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Our Lord declares also respecting himself, in terms too plain to be misunderstood : “ I am the way, the truth and the life, no man cometh unto the Father but by me.”
All then who receive the Lord Jesus Christ, by a true and living faith, are in the way of life. They draw nigh to God by that new and living way,
which he has consecrated for us; and persevering in this way, shall reach the heavenly Zion, and have right to enter by the gates into the city.
This way of life, our blessed Lord represents as difficult to fallen nature. “ Strait is the gate and narrow is the way
that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”
This difficulty arises not from the road itself, but from the nature of those who walk in it.
The first entrance is truly difficult to the awakened sinner, owing to the abounding evils of his heart, all rising up against the strait, self-denying, fleshcrucifying gate, by which he must enter.
Grace, however, enables him to overcome these workings of corruption, and to pass by deep repentance, and humble faith through the strait gate. This is a blessed step towards eternal felicity.
But when in the way of life, he finds it narrow ; for his desires, being sadly mixed with evil, too often wander after those gratifications which lie beyond the limits of the way in which he is to walk. This grieves the Holy Spirit; wounds his conscience, and occasions that warfare with his corrupt inclinations, which constitutes no small part of the fight of faith. He labours to keep his heart within the boundary of the narrow way, and to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. But still, when he would do good, evil is present with him. The law in his members wars against the law of his mind, and compels him to cry out,
“O! wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me.” Yet, this painful consciousness of evil is mercifully over-ruled for good, by driving him continually to the strong for strength,—to the Saviour for salvation. By experience he learns that his sufficiency is of God; that under all exigencies, the grace of Jesus is sufficient for him; that when he is weak, then he is strong.
The Christian has to journey to the heavenly Canaan, through the wilderness of this world; therefore, like the Israelites of old, his soul is sometimes discouraged because of the way. The world frowns-Satan assaults-providences darken-corruptions harrass. All these things produce for season much discouragement. Like Peter, he looks at the raging waves, instead of the omnipotent Saviour; and then he begins to sink into despondency, and would be overwhelmed in the deeps of mental affliction, did not the compassionate Jesus stretch out the hand of mercy, and uphold him by his mighty power.
He now learns the evil of unbelief and mistrust of a Saviour's love. He is much in prayer for the guidance and help of the Holy Spirit, by whose sacred influence and direction, he is enabled to look unto Jesus under every trial, and to walk before him in love and childlike obedience.
Thus, to every humble pilgrim, strength is imparted; realizing views of the faithfulness of Emanuel are vouchsafed ; and he is made to rise superior to every discouragement, and to walk with increasing alacrity and joy, along the narrow way which leadeth unto life eternal.
How awful is the condition of those, who entering by the wide gate into the broad way, “enlarge their desires as hell;" till having filled up the measure of their iniquity, they come, as vessels fitted for de
struction by their own wilful transgressions, into the place of everlasting torment.
What a painful consideration, that respecting the narrow way,
6. few there be that find it;" whilst of the wide gate, our Lord hath said, “ many there be which go in thereat.”
I am a dying creature, walking on the verge of an awful eternity. Heaven and hell lie before me; to one of these places, I am, at the close of every day, advanced a day's journey. This day may bring me to my eternal abode of happiness or misery. The sleep which I take this night, may be the sleep of death, -and should it be so-where would my spirit, dislodged from earth, find itself ? O! my soul, ask thyself with all the solemnity which becomes so awful a question, whither am I going ? Soon I must be called into the presence of my Judge; but what reception shall I meet with there? What award does conscience now make? Have I believed with the heart unto righteousness? Is the life which I now live, a life of faith in the Son of God? I find from the word of God, that two roads lie through the wilderness of this world. The one, at its beginning, is pleasant to carnal nature, being strewed with forbidden pleasures, sensual delights, and animal gratifications; but growing darker, and more crooked and thorny as it advances, it ends abruptly in eternal misery. The other, difficult at the entrance, requires many sacrifices, and much self-denial; but gradually increasing in light and beauty, it terminates in the blissful regions of immortal glory. In which of these roads am I now walking ?
0! my beloved Saviour! thou knowest my heart; thou art acquainted with every thought, affection, and desire that riseth within me. Thou knowest that I would follow thee along the narrow way. Lead me in the paths of righteousness-draw me
and I will run after thee. Thou art thyself the way to heavenly glory.
When I find a cross laid before me, suffer me not to turn aside ; but give me strength to take it up and follow after thee.
When the travellers in the broad road, with specious arguments and smiling faces, though with aching hearts, would labour to entice me from the path of life ; let me not be deceived by their sophistry, or ensnared by their wiles.
When the clouds of adversity darken my prospects; and the night of sorrow obscures my way, then, o ! blessed Jesus, support my fainting steps, cheer my drooping soul with thy celestial promises, and give me strength and courage equal to my day.
When Satan tempts and harasses my soul ; when inbred evils rise within me and rebel: then, gracious Saviour, put forth thy mighty arm in my defence, lest 1 fall through manifold temptations from the heavenly road.
Thou alone art my strength. In thee I am strong Increase my faith, that I may be daily united more closely to thyself. Wean me from the vanities of the world. Screen me from the enticements of sin. Guard me from the fiery darts of Satan.
Thus may I walk, O! blessed Emanuel, in close communion with thee, in the consolations of thy Spirit, in the enjoyment of thy love, in peace of conscience, and serenity of mind, till I arrive at the gates of death, where some appointed herald of glory may be stationed to conduct my disembodied spirit into thy blissful presence, there to dwell with thee and gaze on thy glories with rapture and delight for ever!
O! could I feel the sweet transforming pow'r,
A pilgrim journ'ying through a land of woe,
Blest Saviour ! look in pity on my soul,
XXXI. MERCY REJOICING AGAINST JUDOMENT.
The promises of God, which in Christ are yea and in him amen, shine with resplendent lustre in the pages of eternal truth. Nothing but unbelief can prevent the soul from enjoying the sweetness, or experiencing the purifying efficacy of these exceeding great and precious promises of grace and mercy.
The manner in which many of them are introduced by the prophets, must have filled the ancient believers with astonishment.
When the prophet, in the name of Jehovah, had been declaring to his rebellious people, their multiplied transgressions, we might naturally expect to find the catalogue of their crimes closed by a denunciation of deserved vengeance and final abandonment.
But how great is our surprise, to behold mercy rejoicing against judgment; to find, that where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.
The following striking passages will fully verify