« AnteriorContinua »
heart and life is rare; both are unfashionable, the guise of the world lies contrary to both; for few find the narrow way. That religion is greatly run down, sometimes persecuted, always mocked and maligned, cannot miss, while the state of matters is such that few find the narrow way.
4. Lastly, Then certainly it is not easy to be a Christian, to fall on the strait gate and narrow way. The unconcernedness and carelessness of men about religion, as if they could hardly go wrong in that matter, is unaccountable. Can it rationally be thought an easy thing to hit that mark which the most part miss? to find that way which but few of mankind do find? But that fond conceit of the easiness of finding it, is one great reason why so few find it.
USE 2. Of Exhortation. And,
1st, Let all consider well and examine what way it is they are on. Ask yourselves, Am I on the broad way, or on the narrow? and endeavour to be clear as to that concerning point.
MOTIVE 1. This is a point of the utmost concern to you; death and life hang upon it. If ye are on the broad way, you are on the road to destruction, if on the narrow way, on the road to life. And will ye be careless as to such a weighty point? will ye not do your own souls the justice to consider of it?
MOTIVE 2. It is certain ye were once on the broad way, Eph. ii. 3. The only question competent here, is, Whether ye are brought off from it into the narrow way, or not? If ye never saw yourselves on it, it is a sad token ye are on it still, though ye perceive it not; Rev. iii. 17, 18. Though your eyes have been opened to see yourselves on it, and your danger on it, it is a question for all that, Whether ye are brought off it, or not?
ye are on.
MOTIVE 3. The most part are on the broad way, few have found the narrow one. Ye have the more need to consider which of them If many had found, few missed the narrow way; yet since there are any who miss it, the matter being of such weight, might oblige you to put it to the trial as to yourselves; much more ought ye to put it to the trial, when they are so few that find the narrow way, and so many miss it.
MOTIVE 4. There are many ways taken for the narrow way, that are not it; and self-deceiving is rife in the world; Prov. xxi. 2, and none more confident than the fool, chap. xii. 15. Therefore try
your way, ere ye trust it.
MOTIVE 5. Lastly, It will be a fearful disappointment the careless sinner will meet with at last, a frightful awakening the sleepy thoughtless sinner will get, falling into destruction at the end of his way; Matth. xxv. 11, 12, "Afterward came also the other virgins,
saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not." Isa. 1. 11. "Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks; walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled; this shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow." therefore in time, and consider your way ere it be too late.
After what has been said on both the ways, I will only add two things.
1. If ye are on the narrow way, ye have entered by the strait gate of conversion to God; Matth. xviii. 3; ye have felt the bitterness of sin, and therein the bitterness of death; have been brought freely away out of yourselves to Christ by faith, and through him unto God by a sincere repentance.
2. If ye are on the narrow way, ye feel the narrowness of it, yet are resolute not to leave it, but go through with it; and so your life is a continued struggle; Phil. iii. 14. The commands of God are your rule, the example of Christ your pattern, the will of God the reason of your walk, the honouring of God the end and design of your life, and the Christ of God the fountain of your strength for the way.
2dly Ye who are not yet on the narrow way, set yourselves to find it; use your utmost endeavours to get at it by the strait gate, for otherwise there is no reaching it. And,
1. Be not easy without, but seek to experience a work of sound conversion on your souls. Pray for it, hear the word for it, and muse on your own case for it, admitting conviction and cherishing it; labouring to get such a sight of Christ in his glory and beauty, as may lead you to thorough repentance.
2. Set yourselves for a life of holy obedience, following the footsteps of Christ himself, and the footsteps of the flock. Apply yourselves to the way of mortification, dying to the creature and to sin daily; to the way of newness of life, living to God in opposition to the creature, to righteousness in opposition to sin.
3dly, Lastly, Ye who are on the narrow way,
1. Bless God for it, and be thankful, that while he reveals it to few, he has revealed it to you; that ye are among the few, and not among the many.
2. Walk circumspectly. Satan will be laying snares for you, that ye may stumble and fall, and if possible to get you off from it. The fewer are on it, the world notices them the more, ready to improve their wrong steps to the dishonour of the way. The greater will your sin be, if ye walk not worthy of such a rare privilege.
3. Walk on resolutely, however narrow and straitening the way be to you; for it leads to life; and the broad way, however easy, to death and destruction.
THE DUTY AND ADVANTAGE OF CLEAVING TO THE LORD AND HIS WAY, IN A DECLINING TIME.*
GEN. vi. 9,
Noah was a just man, and perfect in his generations.
IN the two preceding verses we have the destruction of the old world determined, ver. 7, and the preservation of Noah by special favour secured, ver. 8. When that generation for their sins was to be swept away by a deluge, Noah is God's favourite, safety and protection from the common stroke is determined for him. Hereupon a question natively ariseth, O what sort of a man was Noah, who was so highly favoured? It is answered in the words of the text, "Noah was a just man, and perfect in his generations." Wherein we have,
1. Noah's character; he "was perfect;" not legally, but evangelically. He was a man of integrity, downright for God; not following the wisdom and way of the world, but studying in all things to approve himself to God. This character of his is raised, from the consideration of the time wherein he lived, "He was perfect in his generations;" in the generation before the flood, and the generation after it. The former was a generation of general corruption, ver. 12, wherein the speat of wickedness and apostasy ran so high, that it carried all before it; yet even in such a time Noah kept his feet, and made his way against the stream, though he was very singular. This is the man that finds favour with God in a day of wrath against the generation, that is safe while others are swept away in the anger of God.
2. How Noah came to reach such a character; "He was a just man." It refers not to his life; for the perfection or integrity ascribed to him comprehends all in that point; but to his state; he was a justified man, justified before God by faith in the promise; Gen. iii. 15. For so runs the original," Noah a just man was perfect," &c. Noah held by the righteousness of faith for himself, and preached
* A sermon preached on a day of solemn fasting and humiliation, at Ettrick, June 14, 1722.
it to others, as we learn from Heb. xi. 7, "By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith." 2 Pet. ii. b, "God spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly." And not only so, but he taught and practised the righteousness of a holy life; while that generation, slighting the faith of the promise, and going off from the doctrine of free grace therein held forth, to acceptance by works, after the example of Cain, Gen. iv. 5, ran into all immorality, and casting off of good works, in their practice, till they were swept off the earth for their loose lives; which is the native consequent of legality. There were others, I doubt not, besides Noah, justified persons in that generation, and holy too; at least Methuselah, who died in the year of the deluge, and Shem, Noah's son; but this is added concerning Noah, that he "was a just man," to shew that he could not have attained that excellency in his generation, but that he was justified by faith; the promise being the only channel of the conveyance of grace.
Two doctrines are deducible from the words.
DOCTRINE I. In the most declining generation, wherein sin and wickedness come to the greatest height, God has still some, though few, that retain their integrity, and cleave to him and his ways.
In discoursing this doctrine, I shall,
I. Evince the truth of the point.
II. Shew how it is that the declining of a generation comes to be so very general, that so very few are left retaining their integrity.
III. Why some, though few, are still left retaining their integrity in such a generation.
IV. Lastly, Apply.
I. I shall evince the truth of this, That in the most declining generation, wherein sin and wickedness come to the greatest height, God has still some, though few, that retain their integrity, and cleave to him and his ways." It has been found so in all ages of the church. In the old world there was a Noah; in Sodom a Lot; among the children of Israel in Egypt a Moses, who all retained their integrity, and cleaved to the Lord and his ways. Of Moses it is said, Heb. xi. 24-26, that "when he was come to years, he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he had respect unto the re
compense of the reward." There was a Caleb and a Joshua in the generation in the wilderness; in Elijah's days "seven thousand;" in Isaiah's days "a small remnant;" Isa. i. 9, and likewise "a remnant" in Jeremiah's days; Jer. xv. 11. In the Jewish apostasy under Antiochus, there were some that were tortured for the cause of God, and refused to "accept of deliverance" on sinful terms; Heb. xi. 35. When Christ came into the world, there were some "waiting for the consolation of Israel ;" and when the Jewish nation was ruined at the destruction of Jerusalem, there was "a remnant according to the election of grace." In the grand apostasy under the New Testament, there were still "two witnesses" left; Rev. ix.
II. How is it that the declining of a generation comes to be so very general, that so very few are left retaining their integrity, that they may be for signs and wonders in the day wherein they live?
1. The corruption of human nature is the spring-head of it; Gen. vi. 5, "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." In the most favourable times for religion, in the most advantageous circumstances men can be placed in, man's nature has still a strong bias to the wrong side; therefore no wonder, that whatever set a church or people get at sometimes towards religion, they do through time decline and go all wrong, according to the natural bias.
2. No due care taken for the religious education of those who are springing up, doth notably advance it. When religion falls low among parents, and those in the place of parents having the training up of youth in their hands, it can hardly miss to sink among the children and youth; so that if the one be bad, the other must needs be worse, but where sovereign grace interposes, and hinders the native effect of the neglect and ill example. And here is one of the manifest causes of the declining of religion in our day, in families, in parishes, and in the ministry, alas! too. The sigual corrupting of the youth was one of the causes of the apostasy of the generation in Noah's days; Gen. vi. 2, “The sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they choose."
3. Corruption of manners thus prevailing, every one serves to corrupt another, till the leaven has well nigh gone through the whole lump; Gen. vi. 12, " And God looked upon the earth, and behold it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth." In a time of declining, sin and wickedness is like a ball of snow rolled among snow, that still grows bigger, one piece of snow licking up another; or like the water, the farther from the head the