“Yea, they shall sing in the ways of the Lord: for great is the glory of the Lord.”
The chosen of God are described as pilgrims and strangers journeying to the better country, unto the city which hath foundations whose builder mid maker is God. Sometimes they sigh and weep, their souls are much discouraged because of the way. Then there are times of joy when the statutes of the Lord are their songs in the house of their pilgrimage. They are often weak, compassed with infirmities and journeying with tardy steps, but their strength is renewed, and upheld by the Lord, their Shepherd, they hold on their way. They all shall reach the heavenly country, they shall ultimately sing in the heights of Zion; not one of them shall perish on the road to eternal glory. They are Jehovah’s own vessels of mercy afore prepared unto glory, on whom he will make known the riches of his glory. I have intimated there are sighs as well as songs that these pilgrims know. They cannot but droop and sigh sometimes, and there are seasons when they may well be glad, and be of good courage, coming unto Zion with singing, sorrow and sighing flee away. Sin and temptations, the buffetings of Satan, the cares and afflictions also, that are measured out unto all the ransomed of the Lord, retard their steps, weary the soul, hands hang down, knees become feeble, and our hearts are fearful that we may never reach the land of pure delight and dwell in bliss forever with the Lord. But the pathway is not all sorrow and sighing, for “they shall sing in the ways of the Lord: for great is the glory at the Lord.” Every inch of the way of Zion’s pilgrims through this world, whether it be rough or smooth, distressful or joyous, whether it be by day or night that they journey, all is well known, all is embraced in the Lord’s eternal, all-wise, immutable decrees. “He performeth the thing that is appointed for me: and many such things are with him” (Job 23:14). “The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand” (Isaiah 14:24). What is there that can arise, that from eternity the counsel of the Lord did not embrace? Oh how afraid I should be to think that there could arise anything that his predestination did not embrace. For that imagined thing might interfere with and defeat the counsel of Jehovah’s will, and if any thought or purpose of the Lord should be frustrated why not all the counsel of his will brought to nought? “The Lord bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he maketh the devices of the people of none effect. The counsel the Lord standeth forever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations” (Psalm 33:10-11). “There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel, against the Lord” (Prov. 21:30). And all the times that passed over David, and over Israel, and all the kingdoms of the countries, and over every human being, are only as God hath decreed, who hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation (1 Chron. 29:30; Acts 17:26). “Alleluia; for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” Then though dangers assail and dangers affright, though the gates of hell assail, disturb and cause us grief, though adversities waste our lives and bring us low, though internal depravities of the human heart discover themselves to us to our shame and anguish of spirit: Shal1 any of the sheep of Christ perish? Though the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, though in our flesh there dwells no good thing, though every imagination of the thoughts of the I natural heart is only evil continually, can there arise within us anything beyond the eternal, infinite knowledge of God? Is it not all bounded by the counsel of his will? Oh it would be appalling to my spirit to think that Satan or devils, or angels, or any man, or anything that hath being, could do anything beyond the bounds of the Almighty’s eternal decrees. Jesus said unto Peter, “Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thon shalt deny me thrice. But he spake the more vehemently, If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. Likewise also said they all” (Mark 14:30-31). Once, twice, thrice, not the fourth time. Oh! I could not wish to think myself to be a self-determined being, that my will is self-determined: this would be to deify myself. What are we? What am I? An insignificant, sinful creature. Oh I verily believe that the Holy Ghost has so wrought in me that I loathe my sins, and delight in righteousness, and I shudder to think that I could be capable of thinking one sinful thought beyond the infinite knowledge of our God. His understanding is infinite (Psalm 147:5), and he saith, “I change not.” Therefore he saith, “I am God, and there is none else: I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: calling the ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it” (Isaiah 46:2-11). The Lord has chosen his people unto eternal glory by Christ Jesus, he has predestinated them unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto himself, and he has predestinated them to be conformed to the image of his Son. They are predestinated to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, which is reserved in heaven for them, so in the ways of the Lord they sing. The wicked desire not the knowledge of God’s ways, but God’s elect are so instructed by the I Holy Ghost, the Comforter, that they are brought to seek, to walk in, and delight themselves in his ways. Before called by grace we are all strangers to his ways, far off, depraved and prone to err; being alienated from the life of God, our poor lives are without God in the world. But when God’s good work is begun in us we begin to know thar the way of the transgressor is hard. Guilt and condemnation burden us, for the law of God is against transgressors, and we are sometimes dismayed in apprehension of the wrath to come. But, while the work of the Spirit of God in the heart of the quickened sinner discovers to him his lost estate, and that he is far off, far astray from the ways of the Lord, and much trouble of soul is the fruit of such teachings, yet it is very gracious, for there is wrought in the soul a hatred of sin and hungerings after righteousness, there springs up a love of holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. We long to be pure that we might dwell with God, whom we now contemplate with sacred awe. But we see, and feel to our sorrow, that our feet are treading in paths of the iniquity of our Adamic nature. This does not mean that the quickened sinner is going into outward acts of sin. Ah no! He seeks to walk circumspectly, but in his head there it is that he learns he is vile, ever going astray, wandering in his imaginations, deceits and desires in all that is contrary to the holiness of the Lord. My ways are not your ways, saith the Lord. When in our alienation we walked, it was according to the course of this world. Here we could live and find our pleasures in the lusts of our flesh. But God’s grace taught us, and still teaches us, to deny ungod1iness; yes, God’s graciousness suppresses all unholy merriment in what is sinful, we cannot make sin the theme of our singing, such songs are hushed, and the quickened soul can only sigh and weep and tremble in paths of iniquity and is moved to pray to the Lord for mercy. Now the ways of the Lord in which his elect, his redeemed, his called ones sing are those ways which he discovers unto his own in the gospel of his dear Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. All the ways, all the doctrines of men regarding the path of eternal life and salvation are the broad way that leadeth to destruction. But the ways of the Lord in Christ’s gospel, whose goings have been from of old, from everlasting (Micah 5:2), are the new and living way which Christ hath consecrated with his own blood (Heb. 10:20). Here we shall find the steps of the path of God’s elect, the footsteps of the flock. The ways of the Lord as declared in his works in creation are great and glorious, and his marvelous, wonderful ways in his providential, government of the universe, and all things and creatures therein, may well, when we are led by the Holy Spirit to contemplate them, cause us in wonder, adoration and gratitude to sing praises to our Creator. But oh what causes there are for singing when we are led into God’s ways in the redemption of poor sinners from under the curse of the law.
“Here the whole Deity is known,
Nor dares a creature guess
Which of the glories brighter shone,
His justice or His grace.”
Here is to be seen Jehovah’s everlasting love, his mercy, compassion, that he is tender, pitiful, forgiving. “In his love and in his pity he redeemed them” (Isaiah 63:9). “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). In the eternal purpose which God purposed in his dear Son his goings forth have been from eternity. In the eternal choice of his people, and giving them unto his Son, and all those covenant provisions for them in him very blessedly declare unto us the eternal thoughts, the eternal wisdom, the eternal kindness of Jehovah, the Almighty, the Lord God Omnipotent, who reigneth. O Lord God! thou art great, for there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears. When Christ Jesus was in the world and in very deeds opened up the way into the Holiest for his people this was inscribed upon all that he did, “Holiness to the Lord” (Exod. 28:36). Thus the highway that he established is called “the way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there: but the redeemed shall walk there” (Isaiah 35:8-9). All the steps of Christ on the way to, and in entering within the veil, having obtained eternal redemption for the church, were in infinite majesty and glory, and all declaring his devotion to him that appointed him the Surety, the Ransomer, the Mediator of God’s elect. Every step he trod in his obedience, his sufferings, in the shedding of his precious blood, was “Holiness to the Lord”, that he should present his church, his bride, holy and without blame, and in everlasting love, in immortal loveliness, before the Majesty in the heavens. Now, when we are led by the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, to walk by faith in the ways of Christ Jesus our Lord, how comforting it is. Our health is good then, our knees no longer feeble; here poor sinners can sing, for the paths are righteousness, sanctification and redemption, we are made the righteousness of God in him. Oh! we are reconciled unto God our Father by the blood of our Emmanuel, God with us. Let me say again, when this is sealed home to the soul what a sweet, delightful wonder it is, oh how blessed we are! Now we are done with seeking to establish our own righteousness, we are done with our filthy rags, for the best robe has been brought forth, and put upon us, and we begin to sing, for we are happy, and this is our song, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God: for he bath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels” (Isaiah 61:10).
“Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress,
Midst flaming worlds in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.”
The glad tidings of Christ’s gospel calm the troubled soul, chase away the terror of the law, and saith to the perishing, “I have redeemed thee.” Then sorrow and sighing flee away, for our God graciously sets our feet in the way of his steps, his ways in Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God, and we are of good cheer, for who is he that condemneth us? Christ hath died for me, a poor hell-deserving sinner. We are made glad through his works, for Christ hath triumphed gloriously over sin, death and Satan, and we hope through Jesus to triumph, too. O happy, pardoned sinner! Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thine excellency! and thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee; and thou shalt tread upon their high places” (Deut. 33:29). They shall sing in the ways of the Lord, for no lion is there, nor any ravenous beast, it shall not be found there, in the King’s highway, our Savior’s obedience and blood hide all our transgressions from view. He has made the atonement for our sins, and we fear no evil in the path of life, the living way in which we journey by faith into heaven itself, “whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest forever after the order of Melchisedec.” Oh when the favored sinner walks in the ways of the Lord, when forgiveness, reconciliation, justification, hope of salvation, and eternal glory are feelingly possessed in our hearts well may we sing, we do sing, for love and gratitude move us to honor and glorify his name. Melody is in our hearts to the Lord. His ways are pleasantness and all his paths are peace. All is made pleasant between us poor sinners and our God by precious almighty Friend, Jesus Christ our Lord. Oh to be so kept, looking unto the Lord that he will uphold our goings in his paths. The ways of the Lord also signify paths that the saints are ordained to walk in; in labors of love, in their conversation as becometh saints, in the ordinances of the house of God that they may in all holy conversation and godliness show forth the praises of him who hath called them out of darkness into his marvelous light. “Yea, they shall sing in the ways of the Lord: for great is the glory of the Lord.”
FREDERICK W. KEENE,
SIGNS OF THE TIMES,
Volume 100, No. 4