« EdellinenJatka »
the following verses, illustrates, yet farther, what he had said, by an appeal to what passes in our own breasts. "What man," saith he, "is there of you, who, if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?" Will even natural affection permit you to refuse the reasonable request of one you love? "Or, if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?" Will he give him hurtful, instead of profitable things? So that even from what you feel and do yourselves, you may receive the fullest assurance, as, on the one hand, that no ill effect can possibly attend your asking, so, on the other, that it will be attended with that good effect, a full supply of all your wants. For, "if ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father, which is in heaven," who is pure, unmixed, essential goodness, "give good things to them that ask him?" Or, (as he expresses it on another occasion) "give the Holy Ghost to them that ask him?" In him are included all good things; all wisdom, peace, joy, love: the whole treasures of holiness and happiness: all that God hath prepared for them that love him.
21. But that your prayer may have its full weight with God, see that ye be in charity with all men. For otherwise, it is more likely to bring a curse than a blessing on your own head: nor can you expect to receive any blessing from God, while you have not charity towards your neighbour. Therefore, let this hinderance be removed without delay. Confirm your love towards one another, and towards all men. And love them, not in word only, but in deed and in truth. "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would, that men should do to you, do ye even so unto them; for this is the law and the prophets.
22. This is that royal law, that golden rule of mercy, as well as justice, which, even the heathen emperor caused to be written over the gate of his palace: a rule, which many believe to be naturally engraven on the minds of every one that comes into the world. And thus much is certain, that it commends itself, as soon as heard, to every man's conscience and understanding: insomuch that no man can knowingly offend against it, without carrying his condemnation in his own breast.
23. "This is the law and the prophets." Whatsoever is written in that law which God of old revealed to mankind; and whatsoever precepts God has given, by his holy prophets, which have been since the world began, they are all summed up in those few words, they are all contained in this short direction. And this, rightly understood, comprises the whole of that religion which our Lord came to establish upon earth.
24. It may be understood, either in a positive or negative sense. If understood in a negative sense, the meaning is, 'Whatever ye would not that men should do to you, do not ye unto them.' Here is a plain rule, always ready at hand, always easy to be applied. In all cases relating to your neighbour, make his case your Suppose the circumstances to be changed, and yourself
to be just as he is now. And then beware that you indulge no temper or thought, that no word pass out of your lips, that you take no step which you should have condemned in him, upon such a change of circumstances. If understood in a direct and positive sense, the plain meaning of it is, 'Whatsoever you could reasonably desire of him, supposing yourself to be in his circumstances, that do, to the uttermost of your power, to every child of man.'
25. To apply this in one or two obvious instances. It is clear to every man's own conscience, we would not that others should judge us, should causelessly or lightly think evil of us. Much less would we that any should speak evil of us, should publish our real faults or infirmities. Apply this to yourself. Do not unto another what you would not he should do unto you; and you will never more judge your neighbour, never causelessly or lightly think evil of any one. Much less will you speak evil; you will never mention even the real fault of an absent person, unless so far as you are convinced, it is absolutely needful, for the good of other souls.
26. Again: we would that all men should love and esteem us, and behave toward us, according to justice, mercy, and truth. And we may reasonably desire, that they should do us all the good they can do, without injuring themselves: yea, that in outward things, (according to the known rule,) their superfluities should give way to our conveniencies, their conveniencies to our necessities, and their necessities to our extremities. Now, then, let us walk by the same rule: let us do unto all, as we would they should do to us. Let us love and honour all men. Let justice, mercy, and truth, govern all our minds and actions. Let our superfluities give way to our neighbour's conveniencies: (and who then will have any superfluities left?) Our conveniencies to our neighbour's necessities, our necessities to his extremities.
27. This is pure and genuine morality. This do and thou shalt live. "As many as walk by this rule, peace be to them and mercy:" for they are "the Israel of God." But then be it observed, none can walk by this rule, (nor ever did from the beginning of the world) none can love his neighbour as himself, unless he first love God. And none can love God, unless he believe in Christ, unless he have redemption through his blood, and the Spirit of God bearing witness with his spirit, that he is a child of God. Faith, therefore, is still the root of all, of present, as well as future salvation. Still we must say to every sinner, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." Thou shalt be saved now, that thou mayest be saved for ever; saved on earth, that thou mayest be saved in heaven. Believe in him, and thy faith will work by love. Thou wilt love the Lord thy God, because he hath loved thee: thou wilt love thy neighbour as thyself. And then it will be thy glory and joy, to exert and increase this love, not barely by abstaining from what is contrary thereto, from every unkind thought, word, and action, but by showing all that kindness to every man, which thou wouldest he should show unto thee.
ON OUR LORD'S SERMON ON THE MOUNT.
"Enter ye in at the strait gale; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, which 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."-MATTHEW Vii. 13, 14.
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 that go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be which find it." cure 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, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat;" secondly, The inseparable properties of the way to heaven: "Strait is that gate, and few there be that find it ;" thirdly, Afserious exhortation grounded thereon, "Enter ye in at the strait gate."
I. 1. We 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 that go in thereat."
2. Wide indeed is the gate, and broad is 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 goeth out of our lips, yea, every thought that rises in our heart. And sin is equally broad with the commandment, seeing 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 heart, selfwill, and love of the world? Can 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? May 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 forth, in every age and nation! Even 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 earth to find them. Survey any one kingdom, any single country, or city, or town, and how plenteous 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 sea-shore. So "wide is the gate," so broad is the way that leadeth to destruction."
5. And many there be that go in at that gate; many who walk in that way. Almost 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; or in some palpable, habitual, known transgression of the law they profess to observe: yea, in some outward transgression, some gross visible kind of ungodliness or unrighteousness; 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 uncleanliness: 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 who 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. Yea, the higher they are raised in fortune 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 ensuring their own destruction.
II. 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. "Many there be," saith our Lord, "who go in thereat: for the very reason why they should flee from it: even "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, unto life everlasting; so strait is the gate, that nothing unclean, nothing unholy can enter.