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useless curiosity concerning the number of the faved, and called their attention to a matter, which was to them of more immediate consequence. “ Strive to enter in at the strait gate.” “Whether few or many will finally obtain salvation, take care to secure your own share in it; for this will not depend upon the number of the saved, but upon your own fervent and seasonable application."

Chirst here alludes to a custom then observed in attending feasts and marriages. The guests were early invited, and the door of the house was kept open, or opened occasionally, for their reception ; but when the bridegroom arrived with his attendants, or the master of the feast had waited the

appointed time, the door was fhut, and after this no more were admitted. Alluding to this usage, Christ, in the parable of the virgins, says,“ While the foolish virgins went to buy oil, the bridegroom came. Then they who were ready went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut. Afterward came those foolish virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us; but he answered, I know you not."

In the words which follow our text, Christ corrects that prejudice of the Jews, which gave rise to the question proposed to him. He tells his hearers, that external privileges would intitle no man to salvation ; that though the Jews enjoyed peculiar religious advantages, many of them would be excluded from the kingdom of heaven as workers of iniquity, while the gentiles, whom they despised, would come from all parts of the world, and be made the happy subjects of this kingdom. Though our Lord waves an answer to the question, as it respected the whole number of the saved, yet he answered it, as it concerned the Jews, warning them that their general impenitence would be their destruction, while the faith of multitudes 2 mong the gentiles would be their salvation.

When a question of mere curiosity was started in our Lord's hearing, it was his usual practice, to give it a religious turn, and raise from it some profitable reflections. This he did in the case before us. Taking occasion from the question proposed to him, whether few would be saved i he exhorted his hearers to strive for their own salva. tion ; he shewed that many would fail of this object : he pointed out the causes of their failure: he explained the neceffary qualifications for heaven; and he represented the awful condition of those who should finally be hut out of it.

The discourse of our faviour on this folemn subject, which is contained in our text and the words following, I shall endeavour to illustrate and apply. It deserves the attention of all ; for it is as important now, as when it was first spoken, and as interesting to us, as it was to those who heard it from the redeemer's mouth. You will observe ;

First: The entrance into heaven is by a strait gate. So our Lord describes it in our text, and also in the VIIth chapter of Matthew, “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth to life.”

This metaphor is designed to express the difficulties which attend a religious course, and the opposition which may be expected in the way to heaven. It may more immediately regard the peculiar difficulties of the time when the gospel was first published. It was then eminently true, that through much tribulation the righteous entered into the kingdoin of God; and they who would live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution. The way to heaven was then rough and

dangerous; and they who pursued it, put their reputation, interest and life to hazard. Hence many were deterred from entering upon it; and many who had entered upon it, were discouraged and turned back,

Through the goodness of God, the path of religion is now free from those dangers, which have at some times attended it ; but still strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leads to life. There are, and there ever will be difficulties to en. counter, and obstructions to refift ; and therefore our Lord's direction is, at all times, important ; “ Strive to enter in at the strait gate."

1. The terms of eternal life are strict and indif. pensable. In this respect the gate of heaven is callcd ftrait.

Such is the corrupt and depraved state of mankind by nature, that nothing less than a new creation, is required to fit them for the pure and sublime enjoyments of the heavenly world. So opposite is the holiness of heaven to the corruption of nature, that this new creation, this renovation of the mind, cannot be difpenfed with. Old things must pass away, and all things must become new. The whole spirit, soul and body must be fanctified. There must be a full persuasion of the truth and authority of the gospel, an influential belief of its important doctrines, and a hearty submission to its sacred precepts ; there must be a deep sense of, and godly sorrow for sin, and a humble application to, and reliance upon the mercy of God for pardon ; there must be a temper to hate fin in all its forms, and to love God in his complete char. acter; there must be an actual renouncing of all known wickedness, and a deliberate choice of the service of God as the great business of life. And in this course of obedience, the great motives of the gospel, taken from the future world, must have a principal influence. In renewed and sanctified fouls, a sense of present infirmity and imperfection will excite a watchfulness over the thoughts, the paflions, the language and conduct-a frequent examination of the temper and review of the life; a renewal of faith, repentance and self-dedication; fervent prayer to God ; diligent attendance on religious institutions; and ardent aspirations after growth and improvement in holiness.

This is a brief view of the Christian life, as ex. hibited in the gospel. And it may properly be called “ a strait and a narrow way.” And,

2. The way is straitened by the oppositions which usually are found in it. Though we are not called to relift unto blood striving against fin, yet we have difficulties to contend with. There are diffi. culties which arise from an unhappy education ; from frequent examples of vice ; from the influ. ence of sensible objects ; from the distractions of earthly cares; from the scoffs and mockeries of profane and wicked men ; from the temptations of evil spirits ; from poverty or riches, or other peculiar circumstances in life. With some or other of these difficulties every serious Chriftian has many conflicts. To bear up against all this oppofition; to be blameless and harmless in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation; to keep the mind and manners unspotted from the world; to pass uninfected through the contagion of corrupt examples, and to resist the impreflion of fatan's temptations, it requires constant vigilance and strong resolution, accompanied with the fupports of divine

grace. In these respects strait is the gate, and they who enter, must strive with earneftness, and persevere with patience.

It does not become us, however, to magnify

the difficulties of religion. It has its trials, and it has its encouragements too.

We must view it in its smiling, as well as in its feverer afpect. An apprehension of its difficulties is necessary, that we may be awakened from indolence to activity and engagedness; that we may form our resolutions with knowledge and judgment, and that we may trust in divine grace and not in our own strength. But, on the other hand, we must contemplate it in its inviting circumstances, that we may not be weary and faint in our minds ; but

may embrace it with cheerfulness, and cleave to it with fixed purpose of heart.

Let it then be considered ; That whatever difficulties there are in religion, they are not so great, but that by divine grace we may overcome them. We are not sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves : we are strong only in the grace of God; and his grace is fufficient for us-It is sufficient to renew our bearts, subdue our corruptions, fortify us againft temptations, and carry us through all the difficulties which are before us. When we consider the weakness of our nature and the straitness of the gate, we may well despair in ourselves : but let us, at the same time, look to God, who can open to us an effectual door and carry us fafely through. And in his power and grace let us take courage and press forward. As he has commanded us to ftrive, we shall thus conform to his will and act agreeably to his pleasure ; and we may rely on his concurring influence.

It ought alfo to be considered, that the difficulties which attend religion lie chiefly within ourfelves. They arise from our love of fin, our ate tachment to the world, and our averfion to God's commands. When, therefore, we are awakened VOL. V.

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