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guage of your hearts, O my soul, come not thou into the secret of the wicked. Enter not into the path, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it; turn from it, and pass away. It is the way of error, delusion, and misery, marked out by the great enemy of God and man. The god of this world hath blinded the minds of those who walk in it. Stand ye then in the ways, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein.
RELIGION A GOOD WAY.
JEREMIAH, VI. 16.
Thus saith the Lord, Stand
ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein; and ye shall find rest for your souls.
IN looking attentively around us, and considering the various characters and pursuits of mankind, we cannot but observe, that, framed as they alone of all creatures are for religion, they still, in general, fatally neglect it. Life, which has been figuratively represented as a dream, seems, by the manner in which it is spent, to be really so. To him whose view connects the actions of men with their eternal consequences, how painful are these considerations!
Considerations similar to these seem to have impelled Jeremiah to address his countrymen and fellow-citizens; and to represent to them, in a strain of animated description, their supine indifference, not only to the divine statutes and commandments, but to the temporal judgments which had been the immediate consequences of their impiety. He well knew that it was their inconsider
ation, and consequent degeneracy and moral depravity, that had caused the Almighty to withdraw his favour and protection from them-to inflict upon them severe judgments, and to threaten them with still severer and more desolating calamities. He endeavours, therefore, by every argument, to promote a reformation among them, both in doctrine and practice; and exhorts them, in the most solemn manner, to return to God and their duty, as the only effectual method to secure peace and tranquillity to their own minds, and prevent the ruin of their suffering country. Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.
I have already finished the consideration of the instructive view which is here given of religion; and I now proceed,
II. To explain the duty enjoined in these words, Stand in the way, and see, and ask for the old paths, the good way.
The metaphorical language in our text is taken from the conduct of a traveller, who, having set out on his journey for a certain place, after some considerable time is made sensible that he hath mistaken his road, and is going the contrary way to what he ought. In such circumstances, it is natural for him to stand still and pause; and if several ways offer themselves to him, he will attentively revolve in his mind the situation of the country, cast his eyes around him, and observe, as
far as he can, their different bearings and directions and, above all, he will apply himself to any passenger whom he meets with, who is capable of giving him any information. And, having discovered the right path, he will pursue his journey with redoubled vigour, to make up for the time he has lost. Yea, for the future, he will be so diffident of himself, that he will thankfully take the assistance of a proper guide, if such can be found.
Exactly similar to this is the conduct of the returning penitent. As soon as his eyes are opened to discern the evil nature and fatal consequences of a sinful course, he will not think it enough to cease to do evil, and to forsake the broad way that leads to destruction; but he will also strive to enter in at the strait gate, and walk in the narrow way that leads to life. And, knowing, from experience, the deceitfulness of his own heart, and how prone he is to wander in the by-paths of sin and error, he will cheerfully resign himself to the conduct and guidance of God's word and Spirit, praying, with the psalmist, O send out thy light and thy truth: shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths; lead me in thy truth, and teach me ; for thou art the God of my salvation: on thee do I wait all the day.
More particularly, I would observe, that the exhortation in the text seems to imply these two things:
That we use every endeavour in our power to become acquainted with the ways of religion: And,
That, when we are instructed therein, we dili
gently and steadily pursue the course which it points out to us.
1. The exhortation in our text implies, that we are to use every endeavour in our power to become acquainted with the ways of religion.-Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way.
If we consider these words as addressed by our prophet to his countrymen and fellow-citizens, they are as if he had said, I beseech and exhort you, in the name of the God of Israel, seriously to reflect on the course you are taking, and think whether your present conduct be consistent with the duty you owe to your Supreme Legislator and Sovereign. Consider, that as you have already exposed yourselves to the most grievous calamities in this life; so, if you persevere in your present course, it will infallibly lead you to endless misery and ruin in the life to come.'
The duty of consideration which the prophet here enjoins, is no less incumbent upon us than it was upon those to whom this exhortation was originally addressed. And it evidently implies the two following things:
Self-reflection; and reflection or meditation on the word of God.
1. If we are accountable beings-and that we are, not only the sacred writings declare, but our faculties, our feelings, our consciences confirm what shall we think of those who seem to have formed a resolution to banish serious reflection from their minds; who plunge themselves into