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SERMON XI.

LUKE xiii. 23, 24.

Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that

be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.

THERE is a general propensity in the human mind to be inquisitive respecting matters above the reach of its apprehension; more especially in the investigation of religious subjects. Of this a remarkable instance is recorded in the words of the text. Our blessed Lord, after exhorting his hearers to Repentance, reproving the perverseness of the Jews in cavilling at his Miracles, and foretelling the rapid and irresistible progress of the Gospel, notwithstanding their endeavours to effect its overthrow, was accosted by one of his followers, who, instead of being moved to a serious application of these discourses to his own spiritual improvement, sought to gratify a vain and presumptuous curiosity respecting the number of those whom God had ordained to Salvation :-“ Lord,” says he,

are there few that be saved ?”

Possibly this question was put with a view to draw from our Lord a more explicit declaration respecting the extent of his Religion ; whether it was to embrace all mankind, or the Jews only, who were accustomed to consider themselves exclusively entitled to the favour of God. Or it might be suggested by an apprehension of the great difficulty of complying with those conditions on which the offer of Salvation through the Gospel was tendered to mankind. Or, perhaps, it originated in a mere fondness for idle and fruitless speculations, such as serve only to bewilder the understanding, and turn the thoughts aside from matters of higher moment. Be that as it may, neither to the question itself, nor to the

person

who

proposed it, does it appear that our Lord vouchsafed a direct answer.

But “ he said unto m,(addressing his discourse to the disciples in general, and not to this inquirer in particular,) “ Strive to enter in at the strait

many,

I

say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.”

From our Lord's conduct on this occasion, we are led to infer that he considered the question to be an unnecessary and improper

gate: for

subject of inquiry. His reply intimates that it is one of those “ secret things” which“ be

long unto the Lord our God,” and such as it does not concern us to know; since, whatever may be foreseen or predetermined by infinite Wisdom respecting it, each person's individual Salvation will still depend on his “ striving to enter in at the strait gate;" and those who “seek,” or expect, “to enter in” without so doing, will ultimately fail of suc

cess.

Nevertheless, few subjects have been more fruitful of contention than those which relate, in the first place, to the Divine Decrees respecting the Salvation of mankind; and, in the next place, to the extent and operation of the Divine Grace, by which that Salvation is effected: the first involving the Universality of the Christian Redemption ; the second, its Efficacy: points, unquestionably of fundamental importance; so important, indeed, that a doubt on either may be fatal to our peace of mind, unless we be content to build our hopes on imaginary revelations made for our own personal conviction, or on a vague and presumptuous confidence in our own personal deserts.

In the present Discourse I shall confine myself to the former of these questions, that which relates to the Universality of the Christian Redemption, whether the offer of Salvation is limited in its extent, so as to preclude any who are desirous of obtaining it from participating in its effects ?

The words of the text seem, by implication at least, to decide this question. “ Strive,says our Lord, “ to enter in at the strait

gate ;” an admonition, which were surely nugatory, if any to whom it is addressed were already precluded from entering in, by a positive Decree of the Almighty. For, who need strive for that, which, if God have already decreed it, he must be sure to obtain, whether he strive or not; and which, if God have decreed otherwise, his utmost efforts to obtain must fail of success? Are we not here, then, by implication at least, clearly taught, that, in some respect or other, every man's personal Salvation depends upon his own endeavours?

A similar inference may be drawn from our blessed Saviour's admonition, “ Not every “ one that calleth me, Lord, Lord, shall enter “ into the kingdom of heaven, but he that “ doeth the will of my Father which is in “ heaven;" also from St. Paul's exhortation, “ Work out your own Salvation with fear and

trembling;" from St. Peter's, “ Be diligent

66

“ that ye may be found of Him in peace, “ without spot, and blameless ;” and from St. John's, “Let no man deceive you: he that “ doeth righteousness is righteous, even as “ He is righteous: he that committeth sin, is “ of the Devil.” These plain instructions it seems hardly possible to reconcile with any scheme of Salvation founded upon irrespective and unconditional Decrees.

Equally difficult is it to reconcile such a scheme with the declarations of Holy Writ, that God is “not willing that any should

perish, but that all should come to repent“ance;" that he would “ have all men to be “ saved, and to come to the knowledge of the “ truth;” and that he “

gave

himself a ransom for all.These enlarged and comprehensive views of the Christian Dispensation ill accord with the opinions of those who would restrict the great work of Redemption to a chosen few, for whose exclusive benefit they conceive it to have been originally preordained.

Were we to concede, however, that there are some passages of Scripture, which, when detached from their context, and abstractedly considered, appear to convey a meaning favourable to such opinions; yet this will not suffice to do away the more unambiguous and

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