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makes us relish an inward and secret pleasure, notwithstanding all the smart of affliction: so that the yoke becomes supportable, the rod itself comforts us; and we find much more delight in suffering the will of God, than if he had granted us our own. Now, to this God who loveth us, and correcteth us for our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness, and thereby of his happiness; to God the Father, Son, and blessed Spirit, be all honour, praise, and glory, now and for ever. Amen.
LUKE XIII. 23. Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that
be saved? And he said unto them, &c. Those who have so much charity and goodness as to be nearly touched with the interests of mankind, cannot but be more especially concerned about their everJasting condition; and very anxious to know what shall become of poor mortals when this scene is over, and they cease to appear on the stage of the world, being called off to give an account of their deportment on it. And, seeing we are assured that there are different, and very opposite estates of departed souls, some being admitted into happiness, and others doomed to misery, beyond any thing that we can conceive; this may put them upon farther inquiry, how mankind is like to be divided? whether heaven or hell shall have the greater share? Such a laudable curiosity as this it was, that put one of our blessed Saviour's followers to propose the question in the text. Lord, are there few that be saved? Our Saviour had been lately foretelling the great success the gospel should have; how, like a little leaven that quickly fermenteth the whole lump it is put into, Chris
tianity should soon propagate itself through the world, and many nations embrace the profession of it. This disciple, it seems, was desirous to know, whether the efficacy should be answerable to the extent? whether it should take as deep root in the hearts of those that owned it, as it was to spread itself far and wide on the face of the earth? in a word, whether the greatest part of men were to be saved by it? I called this a laudable curiosity; and there is reason to think it so, since our Saviour himself, who best knew the occasion and importance of it, doth not check, but satisfy the inquiry; which he was wont to do when the questions were useless or blamable. Those who inquired into the time of the general judgment, received no other account, but that it was inter arcana imperii; among those secrets which God reserved for himself. And, again, when they asked of the time that the kingdom should be restored unto Israel, he tells them roundly, it was not for them, it concerned them not at all to know such things as these. But here, as the question seems to have proceeded from a zeal to the honour of God, and concernment in the happiness of mankind; so the resolution of it might be very useful: and accordingly it is improved by our Saviour; who at once resolves the doubt, and presseth a very weighty exhortation, in the following words, Strive to enter in, &c. We are not at this time to prosecute the whole importance of this latter verse; for that we refer you to an excellent sermon, entitled, The way to happiness. We shall only consider the answer which is implied in it to the foregoing question; to wit, that the number of those who are to be saved is really small.
It is on this point we design to fix our meditations at this time. And indeed there is scarce any doctrine that needeth to be more inculcated: for, amongst all the stratagems whereby the great enemy of mankind doth plot and contrive their ruin, few are more unhappily successful, than the fond persuasion he hath filled them with, that heaven and everlasting happiness are easily attainable. What one saith of wisdom, Multi
ad sapientiam pervenissent nisi putassent se pervenisse, we may, with a little alteration, apply unto this purpose; That many might have reached heaven, if they had not been so confident of it. The doors of the Christian church are now very wide, and men have access unto them upon easy terms: nay this privilege descends unto men by their birth, and they are reckoned among Christians before they come well to know what it means. The ordinances and mysteries of our religion are common to all, save those whom gross ignorance or notorious crimes do exclude. There are no marks on the foreheads of men whereby we can judge of their future condition: they die, and are laid in their graves, and none cometh back to tell how it fareth with them; and we desire to think the best of every particular person. But, whatever charity be in this, there is little prudence in the inference that many draw from it, who think that they may live as their neighbours do, and die as happily as they; and, since the greatest part of men are such as themselves, heaven must be a very empty place if all of them be debarred. Thus perhaps you have seen a flock of sheep on a bridge, and the first leapeth over, and the rest, not knowing what is become of those that went before, do each of them follow their companions into that hazard or ruin. Interest and self-love do so strongly blind the minds of men, that they can hardly be put from the belief of that which they would very fain have true. Hence it is, that, notwithstanding of all we are told to the contrary; the opinion of the broadness of the way that leads to heaven, and the easy access unto it, is still the most epidemic, and I think the most dangerous heresy. Many of the commonalty are so ignorant as to avow it; and the strange security of more knowing persons doth as loudly proclaim it. I know he undertakes an unwelcome, errand, who goes about to dispossess the minds of men of such a pleasant and flattering error. But what shall we do! Shall we suffer them to sleep on and take their rest, till the everlasting flames awake them? Shall we draw their blood on our heads, and involve
ourselves in their ruin, by neglecting to advertise them of their hazard? No, my friends: duty doth oblige us, and the holy Scriptures will warrant us to assure you, that there are very few that shall be saved; that the whole world lieth in wickedness; and that they are a little flock to whom the Father will give the kingdom.
That this certain, though lamentable truth inay take the deeper impression on our minds, we shall first propose some considerations for the better understanding what great things are required in those who look for everlasting happiness, and then reflect on the actions and ways of men; that, comparing the one with the other, we may see how little ground of hope there is for the greatest part to build on.
First, then, consider the nature of that divine Majesty, whose presence and enjoyment it is that makes heaven desirable; and think how inconsistent it is with his infinite holiness, to admit impure and impenitent sinners into the habitation of his glory. Certainly he is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity. He is not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with him. The foolish shall not stand in his sight. It is strange what conceptions foolish men entertain of Almighty God, who imagine, that those who have been all their days wallowing in sin, shall be admitted into an everlasting fellowship with him. Sooner shall light and darkness dwell together, and heat and cold in their greatest violence combine, and all contrarieties of nature be reconciled. Can two walk together except they be agreed? Can there be any converse between those whose natures suit so ill together? Sure they who think to come so easily by happiness, must imagine God altogether such a one as themselves; else they could never hope that he would choose them, and cause them approach unto him. But O how widely shall they find themselves mistaken, when he shall reprove them, and set their sins in order before them: and they shall find to their confusion, that he is a consuming fire to all the workers of iniquity! Men are wont to frame a notion of God according to their
own wishing, as if he were but an empty name: and this is the common shelter against every convincing reproof. But this temerity shall at length sufficiently con fute itself, and feel that justice which it will not believe. There is not strife among the attributes of God, that one of them shall swallow up another. Mercy is open to all that forsake their sins, but justice shall seize on those who continue in them. That compassion which made God to give his dearest Son for the redemption of mankind, will never prevail for the pardon and deliverance of any impenitent sinner. Abused goodness will certainly turn into fury; and infinite mercy, being despised, shall bring down upon sinners all the dreadful effects of an omnipotent vengeance.
Consider, secondly, what that happiness is which every body doth so confidently promise to themselves; and see whether it be likely that it should be so easily attained. Glorious things are everywhere spoken of that heavenly Jerusalem; and all that is excellent or desirable in this world, is borrowed, to shadow it forth in the holy Scriptures: we are told of crowns, and kingdoms, and treasures, and rivers of pleasure, and fountains of living waters, and of an exceeding eternal weight of glory.
But all these do not suffice to convey into our minds any full apprehension of the happiness we expect; and, after all that can be said, it doth not yet appear what we shall be. These metaphors and allegories serve but to assist our minds a little, and give us some confused apprehensions of the things eye hath not seen, nor ear heard; nor can it enter into the heart of men to conceive, what God hath prepared for them that love him, said that beloved disciple that lay in the bosom of our Saviour. Can we then expect that so glorious a prize shall be gained without any labour? Shall such a recompense be bestowed on those who never were at any pains about it? What toil and travail doth it cost a man to gather together that white and yellow earth which they call money? With what care and pains do others ascend to any degree of preferment? What industry and study