The Only Way to Know if We Are on the Right Path
Hugh Binning (1627–1653) was a young minister who also taught philosophy at the University of Glasgow. He was a prolific author and popular preacher with a gift for clear teaching.
18 Aug, 2017

What is worth knowing unless we know our purpose in this life and how to achieve it? Most people walk through life with random aimlessness because they do not consider either. The apostle Paul speaks of this as walking “in the vanity of their mind” (Ephesians 4:17). They simply pursue their own gratification or glorification. Their purposes and plans vary according to their inclinations or circumstances. Some seek to gratify pride by honour, others to satisfy their lust by pleasure. Then there are those who feed their covetousness with wealth. If everyone was seeking true happiness they would all pursue the same goal by the same means. It is essential to know whether we are on the right path.

Hugh Binning makes these observations in directing us to the truth. He notes that those who are not in the right way find that the faster they seem to move toward their goal, the further they go from it. Wandering from the right way only takes them further away from true happiness. Therefore it concerns us all most deeply to be acquainted with the true path of blessedness. If we are mistaken about it, the more we do and the swifter we move, the more distant we will be from it.


1. It is Easy to be Mistaken About the Right Path

There is even greater necessity because there are so many by-paths that lead to destruction. Not by-paths indeed but highways, beaten paths, that the multitude walk in. They never question it, nor can endure being challenged as to whether they are going wrong. In other journeys, men keep to the highway and are afraid of any secret by-way, in case it leads them wrong. In this case the highway leads wrong (far wrong), to hell.

This is the meaning of Christ’s instruction not to walk not in the broad way where many walk, for it leads to destruction. You must be persuaded that the course of this world—the way of most—is dangerous, is damnable. O consider where this way will lead you, before you go further. Do not think it foolish to stand still now and examine it when you have gone on so long in their company. Stand and consider!

Do not be ignorant like mere animals that know nothing else except to follow the herd. They do no follow where they ought to go, but where most go. You have rational souls within you; therefore I beseech you, do not be moulded according to custom and example, that is to be like brute beasts. Walk according to some inward knowledge and reason. Withdraw from the multitude and ask God earnestly: “What is the way?” God will teach those that fear Him the way that he should choose (Psalm 25:12).


2. We Need the Right Guide for the Right Path

The way to this blessed end is very narrow, very difficult. You must have a guide in it—you must have a lamp and a light in it—else you cannot but go wrong. The principles of reason within us are too dark and dim; they will never lead us through the pits and snares in the way. These shined so brightly in Adam that he needed no light or voice outside of him; but sin has extinguished this greatly. Nothing remains but a little spark under the ashes of much corruption. This is insufficient in itself and most often blinded and darkened by lusts. No matter how much reason is refined (as with the classical heathen philosophers) it is only the blind leading the blind and both must fall into the ditch.

Our goal is high and divine—to glorify God and to enjoy Him. Reason can no more steadfastly behold that glorious goal and move towards it, than our weak eyes can behold the sun. Our eyes can look downward on the earth but not upward to the heavens. We have some remnant of reason in us with poor limited ability for matters of little moment like the things of this life. If we look upward to the glory of God, or eternal happiness, our eyes are dazzled, our reason confounded and we cannot steadfastly behold it (Ephesians 4:18; 2 Corinthians 3:13-14).


3. The Only True Guide for the Right Path

For this reason the Lord has given us the Scriptures as “a lamp to our feet” and a guide to our way. They are like a candle or light shining in a dark place “until the day dawn” (2 Peter 1:19). These are “able to make us wise unto salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15). Although there is much light in the Scriptures to guide men’s way to God’s glory and their own happiness, yet it will all be to little purpose if the eyes of our understanding are darkened and blinded.

Even if you surround a man with daylight he cannot see unless he opens his eyes. The Scriptures are a clear sun of life and righteousness, but the blind soul surrounded with that light is none the wiser. He thinks the lamp of the Word does not shine because he does not see and has his own dungeon within. Therefore the Spirit of God must open the eyes of the blind, and enlighten the eyes of the understanding, that the soul may see wonderful things in God’s law (Psalm 119:5, 18).



Let this be established in your hearts as the foundation of all true religion, that the Scriptures are the Word of the eternal God. They contain a perfect and exact rule for glorifying God and the way to enjoy Him. They can make you perfect for every good work. As you love your own souls, acquaint yourselves with them.

Hold fast what you have received, and “contend earnestly” for it. Add nothing to it and diminish nothing from it. Let this lamp shine till the day dawn, till the morning of the resurrection and walk in the light of it. Do not kindle any other sparks otherwise you lie down in the grave in sorrow, and rise in sorrow. Take the Word of God as the only rule, and the perfect rule.

It is a rule for all your actions, secular and religious. All must be done to His glory and His word teaches us how to attain to that. Do not let your imaginations, others example, the preaching of men, the decisions of Church courts be your rule, except in so far as you find them agreeing with the perfect rule of God’s Holy Word. All other rules are but like publications and intimations of the rule itself. Decisions of Church courts are only like the herald proclaiming the king’s statute and law: if they varies in anything from His intention, they are not valid and binding. Take the Scriptures for the rule of your walk or else you will wander, the Scriptures are a ruling rule. If you are not acquainted with them, you must follow the opinions or examples of other men, and what if they lead you unto destruction?


The following articles by Hugh Binning develop these principles further:

Why are We Here?


Can Reading Really Save Your Life?



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