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of God, and when I have said this, every truth is embraced, every sin is repented of, every command is obeyed. Paul himself could do no more. He could have done nothing, and therein we are all upon a par, he could have done nothing except God had been with him.
When therefore, after his own plain, fervent and energetick manner, I again express the ardent hope, that all, who hear me this day, might become, not merely almost but altogether such Christians as was the Apostle Paul; it is my desire, and it is my duty, to commend you all to the merciful hands and protection of Almighty God; to whom alone will belong all the glory and the praise, provided your faith be made strong, your lives holy, and your salvation certain. And this, may He, in his infinite wisdom and out of the abundance of his goodness, mercifully grant. May he so direct your goings in the way, that your Christian life may be altogether of that description, which shall ensure peace of conscience here, and terminate in bliss eternal hereafter. AMEN.
LUKE Xiii. 24.
say unto you, will
Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for many, I seek to enter in, and shall not be able.
IT is not among the least of the many faults which serve to blight the promises of the human spring, that instead of being principally intent upon our own concerns, we are wonderfully inclined to divine the prospects, and intermeddle with the affairs of others. Unasked and undesired, advice floods in upon most individuals from innumerable fountains of wisdom. Do they embark in any enterprise? All the chances of success, or of defeat, are calculated with minute precision. Be the event what it may: It is predicted and repredicted with a degree of solicitude scarcely exceeded by that experienced on the part of adventurers themselves. With certain
people, "Mind your own business" is of all others the stalest and the flattest adage. It shuts out inquiry. It presents an insuperable barrier to idle and impertinent curiosity. It is to the busybody, what nauseants are to the stomach, bars and bolts to a felon. If he' cannot find out, how others live, he hardly lives himself. If he is not made the depositary of a thousand secrets, which concern him not, he is consumed with spleen, and famished in the midst of plenty. What else could have tempted the man in the gospel to inquire of our Saviour," Lord, are there few that be saved?" Suppose the answer had been in the affirmative; FEW is a term so extremely indefinite, when we reflect upon the immense numbers, who are destined to appear before God at the judgment day, that nothing could be more vague and uncertain than every calculation of personal indemnity derived from such a source. Suppose it had been in the negative; MANY is liable to the same objection. It determines nothing individually. Whether applicable to the saved or to the lost, it would have utterly failed to disclose the future destiny of the inquirer, and therefore our Saviour employed it. He endeavoured to stimulate him and his associates to active exertion, by the appropriate admonition, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate." He repressed a curious and inquisitive spirit, with the broad, unlimited declaration," For many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able."
Answers, Brethren, that are addressed alike to the hopes and fears of men. To their hopes: For are we directed to strive? Who can have the effrontery to assert, that this striving may not in one case as well as in another prove successful? It certainly holds out the language of encouragement to me, to you, to every man; and holds it out in such a manner, and from a Being so pure, so entirely incapable of deception, that for one I cannot believe in its being made null and void, through some secret, irreversible decree. To their fears: For are we assured, that many who seek will be disappointed? Who can rest satisfied with a few feeble and irresolute efforts to "walk worthy of the vocation wherewith they are called?" Who can deem himself safe in slackening his pace on the road to heaven, when it is predicted of many, that their hopes will be blasted, and their fears fulfilled?
I entreat you, Brethren, to reflect seriously upon these things. Neither flatter yourselves with false expectations, nor yield to the
counsels of timidity or despair. Neither think it easy to ascend into heaven, nor impossible to descend into hell. It is my design on the present occasion to establish the converse of either proposition. I shall exhibit the difficulties presented in the one case, the facilities offered in the other, and close with a few remarks intended to impress upon your minds the infinite value and importance of early and persevering attention to the religion of Christ.
And first, It is not easy, it is difficult, to ascend into heaven. I do not mean in an ultimate point of view. I am rather persuaded, that the soul of Lazarus was conveyed with the utmost ease in the arms of angels, and finally lodged in the bosom of Abraham. But the obstacles to which I allude are all confined to the surface of the earth. They are included within the circle of the human heart. The language of the scripture is, STRIVE; the practical answer of man, I WILL NOT. There is something in the gospel of Christ, which to the natural understanding is contemptible in doctrine, and loathsome in practice. And what is it? Strange and paradoxical as the objection may seem, the economy of our redemption is too simple, it is not sufficiently intricate and perplexed, it requires not some gigantick effort proceeding from the puissant arm and undaunted heart of man. The riches of grace are too free and gratuitous. Eternal life is too much the undeserved gift of God, and is obtained without money and without price. It is not to be bargained for. It is furnished at the sole expense of asking. And hence among other reasons its rejection. The prayer of faith is an expedient far too artless and unostentatious. It accords not with the vanity, the pride, the ambition of our fallen nature. But had it comported with the divine will to require some one great and glorious exploit; I care not how repugnant to the feelings, how irksome to flesh and blood; there would arrive in the life of almost every sinner a period, when he would willingly forego every scruple, and gladly comply with the requisition.
I will confine myself to a single example, and it shall be selected for the very reason, that it involves the greatest of all present extremities. For what is dearer than life? With what tenacity do we cling to it. With what reluctance do we yield it up. Imagine then, that Almighty God had demanded its voluntary relinquishment. That to enjoy his smiles, and participate in the bliss of his heaven, it were previously requisite to commit the act of self-des
avail themselves of this Revolting as it now ap
struction. How few would hesitate to sovereign remedy for all the ills of life. pears: Dreadful as our impressions are of rushing unbidden into the presence of our Maker: Only let it be announced, as the sole medium of obtaining the rewards of eternity; so announced, as to remove every doubt in relation to its authenticity, and I will venture to assert, that the world would soon lose the larger proportion of its numbers. It would constitute, that "great thing," to which the Syrian leper would have proudly resorted, when he indignantly rejected the idea of "dipping seven times in Jordan," of merely washing himself in order to become clean. And why? There would be heroism in the thought. There would be magnanimity in the sacrifice. There would be a noble, what men would term a high-minded imitation of the pretended worthies of Greek and Roman story. And this would nerve the arm, and steel the heart. It would sound well in human annals to be able to merit heaven; to be able, by the perpetration of one bold and daring act, to storm the strait gate, and win the crown of glory. But to pray: To bend the stubborn knee, and the yet more stubborn spirit: To believe in Jesus: To look unto him as the meritorious cause of human redemption, renouncing self and exalting the Lord our righteousness: All this is ill adapted to feed the pride, and bloat the vanity of man. He sighs for renown. He would scale the fortress, into which he would disdain to creep. He has no objection to live forever; but immortality must be gained, as the Macedonian bore away the peerless diadem of the East.
Nor is the gospel less adverse to the sensual desires of his nature. It opposes its veto to sins of every description, to those, that pollute the body, as well as those, that enslave the soul. And here is a difficulty, a vexatious grievance against which mortals ever have, and I am afraid ever will, protest as a violent encroachment upon their natural appetites and passions. They might possibly strive to believe, if belief were all-sufficient. But to strive to mortify all their members, to withstand every temptation, to "lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset them;" to do this is indeed cutting against the grain, it is rowing against the rapid stream, it is equivalent to lopping off the arm, or plucking out the eye. They pronounce it a yoke too intolerable to be worn. They perceive not its necessity, "The natural man receiveth not the
things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned." Talk to him of the vileness and the loathsomeness of sin, and he answers, that it is pleasant to the eyes, agreeable to the palate, and grateful to the touch. Tell him in reply, that carrion itself becomes a dainty morsel in the beak of a buzzard, and he is not abashed, he is not confounded by an analogy to the fidelity of which every Christian is ready to subscribe. But beaten in the argument, he still argues on. The senses are to him a better guide, than either reason or experience, the voice of conscience or the word of God. They all affirm of sensuality, that the end thereof is gall to the stomach and rottenness to the bones. But he scorns to apprehend what he does not feel. It will be time enough to give up pleasure, when it gives up him; to surrender of necessity, and not of choice.
Yes, Brethren, the gate of heaven is too STRAIT to admit the passage of a sensualist. He cannot crowd through with one darling vice attached to his person, and therefore he prefers to loiter without, therefore an obstacle is presented to his entrance, which, not all the promises, nor all the threatenings of the gospel, can prevail upon him to overcome. In vain does eternity smile upon the one hand, and frown upon the other. He is neither lured by visions of bliss, nor terrified by prospects of misery. but it is upon the broad road that leads to destruction. difficulties. Here are facilities enough and to spare. he has arrived at the end of his race, he will find, that although the descent to hell has been ever so smooth, there is neither downy bed, nor silken fetters within its fearful abodes.
Here are no
In commencing a few observations upon the second branch of the discourse, it is necessary to premise, that there is a class of sinners, less corrupt and hardened, who flatter themselves with the conviction that they are striving to fulfil the requisition of the text. Are they then to be considered as having approximated the portal it describes? More important still: Are they universally destined to enter in? Our blessed Saviour resolves the inquiry in these words of solemn and alarming import, "Many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able." In endeavouring to account for this, I shall submit no verbal analysis of the difference existing between striving and seeking. I am indeed satisfied that the words are used as synonymes. They mean the same thing,