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consequently uninvited, they might perchance be admitted from the "outer darkness" into the brilliancy and splendour which reigned within; for it is to be remembered that occasions of this description were of a far more public nature in the warm country of Judea, where the necessity of artificial warmth and comfort was comparatively trifling, than they are in this country, where the limited dimensions of even a large house are insufficient to contain a very large number of persons. Many, I say, might have endeavoured-might have sought to obtain admission on such occasions; but it is likewise clear that many were prevented in so doing by the straitness of the entrance. The cause of the failure of these persons we may reasonably attribute to the fact of their having endeavoured to obtain admission by means different from those which were the only lawful and regular means of doing so. They sought to enter in by some method peculiar to themselves; they endeavoured to discover a method different from the only one which was clearly and indisputably available—that of obtaining an invitation from the bridegroom, the giver of the feast, which they would not do without striving to obtain-without exerting themselves among the friends of the bridegroom, and persuading these to interest themselves in their behalf. And these means they ought to have adopted beforehand, so that when the banquet was ready they might have passed through the strait entrance without let or hinderance. They were, however, too indolent and too indifferent to
their own interests to strive thus much; to submit to so much trouble; they preferred waiting till the moment arrived, and then seeking a different way— trying what chance or luck, or perhaps the darkness of the night, would accomplish for themseeing whether they could not obtain a clandestine admission by means, perhaps, of a small bribe offered to the keeper of the strait entrance, or by falsely persuading him that they were among the invited friends of the bridegroom. We may consider, however, that in such vain expectations as these they were disappointed, and that, having thus sought a method of admission they found none, they were altogether unsuccessful in the object of their search.
And thus is it in respect of those rejoicings which will take place hereafter when the proposed connexion between the bride and bridegroom, to wit, Christ and his church, shall be consummated in the kingdom of heaven. They who, before the appointed time shall arrive, strive to qualify themselves for admission, will most assuredly, by the Divine help, which is sure to attend such an attempt, as is here implied, succeed in the object of their endeavours; whereas, they who omit this necessary work of preparation, and who seek to be admitted by some other means, will be unable. But recollect, I beseech you, that these preparatory attempts are of no ordinary description, but such as imply the most strenuous efforts to succeed. The expression which is here used by our Saviour is the same as that used by St. Paul when he says, "every man
that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things;" which latter expression means, uses every possible physical effort to obtain it; and the term originally applied to the conduct of wrestlers and gladiators, and others who, on occasions of public amusement, used to contest with each other, after which the successful competitor received a prize, or was crowned with a wreath of palm or laurel, or with some other emblem of victory. The contests here implied were of the most violent description. Toil and labour were submitted to beforehand for the purpose of duly training and preparing the body for the ensuing strife, the issue of which was not unfrequently marked by the death of one of the conflicting parties. Of such a nature were the resolution and perseverance of those who were accustomed, in ancient days, to strive for the mastery. Therefore does St. Paul farther argue thus: "They do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly: so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway."
And what, brethren, is the nature of the contest which the Christian is called upon to undergo before he can obtain a passport of admission within the narrow gate of the kingdom of heaven? Of the nature of this contest the following language of the same Apostle will convey to us no, inadequate idea: "We wrestle not," says St. Paul, "against
flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." And what course of preparation does the Apostle prescribe as alone adequate to so fearful an emergency? None other, brethren, than the following: "Take unto you the whole armour of God, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all taking the shield of faith,—and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance."
AWFUL AND UNCERTAIN STATE OF THE
ST. LUKE, xiii. 6-10.
"He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of the vineyard, Behold these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none; cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: and if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down."
THE subject of our Saviour's discourse which immediately preceded it, is continued in the parable which has just been recited. It It may be recollected that the termination of this discourse consisted in the repetition of the following most awful and impressive remark; "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish."
And in reference to whom, I would ask, did our