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Does he command us to strive to enter, for the pur: pose of making certain more certain ? Is it a work of supererogation to strive to enter ? If it be necessary, and you have not done it, nor are doing it, what then? I will leave you to make the inference.
In view of this declaration of him who spake as never man spake, whose word stands fast forever, what shall we think of his prospects, who not only is not striving, but is not doing any thing to enter in at the strait gate? Is he likely to get in ?
Again ; with this passage before us, what must we think of the doctrine of universal salvation ? Christ teaches us that striving is necessary to enter in,
and he speaks of many who shall seek to enter in, but shall not be able. But, according to the universalist, one cannot help getting in; not only need he not strive to enter, but though he should strive to keep out, he would not. He has not to force his way to heaven, but heaven is forced upon him. It is a very comfortable doctrine, however, to those who do not like the straitness of the gate, and narrowness of the way to life ; and yet the comfort of it does not last long.
But while this passage inculcates the necessity of striving, it also holds out encouragement to strive. Strive to enter and you shall succeed in entering. Your efforts shall not be in vain. This direction was never intended to mock sinners, as if it were said, “Strive, but after all your strivings, you may never enter in."
There is a caution I would give to those who conceive that they are striving to enter in. It is that
they take care, that, while they are doing some things to get in, they be not doing other things, calculated to keep them out, and thus defeat their own efforts. This is frequently the case, but I have no time now to illustrate it.
The subject is now before you ; and what will you do? Will you presume that you have entered in, in the absence of all scriptural evidence that you have? Or, will you say that it is not absolutely necessary to enter at this gate that life may be obtained without it? thus staking your soul on the peradventure that Jesus Christ may have been mistaken. Or, will you contend that you are not a lost creature ? Or, whether you are or not, will
you to the conclusion that you will give yourself no concern about your salvation ? Or, not taking any of these grounds, but admitting the necessity of entering in at the strait gate, will you linger idly about the gate, hoping for some power to thrust you in? Will you wait? How can you ? Will you not strive? Will you not exert yourself, commencing now, and throwing your whole soul into your efforts, and persevering unto success or death? Will you not? Dare you do otherwise ? Dare you travel longer in the broad way to destruction ? See what progress you have made towards it. It is the courage of madness that emboldens you to go on. Stop at this step; strive and be saved.
What! are you waiting for God ? How know you that he is not already at work within you, and that your inaction is a resistance of him? Waiting for God! Why, he has been waiting for you these
many years perhaps ! Do you expect that the presence of God with you, and his influence upon you, will be manifested before you begin to act ?
Would you not strive if you supposed that your salvation depended entirely on your own efforts ? But your efforts are as necessary now as they would be in that case. But I must leave it to Him who can, to give enforcement and effect to this exhortation.
Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
CORINTHIANS, v. 17.
This may be considered as the Apostle's own commentary on his previous declaration, “he is a new creature.” The words of the text are an expansion and explanation of the meaning of what pre. cedes them. I observe,
1. That the change which grace makes in the human character is a visible change. It is to be seen by the eye, for we are invited to look at it; “behold all things are become new.” It is visible, not merely visible, but truly so; there is a visible change, because there is an invisible one; a change without the expression and effect of a change within ; an alteration of life, consequent upon an alteration of heart. It must be visible, if all things become new, for a part of these things are external, and the renovation as it respects them is necessarily obvious to the senses. The visibility of which I speak, will appear both to ourselves and to others. The alteration that grace is supposed to have made in our character, we must ourselves discern. And if a man entertains a hope that the change has taken place in him, and yet is not able to perceive that he is in any wise different from
what he was ere he entertained the hope, that man ought rather to fear than hope. It must appear also to others. It behooves us so to live and conduct ourselves that men shall take knowledge of us that we have been with Jesus. We must pass for Christians in the world. We must seem to be religious as well as be so actually. How otherwise can we be the lights of the world? Are we not commanded to let our light shine before men, and is not a most important and benevolent object to be accomplished thereby, that they seeing our good works may glorify our heavenly Father? Must we not show our faith by our works? And are we not directed to abstain from all appearance of evil ? Hear what Peter says, “ Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles, that whereas they speak against you as evil doers, (for the best men are liable to be spoken against; our Saviour and his Apostles were,) they may, by your good works, which they shall behold, (what! be silenced and put to shame ? Ah, much more than that) glorify God in the day of visitation." You cannot live so as at all times to avoid calumny, but you can live so as to give the lie to the calumny, and perhaps so as even to convert the calumniator. Yes, we must pass for Christians, we may not live in such a manner, that men shall lift up their hands in expression of astonishment, when it is announced to them that we profess to be Christians. “What! they Christians, followers of Christ, possessors of the Spirit of the Son of God, like him, I should not have thought it! is it possible ?" Brethren, are any of us so living that those who see us are sur