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in all ages been sunk in ignorance, superstition and vice-how great a number of those who profess the true religion, have corrupted its purity-how many of those who retain the knowledge of the truth, are wholly uninfluenced by it ; we shall have but a melancholly view of mankind ; and Thall fee reason to fear, that the alarming words of our faviour already mentioned, have been applicable to most periods, and remain applicable to our own times.
Amidst our gloomy apprehenfions, it is no small consolation to believe, that there is a day coming, when the gospel will have a more extensive spread in the world, and a more powerful influence on the hearts of men. And if we take into the estimate this happy period of the church, which the scripture promises, and which, it seems, will be of long duration, perhaps the whole number of the faved will far exceed the number of those who are loft.
But whether the number be comparatively great or small, let each one attend to himself, and work out his own salvation with fear and trem. bling The terms of salvation are the same, whether those who comply with them be many or few. The number of the faved, be it ever so great, will be no fecurity to those who neglect their salvation ; be it ever so small, it will not endanger those who repent and obey the gospel. The duty, which alike concerns us all, our faviour has pointed out in our text ; “ Strive to enter in at the strait gate, for many will seek to enter in and shall not be able."
If there are many who will be loft, let each one fear for himfelf, lest he should be found in that unhappy number. The apostle speaks of fome who could not enter into God's rest because
of unbelief. “ Therefore," says he, “ let us also fear, left, a promise being left us of entering into this reft, any of us should seem to come ihort of it.” Our danger does not arise from the number which will perish, but from our own unbelief and impenitence. “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation; and how to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.” But still the warnings which the scripture has given us, that there will be founih, at the last day, many workers of iniquity, who will be cast into utter darkness, should fill every foul with a deep solicitude for himself, and awaken in him an immediate care to flee from the wrath to come. For this purpose the scripture has announced them to us : and to this purpose we should apply them.
When Christ admonished his disciples, that one of them would betray him, and prove a son of perdition, each enquired, Lord, is it I? When he also admonishes us, that many will be rejected as workers of iniquity, let us all make the same personal application the same home-felt enquiry. To judge whether we are involved in this danger, we need not go far; we need not attempt an investigation of the secret purposes of God; we are only to search and examine ourselves. If fin reigns within us, the wrath of God abides on us. If we have renounced the dominion of fin, we are delivered from the wrath to come.
It is the decree of God, that they who do his commandments shall enter through the gates into the heavenly city ; but whosoever
defile themselves and work abomination shall be shut out, and cast into utter darkness. This is the only decree, in which the present enquiry is concerned-the only decree by which we can judge of our danger, or
safety. This is not a secret, but a revealed decree. By this let us govern our conduct. On this let us ground our hopes, or our fears, according as we find our character. God will not depart from it ; for he is of one mind ; none can turn him. We cannot alter it, for it is founded in the nature of God. The change must be in us.
Let us by faith embrace the promise of God, and by repentance renounce the practice of fin, and thus giving all diligence, add to our faith all the virtues and works of the gospel ; in this progress we shall make our calling and election sure, and shall never fall, but an entrance will be ministred to us abundantly into the kingdom of Christ.
The Causes, why many who seek, cannot enter at
the Arait Gate.
LUKE xiii. 24.
Strive to enter in at the strait gate ; for many, I say unto you, will seek to
enter in, and shall not be able.
HE entrance into heaven is here repre. sented as a strait gate. It is so called, because the terms of admission are strict and indispensable ; and in the way thither much opposition is to be expected.
Our Lord warns us, that there are many, who will fail of entering in at this gate.
Hence he commands us to strive for an entrance, left we be found among the unhappy number, which shall be excluded
These observations have, in a former discourse, been illustrated and applied.
We now proceed to observe, Thirdly : Our faviour, for our caution, points out the causes, why many will not enter in at the strait gate. These are negligence, dilatoriness and falfe dependence.
1. One cause, why many fail of salvation, is negligence. "Strive," says our Lord, " for many
will seek to enter, and shall not be able. Seeking is a word often used to express the whole condi. tion of salvation : but here it is used in a lower sense, and in distinction from striving.
The latter is a word, which imports the greatet earneftnessthe most vigorous exertion, like that which combatants use, when they are contending for the mastery. There is a promise of eternal life to them who seek it ; but it is only to them who seek it first, and in preference to all earthly interests—to them who seek it diligently, and by a patient continuance in well-doing-to them who seek it betimes, and while it may be found. This seeking is the same as striving. There is a careless kind of seeking, which will not be successful. Our faviour speaks of fome, who fhall seek him, and yet shall die in their fins-of some who seek him, not for the spiritual blessings which he bestows, but for inferior ends. If they seek the kingdom of heaven, yet they first seek what they shall eat and drink.
Under the light of revelation, it is probable, there are few, but who have an intention to obtain heaven. Depraved as human nature is, few are fo abandoned to stupidity-fo loft to the fentiments of happiness and misery, as to feel no im. preffion from the terrors of the world to come. To dwell with devouring fire, with everlasting burningsis so tremendous a thought, that even care. less finners are sometimes afraid. They wilh to escape the awful scene, which the gospel opens to their view. In their serious hours they form some purposes of repentance, they make some addreffes to the God of mercy, and they think of turning to a virtuous life. But their resolutions, prayers and endeavors are faint, transient and inef fectual. If they may be said to seek heaven; yet they VOL. V.