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tains doctrinal purity, and yet is marked by coldness and formality; though in general there may be a greater care to preserve a strict conformity to external regulations than a solicitude to ascertain the spiritual condition of the heart; though contrary to the express prohibition of the Scriptures, there may be a decided worldly conformity as it regards the great body of the Church, yet there never has, and to the praise of God's grace, there never will be a Church without some few, at least who keep themselves unspotted from the world. But, my brethren, though this be the case, though God will have a seed to serve him, and though he will never leave himself without a witness, yet from the circumstances of the Church at Sardis, I also draw the remark,
3d. That from all former history and experience, the real followers of the Lord Jesus Christ have been few, compared not only with mankind in general, but with the nominal professors of religion. This, my brethren, is not only a melancholy, but it is an alarming statement; and it is a statement which no preacher dares to withhold, because he has the history and the prophecies of the Old Testament, and the positive declarations of the New, as well as experience, to force on his mind the conviction and to constrain him in its full announcement. Run over the history of the world, and but a glance of the eye will discover this most dark and dismal feature. The family of Noah, alone saved from the general flood, because he had escaped the pollution of the world; Abraham, chosen from among men to be the sole depositary of the covenant of God; Joshua and Caleb, the only two out of six hundred thousand
that came from the land of Egypt, who were permitted to enter the land of Canaan; Job in the land of Uz; and Lot, the only righteous man in the city of Sodom, for it cannot have escaped your memory that when Abraham wearied as it were the majesty of heaven with importunities for the safety of the cities of the plain, the promise was given that if ten righteous were found, the city would be spared, and yet they were not found. To the history add the prophetic declarations; and in imagery, lofty and pathetic, Isaiah pictures the few who have kept their garments undefiled; they are represented as the gleaning grapes when the vintage is done, so few that they have escaped the search of the gatherer and appear as but two or three upon the topmost boughs. They are represented as the blades of grass which remain by chance in the field, and which the scythe of the mower has spared. The New Testament, my friends, adds new terrors to these images of ancient prophecy; and it says, and the declaration is from the mouth of the Lord Jesus Christ—"Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat : because straight is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Beware 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 figs 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 hewn down and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye
shall know them. 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. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils; and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
This truth is beautifully and strikingly put before you in the hymn
Broad is the road which leads to death,
And many walk together there ;
With here and there a traveller.
Every where in the sacred writings the great mass is spoken of as pursuing the broad and open road that leads to hell; and few will take the narrow and rugged, though it leads to the glory and the happiness of heaven. “Except the Lord,” says Isaiah, “had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.” A little remnant. How parallel with the declaration of the Saviour—"Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
There was something emphatic, however, in the state of things in Sardis,—“Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white : for they are worthy.” And, brethren, notwithstanding
the formality which exists, and the languidness and deadness in religion, and the worldliness and the carelessness which do characterise truly the great mass of our hearers, whether professors of religion or not, it is a circumstance calling for gratitude to God in no measured terms, that even among us there are a few—I say a few, compared to the mass—a few who have not defiled their garments, and who walk in all good conscience towards God and man; freed from wilful, deliberate, and habitual sin and “adorning the doctrine of God their Saviour;" a few who have neither been turned aside by the terrible examples of formality around them, nor hurt by the scoffs of an ungodly world. They have not perhaps so great a name either in the Church or in the world as others who seek the friendship of the world; but they have the heavenborn reality of religion in their bosoms. The
prophet Malachi describes their character and their reward when he says—“Then they that feared the Lord, spake often one to another, and a book of remembrance was written for those who feared the Lord and called upon his name; and they shall be mine, saith the Lord, in the day when I make up my jewels.” Happy, thrice happy, are they, who, born of the incorruptible world, are by grace sustained; they who keep their garments undefiled, they who maintain the holy singularity of the real Christian profession, and, like Enoch, walk with God.
Brethren, is it not worth your while to urge the serious inquiry, whether among the two great classes into which this world is divided, you belong to the few or to the many; to the friends or to the foes of the Lord Jesus ? Time and again it is necessary
to repeat it, that the declaration of our Saviour is, "he that is not with me is against me.” To the one or the other you must belong by the necessity of the case, and no power on earth can exempt you from the responsibility of a choice. Learn what Christ says to the few in Sardis who had not defiled their garments, and see if the path of wisdom runs not parallel with the exhortation“ strive to enter in at the strait gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction : and many there be which go in thereat;" the few, let them be who they may, high or low in the estimation of the world, rich or poor, learned or unlearned, they, the few, who have kept themselves unsullied from the world—“they shall walk with me in white : for they are worthy."
There is here most probably an allusion to the garments worn in processions, as emblems of joy and triumph; or there may be an allusion to the bridal dress; or there may be allusion to the appropriate habits of the early priesthood, which were intended to denote the holiness and sanctity belonging to every thing which appertained to God. In reference to one or the other of these customs, or perhaps the whole of them combined, our Lord promises that his faithful people should walk with him in white. It alludes both to the present and the future happy state of those who should keep themselves unspotted from the world. And you cannot fail to have noticed the coincidence between the purity and holiness they had been permitted to maintain, and the glorious reward which they were to be blessed in enjoying. Amidst all the evils by which they were surrounded, they kept their gar