J. R. Miller
God never teaches unwisely; He teaches in the way of wisdom. There is not a word in the Bible which, if followed, would lead one in any wrong or foolish way. The best human friends may err in judgment, and may advise us wrongly. Human wisdom is short-sighted. Good people may be guided by personal interest or by prejudice, and with the truest love and the best intentions, may counsel things which are not wise. Bad advice has wrecked many lives. But God never errs. His counsel is never mistaken, never unwise. No one was ever wrecked by His pilotage. We may always be entirely sure that if we take the way marked out for us in the Bible—that it will lead us in the right path.
In fact, the promise is definitely made, "When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble." The figure is of a path growing so narrow that one cannot walk in it with comfort. Sin's paths seem broad at first, and those who enter them boast of liberty. They walk amid the flowers, and their hearts are filled with pleasure. But these paths, as they go on, grow narrow, and lead into ways that are narrow, rough, and hard. Everyone knows how the sinner finds his way beset with all kinds of difficulties and dangers. The bright opening of a wrong life—very soon narrows into darkness and trouble.
There is a story of a narrowing cell which was used in medieval days. When the prisoner was first put into it it was wide and airy, with mirrored walls, brilliant and beautiful. But each day the walls drew a little closer together. Hidden machinery always in motion caused the slow but continued contraction of the cell walls. By-and-by the prisoner became conscious of what was going on—but he was powerless to interfere. Slowly but surely the cell became smaller and smaller, until at last the prisoner was crushed in its fatal embrace. So it is that sin's steps are straitened.
But the path of the just is not straitened. It grows wider and smoother as it goes on. His life enlarges. He becomes more and more free. Right doing never leads into entanglements. It may not always bring one into easy paths; the way of duty is ofttimes hard and costly; it is not flower-strewn. The godly life is one of self-sacrifice and self-effacement. Jesus found it so Himself — His path led Him at last to Calvary. But there is a vast difference between the hardness and roughness of such a road as Jesus trod—and that which the sinner chooses. He who does God's will may find thorns and steep climbing, and his feet may be pierced with nails—but ever the light shines where he walks, and he has the peace of God in his heart. Wisdom's "ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace."
But those who find the ways of wisdom pleasant, must not be content with a half-hearted choice of wisdom; they must take fast hold of instruction; they must keep her, knowing that she is their life. The picture of the Wise Man, is that of a man wrecked in the water. There is a plank floating near him. If he will seize this and cling to it, it will keep him from sinking. He must take fast hold of it, and not let go, for it is his very life, his only hope. We are in the sea of life. God sends the life-boats of divine teaching out over the waves to rescue us. If we lay hold upon them we shall get safely home. But if we do not—we shall perish.
In a special way, those who have become entangled in bad habits are like shipwrecked men in the waves, and their only hope is in seizing the divine words of life which are sent out to rescue them. This is set down as a temperance lesson. The only refuge for one who has been mastered by strong drink, is found in receiving Christ and His gospel. He should seize the divine word, as the word of hope and the word of life. He should cling to it, he should keep it, and not let it go.
Those who would remain in the path of life, must have no part with the ways which are vile. They must never enter into the path of the wicked; they must avoid it, pass it by. The only safe way is entire avoidance of the way of sin. Too many young men have the feeling that they must try sin for themselves. It has a fascination for them. They do not mean to go very far on its paths—but they want to have a little experience of it. They will not go into the shame and darkness in which so many have lost their souls; they will only step through the gate and walk about awhile amid the flowers, and have a taste of the pleasures. Many young men talk thus about the drink habit. They do not mean to become drunkards—they scoff at the very thought. They will drink moderately, enjoying the pleasure and the stimulus—but will not let themselves be mastered. Yet such a course is always perilous.
The young should learn to know the voice of strangers and never to listen to their solicitations. It is said that a friend once sent Luther the portrait of a man who was lying in wait for him to kill him. Having the picture of his enemy before him, Luther was prepared to avoid the man and thus save his own life. The Bible gives us portraits of those who seek to destroy us. We are wise if we mark well these portraits so as to know our enemies, that we may avoid them.
There is no excuse for confusing the way of life and the way of death; these ways are distinctly marked. We are all told that the path of the righteous is as the shining light. The way of the wicked is as darkness. One looks toward the light; and as he goes on the path brightens and brightens until it leads into the perfect day. The other begins in shadows, which deepen and deepen, ending at last in midnight blackness. These two paths lie before every young person. Very early in life he stands at the parting of the ways, and he must choose which way his feet will walk. Happy are they who choose the path which leads to life.