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ties, till he is ripe for final judgment and deftruction. Let us feverally confider, that if fuch provifion was made by an all-wife God, for the recovery of fuch of his creatures as had fallen by their iniquity, it could not be unneceffary. And furely the whole of thefe views confpire in opening the meaning and confirming the truth of what we are told in this paffage, that the righteous are fcarcely faved. 2. The righteous may be faid to be fcarcely faved, because their number is bnt very fmall. There are few that be faved in comparison of thofe that perifh, and in compari fon of those that feek and pretend to hope for falvation.
This, if it be a truth, is certainly pregnant with meaning, and deeply interefting. I know there are fome who have no great love to any thing that directly tends to dif turb the repose of a drowsy flothful fpirit, who are fond of denying or calling in queftion this truth. They allege that our Saviour evaded it as an improper queftion, when propofed to him by his difciples. Luke xiii. 23. "Then "faid one unto him, Lord, are there few that be faved?" But truly I cannot fee how he could have anfwered it more plainly, or indeed more properly, than in the following words, Strive to enter in at the ftrait gate for many,
fay unto you, will feek to enter in, and fhall not be able." Efpecially if we compare them with the parallel place in Matth. vii. 13. " Enter ye in at the ftrait gate: for wide "is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to deftruc"tion, and many there be which go in thereat."
What fhall be the number of the redeemed at laft, and what proportion it fhall bear to the whole race of Adam, before the end of this ftate of things, it is impoffible for us to know. It is pleasant to indulge the hope that it fhall be very great, and that there are times yet to come, when the profperity of the Redeemer's kingdom fhall be glorious, and the triumphs of his grace perhaps univerfal. But when we fpeak of the number of fuch as fhall be faved, we muft fpeak of it as relating to thofe whom we now fee, and their characters as drawn in the oracles of truth. And furely if we pay the leaft regard to the marks of religion laid down in fcripture, we must be fenfible what multitudes are living in direct oppofition to them, and that there
are many, who though they are called by the name of Chrift, and maintain fome degree of outward profeffion, yet they are far from being Chriftians in deed and in truth. Matth. vii. 21. "Not every one that faith unto me, Lord, "Lord, fhall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he "that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven."
3. When the apoftle fays that the righteous fcarcely are faved, it may mean that many make not only a common but an eminent profeffion of religion, who yet fhall be found finally defective, when weighed in the balance of the fanctuary. It may mean, that not only the ungodly and openly profane finners fhall be rejected, but that all who feem to be righteous fhall not be found fo upon trial. This feems to lead us to confider the difference between the charitable, general, and uncertain judgment of man, and the ftrict, infallible, and decifive judgment of God. This is beautifully reprefented by our Saviour, in the parable of the tares of the field, Matth. xiii. 24, and onwards; but you may particularly fee what is faid from the 28th verse, "The fervants faid unto him, wilt thou then that "we go and gather them up? But he faid, nay, left while ye gather up the tares, ye root up alfo the wheat with "them. Let both grow together until the harveft; and "in the time of harveft I will fay to the reapers, gather ye together firft the tares, and bind them in bundles to "burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn."
There is a circumftance to be particularly attended to here, that not only fhall many deceive their fellow creatures by a falfe profeffion, but not a few fhall more effectually and more fatally deceive themselves, faying they fhall have peace though they walk after the imagination of their own hearts. There are many exhortations in fcripture, to guard against deceiving ourfelves; of which I fhall only mention one, Gal. iv. 7. "Be not deceived; God is not "mocked: for whatfoever a man foweth, that fhall he "alfo reap." If our Saviour found it neceffary to fay to the twelve whom he had chofen, "Ye know not what "manner of spirit ye are of;" much more may the fame thing be faid to numbers of profeffing Chriftians in these laft days. There are many fins that may adhere to a reliVOL. II.
gious profeffion, or be covered with a facred veil, which yet are inconfiftent with true religion. See what the apostle Paul fays, 1 Cor. xiii. 1. "Though I fpeak with "the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, "I am become as founding brafs, or a tinkling cymbal." And the apostle James i. 26. "If any man among you "feem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but "deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain." It is an awful description given us by our Saviour, Matth. vii. 22. "Many will fay to me in that day, Lord, Lord, "have we not prophefied in thy name? And in thy name have caft out devils? And in thy name done "many wonderful works? And then will I profefs unto "them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work " iniquity."
I fhall only add one evidence, with which experience furnishes us, that even in an eminent profeffion there may be at bottom no fincerity. There never was a time of trial in the church by perfecution, but there were several of the most eminent in ftation, gifts and profeffion, who were guilty of apoftacy; a fure evidence that they were not found in the faith, and a great leffon of humiliation and caution to us. True religion bears all trials, and it is only he that endureth to the end that fhall be faved. It is highly probable, that the apoflle had this very thing in view, in the paffage where my text lies; for in the preceding verfe, he had been animating them to fuffer as Chriftians, and concludes in the following verfe thus, "Wherefore let them that fuffer, according to the will of God, commit the keeping of their fouls to him in welldoing as unto a faithful Creator."
4. In the last place the righteous are fcarcely faved, becaule those who are faved, fhall be faved with much difficulty. That is to fay, it will require the utmost exertion of their care and vigilance. They may expect a continual, conflict with temptations and trials from without, and the flirrings of corruptions from within. There is nothing more contrary to the fcripture view of our chrifiian course, than to fuppofe it a fiate of unmolefted quiet, fecurity and indulgence. It is reprefented to us by every
image that carries in it the idea of oppofition, activity and vigilance. It is ftriving, Matth. vii. 13. "Enter ye in at "the straight gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the
way, that leadeth to deftruction, and many there be "which go in thereat:" It is contending in a race, Heb. xii. 1.," Wherefore, seeing we also are compaffed about "with fo great a cloud of witneffes, let us lay afide every weight, and the fin which doth so easily befet us, and "let us run with patience the race that is fet before us.' It is fighting, 1 Tim. vi. 12. "Fight the good fight of "faith," and it is reprefented as inceffant labor, Phil. ii. 12. "Work out your own falvation with fear and trem"bling."
Indeed when we confider from what, and how many quarters, we must expect opposition, this truth will appear with the fulleft evidence. Confider the implacable hatred of the great adversary, the reproach and injuries of wicked men, their still more pernicious example and folicitation, the allurements of the world, in this fenfible state, and the treachery and deceitfulness of our own hearts. Of the great danger of all these we have the greatest reafon to be convinced from the confeffion and teftimony of those who have gone before us; yet over them all the believer muft obtain the victory, and fhall obtain it in his Redeemer's ftrength. John v. 4. 1 John v. 4. "For whatsoever is born of God "overcometh the world: and this is the victory that over"cometh the world, even our faith."
There is nothing here faid contrary to what the fcripture informs us, of the peace and confolation that attends the practice of true religion. It is not faid to difcourage the believer; but to put him on his guard, and to warn him not to mistake the nature and foundation of that peace he is entitled to expect. It does not confift in a neglect of his enemies, far lefs in a confederacy with, or fubjecti on to them, but in the affured profpect, and growing evidence of his victory over them. Further, the inward confolation of a Chriftian does not confift in thinking light of fin, by excufing it, or justifying himself by denying it; but in unfeigned felf-denial, a willingness to see the evil of fin, and taking fhame to himself by confeffing it, together
with evangelical views of divine mercy in the pardon of it, and the promifed ftrength of divine grace to enable him to refift and fubdue it.
II. I proceed now to the fecond thing propofed, which was to confider the inference drawn in the last part of the verfe, "where fhall the ungodly and the finner appear?" I need fcarcely tell you, that the form of a queftion ufed here, is a very common figure of fpeech to fignify their dreadful fituation. This juft but very awful inference, is intended for the terror of thofe who live in open ungodlinefs, and avowed contempt of divine mercy. Perhaps it may be proper from the context, to confider a little the time when the wicked fhall be expofed to this terrible danger: and then the import of the threatening itself. As to the time when the difference is to appear, it may be,
1. In a time of public calamity, or any remarkable vifitation of divine feverity. Such a time is defcribed, Luke xxi. 25, 26. “There fhall be upon the earth diftrefs of "nations, with perplexity; the fea and the waves roar"ing; men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking "after thole things which are coming on the earth; for "the powers of heaven fhall be fhaken." Then the confcience of the most obdurate is fometimes alarmed. I am fenfible, and I have formerly hinted, that good men have no charter of exemption from outward fufferings. But in thefe times of general trial, the difference between them and others is very great. They have an anchor of hope in the favor of a reconciled, and in the wifdom and provi dence of an omnipotent God. But the profane and ungodly, terrified by the reproaches of a guilty confcience, are made to tremble, through fear of the execution of deferved judgment.
2. In a time of perfonal diftrefs, and apparent danger of death. This important change is no light matter, even to the beft. They have often no fmall degree of folicitude and fear, as to the manner of going through this last and decifive conflict. But how much more fearful an afpect muft the king of terrors wear, to the impenitent finner? when the charm is diffolved, and all his finful pleasures are turned into worm wood and gall; when he fees he