« הקודםהמשך »
world on the one side, and our own corrupt hearts on the other, being so apt to entice us from it; so that until we have gotten that conquest over our lusts, as to live above the world and ourselves too, it is impossible for us to walk directly towards Heaven: but this, we may all find, is no easy matter to do, by reason of our natural inclinations, to evil, and averseness from what is truly good; so that there is no sin can be subdued, no duty performed, no grace or virtue acted, without a great deal of care and pains about it. And, therefore, it must needs be very difficult indeed to do whatsoever is required of you, in order to your eternal Salvation; which none of you surely can now doubt of, seeing your Saviour Himself bath assured you of it; yet so, that He would not have any of you be discouraged from your endeavours after it, but rather excited and stirred up to a more diligent and serious prosecution of it. And therefore He advises you to “strive to enter in at the strait gate;” intimating, that though the gate be strait, yet if you do but strive, you may enter in; and that, though it be hard to get to Heaven, yet it is possible; and though there are not many, there are some few come thither. And therefore, why may not you be in the number of those few, as well as others? Never a one here, whether high or low, rich or poor, but is as capable of enjoying eternal happiness, as any one that doth already enjoy it; yea, and you are all invited, commanded, entreated, to walk in the narrow way, and enter in at the strait gate that leads to life: and, therefore, if any of you miss of it, you may thank yourselves. Christ’s arms are ready open to embrace you all that will but go unto Him; and though Heaven's gate be strait, it is always open to such as make it their business to enter in ; you need not fear St. Peter's locking it against you, for both (Matt. 16. he, and all the Saints in Heaven, as well as Christ Himself, 19.] would rejoice to see you all crowding together in the narrow way, and striving which should press through the strait gate first: so that none of you can fail of everlasting glory, that are not failing to yourselves in the pursuit of it; which, methinks, should make us all resolve to set apart and devote the residue of our lives wholly to the “working out [Phil. 2. our salvation with fear and trembling,” and to the “ making (2 Pet. 1.
SERM. our calling and election sure," so as to make it our great, VI. and our only care and study in this world to prepare for a
better, and to make sure of that eternal life which Christ Himself hath purchased for us with His Own most precious blood; yet so as that we must use the utmost of our endeavours too for our attainment of it. And, therefore, let me desire you again and again to remember and consider seriously with yourselves, that the same person who died once
that you might live for ever, hath told you in plain terms, (Matt. 7. that“ strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leadeth 14.]
to life, and few there be that find it.”
Now, our blessed Saviour having there taught us how hard it is to get to Heaven, in the words that I have now read He shews who shall, and who shall not come thither; “ Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven: but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in Heaven.” The meaning of which words, in brief, is this, that the bare profession of the Christian religion, without the practice of what is required in it, will never bring a soul to Heaven.
But for our clearer understanding and better improvement of these words, we shall consider them in the same order wherein they were delivered by Christ Himself.
First, saith He, “ Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven.” As if He should have said, although I am come down from Heaven on purpose that by Me men might go thither, yet I would not have you think that your calling me, “ Lord,” and professing that religion which I teach to be the way to Heaven, will ever bring you thither: no, there is more to be done than so, before you can be made partakers of such transcendent happiness as that is.
And verily there is more in these words of our Saviour than at first sight there may seem to be; for they plainly intimate to us, that men may not only profess the Christian religion in general, but may make also a very considerable progress in the practice of what it requires, and yet for all that come short of Heaven. Which consideration, duly improved, will be of great use in our way to Heaven, both to direct and quicken us in it. For we are very apt to mistake, if not the common road, yet some bye-path that leads to Hell, for the way to Heaven, merely because we see some walk in it, that make an outward show and profession of religion. Insomuch, that there was never any heresy so damnable, nor schism so dangerous, ever brewed in Hell, or broached on earth, but it hath been swallowed down by some or other only upon this account, because it hath been commended and presented to the world under the colour of piety and religion, whereof the broachers of it have been strict and zealous professors: whereas, was it but seriously considered, how like the Devil may look to an Angel of Light, and yet be still the Prince of Darkness ; and how great a show a man may make of religion in the world, and yet remain in the gall of bitterness ; was this, I say, but rightly considered, we should not suffer ourselves to be so cheated as generally we are, both by others and ourselves too; often conceiting ourselves to be in the road to Heaven, when we are among the Antipodes to it; and have no other ground for such a conceit, but only because we profess that religion which shews us the ready way thither.
This, therefore, being that which is the ruin and downfall of many amongst us, I shall do my endeavour at this time to prevent it, by shewing you, that the mere profession of the Gospel, how high and specious soever it be, will never bring a soul to Heaven, without the practice and performance of whatsoever is required by it; or that a man may go a great way in the profession of the Christian religion, and yet be no real Christian, nor ever the better for it. Which being a matter of so great importance, I shall endeavour to handle it as clearly and distinctly as I can, that you may all know how far you may profess the name of Christ, and yet come short of Heaven; and, by consequence, how far you must go in the Christian religion, if you desire to receive any benefit from it.
Now for the opening of this : First, I suppose that all here present are baptized into the Name of Christ, and by that means are initiated into the Christian religion: and I must confess also, that it was always the opinion of the primitive as well as it is of our Church, that Baptism, or “the washing of regeneration,” doth so cleanse us from all sin, whether
SERM. original or actual, that if a person die after Baptism, without
the commission of any actual sin, he is undoubtedly saved by virtue of the blood of Christ sprinkled mystically on him. And hence it was, that in the primitive times, especially for the two or three first centuries after our Saviour's passion, it was very common for those who were converted from heathenism to Christianity, to defer their Baptism as long as ever they could, sometimes to the very day of their death, merely upon this opinion which they had conceived of it, that if they committed no actual sin after Baptism, they were sure to go to Heaven. And, questionless, there is a great deal more virtue in Baptism rightly administered, than people generally think of. But howsoever, you must not think that Baptism is all that the Christian religion requires of you ; or that all that are baptized shall be saved, whether they repent and believe or no. By Baptism indeed you are admitted into the society of Christians, and are put into a capacity of obtaining pardon and Salvation by Him into Whose death ye are baptized. But if you look no further, you are
never likely to attain it; for at the same time that our Matt.28.19. Saviour gave his Apostles their commission “ to baptize all
nations” that turned to His religion, He gave them order likewise to “ teach them to observe whatsoever He had commanded them.” And therefore, without observing the commands of Christ, our Baptism will avail us nothing; this
is but our entrance into the Christian religion, and if we (1 Pet. 1. go no further, it is impossible we should come to “ the end
of it, even the eternal salvation of our souls,” which thousands, I fear, that are baptized never arrive at.
Nay, further, you may not only be baptized into the Name of Christ, but acknowledge Him too to be the Son of God, and the only Saviour of the world, and yet not be saved by
Him; for the Devils themselves could not but acknowledge Matt. 8. 29. this, saying, “ What have we to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou
Son of God ?” And yet, for all that, I suppose you will all grant that they were far enough from Heaven; and so may any of you be, for all your acknowledging and believing the same thing as they did. For though this be the true orthodox faith which you ought to live and die in, yet this is not all which the Gospel requires of you in order to your
eternal happiness; neither will it signify any thing to confess Christ with your mouth, unless you believe in Him, and obey Him with your heart.
And what though you go further still, and not only acknowledge him to be your Lord and Master, but frequently call upon, and pray unto Him under that notion ? Yea, and with a great deal of zeal and fervency repeat it over and over again, saying, “ Lord, Lord;" will this bring you to the kingdom of Heaven? No, He Himself, Whom you call “ Lord,” hath told you in plain terms, “ Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven.” But you may say, that you do not only acknowledge Him to be your Lord, but testify this your acknowledgment by waiting upon Him to hear His Word, and to be acquainted with His will and pleasure. To that I answer, that it is very well you do so; but I must tell you withal, that neither is this all you must do, if you desire to be saved. For you may bring your bodies before Him, and leave your hearts behind, according to that of the Pro. Ezek.33.31. phet. And what though you come really to hear the Word, unless you practise it, you know what the Apostle tells you, “ Not the hearers of the Law are just before God, but the Rom. 2. 13. doers of the Law shall be justified.” And our blessed Saviour Himself saith, “ If ye know these things, happy are ye John 13. 17. if ye do them.” So that it is neither your hearing, nor yet your knowing the will of God can make you happy, unless you do it. And therefore do not you think that coming to church and hearing of sermons will ever bring you to Heaven, except you practise what you hear; without which the very sermons you hear will one day rise up in judgment against you, and instead of carrying you nearer to Heaven, will help to sink you lower into Hell. For, I suppose, you cannot hear so much as you do, but you must needs know what you ought to do: and your Saviour Himself assures you, that “ the servant that knoweth his master's will, and Luke 12.47. doth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes;” which when I seriously consider, I cannot but tremble at the thoughts of that sad account that some will have to give another day, who never think they can hear too much, nor do too little. And amongst ourselves, how many thousand sermons have