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us from considering the odious nature of sin, or from speaking of it with proper abhorrence. Whatever detestation we may express, if it proceed not from the heart, persons of discernment will perceive that it is affected and insincere. Let ministers of religion then remember that it is not a penetrating discernment, extensive knowledge, or powerful eloquence, that will ensure to them success in the important work in which they are engaged; these shining accomplishments, una less they are accompanied with a pure heart and an unblemished character, will not give sufficient weight to their instructions: while therefore they labour to furnish their minds with knowledge, and are indefatigable in their endeavours to communicate it to others, let them apply themselves also, with equal zeal, to the improvement of their own moral character, labouring to bring it to a higher and still higher state of perfection. The greater the advances which they make in this work, the greater will be the improvement of their hearers, as well as their own honour and happiness.
2. How engaging is the representation here given us of the character of the Supreme Being! He is the Father of the human race; and we are taught to be lieve that he is infinitely more ready to assist and bless his offspring, than earthly parents can be to give good things to their children. How different is this view of him from that in which he has often been represented! Surely they must be mistaken who describe him as an inexorable Being, who can only be inclined to mercy by the sufferings and entreaties of a third person !--Surely Christ would not have called him “Our Father,
or taught us to regard ourselves as his children, had that been his character. Let us cherish in our breasts the most exalted apprehensions of the benevolence of his nature: such ideas are the most just and scriptural, as well as the most delightful, which we can entertain; they afford us the best encouragement to perform the several duties of religion required from us, particularly that to which we are here exhorted, prayer to God; for who can be averse to asking benefits of a Father, where he is sure of never being refused
any thing which it is proper for him to have? This idea of God, as a Father, affords peculiar consolation to those who have lost an earthiy parent; they will find in him one who is more able and more willing to perform the duties of that relation, than the friend whom they have lost. Let them not therefore suffer their minds to be overwhelmed with sorrow, at a calamity which is brought upon them by the hand of a Father, and which he can prevent from doing them any real injury
3. We are led to observe how happy the state of the world would be, if this excellent rule for directing our conduct towards each other, which Christ has given us, were observed ----to do to others as we would that others should do unto us. We should then have no groundless suspicions of the characters of men; no harsh censures of every trivial failing; no injustice or cruelty in the transactions of mankind; no persecution for conscience; no oppression of one part of the human race, to promote the pleasure and aggrandicement of another; no tearing men by violence from their dearest connections, to send them into cruel bondage; but the world would be a state of perfect harmony, peace and happiness. Let us exert all the influence in our power to make it so, by carrying this divine rule in our minds, and regulating our conduct by it upon all occasions.
Matthew vii. 1S. to the end.
13. 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 :
14. Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life; and few there be that find it.
By a gate the Jews understand that which leads or lets men into the knowledge of any doctrine. Thus a treatise intended as an introduction to the law of Moses, is called by one of their writers the gate of Moses. When Christ therefore exhorts his hearers to enter the strait gate, he advises them to embrace the Christian religion, a thing which it was not easy for them to do, in their circumstances, on account of their vices and prejudices; but which, however, would lead them to eternal life. When he speaks of the way likewise being narrow, he means no more than what he had before expressed by saying that the gate was strait; conforming himself herein to the phraseology of the Jews, who often vary the expression without any addition to the idea. The exhortation to receive and profess his religion is enforced by a regard not only to the happy end to which it would lead, but likewise to the small number of those who, he knew, would be induced to embrace it; where many err, there is the greater reason for caution.
The rejecting the pretensions of Christ, and continuing in unbeliet, is the wide gate and broad way which men would find it easy to enter, and which most of the Jews actually chose, although it led to destruction.
According to this interpretation, Christ does not here foretel great difficulties that would attend the sincere profession of his religion, through all ages, and through every period of human life, but contines his views to present circumstances, and to such obstacles as men would meet with in first embracing the Christian religion at that time. His language is therefore perfectly consistent with what is said in other places, that his yoke is easy and his burden light; that the commandments of God are not grievous; and that the ways of wisdom are ways of pleasantness: it is likewise consistent with the well-known fact that vast num
bers embraced the Christian religion, after the death of Christ and his ascension to heavene
15. Beware of false prophets, rather,
of those false teachers," which come to you in sheep's clothing; but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
The danger of missing the right way arose principally from their own vices and prejudices, which prevented them from seeing and admitting the truth; but in a great measure also from false teachers, or bad masters in religion, of whom Christ therefore now proceeds to
The name of prophets is given in Scripture, not only to those who were inspired to foretel future events, but likewise to those who were employed in delivering religious instruction in general, especially if they directed their labours to explain those precepts and doctrines which had been communicated by divine revelation. The false prophets here spoken of were of this kind, either Scribes and Pharisees, who endeavoured, froin selfish motives, to dissuade the people from believing in Christ; or Christian preachers, who professed themselves the followers of Christ, but corrupted the genuine doctrine of his religion, from the same worldly views. These persons would come in sheep's elothing, that is, with the garb of innocence, with an open countenance, with fair words and insinuating manners, or, as Paul describes them, Rom. xvi. 18. with good words and fair speeches, while inwardly, or in reality, they were ravening wolves. They serve not Christ, but their own belly, as the wolves do; they make a gain of godliness.
16. Ye shall know them, “ye may know them,” by their fruits: domen gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles ?
If these teachers assume the appearance of the greatest piety, as has just been mentioned, how shall their genuine character be discovered, some one may ask.---To this question Christ answers: You may know them by their fruits, that is, by their works; for those who assume a feigned character cannot maintain it long together; by an attentive observer it will be found that there is an inconsistency between their professions and actions: while the language of humility, devotion and purity is upon their lips, their conduct betrays pride, envy, malice, a love of worldly gain or sensual pleasure; or if these vices are kept under restraint for the present, they cannot long be concealed. Sooner or later the natural temper will shew itself: for this event we may look with as much confidence as for the most certain and invariable appearances in nature, ----of the same tree's always producing the same fruit. To think otherwise, to expect good actions where there is a bad character, would be as absurd and preposterous as to look for the noblest fruit from the meanest plant; for grapes from the bramble, or figs from the thistle.
17. Even so, every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, but a corrupt tree, " a bad tree," bringeth forth evil fruit,
6 bad fruit."
18. A good tree cannot bring forth bad fruit, neither can a bad tree bring forth good fruit.
The moral conduct of men is as necessarily determined by the disposition of the heart, as the quality of fruit is by the nature of the tree upon which it grows. If the heart is in a right state, the actions cannot fail to be good; but if the heart be corrupt, the conduct must necessarily be irregular.
19. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down and cast into the fire.