle of the road; on either side where the hedges are there is a ditch as well. I do not care to go to heaven along the ditch, on the outside of the road. Have you never heard the American story of a gentleman who invited a friend up to his orchard to come and eat some of his apples — he had such exquisite apples? But though he invited his friend several times, he never came. At last he said: "I wish you would come and taste my fruit — it is wonderful, just in perfection now." He said: "Well, to tell you the truth! have tasted it, and I was ill after it." "Well," said he, "how came that about?" "Well, as I was riding along I picked up an apple that fell over into the road." "Oh, dear," he said, "you do not understand it. I went miles to buy that peculiar sort of apple to put round the edge of the orchard; that was for the boys, so that after they had once tasted that particular apple they might not think of coming any farther. But if you will go into the orchard you will find I have a very different sort of fruit inside." Now, do you know that round the margin of religion the trees of repentance and so forth grow — that fruit not over sweet to some palates. Oh, but if you would come inside, but if you would come into the very centre, what joy you would have! Surely, Christians, you have reason enough for delight. What a happy religion that is in which pleasure is a precept! "Rejoice in the Lord always" is as much a command as "Thou shalt keep the Sabbath day." Remember that, and do pray God that you may get into the very middle of the road, know you are there, and keep there year after year by Divine grace, for then you shall find rest unto your souls. Well, then, this rest ought to be enjoyed now. We ought to throw aside these anxious cares of ours; if we do not, in what respect are we better than worldlings? An excursion to heaven is the best relief from the cares of earth, and you may soon be there. Last night a friend living in Colombo, Ceylon, said, "Oh, it is a beautiful place to live in. Although it is very hot where we live, yet in a few hours we get up in the eternal snows where we shall be as cool as we wish." That is just what we are here. It is very hot: the cares and trials of life often parch us, but in five minutes we can be up there in the hill country, and behold the face of Him we love. Why do we not oftener go there?

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

Homiletic Magazine.
In nothing has God consulted economy less than in the provision He has made to guard us from danger; and the Divine solicitude to rescue us from ruin is strongly contrasted with our perpetual propensity to rush into it. In the moral constitution of the mind, also, the safeguards against danger are no less remarkable than the provisions for enjoyment. Why is conscience made so acutely wakeful and sensitive, but with a view to guard us against the first approaches of sin? Why is memory made so tenaciously to treasure up the results of past experience and failure, but to repress that inconsiderate eagerness which would hurry us on to ruin? In the Bible God has preeminently placed the strongest guards on the side of danger.

I. THE ATTRACTIVE VIEW OF RELIGION FURNISHED IN THIS ONE WORD "REST." God might have made religion a state of penance and bondage, and it would still have been such had we been suffered to "escape so as by fire." Instead of this, tie clothes His religion with attractiveness and tenderness.

1. It brings rest to the understanding by the truths it reveals.

2. It brings rest to the conscience by the pardon it imparts.

3. It brings rest by revealing an adequate object on which the affections can repose. The tendency of irreligion is to dishonour and degrade our nature, by confining us to the world and to time; that of real religion is to exalt and ennoble the mind by connecting us with God and eternity. The one leaves us to mourn, with orphaned heart; the other brings God before us as the object most worthy of our affections, and able to meet and satisfy the vast capacities of happiness which His own kindness has originated.


1. A false estimate of themselves and of the evil and danger to which, in consequence of sin, they are exposed.

2. The unsuspected influence of evil habits, and the progressive and hardening tendency of uurepented sin. As Jeremy Taylor puts it: "Vice first is pleasing, then delightful, then frequent, then habitual, then confirmed; then the man is impenitent, then he is obstinate, then he resolves never to repent, and then he dies."

3. The injurious and delusive results of a false and formal profession of religion. Despair is a near neighbour of presumption. The system which is founded in fraud must end in delusion. It fails to satisfy, as it fails to sanctify.

4. Because the period is extremely short in which the voice of God, as a Saviour, can be heard at all. "Mercy is like the rainbow which God set in the clouds to remember mankind. It shines here as long as it is not hindered; but we must never look for it after it is night."

(Homiletic Magazine.)

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