Elder G. Beebe: - Like the woman of Canaan, I persist in troubling you for your views on a portion of the Scriptures which I see so often alluded to in the “Signs of the Times”, namely, Jeremiah 6:16: “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. But they said, We will not walk therein.” Your compliance will much oblige.
Matilda E. H. Welch.
January 6, 1862.
The above request was received in January last, at a season of the year when we were in receipt of more requests of the kind than we can respond to; it was laid aside for the time, and overlooked until the present. In now attempting to offer such views as we have upon the text, we hope that we may be enabled to present to the mind of our inquiring friend, and to others, that which may be, with the blessing of God, to some extent profitable and edifying.
It was the lot of the prophet Jeremiah to bear many messages of reproof from the Lord to the rebellious Israelites from time to time, for they were a stiff-necked and rebellious people. In the chapter from which the text under consideration is taken, the prophet pointed out some of the transgressions of Israel, and announced the judgments of the Lord which were impending, and with these faithful reproofs and solemn admonitions he repeats to them, from the mouth of God, the message contained in our text, saying, “Thus saith the Lord.” Truly this was unquestionable authority; and as they professed to be the people of the Lord, in a peculiar sense, and were called by his name, and stood in a covenant relationship to him as their supreme Potentate, to whom they had so often and so solemnly pledged themselves, Whatsoever the Lord commanded us, that will we do, one would suppose they would at once receive the mandate, and with all their ability endeavor to obey. But alas, they rebelled against the Lord, and said they would not do as they were commanded. This particular command which they refused to respect was, “Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask,” etc. The command to stand in the ways implied that they were out of the ways, or had departed from the ways of the Lord. The ways of the Lord in which they were required to stand, and to walk, were clearly pointed out in the covenant, which embraced them. In that covenant they were required to stand; but they had often departed from it, and had turned frequently aside to by and forbidden paths. In that covenant they must stand in order that they might see, for from no other standpoint could they see clearly the things which they ought to see and fully comprehend. Out of the ways they were in the dark, and consequently they were ignorant, and required to be instructed in the ways of the Lord more perfectly; hence they were commanded to ask for the old paths. From this injunction we infer that they had got off from the old track, and probably into some new paths which had led them astray. This was frequently the case with them, and they were often reproved for their departure from the right way of the Lord, or from the way in which the Lord had commanded them to pursue. But now they are commanded to ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and to walk therein. No new path or way could answer, but one course was lawful for them, and the way which the Lord had marked out, and which had been traveled by the patriarchs, was the good way; it was good because God had directed it, and good because he approved of it, and good because in it they should find rest for their souls. But they had said by their words, or by their deeds, or by both words and deeds, that they would not walk in the old paths, in the good way, and consequently the way of peace they knew not, while pursuing their own newly invented ways and traveling in the paths of their own choice.
Stiff-necked and rebellious as the carnal Israelites were, their waywardness is recorded as a warning to the christian church of God, under the gospel dispensation, and written for our instruction. In that rebellious people we have a type of the church of God in her gospel organization. The covenant of works in which they were embraced was but the shadow of the covenant of grace and peace, in which the spiritual Israel are held, and the ceremonial law with all its precepts, ordinances and institutions, was a shadow of good things to come, pointing to the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, written and engraved not on tables of stone, but written in their hearts and engraved on their inward parts, and pointing them to the New Testament as containing the infallible rule of their christian obedience.
The inconstancy, disobedience and wanderings of Israel under the Levitical law and priesthood, point to the disobedience and wanderings of the people of God, of whom they were the type, and indicate the shortcomings and inconstancy, which all christians more or less feel and deplore in themselves, and in others who profess to be the children of the new and better covenant. And therefore the spirit of the admonition of the text may be regarded as applicable to the children of God at the present time, especially to those who have departed from the laws and institutions of the gospel, and to those who are born of the Spirit and have not owned their Lord and Master by walking in the ordinances and institutions of his kingdom. To all such may it not be said, “Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths,” etc?
First, the heaven-born but disobedient child, who has not entered upon the ways appointed for the humble disciples to walk in; is it not the voice of the Lord which calls him to come out of Babylon, or out of and be separate from the world, and follow the Lamb whithersoever he leads the way? To follow him in the sacred ordinance of baptism? Thus saith the Lord Jesus, “Thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.” Stand ye in the ways, in all the ways which he has instituted by precept, in all the ways that he has marked out by his example. The servant of Abraham said, “I being in the way, the Lord led me to the house of my master’s brethren.” But there is but one way to that house for those who have a right to enter there, and that is by the door. He that entereth not in by the door, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. The Lord leads the blind in a way which they know not, and in paths which they have not known; and when he found Jacob in a waste howling wilderness, he led him about and instructed him, and kept him as the apple of his eye. “So the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.” Christ is himself the way. In him we are chosen, redeemed and saved, and in him we have our standing; and as we have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so we are exhorted to walk in him, as members of him, of his body, his flesh and his bones. We are in him as we are vitally identified with his church, which is his body, and in him, in this sense of the word, the child of God is commanded to stand, and see, and to ask for the old paths, etc. We are in him as the way when we are within the sacred precincts of his authority, standing in the letter and spirit of his precepts, and here we can see, and inquire, and ask for the good way. We are not at liberty to devise or invent some new way, or attempt to improve upon the old way which God has cast up for the righteous to walk in. The sons of Hagar may ridicule the good old way, and point the finger of scorn at those who stand or walk therein, and sneeringly say, You are behind the times, You do not keep pace with the progress of the world; still we are to ask only for the old paths, wherein we trace the footsteps of the flock of Christ. We are told that there is a way that seemeth right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. All other ways and paths, except the old divinely authorized ways of Zion, are the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.
Not the new convert alone should heed the warning of our text; old disciples who have traveled long are to take heed lest they depart from the ancient pathway of holiness. To them the solemn admonition is addressed, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, the good way. If any have wandered, become bewildered, benighted and doubtful, they can depend on no other guide. The voice of the Lord recalls them to the path which they have departed from, and when they are wandering from the Lord they shall hear a voice behind them saying, “This is the way, walk ye in it.” That voice will direct to the old and good way, to the way of peace and rest. When bewildered travelers ask of men the way they desire to pursue, they will often tell of new routes, shorter distances, smoother roads and bypaths, etc.; but we are cautioned in the text to be sure and ask for the old paths, which will be distinguished from all others by the waymarks, which are only known by the wayfaring pilgrims who travel there. Travelers in the ways of Zion should be cautious of whom they ask in regard to the way.
We are informed that deceivers are in the world, some crying lo here, and others lo there, but believe them not. One reason why the psalmist so much desired to dwell in the house of the Lord forever, was that he might behold the beauty of the Lord and “inquire in his temple.” Reliable instruction will be found there, and only there, for the word of the Lord shall go forth from Zion, and on the word of the Lord alone it is safe for christians to rely. Elsewhere we may be informed what learned doctors think, and what popular commentators say, but in Zion the humble inquirer will hear what the Lord has said, and a “thus saith the Lord” is abundantly sufficient for them. Having made the inquiry, and obtained the important instruction, having found the good old way, marked as it is by the footprints of the Savior, and by his apostles and primitive disciples, the instruction is, “and walk therein.” There is no cause to hesitate; none ever stood in this way, or ever saw this way, but those whose privilege it is to walk therein. No fowl knoweth it, the vulture’s eye never saw it, the lion’s whelp never trod in it, nor shall fools err therein. For we are told it shall be for those, the wayfaring men, etc. If therefore God has revealed this way of holiness to any of us, however poor, weak, sinful or unworthy we may feel ourselves to be, we may rest assured that he has called us by grace to walk therein, and that we shall never find true gospel rest to our souls only as we walk therein. But they that wait upon the Lord shall have their strength renewed, they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and walk and not be faint; they shall find rest to their souls. This is only desirable to those who are tired, weary and faint, but these are the very characters whom Jesus calls, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” This is truly encouraging, for he is a hiding place from the wind and a covert from the tempest, as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.
“But they said, We will not walk therein.” Ungrateful, rebellious and wicked as it is, young converts and old disciples, when they withhold their obedience to the precepts of the Lord, do say by their disobedience that they will not walk therein; but the Lord has said, If they walk not in my statutes, then will I visit their transgressions with a rod, and their iniquities with many stripes. See that ye refuse not him that speaketh, for if they (who come to Mount Sinai) escaped not who refused him (Moses) who spake on earth, much more shall not we escape if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven, whose voice once shook the earth; but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven, etc. “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire.”
November 1, 1862.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 5
Pages 277 – 287