Whence springs it, that God causes his people "to inherit substance," by "leading them in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment?" When he leads them first into the way of righteousness by opening up his holy law, it drives away all shadows.
We had been heaping together, with great toil, chaff and hay and straw and stubble; we had been like the man spoken of in Scripture, who "dreamed, and behold! he ate, but he awoke and his soul was empty;" so we were dreaming our life away continually with shadows, with a name to live, with a formal religion, with a mere external show of godliness, content with a few ordinances and sermons, and thinking that these would shelter us in the day of wrath.
These were only shadows; of no more avail to deliver our souls from the wrath to come, than the shadowy form of a mountain in the morning sun. But when the Lord began "to lead us in the way of righteousness," these shadows vanished. Something was then wanted to conciliate the favour of God; something was needed, whereby the soul could escape those piercing eyes that looked it through and through; and the soul began to look after "substance," wanted realities, needed a voice within from the Lord himself, a testimony of his eternal favour, and a manifestation of his love. There was "substance" needed. The soul began to "hunger and thirst after righteousness," to pant and long after the manifestation of Jesus' love, and to be restless and discontented and weary of everything short of the work and witness of the Holy Ghost.
When the "mouth is stopped, and the soul has become guilty before God," it wants pardon, peace, mercy, blood, and love; nothing else can satisfy it, and after this it pants with unutterable longings. And when Jesus leads his people "in the way of righteousness" by shewing to them his glorious righteousness, they begin to "inherit the substance" after which they were panting. There is no substance under the law; it is but a preparing the soul to receive substance; it is emptying the soul that it may be filled; it is stripping the soul that it may be clothed; it is wounding the soul that it may be healed; bringing down the soul that it may be lifted up. But when he "leads in the way of righteousness," that wonderful way whereby the soul is justified by his imputed righteousness, he causes that soul to "inherit substance," to inherit it even now upon earth, to have a taste of it, the beginnings of it, the earnest of it, and the firstfruits of it.
Oh! what a dreamy, shadowy thing is a mere profession of religion! And what a delusive cheat is all the pleasure to be gained by sin! How it leaves a soul naked and bare, wounded, stripped, and guilty before God! We have often promised ourselves pleasure in sin; and what have we found? The wormwood and the gall. All the anticipated pleasure vanished; and its flight left us full of guilt and shame. But if ever God indulged our souls with sweet communion with him, if ever he brought our affections to centre in himself, if ever he melted our souls at his feet, if ever he blessed us with the communications of his eternal favour and distinguishing love, there was substance in that, there was weight, there was power, there was the foretaste and earnest of a never-ending eternity.