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the sacrifice of inferior acquisitions to that of the Kingdom be thought a great matter, what shall we think of the Master's proposing to us, as he does, the sacrifice of our dearest connexions; (Matt. x. 37, 38;) nay, of our own eyes and limbs; requiring an hand or a foot to be cut off, or an eye plucked out, if necessary, for the sake of a place in the Kingdom of life? (Ib. xviii. 8, 9.) It may be well, to compare this stern requisition with the flattering deceptions of our spiritual enemy just alluded to; teaching some, that entrance into life was a matter of course, and others that it was so wide and directly before them, that they could hardly miss it.
Entrances enough there are into some sorts of life, no doubt, also obvious and staring enough; but all leading wide of the Kingdom. We are directed by our true and only guide through life, to look all the way for a narrow turning as we go on: “because (says he) strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matt. vii. 14.) It may have happened * to some of you when hurrying through the main thoroughfare of a city, to overlook the narrow turning toward the place that you were going to; while many great broad ways, where land was cheap, should be yawning, as if to swallow you up, and every one that came near them; just so do we find it in looking for “ the way that leadeth unto life.” Conceive, if you can, an islet in the ocean, or one of those very minute stars which are like islets in the heavens, and your happiness to be written therein: then conceive yourself to be enfranchised from the flesh, and furnished with the means of attaining either, as it might be, where your happiness was written.—Why you could never get to your heaven, hurry as you would, by any way but one, and that so narrow that you might be very likely to overrun it; as thousands do daily. “I am the way, (says Christ,) and the truth and the life : no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” (John xiv. 6.)
• To countrymen it often happens.
And “STRIVE (says he) to enter in at the strait gate.” (suprà.)
Many who use the Lord's Prayer, appear to have no idea of any thing being expected from them, when they say “Thy Kingdom come;" and would be rather cautious how they said, “Thy will be done,” to their Father in Heaven if they thought it meant so much as I have signified; or even perhaps, if they thought it meant any thing: as indeed it does not mean either the same here as in a common acceptation. The will of the Father, or the will of God, is a very natural expression taken, like some others that we apply to him, from the analogy supposed to exist between God and man: no wonder, therefore, if it sometimes be thought of more lightly than it deserves. Yet if one should go to say, that God has not a will of his own, as man appears to have, those very persons who think nothing of his will in general would be likely enough to think most of its denial in that case. For, according to St. Peter, Ezekiel, and others, “God is not willing that any should perish; but, that all should come to repentance:" (Pet. II. iii. 9 :) in other words, it is the will of God, that men should repent, and be saved. But if he bad any such will toward them, they may think; what should hinder its accomplishment? Yourselves.-Is any being in the world able to frustrate the will of its Author? Yes, many an ungrateful being for whom better things were intended. Alas! what man is there, who does not so much as this every day of his life? Which shews at once the necessity of understanding here the expression, “Thy will,” in a peculiar sense, and of praying daily, that it may be done accordingly by our daily improvement.
But the Kingdom of God and his will, or righteousness, being so desirable, and its pursuit so becoming as we find it, why should our heavenly Father choose to interpose so many obstacles as we find in the way of it; and to render its attainment so difficult as it is confessed to be by those who have striven most for it; still requir
ing of them a supernatural performance, to judge from his saying to a supposed defaulter, “Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that which I did not sow?” (Luke xix. 22.) For it would seem from this as if He to whom nothing is impossible required impossibilities of his creatures. And does he require impossibilities of us ? He does“for who can bring a clean thing out of an unelean? (Who can extort or procure a perfect service from such imperfect servants?) Not one,” (Job xiv. 4,) says Job. Yet the Psalmist alleges, “He will not alway be chiding : neither keepeth he his anger for ever.” (Ps. ciii. 9.) Wherefore then all that excitement, and at the same time such immense obstacles thrown in our way too ? For really they who desire most to love God, and TO OBSERVE HIS LAWS, AS WELL AS TO UNDERSTAND THEM, are less happy sometimes in their performance, than others who do not seem to make so great a point of these things : whereby his Kingdom will come sometimes to be like an house divided against itself, with endeavour on one side and success on the other, or with knowledge on one side and practice on the other. If the practice of the Kingdom were as easy as its knowledge, and to do as to know what should be done,-then indeed might men be something; then might they indeed be little “lower than the angels :" but now again, as our knowledge increases, our virtue declines: no sooner do we perceive our duty, than we begin to feel it troublesome, to faint before the obstacles either really or seemingly opposed to it, and to bewail our total insufficiency for any good part alone. Wherefore thus ? it may be asked.
The secret of the matter then is—first, that we lose nothing in this case by striving to the utmost, or as we say, beyond our ability--leaving our ability in the back-ground by improvement; though it be like straining a joint that had been dislocated in order to prevent contraction: and next, that the very imbecility and dependence which were at first such a source of regret eventually prove to be our greatest glory-the glory of the weak. “Not that we are Sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves ; but our sufficiency is of God:” (Cor. II. üï. 5:) who hath made us lower than the angels, to be crowned with glory and worship; (Ps. viii. 5;) and all through or by means of that very dependence. Therefore God forbid, that the righteousness which he expects from us should ever be possible, either without him, or by any other medium than that which he likes best, being the medium of bis Son, Jesus Christ; as he says of himself, “Without me ye can do nothing.” (John xv. 5.) And what will a man say to that? Why; I do not desire it. “If thou wilt go with me, then I will go; but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go.” (Judges iv. 8.) “ For I know whom I have believed ; and am persuaded, that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” (Tim. II. i. 12.) I know well, that I can do nothing for the Kingdom, nor even for my own salvation, without him. I am very sensible of my own dependence; I feel it more sensibly every day: and I like to have it so, that being strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, (Ib. ii. 1,) I may do what I do thereby.
A dependence so lovely and desirable, so due and unavoidable—as this may account for all the stress that is laid upon it any where, and reconcile those who are both praying and striving daily for the Kingdom to such difficulties and temptations as seem to attend them particularly in their progress through life; or through that part which may be called its militant stage. And an interesting stage it is, in which the room for apprehension can only be measured by the greatness of our expectation; there being no certainty in the same for any one on this side the grave, as there is no striving in pursuance of it for any one on the other.
Therefore “let him that thinketh he standeth also take heed lest he fall.” (Cor. I. x. 12.) Any man after making some progress in or towards the Kingdom apparently, may think with himself, as St. Paul thought when he was further advanced, “I bave fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith,” (Tim. II. iv. 7,) and be mistaken. For perhaps he has not yet "resisted unto blood;" and what trial is that?-a bloodless combat! No; instead of resting upon his arms like one who had just annihilated his enemy, he would do better, whoever he may be, to remember his Captain's injunction, and WATCH, (Mark xii. 37,)-especially considering what is to be expected as well as resisted, “A crown of righteousness—(“my joy and crown,') which the Lord, the righteous Judge will give when he comes hereafter to those who love his appearing.” (Tim. II. ir. 8.) So that we should do well to imitate, in this case, the caution and cupidity of the worldling; whose avarice, increasing continually with the board on which it feeds, will make bim believe, that he can never have enough, nor ever be anxious enough about what he has.
Indeed we can never be reasonably satisfied with our attainment in life: “as though we had already attained, either were already perfect,” (Phil. iii. 12,) considering the immensity of Perfection,-nor too watchful over it, considering how the same is watched and envied. And as we are also by nature a seeking, striving, and inquiring race, beyond any other that we know in this part of creation,-as seeking and striving form a considerable part of our waking life—it were well if a larger portion of it than is usually allotted to this purpose were bestowed in seeking and striving for that which is worthiest of our noble instinct—“THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS," by doing his will, or by waiting for him (as the prophet says)“ in the way of his judgments.” (suprà.)