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Strive to enter in at the strait gate : for many, I say unto
you, shall seek to enter in, but shall not be able.... Luke xiii. 21. Thou feeble-minded disciple, weak in faith, thy Jesus speaks not thus to disceurage thee from seeking salvation by him only; for he also says, “Every one that seeketh findeth.” But rather he hereby animates and encourages thy soul in striving against every enemy that opposeth thy entering his kingdom by the strait gate, even by his one atonement, and one righteousness only. He designs also to shew that men may not only seek, but strive, yea, strive as in an agony “to enterin, but shall not be able.” Why? Because they expect to enter the kingdom by some other gate than Jesus. But, says the apostle, “No man is crowned, except he strives lawfully.” Earnestness, zeal, activity, avail nothing, while Jesus is not the oNLY object: his blood, the only plea for pardon; his righteousness, the only hope for acceptance. But this, in the eyes of self-righteous professors, makes the gate appear too strait indeed. Hence they seek to enter, by ways more pleasing to their pride, and more agreeable to the corrupt lusts of their nature. So that striving is not so much opposed to seeking, as the strait-gate Jesus is to every other method of salvation of man's devising. There is an awful denunciation against such....Isa. xlv. 9: “Woe be to him that striveth with his Maker.” Shall potsherds of the earth dare contend against the sovereignty of God's wisdom, power, and grace? Here is the strife of the Pharisee. And in opposition to the sloth and licentiousness of the Antinomian, says our Lord to all his disciples, * St Rive....strive, by my power which strengthens you, against every enemy that opposeth your entering my kingdom, by M.E.” As surely as there is a devil in hell, there will be false teachers on earth. So long as thou continuest in the body, thou wilt have corrupt lusts, carnal reason, the workings of pride, unbelief, and self-righteousness. Now all these unite to oppose thy faith, and contend against thy hope; but thy master, who calleth thee to arms, bids thee “be of good courage, and strive for the mastery.” Mn his strength thou art sure to conquer and win the prize. “Press forward, striving against sin,” Heb. xii. 4....“striving for the faith of the gospel,” Phil. i. 27....striving fervently in prayers,” Col. iv. 12....“striving according to his workings, who worketh mightily in his people,” Chap. i. 29.
Give light, O Lord, to see the gate, Turn off my eyes from other hopes,
And strength to strive to enter in That would beguile my soul;
Ishy art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thon disquieted within me? Hope thou in God, for I shall yet
praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.... Psalm xlii. 11.
WE are not to expect the sunshine of joy all the way through this vale of tears. Comfortable frames and joyful feelings, though sweet and delightful, are not always so profitable to the soul. Were we always on the mount of joy, alas, we should forget we are strangers and pilgrims on the earth; but should be for building tabernacles of rest in a polluted place; and cry out with the highly-favored disciples, “It is good for us to be here; but they knew not what they said.”....Luke ix. 33. It is the glory of a christian to live by faith on Jesus; to judge of his Saviour's love from the word of truth, more than by sense and feeling; yea under dejection and disquiet of soul, then to hope and trust in God, to check and rebuke one's self for doubts and diffidence; this is truly the exercise of faith. - Faith supports the soul, and lifts it above the determinations of carnal reason and the suggestions of sense. The believer is to abide steadily by the word of truth, though in heaviness for a season; being persuaded that shortly he shall rejoice in and praise God, even for this gloomy dispensation; concluding from the word of God's grace and faithfulness, “Jehovah Jesus is the health of my countenance, and my God.” This is the very joy of faith. Such the sweet experience of David. Mark the frequent declarations to this purpose in the 42d and 43d Psalms. The Holy Ghost hath recorded these for our instruction. Disciple, it is well for thee to learn wisdom hereby. Thy frame may vary; the foundation of God's love standeth sure; his promises cannot fail; the word of truth, yea the oath of Jehovah, are engaged for the salvation of all who “ have fled to Jesus for refuge.” Thou mayest meet with many things, from within and without, to cast down thy soul, to distress and disquiet thee; but thou art called to look to Jesus, not to stagger at the promises through unbelief; but, like the father of the faithful, “against hope to believe in hope;” not to consider thine own corrupt nature, its lustings to evil, its enmity to grace, so as to give up thy hope. There is ever cause of humility, but no reason for casting away thy confidence in Jesus in and under thy worst frames. Though thou sinkest to hell, in the view of thy deserts, yet through the righteousness of Jesus, life and salvation are procured for the hell-deserving. Encourage thy soul to hope in him, so shalt thou praise and glorify him. “I will bless the Lord at ALL TIMEs, his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Why so? “Because my soul shall make her boast in the Lord.”.... Psalm xxxiv. 1, 2. -
We know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; jor we shall see him as he is.... 1 John iii. 2.
Why should the Lord, who giveth us all things richly to enjoy, lay an embargo on our fully gratifying ourselves in the use of them? Why are we called to daily mortification and self-denial, as to sensual objects? Verily, it is all in love to our souls, that Jesus and spiritual objects might be more enjoyed; for experience proves the life of sense to be opposite to the life of faith. The more pleasure, comfort, and happiness we enjoy in the things of this life, this tends to make us love the world, and loath to leave it? and so our affections to Jesus cool, our desires after his appearing abate in their fervor, and we loose our longings after the unclouded sight of him in glory. So St. Paul reproves christians of old: “Are ye not carnal, and walk as men?”.... 1 Cor. iii. 3. How justly applicable is this interrogation to us also Reflect on this soul-reviving truth, Yet a little while and Jesus shall appear. So sure as he was once upon earth in our nature, he will appear again in the same human body, exalted and glorified. And can we know and believe this as an undoubted truth, live upon it in expectation, without finding a deadness to this present world, and all its enjoyments? Here we feel sin in our flesh, pains in our bodies, afflictions our companions, wanderings and deadness in duties, trials and temptations of various sorts; and innumerable evils of every kind doth this short life abound with : but at the appearing of Jesus all will be at an end; for we shall be like him: our vile bodies shall be fashioned like to his glorious body. Our souls shall be perfectly conformed to his image. In soul and body we shall eternally enjoy him. And are we the subjects of such a hope? Let us live like ourselves; as members of Jesus our head. Let us ever be pressing after him, living upon his fulness, and longing for his appearing. Most blessed sight! most desirable fruition! we shall see our Jesus as he is. Once the despised Nazarene....once the devoted victim to curse and wrath; but now the Lord of life and glory, bestowing immortality and eternal life upon his dearly-purchased, blood-bought members. O, were our hearts more with Christ on the cross, and more with him on his throne by faith, how would sin be subdued, the world overcome, Satan conquered, and our happy hearts triumphing in love! for “we are more than conquerors over all, through Jesus that hath loved us.”
O the delights, the heav'nly joys! But when our eyes behold his face,
The glories of the place, Our hearts shall love him more. Where Jesus sheds the brightest beams And while our faith enjoys this fight, Of his o'erflowing grace' We long to leave our clay :
This is the Man, th’ exalted Man, And wish thy fiery chariots, Lord, Whom we unseen adore: To fetch our souls away. . .
Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart,... 2 Chron. xxxii. 26.
Outward, gross, abominable sins, self-righteous Pharisees cry out against, and profess to humble themselves for; but to mourn over, and be humbled for heart sins, spiritual pride, &c. is peculiar to gracious souls only. We read of two things in the word, the most opposite to each other: Hear and adore! the high and lofty on E, that inhabiteth eternity, “humbleth himself” to visit man....Psalm cKiii. 6. Hear, and be astonished! “Man opposeth and exalteth himself against God.”....2 Thess. ii. 4. “Pride proceeds out of the heart,” saith Jesus....Mark vii. 21. This makes us murmur against the God of providence, fretful under his dispensations, forgetful of his benefits, and unthankful for his mercies. Pride opposeth the sovereign God of grace, and would snatch the crown of glory from the everlasting God of love, and place it upon the head of that guilty creature of a day, man. Pride swells the haughty mind with indignation against the truths of Jehovah. That salvation is wholly by grace, free favor, unmerited love, unconditional election of God the Father by Jesus Christ, is contrary to the proud vain thoughts of man; therefore man is against this. For this leaves him nothing whereof to glory in himself that he has done, or can do, to fulfil terms and eonditions, to gain an interest in salvation, or procure a title to glory. Here God alone is glorified....Christ exalted....grace reigns....and truth established; while the poor sinner's mouth is stopped, his honor laid in the dust, and in self-abasement he humbles himself for the pride of his heart. So grace triumphs over all the ruin of the fall. Thus it affects sinners when it reacheth the heart. All boasting is excluded. “O righteous Father! thy will be done,” in sovereign grace and electing love. Thou hast a right to do what thou wilt with thine own. Grace, favor, mercy, faith, repentance, hope, peace, love, holiness, heaven, all is thy free gift by Jesus. None hath any claim bn thee; guilt has forfeited all. But to the wretched and helpless thou hast made thyself a debtor by free promise and sovereign proclamation in Christ Jesus. Do I see this? Is my heart soft and yielding to submit to salvation by grace only? Wherefore is this to me, while others are blinded to the truth, and their hearts hardened againstit? The work is thine; all the glory is due to thee alone; for “even Bø, righteous Father, it seemed good in thy sight.” - 2 Such are the sentiments of gracious, humble souls; to such he “giveth more grace.” “For God resisteth the proud, (who oppose the Father's electing love, and the righteousness of his Son) but giveth grace to the humble,” (whose hope is not in himself, but in the Lord his God). “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.”....I Pet. v. 6.
David said moreover, The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.... 1 Sam. xvii. 37. Faith, by ancient writers, has been stiled ‘the queen of graces.” As such she displays her dignity, by disdaining to consult any power below the King of saints. When she calls in reason and reflection upon past experiences, it is to give all the glory to her sovereign Lord. Thus David makes confession of faith in his king. What was the gigantic size, the formidable appearance, and the haughty threatenings of his Philistine antagonist? To the eye of his faith, all were mean and contemptible; for he saw him that was invisible: he fixed his confidence on the invisible power of the Omnipotent. He considered not himself: “he was strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might:” he had sweet experience of the truth of his Lord: “To him that believeth, all things are possible.”....Mark ix. 23. He had seen the power of the Lord in delivering him from the fierceness of a lion, and from the strength of a bear; and therefore says, not with a perhaps or a peradventure, but absolutely in full confidence of faith, “The Lord hath delivered, and he will deliver.” And the history fully assures us, “According to his faith, so it was.” Now “whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning.”....Rom. xv. 4. Here is a lesson of instruction, from which disciples of Jesus may learn the doctrine of self-despair, Thine enemies are fierce as lions, strong as bears, potent and formir dable as Goliath of Gath. To know thou hast neither might nor strength, and to despair of victory from thyself, is thy wisdom. This humbling lesson proud nature is averse to; but it is profitable to the spirit. By faith we glory in the Lord, and him only. Can I look back to past experience of his grace and power? Can I call to mind, that in such danger the Lord appeared as my deliverer? At such a time I sweetly experienced the Lord's power, and triumphed over mine enemies? therefore I will trust in the Lord, and not be afraid. Past experiences encourage future hopes. A tried friend is a sure friend. To forget past mercies is ungrateful. To bury our Saviour's former dealings with our souls in oblivion, is dishonorable to him; not to consider Jesus as the only hope, and live upon him day by day in the exercise of faith, is to live below our privilege. Never arraign his love, because he suffers thine enemies to put on a dreadful form, and attack thee with violence. This is to draw thy faith into exercise, that thy soul may have larger experience of his love and deliverance. Thus saith the Lord, (most comfortable words!) “Be not afraid nor dismayed, by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s.”....2 Chron. xx. 15. Vol. I. I