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road of error and sin. The former led to life, that is, to eternal glory in another state of existence; the latter led to destruction, that is, to endless sin and misery in that state. As few found the strait gate, and many the broad road, so few will be saved compared with the number of the lost. Dr. Watts paraphrases the passage,
"Broad is the road that leads to death
Now that this is manifestly a wrong application of the parable, is evident from the circumstance that Jesus was not in the whole context speaking of the future state. "Enter ye in at the strait gate." Does this necessarily refer to the future state? No. "For strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." All these verbs are in the present tense. "Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat." There is nothing here which necessarily applies the passage to the future state. Life and destruction may both be found in this world; it is not necessary that we go into another after them.
Wisdom is life. "Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her; and happy is every one that retaineth her." Prov. iii. 17, 18. Again it is said, Prov. viii. 35, "whoso findeth me findeth life." Again, see Prov. x. 17, which is a very appropriate illustration of the parable before us. "He is in THE WAY OF LIFE that keepeth instruction; but he that refuseth reproof erreth." Those who kept the instructions of Christ were in the way of life; they had entered the 'strait gate,'
and were in the 'narrow way'; but those who refused his reproof were in the way of death. Wisdom was the life enjoyed on the one hand, and folly was the death suffered on the other. In Prov. xii. 28, it is said, "in the way of righteousness is life, and in the pathway thereof there is no death." The apostle Paul saith, Rom. viii. 6, "To be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." Here it is not said that life followed spiritual mindedness as a reward; but the spiritual mindedness was life itself. The beloved apostle John saith, speaking of Christ, "he that hath the Son hath life, John v. 12; and the evangelist, to the same purport remarks, "he that heareth my word and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life." John v. 24.
On the other hand, a state of folly and sin is represented as a state of death. "If a man keep my saying," saith Christ, "he shall never see death." John viii. 51. This cannot, of course, mean natural death. See Rom. viii. 6. "To be carnally minded is death." Death is not put here as a punishment which succeeds carnal mindedness-the apostle asserts that that very carnal mindedness is death. "To be carnally minded IS DEATH." A state of hatred is represented as a state of death. that loveth not his brother abideth in death." 1 John iii. 14. And hence the same apostle saith, "we know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." How true is it then, that "righteousness delivereth from death." Prov. x. 2.
These scriptures develope the great principles on which the figure in the parable before us is founded. Sin and error are every where in the scriptures represented as a state of death; while,
on the other hand, righteousness and truth are called life and peace. Thus in the parable, he who enters the wide gate' is sure to find destruction, and he who enters the 'strait gate,' is sure to find life.
Adam Clarke seems to have given the meaning of Jesus, in his Commentary. The verse which immediately precedes the parable is this-"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." Clarke observes, "enter in through THIS strait gate, i. e. of doing to every one as you would he should do unto you; for this alone seems to be the strait gate which our Lord alluded to." He who obeys that command, must be possessed of the spirit of wisdom and love, and having entered the strait gate,' he enjoys life. "In the way of righteousness is life," and he finds it. He who does not obey that command, has the spirit of death within him he is carnally minded; he hateth his brother, and abideth in death. None of these passages however refer to the final state of men in the world to come, on which the conduct of men in this life can have no influence.
"By a gate," says Bishop Pearce, "the Jews understand that which leads or lets men into the sense and knowledge of any doctrine. Hence Maimonides's treatise concerning the law of Moses, is called by a word signifying the gate of Moses." For this reason perhaps Jesus represented the precept we have referred to by a 'gate'; 'it contained the sense of all his precepts, and so to speak, let men in to the very spirit of his gospel. As men judge it difficult to comply with this injunction, so Christ calls it a "strait gate ;" and as but few in
that age complied with the injunction, the opposite gate was said to be wide, and the way broad.
Israel walked in the broad road, and was destroyed; but she found help in the Lord after her destruction. And so will all sinners. "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thy help." Hosea xiii. 9. "He sent his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction." Psalms cvii. 20.
Parable of the Good and Corrupt Tree.
MATT. VII. 17-19.-LUKE VI. 43, 44.
"Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire."-Matt. vii. 17-19.
THIS parable bears a strong resemblance to that which occurs in Matt. iii. 10, the notes on which the reader will do well to peruse again. In the case before us Jesus was warning his followers against those false prophets, who came to the people in sheep's clothing, but within they were ravening wolves. See verse 15. The name of prophets is given in the scriptures, not only to those who were appointed to foretel future events, but also to those who were employed in delivering religious instruction of any kind, especially if they directed their labors to explain the precepts and doctrines of divine revelation. Jesus foretold, that the false prophets would come in sheep's clothing, that is,
they would come in the garb of innocence. Paul seems to refer to such, in Rom. xvi. 18. "For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple." That they might not trust in these false pretences, Jesus kindly pointed out to them the proper criterion by which they ought to judge of the professions of mankind. "Ye shall know them by their fruits." Ver. 16. That is, as truly as you may know the kind of a tree by the fruit which it bears, so may you know the real character of these prophets by their works."Do men gather grapes of thorns? or figs of thistles ?" Certainly not. "Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit." If these prophets are true teachers and good men, they will teach true doctrines and do good works. "But a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit." Ver. 17. On the other hand, if these prophets are false teachers, and bad men, they will teach false doctrines, and do evil works. It is impossible that it should be otherwise, for "a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit." Ver. 18. See also Luke vi. 45. A terrible judgment awaits these false prophets, as well as all the unbelieving part of the Jewish nation. "Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down and cast into the fire." Ver. 19. The punishments which the house of Israel suffered, are represented under the figure of fire, in instances too numerous to be refered to in this place.