Jesus the Way
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way.” — John xiv. 6.
*“This date is an approximation of when this sermon was delivered.”
IT is coming on dark, and we are lost among the mountains. There is an awful precipice there, a quarter of a mile sharp down. There is a bog over yonder, and if a man once gets into it, he will never get out again. There is a wood yonder, and if one should be lost in its tangled paths, he will certainly not find his way out till the rising of the sun. What do we want just now? Why, we want someone who will tell us the way. Our friend the philosopher, with whom we talked half-an-hour ago, was very valuable to us then, and gave us a deal of information; but, as he does not happen to know the way, we would sooner have the poorest peasant-lad that feeds the sheep upon the hills for a companion than that man. The classic scholar, who has been repeating to us some admirable lines from Horace, and delighting us with an admirable quotation from Virgil, did very well indeed for us while we could see our path, and had hope of reaching our home by nightfall; but, now, the poorest lass with uncombed hair, who can just point the way to the cottage where we may rest, to-night, will be of more value to us. What we want is to know the way.
This is just the case, dear friends, with poor fallen humanity. The want of mankind is not the refined prelection of the learned, nor the acute discussion of the polemic; we simply want someone, be it a lad or be it a lass, to show us the way, and the most precious person you and I have seen, or ever shall see, will be the person who shall be blessed and honoured of God to us to say, “Behold the way to God, to life, to salvation, and to heaven.” I shall not need, then, to offer any apology for coming out again to show the way. There are many here who are lost, and there are some upon whom the shades of night are falling; their hair is grey, they pant, as they walk, and rest upon their staff for the support of their tottering legs. Their case is dangerous; and when they cannot of themselves discover the pathway, surely they will heed any voice, however hoarse, from any person, however rough he may be, if they may but discover what is the way to eternal life.
Travelling some time ago, the coachman, when it was getting nearly dark, informed us that he had never been on that road before, and one can hardly tell how pleased we were to see a, signpost. Now, a sign-post is not a very interesting thing; there is nothing very poetical about it; it may be questionable whether it ornaments the road, as it sticks out an arm with only a word or two written on it; but, toward night, when neither the driver nor you know the way, it is about the most pleasant thing you can greet. I shall stand here to-night as a sample sign-post. Prosy may be the words, but it shall be enough for you if they do but show you the way. Mr. Jay tells us that, on one occasion, when riding on the mail-coach to Bath, he wanted to know a great many things of the coachman. He asked, “Whose seat is that? What squire owns that fine lawn? And what gentleman is the squire of yonder parish?” To all which questions the driver only answered, “I don’t know; I don’t know.” At last, Mr. Jay said to him, “Well, what do you know?” “Why,” said he, “I know how to drive you to Bath.” Well, now, I pretend to no greater knowledge than this; I do know the way to heaven, and I do hope I shall be able to tell it to you so plainly and so simply that some here who are lost as in a wild forest, may see the path, and by grace be enabled to run in it.
I. First of all, then, let us notice THE EXCLUSIVENESS OF OUR TEXT: I am the way.”
Christ declareth that he, and he only, is the way to peace with God, to pardon, to righteousness, and to heaven. Falsehood may tolerate falsehood, but truth never can. Two lies can live in the same house, and never quarrel; but truth cannot bear a lie even though it should be in the highest part of the attic. Truth has sworn war to the knife against falsehood, and hence it never knoweth what it is to admit that its contrary can shake hands with itself. The Hindoo meets the Mohammedan, and he says, “No doubt you are sincere as well as we are, and you and we shall at last meet in the right place.” They would salute the Christian too, and stay the same to him; but it is a necessity, if our religion be tine, that it should denounce every other, and that it should say unto those who know not Christ, “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ;” ay, it goeth still further, and pronounceth its anathema upon those who pretend to any other way. “Though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel than that which ye have received, let him be accursed.” I simply mention certain other ways to assure you, in God’s name, that they are roads which lead to perdition, and that none of them can bring you to heaven, for there is only one way by which the soul can come to God, and find eternal life, and that way is Christ.
I think I see mankind lost as in, a great wilderness. There are no track-ways, no paths, and there comes suddenly before the wistful eyes of the lost wayfarers a hag whose hand is blood-red, and with her eyes flashing fire she points and says, “Lost mem, this is the way.” And what is that before our eyes? I see the car of Juggernaut rolling through the streets, and crushing, at every revolution of its wheels, a poor man’s flesh and bones, which, when the spirit hath departed with a groan, lie there a monument of superstition. And having pointed thither, this hag will tell the mother to take her child, and throw her dear one into the river Ganges. “This is the way,” saith the foul hag of Superstition, “by which you are to come to God.” But we denounce her; in. God’s name, we denounce her as a demon escaped from hell. “Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” Ah, no; God abhorreth such a sacrifice. You cannot, in your reason, think that what is abhorrent to you can be acceptable to God, that what you yourselves would loathe to look upon can be delightful to him. No, brethren; God asketh no laceration, of the flesh, no starvings, no hair shirts, no cord about the loins, — for all these he careth nought, they are a weariness unto him. If thou wouldst please God, speaking after the manner of men, thou art more likely to do it by being happy than by being miserable. Think you that a man would please other men by groans and sighs? I trow not: and how, then, should he please God by putting himself to torture if God be such a God as we find revealed to us in Holy Writ? Turn ye, then, all ye nations of the East, and oh, that all lands would turn from this cruel falsehood, for this is not the way to heaven.
In our own country, we have much more lovely deceivers than this old hag, false prophets, who are more likely to mislead you. Lot me glance at some of the popular ways of going to heaven, which will surely lead to hell. There is the way of good works. I had thought that we had scattered so many millions of tracts, preached so much in the streets, and talked so long about men being saved by the blood of Christ, and not by themselves, that really the old-fashioned heresy of self-righteousness would have been driven out of the field. But it still holds a firm position. When I get into conversation with people, I find, in all grades of society, there is still the same belief that men must go to heaven by what they do.
“Ah!” said one to me yesterday, “I suppose you sometimes feel cast down.” “Yes,” I said, “I do.” “Why,” said he, “I should think the best men at times can hardly look back upon their lives with pleasure, and therefore they must feel a little afraid for the future.” “Oh!” I said, “if I had to look on my past life as the ground of my expectations for the future, I should be cast down indeed; but do you not know that all my good works will not save me, and that all the sins I have ever committed in the past will never damn me?” “No,” said he, and he looked astonished at such queer doctrine as that. The gospel teacheth, indeed, that when a man believeth in Christ, the sin of the past is all blotted out, and Christ’s righteousness is given to him, so the man is not saved by what he is, nor damned for what he was; but he is saved through Jesus Christ, and through Jesus Christ alone.
I sat in a boat, not a great while ago, and while the man was rowing me, I thought I would talk with him. He began to talk to me about sundry “new lights” that had sprung up in the village; people always take more notice of will-o’-the-wisps than they do of the sun itself. The question at length arose how he hoped to go to heaven himself. Well, he had brought up eight children, he had never had any help from the parish; he was an honest-man, and always did his neighbours a good turn; when the cholera was rife, he was about the only man in the village that would get up at night, and run for the doctor, and he felt that, if he did not go to heaven, it would fare very badly with most people. So, indeed, I am afraid it will, and with him, too, if that be all he resteth on.
I tell these two stories, culled from two classes of society, because I know we have need to keep on repudiating this old lie of Satan’s that men are to be saved by their works. Those fig leaves that Adam wove together to cover his nakedness are still in favour with his descendants. They will not take the robe of Christ’s righteousness; but will rather go about to save themselves. A word or two with you, my friend. Do you say you will go to heaven by keeping the law? Ah, you have heard the old proverb about locking the stable when the horse is gone; I am afraid it is very applicable to you! So you are going to keep the stable shut now, and you are sure the horse shall never get out? If you will kindly go and look, you will find it is out already! Why, how can you keep the law which you have already broken? If you would be saved, the law of God is like a chaste alabaster vase which must be presented to; God without crack or spot; but do you not see that you have broken the vase? Why, there is a crack there. “Ah!” you say, “that was a long time ago.” Yes, I know it was, but still it is a crack; and there is the black mark of your thumb just underneath there. Why, man, the vase is broken already, and you cannot go to heaven by your good works when you have none. Nay, you have broken all God’s commands. Read the 20th chapter of Exodus: read it through, and see if there is a single command which you have not violated; and I think you will soon find that, from tike first to the very last, you will be obliged to cry, “I have sinned, O Lord, and am condemned in this thing.” You have broken the law already. But then you will tell me that you have not broken it in public, and that you cultivate an outward respect for it. Yes, but what mattereth this if inwardly the heart be wrong? Even if a man could keep the outward letter of the law without flaw or mistake, yet, inasmuch as by reason of the spirituality of the law it is utterly impossible that any of the fallen race of Adam can keep it, no man can be saved by it.
I heard a story, the other day, which just illustrates the way in which people make a distinction between inward and outward sin. A certain Sunday-school superintendent happened to hear a girl at the end of the school crying very bitterly after the other scholars had gone. He went to her, and asked her what she was crying about, and she said, “The 1ady-superintendemt has kept me, and has been talking to me about my dress; she says I ought not to dress so fine; I pay for it, sir, and I have a right to wear it.” The lady was called, and after some little conversation with the superintendent, who was wise and prudent, the girl was sent home. Now the lady herself was noted for the fineness of her dress; she was most elaborately dressed at all times; so, after the girl was gone, our friend just put this question, “Miss So-and-so, you will excuse me, but did it never suggest itself to you that your own dress is rather fine?” “Yes,” said she, “but, then, that girl has flowers in her bonnet.” “Well,” said he, “excuse me,” — and he looked at her, — “I think you have flowers in yours.” “Ah! yes,” she replied; “but do you not- see, mine are inside my bonnet, and hers are outside?” Now, this is just how some people speak about sin. You condemn a man because he is such a sinner; you would not associate with such a great sinner. If you would but look at yourselves, you would see that you are as great a sinner as he is, only here is the difference, you have the blotches of character inside and he has them outside. In truth, sometimes, the outside sinner is the less discreditable of the two. Do you really think that God maketh such vain and empty distinctions as this? Nay, verily. If sin be in you or on you, whether it be inward or outward sin, it destroyeth you; and since you cannot keep the law in your inward parts, why go about to strain and break yourselves with impossibilities?
This is not the way to heaven. Since Adam fell, no man has ever passed through this gate into everlasting life. Besides, even supposing that the past were blotted out, you cannot keep the law in the future, for what is your nature? It is such a base one that it is sure to violate the law. You have heard of the women who were ordered to fill a large vessel with water, and were told to bring the water in buckets that were full of holes. This is just your boil; you have to fill the tremendous ocean of the law, and your buckets are full of holes. Your nature, mend it as you may, and repair it as you will, is still full of holes; and your pretended goodness will ooze out drop by drop, and, more than that, your labours shall be like water spilt upon the ground, which cannot be gathered up. O sirs! I pray you, do not seek to enter heaven by the works of the law, for thus saith the Spirit, “By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”
There is another guide, however, that is quite as popular, or rather more so. He calls himself Sincere Obedience. This is how he puts it, — “Well, if I cannot keep the whole of the law, yet I will trust to the mercy of God to make up for the rest; I have no doubt that what I do may go some considerable way, and then the Lord Jesus Christ will make up the weight; I may be a little deficient, perhaps an ounce or two, but then the atonement will come in, and so the scale will be turned in my favour.” Ah! and do you think that Jesus Christ will ever yoke himself with you to work out your salvation? “I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me.” This is the triumphant shout of the Warrior as he comes back from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah; and think you that, after that peerless speech, your puny voice will be heard saying, “But I was there; I did my part, and my portion”? Nay, verily; thou sinnest in indulging the thought, and thou dost but doubly curse thyself in imagining that Christ will ever do part of the work, and will allow thee to be his helper. Like the work of creation, so is that of salvation, of the Lord alone. From the beginning to the end it is not of man, neither by man.
There is another error, too, which is popular in certain quarters, and that is, salvation by ceremonies. We have it in the Church of Rome till this day; certain hocus-pocuses pronounced by the priest, and the thing is done. We have a similar sleight of hand, too, in that which is next door to the Church of Rome, — the Puseyite community in our own land. We, forsooth, are nothing; we are not regularly ordained; we are laymen; we have no right to preach, and so forth; but they, — the immediate descendants of the apostles, — they are the men; one touch of their finger, one mark of the cross, and an heir of wrath becomes instantaneously “a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.” ’Tis true, the child may afterwards come to be hanged; but we are told that we ought unfeignedly and devoutly to believe that it was, in holy sprinkling, there and then, made a part of the body of Christ! Do you believe it? Englishmen, do you believe it? Has the echo of Wycliffe’s voice so died out that these base-born hirelings of Rome are to come back, and usurp dominion over your consciences? Sons of the Covenaters, descendants of the glorious Puritans, will you ever tolerate this — worse than Romanism — this disguised Popery, which endeavoureth to enter by stealth into your Church? Nay, verily, let it be accursed! As said the apostle, so say we; and from Gerizim to Ebal let all Israel say, “Amen!” Oliver Cromwell once walked into the House of Commons while he was yet Mr. Cromwell, the member for Huntingdon, and, putting down his hat, he said, “I have just come from St. Paul’s Cross, and I have heard a man there preach flat Popery.” Indeed, if Mr. Cromwell were here now, he might go into many of our churches, and say, “I heard a man there preach flat Popery.” But I do trust, dear friends, that the honest protest of God s ministers, and the earnest zeal of those blessed men of God who are in the Established Church, — I mean the Evangelical clergy, — will still be able to keep down this very popular delusion. You might as well hope to be saved by the mumblings of a witch as by the doings of a priest; you might as well hope to enter heaven by blasphemies as by a priest mumbling over certain words which he thinks to have virtue in them. God, even our God, hath denounced again and again those who delight in these errors, and who keep back the blood of Jesus, and the power and merit of his righteousness. Do not, I pray you, any of you think that this is the way to heaven, for it is not. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way.”
I scarcely need to mention any more of these old roads, for each man seemeth to have one for himself. One man is subscribing so many pounds to charity, so it is well with him; another intends to build a row of almshouses, so it is well with him; another was always of a very respectable family, and hopes he shall not be sent with common folks down to perdition; and so, with one thing and another, all men have some sort of refuge; but I say to you again, if you have any refuge but that which is set forth in the text, it is a refuge of lies, and the hail shall sweep it away. May God sweep it away to-night, and leave you bare and without any shelter, that you may be led to accept Christ as the way, the only way, to heaven!
Understand us, then; we may seem intolerant, we may seem to speak very harshly, but it is as much as our soul is worth to have any mistake here. There is no way to heaven but one; that one way is Christ, and if you walk in it, you must simply, wholly, and only trust in what Jesus Christ did on the cross, and what he doeth to-day in his intercession in heaven; and he that cometh not in by this door shall never come in at all. He that will not bend his back to this yoke shall not be accepted of God. Heaven hath but this one gate, and if you will not enter this, there remaineth nothing for you but “a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation.”
II. We have now to notice THE PERSONALITY OF THE TEXT: “I am the way.”
We will suppose again that we have lost our way, and we meet a man, and ask him which is the way. He says, “I am the way.” What does he mean? If he had said, “I am the guide,” I could understand that; but he says he is the way! Suppose he has a horse and carriage, and I ask him the way, and he says, “I am the way.” No, you are the conveyance along the way, not the way; I cannot comprehend how you can be the way. But I will suppose that I am in a tract of country, something like that which is left bare by the receding tide at the mouth of the Solway Firth. Young men and children sometimes go far out on those sands, and the tide may suddenly return before they are well aware of it, and so they may be left to be drowned. We are two children playing on the sands, and suddenly we perceive that the sea has shut us in all round, and there is no possibility for us to get to land. But here comes a man on a noble horse, and as we cry to him, “Sir, which is the way of escape?” he stoops down from his horse, steadily lifts us up, and then says, “My children, I am the way.” Now here we can perfectly understand it, because he does the work so fully, so wholly, and so entirely himself, that it becomes common sense for him to say, “I am the way of escape for you.” Or put it in another way. There is a fire yonder; there is a child up at the window, and he enquires the way of escape. A strong man lifts up his arms; all he wants the child to do is just to drop down, and let him catch him, so he answers, “I am the way, my child; if you would be delivered from the burning house, I am the way of deliverance.”
You see, if he only showed us the way in which we should go, Christ could not say, “I am the way;” but when he does it all from first to last, when he takes it altogether out of our hands, and makes it his own business, from the Alpha to the Omega, then it becomes no straining of human speech for the Master to say, “I am the way.” Let us put it plainly. Thou art in debt to God, sinner; thou sayest, “How can I pay him? Can I lie in the flames of hell? If I do, even if I should abide with eternal burnings, I cannot pay the debt; I must lie there for ever.” Christ replies, “I am the way,” and he speaks the truth, because he is the Payer and the payment too. He, in thy room, place, and stead, sinner, — if now thou believest on Christ, — he, in thy room, place, and stead, took all thy guilt, paid all thy debts, even to the utmost farthing. If thou art a believer, thy discharge is signed and sealed, for there is nothing due from thee to God but faithfulness and love.
But you tell me that you owe to God perfect obedience. You do; and Christ has perfectly obeyed, and he tells you, therefore, “I am the way.” He has kept the law, magnified it, and made it honourable; and what you have to do is to take the work that he has finished, and you shall find him to be the way. Host thou want to-night to be a child of God? Christ saith, “I am the way.” Be one with Christ, and then, as Christ is God’s Son, thou wilt be God’s child too. Wouldst thou have peace with God? Trust Christ to-night; put thy soul in Christ’s hands; he is our Peace, and so will he be the way to peace for thee. Wouldst thou, in fine, be saved to-night? O my dear hearers, are there not some among you who would to-night be saved? Then Jesus says, “I am the way,” not merely the Saviour, but the salvation. Trust Christ, and you have salvation, for Christ saith, “I am thy salvation.” Take him, and in taking him, you have the blood that washes, the robe that clothes, the medicine that heals, the jewels that decorate; you have the life that shall preserve, and the crown that shall adorn. Christ is all-in-all; all you have to do is to trust Christ, and trusting him, you shall find him to be the way, from the beginning, even to the end.
III. But I must close by urging you to accept the counsel here implied. “I am the way;” not merely, “I was the way for the thief on the cross,” but “I am the way for you to-night;” not “I will be the way when you feel your need more, and when you have worked yourself into a better state;” but “I am, sinner, the way just now. I am the way for thee, just as thou art; to all that thou wantest I am the way.” We sometimes see railways approaching towns, but they do not bring them right into the heart of the place, and then you must take a cab or an omnibus to finish the journey. But this “way” runs right from the heart of manhood’s depravity into the very centre of glory, and there is no need to take anything to complete the road. You recollect what good Richard Weaver said, on that platform, when he was illustrating the fact of Christ saving sinners, and saving them just now. He bold us a story of his friend in Dublin, who took him a first-class ticket for Liverpool, as he said, “All the way through,” and you will remember how he illustrated this by saying that, when he came to Christ, he put his trust in him, and had a first-class ticket to heaven all the way through. “I did not get out to get a new ticket,” said he; “there was no fear that my ticket would be exhausted half-way, far it was a ticket all the way through. I paid nothing,” said Richard, “but that didn’t matter; my ticket was enough; the guards came, and looked in, and said, ‘Show your tickets, gentlemen;’ they didn’t say, ‘Show yourselves,’ but ‘Show your tickets;’ and they didn’t come to the door, and say, ‘Now, Mr. Weaver, you have no business in that first class carriage; you are only a poor man; you must come out; you are not dressed smartly enough;’ as soon as ever they saw my ticket, the ticket all the way through, that was enough; and so” — well said that man of God, — “when the devil comes to me, and says, ‘Richard Weaver, how do you hope to get to heaven?’ I show him the ticket; he says, ‘Look at yourself,’ ‘No,’ I say, ‘that is just what I am not going to do; I look at my ticket.’ My doubts and fears say, ‘Look at what you are;’ ah! never mind what I am; I look to what Christ gave me, and which he bought and paid for himself, that ticket of faith which will surely carry me all the way through,”
That is about the end of the journey, you see; the ticket will take you to the end. Christ is the way to the end, too; but I want, to-night, to show you that he is the way to your end as well as to God’s end. Christ has run the railroad right into heaven, but does it run from where I am? Because, if not, if there is a space between me and the place where that railway stops, how am I to get there? I cannot have the cab of Morality, for the axle is broken. I shall not get up into the great omnibus of Ceremonies, for the driver has lost his badge, and I am sure there will be mischief come of that. How, then, am I to get there? I cannot get there at all unless the road comes right here to where I am. Well, glory be to God, it does come to just where you are to-night, sinner. There needs no addition of yours, — no preparing for Christ, — no meeting Jesus Christ half-way, — no cleaning yourselves, to let him give you the finishing touch, — no mending your garments, that he may afterwards make them superfine, — no, but, just as you are, Christ says, “I am the way.”
But you say, “Lord, what wouldst thou have me to do?” “Do?” saith he; “do? Nothing but believe on me, — trust me, — trust me now.” Did I hear one up in those boxes in the top gallery say, “When I get home to-night, I’ll pray”? I hope you will; but that is not the gospel. The gospel is, trust Jesus Christ now; Christ is the way now, — not only from your chamber to heaven, but from this place, from the very spot where you now are, to heaven. I say again, dear brethren, that I abhor from my very heart that new kind of legality, which is preached by some ministers, who will have it that we must not tell the sinner to believe on Christ now, but that he must undergo a preparatory process of conviction, and the like. This is Popery back again, for it hath the very essence of Popery within it. Instead of that, I uplift my Master’s cross before the dying and the dead, — before the blind, the ruined, and the filthy. Trust Jesus Christ, and you are saved.
“But I have many sins.” He had many drops of blood. “But I am a great sinner.” He is a great Saviour. “But I am so black.” His blood is so efficacious that it can make you. as white as snow. “But I am so old.” Yes, but he can make you to be born again. “But I have rejected him so often.” He will not reject you. “But I am the last person in the world to be saved.” Then that is where Christ begins; he always begins at the last man. “Buk I cannot believe that —” Cannot believe what? What did I ask you to believe? “I cannot believe —” Cannot believe what, I say again? My Master is the Lord from heaven, that cannot lie; and you tell me you cannot believe him! My Master never lied to angel or to men, and he cannot, for he is truth itself; and this is what he says, that whosoever among you will trust him to-night, he will save you; and if you say you cannot believe him, you make God a liar, because you believe not on his, Son Jesus Christ. I charge you, by the day of judgment and by the flaming world, say not that the God who made you will lie unto you. Sinner, there shall never be found in hell a spirit that could say, “I trusted Christ, and was deceived; I rested on the cross, and its rotten timbers creaked, and failed me; I looked to the blood of Jesus, and it could not cleanse me; I cried to heaven, but heaven would not hear; I took Jesus in my arms to be my Mediator, and yet I was driven from the gate of mercy; there was no pity for me.” Never, never shall there be such a case. I would to God — I was about to say, — that I were not preaching to depraved men, and yet to whom else should we go? — because this is the sorrowful reflection, that so many of you will turn on your heel, and say, “There is nothing in it.”
But who are those who will look to Christ? Why, those whom God has chosen, in whom the Spirit, as the result of divine election, will effectually work, and who shall be the real trophies of the Redeemer’s passion. But, mark you, you have all heard the gospel to-night; and when you and I meet face to face, while the trumpet of judgment is ringing in every human ear, when this solid earth shall shake, when the heavens shall bow, and the stars shall pale their feeble light, I will bear this witness, that I told you plainly the way of salvation; and in that great day I shall be able to say of each one of you, “If you perish, your blood lieth not at my door.” Is there one who has not understood me? Is there one who thinks still that he is shut out, and that he cannot be saved? To you, sir, yes, to you, I add this extra word, “He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him;” and though thou be black with robbery, or red with blood, or stained with lust up to the very elbows, he is able still to save; and trusting him, with all thy heart trusting him, thou shalt find that he will surely bring thee to the place where he shall see thee with delight, having washed thee in his blood.