« PreviousContinue »
with dependence on human merit- himself in general estimation. But he you venture into the presence of an had been taught to see the difference infinitely righteous and holy God? between his own obedience in which
O! brethren, it is really dreadful to there was so much short coming, and look upon a world going down quick the obedience of Christ in which there into perdition, deluded by hopes of was no short coming. He felt the mercy that are founded on any thing, force of the alternative between the and every thing, but the cross of one and the other, and therefore was Christ! To see men of fine endow. | he so anxious to win Christ, and be ments and extensive erudition reject found in Him, not having his own ing the offer of salvation in the only righteousness which was of the law, way of God's appointment, and look- | but that which is through the faith of ing for it in some other: to hear thou-Christ, the righteousness which is of sands upon thousands declaring, often God by faith. and complacently that God is merci. Then, brethren, let the saying sink ful-though not one among them down deep into your hearts, and find knows clearly and distinctly how only a lodgment in your most serious it is that God can be so. Truly the thoughts, that, while they who trust imagination has not power to conceive in the general mercy of God, do so at a more fearful and appalling spectacle, the expense of God's whole character, than that of the poor sinner of a day they who trust in His mercy as it is entering into controversy with all the manifested in Christ Jesus, as it has plans and perfections of the Eternal- appeared unto all men through the challenging the approbation of the Saviour, shall assuredly obtain mercy, righteous judge to his respectability and never be confounded. of character-his rank in life-his How easily and delightfully are amiable and social qualities and vir- we thus brought to the last remark which tually expecting to get to heaven with- | I shall make, as suggested by these out obtaining mercy.
precious truths ; namely this—That But let me ask the individuals who no man need despair of obtaining mercy. expect to get to heaven by their works, So long as there is an ear willing to if they need no mercy when such a listen to its gracious offers, or a tongue man as St. Paul needed it? Look at to ask for them, or a heart to receive him again before his conversion. It them, so long may mercy be obtained. was no subordinate degree in the scale Come, then, ye awakened, trembof moral dignity and worth at which ling sinners—come all ye weary and you find him. The errors of his cha- heavy laden-condemn yourselves—reracter, his persecuting and blasphem- nounce all reliance on any thing of your ous spirit, all sprang from good inten- own, and let your trust be in the tions, the only blot in his character tender mercy of God for ever and ever.
a good intention guided by a Perhaps you will tell me, this you wrong influence. He verily thought have often done. Your soul, has been he was doing God service. He hadpro- | long in heaviness by reason of strong fited in his, the Jewish religion, above convictions; and you are almost many his equals in his own nation; tempted to fear, that your hope is
more exceedingly zea- perished from the Lord. But you have lous of the traditions of the fathers," God's word to rest upon, confirmed than he was and in all that was con. | by the experience of all His ran. sidered virtuous, and lovely, and of somed people. “ Ask, and it shall be good report among men, he signalized -given you; seek, and ye shall find;
no man was
knock, and it shall be opened unto | Lord, and He will incline unto you, you." You are not permitted, by any and hear your cry; and the longer you means, to interpret delays of mercy have been praying for mercy, the into denials of mercy. God is as wise nearer it certainly is to you. Perhaps as He is kind, and has infinitely good some messenger of mercy is now hastreasons for every thing He does. Why, ening his cheerful way towards you. it was three days after Paul was ar- Perhaps the next Christian you may rested in bis career to Damascus, be- meet may speak a word in season. fore he obtained comfort. And why Perhaps the next sermon you may hear was this, but to bring him to think, may let in the light of heaven upon to shew him what sin is to make your gloom, and chase away every him feel the need of mercy—to pre- shadow of your present deep despair. pare him for displays of Divine grace- The vision is yet for an appointed to dig deep, and lay low, the founda- time, but at the end it shall speak and tion of a superstructure that was to shall not lie: though it tarry, wait rise so high? And so, perhaps, with for it, because it will surely come, it you. Wait, then, patiently on the I will not tarry.”
DELIVERED BY THE REV. E. SCOBELL,
AT MARY-LE BONE CHURCH, SUNDAY EVENING, MAY 1, 1831.
Matthew, vii. 13, 14.-—“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." There is a habit which prevails to a ple can be more strenuous to interpret very great degree among men, of spe- them in their literal and strictest sense. culating upon God's declarations when But in reading the Bible there are two it suits their purpose, and drawing ima- things which should be particularly ginary conclusions, far beyond the observed, and they are these that warranty of the sacred word. I say, passages are to be taken, in general, “ when it suits their purpose;" and in their plain and obvious sense, with this is literally the case, whenever it ac-out unnecessary refinement, or far cords with their own wishes and with fetched qualifications. And, in the their own practice, that a particular next place, that whenever difficul. doctrine should be established in such ties really do occur ; whenever state. and such a way; then they have a ments are made, that we cannot easily host of conjectures and verbal refine- reduce to the standard of our apprements and excuses ready, by which hension; whenever, for instance, any they endeavour to bring the passage of the attributes of God seem to inwithin the scope of their own purpose: terfere with each other, either his whereas, when they find words in the mercy with his justice, or 'his justice Bible that help them, as they fancy, with his mercy, or his presence with and support their pretensions, no peo- | both, or any thing, in'fact, which goes
beyond our rules of reason and our in- , supreme love of things present, in tellect, yet, we are implicitly to ac- which the great mass of mankind live." quiesce notwithstanding: our faith Now this spirit is perfectly consistent must operate ; we must first say to with an outward form of religion. It ourselves, “it is the undoubted word is not necessary that men should be of God, therefore it must be true”- grossly immoral, in order to be of the then ask ourselves, “why do we not world. To seem religious and to be comprehend the doctrine?"-because so are two very different things. To we are not in possession of the mate- have the grace of God at our baptism rials for judgment; or even if we and to use it; to take the sacrament were, these materials may depend, in and to act up to it; to bear the cross their operation, upon principles with of Christ on our foreheads, and to which we are and shall, nay, more, have it engraven on our hearts, are far must be, totally unacquainted, as long from being always united in one and as we are here below in the flesh! the same thing; and it is from a preLastly, we should reflect, that God will, sentiment of this frequent inconsistenin his own good time, justify his ways cy, that our Saviour, at the conclusion to man; that every valley shall then of two of his parables, uses twice be raised, and every hill brought down these remarkable words, “For many to our own level; then, we shall know are called but few chosen.” And in in whom we have trusted, and that the history connected with the text, our confidence has not been in vain in as you will find it given in the thir. the Lord.
teenth chapter of St. Luke, we have Having laid down these rules of a specific question put to our Lord proceeding, I shall now go on to con- upon this very point. " Then said sider the words of our Lord in the one unto him, Lord, are there many text, It is possible that the terms that be saved ?" there used may strike some of you, at Now you will remark here, that our first, as appalling and terrifying and Saviour does not give a direct answer melancholy; they may appear harsh to this : and he hereby reads us this and discouraging and irreconcilable to important lesson, that we should not other accounts in the Bible ; to those, endeavour to be wise beyond practical for instance, which describe the ways benefit. Whenever we can draw a of religion to be pleasant and peaceful, good influence upon our hearts and or to those which assert, in general lives from any doctrine, however abterms, Christ's love for sinners, and struce or metaphysical, then, up to that his suffering disgrace and death for the point, it is fair and allowable to pursue sins of the whole world.
and search it out: but we should most Upon this head I shall only, at pre- cautiously be aware of a vain and rude sent, say what St. Paul said to the curiosity, that, in the absence of facts, Romans, respecting human laws :
would deal in surmises; and which, “Rulers are not a terror to good after all, tends to unsettle, rather than works but to the evil. Wilt thou, confirm, the faith which is delivered to then, not be afraid of the power ? Do us. that which is good, and thou shalt have
Upon another occasion, however, praise of the same.”—My brethren, our Lord speaks upon the subject in man is fallen from God; and when we plainer terms" Enter ye in at the talk of the spirit and course of this strait gate ; for wide is the gate and
we mean the collected force broad is the way that leadeth to deof that habitual neglect of God, and struction, and many there be which go.
in thereat: because strait is the gate | broad is the way that leadeth to de. and narrow is the way that leadeth struction, and many there be which unto life, and few there be that find it." go in thereat : because strait is the
Now, from these passages it strikes gate and narrow is the way which me, as a certain inference, that the leadeth unto life, and few there be number of those who are walking in that find it.” Such are the words of the way of truth and life, with the the evangelist. probability of eventual salvation, is far I remember, almost in my infancy, less than those who are pursuing the to have seen what made, and still conpaths of sin and of error. I grant that tinues to make, a strong impression on this is awful ! But what then? is my mind, a picture descriptive of this God the author of sin ? is it his de- very scene of our Lord. On one side crees that thus decide the fate of his stood a massive gate and castle, ornacreatures ? Is He, who willeth not mented on every part with the most the death of a sinner, thus to send so beautiful proportions of architecture ; many souls (the value of which is, by the pillars were at a great distance his own account, beyond all descrip- from each other, and the entrance tion or price) into wretchedness and grand, spacious, and noble. This led punishment ? God forbid, my bre- to a high road within, broad and thren. Never for a moment suffer beautiful ; surrounded by verdant your minds to suppose that God arbi- meadows; ornamented with blooming trarily decrees for death. It is all the flowers, gently sloping with the most fault of man. There never was a delightful declivity. The gate was single sinner lost but he brought de- thronged with eager visitants, and the struction upon himself. If not, the road was covered with joyous, and whole Gospel is a fable “your faith is many of them gorgeously drest travain, and our preaching is vain ;' nay vellers. Some were sporting in the more, I contend that the doctrine of fields—others refreshing in the streams the text is a doctrine full also of hope, -others in parties singing, and dancand comfort, and support, that while ing, and banquetting—and all appait shows the wicked this awful truth, rently delighted at the ease with which that if they persevere, die they must; they were pursuing their luxurious there is no escape-no false hope in journey. Further on, however, the the mercy of God-no chance—that road began to get less beautiful, and heaven will relax from its declarations, signs of a rocky and barren soil to apso often, so fully, so plainly given in pear. Just round the angle of the the Bible. So, on the other hand, it prospect, unseen by them, there was shews the humble and willing disciple, situated a deep and dismal gulph; in that if he comes up to the terms he is this the journey ended; and to this, sure of the reward ; that so far from all who were travelling, imperceptibly fighting uncertainly—so far from beat- declined. ing and buffetting the air, that the On the other side, what a contrast crown of glory most indubitably will existed to this splendid scene. There be ready for him, who, through grace, stood a low, humble, unpolished enendureth to the end.
trance, so close, as scarcely to allow Let us now then examine fairly the room to pass, that led to a small state of these two entrances, through straggling, solitary looking pathway, one of wbich we must all pass, and of winding up the side of a steep and which the descriptions appear so very craggy mountain ; no flowers, no different. “ Wide is the gate, and splendours, no crowds! A few poor abject tottering figures were seen here or a desire to be thought liberal and and there toiling up the precipice, too unshackled by narrow prejudices ; one inconsiderable to excite notice, or at or more of these, operating upon the all events, only raising the contempt natural inclination and depravity of of those who were journeying in a his own sinful heart, brings the man different direction. But mark their thus to the “ broad gate." progress; the higher they ascended, O sinner! whoever you are, stop for the easier became their march. The one moment before you enter, and ask road grew more and more verdant and yourself, “ What is it I am about to cheering; the sun brightened upon do ?” You are about to pass that their course; the flowers began to en- | barrier which you shall never repass, liven the prospect, and they were at but with tears, and sighs, and agony last lost to the view amidst groves and of heart. Stop while there is time. bowers and temples. Such was the But no-thoughts like these may, and picture, and such also is the fact, in in fact do, constantly arise in the life and in religion. Look at the mul- failing transgressor ; for I will venture titudes of the world, and at the tenor to say there never was a beginning of of their practice. There stands the sin made by any one: but the holy gate of sin, wide, spacious, open, in- Spirit of God offered many a whisperviting. Dressed off in the most beau. ing warning, and many a forcible reteous colour-it tempts every one, and monstrance ; but still they are too escapes no one's observation. Every often heard only to be disregarded attraction is there. Music and gaiety, onwards he goes—he is borne along and title, and equipage, and wines, with the crowd-and he passes the and feasts, and lusts, and passion. fatal gateway. Look in the same way There they are, fluttering around the at the liar, the swearer, the profaner gateway, beckoning and smiling, and of the sabbath, the miser, the man of using every artifice of seduction. And pleasure, and the man of fraud. There what is the consequence? Why ex- they are all in the crowd and how actly the one which the text declares, came they there? Why, most of them in “ Many there be which go in thereat." the very way I have just been describing, The road is crowded—for how easy is imperceptibly, gradually; because the it to enter-examine your own hearts road was broad, and easy, and in. -trace the progress of any one sin in viting, and required no trouble dor your lives, with what facility has it labour ; because it was crowded, they grown upon you—from what small, Aoated with the stream—they went and sometimes accidental, beginnings with the “multitude to do evil." has it derived its origin with us! to Companions give courage. what a degree has it arrived, before
ore. But there is not a more destrucalmost we are aware of our danger, or tive mode of reasoning than this ; its magnitude !—take any sin. Look namely, that the danger is none at the drunkard for instance. He at all, or at all events not so great, began, perhaps, by indulging the good because so many in the world, be. humour of bis disposition. The idea sides, are in the same predicament. of becoming the character he has at And yet how frequently is this done! last assumed, was the farthest from men cheer themselves with this very bis thoughts and intentions ; but plea- circumstance. They look around, and sant company, delightful entertain-behold so many of their neighbours ments, or fascinating music, or a want doing like themselves ; many, whom of fortitude to refuse a hospitable host, they respect for their talents, their in.