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ISAIAH xxxv. 8-10.
AND AN HIGHWAY SHALL BE THERE, AND A WAY, AND IT SHALL BE 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. AND THE RANSOMED OF THE LORD SHALL RETURN AND COME TO ZION WITH SONGS, AND EVERLASTING JOY UPON THEIR HEADS; THEY SHALL OBTAIN JOY AND GLADNESS, AND SORROW AND SIGHING SHALL FLEE AWAY.
THE preceding chapter foretells, under the emblem of the vengeance of God which was about to fall on Idumea or Edom, the final destruction of all the enemies of his church. This we are taught, will make way, as might naturally be expected, for the universal spread of true religion over all the earth. It is foretold, according to the figurative language of prophecy, under the emblem of the wilderness, and the solitary places being filled with fruitfulness and joy; as though the forests of Lebanon, or the different productions of the rich lands of Carmel and Sharon, should be seen flou
rishing in the midst of the sandy deserts of Arabia. Such were the effects produced, when the apostles and the first ministers of the Christian church, "preached among the gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ." In consequence of this, the desert became as a fruitful field; the genuine character of Christianity and true piety began to be manifested, by the cruel and corrupt worshippers of abominable idols becoming the worshippers of the living and true God, waiting for his Son from heaven, while their holy practice agreed with their altered profession. The prophet then proceeds to utter another prediction, which, while in its full import, it describes the spiritual effects of the gospel; in its literal meaning may be considered, and indeed must be considered, as foretelling the astonishing miracles, which Christ, from whom all these blessings would flow to the world, would work while dwelling in human nature. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, be strong, fear not; behold your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; he will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing; for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water; in the habitations of dragons where each lay, shall be
grass with reeds and rushes." Then follow the words of the text. The connection of which, with the verses I have read, appears to me to be this; -when we are told that "in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert," it in figurative language assures us that the blessings of true religion should be afforded to the gentiles, who had been as destitute of all the fruits of righteousness, as the sandy desert is of vegetation. Then the text referring to Jerusalem, and the temple built on Mount Zion, the centre of all true religion, the place where men ought to worship, and whither the pious and holy people flocked up on the sacred festivals, tells us that an high way should be cast up, by which the newly-created worshippers of Jehovah might come even from the most distant parts of heathen lands, to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. Almost all the predictions of the spread of religion throughout the earth, which we find in the Old Testament, have a reference to the Jewish forms of worship, and to Jerusalem as the place where the Lord especially met his people; this was necessary, in order to meet the ideas of those to whom the prophets spake; but we know that now," all who in every place call on the name of the Lord Jesus, shall be saved." But then the question occurs, How shall they call on him, in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him, of whom they have not heard?" Alas! this is
the state still of hundreds of millions of the inhabitants of the world; for them the highway into the church of Christ on earth, is not yet opened, and they see no path conducting them to the heavenly Zion. Let us never forget to pray for these our brethren in the flesh, our companions in sin and condemnation; but with our prayers, let us mingle our thanksgivings to that God of grace, who hath made us to differ; who to us in this distant part of the gentile world, hath fulfilled the promise of the text; and may he of his infinite mercy grant, that we, to whom these blessings are afforded, may walk in the way of holiness till we come to mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels; to the general assembly and church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven; and to God the Judge of all; and to the spirits of just men made perfect; and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.'
You see then, my brethren, that our text is a description of the way to heaven, the way of true religion, the way in which the redeemed of the Lord all walk. And in considering the account of this way, there are three things which especially call for our attention.
I. THE DESCRIPTION WHICH IS GIVEN OF THE WAY ITSELF.
II. THE COMPANY WHICH IS MET WITH IN
III. THE END TO WHICH IT LEADS.
I. Let us consider what is said about the way
ITS CHARACTER AND DESCRIPTION.
This I think may be considered in four points of view. 1. It is a free and open way. 2. It is a way plain and easy to find. 3. It is a way of safety and 4. It is a cheerful road.
way of holiness.
Such is the
1. The text intimates that it is a road that is free and open to all. Not a bye path, a private road, on which only a few individuals are permitted to go; it is a highway, a public road, as free to the poor as to the rich, to the ignorant as to the learned, to the child as to the old man, to the most unworthy as to him whom we should be ready to esteem deserving of higher favour than others enjoy. There is no distinction: it is the king's high-way, and open alike to all.
My brethren, who can conceive the mercy and goodness that is contained in this idea! the way of religion, the way from misery to happiness, the way from destruction to glory, is closed to no Our natural state is one of awful guilt and misery, a state of tremendous danger; guilt, misery, and danger, increasing every hour; the place in which we dwell may well be called, in the language of the author of the Pilgrim's Progress, the City of destruction, for soon shall it be burned up, and all the works that are therein; but there is a warning voice that cries, Go ye up out of it, "flee from the wrath to come,"-which speaks to