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ON STRIVING TO ENTER INTO THE KINGDOM
ST. LUKE xiii. 24.
Strive to enter in at the strait gate : for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.
Far the greater number of people appear SERM. to be in a middle state between virtue and vice; they are neither entirely good nor entirely wicked; whenever they think on the subject, they will own that there are such places as heaven and hell, and that they shall be rewarded or punished after their death, according as they shall have behaved themselves while VOL, I.
SERM. they were in this world: but they shew suf
ficiently by their actions, that their belief is not firm and steady, otherwise they would not content themselves with seeking, with using some faint endeavours to gain the kingdom of Heaven, but would strive, would exert all their might to acquire that invaluable prize.
I propose, in this discourse, to point out to you, first, some of those persons who may be said to seek the kingdom of heaven, but who only seeking it shall not attain, it; I propose, secondly, to shew what is meant by striving to gain the kingdom of heaven; and I propose, lastly, to bring forward the weighty motives by which we are urged to be amongst those who strive.
The first and lowest example, which I shall mention, of persons who seek the kingdom of Heaven, is that of those who content themselves with desires and wishes only; who think at times, what a delightful circumstance it would be to enjoy everlasting hap- SERM.
II. piness; and what a dreadful circumstance it would be, to be doomed to everlasting torments, and at those moments will call out
Lord, Lord,” but who will not deny themselves in any one instance, or stir one single step besides. · Can people of this description really expect that their wishes will be answered ? I am sure they cannot reason by what they see passing on earth. Will wishing for any thing which is valuable be sufficient to obtain it here? Will wishes clothe a man, will wishes feed him, will wishes enable him to provide for his family? Can I, by desiring it only, become learned, rich, or respectable ? No, I must add to my desires, endeavours; I must exert myself; I must study or I must labour, and that not slightly, or now and then, but vigorously and without remission, or my desires will avail me nothing. And is it possible I can
SERM. for a moment flatter myself; that when it mrequires so much pains to gain any earthly
good, I shall be advanced to everlasting joys in heaven without any pains at all ! The thing speaks for itself.
But perhaps people, who content themselves with desires only, buoy themselves up with some general notions of the goodness and mercy of God; that God is merciful, is certain, but he is likewise just; he forgives sins, but not merely because we wish it; it is necessary that we pray heartily for his forgiveness, that we are sincerely sorry that we have done amiss, that we resolve steadily to do so no more, and that we keep our resolutions : these are the terms, the only terms of acceptance, as he has repeatedly declared in the holy scriptures. Both reason and scripture therefore join to assure us, that they, who build their expectation of heaven merely on their wishes, build on no foundation.
A second description of persons that I SERM.
II. shall notice, who may be said to seek the kingdom of heaven, are those whose endeavours are only exerted by fits and starts; who, on reading any good book, hearing any awakening discourse, or on having some serious thoughts suggested to them by God's holy spirit, are for awhile religious and virtuous, but in time of temptation fall away; they are unable to resist the solicitations of vicious companions, or the enticements of desires, to which they have been used heretofore to yield ; their righteousness is like the early cloud and the morning dew; it so soon passes away.
It is indeed preferable to uninterrupted wickedness, because it gives ground to hope that it may by degrees become more steady ; but in itself it is of no avail ; he who possesses it, can only be said to seek, not to strive after the kingdom of heaven, and has therefore no grounds from scripture to flatter himself