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Be entreated, therefore, finally, to come in, by the consideration, that if you reject the invitation to the feast of gospel grace here, you shall be excluded from the feast of heavenly glory hereafter. Thus saith the Master of the house," None of those who were bidden" (that is, who were invited, but refused)" shall taste of my supper." Those who are ready shall go in with him to the marriage, while those who are not, shall be shut out, and knock for admission in vain. But whither shall you be sent, if you be shut out from the marriage supper of the Lamb? Whither? that is an awful question, indeed, but it can receive only one answer. Ah! my friends, remember this, that, as there is room in heaven, so there is also room in hell. Tophet is ordained of old: he hath made it deep and large; the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it."
By such considerations as these would the servant now invite, beseech, constrain, compel you to come in. Say not that you are afraid to come; for, your fear is groundless, and if you only try, you will be admitted at once, and find a hearty welcome. Say not that you cannot come because of certain worldly hindrances: instead of that, you ought rather to say, but to say in deep humility and sorrow, that you will not come; and then the painful consciousness of the criminal aversion of your hearts will be the likely prelude to your changing completely, through the power of divine grace. You have, probably, various excuses to make for yourselves; but none of them is sufficient; none of them can stand the test of God's judgment, or God's Word. Give a due proportion of your attention, then, to your worldly affairs, and your families and connexions; but no longer delay to comply with the gospel invitation.
If you have already accepted that invitation, and tasted of the blessings of salvation, you are now called to partake of them still more largely. "Wisdom hath mingled her wine, and furnished her table," and she crieth, “Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled." "Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, Ŏ beloved." Thus shall your souls be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and you shall bless the Lord, while you live. And, when you die, you shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven, to enjoy a far richer feast, at a table which shall never be drawn.
LUKE XIV. 25-35.
"And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, 26. If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? 29. Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, 30. Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. 31. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth, whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? 32. Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an embassage, and desireth conditions of peace. 33. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. 34. Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? 35. It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."
THE encouragements to true godliness are many and great. It is "profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." These encouragements should be often stated, and earnestly pressed on men's consideration. When so great anxiety is shown by the profane to bring others over to their side, those who plead for God should not be deficient in engaging representations of the paths of wisdom. "Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace," saith Solomon. "I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her," saith the Lord, concerning the Church. How strong, too, the desire of the apostle Paul to make the gospel agreeable to men, implied in his becoming "all things to all men, that he might by all means save some!" At the same time, this principle may be carried too far. Thus, false prophets, of old, "prophesied smooth things, saying, Peace, peace, when there was no peace,"
while they, no doubt, flattered themselves that they were taking the plan most likely to secure the people to God, by giving this easy and lax view of things. As long as Christianity continued depressed and persecuted, there was, comparatively, little room for this unfaithfulness to operate. But, when Christianity became openly triumphant, many improper encouragements were held out to profess faith in Christ; and the consequence was, that many were brought over nominally to the gospel, who neither knew its nature, nor felt its power. And so, in more advanced periods of the Church, many have been brought to profess themselves Christians, from imperfect views of the Christian character, and other worldly and improper inducements. Such methods, however, have never done any real service to the cause of the gospel; they have never brought over one individual to genuine religion. It is said of Philip of Macedon, that he conquered less by the sword than by gold; and bribing may still be successful in ordinary war: but no success can accompany attempts of this kind in the spiritual warfare. While no unnecessary discouragements are to be presented, we must take care not to keep back any part of the truth. We are not to seek to bring men to a religious profession by holding forth a low standard of Christian doctrine and character; but we are to state distinctly the absolute necessity of an unreserved dependence on the mercy of God by faith in the blood of Christ-of a radical change of heart-and of a holy life. We are not to seek to ensnare people, by telling them that every part of their progress will be free from anxiety, that their path will be uniformly smooth, that no opposition will arise without, and no struggle within. We must describe the trials, as well as the comfortsthe labour, as well as the reward-the race, as well as the prize the battle, as well as the victory. If these things be kept out of sight, or faintly exhibited, there may be apparent, but there can be no real, success-there may be counterfeit religion, but there can be no genuine, vital, permanent principle of godliness. Our adherents will have " no root in themselves, and when tribulation, or persecution," or temptation of any kind, shall arise because of the word, by-andby they will be offended:" and they will "bear no fruit unto perfection." Desire us not, then, to follow so dishonest a method; but desire to be faithfully dealt with, that so your state may be safe, and your religion decided.
How fine an example, in this respect, is set by our Lord,
in the passage before us! Those who wish to impose on others any selfish scheme of their own, magnify, or diminish, its advantages, or disadvantages, as may best suit their purpose. "It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer: but when he is gone his way, then he boasteth." To all such unworthy imposition and concealment, the openness and honesty of Christ's teaching are a complete
Having left the Pharisee's house, where he had been at meat, Jesus was followed by great multitudes of people. He knew, however, that notwithstanding their thus attending him, most of them were ignorant of what was necessary to constitute them his real disciples, and quite unprepared to undergo the difficulties to which adherence to him would expose them; and therefore, that, if they followed him in their present views and state, they would apostatize in the time of trial. Knowing this, he resolved to address them in a very searching manner. So still, we must not look on the multitudes who often give outward attendance on the word, as therefore proved to be, all of them, or even most of them, on the way to heaven; but must carefully discriminate characters, and fully state what true religion requires. We may also observe, here, how wisely our Lord suited his preaching to the different characters he addressed. To the Pharisees, he spoke of humility and charity. To those who were altogether averse from the gospel, he spoke of the necessity of coming to the feast. And here, when "multitudes," were crowding after him, he spoke to them so as to bring the sincerity of their regard to the test. He "turned" round to them, and 'addressed them in a strain which, though it might seem calculated to repel them, unfolded a principle, without the practical embracing of which, none of them could be formed to the character of true and stable Christians.
"If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." This is another example of what we noticed, when considering the 12th verse of this chapter, namely, of a passage in which what is expressed in strong, positive, and unrestricted language, is to be understood with certain restrictive explanations. Nothing, surely, could be more opposed to the gospel, the very spirit of which is love, and which requires us to love even our enemies, than hatred, in the usual accep
tation of the word—that is, malevolence, towards our near connexions. They may be considered even as ourselves. "So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies," says Paul: "he that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it." Every true Christian must certainly wish his friends well, and be ready to do them all the good in his power, both temporally and spiritually. The meaning is, that those who will be the true and constant disciples of Christ, must make up their minds to act towards their friends, in some respects, as if they hated them;-" disobeying their injunctions, thwarting their inclinations, rejecting their entreaties, renouncing the comfort of their society, or turning it into bitterness by exciting their resentment, ,"* if faithfulness to Christ cannot be maintained by them without such painful sacrifices. Thus, the word "hate," is here to be understood comparatively. We must hate our friends, in comparison of Christ; we must love him more than them; and if their approbation and his approbation cannot be enjoyed by us at the same time, we must forego theirs, and retain his. Our Lord himself explains his meaning in this comparative sense, in the similar passage addressed to the apostles, when they were sent out, in Matt. x. 37: "He that loveth father, or mother, more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son, or daughter, more than me, is not worthy of me."
In like manner, Jesus says, "If a man hate not"—" his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." The desire of life is natural, and, generally speaking, proper. "Skin for skin" (or, skin upon skin-that is, one piece of valuable property after another), "yea, all that a man hath, will he give for his life." Our Lord, too, instructed his disciples to endeavour to save their lives in the time of persecution, if they could do so without unfaithfulness. "When they persecute you in one city," said he, "flee ye into another." But, they must not love their life in comparison of him; they must be ready to part with it, rather than with his favour. As in a storm at sea, men will gladly lighten the ship, by throwing even their most valuable commodities over board, to save their temporal life; so must Christ's disciples, in the time of persecution, be ready to part with life tem*Scott. "Surdum te amatissimis tui præsta - Be deaf to your dearest friends."-Seneca, Ep. xxxi,