Sermon 1948. The Hedge of Thorns and the Plain Way
A SERMON DELIVERED
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"The way of the slothful man is as a hedge of thorns: but the way of the righteous is made plain." Proverbs 15:19.
You must have noticed how frequently godly people almost wear out their Bibles in certain places. The Psalms, the Gospel ofJohn and parts of the Epistles are favorite portions and are thumbed in many an old Believer's Bible till the fact is verynoticeable. There are certain sheep-tracks up the slopes of Scripture which are much more trodden than the rest of the holyfields. I suppose it has always been so and I will not quarrel with the instincts of the saints.
I do, however, regret that any portion of Holy Writ should be neglected. There are Bible readers who keep clear of the historicalparts of Scripture and also greatly avoid the Book of Proverbs-indeed, they almost wonder how Proverbs and Ecclesiastes cameto be a part of the Word of God! Very singular it must seem to them that this Book of Proverbs should be placed so very nearto Solomon's Song-that sacred Canticle which is the center and climax of inspired Scripture-a book which I do not hesitateto call "the holy of holies," the innermost sanctuary of Divine Love. Concerning that deeply mystical, mysterious and rapturousCanticle, it would be impossible to speak too highly. It is, indeed, the Song of Songs-a song, however, which none can singbut such as are made songsters by God, Himself, by partaking of the Inspiration, not of the fountain which gushed from MountParnassus, but of that fountain of every blessing which flows from the mount of Everlasting Love.
It is certainly remarkable that, hard by such a deeply-spiritual Book, there should be placed the Book of Proverbs, whichmainly consists of instructions for this life. Doubtless there is a meaning in that arrangement. The Lord would not have thehighest spirituality divorced from common sense. God has made us body and soul and He would have us serve Him with both. Thereis a part of us that is material and there is a part that is spiritual-and both need guidance such as the Holy Spirit affordsus in the inspired Book. The Lord Jesus Christ has redeemed us, not as to our soul, alone, nor our spirit, alone, but as toour body, also-and He would have us recognize this fact.
While we are in the world we are not to regard ourselves as if we were pure spirits, having nothing to do with earth, butwe are to look to our lower nature and our earthly surroundings and order all these in accordance with the will of the Lord.It is not enough that our hearts are cleansed-our bodies are to be washed with pure water. We are in the world and we musteat, drink, work and trade even as other men do. And all this must be as much brought under the rule of wisdom as our highernature and its actions. The Christian's faith does not come to him merely to create holy raptures and heavenly emotions-itcomes to help him in the business of every day.
Grace is intended to sanctify all the relations of life. There is no necessity that a man who is wise unto salvation should,in other respects, be a fool! The reverse should be constantly seen-sanctity should beget sagacity and purity should be themother of prudence. We are to make the common things of this world sacred to God so that the bells of the horses may be astruly, "Holiness unto the Lord" as was the miter of the consecrated priest who served at the altar.
I pray my friends not to be so spiritual that they cannot do a good day's work, or give full measure, or sell honest wares!To my disgust I have known persons professing to have reached perfect purity who have done very dirty things. I have beensuspicious of superfine spirituality since I knew one who took no interest in the affairs of this world and yet speculatedtill he lost thousands of other people's money! Do not get to be so heavenly-minded that you cannot put up with the littlevexations of the family, for we have heard of people of whom it was said that the sooner they went to Heaven the better, forthey were too disagreeable to live with below!
As the religion of the Lord Jesus Christ is meant for this world as well as for worlds to come, the volume of Holy Scriptureis fitly made to contain Proverbs as well as Psalms. I have been told, but I do not know how true it is, that
Scotland owes very much of its practical shrewdness to the fact that the Book of Proverbs used to be printed in a small formand was one of the first books read by all the children at the public schools. I can only say that if it were so, it showedmuch wisdom on the part of those who made the arrangement and I have no doubt that if it were still so, it would be a cleargain to the rising generation. It is a right thing to have practical teaching in connection with sound doctrine-and commonsense in conjunction with deep spirituality. Let the Gospels, Psalms, Prophets and Epistles be your bread-and let the Bookof Proverbs be your salt. Neglect neither the one nor the other.
I preach at this time from the word of Solomon which is now before us and I shall not withhold from you its everyday meaning.But I shall also exhibit its higher lights, for I believe that there is not a moral truth in the Book of Proverbs which doesnot also wear a spiritual aspect. I shall try to show you that our text, while it has its temporal bearings which we willnot conceal, has, beyond these, its higher and spiritual teachings with which we will conclude.
I. First, then, take THE TEXT IN ITS TEMPORAL BEARINGS. It runs thus-"The way of the slothful man is as a hedge of thorns:but the way of the righteous is made plain."
Note then, first of all, that a slothful man is the opposite of a righteous man. In the text they are set in opposition. "Theway of the slothful man" is placed in contrast, not with the way of the diligent man, but with "the way of the righteous"-asif to show that the slothful man is the very opposite of being a righteous man. A sluggard is not a righteous man and he cannotbe-he misses a main part of rightness. It is very seldom that a sluggard is honest. He owes at least more labor to the worldthan he pays. He is guilty of sins of omission, for he fails in obedience to one of the laws laid upon manhood since the Fall-"Inthe sweat of your face shall you eat bread." He aspires to eat his bread without earning it! He would, if he could, eat breadfor nothing, or eat the bread for which others toil-and this verges upon coveting and stealing-and generally leads up to oneor both of these sins.
The sluggard evades the common law of society and equally does he offend against the rule which our Apostle promulgated inthe Church-"If any would not work, neither should he eat." The sluggard is not righteous, for he does not render to God accordingto the strength lent to him, nor to man according to the work assigned him. A slothful man is a soldier who would let othersfight the battle of life while he lies asleep under the baggage wagon-until rations are served! He is a farmer who only farmshis own strength and would eat the grapes while others trim the vines. He would, if possible, be carried on his bed into theKingdom of Heaven-he is much too great a lover of ease to go on pilgrimage over rough and weary ways. If the Kingdom of Heavensuffers violence from others, it will never suffer violence from him! He is too idle to be importunate, too slothful to beearnest.
He cannot be a righteous man, for slothfulness leads to the neglect of duty in many ways and, very soon, leads to lying aboutthose neglects of duty-and no liar can have a portion in Heaven. Idleness is selfishness and this is not consistent with thelove of our neighbor, nor with any high degree of virtue. Every good thing withers in the drought of idleness. In fact, allkinds of vices are comprehended in the one vice of sloth and, if you tell me that a man is a sluggard, I have his whole characterbefore me in the blackest of letters! His fallow fields are well adapted for evil seed and, no doubt, Satan will raise a finecrop of weeds in every corner of his life! What this world would have been if we had all been gentlemen, with nothing to do,I cannot tell. The millions that have to work are largely kept out of mischief by their toil and although crimes are abundantenough in our great city as it is, what would they have been if there had not been daily tasks to keep men from excessiveindulgence in drink and other forms of evil?
Without labor the ale-houses would have been crammed every one of the 24 hours. Folly would have held unbroken carnival andlicentiousness would have burst all bounds. Among the sanitary and salutary regulations of the moral universe there is nonemuch better than this-that men must work. He who does not work is not a righteous man, for he is out of accord with that whichmakes for righteousness. In some form or other, with either brain or hands, either by working or enduring, we share the commonlabors of the race appointed them of Heaven. And if we are not doing so, we are not righteous. I call to your remembrancethe remarkable words of the Savior, "You wicked and slothful servant." Those two adjectives are nearly related-"wicked andslothful." Might not our Lord have said "slothful," alone? He might, but He knew how much of wickedness goes with sloth andis inherent in it and, therefore, He branded it with the condemning word.
Our second observation is this-if we avoid sloth we have not done enough, we must also be righteous. If it had been sufficientto shake off idleness and become industrious, the text would have run thus-"The way of the slothful is as a
hedge of thorns: but the way of the diligent is made plain." Ah, dear Friends, a man may be very industrious, energetic andearnest, but if it is in a wrong cause, he might have been less mischievous had he been slothful! To be exhibiting industryby doing a great deal of mischief is not commendable. To be actively disseminating your opinions, if those opinions are false,is to be doing grievous harm. To rise up early and sit up late and to eat the bread of carefulness, merely for selfish ends,is not to secure a blessing. There is a diligence which is produced by greed, or ambition-and this is no better than the selfishnesswhich is the cause of it! Many wear themselves to skin and bone to gather that which is not bread, to hoard up that whichcan never satisfy them. We are to become the servants of righteousness when we escape from the servitude of sloth. "Not slothfulin business" is very well, but to complete the change we must be gracious in our diligence, being "fervent in spirit, servingthe Lord." We must do that which is right, kind and holy-and so we must live to the honor and glory of Him to whom we oweall things.
Young men who are beginning life, it is well that you should be urged to be diligent. But it is better that you should beled to be righteous! Worldlings would have you industrious, but saints would have you righteous. You can be made righteousin state through faith in Jesus Christ-and righteous in character through the renewal of your heart by the Holy Spirit. Mindthis.
The text leads us to make a third observation which repeats its very words, namely, that a slothful man's way is like a hedgeof thorns. Here we enlarge. The idler's way is not a desirable way. Unthinking persons suppose that the sluggard lives a happylife and travels an easy road. It is not so. Many believe in "the sweet doing of nothing," but it is a sheer fiction. Surfaceappearances are not the truth-though it may seem that idleness is rest, it is not so. Though sloth promises ease, it cheatsits votaries. Of all unrest there is none more wearisome than that of having nothing whatever to do. The severest toil isfar more endurable than utter sloth. I have heard of retired business men going back to the counter from absolute wearinessof idleness. It is far more desirable to be righteous than it is to be at ease. Labor of a holy sort has ten thousand timesmore joy in it than purposeless leisure!
The way of the sluggard is also difficult. The idle man walks a hard road in his own apprehension-he has to break throughthorns. Every molehill is a mountain to him; every straw is a stumbling block. There is a lion in the way-he will be slainin the streets. You look out and can only see the smallest possible dog, but he is sure that it is a roaring lion and he muststay at home and go to bed! He cannot plow by reason of the cold. The clods are frozen, he is sure. They are hard as ironand will break the plow! If you look out of doors, you will see the neighbors' teams going, but he has another excuse if youbeat him out of the one he has given you! The difficulties that he sees are created in his own mind by his natural sluggishness-hehas such a creative faculty that he has always 20 arguments against exerting himself once! The first thing such persons doin the morning, when they open their window, is to look out and see a difficulty. Whenever they are sent about a task, oron an errand, they straightway begin to consider the great labor that will be involved in it, the imminent risk that willsurely come of it-and the great advantages of leaving it undone!
To the slothful man, his way, when he gets so far as having a way at all, always appears to be as hard to pursue as a hedgeof thorns and, mark you, if he continues slothful, it will actually become a hedge of thorns. Difficulties imagined are aptto arrive! Duty neglected today will have to be done some time or other and the arrears of neglected service are grim debts.The slothful is like the spendthrift who does not reckon what he spends, but contents himself with crying, "Put it down."The score increases and again he cries, "Put it down." He resolves to do better and then gives a bill, or renews a formerbill and dreams that the debt is paid!
But the debt remains, accumulates and follows the man's track. Old debts pursue a man. Like wolves which hunt the fleeingtraveler across the snowy plains of Russia, neglects and obligations follow a man with swift and sure pursuit and there isno way of escape. It is the past which makes the present and the future so difficult. The sluggard's way appears to lie notonly over a thorny brake, but over a compacted mass of thorns of set purpose planted for a hedge. Dear Friends, do not putoff till tomorrow that which can be done today! Keep the road clear of arrears. Do the day's work in the day. I am persuadedthat in your ordinary business work some of you Christian people need to be warned against shiftless delay. Believe me, thereis a piety in keeping your work well in hand, in having the house right, the business in order, the daily task well done.True religion seeks to honor God in all the transactions of life and this cannot be done by idling, by postponement and byallowing work to run behind. No sluggard can be a saint; no sluggard can glorify God. Life grows
hard and unenviable to men who try to make it easy. A man who neglects his duty, whether he is a carpenter, a bricklayer,a clerk, a minister, or an archbishop, will find his way increasingly difficulty until it becomes almost impassable.
Before long, the sluggard's course becomes a very painful way, for a way of thorns tears a man's garments and wounds his flesh-youcannot be neglectful of the ordinary duties of life without, by-and-by, suffering for it. Loss of character, loss of positionand actual need all come from idleness.
Continue in that course and you will find your way become a hedge of thorns in a further sense, for it will be blocked upaltogether. You will be unable to go on at all. You took it easy, once, but what will you do now? You neglected duty, youchose to put off the service of the day and, at last, your sins have found you out-nobody will have you and you are a burdento yourself! Now have you found a hedge of thorns in your way. This is clear enough and it has been seen by most of us inactual life in several cases.
The other Truth of the text is equally clear-a righteous man's way becomes plain- "The way of the righteous is made plain."When a man, by the Holy Spirit's gracious influence upon him, is made thoroughly truthful, thoroughly honest, so that he walksin his integrity, it is most pleasant to note how soon, by some means or other, his way opens up before him. We have seengood men in great straits and adversities-their own conscientiousness may appear to narrow their course and, of course, thedepressions of business fall upon righteous men as much as upon the unrighteous. But in the long run you will see that ifa man keeps straight and walks in strict integrity and faith, the Lord will make darkness light before him and crooked thingsstraight. Ask the aged man of God, whose life has been full of Grace and truth, and he will tell you that though he was broughtlow, the Lord has helped him.
He will interest you with his account of the struggles of his younger days and how, when he had his large family of littlechildren about him, he was tempted to do a questionable act, but was enabled to hold fast his integrity and found, in hissteadfastness, the way to success. Those stories, which some of us heard as boys at our father's fireside, or which our grandfatherstold us before they were taken up to Heaven, are, to some of us, heirlooms treasured as tokens for good, and proofs of thefaithfulness of God. We know that integrity and uprightness are the best preservatives. If we will not put forth our handunto iniquity even during the worst pinch, we shall come forth as the light.
But if in trouble you try to get out of it by indirect means, you will involve yourself in tenfold difficulty. It is far betterto be poor than dishonest. Yes, it is better to die than to dishonor our profession. It is God's business to provide for usand He will do it. We are not to be too fast in providing for ourselves. We must not command the stones to be made bread byforestalling the Lord in that which is His own peculiar province. Remember our Lord's answer to the tempter, "Man shall notlive by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." We shall dwell in the land and, verily, weshall be fed, but how this is to be accomplished is the Lord's business rather than ours. "The way of the righteous is madeplain." Only wait and watch-and you shall see the salvation of God.
Thus I have set before you the moral or temporal meaning of the text, commending it earnestly to the consideration of all,especially of men of business, begging them to see to it that there is no neglect about any part of their calling, for a Christian'sbusiness ought to be the best done of any man's in the world.
See to it, also, that there is no swerving from righteousness in anything that you do, for the safest and surest road is theway of truth, the path of righteousness. If you keep close to God and make Him your Guide even unto death, you will have noneed to trouble yourself about your way-the Lord will make it plain.
II. Now I come to THE SPIRITUAL TEACHING OF THE TEXT and may the Lord anoint our eyes by His Holy
Spirit that we may see!
Take the first side of the text, the spiritual sluggard-what is said of him? His way is "as a hedge of thorns." I gather fromthe opposition of the text that the spiritual sluggard's way is the way of unbelief because the opposite of his way is theway of the righteous. Now, the way of the righteous is the way offaith-"We walk by faith." Therefore the spiritual sluggard'sway is the way of unbelief.
I will describe him. He has a way, for he is not altogether dead to religious matters. He hears sermons and attends the Houseof God. He sometimes reads his Bible and he often has a correct notion of what the Gospel is. But he fails in faith-he hasnot faith enough in the truth of the things which he professes to believe, to ever be affected by them in his daily life,or in his truest feelings. If he did really believe these things to be true, his life would not be slothful. When a man believesthat there is a Hell, he labors to escape from it. When a man verily believes that there is a Heaven, unless he
is demented, he has an ambition to partake in its glories! When a man really and truly accepts the fact of his having sinnedagainst a righteous God and believes in the evil of sin, he pines to be cleansed from sin. When he heartily believes in thepower of the precious blood of Christ to make him clean, he seeks to be washed therein, that he may be pure before the sightof God. The spiritual sluggard does not believe after that practical fashion. He says, "It is true," but he acts as if itwere false. He is too much a sluggard to become an infidel-he is too lethargic to argue against the Truth of God which condemnshim-he nods assent. It is the nod of sleep.
We might have more hope for him if he would begin to contradict. If he would think enough of the Truth of God to endeavorto justify his unbelief of it, we might hope that he had opened one of his eyes! But while he continues to cry "Yes! Oh, yes,"and to do all that is proper, but nothing that is decided and earnest-we have small hope for him. He prays at times, but itis a dreamy devotion. He has not faith enough in prayer to continue in it till he is heard in Heaven. He listens to the preachingof the Gospel, but as a sluggard, he lets what is said go in one ear and out the other-he grasps nothing, feels nothing, retainsnothing. He is often on the verge of some good and great thing, but it ends in smoke. He has resolved in real earnest to lookto his eternal state and seek the Lord with all his might. But his resolves are frail as bubbles. If you were to tell himthat in seven years' time he would be just as dull, stupid and sinful as he now is, he would angrily deny it-but such willbe the case. He intends only to delay a little longer and then he is going to entertain the great question in the most seriousmanner. If I recollect rightly, he was in the same mind 20 years ago and I fear he will continue in the same mind when deathcomes upon the scene and ends all his dreaming! I fear that of him it will be true, "in Hell he lifted up his eyes, beingin torments." He will not open his eyes till then.
I must not forget that this sluggard did once make an effort. He gave up one of his vices-that is to say, he almost did so,but he soon returned to it. He was a drunk and he went the length of not drinking quite so much. Perhaps he even went so faras not drinking at all, which was a good thing for him, but then he made up for his self-denial in that direction by indulgencein another way. If you cannot sink a ship by a hole in one place, you can do so by boring a hole in another. While some godown to perdition by one sin, others destroy themselves by another. The sluggard spent all his strength in tinkering one breakageand he had no energy left to mend a second flaw. He was so much asleep that he murmured in his dream, "Well done! I am a splendidfellow."
But when a friend shook him, he yawned and turned over-and went to sleep again. He was almost awakened, but he preferred todoze till a more convenient season. He heard a sermon the other day upon, "One thing you lack," and he cried, "That's me!"and slumbered again. He heard a discourse upon judgment to come and he at once admitted the absolute need of being preparedfor death and judgment. But he did not prepare and, in all probability, he will die in his sins. The man has no resolution,no soul for action, no spirit for anything good. He is given up to slumber! He always pleads for a little more folding ofthe arms to sleep. He will, he will-he assures you that he will wake up-but he never does. Oh, that by the Grace of God thisdreamer could be awakened! His way is the way of unbelief and he keeps to it with a deadly persistence which must end in destruction.
Now, that way is full of thorns. It is a very hard way. I will show you, in a minute, that it is so. People who are in thisstate cannot quite give up religion and yet they have never really taken to it. Do you notice how hard everything is to them?To begin with, ministers always preach such dreadfully long sermons. The sermon is not long to you who feed upon the Wordof God, but to those who sleep at the table it is intolerably tedious! The whole service is dreary to them, though to Believersit is bright and happy. And Sundays! To me the Sabbath is the pearl of the week, but to these sluggards in religion, it isa day of gloom. We hear them speak of "dreary English Sundays." They piteously describe the closed shops, theatres and museums-andenquire what a man is to do in so sad a case! To go to church? To hear of the best things? This is much too hard a task forsluggish minds. Poor dear souls!
As for a Prayer Meeting, they never condescend to consider such a gathering-it is too dreary! Or if, perchance, they go, nobodyever prays to please them-their ideal of devotion is not reached! Ask them whether they read the Bible at home. They mightdo so if they were fogged to it, but the Bible does not interest them and it requires so much thought. They cannot mustermind enough for it. To us it is a Book which sparkles with the most Divine Truths of God-it is the Book of God! The Lord ofbooks! There is no volume like it. But to these people, Bible reading is hard labor and worse. Prayer is also slavery. Repentanceis impossible. The revival plan of "Believe and live," without any repentance-they rather take to for a time-till they beginto understand more of what the evangelist means.
They go into the Enquiry Room and get "converted" in five minutes-and have done with godliness for the rest of their lives!Possibly some time after they hear of a sanctification to be had in the same manner, they believe themselves to be perfectand feel that there is no more need for watchfulness or striving, for sin is dead and they are perfect! When they are toldwhat repentance and faith really are and that these are for daily, life-long use-and that we must every day watch and striveagainst temptation, without and within, they disappear from among our hearers, for they do not wish to trouble themselveswith so great an enterprise. If they could be carried to Heaven in a sedan chair, or trip there in their slippers, they wouldbe glad of it. But to go on pilgrimage, up hill and down dale, is another matter. Their way is as full of difficulties asa thorn-hedge is full of prickles!
Moreover, it is full of perplexities. Do you ever meet with these sluggards? I do. They sometimes come to see me and whenthey come, this is their style of talk. They say, "Well, Sir, I have heard about believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. Can youtell me what it means?" I explain that it is a simple acceptance of God's testimony and trust in the Lord Jesus. Do you understandthat? They say, "Yes." Then they raise a difficulty, which I explain. Do you quite comprehend that? "Yes, Sir, I see that,but"-and then follows a further doubt. This also is cleared up in time to make room for another. Again and again it is-"Yes,but then_." Thus I continue grinding wind by the hour together! Their minds are bottomless buckets and their memories arebags full of holes-it is very unprofitable work to endeavor to fill them. I seem to be trying to catch a fox. I stop up itshole, but it is out at another opening! This also I stop and 50 more and, to my surprise, I hear the shout, "Hark, away! Myfox has gone across country."
He is further off than ever. It was great folly on my part to imagine that I could bring him to earth, or dig him out of hisburrow. These people are great at questions, the whole difficulty really lying in their unbelief-they are unwilling to believein the Lord Jesus Christ! When a man does not wish to believe, reasons for doubting gather about him in swarms, like flies.Besides, it is such a fashionable thing, you know, to doubt. You are aware that all the cultured folk display great facilityin fashioning doubts, while those who believe God to be true and do not mistrust His Word are commonplace persons of a verylow order of mind. You smile, but this is a very convincing argument to our sleepy friend. No great logic is needed to lulla sluggard to repose. It is the fashion to doubt and you may as well be dead and buried as out of fashion! These sluggishpeople will not take the trouble to sift evidence. They have no wish to be driven to turn from their sins and seek a Saviorand be reconciled to God. This would take too much exertion and involve too many self-denials and heart-searching. They prefera way full of perplexities to the new and living way! They choose a thorn-hedge rather than the King's Highway of righteousness!
Nor is this all. In addition to perplexities, their way becomes full of miseries. The sermon which pleases the Believer andcheers his heart, saddens the sluggard. The prayer, which is to us a delight, is to them a cause of anxiety if they enterinto it at all. The sight of bread is a great joy to a hungry man, but suppose he does not eat it and there it stands? Well,then, it becomes an instrument of torture fit for Tantalus to use! I should suppose that nothing could aggravate thirst muchmore than the mirage of the desert when the traveler sees a stream of bright, sparkling water rippling at his feet and yetnot a drop is there. His fancy torments his thirst! So, for some of you to hear of the Feast of Love and to see the joy ofthe children of God must be horrible if you, yourselves, have neither part nor lot therein. That promise quoted by the preacher-howit must have grated on your ears if you knew its value and yet did not embrace it by faith!
Painful is this predicament. You are sadly placed, for you enjoy neither good nor evil. If you were to go straight out intothe world and plunge into the pleasures of it, you would, at least, know one side of life. But you dare not do that- you havetoo much conscience, too much training in religious ways to run with the worldling in his wantonness-so that you neither knowthe pleasures of the world, nor the pleasures of Grace! You feel restraints from both sides, but you know not the libertiesof either side. Between two stools you come to the ground. Neither Heaven nor Hell is on your side! Both saints and sinnersare shy of you and so your way is as a thorn hedge. It is dreadful for a man to have enough conscience to know that he islost, but not enough Grace to find salvation! To have enough religion to make him uncomfortable in sin, but not enough tomake him happy in Christ! I know some who continue in sin and yet at night have terrible dreams and wake up in a cold sweatof fear. They dare not think of the course of conduct, which, nevertheless, they persevere in-they go onward to destructionand, by-and-by, they will take a leap in the dark because they are too idle to wake up. O mighty Grace, wake these sluggards,or else they will sleep themselves into eternal misery!
"The way of the slothful man is as a hedge of thorns." One of these days he will come to the end of his way and he will seethat hedge of thorns blocking him out of Heaven-blocking him out from God! His sins, like a thick hedge, will stand in frontof him as he is about to die and will shut him out from hope, while his despairing soul will cry, "Oh, that I could find mercy!Oh, that I could find deliverance!" Recollection of wasted opportunities, of a rejected Gospel and of despised Sabbaths willcome up before him-and through that thorn hedge his naked soul will be unable to force its way into hope and peace! God grantthat we may not be among the sluggards at the end of the way!
We will now consider the other side of the text very briefly and notice that the righteous man's way shall be made plain.This is a cheering promise, especially to any of you who are walking in the dark at this time. "The way of the righteous ismade plain." The Lord will see to this. The way of the righteous is the way of faith. They see Him who is invisible and theytrust in God. They look for their pardon to the precious blood of Jesus Christ. In fact, they look to God in Christ Jesusfor everything! Their way has impediments in it-crooked things are in it, mountains are in it, and deep gulfs-but see thebeauty of the promise, "The way of the righteous is made plain." Difficulties shall be removed, the valleys shall be exaltedand the mountains and hills shall be laid low. The crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain. Child-like confidencein God shall march on as upon a raised causeway and always find a road for itself.
Faith travels by an unseen track to honor and glory, neither shall anything turn her aside. Her way may not be plain at thismoment, but it shall be made so. God is with those who trust in Him and what or whom shall we fear when God is with us? Indue time the hand of the Lord shall be seen. To the moment the Divine Power will time its interposition. The Red Sea was notdivided a single second before Israel passed through it. The Jordan only flowed apart when the feet of the Lord's priestsactually came to the water's brim. Tomorrow's difficulties are real and tomorrow's Grace will be real. When tomorrow comes,sufficient unto the day shall be the Divine help thereof. When you come to the sepulcher, you shall find that the stone isrolled away from its mouth. In due time the way of the righteous shall be made plain and that is all the righteous shoulddesire or expect.
Sometimes the way of the righteous is mysterious and perplexing. I have known the best of men say, "I long to do right and,by God's Grace, I will not stoop to anything which is evil-but which of the two ways now before me is the right way? Eachof them seems to be both hopeful and doubtful. Which way shall I turn?" This is a condition which causes great anxiety toone who is deeply earnest to be right. Oh, for an Oracle which could plainly indicate the path! Superstition and fanaticismshall not be gratified by either voice or dream, but yet the way of the righteous shall be made plain. Brothers and Sisters,when you do not know your way, ask your Guide. Stand still and pray. If you cannot find the way upon the chart, commit yourselfto the Divine guidance by prayer. Down on your knees and cry to the Lord! Few go wrong when they pray over their movementsand use the judgment which God has given them. The last is not to be omitted, for I have known persons pray about a matterwhich was perfectly clear to anyone with half a grain of sense. In order to escape from an evident but unpleasant duty, theyhave talked about praying over it. Where a plain command is given, an unmistakable finger points the way and hesitation isrebellion! Sluggards make prayer an excuse for doing nothing. On the other hand, willful people make up their mind and thenpray-and this is sheer hypocrisy!
God is insulted by prayers which only mean that the petitioner would be glad of Divine allowance to do wrong- glad of an eventwhich might be twisted into guidance in a doubtful direction! Such prayers God will never hear. But the way of the righteousshall be made plain. The path of faith shall end in peace. The way of holiness shall conduct to happiness. Your way may beso dark that you cannot see your hand before you, but God will, before long, make it bright as noonday. At this moment allthe wise men in the world might not be able to predict your path, but the Lord will direct you. Only trust in the Lord anddo good-and He will light your candle. Yes, He will cause His sun to shine upon you. There is a blessing in the very act ofwaiting upon God-and out of it comes this joy-that your way shall be made plain.
I find one excellent translation runs thus-"The way of the righteous is a highway." The righteous do not follow the blindalleys and back streets of craft and policy-"The way of the righteous is a highway"-it is the open road where none may challengethe traveler. It is the King's Highway where the passenger has a right to be. It is a grand thing to feel that in your positionin life you are where you have a right to be and that you came there by no trespass, or breaking of hedges-that you are doingwhat you have a right to do before the living God and none may criticize you. He that is in
the King's Highway is under the King's protection and he that stops him by daylight shall come under the strong hand of thelaw. Our King has said, "No lion shall be there, neither shall any ravenous beast go up thereon."
He that is on the King's highway will come to a good end, for the King has completed that way so that it does not fall short,but leads to a city of habitations whose Builder and Maker is God. Oh, to be right with God! Yes, to be right with Him inour daily life and private walk! Let that be the case and our way shall be judged of by the Lord as His own royal highwayand upon it the light of His love shall shine so that it shall become brighter and brighter unto the perfect day!
O God of great mercy, keep us in Your fear and through Your Grace lead us, in imitation of Your dear Son, to abide in holiness!And to Your name be praise forever and ever! Amen,