« PreviousContinue »
In closing this subject, let us make two remarks.
First. It presents us with a most invaluable testimony to the truth of Christianity. Such a sentiment as this in the text, is a strong species of internal evidence, that the Holy Scriptures are not “a cunningly devised fable.” There are men who, in the plentitude of their wisdom, and the hatred of their hearts, pronounce this blessed book an imposture! They describe it as written by a few illiterate fishermen, for the purpose of fraud! And yet it contains sentiments, which, for beauty, sublimity, and profundity, surpass all the maxims and disquisitions that were ever found in the pages of any other, whether ancient or modern! They will consent to believe absurdities, however gross, but the truth of the Christian religion they will not believe! They will suppose, that men of moderate understandings could, for the sake of imposing a lie on the credulity of mankind, contrive to fabricate a system of morals, which, for its excellence and usefulness, for justice and mercy, is confessedly unrivalled in the world! And that these men did this with the prospect of banishment, persecution and death, before their eyes! Infatuated and unhappy men,-your infidelity is as irrational as it is cruel and deadly.
Secondly. How happy will be the world, when the religion of Jesus Christ shall be universally diffused and embraced. Then peace, harmony, and love, will reign on earth again. The beauteous tints of Paradise, uncursed by human transgression, will resume all their loveliness and verdure ; the air will be mildness, tranquillity, and fragrance. Then the apalling and mercenary system of West India slavery will be known no more; a system which, as far as I understand it, and I have not been unwatchful of its operations, is a compound of villainy and infidelity,—of villainy to man, of infidelity to God. To enslave a fellow-being, whose only crime is the colour of his skin; to rob him of his birthright—the right he has to his own person, for the sake of filthy lucre, and to trample down all the claims of humanity, and justice, and religion, for the miserable purpose of accumulating wealth, is, of all public and unblushing crimes, the most revolting and sickening to the heart of compassion. But neither the sophistry which pleads for its continuance for the sake of political expediency, nor the avaricious clamor for the indemnification of slave-dealing men, nor the scowling demon of derision that is abroad against all the generous humanity of my country, nor the fifty-times refuted tales of the sweet and luscious life of the degraded negro, shall ever induce me to compromise my honest and unbought indignation, nor allure me to look with any feeling short of horror, on a scheme which I hesitate not to characterize, as a most wanton and infamous conspiracy against the dearest privileges of man, and the righteous claims of his Maker!
Forgive, my brethren, the strong expressions which my heart has prompted me to utter. If they appear severe, the subject must be my apology; I can neither retract nor soften them down. O that men would but learn of their Divine Redeemer, " to do unto others as they would that others should do to them.” “ Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."* Amen.
• Phil. iv. 8.
MATTHEW vii. 13, 14.
• ENTER YE IN AT THE STRAIT GATE: FOR WIDE IS THE
GATE, AND BROAD IS THE WAY THAT LEADETH TO
It is generally supposed, that the Saviour delivered these words, with a view to caution his hearers against the false doctrines which were propagated by the Scribes and Pharisees. They are, doubtless, designed to follow up the exhortations he has just delivered, and to rouse the attention of his disciples to the cultivation of that devotional feeling, the observance of that temperance, the exercise of that candour, and the practice of that justice, of which He has spoken, as the essential fruits of true religion. Such duties are commonly disagreeable to the human heart, and by no means easy to the corrupted and degenerate nature of man; they are, nevertheless, constituent principles of Christian faith, and must be embodied if we would enter into life; for their exemplification is necessary to demonstrate the existence of that change of heart, without which there
is no salvation, We must not be content to walk in the broad road of Jews and heathens, in which there were no self-denials, no painful sacrifices of ease, wealth, or worldly honour required; but entering in at the strait gate, and pursuing the narrow way—the way which these elevated precepts have marked out to us, we may avoid destruction, and obtain everlasting happiness.
The imagery in the text is supposed to be taken from the public and private paths among the Jews, which led to the temple; the former of which was four times the dimensions of the latter, and were crowded by passengers; while the narrow way was travelled by few. But whatever may be the reference, the sentiment is perfectly obvious. “ Would you, therefore," as though He had said, “ be holy and happy, then you must dare to be singular. Regardless of the difficulties of the path, ye must strive, agonize, to enter into the way of life by faith and repentance, however painful to your nature, or humbling to your spirit. Ye must abandon the high road of the world, which is crowded by multitudes, all hastening on to perdition, and choose the narrow and almost deserted path, which will certainly bring you to the presence and enjoyment of your God.” In discoursing on these words, I request your attention,
TO THE WAY OF SINTO THE PATH OF HOLINESS - AND TO A FEW LESSONS OF INSTRUCTION
WHICH THE SUBJECT UNFOLDS.
I. THE WAY OF SIN WHICH WE ARE DIRECTED
Christians are often described as travellers, and religion as the way in which they walk. In allusion to the various courses which men pursue, the Saviour, in these words, states the contrast between the two paths which run through this world, one of which leads to destruction, the other to the throne of God and the Lamb. Both these roads are represented as entered by a gate, the use of which is too well known to need any comment. The figure is not unfrequent in the sacred writings :-Jacob employed it at Bethel ; David in the temple at Jerusalem; and our Lord, in reference to himself, “ as the door, through which if any man entered in, he should be saved.”
But of the gate through which the world pass, and of the road in which they travel through the journey of life, there are four things distinctly specified in the text, Let us notice them respectively.
First. The gate is wide ; it requires no difficulty to pass it; multitudes may go through together. It is also easily found ; you have only to look abroad into the streets, and you will see it at once. Some of you, I fear, may find it in the evening, in evil association with the ungodly, the Sabbath-breaker, and the profane. Oh, my beloved friends, and my young friends in particular, let me urge you not to mingle with the trifling and giddy throng, of whom, to say the least, we may adopt the observation of an apostle : “ Lovers of pleasure, more than lovers of God.” “But the end of these things is death."
Secondly. As the gate is wide, the way is also broad. It is, as the word imports, spacious, free, open, without a fence to inclose those who have entered, or exclude
wish to enter. It is a road in which all the lawless appetites of the apostate and corrupted heart may riot without restraint. There the prodigal may wander, who lives but to spend his substance on his lusts; there the profligate and the profane may roam, who live but to be a moral pestilence to the world, and a curse to themselves; there the infidel, too, may travel along, denying the truth because it condemns his sins; and there the hypocritical professor may mingle with them all. Yes,