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7. Oh how can unlearned and ignorant men maintain their cause against such opponents! And yet these are not all with whom they must contend, however unequal to the task: for there are many mighty, and noble, and powerful men, as well as wise, in the road that leadeth to destruction; and these have a shorter way of confuting, than that of reason and argument. They usually apply, not to the understanding, but to the fears of any that oppose them;-a method that seldom fails of success, even where argument profits nothing, as lying level to the capacities of all men; for all can fear, whether they can reason or no. And all who have not a firm trust in God, a sure reliance both on his power and love, cannot but fear to give any disgust to those who have the power of the world in their hands. What wonder, therefore, if the example of these is a law to all who know not God?
8. Many rich are likewise in the broad way. And these apply to the hopes of men, and to all their foolish desires, as strongly and effectually as the mighty and noble to their fears. So that hardly can you hold on in the way of the kingdom, unless you are dead to all below, unless you are crucified to the world, and the world crucified to you, unless you desire nothing more but God.
9. For how dark, how uncomfortable, how forbidding is the prospect on the opposite side! A strait gate! A narrow way! And few finding that gate! Few walking in the way! Besides, even those few are not wise men, not men of learning or eloquence. They are not able to reason either strongly or clearly: they cannot propose an argument to any advantage. They know not how to prove what they profess to believe; or to explain even what they say they experience. Surely such advocates as these will never recommend, but rather discredit, the cause they have espoused.
10. Add to this, that they are not noble, not honourable men: if they were, you might bear with their folly. They are men of no interest, no authority, of no account in the world. They are mean and base; low in life; and such as have no power, if they had the will to hurt you. Therefore there is nothing at all to be feared from them; and there is nothing at all to hope: for the greater part of them may say, "Silver and gold have I none;" at least a very moderate share. Nay, some of them have scarce food to eat, or raiment to put on. For this reason, as well as because their ways are not like those of other men, they are every where spoken against, are despised, have their names cast out as evil, are variously persecuted, and treated as the filth and offscouring of the world. So that both your fears, your hopes, and all your desires, (except those which you have immediately from God,) yea, all your natural passions, continually incline you to return into the broad way.
III. 1. Therefore it is, that our Lord so earnestly exhorts, "Enter ye in at the strait gate.' Or, (as the same exhortation is elsewhere expressed,) "Strive to enter in:" Aywvieσde siσεew,-strive as in an agony: "For many," saith our Lord," shall seek to enter in, [indolently strive,] and shall not be able."
2. It is true, he intimates what may seem another reason for this, for their not being able to enter in, in the words which immediately follow these. For after he had said, " Many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able," he subjoins, "When once the master
of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without," apžnodē eğw esavaι,—rather, ye stand without; for apžnode seems to be only an elegant expletive," and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; he shall answer and say unto you; I know you not depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity," Luke xiii, 26, &c.
3. It may appear, upon a transient view of these words, that their delaying to seek at all, rather than their manner of seeking, was the reason why they were not able to enter in. But it comes, in effect to the same thing. They were, therefore, commanded to depart, because they had been "workers of iniquity;" because they had walked in the broad road; in other words, because they had not agonized to "enter in at the strait gate." Probably they did seek before the door was shut; but that did not suffice: and they did strive, after the door was shut į but then it was too late.
4. Therefore strive ye now, in this your day, to "enter in at the strait gate." And in order thereto, settle it in your heart, and let it be ever uppermost in your thoughts, that if you are in the broad way, you are in the way that leadeth to destruction. If many go with you, as sure as God is true, both they and you are going to hell! If you are walking as the generality of men walk, you are walking to the bottomless pit! Are many wise, many rich, many mighty, or noble, travelling with you in the same way! By this token, without going any farther, you know it does not lead to life. Here is a short, a plain, an infallible rule, before you enter into particulars. In whatever profession you are engaged, you must be singular, or be damned! The way to hell has nothing singular in it; but the way to heaven is singularity all over: if you move but one step towards God, you are not as other men are. But regard not this. It is far better to stand alone, than to fall into the pit. Run then with patience the race which is set before thee, though thy companions therein are but few! They will not always be so. Yet a little while, and thou wilt come to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born, and to the spirits of just men made perfect."
5. Now, then," strive to enter in at the strait gate;" being pene trated with the deepest sense of the inexpressible danger your soul is in, so long as you are in a broad way,- -so long as you are void of poverty of spirit, and all that inward religion, which the many, the rich, the wise, account madness. "Strive to enter in ;" being pierced with sorrow and shame for having so long run on with the unthinking crowd, utterly neglecting, if not despising that " holiness without which no man can see the Lord." Strive, as in an agony of holy fear, lest a pro mise being made you of entering into his rest," even that "rest which remaineth for the people of God," you should nevertheless " come short of it." Strive, in all the fervour of desire, with "groanings that cannot be uttered." Strive by prayer without ceasing; at all times, in all places, lifting up your heart to God, and giving him no rest, till you te awake up after his likeness," and are "satisfied with it."
6. To conclude: "Strive to enter in at the strait gate," not only by this agony of soul, of conviction, of sorrow, of shame, of desire, of fear, of unceasing prayer; but likewise by ordering thy conversation aright, by walking with all thy strength in all the ways of God, the way of inno
cence, of piety, and of mercy. Abstain from all appearance of evil: do all possible good to all men: deny thyself, thy own will, in all things, and take up thy cross daily. Be ready to cut off thy right hand, to pluck out thy right eye, and cast it from thee; to suffer the loss of goods, friends, health, all things on earth, so thou mayest enter into the kingdom of heaven!
SERMON XXXII.-Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount.
"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 cf 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," Matt. vii, 15-20.
1. It is scarce possible to express or conceive, what multitudes of souls run on to destruction, because they would not be persuaded to walk in a narrow way, even though it were the way to everlasting salvation. And the same thing we may still observe daily. Such is the folly and madness of mankind, that thousands of men still rush on in the way to hell, only because it is a broad way. They walk in it themselves, because others do: because so many perish, they will add to the number. Such is the amazing influence of example over the weak, miserable children of men! It continually peoples the regions of death, and drowns numberless souls in everlasting perdition!
2. To warn mankind of this, to guard as many as possible against this spreading contagion, God has commanded his watchmen to cry aloud, and show the people the danger they are in. For this end he has sent his servants the prophets, in their succeeding generations, to point out the narrow path, and exhort all men not to be conformed to this world. But what if the watchmen themseives fall into the snare, against which they should warn others? What if" the prophets prophesy deceits?" If they "cause the people to err from the way?" What shall be done, if they point out as the way to eternal life, what is in truth the way to eternal death; and exhort others to walk, as they do themselves, in the broad, not the narrow way?
3. Is this an unheard of, is it an uncommon thing? Nay, God knoweth it is not. The instances of it are almost innumerable. We may find them in every age and nation. But how terrible is this! When the ambassadors of God turn agents for the devil! When they, who are commissioned to teach men the way to heaven, do in fact teach them the way to hell! These are like the locusts of Egypt, "which eat up the residue that had escaped, that had remained after the hail." They devour even the residue of men that had escaped, that were not destroyed by ill example. It is not, therefore, without cause, that our wise and gracious Master so solemnly cautions us against them: "Be
ware," saith he, "of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves."
4. A caution this of the utmost importance.-That it may the more effectually sink into our hearts, let us inquire, First, Who these false prophets are: Secondly, What appearance they put on: and, Thirdly, How we may know what they really are notwithstanding their fair
1. 1. We are, first to inquire, Who these false prophets are? And this it is needful to do the more diligently, because these very men have so laboured to "wrest this scripture to their own [though not only their own] destruction." In order, therefore, to cut off all dispute, I shall raise no dust, (as the manner of some is,) neither use any loose, rhetorical exclamations, to deceive the hearts of the simple; but speak rough, plain truths, such as none can deny, who has either understanding or modesty left, and such truths as have the closest connection with the whole tenor of the preceding discourse: whereas too many have interpreted these words, without any regard to all that went before; as if they bore no manner of relation to the sermon in the close of which they stand.
2. By prophets here (as in many other passages of Scripture, particularly in the New Testament) are meant, not those who foretel things to come, but those who speak in the name of God; those men who profess to be sent of God, to teach others the way to heaven.
Those are false prophets, who teach a false way to heaven, a way which does not lead thither; or, (which comes in the end to the same point,) who do not teach the true.
3. Every broad way is infallibly a false one. Therefore this is one plain, sure rule, "They who teach men to walk in a broad way, a way that many walk in, are false prophets.
Again: The true way to heaven is a narrow way. Therefore this is another plain, sure rule, "They who do not teach men to walk in a narrow way, to be singular, are false prophets."
4. To be more particular: The only true way to heaven, is that pointed out in the preceding sermon. Therefore they are false prophets who do not teach men to walk in this way.
Now the way to heaven pointed out in the preceding sermon, is the way of lowliness, mourning, meekness, and holy desire, love of God and of our neighbour, doing good, and suffering evil for Christ's sake. They are, therefore, false prophets, who teach, as the way to heaven, any other way than this.
5. It matters not what they call that other way. They may call it faith; or good works; or faith and works; or repentance; or repentance, faith, and new obedience. All these are good words: but if, under these, or any other terms whatever, they teach men any way distinct from this, they are properly false prophets.
6. How much more do they fall under that condemnation, who speak evil of this good way;-but above all, they who teach the directly opposite way, the way of pride, of levity, of passion, of worldly desires, of loving pleasure more than God, of unkindness to our neighbour, of unconcern for good works, and suffering no evil, no persecution, for righteousness' sake!
7. If it be asked, "Why, who ever did teach this, or who does teach it, as the way to heaven?" I answer: ten thousand wise and honoura
ble men; even all those, of whatever denomination, who encourage the proud, the trifler, the passionate, the lover of the world, the man of pleasure, the unjust or unkind, the easy, careless, harmless, useless creature, the man who suffers no reproach for righteousness' sake, to imagine he is in the way to heaven. These are false prophets in the highest sense of the word. These are traitors both to God and man. These are no other than the first-born of Satan; the eldest sons of Apollyon, the destroyer. These are far above the rank of ordinary cut throats; for they murder the souls of men. They are continually peopling the realms of night; and whenever they follow the poor souls whom they have destroyed, "Hell shall be moved from beneath, to meet them at their coming!"
II. 1. But do they come now in their own shape? By no means. If it were so, they could not destroy. You would take the alarm, and flee for your life. Therefore they put on a quite contrary appearance: (which was the second thing to be considered :) "They come to you in sheep's clothing, although inwardly they are ravening wolves."
2." They come to you in sheep's clothing;" that is, with an appearance of harmlessness. They come in the most mild, inoffensive manner, without any mark or token of enmity. Who can imagine that these quiet creatures would do any hurt to any one? Perhaps they may not be so zealous and active in doing good, as one would wish they were, However, you see no reason to suspect that they have even the desire to do any harm. But this is not all.
3. They come, secondly, with an appearance of usefulness. Indeed to this, to do good, they are particularly called. They are set apart for this very thing. They are particularly commissioned to watch over your soul, and to train you up to eternal life. It is their whole business, น "go about doing good, and healing those that are oppressed of the devil." And you have been always accustomed to look upon them in this light, as messengers of God, sent to bring you a blessing.
4. They come, thirdly, with an appearance of religion. All they do is for conscience' sake! They assure you, it is out of mere zeal for God, that they are making God a liar. It is out of pure concern for religion, that they would destroy it, root and branch. All they speak is only from a love of truth, and a fear lest it should suffer; and, it may be, from a regard for the church, and a desire to defend her from all her enemies.
5. Above all, they come with an appearance of love. They take all these pains, only for your good. They should not trouble themselves about you, but that they have a kindness for you. They will make large professions of their good will, of their concern for the danger you are in, and of their earnest desire to preserve you fron error, from being entangled in new and mischievous doctrines. They should be very sorry to see one who means so well, hurried into any extreme, perplexed with strange and unintelligible notions, or deluded into enthusiasm. Therefore it is that they advise you to keep still, in a plain middle way; and to beware of "being righteous over much," lest you should "destroy yourself."
III, 1. But how may we know, what they really are, notwithstanding their fair appearance? This was the third thing into which it was pro posed to inquire. Our blessed Lord saw how needful it was for all men to know false prophets, however disguised. He saw, likewise, how