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UPON OUR LORD'S SERMON ON THE
“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 strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which
leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matt. vii. 13, 14.
1. Our Lord, having warned us of the dangers which easily beset us at our first entrance upon real Religion, the hinderances which naturally arise from within, from the wickedness of our own hearts; now proceeds to apprise us of the hinderances from without, particularly ill example and ill advice. By one or the other of these, thousands, who once ran well, have drawn back unto perdition ;-yea, many of those who were not novices in religion, who had made some progress in righteousness. His caution, therefore, against these he presses upon us with all possible earnestness, and repeats again and again, in variety of expressions, lest by any means we should let it slip. Thus, effectually to guard us against the former, “Enter ye in,” saith he, 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 strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it :" To secure us from the latter, “Beware,” saith he, “ of false Prophets." We shall, at present, consider the former only.
2. “Enter ye in,” saith our blessed Lord, “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 strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”
3. In these words we may observe, First, The inseparable Properties of the Way to Hell : “ Wide is the gate, broad the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thercat:” Secondly, The inseparable Properties of the Way to Heaven : “ Strait is that gate, and few there be that find it :" Thirdly, A serious Exhortation grounded thercon, “ Enter ye in at the strait gate.”
I. 1. Ve may observe, First, the inseparable Properties of the Way to Hell :“Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat.”
2. W'ide indeed is the gate, and broad the way, that leadeth to destruction! For sin is the gate of hell, and wickedness the way to destruction. And how wide a gate is that of sin! How broad is the way of wickedness! The "commandment” of God "is exceeding broad ;” as extending not only to all our actions, but to every word which gocth out of our lips, yea, every thonght that rises in our heart. And sin is equally broad with the commandment, secing any breach of the commandment is sin. Yea, rather, it is a thousand times broader; since there is only one way of keeping the commandment; for we do not properly keep it, unless both the thing done, the manner of doing it, and all the other circumstances are right: but there are a thousand ways of breaking every commandment; so that this gate is wide indeed.
3. To consider this a little more particularly : How wide do those parent-sins extend, from which all the rest derive their being ;--that carnal mind which is enmity against God, pride of beart, self-will, and love of the world! Cau we fix any bounds to them? Do they not diffuse themselves through all our thoughts, and mingle with all our tempers ? Are they not the leaven which leavens, more or less, the whole mass of our affections? Nay we not, on a close and faithful examination of ourselves, perceive these roots of bitterness continually springing up. infecting all our words, and tainting all our actions? And how innumerable an offspring do they bring forthi, in every age and nation! Eren enough to cover the whole earth with darkness and cruel habitations.
4. O who is able to reckon up their accursed fruits; to count all the sins, whether against God or our neighbour, not which imagination might paint, but which may be matter of daily melancholy experience? Nor need we range over all the carth to find them. Survey any one kingdom, any single country, or city, or town; and how plentcous is this harvest ! And let it not be one of those which are still overspread with Mahometan or Pagan darkness; but of those which name the name of Christ, which profess to see the light of his glorious Gospel. Go no farther than the kingdom to which we belong, the city wherein we are now. We call ourselves Christians; yea, and that of the purest sort: we are Protestants ; Reformed Christians ! But, alas ! who shall carry on the reformation of our opinions into our hearts and lives? Is there not a cause ? For how innumerable are our sins ;-and those of the deepest dye! Do not the grossest abominations, of every kind, abound among us from day to day? Do not sins of every sort cover the land, as the waters cover the sea ? Who can count them ? Rather go and count the drops of rain, or the sands on the seashore. So “ wide is the gate," so “ broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction.”
5. “ And many there be who go in at ” that gate; many who walk in that way ;-alniost as many as go in at the gate of death, as sink into the chambers of the grave. For it cannot be denied, (though neither can we acknowledge it but with shame and sorrow of heart,) that even in this, which is called a Christian country, the generality of every age and sex, of every profession and employment, of every rank and degree, high and low, rich and poor, are walking in the way of destruction. The far greater part of the inhabitants of this city, to this day, live in sin; in some palpable, habitual, known transgression of the law they profess to observe; yea, in some outward transgression, somne gross, visible kind of ungodliness or uprightcousness, some open violation of their duty, either to God or man. These then, none can deny, are all in the way that leadeth to destruction. Add to these, those who have a name indeed that they live, but were never yet alive to God; those that outwardly appear fair to men, but are inwardly full of all uncleanness ; full of pride, or vanity; of anger, or revenge ; of ambition, or covetousness; lovers of themselves, lovers of the world, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. These, indeed, may be highly esteemed of men ; but they are an abomination to the Lord. And how greatly will these saints of the world swell the number of the children of hell! Yea, add all, whatever they be in other respects, whether they have more or less of the form of godliness, who “ being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness” as the ground of their reconciliation to God and acceptance with him, of consequence have not “ submitted themselves unto the righteousness which is of God” by faith. Now, all these things joined together in one,
how terribly true is our Lord's assertion, “ Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat !”
6. Nor does this only concern the vulgar herd,—the poor, base, stupid part of mankind. Men of eminence in the world, men who have many fields and yoke of oxen, do not desire to be excused from this. On the contrary, “ many wise men after the flesh,' according to the human methods of judging, “many mighty,” in power, in courage, in riches, many“ noble are called ; ” called into the broad way, by the world, the flesh, and the Devil; and they are not disobedient to that calling. Yen, the higher they are raised in fortwe and power, the deeper do they sink into wickedness. The more blessings they have received from God, the more sins do they commit; using their honour or riches, their learning or wisdom, not as means of working out their salvation, but rather of excelling in vice, and so insuring their own destruction!
11. 1. And the very reason why many of these go on so securely in the broad way, is, because it is broad; not considering that this is the inseparable property of the way to destruction. “Vany there be,'' saith our Lord, “ which go in thereat ;” for the very reason why they should flee from it; cven “ because strait is the gate, and narrow the way, that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”
2. This is an inseparable property of the Way to Heaven. So narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, uto life everlasting, --so strait the gate,-that nothing nuclean, nothing unholy, can enter. No simner can pass through that gate, until he is saved from all his sins. Not only from his outward sins ; from his evil “ Conversation received by tradition from his fathers.” It will not suffice, that he hau. “ ceased to do evil,” and “learned to do nell:” he must not only be saved from all sinsul actions, and from all evil and useless discourse; but inwardly changed, ihoroughly renewed in the spirit of his mind: otherwise he cannot pass through the gate of life, he cannot enter into glory.
3. For, “ narrow is the way that leadeth unto life;” the way of universal holiness. Narrow indeed is the way of poverty of spirit ; the way of holy mourning; the way of meekness; and that of hungering and thirsting after righteousness. Narlow is the way of mercifulness ; of love unseigned; the way of purity of heuré ; of doing good into all men; and of gladly suffering evil, all manner of evil, for righteousness' sake.
f. “ And few there be that find it." Alas! How few
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;” thorougbly 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 all mankind; and who love God with all their strength, who have given Him their hearts, and desire nothing else in earth or beaven! How few are those lovers of God and inan, that spend their whole strength in doing good unto all men; and are ready to suffer all things, yea, death itself, to save onc 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 tben 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 “ upspotted 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 manna ; and have they not learned all the arts of soft persuasion ?--and of reasoning too; for these are versed in all controversies, and strife of words.