One would think that Isaiah was speaking of two separate roads, for his prophetic eye sees 'a highway and a way' along which the course of God's people runs.
Perhaps we may interpret the prophet's distinction as referring to the higher and lower paths along some of the roadways in the Holy City; but he makes it quite plain that the course of the truly godly may be correctly described as 'The way of Holiness'.
Nobody here would like to say there are two separate roads to Heaven, but as we note the lives and experiences of many Christian professors it really does appear that there are two levels on which they run their various religious courses -- one the lower, the other the higher path; one lying oft in shadow, the other up in the open sunshine of Heaven; one largely a profession of faith and repeated religious observances, the other full of rich experiences and realizations of God's favour and spiritual gifts.
Some people appear to step up and down according to seasons and inclinations, when, for instance, Holiness Conventions and Higher Life Conferences are on or off -- like the man we heard testifying, who thanked God that he had had no ins and outs, but admitted many ups and downs. We want to help you to walk in what Isaiah calls 'The way of Holiness', or in modern terms, the pathway of the holy.
There are three things about a way. There is a beginning; a finishing place; and the course between the two points.
This pathway of the holy may be said to have its beginning at the cleansing Fountain; it finishes, if it finishes at all, amid the glories of the Heavenly World; but between these two points lies the road which must be trodden, the journey which has to be made.
We often dwell upon that moment where the soul, by an act of submission and trust, enters upon the highway, or 'gets the blessing', as we say; but Holiness is, after all, a state, a continuous experience, a set course or way in life where the will of the Lord is supreme, and the full-hearted love of God is the great moving force. It is in that course and along that path that you and I ought to travel continually.
We like testimonies from any who are in the way, but we appreciate and are helped still more by the words of those who have walked on in patient faith and obedience for long periods. Reading lately the life of William Bramwell, I was encouraged by his testimony as to obtaining the blessing of Holiness and its enjoyment for many long years. But I was the more delighted to find his words supported by his acquaintances, who bore testimony that Bramwell adorned the doctrine so beautifully. Of himself this good man said, 'The Lord came suddenly to His temple, and I had an immediate evidence that this was the blessing; my soul was then all wonder, love, and praise. It is now twenty-six years ago -- I have walked in that liberty ever since.' You see, he went on in the way of Holiness because it had become his way of life.
One who was closely associated with this man said, 'I knew him intimately for twenty years. I lived in the same house with him in his seasons of relaxation as well as occupation, but never saw him in such a temper that I could reprove. His soul was like a spring, continually overflowing with the most amiable, benevolent emotion. In his last years, in particular, he was like a shock of corn fully ripe and fit for the heavenly garner, or like a beautiful tree whose vigorous and luxuriant branches were weighted with a diversity of the richest fruit.' Bramwell trod consistently the pathway of the holy, a worthy successor of Enoch, who 'walked with God', and was translated after receiving the testimony that his way pleased God.
I would like to refer to several features of this pathway of the holy which appeal strongly to me.
1. The way of Holiness is a pathway of the purified. The prophet intimates plainly that nothing unclean can pass that way. The hearts of men and women who are to walk there must be washed from their moral defilements. I heard of a good man who said, 'Many years ago the Lord took me out of the mire; some years after, He took the mire out of me'. I think you quite understand his meaning. Sin is a foul, slimy, miry thing, defiling whoever it touches. This must be purged away if you are to walk in the way of Holiness; and it can only be purged by the 'Blood of Jesus Christ which cleanseth us from all sin'.
2. The way of Holiness is a pathway of light and learning. It is a way of advancing knowledge. There is a point where the path commences, when one knows for the first time that the Blood cleanses, and the Holy Spirit sheds abroad the love of God in the heart; but each succeeding step brings fuller light, and things unknown are revealed.
Familiar intercourse with God brings deeper realizations and knowledge of Divine and spiritual things, so that yours does indeed become the path of the just 'which shineth more and more unto the perfect day'. As a result, your own heart is enlarged, your spiritual capacities increased, and, growing in grace, you advance in knowledge and favour with God. Those who walk this pathway are they to whom the Lord whispers His secrets, and whose souls He fills with heavenly delights. Oh, that we could induce you to step up from the lower to this higher and better pathway!
Let me give you a note from the personal experience of another of God's saints who walked the higher way, one who habitually lived on that level, and who expressed himself thus: 'Let me say that my spiritual life is no longer like a leaky suction pump, half the time dry, and affording scanty water only by desperate tugging of the handle, but it is like an artesian well of water springing up unto everlasting life. The Scriptures are sweeter than honey. Prayer and praise are a delight, and it is like Paradise regained; the glory of Christ has become the all-absorbing passion of my soul.'
The sanctified life is not only a lengthening of the spiritual experience, but a growth or advance in the knowledge of Divine realities.
3. Then, further, the way of Holiness is a path of duty, not a pathway of ease and indulgence. We can never leave this practical thought out, whatever our topic may be, for Holiness and hard work are inseparable. The eyes being open to see the need, the hand is ever ready to take up its task; and the labour of love being the sweetest of all occupations, work for God and souls becomes a delight.
He who is too holy to work for others will soon step to the lower path. The willing soul will ever be crying, 'Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?' and the answer will come, 'Do this, do that, come here, go there'.
The way of Holiness is not free from temptation and suffering; but, thank God, it can be the way of victory and safety.
Even the ordinary workaday life is full of circumstances which try and tempt and test you. The more you struggle towards living in God's way the more the Devil will attack you. The path which the holy Saviour trod was the way of the cross, and they who follow Him must share the cross-bearing. The ultimate crown is for the overcomer, and not for the untempted one.
Christ leads us through no darker rooms
There is no crown without a previous cross; but with trials and temptations comes the way of escape and victory, 'these light afflictions ... work out an exceeding weight of glory'. The Book says, 'All who will live godly ... shall suffer persecution'. And this will be specially so with those who openly profess and live on the lines of a Full Salvation.
Here is a page from the personal experience of one who was determined to walk the King's highway: --
'Perfect love', he says, 'will not go long untested. For a time I was not called to suffer distinctly for Christ from that hostile spirit which nailed Him to the cross. The lion, however, was not dead, but asleep, and presently he awoke and glared at me. My soul was calm as a summer's evening. When it pleased the Blessed Master that I should suffer reproach and vilification for my testimony, then it was that the river of joy which flows from the Throne flowed through my heart as never before. It was a new experience -- a quintessence of joy. The shouts of burning martyrs were no longer a mystery. I stagger no more at the account of the saints who took joyfully the spoiling of their goods. My soul is bathed in an ocean of balm and ineffable joy.'
4. But I spoke also of the safety of the way of Holiness. I must speak of that more fully another time, but what I mean is this: So long as you have the remains of sin in your heart you are exposed to a double danger -- the enemy without and the responding traitor within. One reason why religion is so unsatisfactory to some people is that they persist in walking on the low level where doubts often spoil their worship and the allurements of the world pull very hard, and its siren song makes discord in their hallelujahs. It is, of course, possible to backslide from any level; but, believe me, the prospect of stability is infinitely greater if you get a clean heart, and determine to walk in the pathway of the holy.
In closing, let me quote a short prayer. David cried: 'Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts: see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting'. If, in sincerity and simplicity of intention to follow Christ fully, you offer that prayer, God will not only lead you along the way, but to the Home of the holy.
There are, however, two little notes which you should compare in this connexion. One refers to the passage now before us, 'The way of Holiness'. It is said, 'The unclean shall not pass over it'. The other refers to Heaven, and says, 'There shall in no wise enter any thing that defileth or maketh a lie'. By connecting these two you see that you need to be not only led along the heavenly way, but to be made fit for the heavenly courts; and David's prayer, sincerely offered, brings that fitness -- that purity of heart which sees God and delights in the completion of His holy will.