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find even the way of heathen honesty! How few .are there that do nothing to another which they would not another should do unto them! How few that are clear, before God, from acts either of injustice or unkindness! How few that do not "offend with their tongue;" that speak nothing unkind, nothing untrue! What a small proportion of mankind are innocent even of outward transgressions! And how much smaller a proportion have their hearts right before God,— clean and holy in His sight! Where are they, whom His all-searching eye discerns to be truly humble; to abhor themselves in dust and ashes, in the presence of God their Saviour; to be deeply and steadily serious, feeling their wants, and "passing the time of their sojourning with fear ;" truly meek and gentle, never "overcome of evil, but overcoming evil with good j" thoroughly athirst for God, and continually panting after a renewal in his likeness? How thinly are they scattered over the earth, whose souls are enlarged in love to nil mankind; and who love God with all their strength, who have given Him their hearts, and desire nothing else in earth or heaven! How few arc those lovers of God and man, that spend their whole strength in doing good unto all men; and are ready to suffer all things, yea, death itself, to save one soul from eternal death!
5. But while so few are found in the way of life, and so many in the way of destruction, there is great danger lest the torrent of example should bear us away with them. Even a single example, if it be always in our sight, is apt to make much impression upon us; especially when it has nature on its side, when it falls in with our own inclinations. How great then must be the force of so numerous examples, continually before our eyes; and all conspiring, together with our own hearts, to carry us down the stream of nature! How difficult must it be to stem the tide, and to keep ourselves " unspotted in the world!"
6. What heightens the difficulty still more is, that they are not the rude and senseless part of mankind, at least not these alone, who set us the example, who throng the downward way; but the polite, the well-bred, the genteel, the wise, the men who understand the world, the men of knowledge, of deep and various learning, the rational, the eloquent! These are all, or nearly all, against us. And how shall we stand against these? Do not their tongues drop mannn; and have they not learned all the arts of soft persuasion ?—and of reasoning too; for these arc versed in all controversies, and strife of words. It is tlicrcfore a small thing with them to prove, that the way is right, because it is broad; tliut he who follows a multitude cannot do evil, but only he who will not follow them ; that your way must be wrong, because it is narrow, find because there are so few that find it. These will make it clear to a demonstration, that evil is good, and good is evil; that the way of holiness is the way of destruction, and the way of the world the only way to heaven.
7- <) how can unlearned and ignorant men maintain their cause against such opponents! And vet these are not all with whom they must contend, however unequal to the ta.sk: for there are many mighty, and noble, and powerful men, as well as wise, in the road that leadcth to destruction ; and these have a shorter way of confuting, than that of reason and argument. They usually apply, not to the understanding, but to the fears, of any that oppose them ;—a method that seldom fails of success, even where argument profits nothing, as lying level to the capacities of all men; for all can fear, whether they can reason or no. And all who have not a firm trust in God, a sure reliance both on his power and love, cannot but fear to give any disgust to those who have the power of the world in their hands. What wonder, therefore, if the example of these is a law to all who know not God?
8. Many rich arc likewise in the broad way. And these apply to the hopes of men, and to all their foolish desires, as strongly and effectually as the mighty and noble to their fears. So that hardly can you hold on in the way of the kingdom, unless you arc dead to all below, unless you are crucified to the world, and the world crucified to you, unless you desire nothing more but God.
9. For how dark, how uncomfortable, how forbidding is the prospect on the opposite side! A strait gate! A narrow wav! And few finding tliat gate! Few walking in the way! Besides, even those few are not wise men, not men of learning or eloquence. They arc not able to reason either strongly or clearly: they cannot propose an argument to any advantage. They know not how to prove what they profess to believe; or to explain even what they say they experience. Surely such advocates as these will never recommend, but rather discredit, the cause they have espoused.
10. Add to this, that they are not noble, not honourable men: if they were, you might bear with their folly. They are men of no interest, no authority, of no account in the world. They are mean and ba^c; low in life; and such as have no power, if they had the will, to hurt you. Therefore there is nothing at all to be feared from them ; and there is nothing at all to hope: For the greater part of them may say, " Silver and gold have I none;" at least a very moderate share. Nay, some of them have scarce food to eat, or raiment to put on. For this reason, as well as because their ways are not like those of other men, they are every where spoken against, are despised, have their names cast out as evil, are variously persecuted, and treated as the filth and offscouring of the world. So that both your fears, your hopes, and all your desires, (except those which you haw immediately from God,) yea, all your natural passions, continually incline you to return into the broad way.
III. 1. Therefore it is, that our Lord so earnestly exhorts, "Enter ye in at the strait gate." Or, (as the same exhortation is elsewhere expressed,) "Strive to enter in:" Ayemi&aQt tioiXOeiv,—strive as in an agony: "For many," saith our Lord, "shall seek toeuter in, [indolently strive,] and shall not be able."
2. It is true, he intimates what may seem another reason for this, for their not being able to enter in, in the words which immediately follow these. For after he had said, "Many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able," he subjoins, "When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, "<»f£»)ff&£ E^a/erstvai,—rather, yestandwithaut; fora^ns&E seems to be only an elegant expletive,—" and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; he shall answer and say unto yon, I know you not: depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity." (Luke xiii. 26, &c.)
3. It may appear, upon a transient view of these words, that their delaying to seek at all, rather than their manner of seeking, was the reason why they were not able to enter in. But it comes, in effect, to the same thing. They were, therefore, commanded to depart, because they had been "workers of iniquity;" because they had walked in the broad road; in other words, because they had not agonized to " enter in at the strait gate." Probably they did seek before the door was shut; but that did not suffice: And they did strive, after the door was shut; but then it was too late.
4. Therefore strive ye now, in this your day, to "enter in at the strait gate." And in order thereto, settle it in your heart, and let it be ever uppermost in your thoughts, that if you arc in a broad way, you are in the way that leadeth to destruction. If many go with you, as sure as God is true, both
UPON OUR LORD'S SERMON ON THE
"Betvare of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's
clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. "Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes
of thorns, or Jigs of thistles? "Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a
corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a
corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. "Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is heton down,
and cast into the Jire. "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." Matt. vii.
1. It is scarce possible to express or conceive, what multitudes of souls run on to destruction, becnuse they would not be persuaded to walk in a nurrow way, even though it were the way to everlasting salvation. Aud the same thing we may still observe daily. Such is the folly and madness of mankind, that thousands of men still rush on in the way to hell, only because it is a broad way. They walk in it themselves, because others do: because so mauy perish, they will add to the number. Such is the amazing influence of example over the weak, miserable children of men! It continually peoples the regions of death, and drowns numberless souls in everlasting perdition!
2. To warn mankind of this, to guard as many as possible against this spreading contagion, God has commanded his watchmen to cry aloud, and show the people the danger they are in. For this end he has sent his servants the Prophets, in their succeeding generations, to point out the narrow path,