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so many great scholars as their rabbies were, should be mistaken, and none of them understand the depth and meaning of the law as well as he; and that so many' devout and holy men, their Affideans, Pharisees, and Esenes, should be unacceptable to God, and in the wrong way to happiness. Others probably, who were convinced of the juftness of his doctrine; might be frighted with the prospect of
difficult duties, despair of ever living up to lo nice a scheme, and reflecting how singular and unfashionable their endeavours towards it must make them look, would rather chuse to go on in that easier way wherein others went, and run the venture with the rest. To both these forts of men our Saviour seems to apply himself in this paragraph, which, if I may be allowed to give you the sense of it in other words, is as follows.
" Are ye alarmed at the fingularity of my “ doctrine, and the severity of the morals I
have laid before you? Be not offended at ei: " ther.
"Tis God that prescribes your duty, your part is to do it.
Whatever others teach, " whatever others practise, assure your felves that “ such a religion as will bring you safe to hcaven,
is a severe and awful thing, and requires a greater industry and application, than your “ dočtors have suggested to you. 'Tis hard, but “ not impracticable; it may be attain'd to, but it 66 must be with labour: A strait and difficult path, ? and few will go along with you in it; but it « leads to happiness, and 'tis infinitely worth your
, while, whatever pains ye take in it. It's true, " the wise, the learned, the great, the many of < this world, that love to take up with an easy 6 scheme, which may indulge their senses and their Si passions, will beckon you another way, and
count you singular and morose, if you comply " not with them: But truth is not to be deter
“ mined by the number of those that hold an opi" nion, nor the way to heaven distinguished by a “ multitude of examples. Beware therefore, that
an implicit confidence in these mislead you not: " For the road they take is broad indeed and “ smooth, and much frequented, but it leads to e“ verlasting misery
The gate and way that leads to life, being represented here as so strait and narrow, that few will care to pass through it, or to travel in it; in what sense must we understand that declaration of our Saviour, that * his yoke is easy, and his burden light? As also that of St. John, that his t commandments are not grievous ? Here is no contradiction, because an affair that has many difficulties and much perplexity in it, may yet be easy, in comparison with another still more laborious; that which is really toillom in it felf, may yet upon some confiderations be not only well supported, but delightful; as that which is really easy and agreeable in its own nature, may by circumstances be render'd grievous. To apply this to the present question; Christianity is a scheme of rational and noble precepts, easy in themselves to be performed; but through the corruption of our nature, the force of that original fin which has bent all our faculties to what is evil, and the power of custom, which has strengthen'd it by inveterate habits of sin, religion (being design'd to rectify these distortions) must needs become a painful and severe talk to us. Yet difficult as it is, in such unhappy circumstances, a fervent love of God will make it eafy and delightful, which is what the Apostle means, when he says, that: those commandments are not grievous. when we consider the strength of divine grace alsisting our weakness; 'tis ealy, when we are well
* Matth. xi. 30.
t John v. 3.
accustomed to it, however difficult in the first attempts; or at least, whatever difficulties we have to struggle with in our whole christian course, the exceeding and eternal weight of glory, which is the prize we labour for, will smooth the ruggedness of the way, and make us easy in the expectation of that blessed hope; and take the matter how we will, the system of Christianity is, upon the comparison, a far more easy yoke, and a much lighter burden, than the dark, and tedious, and numberless ceremonies of the Jewish law, or of the heathen superstition.
But in what respects the christian way to heaven, is a difficult and uneasy path, will more fully appear, if we consider,
I. What the way to happiness is.
vert men out of it, or hinder their making a
ny great progress in it. I. First, we must enquire what the way to happiness is, which may be resolved most suitably to our present purpose in these particulars.
(1.) It is a way of obedience. (2.) An obedience that must be universal. (3.) That must be constant. And (4.) That must be cordial, or from the heart.
(1.) The way to heaven lies in obedience, viz. to the laws and precepts of the Gospel; and this is the first of those instances which makes the passage strait and troublesome to us. When Christ invites the weary sinner, him who is laden with the weight and burden of his fins, to come to him; and when he invites him to do this in order to his ease and rest;
; yet even then he tells him, that he must lay a yoke upon him: Come unto me all ye that labour and are beavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take
my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. How easy soever it is made to us by his assistance, yet observe that it is a yoke still; and though it be light, by virtue of the strength and help that he gives to us, yet still it is, and is stiled a burden, not in respect of the intrinsic nature of his precepts; for he has put no hardships upon us, commanded nothing that is in it self impracticable or burdensome; but mercly in regard of the obedience that must be paid to them. For all obedience is grievous to human nature; it supposes a law, and a law infers a restraint, and all restraint is troublesome to them that understand themselves no better than the generality of mankind do, according to the old and common observation, Nitimur in vetitum ; We desire to do that which is forbidden, and that because it is forbidden. Altho’ it be very true, that the holy precepts of our Lord, where they restrain us from doing of any thing, restrain us from our own inconveniences; and where they determine to our duty, determine to our advantage, to do that which is good for us; yet such is our natural desire of liberty, of doing or omitting as we please, that all reitraint of this liberty is matter of trouble to us.
(2.) But then, secondly, this will yet farther appear,
if we consider, that the way to happiness is universal or general obedience to all Christ's precepts, not only to those that offer less contradiction to our appetites and desires, but even to those, and those especially, which are levelled against the Itrongest and most prevailing sinful inclinations in
And thus St. Paul writes to Timothy, * Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in unccrtain riches. This charge was to be given to them rather than any
other, because they were most exposed here, and likeliest to yield to that temptation. The Prophet Jeremy suggests the fame, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might; let not the rich man glory in his riches. The wise man is not so likely to value himself
upon his power or riches; nor the man of
power upon his wealth or wisdom; nor yet the rich man upon his fagacity or might: He applies the precept therefore to such instances, as it is most natural for a man so qualified to place his confidence in; against this he muft especially keep upon his guard, as the vanity or sin that does molt easily beset him. And this is one thing that much straitens the gate to heaven; for men would willingly in some respects, and in some instances, deny themselves for a future reward; but they would not do it in those instances wherein they are most of all concerned. # Good Master, says the young man in the Gospel, what Mall I do that I may have eternal life? Our Saviour answers, Keep the Commandments; and having repeated several of them to him, he tells our Saviour, All those have I kept from my youth up, what lack I yet? To this it is answered, If thou wilt be perfect, go and fell that thou hast, and give to the pour, and thou Malt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me.
And what did he answer to. this command? That follows in the next words, When he heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great podėssions. See here how far a man may go in obedience to those precepts of Christ, where his own particular inclinations are not peculiarly contradicted, and yet make a full stand, when he finds any contradiction in these. Here then lies the straitnefs or narrowness of the gate which leads to life, that it requires universal
t Jer. ix. 23.
# Mat. xix.