« ÎnapoiContinuă »
notwithstanding this undoubted and most invaluable truth, which the Sacred Volume of God's Word almost everywhere presents to our notice, there are some persons who would pry into mysteries, an acquaintance with which, as it is evident, must be altogether incompatible with that state of probation which is incident to mortality. In fact, I think I should scarcely surpass the limits of truth were I to assert that there are few persons of reflection, by whom the question has not been suggested either to themselves or others :-" What will hereafter become of those hoards of human beings, whether within or without the pale of Christ's church, who have omitted to make a proper and becoming use of the talents entrusted to them?" To suppose that such will be saved, would be to do violence to the precepts of the Bible, and to the express assurance of our catholic and apostolic church, which declares that they who do good shall go into life everlasting, and they who do evil shall go into everlasting fire. To pronounce positively, on the other hand, that all such are condemned to eternal misery, and that, without doubt, they will perish everlastingly; to do this, I mean, with any feeling of certainty in respect of the individuals who will be happy or miserable hereafter, would be to do an act which, though not incompatible with faith and charity, the first and the last of the three cardinal virtues mentioned by St. Paul, would certainly be at variance with "hope," the intermediate one of the three enumerated by this Apostle; which hope can mean nothing, if it
do not mean that, however desperate the case of any individual or any number of individuals might be, still may we at least indulge a hope in their behalf, when we reflect that Christ is "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world," and that his is the "blood which cleanseth from all sin." Still, hope is but hope; and it is a feeling, or a principle, or whatever else it may be termed, very different from the feeling, or the principle of faith, which assures us that temporal and eternal life are two objects altogether distinct from and independent of each other. "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceedeth out of the mouth of God." Hope, therefore, fluctuating as it does between faith on the one hand, and a brotherly and Christian feeling of love and compassion for even the most abandoned of our fellow creatures, even charity, which "thinketh no evil," which hopeth all things, which believeth all things; hope, I say, fluctuating between these apparently adverse, though essentially and intrinsically reconcileable principles, must be akin to the feeling which prompted the interrogator of our Saviour to propose the question contained in the text: "Lord,” said he, "are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, strive to enter in at the strait unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able."
gate: for many I say
In respect therefore of the future destiny of them who neglect to comply with those conditions of salvation which are particularized in the Gospel of Christ,
it well becomes us to abstain from any expression of certainty, though we may, and though we ought even to entertain the greatest fear and alarm in regard to the fate which awaits them. The question, therefore, "are there few that be saved?" which most assuredly means what will become of those countless numbers of human beings who fail to comply with the terms of the Christian covenant, is a question which need never enter into the mind of the disciple of Christ, and for this reason, because it is a question which his Divine Master will not deign to answer, though he will nevertheless urge him to endeavour by every means which God has placed at his disposal, to obtain that happiness which is most assuredly in store for those who love and obey him. And such an exhortation as is here implied do we find contained in the second verse of our text, to which I would now more particularly call your attention.
Our Lord here says, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate for many will seek to enter therein, and shall not be able." Now, it may here, perhaps, be supposed that the latter portion of this verse was given in answer to the question contained in the preceding one. As though in allusion to the question, "are there few that be saved?" our Lord had replied "there are many who shall not be saved." By regarding, however, the small monosyllable which connects the former and the latter portion of this verse, we shall find that this latter portion was alone connected with the former por
tion, and had no direct reference to the question proposed in the preceding verse. The word "for," if not more correctly, would have been more intelligibly translated "because," and then the reply of our Lord would have run thus: "Strive to enter in at the strait gate, because many will seek to enter therein, and shall not be able."
Before we proceed further, brethren, permit me to call your attention to another word which is here used in a sense different from what is now usual, but which it is of course necessary that we should correctly understand; "Strait" is the term to which, as you doubtless perceive, I am now alluding, and signifies, not according to its ordinary present acceptation any thing possessing a form or shape, opposed to a form or shape which is crooked, but it signifies that which, as opposed to the term wide, we are accustomed to call narrow. This is the meaning of the word before us as it is here used. The translation of our Saviour's answer in the text may, therefore, likewise undergo this further alteration, according to which it would be as follows: "Strive to enter in at the narrow gate, because many will seek to enter therein, and shall not be able."
If, then, the latter division of the preceding words apply not to the question-I mean, do not imply a direct answer to the question contained in the first verse of our text, to what, as you probably ask, do they more immediately and more directly refer? Undoubtedly they refer to the first portion of this second verse by which they are immediately
preceded, and the explanation of which, as contained in them, is to the effect, that the mere wish to arrive at the kingdom of heaven will not produce the desired effect; but that courage, and constancy, and determination, are the grand essentials by means of which this place of refuge, this haven of happiness and rest is to be attained!
The gate which our Saviour here speaks of as strait or narrow, is evidently the gate of the kingdom of heaven; and, as a learned commentator on the passage has asserted, the expression was a figurative one, borrowed from the Jewish practice of having a narrow entrance on occasions of marriage festivities, that the multitude who were not invited, and who might probably be pressing inwards, might be the more easily excluded. Such a probability is the more reasonable, in consequence of the fact of our Saviour having on certain occasions adopted a marriage feast as an emblem of the sacred institu tion of the Lord's Supper, itself no insignificant type or emblem of the kingdom of Heaven. And into such a gate is it, brethren, that we are exhorted by our Lord to strive to enter, in consideration of the difficulty of obtaining admission. And here I would again remind you, that the mere wish to obtain admission must of necessity fail in effecting its object. Many, who, according to the customs of the Jews, used to assemble in the night season, at which time matrimonial rejoicings for the most part took place, undoubtedly did so with the vain hope that, though unqualified and