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Lxxxy. We ought, in the first place, to regard it certain and indubitable, that all are not to be admitted to a participation of eternal blessedness; nay, that this will not be the privilege of many, but of very few, compared with the multitudes that perish. They are a “ little flock.”b In Noah's ark, “ few, that is, eight “ souls were saved by water.”c A still smaller number escaped the burning of Sodom, which amongst all its numerous inhabitants had not ten righteous persons. Of the six hundred thousand Israelites that departed from Egypt, only two entered Canaan. So here, “ many are called, but few are chosen." The awful admonition of Chrysostome to his hearers at Antioch is well-known : “ How many do you suppose there are “ in our city, that shall be saved? What I am about " to say, is indeed unpalatable; yet I will say it.
Among so many thousands, not a single hundred can “ be found that shall be saved : and I even doubt if “ the number be so large.” It is not our province indeed, presumptuously to determine the number of those that perish and of those that are saved; much less to pronounce a rigorous sentence respecting our neighbour, who is perhaps no worse, or even better than ourselves. Yet according to the example of our Saviour himself we earnestly press it on the attention of men, that by far the smallest proportion of them are to inherit the life everlasting. Were this duly considered, would not every one anxiously inquire; “ Lord, do I belong “ to the number?"
LXXXVI. Further, notwithstanding this warning of our Lord, there are very many that deceive themselves. Poor vain mortals! we are so blinded by self-love, and so void of understanding, that when asked what hope of future happiness we cherish in our breast, we generally class ourselves, with great confidence, among the few of whom our Lord speaks as walking in the way that leadeth unto life; and perhaps none will reply with hesitation, except the man who has the surest title to that felicity. Truly amazing, and never to be sufficiently deplored, is that supine indifference, which induces us, although so often and so faithfully warned, to suspend that incalculable weight of glory upon the slender thread of a proud imagination, and so to speak, upon a spider's web. Who is there that, though he bends his attention with energy to the most unimportant of his other affairs, yet doth not flatter himself most stupidly in this highly momentous concern, on which all depends,—and doth not presume to affirm that he has a title to heaven, although he be possessed of no evidence, and can produce no proof of his title. Are we so absolutely lost to all rationality, as thus to trifle with our life, with our soul, with our salvation ? We hear that salvation is obtained by few. And are we all bold enough to number ourselves amongst the few ? For what reason ? On what ground ? None at all, but that we think proper to do so. But why do we think proper to entertain that view of our state ? We know not; and we have no reason for our confidence to assign to our own mind, much less to others, much less to God. Oh what folly! what madness! what frenzy! What term sufficiently strong can I find, to stigmatize such deplorable supineness !
a Mat. vii. 13, 14.
b Luko xii. 32.
LXXXVII. Let us at length shake off this fatal lethargy, and know at least in this our day the things
which belong to our peace. Let us no longer suffer ourselves to be deceived by the vain illusions of dreams, but “ lay up in store for ourselves a good foundation
against the time to come.”f Let us esteem it an inviolable maxim, that vain are all our hopes of living eternally in glory, unless we now possess the beginnings of glory in true holiness, and that none can attain the blessed resurrection of the body, whose soul has not first been raised from the death of sin. For in this sense too, these words in the Apocalypse hold true: “ Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first re“surrection; on such the second death hath no power.”g It is certain, that “except a man be born of water and “ of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of “God.”h Let every one, therefore, examine himself, whether he finds the Spirit dwelling in him as the author of a new life, by which he is dead to sin, the world, and himself, and lives to God. Let him inquire, whether he lives a kind of life, which is widely different from the ordinary course of mankind; which far excels the moral probity of Philosophers, the false religious zeal of Pharisees, the feigned sanctity of hypocrites, and the most splendid virtues, which men of any description can acquire by the unassisted powers of nature. Let him see if he possesses a life that elevates the mind above the vanishing enjoyments of this world, and keeps it fixed upon God, in contemplating, loving, praying to and praising him, and in imitating his excellencies ;-a life, in fine, that exhibits evident traces of the life of God, and of that which Christ led on the earth. Since the prize under our consideration is of unbounded value, and since it is bestowed on very few, it is natural to conclude, that something peculiarly excellent must distinguish the character of such as are entitled to rank among those on whom it shall be conferred. “ For I
& Rev. xx. 6.
fi Tim. vi. 19. h John iii. 5. .
say unto you, that except your righteousness shall “ exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye
shall in no case enter into the kingdom of hea
LXXXVIII. And assuredly that man is unworthy of everlasting life, who is not determined to prefer it to all other things, and to submit to any labour or exertion, how great soever, which the Divine wisdom has prescribed as a mean of attaining it. There is a story related by Marco Paulo the Venetian,* which, although strange, is well fitted to illustrate the present subject. The substance of it is as follows. A certain Tyrant in the country of Mulete, whose name was Aloadinus, formed a band of assassins, and availing himself of their unbridled ferocity, committed such ravages that he soon became a terror to all. To induce this execrable band of soldiers to hold themselves in readiness for whatever service he required, he had recourse to the following artifice. He had planted a garden for himself, situated in a most delightful valley, surrounded with lofty mountains, and furnished with every kind of pleasure, so as exactly to resemble the paradise of Mahommed, whose doctrines were held by himself and his subjects. The entrance was guarded by a well fortified castle, secured by a strong garrison ; and there was no other way of entering or departing from the garden. Now pretending that God had intrusted him with the key of para
• Itiner. lib. i. cap. 28.
i Mat. v. 20. 89 See Note LXXXIX.
dise, the Tyrant caused those whom he wished to render thoroughly obsequious to his orders, to be first intoxicated with a kind of poisonous liquor, and when by this means overcome with sleep, to be conveyed unconsciously into his enchanting garden, that when they awoke and found themselves in the midst of such extraordinary pleasures, they might imagine they were caught up into the paradise of God. But when they had scarcely begun to taste the numerous delights around them, being stupified by the same liquor, they were carried out of the paradise. After returning to their sober senses, they could not help lamenting that they had lost so great a felicity, and were perfectly willing to suffer death for the sake of being exalted to the perpetual enjoyment of such a life. The Tyrant thus imposed on simple young men, that, prepared to exchange the present life for that felicity, they might be prodigal of their blood, and might not shrink from the most hazardous enterprize. But if so gross a deception had so powerful an effect on the minds of men, to what noble efforts ought not we to be stimulated by the certain hope and the undoubted first-fruits of a solid and substantial felicity ?
Lxxxix. God indeed has freely promised that future bliss to his people. It is “ the gift of God through “ Jesus Christ our Lord.”j Our title to eternal life is not founded on any merit of our own works, but solely on the satisfaction which Christ hath made in our stead. Let none, however, expect to obtain the possession of it otherwise than in the way of good works. The Apostle's earnest exhortation to all is, “Work out your own “salvation with fear and trembling.”k The attainment
1 Rom. vi. 23.
k Philip. ii. 12