The Good Way
History constantly repeats itself. That statement is as true in the spiritual world as it is in the political. Perhaps it is true because conditions have a habit of repeating themselves, and, as cause and effect are indissolubly linked together in every age and every walk of life, it becomes an axiom that, given the same causes, the same effects are bound to follow. How often it has been true in the rise and fall of empires! In the years of progress and conquest, men will live sparingly and die bravely for the advancement of their country’s cause, building their empires upon the blood of sacrifice. Eventually, however, positions become consolidated, and luxury saps the courage from the veins of succeeding generations. Heroic deeds become merely a memory and the noble causes for which ancestors once lived are scornfully dismissed by a prouder but enfeebled nation. Egypt’s grandeur, Troy’s magnificence and Rome’s power have all passed away and left behind the same sad story of decadence following in the wake of indolence, covetousness and pride.
What is evident in the stories of men’s kingdoms is just as apparent, if not more so, in the kingdom where the will and law of God rule. It is an inviolable divine law that spiritual disaster and bankruptcy follow upon a departure from the mind of God. Illustrations abound in every section of His inspired book. The lesson is so patent that it is a marvel that succeeding generations acquainted with the details of the preceding ones should fail to apprehend the warning and flee the pathway that brings inevitable downfall. Look at Israel. The nation failed and failed repeatedly, and the OT bristles with warnings to the wary. Is this all put there just to make a good story—or is it not a solemn object lesson to you and I? If we pass over to the NT, we see that the Assembly began to fail in its corporate witness within the lifetime even of the apostles. Perhaps we need to ask ourselves the simple but pertinent question as regards our day: Is all well? Church history teems with records of the rise and fall of Christian communities—communities once bright as light–bearers for God, but now either decadent or defunct.
Degeneration can be very gradual, but for all that, no less real. Just as the successive copyings of a master–piece painting will, by imperceptible degrees, change the whole conception of the original artist’s picture, so slight deviations from the Scriptures will by and by produce something far removed from the original will of God. Students of church history will not fail to have observed that there are usually three stages in every religious movement. First there is the period of miraculous inception when God graciously works through divinely prepared instruments that are passive in His hands. This is followed by a second period of vigorous growth when the position becomes consolidated. Then there comes the third period, the longest of all, the years of steady decline—not only in numbers, but in morality and personal piety. During this time the testimony inevitably becomes less scriptural, less distinctive and less vigorous.
All is not lost, however. God has a remedy for the hour of departure. It is a remedy that never varies, and it is the remedy for all time and for all peoples. It is what is set forth in Jeremiah’s prophecy to backsliding Israel: “Thus saith Jehovah: Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the ancient paths, which is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.” (Jer. 6: 16). “Ancient paths”! What does that mean? It means walking according to the light of God’s Word. Not very popular or progressive maybe, but in His eyes it is the only “good way”. Are we prepared for this, or shall we join with the rebellious nation and cry “We will not walk [therein]”? Israel’s subsequent defeat, captivity and continued disintegration were the result of that disobedience. Oh let us be wise and hearken to the lessons of Scripture!