Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

151

LETTER VII.

The disposition to cherish discouraging feelings.- Passages of

scripture often wrongly interpreted, or misapplied. – Explanations of several.-Luke xiii. 24.- Prov. i. 28.-Hebrews xii. 16, 17.-Hosea iv. 17.

MY DEAR SIR,

I would not say that it is always perverseness in the disposition of the inquirer, which leads him to misapply the language of the scriptures ; though there might be some truth in a charge of this nature. The timidity which the importance of the subject may produce in his mind, will easily awaken suspicions against himself: and they may be brought into further activity by any thing which wears the semblance of discouragement. This is their natural effect upon a temper whose bias is sorrowful, and which is so much more readily attracted by difficulties than by the simplicity of the gospel : especially as such a mind is so prone to look for causes of perplexity out of itself, and to fancy their existence where there may be no reason for fear. An accusing conscience is not only distrustful, but is a skilful artificer of its own sorrow.

Some of the scriptural passages which you have noted, are certainly adapted to awaken the inconsiderate, and to promote in us all a diligence to make our calling and election sure. But not one of them was designed to thwart the purpose of the sincere inquirer, or to render more precarious the confidence which he is bound to repose in the Saviour. For proof of this position, let us examine some of those passages which are usually considered as discouraging. We will begin with that in the thirteenth chapter of Luke: "Strive to enter in at the straight gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.”

The difficulty which this text presents, arises from disconnecting it from the subsequent verse : and hence it is concluded, that not all who apply sincerely for salvation will be embraced in the number of the saved. According to this interpretation, the Redeemer's argument in favour of diligence, is drawn from the frequent failure of effort in the awakened sinner: a failure which is attributed to a defect in the manner of seeking, or to a want of lively earnestness and of perse

verance.

Now, it is perfectly true that inactivity is wholly inconsistent with success; that fundamentally mistaken notions are equally so; and that he who asks for pardon and mercy, without feeling passage which

the importance of the boon which he solicits, will ask in vain. The word in this passage we translate “strive,” is a strong figure of speech, importing all that ardour and resolution which distinguished the successful antagonist on the arena, or the victorious soldier on the field of battle : and it intimates that the “straight gate” is surrounded by powerful foes, through whom he is to contend his way. It gives the reason of failure in many, who set out with apparent sincerity. But, while it does this, it prejudges no awakened and penitent sinner.

Had the Saviour meant, that persons of the same degree of sincerity might fail or succeed ; and that the sovereignty of God, independently of the desires and exertions of the applicant, or of his faith or repentance, would decide the question of success; this would have been not only inconsistent with scripture, not only discouraging in the extreme, but remote from our Lord's apparent design. He was not speaking of a change of heart, or the beginning of a new life. This had been his subject on a former occasion, when the expression “straight gate” referred to the commencement of the Christian career. But that occasion is not to be confounded, either in its time or circumstances, with the present, in

*

* Matt. vii. 13.

which the same term has reference to the end of life, the entrance into heaven.

The present passage alludes to a marriage festival, according to the splendid manner and numerous attendance by which it was distinguished in eastern custom ; and during which the wicket, or narrow gate, alone was left open, that the crowd might not intrude, and that none but invited or accepted guests might enter. In such ceremonies, after a given hour, the door was shut, and all ingress became impracticable.

Observe, then, that there is nothing in this language of Jesus Christ, at all implying that any who come to him will be cast out.

But if a love of the world keep the sinner from cordially acquiescing in the method of grace, and he is rejected accordingly, the fault is entirely his own ; while the justice of God will be vindicated in his condemnation at the last day; and that, too, although the excluded sinner may have worn the badge of a profession, and enjoyed all the privileges of light and knowledge.

That passage in Proverbs which you quote, “ Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me,"* is less disheartening than you

.

Prov. i. 28.

imagine. The whole sentence contains a solemn warning to those who are averse from the knowledge of their natural condition, (the great mark of the unregenerate), and who practically despise the overtures of divine mercy: and even then the warning is taken from the final desolation of the impenitent, and not from God's manner of dealing in the present world. The word “ early," which obscures the sense, should be exchanged for “earnestly,” a translation which conveys a more consistent sense, and is the accessory meaning of the Hebrew expression.

Your next quotation deserves more particular notice ; not because it really contains any very serious difficulty in itself, but because the mischievous impressions which a misunderstanding of it has sometimes left, are deep and distressing. “ Lest there be any—profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birth-right: for ye know how that, afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected; for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears."*

There is something truly terrifying in the idea of a person deeply regretting his past misconduct, labouring to repent of the evil, but utterly unable to affect his mind with a proper sense of it: and

* Heb. xii. 16, 17.

« ElőzőTovább »