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shall be found among those unhappy despisers, that “behold, and wonder, and perish,” the privileges they have enjoyed, the knowledge they have possessed, the motives they have resisted, the affectionate entreaties they have slighted, the solemn providences they have disregarded, and the urgent and frequent remonstrances of conscience, which they have neglected, as well as all their sinful actions, will be spread before an assembled world, and satisfactorily show that God has employed every suitable means for their reformation ; that their ruin is chargeable to themselves alone; while their own lips will loudly attest the justice of their fearful doom; and through all eternity, the remembrance of these advantages perverted, will sting like the adder, and bite like the scorpion.
Since, then, so long as the wicked live, they are enjoying the opportunity to become reconciled to God; their continuance may be greatly beneficial to others; they may, even in their greatest wickedness, be doing that wbich shall invigorate the piety, and brighten the crown of the saints; they are furnishing clear illustration of the riches of God's forbearance and of his unparalleled kindness ;-and they are giving undeniable evidence of that future judgment they often deny, and yet dread; and are hourly treasuring up materials to render more abundantly conspicuous the equity of that sentence, which shall cover them with eternal confusion ; let us hush every murmur, and banish every complaint; nay, raise the song of praise, while we ponder the question, “ Wherefore do the wicked live?” With one rem
emark, I close :—we here discorn the folly of remaining unreconciled to God.
However bold and hardened in sin, however forgetful of God, and heedless of his soul's welfare, a man may be, he is, nevertheless, in the hands of God, and he will be made to subserve God's glory, and the welfare of God's true people, whether he wishes it or not. The trial of each sinner is going on every day; and continually is he becoming more fitted for the doom that awaits him: and that doom, unless he become a new creature in Christ Jesus, is everlasting wretchedness. No correctness of morals, no inoffensiveness of life, can wipe out the guilt of rebellion against God, or screen from the curse consequent on rejecting the Savior. Nothing will serve as a substitute for a contrite heart, and a living faith. We may hesitate, and object, and delay, and scoff as we please ;-such conduct will, indeed, ripen us for destruction; but it does not alter God's terms, nor relax bis hold upon us. We are in his hands; and if we do not choose to submit to him, and just on his own terms too, we but pull down vengeance on our own heads : we make a bed for ourselves in hell. By every sneer, and every cavil, we are but inscribing in the archives of heaven the evidence that our condemnation is just.
We may as well hope to silence the roaring ocean with a frown,--we may as well attempt to blot out the sun, or to chain the winds, as to rush beyond the reach of the Almighty, or to change the conditions on which we hold our being. It is the message of the Gospel, it is the song of heaven, it is the glory of the church,-it is the confession of hell's deepest caverns, “ There is no safety, but in Christ.” AMEN.
By WILLIAM MITCHELL, A.M.
THE FACILITY WITH WHICH SINNERS GO TO
MATTHEW, vii. 13. 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.
He who made the human soul, and laid down his life for its redemption, knows perfectly well what is necessary to salvation, and knows our liability to be ruined by a delusive hope. In the greatness of his compassion, with his omniscient eye upon the deceitfulness of the heart, and the many temptations of the world, he has clearly described the Christian character, and the character of every traveller in the broad way. He has exhibited the features of the carnal man and the spiritual man in the nicest shades of distinction; presenting to the vision of the one unclouded immortality, and to the vision of the other the horrors of everlasting death. The path of life is made so plain that "the wayfaring men, though fools, need not err therein.” But notwithstanding all the light shed from heaven on the ways of wisdom, there are “ few that be saved.” Such is the blindness and desperate wickedness of men, that the multitude throng the broad way, bent on their own destruction, in despite of the entreaties and the mercies of the Lord. The very fact that Christ and the apostles have mingled their instructions to the churches with so many warnings, and enjoined the same upon their successors in the sacred office to the end of the world, implies that all men are extremely prone to slide in the downward road to perdition, and implies, too, that "many there be which go in thereat.” The text is a direct assertion of this truth. In this and the preceding chapter, Christ had fully taught his disciples the necessity of personal holiness—had taught them what duties to perform, what errors to avoid ; and then, setting before them in one distinct view the dangers that awaited them, and the importance of strenuous effort, he said, 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 to life, and few there be that find it. -Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils ? and in thy name done many wonderful works ? and then will I profess unto them I never knew you : depart from
me ye that work iniquity.” If all this is said of those who profess to be disciples, and who stand high in the esteem of men for sanctity and eminent gifts, what will the end be of the multitude who openly despise religion ? « And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear ?” The text, as we said, is a direct assertion of the truth that many will be lost. And this is the reason assigned by the Redeemer, why the few who are saved should strive for entrance at the strait gate. “ Enter ye in at the strait gate: for [because) wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat."
The passage then leads us to consider the facility with which sinners go to destruction. This will appear,
1. FROM THE FACT TIIAT IT IS AGREEABLE TO THE NATURE OF MAN TO PURSUE A SINFUL COURSE.
The natural character of all men as delineated in the Scriptures is this :They roll sin as a sweet morsel under the tongue. They love darkness rather than light. Their hearts are fully set in them to do evil. They possess the carnal mind which is enmity against God. They are dead in trespasses and sins. The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Now if the heart of man in its natural state, “out of which are the issues of life,” is thus in love with sin, and thus at enmity with holiness, it is obvious that he will continue on in a course of sin, till aroused to his danger and transformed “ from fool to wise, from earthly to divine.” But how few, in comparison with the multitude, are thus aroused, and turn their feet into “ the narrow way." The desire of happiness, including with it the inseparable desire of avoiding misery, is an essential part of our constitution. And the things agreeable to our nature seem to be the only things which can make us happy. Accordingly, with the heart wholly in love with sin, and the understanding blinded to the chief good, holiness—the natural man is fully persuaded that the pleasures of sin will make him happy, while godliness would rob him of his present enjoyments. He is thus persuaded, because sinful pleasures are agreeable to his depraved nature, and the pleasures of holiness are contrary to his nature. And therefore after all his reflection, he still clings to the belief that holiness in this life would make him at least less happy than the pleasures of sin; and consequent upon this belief he holds on in his course of depravity, choosing in his own estimation the greatest apparent good. And now, if “ the wages of sin is death,” and “ to be carnally minded. is death ;” and if sin is altogether agreeable to the natural heart; and if it is very difficult, impossible indeed without grace, to persuade the transgressor to exchange the things he dearly loves, for things which he cordially hates, then it is easy for him to continue in sin, and go to destruction. How easy it is, is manifest from the fact that so vast a multitude disregard the warnings of the Gospel for the present, and slide into the grave unrenewed; cheated by the thief of time” out of the convenient season on which they relied for repentance.
2. The facility with which men go to destruction is apparent FROM THE SPIRITUAL SLOTH OF THE TRANSGRESSOR.
This dreadful insensibility to eternal things natural to all men, is represented in Scripture by the words sleep and death. They are significant epi
thets when applied to the moral condition of man. A man sleeping on the brink of destruction is in a dreadful state. A man spiritually dead to his everlasting welfare-dead while the day of grace is gliding away-is in an awful condition. And such is the state--such the condition of the sinner. The summer and the harvest are passing by, and if he do not soon sow in righteousness he can never reap in
But how shall he be aroused ? He has the word of God in his dwelling, and hears from Sabbath to Sabbath the promises and precepts and denunciations of this word illustrated and enforced. The spirit of grace strives with him. He experiences the mercies and the judgments of the Lord. He sees the power of religion in the conversion and subsequent life of his friends. Means various and abundant are employed to awaken him ; but still he sleeps. The thurders of wrath above do not arouse him, nor the wailings of the lost beneath. The Spirit of life agitates and alarms him ; but he sinks again to his slumbers, and foldeth his hands to sleep. The entreaties of his pious friends linger a moment on his arrested ear, and then pass away like a tale that is told. He dwells, it may be, where God grants a refreshing from his presence, and many enter in at the strait gate, but he is only a despiser of mercy, and a reviler of the just. How dreadful is the spiritual sloth of the sinner! How inefficient are the means of grace to arouse him from his lethargy, and bring him to newness of life! How awfully sure that he will sleep, and sleep, and perish everlastingly, unless God quicken him by the energies of his Spirit, and call him from death to life! Look at all the facts in the case, and you will see how deep is the slumber of the natural man, and how easy it is for him to continue in his slumbers till he awakes amid the realities of eternity to sleep no more.
3. The truth of the text is illustrated by THE BLINDNESS OF THE CARNAL MIND.
“ The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him ; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” There is no passage of Scripture better illustrated by matters of fact. The Gospel is foolishness to the sinner. He shows that it is by ridiculing every anxious inquirer after the way of salvation. He says it is foolish for any to be alarmed, and in great distress concerning their future condition. There is no ground for such terrible apprehensions of wrath from a merciful God; no occasion for such abasement, and repentance, and earnestness in religion.” The Gospel view of sin and its consequences is therefore foolishness to him. And the joys of the new-born soul are foolishness also. The saints at the Pentecost “are filled with new wine,” said the mockers standing by, and witnessing the wonders of grace. The happy convert, in the simplicity of his love, faith, and zeal, is foolish, says the sinner still. And he says a season of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, resembling the first great revival of religion, is a scene of confusion, and enthusiasm, and folly. His views are equally blind in regard to the missionary enterprise--the conversion of the world. And all the great objects of modern Christian benevolence are also foolish. It is folly to disturb the mass of unbelieving men, and to attempt to break them off from their sinful courses, and
reclaim them to “the wisdom of the just.” From his own daily confession, pure and undefiled religion, in all its bearings and energies, is foolishness to the sinner. And how blind are all his views; how erroneous all his conceptions of God and the heavenly kingdom. He thinks that what men call morality will save him; and therefore he needs no repentance, faith, regeneration. He thinks that his good deeds counterbalance the evil he hath done, and therefore he needeth not salvation by grace through faith, the gift of God. He thinks a thousand erroneous things, and builds his variable hopes on many sandy foundations. Talk with him, and you will find, that "the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not.” You will find him benighted in all his views of God; of duty; of Christ; of holiness; of the great salvation. How easy is it for him to remain in this spiritual darkness, and be illuminated too late only by the light of eternity.
4. THE STRENGTH OF UNBELIEF-THE MANY ALLUREMENTS OF THE WORLD, AND THE DEVICES OF SATAN, show with what facility sinners may go to destruction.
If they would believe the eternal and tremendous truths which God has revealed, they could not remain destitute of the good hope through grace. But they will not believe. And “ this is their condemnation.” Their whole guilt is summed up in the single word “unbelief.” And the difference between the righteous and the wicked all along, in the Scriptures, consists in the fact, that the one is a believer, the other not. The unbumbled, unrenewed sinner does not believe revealed truth. And Christ says to him, “ Because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. Which of you convinceth me of sin ? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?” Unbelief, then, is the ground of the sinner's condemnation, and the cause of his ruin. And how strong is this unbelief--how credulous of error! It resists all the warnings and expostulations, all the judgments and mercies, all the strivings of the Almighty. It collects all errors, and converts them into a strong-hold of defence against the truth. A great multitude of facts from the pronulgation of the Gospel to the present hour, show us how inveterate is the prejudice of the transgressor against the truth ; how strong his enmity against the light; how ineffectual are all the means of salvation to reclaim him from the error of his way, without the subduing and transforming power of the Holy Ghost. Now, with what facility may the sinner continue in the broad way and perish, thus enveloped as he is in spiritual darkness, and intrenched as he is within the strong fortress of unbelief.
The allurements of the world too, which tend directly to confirm the sinner in his unbelief, are in number almost like the stars of heaven. There is the legion of enticements which feed the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. There are the many inducements to sinful honor and ambition, every one of them a lure to the carnal mind. There is the combined influence of ungodly companions, and the persecution and derision of a wicked world. All these, and more, are the opposing obstacles in the way of salvation, and many a sinner do they draw away from the very gate of heaven, back again into the broad way of destruction. Add to this the devices of Sutan. He commenced his wily labors in Paradise, and will