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Those must be in the way of destruction who “having a form of godliness, deny the power thereof;" who “professing to serve God, in works deny Him." Such must at last expect the question, “How camest thou in hither, not having a wedding garment ?”
And yet among these classes how large a portion of mankind is included! How many pass through the world with no settled view or plan of preparation for anything beyond! As if heaven were the only thing which they could not fail to find : everlasting happiness the only good which might be attained without seeking and without pains.
How many, again, instead of contending against the evil of their nature, indulge and yield to it! As if “to be carnally minded," instead of " death,” were “ life,” and to live after the flesh ” here, were the appointed road to a life with God hereafter. If, then, on the most cursory view of the way
in which mankind are living, we must allow that the road to destruction is broad, so we must equally perceive that the
that leadeth unto life is narrow. For, first, it is one single way.
The Author of eternal life has told us, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life : no man cometh unto the Father but by
Therefore the Jews missed .it, “because they refused to enter upon that only way.”
Going about to establish their own righteousness, they did not submit themselves to the righteousness of God."* How many, as they did, stumble at that." stumbling stone, that rock of offence;" trusting to some way of salvation of their own or other men's devising, instead of believing the testimony which God hath given of his Son! This is the gate which we are invited to enter, as followers of Him, who “when He had overcome the sharpness of death, opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.”
But even when that way is seen to be the true way, % See Rom. viii, 6-13. 3 John xiv. 6. 4 Rom. iv. 32, 33.
and is entered upon as such, many things render it difficult to keep. Persecution made it strait to the primitive Christians : trials of a like kind are not unknown now.
The question is too natural, whether asked by mistaken friends, or asked by our own corrupt hearts. Why do we more than others ? Why should we be more anxious than others whom we see around us, to secure our salvation? Why consent to strive for that which is commonly supposed to require neither labour nor self-denial ?
Therefore many who “receive the word with gladness," endure but for a time; afterwards, “when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended.” With another class, “ the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful."
Hence the lamentable conclusion, Strait is the gate which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Few, compared with those to whom the way is shown, but shown in vain: though some, perhaps, when it is too late, may “seek to enter in, and not be able,' because they “ knew not the time of their visitation.”
This ruin, however, does not come upon them because the gate is hidden, hard to be discovered. The Scripture points it out so plainly, that he who runs may read, that “the wayfaring man, though a fool" as to human learning, "shall not err therein." For he is taught that “God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that as many as believe in Him might not perish, but have everlasting life.”? And the Lord himself has said, “I am the door ; by
if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and go in and out, and find pasture.
Neither is the gate missed, because any who desire to enter are sent back, and it is closed against them. The heavenly kingdom is not like its prototype the 6 Isa. xxxv. 8. 7 John iii, 15.
8 John X. 9.
Luke xiii. 24.
earthly paradise, before which were placed “cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”' The invitation is free: “Ho ye, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and ye that have no money, come, buy and drink.” The promise is universal, “ Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out." The assurance is clear ; “ God willeth not that
should perish, but that all should come to repentance, and the knowledge of the truth.”3
The rich young man, indeed, who inquired of our Lord, “ What shall I do to inherit life ? did not find it.” But not because it was shut against him, but because when he saw its straitness“ he went away sorrowing," instead of entering in. So the Jewish nation did not enter : not because they were not invited, but because the chief rulers and the Pharisees turned from it, and the people turned from it too, because “they loved the praise of men. Multitudes in our own days, who are called by the ministry of the Church, and even enrolled among her members by baptism, turn back again when they discover that, if they proceed farther, they must leave their evil practices, and unbridled passions, and love of this world behind. Meanwhile, the God of heaven says, “Why will ye die, O house of Israel ?" The Redeemer says,
6. Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life.”7
And unhappily his words are verified, Broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that
in thereat. This may justly warn us, but should not discourage. Rather should it animate us, to know that however wide may be the gate of destruction, there is a gate which leadeth unto life ; which, strait as it is, whoever will may find ; which though it be narrow, whoever will may be enabled to pass through.
9 Gen. iii. 24.
1 Isa. lv, 1. 2 John vi. 37. 1 Tim. ii. 4.
WARNING AGAINST FALSE TEACHERS.
MATT. vii. 15—20.
15. “ Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing,
but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” This added to St. Paul's sorrow, when forced to leave his Christian disciples at Miletus; he knew that after his departure "grievous wolves would enter in, not sparing the flock."
He knew that among the trials which the church must undergo, this must be reckoned ; there would be some who, “for filthy lucre's sake, would teach what they ought not:" and others, who being themselves deceived, would lead the flock into dangerous error. Though “good seed is sown in the field,” there is 66 an enemy who soweth tares.
So it had been in former times. The word of the Lord came unto Ezekiel, saying, Son of man, say thou unto them that prophesy out of their own hearts, Hear ye the word of the Lord : Woe unto the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing ! They have seen vanity and lying divination, saying, The Lord saith ; and the Lord hath not sent them : and they have made others to hope that they would confirm the word. Have ye not seen a vain vision, and have ye not spoken a lying divination, whereas ye say, The Lord saith it, albeit I have not spoken ? And will ye pollute me among my people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, to slay the souls that should not die, and to save the souls alive that should not live, by your lying to my people that hear your lies ?” 1 Acts xx. 29. 2 Tit. i. 11. 8 Ch. xii. 27.
* Ezek. xii. 2, 3, 6, 7, 19.
Against these, and such as these, we are to beware : being warned beforehand that Satan will use this weapon against the church, that there will be those who corrupt and pervert the Gospel of Christ, as well as those who reject and scorn it. And our Lord furnishes a test by which they may be tried: a sign by which they may be known, and the false teachers distinguished from the true : namely, by their fruits : by the fruits which they bear themselves, and the fruits produced by the seed they sow, the doctrines they inculcate.
16. “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of
thorns, or figs of thistles ? 17. “ Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt
tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18. “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree
bring forth good fruit. 19. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and
cast into the fire. 20. “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”
The man that is corrupt himself, is not likely to make others pure and holy: the doctrine which is not according to God's own word will not so impress the heart, will not be so watered by the dew of heaven, as to bring forth where it is sown the proper fruits of the Spirit,“ long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness, temperance." In nature, the produce depends upon the parent tree: men do not gather grapes where thorns have been planted, or figs where thistles have · grown up: and so it is also in the field of grace ; every good tree bringeth forth good fruit: faithful teachers of sound doctrine effect that purpose which God designed, when He sent forth his messengers to preach the Gospel in the world. They become the instruments through which men are “redeemed from iniquity,” and made “a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” Every teacher that does not exhibit that character in himself, and study to produce it in
5 Gal. v. 23.