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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.
6 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 THAT 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 epithets 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 awayis in an awful condition. And such is the state--such the condition of the sinner. The summer and the harvest are passing by, and he do not soon sow in righteousness he can never reap
But how shall he be aroused ? He has the word of God in his dwelling, and lears 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 thunders 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
“ 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 unhumbled, 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 proinulgation of the Gospel to the present hour, show us how inveterate is the prejudice of the transgressor against the truth ; how strong bis 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 cyc, 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 liis wily labors in Paradise, and will
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 flee 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 he 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 he 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 drifted 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 vicws, 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 his 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? 56 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 liid. 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 imperfections 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 thic mcrciful God, say they, cannot destroy so many.