“And a highway shall be there, it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it.” (Isaiah 35:8)
Jonathan Edwards ((1703-1758) remains one of my heroes of the Christian faith. Many consider him, to this day, the greatest theologian America ever produced. While familiar with many of his sermons, articles and books, I was unaware of his treatise entitled The Way of Holiness.
I have discovered this brief article by Edwards to be thoroughly stimulating in my understanding of, and passion for, biblical holiness. I trust that you will too.
For the next several days, I will be sharing excerpts from Edwards’ The Way of Holiness. May you also be stimulated to a greater passion for, along with a greater understanding of, holiness as I was. Edwards’ words will be italicized. You will obviously notice that Edwards’ English grammar is 18th century in style.
Observe in our text (Isaiah 35:8) the subject spoken, that is, the way to salvation: “An highway shall be there, and a way.” This highway is the common and only way to heaven, for the way to heaven is but one. There is none ever get to heaven except they walk in this way. Some men don’t get to heaven one way and others another, but it is one highway that is always traveled by those that obtain heaven.
It is the same narrow way that Christ tells us of. Some don’t go to heaven in a broad way, and others in a narrow; some in an easy and others in a difficult way; some in a way of self- denial and mortification, and others in a way of enjoyment of their lusts and sinful pleasures; some uphill and others down: but the way to heaven is the same, and it is the highway here spoken of. There is only one highway or common road, and no by-paths that some few go to heaven in, any exceptions from the rest.
If we seek never so diligently, we shall never find out an easier way to heaven than that which Christ has revealed to us. We cannot find a broader way, but if we go to heaven, the way is so narrow that we must rub hard to get along and press forward. The kingdom of heaven must suffer violence; it must be taken by force, or else it never will be taken at all. If we don’t go by the footsteps of the flock, we shall never find the place where Christ feeds, and where he makes his flock to rest at noon.
It appears that the way here spoken of is the way of salvation, by the last verse of the chapter. When speaking of this way, it is said, “the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion,” etc. “Zion” is the common appellation by which, in the Old Testament, the church both militant and triumphant is signified.
In the words observe the holy nature of this way described: first, by the name by which it is called, “the way of holiness”; “and it shall be called the way of holiness.”
Secondly, the holiness of those that travel in it, and its purity from those that are unclean, or unholy; “the unclean shall not pass over it.” No wicked person shall ever travel in this way of holiness.
To the same purpose is the next verse, “No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there.” That is, none of the wicked men of this world, which are like lions or ravenous beasts more than like men: in their eager raging and lustful appetites and evil affections, or by their insatiable covetousness, are like hungry wolves, are violently set upon the world and will have it, whether by right or by wrong. Or make themselves like ravenous beasts by their proud, invidious, malicious dispositions, which is directly contrary to a Christian spirit and temper. They are more like wild beasts than Christians, that are wrongful and injurious, are all for themselves and the satisfying their own appetites, and care nothing for the welfare of others, their fellowmen that are of the same blood, make a god of their bellies, and therein resemble tigers and wolves.
“Now,” says the Prophet, “none such shall go upon this highway to Zion; such unclean and ravenous beasts shall not be found there. No, but the redeemed shall walk there, and the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion.” This way is a way of holiness and not to be defiled by wicked persons. That in Rev. 21:27 will serve well for an explication of these words: “And there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination or maketh a lie, but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
Soli deo Gloria!