THE CHRISTIAN’S MYSTERIOUS & NARROW PATH
The Christian thus learns that if he stands, GOD must hold him up; if he knows anything aright, GOD must teach him; if he walks in the way to heaven, GOD must first put, and afterwards keep him in it; if he has anything, GOD must give it to him; and that if he does anything, GOD must work it in him. He now “through the law”- that is, through his experience of its killing sentence-”is become dead to the law, that he may live unto God”. He can no longer take a killing letter for a living rule, but is deeply conscious that it is only by being “married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that he can bring forth fruit unto God” Ro 7:4. Thus by the presence of God going with him, he becomes separated “from all the people that are upon the face of the earth” (Ex 33:16).
Whilst others boast of what they have done for God, he is glad to feel that God has done something for him; whilst others are handling the shell, he is eating the kernel; whilst others are talking of Christ, he is talking with Him; whilst others are looking through the park palings, he is enjoying the estate; and whilst others are haranguing about the treasure in the Bank of England, he is pleased to find a few coins in his own pocket, stamped with the king’s image and superscription.
But he finds the truth of that text, “In much wisdom is much grief; and he that increaseth knowledge increases sorrow” (Ecc 1:18). As his inward religion separates him from those who have only an outward one, he becomes a butt for empty professors to shoot at. Those whom he once would have disdained to set with the dogs of his flock, now spare not to spit in his face Job 30:1 Job 30:10.
A constant acquaintance with his own vileness preserves him from a self-righteous holiness in the flesh; a daily cross and a rankling thorn keep him from careless presumption. His path is indeed a mysterious one, full of harmonious contradictions and heavenly paradoxes. He is never easy when at ease, nor without a burden when he has none. He is never satisfied without doing something, and yet is never satisfied with anything that he does. He is never so strong as when he sits still (Isa 30:7), never so fruitful as when he does nothing, and never so active as when he makes the least haste (Isa 28:16).
All outstrip him in the race, yet he alone gains the goal, and wins the prize. All are sure of heaven but himself, yet he enters into the kingdom, whilst they are thrust out. He wins pardon through guilt, hope through despair, deliverance through temptation, comfort through affliction, and a robe of righteousness through filthy rags. Though a worm and no man, he overcomes Omnipotence itself through violence; and though less than vanity and nothing (Isa 40:17; 2Co 12:11), he takes heaven itself by force! (Mt 11:12).
Thus amidst the strange contradictions which meet in a believing heart, he is never so prayerful as when he says nothing; never so wise as when he is the greatest fool; never so much alone as when most in company; and never so much under the power of an inward religion as when most separated from an outward one. Strange mysterious creature! He cannot live without sinning, yet cannot live in sin; cannot live without prayer, and yet for days together cannot pray; continually finds religion a burden, yet would not part with it for the world; lusts after sin as a delicious morsel, yet hates it with a perfect hatred; esteems Christ the Chiefest among ten thousand, and yet is at times tried with doubts whether He is a Saviour at all.
Such, then, is the path, however feebly or imperfectly described, in which the redeemed walk (Isa 35:9), a path trodden by THEM ALONE, and that too, often sorely contrary to their own inclinations. To walk in this path is not the product of wisdom (Dan 2:30), the effect of talent (1Co 2:6), nor the fruit of study. We neither placed ourselves in it at first, nor have kept ourselves in it afterwards. If we have done either, we are not in the way at all, but are walking in a side path, and shall end at that door which Bunyan saw to open into Hell from the very gates of Heaven.