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appointed for them; that we may all find favour in thy sight, when we shall stand before thy throne of judgement, O thou sovereign judge of all ! and that Jesus, our appointed judge under thee, may pronounce us the blessed of thee his Father; and receive us into that eternal kingdom, which of thine infinite goodness thou hast prepared for the faithful and virtuous of mankind.
Now, unto thee, O Father, the only living and true God, be rendered all praise, thanksgiving, and an increasing obedience, by us, and thy whole rational creation for ever and ever!
grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all evermore!
April 19, 1778.
MATTHEW vii. 14.
How strait is the gate and narrow the way
which leadeth unto life! and few there be that find it.
In the verse before our Lord had said, “Enter ye in at the strait
for wide is the gate and broad is the way which leadeth to destruction, and many
there be which go in thereat ;" upon which he proceeds with this pathetic remark, “ How strait is the gate and narrow the way which leadeth to life, and few there be that find it!" For so it is put in the margin of our English translation, and it ought to be adopted as the true reading, being found in some of the best ancient manuscripts, in the earliest versions of the Scriptures, and in
ancient Christian writers, and makes the observation more lively and affecting.
But, not to dwell on such remarks, though sometimes proper to be mentioned, -I proceed to what more immediately belongs to this place and the present employment of our time. Our Saviour Christ having now ended all
his precepts which he judged necessary at this time to lay before his hearers, sets himself, in the remaining part of his divine discourse, to apprize them of the dangers and difficulties they would have to encounter, if they engaged in earnest to become his disciples. A method which he always took to let men know beforehand what they were to expect if they enlisted themselves amongst his followers, that they might not be disappointed and so fall away from him, and to prevent worldly, hypocritical, or unstable persons from adjoining themselves to him, and bringing discredit on himself and his doctrines, And the connexion of the words I have read to you with the whole of what has preceded is thus well expressed*.
“ These holy precepts that I have now been delivering to you, may seem hard to men that are covetous, sensual, lovers of the world: and there are indeed but few who will be at the pains to practise them sincerely. But if ye will attain eternal happiness, ye must resolve to be imitators of those few, and be content to follow them in the narrow path of virtue. The way of vice that leads to de* See Dr. Clarke's Paraphrase.
struction is broad, safe, and easy; and 'tis in this that the careless multitude walk. But the way to happiness is narrow, and the paths' of virtue are rough; and there are but few that can deny themselves the unlawful pleasures, vanities, and gaieties of the world, that they may be able to walk therein."
This representation of the difficulties of embracing the Gospel and of leading a life in conformity to it, as entering through a strait gate, up a narrow rugged way; and the facility and agreeableness of following old habits and vicious practices, delineated as passing through a wide gate into a broad even road, is a beautiful piece of allegory, easily comprehended, and carries with it a force of instruction far beyond that of plain precepts, sinking deep into the mind and giving scope for thought and reflection.
The prophetic writers often make use of this allusion in their writings. An heathen writer, supposed to be the scholar of that excellent man Socrates, who in a book entitled A Picture of Human Life has given us an admirable and finished piece of the same kind, describes the access to virtue and happiness as along a narrow way, very little trodden