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the members of Christ's church administer fraternal correction or reproof to each other—It is not all judgment that the text forbids, but all harsh and severe judgment-It prohibits an overofficious prying into the faults of others, and a needless exposing of them to the world; but it leaves us at liberty to give that reproof, which is necessary for the reclaiming of an offending brother-But, to admonish others with effect, we must attain some measure at least of purity ourselves-Let every one then begin with rectifying his own conduct-Let every one be solieitous to cast the beam out of his own eye, that he may afterwards assist with more propriety and effect in pulling out the mote from his brother's eye-We must not indeed stay till we are perfeet before we attempt to benefit our brother; but we should study to attain an unbiassed judgment, and regulate our endeavours with charity and discretion—]
e Lev. xix. 17. Eph. v. 11.
f Ver. 6.
CCXXIV. THE STRAIT AND NARROW WAYS.
Matt. 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.
AN idea of candour and philanthropy leads many to adopt sentiments directly repugnant to the scriptures— They imagine that few, if any, perish; and that, though the bulk of mankind live in a total neglect of God, they find mercy at the last-But no pretence of candour should induce us so to contradict the plainest declarations of God-If there be any truth in the scriptures, there are comparatively few who go to heaven-And we need to be awakened to a sense of our danger by the exhortation before us.--We shall consider,
I. The duty enjoined
The path of the ungodly is broad and the entrance upon it wide
[There is no difficulty at all in entering upon an ungodly life-We need only follow our natural bent and inclinationNor will they who frequent the broad road at all interfere with each other-The gross sensualists, the proud Pharisee, and the specious hypocrite may have ample scope for their
respective pursuits-Sin may be indulged in ten thousand shapes-And "all may go astray, every one in his own way"]
The path of the godly is narrow and the entrance upon it strait
[The way of God's commandments is that to which the godly are confined-And the entrance upon it is by conver sion—A man must have seen the evil and danger of his former ways He must have come to Christ who is "the door", And, renouncing every other hope, he must cleave unto Christ with full purpose of heart-Having thus entered, he must go forward in an uniform course of dependance upon Christ, and devotedness to him-This is indeed a strait and narrow way-A partial repentance, a divided trust, a reserved obedience will not suffice-Our contrition must deep, our faith unfeigned, and our dedication of ourselves to God entire, or we shall only deceive our own souls-]
To enter upon this path is our bounden duty
[God never intended that men should follow the imagination of their own hearts-He calls us to himself, and invites us by every argument that can affect a rational being-Nor will he leave us to fail for want of strength-If we will exert ourselves in earnest and cry unto him for help, nothing shall be impossible unto us-Difficult as the duty is, it has been performed by many in all ages-We therefore should exert ourselves without delay-We must not stand aloof, doubting and hesitating whether we shall enter upon this way or not -Nor must we put off the time of entering upon it to some more convenient season-The command of God is clear and universal, Enter ye in at the strait gate-]
We shall see the importance of this duty if we attend to
II. The arguments with which it is enforced
No stronger arguments can be urged than those suggested in the text
1. The broad way, however crowded, will infallibly lead us to destruction
[Every way of sin will destroy the soul Whether it be open and notorious, or secret and refined, it will surely bring upon us the wrath of God-Nor will the numbers of those who walk in any way at all affect the quality of their actionsSin will be sin, though the whole world should countenance
each other in the commission of it-The idolatrous compliance of the Babylonish nation was not the less sinful because it was sanctioned by numbers; nor was the nonconformity of the Hebrew youths rendered less acceptable to God on account of the fewness of those who dared to follow the voice of conscience-Neither indeed will the end of any way be changed on account of the numbers who walk in it -The inhabitants of Sodom, and of the autediluvian world were not exempted from punishment because they were many -They were overwhelmed as examples of God's vengeance to all future ages-Should not this then make us tious what path we follow ? Should it not stimulate us to flee from the destruction to which we are hastening?-Oh! strive to enter in at the strait gate"-]
2. The narrow path, however unfrequented, will surely lead us to glory
[God cannot but delight in holiness-And he will testify his approbation of it in the last day-Was Lot overlooked in Sodom, or Noah in the antediluvian world?-So if there were but one faithful servant of God in the whole universe, he should in no wise lose his reward-Every step he took in the good way should be marked by God-And in due season he should arrive at his desired end-And, while tribulation and anguish should be assigned to the disobedient, his patient continuance in well-doing should be rewarded with glory and honour and immortality Should any one then be afraid of singularity? Is it not better to be a persecuted Elijah worshipping the true God, than to be an applauded worshipper of Baal?-Let the prospect of glory therefore encourage us to enter upon the narrow path-Nor let us doubt but that the enjoyment of the end will amply compensate for the difficulties of the way-] ADDRESS
1. To those who are not yet entered in at the strait gate [Perhaps you think that the multitudes by which you are countenanced, afford a reasonable hope that you shall not perish-But it is not possible for God to assert the contrary more strongly than he has done in the words before us--will you then, in spite of this warning, hope that the saved shall be many, and the damned few? Or will you be contented to perish, seeing that you will have so many companions in misery-Alas! what comfort will it be to you to behold others as wretched as yourself?-Will their torments assuage
Dan. iii. d 2 Pet. ii. 5, 6. e Luke xiii. 24. f Rom. ii. 7-9,
your anguish ?-Oh! dare to be singular in the midst of a wicked world-And say with Joshua, As for me, and my house, whatever others may do, we will serve the Lords
2. To those who are walking in the narrow way
[You, no doubt, are blamed for your singularity-But "it is a small matter to be judged of man's judgment"-To be reproached for righteousness sake is no new thing-Nor have you any reason to repine if it be your lot-You have rather reason to rejoice and leap for joy-Remember, however, that you are not to affect needless singularities, and call them religion-If you bring persecution upon yourselves by such means, you bear your own cross, and not the cross of Christ-That alone which will be pleasing to God is, the following of his commandments-In that you cannot be too exact or resolute-But in indifferent matters it is desirable rather to manifest a meek and yielding disposition'-Yet compliance may easily be carried too far-And, on the whole, it is expedient always to lean to the safer side-You are in continual danger of being turned out of the good path-Nor can you be ever safe except while you are looking to God for his direction and help*—]
8 Josh xxiv. 15.
i 1 Cor. ix. 19-23.
b Matt. v. 10-12. 1 Pet. iv. 12-14. Ps. cxix. 117.
CCXXV. THE TREE KNOWN BY ITS FRUITS.
Luke vi. 43-45. A good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit: for of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble-bush gather they grapes. A good man, out of the good treasure of his heart, bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man, out of the evil treasure of his heart, bringeth for ththat which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.
IT is of infinite importance to every man to attain a knowledge of his state and character before God-For, as such a knowledge would be the best preservative against a self-exalting and censorious spirit, so would it keep us from deluding ourselves with a merely nominal and formal religion'-In order to attain it we must ex
a See the context.
amine our words and actions, and trace them to their proper source-Thus, by discovering what is in the heart, we shall be enabled to form a just estimate of our own character, and be guarded against a fatal presumption on the one hand, and a needless disquietude on the otherThis mode of enquiry is suggested in the parable before us; which indeed deserves the more attention, because it was delivered by our Lord on several different occasions -There are two truths which it offers to our consideration
I. It is the heart that regulates the life
The heart is, as it were, a fountain, from whence all our actions proceed
In it there is a treasure either of good or evil
[While we are unregenerate, we are full of erroneous principles, and sinful affections-We "think that God is even such an one as ourselves;" that he will neither "do good" to them that serve him, "nor evil" to those who rebel against him-We judge sin to be light and venial, and a worldly carnal life to be consistent with an hope of immortality and glory-While such are our principles, what can be expected, but that "our affections should be set on things below, and not on things above?"Our hopes and fears, our joys and sorrows are excited only by the things of time and sense and those invisible realities, which alone deserve our esteem, are disregarded and despised-What a "treasure of evil" is thus formed within us !e who can number our rebellious thoughts, our unhallowed desires, our vicious indulgences? How has this treasure been accumulating from our earliest infancy to this present moment! and we, alas! are as averse to part with it as if it rendered us really happy, or would "profit us in the day of wrath"The regenerate person, on the contrary, has within him a treasure of good" -His principles and affections are the very reverse of what they once were- -His views of God, of sin, and the world, are regulated by the holy scriptures; and his desires and pursuits are conformable to the dictates of religion-Thanks be to God, this treasure also is daily accumulating; and he esteems himself rich only in proportion as the love and fear of God increase in his heart-]
According as this treasure is, such will be the life
[The "waters flowing from a fountain" must of necessity be "bitter or sweet" according as the fountain itself is good or bad-So where a treasure of evil is in the heart, the words and actions must be evil also" Out of the abundance
b Ps. 1. 21. Zeph. i. 12.
c Mark vii. 21-23.