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pursue his prey, till he shall be finally bound with the great chain of the angel, who has the key of the bottomless pit.--(Rev. xx. 2.) If we resist the Devil, as directed by the Bible, he will fee from us. But the sinner does not resist him, because he has no desire to gain the victory over sin. Of his own free will and consent, he " walketh according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.” And if there be hope that any out of the multitude of sinners shall escape from the course of this world, and the prince of the power of the air, that hope rests on this foundation ; “ if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the Devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” We cannot ascertain with any degree of accuracy the extent of influence exercised by this great adversary, over the minds of men ; nor can we understand the mode of his operation. But the Scriptures assign him a conspicuous place in the work of man's destruction, from the defection in Eden to the present time. Paul says, Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. And on one occasion he said, For your sakes forgave I it, lest Satan should get an advantage of us ; for we are not ignorant of his devices. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the Devil, &c. Peter, too, thus exhorts the saints : Be sober, be vigilant ; because your adversary, the Devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour. Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.
Now if the saint need to guard himself so vigilantly against the wiles of the Devil, how great is his influence over the children of disobedience ? And this influence, united with the strong unbelief of the sinner, and the allurements of the world, must render it easy for him to continue in the broad way that leadeth to destruction.
5. THE EFFECT OF THINGS PRESENT, COMPARED WITH THE INFUENCE OF THINGS DISTANT, still further illustrates the truth of the text.
Present good exerts a strong influence against the importance of distant good. The child will prefer a small gift to-day, to a greater one to-morrow. And this is one of the traits of natural character. The sinner seizes on the present good, and regards salvation as a distant thing. Sinful pleasures may be enjoyed now, but heaven seems to be afar off; and this exerts no small influence in determining his present choice. If eternal things were present equally with earthly things, the natural man would view them differently, but be considers eternal things as distant, and for this reason they lose much of their importance in his esteem, and he turns his attention and pursuit to the things at hand, intending hereafter to attend to the distant concerns of his future state. It is true, indeed, that he may die at any moment, and be ushered instantly into the unseen realities which appear to be afar off. But be regards these unseen and unfelt realities as distant, because he counts, presumptuously enough, on length of days, and the forbearance of God, and the opportunity of being saved at the eleventh hour. With this groundless belief, the things of redemption appear to him to lie quiet and secure, in the regions of futurity. And when time shall have dristed him along to the confines of this futurity, he believes that he shall lay hold on the hope of eternal life, and enter on the rest which remains for the people of God. Under the influence of these erroneous views, he chooses the present good, and how easily may he drop into the " everlasting burnings," from this dying world, while relying for safety on future amendment! It were well if the Christian should inquire, how far, in this respect, his conduct and views correspond with the sinner's presumption.
6. THE IMPERFECTIONS AND SINS OF PROFESSING CHRISTIANS, make the broad way still broader.
“ Ye are the light of the world. Ye are the salt of the earth,” said the Savior. These are very significant comparisons. If the Church is the only light of the world; and if this light become dim, the transgressor will discern the narrow way very obscurely. The men of God will seem “like trees walking,” as in the case of the blind man beginning to recover bis sight. If the light of the Church be wholly extinguished, or if it be put under a bushel, “a horror of great darkness” will descend upon the world. Ye are the salt of the earth. If the Church only is the salt, and this salt shall lose its savor, then the whole mass will go to putrefaction together, and the unsavory salt will hasten on the process of corruption. For what purpose has God cast the salt into the fountains of evil, and kindled a light in this dark world? 66 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted ? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be lid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick ; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
If the Church universal felt the full import of this language, and lived in accordance with these precepts, the broad way would be much narrower, and trodden by a smaller throng of travellers. But the inperfections and sins of the best Christians are many, and ruinous are the consequences. The sinner is kept quiet on his way, and confirmed in his unbelief. If they who profess Christ, he says, are so bad, and yet will be saved, surely I who am so honest as to make no pretensions to godliness, and yet have done many good works, cannot fail of salvation. Thus encouraged by high example, he stumbles, and falls to rise no more. Merciful God! keep the skirts of thy people's garments from being stained with the blood of souls !
7. THE EXAMPLE OF THE MULTITUDE demonstrates the facility with which men go to destruction.
This is the very reason Christ assigns, why the disciples should agonize to enter in at the strait gate. The way to life is narrow, and the gate is strait, and “ few there be that find it.” The way to destruction is broad, and the gate is wide, and “ many go in thereat." This multitude, going in company the broad way, mutually encourage each other. They are the great majority --the world is pursuing this course, and the merciful God, say they, cannot destroy so many.
Encompass’d by a throng,
On numbers they depend;
And miss a happy end.
The simple fact that so great a multitude are crowding along through the wide gate, furnishes a reason why they continue in their ruinous course. They imagine their safety to be in proportion to their numbers. As if a host could contend with the Almighty, and wrest from him the sceptie of dominion, or prevail on him to change his unalterable purpose “ by no means to clear the guilty.” Thus they go hand in hand, strengthening each other's bands, till " the destruction of the transgressors, and of the sinners, shall be together, and they that forsake the Lord shall be consumed. And the strong shall be as tow, and the maker of it as a spark, and they shall both burn together, and none sball quench them.”
Another reason why the multitude encourage each other in the broad way, is found in the stillness which broods over the grave and the world of departed spirits. It is natural for us all to feel, and desire to believe, that the grave is a place where all the weary are at rest, and all troubles find their end. But the Scriptures assure us, that the conscious spirit enters, at its departure from this world, into happiness or misery, according to the works done in the body; and that the body itself lies in its resting place, till it awakes to the resurrection of life, or the resurrection of damnation. The departed Lazarus, in the parable, is said to be “in Abraham's bosom”_"the rich man in hell, being in torments.” On the mount of transfiguration, Moses and Elias were with Christ and the three disciples, constituting an assembly from earth and heaven. The grave, then, is, for all, the suspension of bodily, but not op spiritual suffering. But the multitude will not believe these revealed truths. They say, none have returned from the unknown world to inform us of their state. We do not know but all are happy there, and we will hope in the mercy of God, without disquieting ourselves with things beyond our knowledge. The pious Baxter has well illustrated this subject, the security of the sinner from his ignorance of the fate of those who have departed from the present state. “A man was driving a flock of fat lambs, upon a bridge over the Severn. Something meeting them and hindering their passage, one of the lambs leaped upon the wall of the bridge, and his legs slipping from under bim, he fell into the stream ; the rest, seeing him, did, one after one, leap over the bridge into the stream, and were all, or almost all, drowned. Those that were behind did little know what was become of them that were gone before, but thought they might venture to follow their companions; but as soon as ever they were over the wall, and falling headlong, the case was altered. Even so it is with unconverted carnal men. One dieth by them, and drops into hell, and another follows the same way; and yet they will go after them, because they think not whither they are gone. Oh! but when death bath once opened their eyes, and they see what is on the other side of the wall, even in another world ; then what would they give to be where they were !"
Very evident it is, then, that the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leadeth to destruction, and many go in thereat. A sinful course is 80 agreeable to depruved nature--so great is the spiritual sloth of the natural mansuch the blindness of the carnal mind--such the strength of unbelief-80 many are the allurements of the world, and the devices of Satan--such the effect of things present, compared with the influence of things distant--so numerous are the imperfections of professing Christians-and such the force of example, the example of the multitude, that the facility with which men go to destruction is tremendously fearful. And if so, how terrible to the sinner is the declaration of Christ concerning the wide gate, and the broad way!
We now close the subject with one reflection : It is a very difficult thing to be saved.
The many obstacles we have enumerated must be overcome, or we inevitably perish. And we may well ask, with the disciples, “Who then can be saved ?” But men in their natural character will believe that it is easy to enter in at the strait gate--that it is a thing to be accomplished whenever it suits their convenience. That the world may be sought first, and the kingdom of heaven last, and yet the soul be saved. Ah! do you know more of these things than Christ ? Do you dispute the truth of his word when he says, “ 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 that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it?” The righteous “ through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of heaven”_" the righteous scarcely be saved," and if so, “where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear ?" Have you considered, that while you neglect salvation, time is hurrying you to that world where no ray of hope can penetrate the everlasting darkness—where despair, surveying the walls of her prison house, shall, age after age, lift up her broken voice, and ask, how long ? and on the anxious ear shall come back no answer, but,-for ever! Awake, awake now, lest you knock at heaven's gate when none shall open. To-day, harden not your heart. Behold, now is the accepted time now the day of salvation. Escape for thy life ; tarry not in all the plain, lest thou be consumed !
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