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and it shall be opened unto you." The neglect of this is a third grand hinderance of holiness. Still we "have not, because we ask not." O how meck and gentle, how lowly in heart, how full of love both to God and man, might ye have been at this day, if you had only asked ;-if you had continued instant in prayer! Therefore now, at least, "Ask, and it shall be given unto you." Ask, that ye may thoroughly experience and perfectly practise the whole of that Religion, which our Lord has here so beautifully described. It shall then be given you, to be holy as He is holy, both in heart and in all manner of conversation. Seek, in the way he hath ordained, in searching the Scriptures, in hearing his word, in meditating thereon, in fasting, in partaking of the Supper of the Lord, and surely ye shall find: ye shall find that pearl of great price, that faith which overcometh the world, that peace which the world cannot give, that love which is the earnest of your inheritance. Knock; continue in prayer, and in every other way of the Lord: be not weary or faint in your mind: press on to the mark: take no denial: let him not go until he bless you and the door of mercy, of holiness, of heaven, shall be opened unto you.
19. It is in compassion to the hardness of our heart, so unready to believe the goodness of God, that our Lord is pleased to enlarge upon this head, and to repeat and confirma what he hath spoken. "For every one," saith he, "that asketh, receiveth;" so that none nccd come short of the blessing; "and he that seeketh," even every one that seeketh "findeth" the love and the image of God; "and to him that knocketh," to every one that knocketh, the gate of righteousness shall be opened. So that here is no room for any to be discouraged, as though they might ask, or scek, or knock in vain. Only remember always to pray, to seck, to knock, and not to faint. And then the promise standeth sure. It is firm as the pillars of heaven;-yea, more firm; for heaven and earth shall pass away; but His Word shall not pass
20. To cut off every pretence for unbelief, our blessed Lord, in the following verses, illustrates yet farther what he had said, by an appeal to what passes in our own breasts. "What man," saith he, "is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will give him a stone?" Will even natural affection permit you to refuse the reasonable request of one you love? "Or if he ask a fish, will give him a serpent?" Will he
give him hurtful, instead of profitable things? So that even from what you feel and do yourselves, you may receive the fullest assurance, as, on the one hand, that no ill effect can possibly attend your asking, so, on the other, that it will be attended with that good effect, a full supply of all your wants. For "if ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven," who is pure, unmixed, essential goodness, "give good things to them that ask him?" or, (as he expresses it on another occasion,) "give the Holy Ghost to them that ask him?" In Him are included all good things; all wisdom, peace, joy, love; the whole treasures of holiness and happiness ; all that God hath prepared for them that love him.
21. But that your prayer may have its full weight with God, see that ye be in charity with all men. For otherwise, it is more likely to bring a curse than a blessing on your own head; nor can you expect to receive any blessing from God while you have not charity towards your neighbour. Therefore let this hinderance be removed without delay. Confirm your love towards one another, and towards all men. And love them, not in word only, but in deed and in truth. "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the Law and the Prophets."
22. This is that royal law, that golden rule of mercy, as well as justice, which even the Heathen Emperor caused to be written over the gate of his palace: a rule, which many believe to be naturally engraved on the mind of every one that comes into the world. And thus much is certain, that it commends itself, as soon as heard, to every man's conscience and understanding; insomuch that no man can knowingly offend against it, without carrying his condemnation in his own breast.
23. "This is the Law and the Prophets." Whatsoever is written in that law which God of old revealed to mankind; and whatsoever precepts God has given, by his holy prophets, which have been since the world began; they are all summed up in these few words, they are all contained in this short direction. And this, rightly understood, comprises the whole of that Religion which our Lord came to establish upon earth.
24. It may be understood either in a positive or negative sense. If understood in a negative sense, the meaning is, ( Whatever ye would not that men should do to you, do not
ye unto them.' Here is a plain rule, always ready at hand, always easy to be applied. In all cases relating to your neighbour, make his case your own. Suppose the circumstances to be changed, and yourself to be just as he is now; and then beware that you indulge no temper or thought, that no word pass out of your lips, that you take no step, which you should have condemned in him, upon such a change of circumstances. If understood in a direct and positive sense, the plain meaning of it is, 'Whatsoever you could reasonably desire of him, supposing yourself to be in his circumstance, that do, to the uttermost of your power, to every child of man.'
25. To apply this in one or two obvious instances: It is clear to every man's own conscience, we would not that others should judge us, should causelessly or lightly think evil of us; much less would we that any should speak evil of us,-should publish our real faults or infirmities. Apply this to yourself. Do not unto another what you would not he should do unto you; and you will never more judge your neighbour, never causelessly or lightly think evil of any one; much less will you speak evil; you will never mention even the real fault of an absent person, unless so far as you are convinced it is absolutely needful for the good of other souls.
26. Again: We would that all men should love and esteem us, and behave towards us according to justice, mercy, and truth. And we may reasonably desire, that they should do us all the good they can do, without injuring themselves; yea, that in outward things, (according to the known rule,) their superfluities should give way to our conveniences; their conveniences, to our necessities; and their necessities, to our extremities. Now, then, let us walk by the same rule: let us do unto all, as we would they should do to us. Let us love and honour all men. Let justice, mercy, and truth, govern all our minds and actions. Let our superfluities give way to our neighbour's conveniences; (and who then will have any superfluities left ?) our conveniencies, to our neighbour's necessities; our necessities, to his extremities.
27. This is pure and genuine morality. This do, and thou shalt live. "As many as walk by this rule, peace be to them and mercy;" for they are "the Israel of God." But then be it observed, none can walk by this rule, (nor ever did from the beginning of the world,) none can love his neighbour as himself, unless he first love God. And none can love God, unless he believe in Christ; unless he have redemption through VOL. I. No. 9, 2 D
his blood, and the Spirit of God bearing witness with his spirit that he is a child of God. Faith, therefore, is still the root of all, of present as well as future salvation. Still we must say to every sinner, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved:" thou shalt be saved now, that thou mayest be saved for ever; saved on earth, that thou mayest be saved in heaven. Believe in Him, and thy faith will work by love. Thou wilt love the Lord thy God, because he hath loved thee: thou wilt love thy neighbour as thyself: And then it will be thy glory and joy, to exert and increase this love; not barely by abstaining from what is contrary thereto, from every unkind thought, word, and action, but by showing all that kindness to every man, which thou wouldest he should show unto thee.
UPON OUR LORD'S SERMON ON THE
"Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
"Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." 13, 14.
1. OUR Lord, having warned us of the dangers which easily beset us at our first entrance upon real Religion, the hinderances which naturally arise from within, from the wickedness of our own hearts; now proceeds to apprise us of the hinderances from without, particularly ill example and ill advice. By one or the other of these, thousands, who once ran well, have drawn back unto perdition ;-yea, many of those who were not novices in religion, who had made some progress in righteousness. His caution, therefore, against these he presses upon us with all possible earnestness, and repeats again and again, in variety of expressions, lest by any means we should let it slip. Thus, effectually to guard us against the former, "Enter ye in," saith he, at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it: " To secure us from the latter, "Beware," saith he, "of false Prophets." We shall, at present, consider the former only.
2. "Enter ye in," saith our blessed Lord, "at the strait gate for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."