Luke 13:24
"Make every effort to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able.
Sermons
A Time to StriveT. Dale, M. A.Luke 13:24
Christ's Warning Against FormalismJ. B. Clark.Luke 13:24
Difficulty of ReligionC. Girdlestone, M.A.Luke 13:24
Disappointed SeekersVan Oosterzee.Luke 13:24
Earnestness in Religion, Recommended and EnforcedE. Cooper.Luke 13:24
Earnestness in Seeking SalvationW. H. Lewis, D. D.Luke 13:24
Heaven is Worth Striving ForR. Baxter.Luke 13:24
On Striving to Enter in At the Strait GateN. W. Taylor, D. D.Luke 13:24
On the Obtaining of SalvationA. Robertson, M. A.Luke 13:24
Philip Henry's Dying AdviceLuke 13:24
Self-DelusionC. H. Spurgeon.Luke 13:24
Strive to Enter InVan Oosterzee.Luke 13:24
Striving for HeavenJ. W. Adams, D. D.Luke 13:24
The Broad Way and the NarrowA. Raleigh, D. D.Luke 13:24
The Christian's JournalS. Hieron.Luke 13:24
The Dangers of Formality, and the Difficulties of SalvatiH. Hughes.Luke 13:24
The Difficulties of a Christian Life ConsideredArchbishop Tillotson.Luke 13:24
The Grand DisappointmentEssex RemembrancerLuke 13:24
The Narrow Leads to the BroadT. T. Lynch.Luke 13:24
The Narrow Way, and the Broad WayJohn Edwards, D. D.Luke 13:24
The One Journey Through the WorldLuke 13:24
The Strait GateT. T. Lynch.Luke 13:24
The Strait GateC. H. Spurgeon.Luke 13:24
The Strait GateJ. Parker, D. D.Luke 13:24
The Strait GateA. Scott.Luke 13:24
The Strait Gate -- a Sermon to ChildrenJ. H. Wilson, M. A.Luke 13:24
The Two WayE. Blencowe, M. A.Luke 13:24
The Two WaysA. Maclaren, D. D.Luke 13:24
The Wrong and the Right AnxietyC. M. Merry.Luke 13:24
Warning Against FormalismD. C. Hughes, M. A.Luke 13:24
Christ's Farewell Words to the TheocracyR.M. Edgar Luke 13:22-35
Prying into the Secret Things of God ReprovedT. Secker.Luke 13:23-24
Silence of Scripture on Irrelevant QuestionsLuke 13:23-24
The Number of the SavedN. Macleod.Luke 13:23-24
Unpractical Questions About ReligionW. Nevins, D. D.Luke 13:23-24
Vain Inquiry and Spiritual StrenuousnessW. Clarkson Luke 13:23, 24
There is all the difference m the world between the question that is general and speculative and that which is personal and practical; between asking," "Are there few that be saved?" and asking, "What must I do to be saved?" A great many unspiritual people show no small concern respecting matters that pertain to religion. It may be that they are curious, or that they are imaginative, or that they are visionary, and that religion provides a wide field for investigation, or for romance, or for mysticism. This speculative and unpractical piety may be:

1. A vain and unrewarded curiosity. It was so in this instance; the applicant was moved by nothing more than a mere passing whim and he received no gratification from Christ (see Luke 23:8, 9; John 21:21, 22)] It will be found that, on the one hand, Jesus always answered the questions of those who were in earnest, however humble might be the applicant; and, on the other hand, that he never answered the questions of the irreverent, however distinguished the inquirer might be. And it is found now by us that if we go to his Word or to his sanctuary to inquire his will, we shall not go away unblessed; but that if we go to either for mere gratification, we shall be unrewarded.

2. The retreat of irreligion and unworthiness (see John 4:18-20). It is convenient to pass from personal and practical considerations to those of theological controversy.

3. The act of mistaken religiousness (see John 14:8). We act thus when we want to see the Divine side of God's dealings with us, or are anxious to know "the times and seasons which the Father hath put in his own power." Our Lord's reply suggests -

I. THE SUPREME IMPORTANCE OF PERSONAL RELIGION. "Are there few that be saved?... Strive to enter in," etc.; i.e. the question for you to be concerned to answer is, whether you yourself are in the kingdom of God; that is preliminary to all others; that is the thing of primary importance; that is worth your caring for, your seeking after, your diligent searching, your strenuous pursuit. Surely the most inconsistent, self-condemning, contradictory thing of all is for men to be thinking, planning, discussing, expending, in order to put other people into the right way when they themselves are taking the downward road. Shall we not say to such, "Go and learn what this meaneth, 'Let every man prove his own work, then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another; for every man shall bear his own burden' of responsibility to God"? The first duty a man owes to God and to his neighbour is the duty he owes to himself - to become right with the living God by faith in Jesus Christ his Saviour.

II. The fact that ENTRANCE INTO THE KINGDOM OF GOD DEMANDS GREAT STRENUOUSNESS OF SOUL.

1. It is the great crisis of a man's career, and may well be attended with much spiritual disturbance. When a human soul first hears and heeds his Father's call and rises to return to his true spiritual home, he may well be affected with profound spiritual solicitude, and may well count that the goal he is seeking is worth all the labour and all the patience he expends to reach it.

2. There are occasions when special strenuousness of soul is demanded. Such are these:

(1) When a man by long neglect has lost nearly all his sensibility.

(2) When the earnest seeker cannot find the consciousness of acceptance which he yearns to attain.

(3) When a man finds himself opposed by adverse forces; when "a man's foes are they of his own household;" when he has to act as if he positively" hated" father and mother, in order to be loyal to his Lord; when downright earnestness and unflinching fidelity bring him into serious conflict with the prejudices and the practices of the home, or the mart, or the social circle; and when to follow the lead of his convictions means to suffer, to lose, to endure much at the hands of man. Then comes the message of the Master - Strive, wrestle, agonize to enter in; put forth the effort, however arduous; make the sacrifice, however great; go through the struggle, however severe it may prove to be. Strive to enter in; it will not be long before you will have your reward in a pure and priceless peace, in a profound and abiding joy, in a heritage which no man and no time can take from you. - C.







Strive to enter in at the strait gate.
This has been called "a serious answer to an idle question." The answer is not only serious, but rendered with striking skill and power. The questioner was a single Pharisee. The answer is directed to the whole sect. The question related to the "few" that might be saved. The answer emphasizes the "many" who are in danger of being lost. The question was idle and speculative. The answer is an appeal to immediate action and earnest endeavour.

I. THE MATERIAL TASTES OF MEN. It is undeniable that men love forms for their own sake. It is self-evident also that some degree of form is indispensable to spiritual religion. "I am from above, ye are from beneath." Here is the gulf opening at every point between God and men. Hence to bridge this gulf some visible forms become necessary. These forms are harmless as long as they fulfil their end. But the moment when, for any reason, the form becomes more attractive than the spiritual fact for which it stands, when the bridge detains rather than forwards the seeking faith of the soul, when for any reason a man begins to love the road more than the communion to which it leads, the altar more than the name that sanctifies it, the cross more than the Crucified, then he begins to pervert needed means of worship into unlawful ends. He is ministering to worldly tastes, and though he still call it religion, he is in fact a formalist, a promising Pharisee.

II. THE SPECULATIVE TENDENCY OF THE MIND IS ANOTHER BROAD ROAD TO FORMALISM. The philosophic formalist is like a man standing on the bank of a stream, whose passage is his only salvation; but he has no thought of crossing. He is engaged in calmly trying the depth of the channel at different points. He surveys the scenery of the opposite shore with a critical eye. He measures the swiftness of the current, and .carefully estimates its force per cubic foot. He notes the colour and density of the water, and asks with considerable interest about how many make the crossing safely. All this information he shuts away in his note-book, and seems rather well content with the result. It would seem farcical if it were not sadly true that multitudes of men and women, in our own day, imagine this to be religion; or more exactly, they live and die in the hope that through these processes of inquiry they are drawing nearer to a rational faith. The progress of the intellectual formalist is a sheer delusion, tie only circles round and round the holy mystery. He is ever learning, but never coming to a knowledge of the truth.

III. THE SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS OF THE NATURAL HEART IS ANOTHER FERTILE SOURCE OF FORMALISM IN RELIGION. It was on this road that the questioner in the text had gone astray. Now, our Lord's treatment of this many-headed evil was sharp and brief. "Strive to enter in at the strait gate." Here is, at once, the knell of all false hopes and the cure of all wrong methods in religion. See how much these words contain.

1. The genuine spiritual life has a single gate of entrance. It is the gate. Many shall seek to enter in by other gates — gates imagined or invented — but they shall not be able. There is but one gate.

2. This one gate is a "strait gate" also. It was too narrow for the swelling robes and expanding phylacteries of the Pharisee. It is too narrow still for the routine of the formalist or the philosophy of the intellectualist. It is too strait for inflated self-righteousness. If these shall enter, it must be by some other gate; yet there is but one, and this is strait. But this strait gate is wide enough for repentance and faith. It is high enough for humble sinners who will stoop to enter.

3. The gate is not only one gate, and narrow, but a deadly effort is required to pass it. Strive to enter in. A better word would be "agonize." Agonize to enter in at the strait gate.

(J. B. Clark.)

We know that more than seventy thousand immortal beings pass daily into their fixed eternal state, and that for six thousand years nearly thirty millions a year have gone to the unseen world; and the thought must unavoidably force itself upon every mind, Are the largest portion of them lost? Must we believe a great part of these myriads live here but to acquire a title to everlasting woe? Such inquiries are natural, and we can scarcely resist the impulse to make them. Jesus Christ was perfectly able to answer them. Let us, then —

I. In the first place, ENDEAVOUR TO ASCERTAIN HOW HE REGARDED THEM. It has generally been thought that our Lord's reply was a tacit censure upon all such questions; but it may have been a censure upon the spirit and motives of the man rather than upon his inquiry. Our Saviour took no notice of him, but directed His answer to all around, and said unto them, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate." The Jews supposed that all of their nation would be saved, and all the Gentiles lost; and if the inquirer asked in this uncharitable spirit, we may conclude that this was the reason why our Lord took no notice of him. Or the person who put the question may have been himself a wicked man, neglecting his own salvation, and actuated by an idle curiosity concerning the fate of others, and therefore unworthy of a reply. We need not suppose, then, that our Lord meant to condemn all such inquiries. We cannot well avoid them. We cannot look upon the thronging multitudes around us without having the question forced upon us, What is to be their future fate? We must cease thinking before we can cease asking, "Are there few that be saved?" And, indeed, it seems necessary to ask, in order to form some judgment respecting the eternal destiny of others, for how can we make any efforts for their salvation if we cannot estimate their danger? The Bible itself gives us aid in such inquiries. It tells us that a vast multitude, which no man can number, shall stand before the throne; and yet it teaches that of those who grow up to years of maturity there are few that go in at the strait gate, and many that enter the broad way to death, and thus, in fact, replies to the question in our text.

II. Again we may observe, THAT THERE IS ANOTHER VERY COMMON MISTAKE WITH REGARD TO THE MEANING OF OUR TEXT, Our Saviour says, "Many shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able." Some understand this to refer to the gate of salvation; that is, many shall seek on earth to enter that gate, or to become Christians, but shall not be able; and accordingly they proceed to give us many reasons why they shall not be able; as, for instance, they seek, but do not seek earnestly enough, or they seek for a time and then fall away. But the true meaning seems to be, many at the last day shall seek to enter into the gate of heaven, but shall not then be able.

III. Having noticed these erroneous views of our text, we may now observe, in the third place, THAT THE GREAT POINT OF IT IS, TO URGE UPON US EARNESTNESS IN THE WORK OF OUR SALVATION. The straitness and difficulty is in ourselves, not in anything of God's imposing. The entrance upon eternal life is like a narrow gateway, wide enough to admit every individual, but nothing more. If a man comes to it with a great bulky burden upon his shoulders, he will find it impossible to force a passage; but if he will lay down his load of pride and worldliness, his lusts and pleasures, instead of attempting to carry them with him in the way to heaven, there will be nothing to impede his entrance; he can slip through easily, and travel in that narrow way comfortably. Just in proportion as we renounce sin will the pathway to heaven become plain and easy.

IV. But here, my brethren, is difficulty enough; God has revealed the way of life clearly; Jesus, by His work on earth and in heaven, smoothes that way, and renders it accessible to all; BUT THE GREAT MATTER IS TO PERSUADE MEN TO OVERCOME THAT IN THEMSELVES WHICH WOULD HINDER THEIR SALVATION.

V. But, my brethren, if ye will not do what yourselves must acknowledge to be reasonable now, HEAR WHAT CHRIST SAYS YE MAY NO HEREAFTER — "Many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able." How vividly does the Bible describe the awful disappointment of those who are to be thrust out of Christ's presence at the judgment day! One would think that when they found themselves on the left hand of the Judge, that would convince them that there was no room for hope. But no; our Lord represents them as pleading still for admission, "Lord, Lord, open unto us." And when He answers, "I know you not," still they will not give over, but plead, "When saw we Thee an hungered, and fed Thee not, or thirsty, and gave Thee no drink?" and long after the fatal word, "Depart from Me, ye cursed," has been uttered, their pleadings may follow their ascending Judge to move His compassion. Vain cries! but dreadful!

(W. H. Lewis, D. D.)

I. THOSE ALONE WHO STRIVE ENTER IN AT THE STRAIT GATE. Every part of redemption is connected with striving, and the Christian under its influence must work out his salvation with fear and trembling. Within his own household there are enemies, for his "heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked," and he must watch and be sober. Is he on a race? to reach the goal he must lay aside every incumbering weight, and with his eye steadily fixed on the prize, he must not faint by the way, nor cease to strive till he has secured the end of his labour. From fears without and fightings within, the Christian is kept ever active, and through much tribulation he must enter the kingdom of God. The heart of a Christian is a field of action in which two powerful armies are engaged — grace and corruption. New strength in acquired by resistance, and day by day opposing powers wax feebler and feebler; and the Christian retiring from a well-sustained conflict exclaims, "Oh, death I where is thy sting? oh, gravel where is thy victory?" "Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift."

II. FEW THUS STRIVE, AND THEREFORE FEW ARE SAVED. Many wish salvation, but few strive to enter in at the strait gate. The word "many" in our text may either refer to a great number or to mankind generally. Few are to be found who do not seek in one way or other, or at some time of their life, to enter in at the strait gate; but they do not strive, and thus are excluded. Conscience accuses, fears alarm, and they seek salvation; but their hearts are either too much carnalized or they do not value sufficiently the salvation of the soul. Hence they merely seek, and do not strive. They would have no objection to enter in at the strait gate by seeking when they found it convenient; but to strive, and that for a continued time, is out of the question. They would willingly enter into heaven; but to take it by violence requires too much exertion for their dispositions.

(A. Robertson, M. A.)

on: —

I. THE OBJECTIONABLE NATURE OF THE QUESTION PROPOSED.

1. Objectionable, as indicating an exclusive and self-righteous spirit.

2. Objectionable, as indicating an undue curiosity upon a subject which God has concealed from human view.

II. THE SOLEMN EXHORTATION TO WHICH IT GAVE RISE. The Christian is exposed to the ridicule of the scoffer, the contempt of the scorner, and the sneers of the profane. His conduct is misrepresented, his words misinterpreted, and his motives misunderstood. His religion is termed hypocrisy, his faith presumption, his holiness self-righteousness, his strict walk with God an arrogant assumption of superiority over men, and his diligent attendance on the means of grace and ordinances of religion a mere observance of useless forms and ceremonies. His wisdom is called folly, his patience pusillanimity, his meekness cowardice, his sobriety avarice, his almsgiving an ostentatious display of benevolence; and his zealous exertions for the temporal and spiritual welfare of man and the honour and glory of God are stigmatized as unhallowed attempts to promote his own worldly interests and to advance his own worldly reputation. These oppositions from without are abetted by the corruptions of the heart within, which "is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked," and is ever inventing excuses for indulging in forbidden gratifications and for resting in a mediocrity of spiritual attainments. Add to these considerations the devices and stratagems of the arch enemy of God and man, by which he deludes men into a false security and seduces them into the commission of sin, exaggerating the enjoyment and concealing the danger of the forbidden fruit, and saying, as he did of old, "Ye shall not surely die," and who does not see the necessity of vigilance, circumspection, and active exertion to secure the favour of God, according to our Saviour's exhortation, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate "?

III. Such being the difficulties which beset the path of life, we are at no loss to account for THE APPALLING TRUTH WHICH CHRIST BRINGS FORWARD TO ENFORCE THAT EXHORTATION — "For many will seek to enter in, and shall not be able"; the meaning of which is, that many have thoughts and faint desires of heaven who will never be found among the heirs of glory. The spectators might wish the happy lot of the successful racer or the victorious combatant in the public games of Greece, and sigh for the laurels which crowned his brow and the acclamations which awaited his return home; but such idle and empty wishes could never secure the prize. Even the prophet who "loved the wages of unrighteousness" could exclaim, "How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel! Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his." But desires like these may be felt without the slightest approximation to the object desired. It is to covet a treasure and refuse to dig for it. It is to know of a "pearl of great price" and grudge the expense of buying the field where it is deposited. It is to wish for the abundance of the harvest and decline the labour of cultivating the soil. Alas! how great is the number of those who in regard to the kingdom of heaven put the wish for the act, who idle away their time, and " spend their strength for nought," through all the stages of an unprofitable existence, and then sink down, astonished and confounded, into that gulf of endless perdition from which they have never made any real effort to escape.

(H. Hughes.)

I. A CURIOUS QUESTION.

1. This question, though curious, is very natural.

(1)Natural to pry into the future.

(2)To desire to know the future spiritual condition of mankind is most natural.

2. If such an inquiry was proper at all, it was proper to make it of Christ.

(1)Because He knew all about it.

(2)Because He would readily answer it if best.

II. THE MASTER'S ANSWER.

1. Not satisfactory to the curiosity-seeker.

(1)This fact deserves careful notice.

(2)This fact a direct rebuke to all mere curiosity-seeking. This applies to science, art, literature, and religion.

2. Christ's answer most satisfactory to the real inquirer after truth.

(1)Because of its eminently practical character.

(2)Because of its stirringly earnest character.

(3)Because of its solemnly warnful character. This warning implies

(a)the possibility of self-deception on the part of professing Christians;

(b)that self-deception will not exonerate any from condemnation in the day of judgment;

(c)that the condemnation of all workers of iniquity will be irreversible.(4) Because of its delightfully encouraging character to all true Christians.Lessons:

1. Christ ever raised the practical above the theoretical. So should we.

2. Christ ever raised the spiritual above the secular. So should we.

3. Christ ever raised the substance above the form.

4. Christ here reveals the reason of men's aversion to true godliness.

5. Christ here plainly declares the irretrievable misery to which such aversion inevitably leads.

(D. C. Hughes, M. A.)

1. A weighty requirement.

2. A just requirement.

3. A beneficent requirement.

4. A practicable requirement.

(Van Oosterzee.)

MOVEMENT. Certain, inevitable movement of human beings is implied in the whole passage. Our Lord regards the multitudes around Him as all in motion — none quiescent, none fixed and centred. We are not dwellers, we are travellers. We are all on the way — we are not stopping even here and now. I see the staff in your hand! I see the dust on your sandals! I hear the tread of a thousand feet I Onward and away each one goes, by the way that he chooses, and he shall never rest — not in deepest sleep, not in stillest midnight — for one moment, until he passes through the gate of death to some way everlasting. MORAL PROGRESS IS ALSO CONSTANT. This is a far more serious and important kind of progress. If we could stay our spirits amid this universal vicissitude, and keep them in fixed conditions, the outward change would be of less moment. But the moral progress is as constant, and infinitely more important, than any change that can be apprehended by the senses. It is a solemn thought that the one process or the other is going on m every one of us, without the intermission of a day or an hour. True, many a man does not feel himself to be growing either better or worse sometimes for a long time; and therefore he yields to the delusion that it is really so. Vessels that are in the habit of trading on the great rivers, going up and coming down, stay at this port or that, sometimes for days, trading or waiting. The waters sweep past them, but they are motionless, anchored in the river or moored to the quay. So some men are under the delusion that they can moor themselves, as moral beings, to certain circumstances and states, in such a manner that there shall be no difference between yesterday and to-day, between to-day and to-morrow. They seem to think that they can anchor moral character in the stream of life, and hold it in the same place for months or years. It can never be done. THERE ARE ONLY TWO WAYS. The broad and the narrow. Along one or other of these has every mortal pilgrim gone. By one or other of these is every living man travelling now. Let us look now at these two ways. Take the broad way first, if for no other reason because it is the broad way. It is the most manifest and obtrusive, and the nearest to us naturally. Begin at the beginning of it. It has a gate. A gate is a place of entrance — to a city, or a field, or a country. As a religious term it means the beginning of a course or onward career. There are critical and decisive points in life to which men come. There are gates of decision, narrow or wide, through which they pass into the course which lies within. He is speaking to reasonable and responsible men of their acts of choice, in the decisive times and places in life. He is speaking of the entering in at either gate of those who know that they so enter. And yet the knowledge may not be very express or clear. From want of reflection, from want of observance of the real character and consequences of things, men may go on from youth to age without being aware that they pass through "gates " at all. They live as they list, or as they can. All this is consistent with the spirit of the passage, "wide is the gate!" One may go through it and hardly know it is there. And the way is broad. All kinds of persons may walk in it. The man of the world may work out his schemes, gather his money, and achieve his position. The pleasure-seeker may eat and drink, and dance, and sleep, and sing. The sensual man, who kills his moral life and vilifies the Divine image within him, may pass on unchecked. The formalist may count his beads, and say his prayers. These persons are not all alike. Some are much worse than others, some are on the darker side of the road, some are on the side nearest the narrow way, "not far from the kingdom of God." They cast many a look to that better way, and perhaps some day they may enter it. In saying that there are but two ways, we do not abolish the distinctions of morality. Let them all stand. They do not touch the essence of the truth that a man is going in the main one way or another. As a moral being, having in him the element of progressiveness, he must, on the whole, be either rising to life or sinking to ruin. Again, following our Lord's description, we come to a gate, and He calls it a "strait gate." There is thus an undisguised difficulty in salvation. The way is narrow, but the gate that gives entrance to it is narrower still. The beginning of some great enterprises among men is sometimes very easy and imperceptible. A great palace is to be built. The beginning of the work is, that a man lays a measuring line quietly to the ground, or a workman with a spade turns up a piece of turf. A company of men start for the ascent of Mount Blanc. But they do not go up at first, they go down by a river side, then their path slopes gently up through the pine woods, and it is not at the beginning of their undertaking that they find hardship and toil. But this work of returning to God, in the case of one who has not kept the narrow way from the first, is most difficult at the beginning. The most miserable and agonizing moment to the prodigal son must have been that which preceded the resolution to arise and to go to his father. The question occurs: How is this? Is it by Divine arrangement? In one sense it is not. "God will have all men to be saved." "He is not willing that any should perish." The way, which to us has a strait gate and is practically narrow, is, in fact, as made by Him, wide in its gate and broad as a way; while, On the other hand, the way, which to us is so broad, seen from the heights will seem narrow. So much depends on the point of view I The angels looking down on the broad way may see that it is really narrow. They may say: "How strait the gate! What a pressure upon conscience to get through How narrow the way! Girded with penalty, overhung with danger, ending in death!" Looking at the narrow way they may say: "How wide is the gate! Wide as the Divine nature. How broad is the way! Broad as the everlasting love of God — penalties all exhausted, promises hanging like ripening fruit, and helps ready at every step of the progress!" But our point of vision is not the angelic one. We need to know what the way is to us. Christ stands on our own plane of life when He describes the way; to us, practically, it is narrow, and the gate of entrance to it is strait. To lay aside figure, the gate can be none other than repentance — the leaving of one life behind and entering on another. Therefore, the gate is strait! O how strait, when a man sees that he cannot pass in with one allowed sin, not even a little one! "Narrow is the way." True, it is not so narrow to most Christian people as it ought to be. It is not so narrow to any traveller on it as it ought to be. We shall close by naming three inducements to walk in this narrow way.

1. The gate is strait, but it is always open. You come to a nobleman's park, and you look in through the gate. The gate is massive, high, broad, and beautiful. But it is shut. You can look through the bars of it, but you cannot get in. All its width and magnificence avail you nothing as a means of entrance. Passing on, you come to a little wicket-gate which opens into a narrow footpath over rugged ground, but which leads up and away to the hills where the light is shining. That little wicket-gate is open, day and night!

2. The narrow way is narrow; but it grows wider as you go on. It grows wider, lighter, pleasanter, easier — that is the law of the road. The very opposite result takes place on the broad way of self-indulgence. That becomes narrower and darker and more full of peril as men go along in it.

3. The end is everlasting life. Who can tell the meanings, hidden in the heart of God, that these words contain? It "leadeth unto life." Ah, is not that enough to reconcile us to it all — its straitness, its narrowness, all its steeps and roughnesses? Is not that enough to draw us into it as by the gravitation of eternity — the end is "everlasting life"?

(A. Raleigh, D. D.)

I. THE DIFFICULTIES WHICH OBSTRUCT THE ENTRANCE INTO HEAVEN.

1. An object, when viewed under different aspects, assumes different hues, and presents itself in different forms.

2. But while the gospel is humbling, it is also holy in its tendency. It is a doctrine according to godliness.

II. I ADVERT TO THE CAUSES OF THAT DISAPPOINTMENT WHICH MANY IN THE MOMENTOUS CONCERN OF THEIR SOUL WILL EXPERIENCE.

1. One obvious reason why many seek to enter in and are not able is that they seek not in the appointed way.

2. Another cause of that disappointment which many will experience is the unseasonable time at which they commence the attempt of entering in at the strait gate. They make no preparation for the coming of the Bridegroom till His approach is actually announced.

3. Another reason why many will fail in their attempt of obtaining admission into heaven is the irresolute and indecisive manner in which that attempt is prosecuted.

1. Consider the magnitude of the object for which you are exhorted to strive. It is the life of your soul.

2. Consider the consequences of not complying with this admonition.

3. Consider, lastly, the certainty of success which awaits your compliance with the admonition. "Your labour shall not be in vain in the Lord." Strive, and ye shall enter in.

(E. Cooper.)

Look for a moment at the nature of these difficulties — at the magnitude of these obstacles. They may be arranged under three heads.

I. EXAMPLE. Who has power to breast himself against the influence of popular sentiment, ever flowing in one direction, and always with an urgent and resistless tide? The spirit of the world, which is antagonistical to that of the gospel, moulds its habits, and manners, and opinions, which, though they be not always opposed to the outward forms of religion, are always at variance with its inward and humble spirit. Religion has never acquired such an ascendency in the world, that there was not always a heavy balance in the scale of popular influence against it; so that almost the first difficulty which presents itself to the mind of that man, who is beginning seriously to ponder the question of a personal consecration to God, is that which rests in the contempt that awaits such a change, and the overpowering influence of that scornful sentiment and adverse example which prevail around him. Men are enslaved by the power of example. Its influence over them is like a mighty spell, which it requires a superhuman power to break. Need I say that he who goes to heaven must go there in the face of this influence? Not a soul ever entered the strait gate but he came in direct conflict with this power, and, through grace, triumphed over it.

II. But let us look at the influence of PERSONAL HABITS AND CUSTOMS. The sinner is accustomed to sin. Every one of his habits, of a moral nature, has been formed under its influence. It is the atmosphere in which he has lived, and moved, and breathed. It has encircled him from the first dawn of life. From such a heart have our habits sprung, and in such a soil have they taken root. Who is ignorant of the power of habit? Even where it holds no relation to the moral feelings, it is often so strong as to produce involuntary action. Now, these habits, so deeply rooted, so long cherished, so undisputed in their sway, and so ascendent in their power, are every one of them, like so many cords, binding us to our idols and our lusts. Under their mighty impulse the sinner is rushing on to ruin. I ask, if anything short of that great, and determined, and-desperate struggle, indicated in the word "strive," agonize to enter, can give us emancipation from this dreadful power? — freedom from this debasing thraldom?

III. There is a still more serious difficulty than any which I have yet named. The sinner, to enter the strait gate, MUST CONTEND AGAINST THE FORCE OF NATURE ITSELF, AND WITH A POWER THAT SHALL SUBDUE IT. The moral nature of man is wholly corrupt. There is not a single chord in the heart that vibrates to the love of God. blow, you will observe, that it is this state of the heart that renders man susceptible to temptation. It is this which gives to the world such a mighty power over him — which renders him so easy a prey to its allurements, its fascinations, its deceitfulness, and to the wiles of the devil. But it is necessary that I should say a word upon the nature and extent of that aid which God proffers us. Do you not know that there are many who suppose that God offers to remove these difficulties Himself, and exempt the sinner from all responsibility in reference to them? God makes no such offer to any sinner. The Saviour says, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate." Would He address such language as this to the sinner if there were no difficulties in his way, or if He expected to remove them all Himself? By no means. The truth is, God does not propose to take one of these difficulties out of the way. He simply offers to help the sinner to overcome them. If a man, launching his bark from the shore at Chippewa, should row vigorously till he had reached the centre of the Niagara, and should then haul in his oars, and commit his frail vessel to the power of the current, would he have any reason to expect that he should reach the opposite shore? If he had the energies of a giant, would that prevent his being carried down the cataract, and buried in the gulf below? An expectation of reaching the opposite shore entertained by that man, when folding his arms and whistling to the fury of the current, would be just as reasonable as an expectation of reaching heaven entertained by the sinner who sees himself borne down on the current of worldliness and sin to the gulf of perdition, and yet will make no resolute efforts to resist the tide and bear himself to a place of safety. Of what avail is it that the Spirit of God, omnipotent in His power, tenders His aid to the sinner, and visits his heart, if, after all, that sinner cannot be roused to such a state of feeling and effort as are indicated by the emphatic language of our Saviour used in the text? Believe me, dying sinner, the Spirit of God has not come into the world that He might leave you to slumber while He fights your enemies, and through mighty obstacles opens to you the way to the kingdom of heaven. This is not the manner m which He teaches us to fight the good fight of faith. But it is time to conclude.

1. From our subject, thus discussed, we see why it is that so few, even of those who have some solicitude about their salvation, and are strictly moral in their deportment, and always respectful towards religion, ever attain to a satisfactory and well-established confidence of their interest in God's love. They have never made thorough work of religion. They have rested in its forms. They have shunned its crosses.

2. Again: Is it not clear from our subject that there are many in the Church on earth who will never enter heaven?

(J. W. Adams, D. D.)

"But we thought," perhaps some one may say, "that the message of the gospel which preachers have to deliver was a smiling invitation; these words sound like grave, urgent counsel." That is what they are — grave, urgent counsel. If any one said to you in a soft, sentimental tone, "Make money," you would be ready even to laugh; Rot because you consider money-making an unattractive occupation, which indeed it is not. but because you know that it is not easy to make money. You do not need to be told to do this thing, but only how to do it. There are many things we are willing enough to do, if we only knew how to do them. But there are others we do not like to do, although we ought to do them; partly because of difficulties, which might nevertheless be overcome, and partly because the ends proposed, the rewards offered, are not attractive to us. Of course every one to whom we should say, "There is another life after this: would you like it to be a happy one?" would answer, "Certainly I should." But if no one expects to get a comfortable place here without taking trouble; why should any one expect to get a comfortable place hereafter without taking any? Still, when we say, "Enter ye in at the strait gate," if one word disheartens, another comforts. The word "strait" perhaps brings us to a pause; but the word "enter" beckons us forward. We should not be urged to "enter were entry impossible. If the entrance looks narrow, it is less difficult than it looks. Every one feels a truth in our Lord's words about the two ways; the one, easy and crowded, yet neither safe nor honourable; the other, difficult and unfrequented, and yet the best way, indeed the only right one. But though we all feel we have truth here, yet we may treat this old Scripture saying very much as we do an old weapon of which, when we look at it, we cry, "Ah, you were sharp and strong once; you have been wanted in the world; but you are not needed now: rest where you are; ours is a quiet time; and should we ever have to fight, we will find new weapons, of a better make." And even if we do not thus treat our Lord's saying, we may yet feel some perplexity as to its application. We must look about, then, to find a gate into the meaning of these words; and when we have found one, we must go along the pathway of our thought with care and steadiness. Who shall help us to the meaning of Christ's words? He Himself shall help us. He Himself travelled on the narrow path, when He might have taken the broad one. And did He not call Himself both a door and a way, saying, "I am the door," "I am the way"? He who, quickened and strengthened by another's example, walks as that other walked, does as he did, hopes as he hoped, and leaves the crowd as he left it, makes that other his "way." On the one hand, then, we have a Teacher who invites us to trust in and follow Him as a Saviour; and, on the other, a Saviour who offers us life, and yet, as a Teacher, instructs us that we must overcome many difficulties if we would gain it. How can we reconcile these things? He who spoke of the strait gate, we say, Himself went into the way of righteousness thereby. He who told us of the narrow way, walked therein, knew its sorrows, was acquainted with its griefs. He chose the narrow way when He might have taken the broad one and have travelled it with a most able guide and companion by His side, and a most brilliant end before Him. We often speak of a brilliant career. What career so bright with outward victory as Christ's would have been, if He had accepted the magnificent proposals of the devil? His way would have been broad, and thronged with admiring attendants. But He took the way of goodness instead of the way of greatness. He went down among the poor instead of up among the proud. He sacrificed Himself to others instead of others for Himself. And the mighty work He did was this: He made "the way" that was impassable to any but Himself, passable to others who should follow in His footsteps. By taking the way, He became the way; by taking the way of righteousness, He became the way of salvation. Even in the perils of ordinary life, if any one man will dare to take a new course, and it prove a successful one, many will dare to follow him. And he usually benefits us in two manners; he makes our obstacle less, and our courage greater. When, then, Jesus Christ says invitingly to all, "Follow Me," speaking as a Saviour; but says also to each, "Take up your cross, and, carrying that, follow Me" — teaching us that the way is hard, we do not feel that urgent counsel is inconsistent with cheering invitation. We can reconcile the words that seem discouraging with the words that so much encourage. For every one of us there still remains his own difficulty; but our Saviour has so encountered and overcome the great difficulties that beset human nature in its progress to perfection and blessedness, that every one of us has a good hope of success through Him. Not only are obstacles removed and courage imparted, so that we can do what we could not, and will dare what we would not; but we are assured of an enabling power, even Christ's Spirit bestowed on us by God, and an unfailing protection, even an Almighty Providence ever working around us. Christ is more than an Example shining from the past; He is a Power working in the present.

(T. T. Lynch.)

Through the narrow we come into the broad; by a narrow intricate channel into the wide sea full of riches; by a narrow and perilous pathway into the great city, so stately, so secure. The attainment of true knowledge, the performance of true work, fidelity to "pure religion," are not easy. Commencement and continuance have alike their difficulty. The gate is strait; the way narrow. But in order to obtain many a state of advantage in which we may "walk at liberty" — find, that is, our path pleasantly wide and the country round us pleasantly open — is anything more requisite than exact careful attention at the outset of our endeavour, and exact careful regard to our own course as we go along? No: often this is enough. Perhaps all of us can read a printed page as easily as if we were rolling in a rapid chariot upon a broad level road. But the Alphabet was our "strait gate," and along the "narrow way" that our Spelling-Book opened before us we had to go, for a long time, slowly and carefully. If we have learned a handicraft, we had our "strait gate" and our "narrow way," skilful as we may now be. In most courses of life we have our special first troubles; but our trial is not over when our entry has been made — we cannot proceed without a steady purpose, a good courage, and a staff. And no man can be, or can reasonably expect to be, a Christian, without the same attention at the outset, and considerateness on the course as are demanded of him if he would be merchant or mechanic, artist or man of science, discoverer or patriot, or even if he would learn to read a book. But more than attention at first and care afterwards are required for the spiritual life — to be a true Christian, and indeed to be a true man in any worthy department of human activity. The renunciation of much that others accept, and even the abandonment of much that, but for the work in hand, you would retain, may be required of you. This renunciation is a "strait gate"; and "separateness," though it be separateness from sinners — and some sinners are pleasant people — is a "narrow way." Christ was alone amid the crowd in His unruffled wisdom, before He was alone on the cross in the grasp of death, man's enemy. His "narrow way" lay through the populous city before it entered the valley of the shadow of death. There are other narrow ways along our streets than the pavements. One man riding in his coach may be travelling on the narrow way of honour and duty, and the foot-travellers may be hastening on at rapid pace upon the broad road. Now it may be the poor, and now the rich, that is in the wrong way, or in the right. The confession of an error, the avowal of a conviction, economy of money or time, abandonment of habit, are often "strait gates," which stand quite plainly before us, and need no finding. But our Saviour speaks of men "not finding" the strait gate. And He Himself, as the Teacher of Israel, was a gate that many of His countrymen failed to find. They could not see that He would lead them to welfare. Had He been a strong soldier, He would have seemed to them the broad plain way to prosperity! He that notices a yellow stain in the rocks, and does not perceive that it means gold, misses a gate. A suggestion comes, a proposal is made, tidings are brought: "There is a gate here," says one man; but another "cannot see it." For all of us there are gates we cannot miss seeing; and for all of us there are gates which we may overlook, and so miss a great good, even the greatest. Many fail to find their gate because they are looking for the grandly difficult rather than the humbly difficult.

(T. T. Lynch.)

It appears, then, that it is not an easy thing to enter in; that it is a hard and difficult matter for a man to be saved. Now let us see some particulars in which it is difficult. Let us observe some of those points of religion, in which if we would succeed, we are bound to strive; and where if we strive not we shall not enter in.

1. One thing which is of very frequent occurrence, and in respect of which men ate very commonly mistaken, is their attendance on the worship of God. You think it perhaps enough to attend when it is convenient, to come when you can spare time from business or pleasure; once on the Sunday, or not even thus often. But is this striving to enter in? Many of you know well that if you were really to strive you could attend more frequently, more regularly. Be not, then, deceived. The way is narrow, the gate is strait; strive to enter in, or you approach in vain.

2. Or consider now the doctrines of Christianity. Many of you perhaps think very little about them, deem them above your comprehension, and never take pains to understand them. Or if you do, you complain that they are hard to discover, and difficult to understand. And so indeed they are, to the natural man, to the mind that is unenlightened by the Spirit of truth. But never imagine that this excuses you from the duty of searching into them, "or that here you may safely walk in the broad path, neglecting to learn what God has thought fit to teach.

3. If there be any here who spend no time, take no anxious thought, give no diligent attention to know the things that belong to their peace; to them I say, you are mistaken, you are in danger, you must strive, or you will not enter in.

4. Or take the account which the Scriptures give of what a Christian ought to practise. Is it not a constant warfare, a continual effort, to mortify the flesh, to renounce the world, and to resist the devil? It is when we fail, to renew the contest; when we faint, to recover strength; when we succeed, still to press forward; to seek ever more and more excellent gifts; and to run as in a race, every day of our lives, unto the very hour of death, that we may win the prize. Is this a hard saying? Is this view of our duty as Christians difficult and discouraging? It may be so. But the question is not whether it be a difficult one, but whether it be the true one. Could it be the true one, unless it were difficult? Could any view of the way to be saved be correct, unless it pointed to a narrow path, to a strait gate, and bid us strive, in order to enter in?

(C. Girdlestone, M.A.)

I. A GATE WHICH IT IS MOST DESIRABLE TO ENTER.

1. Because it is the gate of the city of refuge. Outside of Christ the sword of fire pursues us swift and sharp. From God's wrath there is but one escape, and that is by a simple faith in Christ. Believe in Him, and the sword is sheathed, and the mercy and the love of God will become your everlasting portion; but refuse to believe in Jesus, and your innumerable sins, written in His book, shall be laid at your door in that day when the pillars of heaven shall reel, and the stars shall fall like withered fig-leaves from the tree. Oh I who would not wish to escape from the wrath to come?

2. It is desirable to enter this gate, because it is the gate of a home. What sweet music there is in that word "home"! Jesus is the home of His people's hearts. We are at rest when we get to Christ. We have all we want when we have Jesus.

3. Moreover, it leads to a blessed feast. Happy the man who believes in Jesus, for he becomes at once content, complacent, and at ease. Not only does he find rest in Christ, but good cheer and great delight, halcyon peace, and hallowed satisfaction are the portion of his lot.

4. It is the gate which leads to Paradise. And who would not wish to pass through it when he considers the lot of those outside the gate?

II. THERE IS A CROWD OF PEOPLE WHO WILL SEEK TO ENTER AND WILL NOT BE ABLE.

1. Some are unable to enter because the pride of life will not let them.

2. Some are unable to enter because they carry contraband goods with them. When you land in France, there stands the gendarme who wants to see what you are carrying in that basket. If you attempt to push by you will soon find yourself in custody. He must know what is there; contraband goods cannot be taken in. So at the gate of mercy — which is Christ — no man can be saved if he desire to keep his sins. He must give up every false way.

3. Not a few are unable to enter in because they want to postpone the matter until tomorrow.

4. Others, and these are in the worst plight of all, think that they are in, and that they have entered. They mistake the outside of the gate for the inside. Conclusion: Thus it is that a crowd — I had almost said a countless crowd — of people nowadays seek to enter in, but for manifold reasons they are not able to do so. And yet there is a more appalling aspect to the same fact. "Many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able." Panic-stricken, the dying man sends for the minister whom he never went to hear when his health was good and hours hung heavy on his hands. Some years ago I was awakened about three o'clock in the morning by a sharp ring of the door-bell. I was urged without delay to visit a house not very far from London Bridge. I went; and up two pair of stairs I was shown into a room the occupants of which were a nurse and a dying man. There was nobody else. "Oh, sir," said she, "Mr. So-and-so, about half-an-hour ago, begged me to send for you." "What does he want?" I asked. "He is dying, sir," she replied. I said, "I see that. What sort of a man was he?" "He came home last night, sir, from Brighton. He had been out all day. I looked for a Bible, sir, but there is not one in the house; I hope you have got one with you." "Oh," I said, "a Bible would be of no use to him now. If he could understand me I could tell him the way of salvation in the very words of Holy Scripture." I spoke to him, but he gave me no answer. I spoke again; still there was no reply. All sense had fled. I stood a few minutes gazing at his face, till I perceived he was dead. His soul had departed. That man in his lifetime had been wont to jeer at me. In strong language he had often denounced me as a hypocrite. Yet he was no sooner smitten with the darts of death than he sought my presence and my counsel, feeling no doubt in his heart that I was a servant of God, though he did not care to own it with his lips. There I stood, unable to help him. Promptly as I had responded to his call, what could I do, but look at his corpse and go home again? He had, when too late, sighed for the ministry of reconciliation, sought to enter in, but he was not able. There was no space left him then for repentance; he had wasted the opportunity.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

s: —

I. THESE ARE BUT TWO ROADS in which all mankind are travelling; in the one or the other of which each of us is at this moment. These two roads are called, from the ends to which they severally lead, the way of destruction and the way of life. The Scriptures speak of no other. If we go on in the way of destruction, we shall surely come to destruction; if we walk in the way of life, we shall as surely attain eternal life. Accordingly, the Scriptures speak of men under two names only; as believers or unbelievers; as servants of sin, or servants of holiness; as children of God, or children of the devil. They recognize no middle state; no path running between the two great roads, in which we may walk without the fear of hell, even though we may have no very bright hope of heaven.

II. THE WAY OF DESTRUCTION IS DESCRIBED IN THE TEXT BY THE FOLLOWING MARKS.

1. The gate is wide. There is no difficulty in entering in. There needs no self-denial, no striving, no mastery over ourselves. Our own hearts naturally carry us towards it.

2. And as the gate of entrance is wide, so is the way broad. It is broad, because it admits of many paths, all forming, however, but one road, and all leading but to one end. The ways of sin are various; the devices of Satan for man's destruction are manifold. Moreover, it is easy travelling there. Smooth and pleasant to the flesh.

3. As the gate is wide, and the way broad, so there are many that go in thereat. This is another mark of the way of destruction. It is well trodden; it is thronged with travellers.

III. Now turn to consider THE WAY OF LIFE. See what are its marks. In every respect we find it the very opposite to the way of destruction.

1. In the first place, the gate is strait, that is, narrow and confined. The gate of the way of destruction is wide, and stands open before us, inviting us to come in. But the gate of life is not so easy to enter. And why? Has God made it hard? Is He unwilling that we should find the path of life? Surely not. But our own corrupt hearts love it not.

2. And after we have entered, we find that the way is narrow. There are many paths leading to destruction; there is but one that leads to life. "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord." And what is holiness? It is to believe in Jesus Christ, to love God, and to have His Holy Spirit dwelling in us; to deny ourselves, that we may do His will; to raise ourselves by faith and prayer above the world, and to set our affections on things above.

3. No wonder, then, that the other mark of the way of life is this, "Few there be that find it." It is a way but little travelled, Men love ease; they naturally care for the pleasures of the body which are at hand, It is hard to be persuaded to think of spiritual joys.

(E. Blencowe, M. A.)

In proportion to the importance of any kingdom is the stringency of the conditions of entrance. In the meantime we shall forget that there is a kingdom of heaven. We shall look into the kingdoms of the earth which men account important, imperial, worthy of possession; and I guarantee to find upon the portals of all such kingdoms these words: "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way." It will be something to find that inscription above the gates which open upon all the kingdoms which men who sneer at religion think important. Then, if we can read this inscription in their own handwriting upon the gates which open on their petty empires, what if we shall find the same words written — only written by the hand of God — over the portals which open on the city of the Great King? We shall thus be enabled to see that Divine revelation, though often above human reason, is not always opposed to it; and that God will have a judgment against us — irresistible, penetrating, and terrible — on account of the very principles which we ourselves have laid down in those departments of life which we considered important. Here is the kingdom of human learning: Knowledge, critical acquaintance with letters, ample and accurate information about history, power of scientific inquiry, collation, analysis, all that is known by the name of learning; and over the gate of that kingdom I find this inscription, "Strait is the gate, narrow is the way." A man does not by shaking his little arms shake himself into scholarship; it is not done by a wave of the hand. It is done in yonder way: — See l where the man gets up before the lark, before the sun calls him with its voice of light, who trims his lamp, and goes over yesterday's lesson in critical review before he begins to-day's study; pulls himself up by every variety of discipline; cudgels his memory, stores his mind with all kinds of literature; who works after the sun has gone away, to take the morning with him to some distant clime, turning over the pages of his book — not as you turn over the pages of your light reading — but reading every word, studying every sentence, extracting the gold from every book. We say, "Why are you doing this?" "Because," he says, "I am determined to be a subject in the kingdom of learning, and the motto over the gates is this, 'Strait and narrow is the gate, the road.'" So we begin already to admit the principle of the text, that in proportion to the scope and importance of any kingdom is the stringency of the conditions of entrance. Here is a little kingdom, which we shall characterize as the kingdom of merely muscular competition. Men are going to try muscular force with their fellow-men — they are going to have a boat race. You and I cannot walk along the river-side and instantly take into our heads the notion that we will have a spin with these men and beat them all. That can't be done. Strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leads even to athletic supremacy. A man who has been drilled, disciplined, exercised, will beat you, except a miracle be wrought for your advantage. So we are getting nearer and nearer to the principle that in proportion to the importance of any object, the scope of any kingdom, the consequence of any condition of affairs, is the narrowness of the road, is the straitness of the gate. It is the same with all kinds of intellectual supremacy. Granted that there may be inspired geniuses here and there — let us allow that some men may have had a short and easy road to intellectual power and supremacy — still the rule holds good: That he who would be highest must toil most perseveringly and conscientiously. Here, for example, is a man who wishes to excel in authorship. You read his book. You don't see all that lies behind the book. You don't see the rough outline which he first sketched — writing off-hand, as it were; on, and on, and on — blotting, and interlining, and erasing. There it is; just a rough manuscript, with hardly any shape — a line of thought running through it which he alone can see. He lays it aside and takes up another sheet; brings then the rough draft, writes over many parts with care, compression, condensation, that he may give it point and pertinence. He burns the first draft; lays the second aside, lays it by for six months, until he has become another man, viz., a critic of his own productions. He takes up his manuscript again for the last time — goes through it, striking out everything that is opposed to taste, inserting, improving, refining, curving, enriching, and expending himself upon it. Ask why? He says, "I mean this book to live after I have been taken away. I mean this to be a testimony. I mean this to be the last, richest, best expression of my attainments and my convictions; therefore I have expended myself fully upon its preparation." What is it that is written over the man's study and over the man's desk? This: "Strait is the gate, narrow is the way." No doubt there are men who can write beautiful nothings by the mile, sell them in the morning, and have them forgotten at sundown. But the writers who wish to enrich all coming generations, to stimulate the most distant posterity, have not the knack of shaking out of their coat sleeves the standard literature of the country. It is a question of preparation, self-culture, self-control, and putting out the stress of the whole being upon it. Then, at least, a man deserves to succeed. The effort after all may not be masterly, the man may fail to attain the position at which he has aimed; but "in all labour there is profit," and the man himself is fuller and stronger for the very industry which he has put forth. We are thus enabled to say that the entrance to the kingdom of heaven is necessarily the straitest, narrowest of all. What are other kingdoms to the Kingdom of Life? When you have learned all that books can convey to you, what is your kingdom? When you have obtained all the money that you can possibly own, what is the kingdom of pecuniary means? When you have sharpened, quickened, stimulated, and enriched your brain to the highest possible point, what is the kingdom of mere intellectual force and supremacy when compared with the kingdom of Life in God? As, therefore, this is held to be the highest kingdom of all, where is the unreasonableness of making the conditions of entrance into this kingdom the most exacting and stringent of all? We are thus prepared to say, that by so much as men have the power to strive for inferior kingdoms will they be witnesses against themselves if they fail to strive after the highest kingdom of all. Men are continually getting up evidence which will be used for them or against them in the day of judgment. The day of judgment may be the shortest day that ever dawned, may be but a moment, because every man will judge himself, and one look at God's face will mean destiny I By so much as we have the power to strive and have admitted the principle of striving, in relation to inferior kingdoms, are we preparing a judgment against ourselves if we have not accepted the conditions of entrance into the Divine empire. Let us now have a judgment day. There is no occasion to wait ten thousand years for the day of judgment. We can have it now! Let the eloquent man be judged, the man who has made the uses of speech his study from his earliest days. Hear his statement, but fail to follow his example: "I copied with my own hands six times the most voluminous histories of my country, that I might attain to what I supposed were the excellencies of their style. I disqualified myself for appearing in ordinary society by disfiguring my personal appearance, in order that I might bind myself to study by day and practice of speech by night. I have put pebbles in my mouth to cure my stammering; I have run up the steepest hills in the country that I might strengthen my lungs; I have harangued the sea that I might obtain power over tumultuous elements; if you would follow me along the road, walk it as I have done, inch by inch." And he has never thought about God's kingdom — kingdom of light, and life, and truth, and beauty! Hear God. "Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest, thou didst understand all about care and pains and discipline and culture, thou oughtest therefore — "And the man has no answer. No man can answer God when he comes face to face with his Maker! He may chaffer with Him now; he may utter his little speeches against his Maker now. But when it comes to the last reckoning of all, when a man takes up his life in his hand and says, "This is what I have done," God will point out to the man in his own life the things which will damn and consume him! What is this kingdom of which we have been speaking? It is called the Kingdom of Life. There are two gates, and only two. Two roads, and only two. Two destinies, and only two. The gate, the way leading to destruction — the way leading to life.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

I. EXPLAIN THE EXHORTATION. By the strait gate, we are to understand the entrance into that way which leads to life; and to enter in as the strait gate denotes the commencement of holiness in the heart of man. The same thing is denoted by conversion — by making a new heart — by giving God the heart — by reconciliation to God — by repentance for sin — by faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. The gate is said to be strait or difficult, on account of the difficulties of entering it. The expression is designed to show us that m commence a religious course is difficult. The difficulty arises, not from the nature of religion, but from the depravity of the heart. Hence the text requires us to "strive to enter in at the strait gate." The sinner must summon all the powers of his soul to the performance of his duty, and to put himself upon the utmost exertion, of which as a moral being he is capable, in the work of turning to God.

1. The understanding must be duly employed.

2. Conscience must perform its appropriate part in connection with all the moral sensibilities of the soul.

3. The will or the heart — that faculty of the soul by which man chooses and refuses, loves and hates — is also to be properly exerted.

II. ENFORCE THE INJUNCTION.

1. It is a command of God.

2. The command is perfectly reasonable. The requisition is, that man should do that, neither more nor less, which, as a moral being, he is qualified to do; that he should put those moral faculties which God has given him upon their appropriate exertions; in a word, that he summon all the faculties of his soul to the single point of doing as well as he can do.

3. It is only by compliance with the precept in the text, that man will perform his duty, and secure his salvation. All who shall seek the favour of God and eternal life without striving, i.e., seek these blessings without that full, and vigorous, and appropriate exertion of all the moral faculties of the soul, must fail of final salvation. This is plain from the nature of the case. If duty is not seen, if obligation is not felt, if the will or heart does not comply, no obedience is, or can be rendered.

4. I would further enforce the injunction, from the case of those who make no efforts to perform the duty, and the manner in which the Divine Spirit converts the sinner. It is a momentous fact — a fact which, in one respect, even after all the displays of mercy in the work of redemption, saves this guilty world from the midnight of despair — that the Spirit of God renews the heart of man through the truth. "Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth." The very object, and the only object, for which the Spirit strives with sinners, is to give truth its proper effect on the mind, the conscience, and the heart; and the thing, and the only thing, which He does, in regeneration, is actually to secure this effect. But how? Does the Spirit of God give effect to truth, when that truth is unthought of; and when the sinner effectually shuts it away, alike from his understanding, and his conscience, and his heart? Has such a thing ever been known or heard of, in all the earth, that God has converted a stupid sinner, continuing stupid? Is there one such on earth — one such among the redeemed in glory? Not one.Remarks:

1. This subject shows us that the sinner may become a Christian soon, and how he may do so. Religion, whether it be called repentance, faith, a new heart, or love to God, is action — mental, moral action. The sinner, to become the subject of either, must act it. What the Holy Spirit does, is not to impart a gift merely to a passive subject, a mere receiver, but to move a free moral agent to act — to act as a moral agent.

2. We see what a fearful condemnation awaits the impenitent sinner.

(N. W. Taylor, D. D.)

— I shall take occasion, from the question and the exhortation before us, to speak to you to-day of a wrong and a right anxiety. Let us consider —

I. THE QUESTION, AS EXPRESSIVE OF A WRONG ANXIETY — "Lord, are there few that be saved?" Why, in the case before us, and in most others in which it is entertained, does this inquiry indicate a blameworthy solicitude? I answer —

1. Because it bespeaks the absence of a due regard to a man's personal interests. He from whom it proceeds has his mind drawn off from that which vitally concerns himself and his own destiny, and absorbed in the affairs of others. His individual relations and responsibilities are merged in those of his fellow-creatures. He is forgetful of obligations that press urgently upon his own being, in his extreme desire to know how men in general will be found to have fulfilled theirs, when the end shall come. With a work of overwhelming magnitude, demanding from him the whole energy of his whole nature, he is allowing that energy to dissipate itself in the prosecution of a vain curiosity.

2. Because it relates to a point which God has not chosen to determine positively in His holy Word. The attempt to solve it is an effort to be wise above what is written. The presumptuous individual would fain place himself on a level with the Infinite and Omniscient; he would read with his weakling eyes the sublime secrets of the eternal records; he would rashly plant his feet where angels fear to tread. And, brethren, it is not difficult to find the counterpart of this man in our own day. We everywhere see, and in almost every one, the same disposition to pry into matters beyond the ken of humanity; to seek to understand subjects which the short plumb-line of our reason is incompetent to fathom.

II. THE EXHORTATION, AS SUGGESTIVE OF A RIGHT ANXIETY — "Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able." "Strive" — that is, be anxious, be supremely concerned about this. Look on smaller matters with indifference: do not let them absorb you; regard them as subordinate, and comparatively trivial. But in reference to the end of which I speak to you now, let your solicitude be all-absorbing; let it lay hold of your whole being; let it colour and modify all your thoughts and actions. You will not err in doing so, for this is a right and laudible anxiety. But let me now, by two or three remarks, show that the solicitude which our Lord thus commends and enforces is indeed right.

1. And first, I may say, this is a right anxiety, because it is necessary. Entrance into life, personal salvation, which is what is meant by going in at the strait gate, is not to be attained without it. We must "agonize," as the word is, "to enter in at the strait gate," or we shall never reach the celestial home at the end of the narrow way. This anxiety is indispensable, and therefore it is right. But I call this anxiety a right one —

2. Because it respects an object of paramount importance and worth. This object I have already described, in general terms, as being our personal salvation.

3. Because it is an anxiety that will be abundantly rewarded in the attainment of its end. Now, you need hardly be told, my brethren, that there are innumerable solicitudes of men which never yield anything but disappointment; myriads of earnest and persevering endeavours that altogether fail in realizing the object for which they are put forth. In worldly matters, I believe it is the few only who succeed. The majority are, more or less, the victims of blasted aims and abortive projects. Yonder, in a bare and unfurnished attic, is a man who began life as an aspirant for literary distinction. The early stages of his journey were bright with hope, and fruitful of plans; but soon its aspect changed. Discouragement, failure, neglect, followed each other in quick succession in the progress of his life-story, and though he burnt on the midnight oil, and wrought out in the laboratory of his brain beautiful and clever productions, they have never come to light. The public that was to admire and laud them has never even learnt his name, and his gray hairs are being brought down with sorrow to the grave. There, among the humblest in yon pauper's home, is another, who made wealth the grand aim of his being; sought for it with a mad eagerness that robbed him of peace by day and rest by night; sought for it by fair means and foul; but fortune showed him no favour. Riches never came, or if they did, soon took to themselves wings, and flew away, and now his last days are dragging out in poverty, and his only remaining pleasure is to recount, with drivelling simplicity, to those around him, the astute schemes he conceived without results, and the numberless efforts he made in vain. And here is a third man, whose self-elected sphere in life was that of statesmanship; he aspired to rule; he thought himself born to command. He dreamt of parliaments swayed by his eloquence, and borne down by his arguments, until all made way for him as a leader. And what is he now? See him yonder, haranguing with the garrulity of second childhood, an ignoble and ignorant crowd, whom only the hope of amusement could induce to listen to him for a moment. He has sown to the wind, and has reaped the whirlwind. Such are the disappointments that wait upon human anxieties and aims. In reference to them, possibility, or, at most, probability of accomplishment, is all that can be calculated on. But it is not so in relation to the anxiety which I am seeking to awaken in you all to-day. Religious aims never come to nought. Endeavours after salvation, of the right sort, cannot fail of their object; here is certainty to build upon. If then, mere possibility, or probability, will inspire and sustain effort, ought not this much more to do so? If for an uncertain possession you willingly endure such toil, and submit to such patient plodding, as many of you do, will you not much more give diligence, by prayer, and faith, and effort, to obtain a certain inheritance? Will you do so much for a corruptible crown, and refuse to do it for an incorruptible?

(C. M. Merry.)

It is said that the question proposed in the text, "Lord, are there few that be saved?" — or, as the words stand in the original, "are the saved few?" — was at the time of Christ's ministry upon earth vehemently debated in the schools of the Jewish doctors; and therefore, when the speaker now referred it to the Lord Jesus, it was either for the confirmation of a judgment already formed, or from conscious incompetency to form any judgment of his own aright. While, however, the inquiry is that of an individual, more curious, it may be, about the future destiny of others than concerned about his own, the Lord addresses the answer to the whole company of the disciples. It was one who said to Him, "are the saved few?" — it was to many that tie said, severally as well as collectively, "Strive," each of you, "to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, but shall not be able."

I. First, then, THERE IS AN END PROPOSED, WHICH IS SALVATION. "Lord," one said unto Him, "are there few that be saved?" But the Lord not only, as we have observed, addressed His reply to all, but He adapted it to what the question ought to have been, rather than to what it was. It should have been, "What must I do to be saved?"

II. And THE MEANS OF ATTAINING TO SALVATION, which form the second point proposed for our consideration, are comprehended and condensed by our Lord in one single emphatic word — "Strive" — ye who would be saved — "strive to enter in at the strait gate." This word "strive' is indeed in the original most significant and impressive. It implies the concentration of all the energies, faculties, and powers of the understanding and the hear in one great object, which must be attained at any cost; it supposes the exertion of every member, the straining of every nerve, the union of body and soul putting forth all their vigour and determined to succeed Or to perish. The Lord has Himself expressed the same idea elsewhere, in language striking and impressive. "The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force." The general meaning of this must certainly be, if it is to have any meaning at all, that in the concerns of the soul we are to be in earnest. We are not to take counsel with flesh and blood; we are not to compromise principle for pleasure, or to oscillate between interest and duty. There stands the gate; strait it is; and strait it ever will be; all the skill and all the subtlety of man cannot extend it by a span, or widen it by a hair-breadth. The gate of eternal life is as God has fixed it from the beginning, and as He will maintain it to the end. But, my dear brethren, while it is a strait or narrow gate, blessed be God, it is also an open gate. If all earth cannot widen it, all hell cannot close it; open it is, open it stands, night and day, and the voice of mercy is ever heard to issue from within — "I am the Door; by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved." What is it, then, you will ask, to strive, as the Lord enjoins? and against whom, or against what, is the strife to be maintained? To this I answer, generally and primarily, the strife is against the flesh, with its affections, appetites, and lusts.

III. This, then, is the reason — to be considered in the third and last place — WHY WE ARE TO BE PROMPT, AS WELL AS EARNEST, IN THE EMPLOYMENT OF THE MEANS, THAT WE MAY NOT BE DISAPPOINTED OF THE END. A day will come, when "many shall seek to enter in, but will not be able." And why will they not be able? Because "light came into the world, and they loved darkness rather than light"; because they were laden with incumbrances which they would not lay aside, and fettered by chains which they would not even attempt to burst; because they "troubled and vexed His Holy Spirit, until that He was turned to be their enemy, and fought against them." They would not when they could; and when at length the error of their perverseness is made clear by dread experience as the sun at noon-day — when the death-bed comes, which is "the detector of the heart" — they cannot when they would.

(T. Dale, M. A.)

I. THE GATE. That of which our Lord here speaks is not the gate of repentance, or of faith, or of conversion; but the gate of complete sanctification, of glory, of the kingdom of God, not at the lower end, but at the higher; not the gate at the beginning of Christian experience, but at the end of its earthly career; not Bunyan's wicket-gate, but the gate of the city celestial. A different gate from that mentioned in Matthew 7:13, to enter which no effort is required, but simply believing. Here a battle has to be fought, and it is he that overcometh who enters in (2 Timothy 4:7; 2 Peter 1:5-7). We start from a strait gate; we run on to another strait gate. The one is at the cross; the other before the throne.

II. THE STRIVING TO ENTER. "Agonize." The gate is hard to enter. Why? Not in the sense of admitting only a few; but, because everything that is un-Christlike is refused admission. How much, then, we have to take off and lay in the dust! Self. Pride. Worldliness. Moreover, the gate is strait in another sense. The porter is particular. Certain positive qualifications are necessary. Only the workers of righteousness are admitted: those who bear the image of Christ.

(A. Scott.)

Painting the difficulties and hardships attendant on a course of life does not seem to be the best way to attract men to it. And yet it frequently is so. Many a boy has been made a sailor by stories of shipwreck and suffering, and the martyr's fire has often lighted new converts to the faith for which he died. The appeal to the lower motives, which says, "Do this because it is agreeable," is a very feeble and a very shabby one, as compared with that which says, "You will have a great many difficulties on this road, but do the thing because it is right, and, therefore, in the long run, best." So our Lord here, in these solemn and familiar words, exhorts us to discipleship, not because it is easy, but because it is hard; and warns us against the other path because of its convenience. He does not say, "Although the one gate is wide and the other narrow, yet enter," but He says, "Because the one gate is wide, do not go in at it, and because the other is narrow, do!" Or, to put it into other words, this text exhorts us to be Christians because of the difficulties in the path, and warns us against the other road because of its seeming immunities and comforts. I shall best, I think, carry out the spirit of the words before us if I simply try to dwell upon these four particulars, and see how all of them enforce the exhortation.

I. Look then, first, at THE TWO GATES. The gates come into view merely as the means of entrance upon the path. To put into plain English the meaning of our Lord's words, He says to us, "Be Christians because it is a great deal easier to begin to be evil than to begin to be good." All evil things are easily commenced. It is not difficult to begin to be bad; the difficulty comes afterwards. But the gate of discipleship is narrow, because you have to make yourself small to get in at it, like Milton's angels that had to diminish their size to enter the council chamber. It is narrow, inasmuch as you have to leave outside wealth, position, culture, righteousness, self-help, everything that is your own, or you will stick in the aperture like a loaded mule in some narrow doorway. You cannot drive through there in a carriage and pair; you must alight and walk. The surest way to get in is to go down on your knees. As in those narrow passages for defence which you find in the pre-historic houses on many a Scotch moor, where there is only a little aperture leading to a tortuous avenue, along which a man has to crawl on his face; so, if you want to get into the road that leadeth to life you have to go down very low, and abandon self, and leave ever so much rubbish outside, for it will let you in, and it will let nothing in but you. Fancy a king, like that German emperor that stood outside the gate of Canossa, in the snow, coming up to the door with all his robes on, and his crown on his head. He has to take off the crown, for the gate is not high enough to admit that. He has to strip himself of his robes, for the gate is not wide enough to admit their stiffened velvet and gold; he tries again and again to force himself through its narrowness, until he stands stripped of all but the hair shirt of penitence, and then he can get through. "Strait is the gate," letting in one at a time, like a turnstile that admits single people and takes in none of their belongings. These are the conditions on which we become Christ's disciples.

II. NOW, CONSIDER THE SECOND CLASS OF ENFORCEMENTS OF THE EXHORTATION DERIVED FROM THE CONTRAST OF THE WAYS. "Broad is the way," in the one case, narrow in the other: which, being put into plain English, means that to the natural man, to flesh and blood and all that belongs to it, not only is the initial step, which makes a Christian, hard, but that to be a real Christian continues hard right along. So, be suspicious of easy roads, and turn a deaf ear to the world that says to you, "Come, and eat of my bread, for it is pleasant, and drink of the wine that I have mingled." If you are ever in doubt about two courses, choose the unwelcome and the hard one; and in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred you will have chosen the one that God meant you to walk in. The road is broad, therefore avoid it; the way is narrow, therefore walk ye in it.

III. Again, OUR LORD DRAWS ANOTHER ARGUMENT FROM THE POPULARITY OF THE ONE PATH AND THE SPARSE TRAVELLERS UPON THE OTHER. "Many there be that go in thereat." That is a reason for your not going in. "Few there be that find it." That is a reason for your trying to be one of the few. "What everybody says will be true." If you can get a perfectly unanimous vote you may rely upon it; but what the majority says is generally false. So it is in matters of opinion; so it is in conduct. The sombre thing about the world is, not that men are miserable, or that men are mortal, but that the mass of men choose to be foolish anal bad, and they do so because it is easiest. The sluggard's motive of saving trouble shapes the lives of most of us. It is easy travelling in the ruts. A cabman will always try to get his wheel on the tram rail. It goes smoothly. We are ever disposed to swallow what everybody round about us declares to be food, even though we, in our inmost hearts, know that it is poison. Tell a man that ten thousand people go to see something, and he is sure to make the ten thousand and first as soon as he can. Tell him that nobody goes that road and he will not go it. Jesus Christ comes to us, and says — therein echoing the words and consciences of all true teachers and guides — "Be suspicious of what most people believe, and avoid what most people do." The road is traversed by crowds. Well, that is a presumption against it. Dead fish go down the stream, living ones swim the other way. Where you are called to go, never mind though you have to go alone.

IV. Our Lord's final argument is from THE CONTRAST OF THE ENDS. "Life" — "destruction." The one path has an inclination upwards, while the other steadily descends.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

I. THE GATE. You have gone to another part of the country to spend your holidays, or to visit friends. There is a noble castle in the neighbourhood, with beautiful grounds, trees and shrubs and flowers, and lakes with swans and all sorts of water-fowl, and other attractions which I cannot describe. You have heard much about the place, and have been told, if ever you are within reach, to be sure to go to see it. Bat when you go, the very first thing that meets your eye is the gate. That stands between you and what you so much desire to see, and your very first question is, "How am I to get in? How is the gate to be passed? Whom shall I get to open it for me?" The first thing with which you have to do is — the gate! Or, there is to be some special treat for children, nearer home. It is a gala-day. Crowds of young people in holiday dress, and all merry and in high spirits as can be, are hurrying along. All are pressing forward to a common meeting-place. You follow the crowd. You would like to get in. As they come up, they show their ticket of admission, and pass on. And as you look in wistfully after them, your thought is — the gate I the door t How could I get in? Now, it is just so with other and higher things. As to all that is good in God's house and kingdom here, and all that is good in God's heavenly kingdom and home yonder — the great question with each of us is, "How shall I get at it? How shall I get in?" The great question is, about the gate — the door. Now, I might get many answers to the question, "What is the gate?" Some might answer, prayer is the gate, quoting such a passage as that, "Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you;" or, "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Some might say, faith is the gate: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." Some might say, repentance is the gate: "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." Some might say, conversion is the gate: "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." Some might say, regeneration — being "born again" — is the gate: "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." All these are correct, so far as they go. But I believe the best of all answers to the question, "What is the gate? " is — Christ. Christ is the gate. So you find Himself saying, "I am the Way; no man cometh unto the Father but by Me." And again, "I am the Door; by Me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved." And again it is written, " Through Him we have access," or entrance. I shall try to explain to you how Jesus is the Gate, the Door, the Way. If you had offended some one, and he were to say that he would have nothing to do with you, would hold no communication with you except through me; that he would not listen to your application for pardon, except as it came through me; that I was the only person to whom he would listen, as seeking help for you, then I would be your "way" — "your door" — so far as he was concerned. And just so, I cannot get access to God the Father, except as coming through the Lord Jesus — in His name — making mention of Him. He is the only Mediator between God and me. I shall suppose you to be in prison, sentenced to lie there for months, or years, or for a whole lifetime, on account of some crime or for debt, or, it may be, condemned to death. I offer to take your place and become the prisoner in your stead, undertaking, as your substitute, to lie there for you as long as you should have lain, or to die for you, and you accept my offer, change places with me, and are set free. If you were asked, how you got out, you would say that you got out through me; that I opened the door for you; that I was your door out. Now that is what Jesus is and does.

II. THE STRAITNESS OF THE GATE. It is called the "strait" or narrow gate. That does not mean, as we have seen, that there is any gate of wood or iron, and that it is so small that your bodies can hardly get through, push as you will. It just means that the way of salvation is difficult — is hard — that entering in by Christ as our door of salvation, our way of life is, in many views of it, very difficult, though, in other respects, it is most simple, most easy. I might speak of "the strait gate" in other matters. For instance, you have, in some way, been misbehaving, and you cannot bring yourself to say you have done wrong, to confess your fault, and own yourself sorry for it, and promise never to do the like again. You are shut up in your room. You hear your mother's footstep in the passage. You saw the tear in her eye, as you not only did the wrong, but refused to acknowledge it; and as you hear her at your door, and know that she is waiting there for the needed confession, it is as if a voice within cried out, "Yes; do it!" but your pride, your temper, your high spirit, will not let you, and you don't. It is a " strait gate."

1. There must be the giving up of your sin. You cannot come to Christ without this. You must let your sins go. Here is a narrow entrance. A blind man comes up to it with a great bundle on his back. It would let him in, but it will not let in his bundle. Either he must let go his load, and leave it behind him, or else he must stay outside with it. Now, your sins are just such a bundle. And then they have got such a hold on you — they so cling to you — they seem a part of your very self! To give them up is like leaving an arm behind you, and that is not easy. These dear sins of yours! — who shall tell what the giving of them up is? — forsaking your bad habits, bad companions, bad books — those silly, exciting, polluting novels, and story books, and tales, which used to have such an attraction for you; renouncing your bad tempers, pride, vanity, love of dress, indolence, resentment, talebearing, selfishness, greed, and such like things. Oh, it is hard to part with these! — it is a "strait gate." Ay, the gate is so strait, that it will not let in one consciously spared sin; and it is often one — just one — that keeps people out. They will not give it up, and the strait gate will not let it through.

2. There must be the giving up of your self-righteousness — your own goodness. By that, I do not mean that you are to cease to do any good thing that you have ever done — that you must give up doing good, just as you must give up doing evil. But I mean, that you must no more trust to your good-doing than to your evil-doing as a ground of acceptance with God. At a funeral one day I heard a minister thank God on behalf of an old saint, that, "by God's grace, she had been enabled to give up self — sinful self and righteous self." Now, the giving up of sinful self, as we have seen, is difficult enough; but it is not nearly so hard as the giving up of righteous self.

3. You must enter in at this gate alone. Part of the "straitness" consists in the solitariness of it. The crowd do not go that way — they do not like it. And it is not easy to differ from other people in anything. It is not easy even to wear an article of dress unlike our neighbours. It requires a great deal of courage even to do that. Now, one must be very much alone in entering this gate. Hence one of the difficulties of it. There are two remarks, however, which I must make here, by way of encouragement, and as so far an offset to the straitness of which I have spoken. The first is, that although the gate is strait, it is open — always open. You don't need to open it: it is open already. The second is, that though the gate is always strait, it is not so strait for children. Children can get in at small openings more easily than older and bigger people can.

III. The need of ENTERING IN. It is not enough to know about it, to think about it, to promise, to intend, to resolve. None of all these will do. You must enter in. There is a ship at sea, beating about — the wind blowing hard, the waves breaking over it. A leak is discovered — all hands are at the pumps; the water is making; darkness comes on; guns of distress are fired. There are piteous cries for help. At length, yonder is the harbour! The cry bursts forth from a hundred voices, "The harbour! the harbour! Yonder are the lights! Listen! don't you hear the voices?" And yet they may sink in sight of the harbour, at the very mouth of it, almost in, knowing all about the entrance. And next morning it will be all the sadder to see the ship lying at the very harbour's mouth — touching it — a wreck, and all on board perished. They did not "enter in."

IV. The need of STRIVING, in order to enter in. That is to say, there must be earnestness, thoroughgoing earnestness — throwing ourselves with our whole heart into it, resolving never to give up, but with God's help to win the day. And now let me ask one or two questions ere I close.

1. Are you striving? If such earnestness is needful, if the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, if without this there is no hope, no chance of being saved — what are you. doing in order to be saved? Are you striving?

2. Are you letting anything keep you back? A man who had climbed up a tree overhanging a river, lost his hold. As he was falling down he caught hold of a twig, by which he hung. A boat put off for his rescue, and came alongside, just beneath him; but there he still hung, and save him they could not.. Their cry was, "Let go the twig, or we cannot save you!" and only when he let go was salvation possible. Perhaps you are holding by some "twig," some sin, some fancied goodness, refusing to give it up. I would leave this word to ring in the ear of such: "Let go the twig! Let go the twig! Let nothing keep you back!"

3. Are you putting off? You have no security for to-morrow. No day is yours but to-day. What a bitter thought it will be, that you might have entered in, and you would not, and so are for ever shut out I

(J. H. Wilson, M. A.)

I. THE DUTY ENJOINED.

1. The course of a holy and Christian life, in order to the obtaining of eternal happiness, is here represented to us by a way, which every man that would come to heaven, must walk in. For so St. Matthew (who expresseth this more fully) makes mention of a way, as well as a gate, by which we must enter into it — "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leadeth to life." And this, though it be not expressed by St. Luke, is necessarily understood — "Strive to enter in at the strait gate"; that is, into the way that leads to life.

2. The first difficulties of a holy and religious course of life are here represented to us by a strait gate. For the gate at which we enter, and the way in which we walk, can signify nothing else, but the beginning and progress of a holy and religious course. Now these difficulties are either from ourselves or from something without us.(1) From ourselves; from the original corruption and depravation of our nature, and the power of evil habits and customs, contracted by vicious practices. Our natures are vitiated and depraved, inclined to evil, and impotent to good; besides that, being habituated to sin and vice, it is a matter of infinite difficulty to break off a custom, and to turn the course of our life another way. Now, because this is the difficulty of our first entrance into religion, it is represented by a strait gate, which is hard to get through.(2) There are, likewise, other difficulties from without; as, namely, the opposition and persecution of the world, which was very raging and violent in the first beginnings of Christianity. And this our Saviour represents by the ruggedness and roughness of the way, as St. Matthew expresseth it (Matthew 7:14).

3. Our diligence and constancy in this course are represented by "striving," a word which hath a great force and emphasis in it, ἀγνωίζεσθε, a metaphor taken from the earnest contention which was used in the Olympic games by those who strove for mastery in running or wrestling, or any of the other exercises which were there used. And to the business of religion, if we will set upon it in good earnest, these three things are required:(1) A mighty resolution to engage us in a holy and Christian course.(2) Great diligence and industry to carry us on in it.(3) An invincible constancy to carry us through it, and make us persevere in it to the end.

4. The difficulties of a holy and a Christian life are not so great and insuperable as to be a just ground of discouragement to our endeavours.(1) Consider the assistance which the gospel offers to us. By the assistance of the Holy Spirit, which is promised to us, we may conquer all difficulties.(2) Consider, that the greatest difficulties are at first; it is but making one manful onset, and sustaining the first brunt, and the difficulties will abate and grow less, and our strength will every day increase and grow more. The gate is strait; but when we have once got through it, "our feet will be set in an open place."(3) Consider that custom will make religion easy to us.(4) Consider the reward that religion propounds, and this must needs sweeten and mitigate all the troubles and difficulties that are occasioned by it. This "strait gate" through which we must enter, and this "craggy way" which we are to climb up, leads to life, and he is a lazy man, indeed, that will not strive and struggle for life.

II. Here is a REASON ADDED TO ENFORCE THE EXHORTATION or duty; "for many shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able": that is, there are a great many that will do something in Christianity, and make some faint attempts to get to heaven, who yet shall fall short of it, for want of such a firm resolution and earnestness of endeavour, as it is necessary to the attaining of it.

1. Some trust to the external profession of the true religion.

2. Others have attained to a good degree of knowledge in religion, and they rely much upon that.

3. There are others that find themselves much affected with the Word of God, and the doctrines contained in it.

4. Others are very strict and devout in the external worship of God.

5. Others confide much in their being members of the only true Church, in which alone salvation is to be had, and in the manifold privileges and advantages which therein they have above others of getting to heaven.

6. Others think their great zeal for God and His true religion will certainly save them.

7. Others go a great way in the real practice of religion.

8. Others rely much upon the sincerity of their repentance and conversion, whereby they are put into a state of grace, and become the children of God, and heirs of everlasting life; and being once truly so, they can never fall from that state, so as finally to miscarry.

9. Others venture all upon a death-bed repentance, and their importunity with God to receive them to mercy at the last.

(Archbishop Tillotson.)

The thing that I will chiefly labour in, is (according to the drift of the place) to show what things ought of necessity to be in every one that would be saved. It will be excellent matter of direction to all those that are yet unconverted, and of resolution and confirmation to such as have truly cared to walk the way that leadeth unto life.

1. The first thing which by authority of this text of Scripture ought to be in every one that desireth salvation, is a right understanding and a true acknowledgment of his own wandering. Reason itself must needs yield to this in other things, and it must needs be true in this. How shall I persuade a man to enter into the strait gate, if he do not feel and perceive himself to be in a way in which it is not safe for him to continue? If we look into the Scripture we shall see good proof for this point, namely, that the acknowledgment of our by-past error is the very first degree unto sound conversion. Deceive we not ourselves, either we must begin here at the sight of our old errors, or else we can never tread the path that leadeth unto life.

2. The next thing which by the rule of my text must be in every one that would be saved, is, care to seek out the true way, and that path, which leadeth and bringeth the goers in it unto life. This is plain also (as to me seemeth) by this Scripture; for as the light of a man's ancient wandering must go before his entrance into a new course, so of necessity when he perceiveth his errors, the right way must be sought outs and certainly understood, before he can enter there into; so that He which bids me enter into the gate of life, bids me withal to seek where that gate is, for otherwise my desire of entrance is in vain. If a master do will his servant to go to such a house, it is presupposed that either he cloth know the way to it, or else must make inquiry for it. And this care to inquire out the true way in this particular, is the plain doctrine of the Scripture (Jeremiah 6:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:24; Acts 17:11; 1 Kings 18:21).

3. The third thing which this text necessarily commendeth unto us, if we would be saved, is a resolution when we have felt our error, and found the right way and the true gate, all delays laid aside to make a present entry. If you ask how I prove this by my text, I thus make it manifest. So here, the commandment and charge being given indefinitely, without any express limitation of any set time, it fol-loweth that it is presently to be performed. Our Saviour saith not, enter hereafter when thou art more at leisure; or to the young man, enter when thou art old; or to the old man, enter when thou art a-dying; or to the covetous man, enter when thou hast glutted thy desire with wealth; or to the drunkard, enter when thou art utterly disabled that thou canst be drunk no longer: but He saith to all, at the instant "Enter"; do it presently, do it straightway, defer not to do it. And this is also the plain doctrine of the Scripture — "I made haste," saith David, "and I delayed not to keep Thy commandments." It is commended in Peter and Andrew, that when Christ called them, they left their nets straightway. When Christ called Zaccheus, the text saith, that he "came down hastily." The reason why there must be a resolution of present entrance is, because as there is a time of grace, in the which the gate of mercy stands open, so there is a time of judgment, in which this gate mill be shut up, and all hope of entry utterly removed.

4. The fourth thing which now followeth to be treated of, is the entrance itself; our former wandering must be felt, the right and true way must be sought for; when it is found, a resolution of present entrance must be put on; and then next we must put forward. "Enter in at the strait gate." To this act of entrance there are two things required, the first is (that I may use terms agreeable to my text) stooping; the second, a stripping of ourselves of whatsoever may hinder our entrance. First, there must be a kind of stooping, because the coming in is low. It is said of heaven in the Scripture, that "it is a house not made with hands." Now, as in the matter thereof it is differing from our earthly buildings, so is it in the framing and contriving of it. In great men's houses, it is a great eyesore to see a little, low, and pinching entry to a large and spacious dwelling; but to the end all things may be answerable, as the house is of great receipt, so the gates must be high and lofty, and the coming in according. But now in this house which is eternal in the heavens it is otherwise. Indeed it is large within, "For in My Father's house" (saith Christ) "are many mansions"; but yet the gate unto it is exceeding low, the entry narrow, the passing in very strait. It is the gate of humility. Well, it followeth, together with this stooping, there must go (as I said) a certain stripping of ourselves also; he that would go through a strait way, a narrow entry, it is no wisdom for him to clog himself with many things about him; he had need rather to lighten himself, that he may go through with the greater ease. The covetous man with his bags, the swearer with his great oaths, that malicious man that swells with his malice, the ambitious with his high thoughts, the vicious with his minions, the drunkard with his full cups; these and the like to these can never enter here with their dependances. What sin soever thou hast formerly delighted in, if it were to thee as thy right hand, or thy right eye, thou must cut it off and cast it from thee, thou must strive to strip thyself of it, or else this gate is much too little for thee to go in at. This is like the hole the snake creepeth through, where he leaves his old skin behind him. If thou mean to come here, thou must then say with St. Peter, "It is enough for me that I have spent the time past of my life, after the lusts of the Gentiles, walking in wantonness, lusts, drunkenness, gluttony, drinkings, and in abominable idolatries." Other things, better things, are now expected of me; even that henceforth, "I should live, not after the lusts of men, but after the will of God." It is an excellent place. I could bring in a cloud of witnesses to make good this point, that old sins must be stripped off, when we once put our foot to the threshold of this strait gate.

5. The fifth thing, then, which by the authority and strength of this text ought to be in every one that desireth salvation, is a continual proceeding and going on in good things. I doubt not but you shall see this plainly proved to be comprehended in the text. Our Saviour here compareth heaven to a place from which by nature we are all estranged; true religion is the way leading unto it, humility (the denial of ourselves, and the renouncing the bypast pleasures of sin) is the gate entering us into this way. Now the use, you know, of a way, is for travellers, not for idle loiterers, or vain gazers, or time-deluding triflers; such is this spiritual way, it is a way leading to life, and therefore requireth a continual proceeding, from step to step, from grace to grace, without desisting, without tiring, until the journey's end be reached unto: and this is the express doctrine of the Scripture. The enterers into this gate of life must not stand (as it were) about the door, and sit them down as soon as they have begun to taste of good things, but there is a way before them to be travelled in; and, as through the necessity of nature, they come every day nearer to the end of their days, so by the power of grace they must strive to come every day nearer to the end of their faith, the salvation of their souls. Let us apply it.(1) To reprove that which hath been reproved often, but is not yet reformed, and that is our slackness, and our sluggishness in spiritual things.(2) Well, for a second use; if it be so dangerous a thing not to go forward, what is it, think we, to go backward, to decay, and grow cold in our love to good things. "Their last state" (saith our Saviour) "will be worse than their first." And, "it is better not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they have known, to turn from the holy commandment given unto them." The evil spirit that is once cast out, bringeth with him "seven devils worse than himself." Now to this going on and proceeding in the way to life there are sundry things belonging which it is very meet that we should be made acquainted with; they are impertinent neither to the matter nor to the text.

1. The first is, continual guidance and direction. A man that is to journey in a way unknown will not be satisfied with this alone that he is set into the right way, but considering the possibility of erring, he will furnish himself with as many directions as he can, glad he will be of any man's company that understandeth the way; sometime he will be at the charge rather than fail to hire a man that may conduct him. The way of peace which leadeth unto happiness, is a way which flesh and blood is not acquainted with, and the nature of man is of itself very subject to mistaking; therefore his duty that would grow in godliness is to get unto him the direction of some sure guide, which will not deceive him, that so he may not fail of the end and mark which he desireth. The head guide is the Lord Jesus, He hath recommended His directions unto us in His Word; and for the common benefit and instruction of His Church, He hath given gifts unto men, and enabled them to lay open the mystery of the Scripture, and by this His ordinance He guides and directs those that are in His eternal counsel ordained unto life.

2. The second thing that must accompany our purpose of going on in the way to happiness, is circumspection and an earnest heeding of our course. So much is very manifest by the text. You see here, that as the gate of entrance is termed "strait," so the way of progress is called "narrow." Now a narrow way requireth heedfulness, a little slipping, or going to this side or that, may breed a great deal of inconvenience. And if we examine the Scripture we shall see the like heed-taking required in this spiritual journey. The third thing which must accompany our purpose of going on in the way of happiness is a resolution and preparation for such encumbrances as may meet us on the way. It is wisdom, we know, in travelling to be prepared for the weather, to be armed against such as lie in wait to spoil, and do many times make a prey of the goods, nay even of the lives, of the passersby, so in this case, inasmuch as a man intending to proceed in the ways of God shall be assaulted with many grievances, it is good policy both to put on a resolution to wrestle with them, and to be armed so that he may prevail against them. The last thing which must accompany our purpose of going on, is an often calling the course passed to an account, to see whether it be right and straight, yea or no; he who journeyeth in a way which he is not acquainted with, it is wisdom for him ever and anon to be mindful of the directions which were given him, and to remember the marks which were told him, the turnings and the by-paths which he was warned of, to the end that by thinking hereupon, if he finds he is right, he may proceed with comfort; if he be deceived, he may return quickly before he has wandered too far and erred overmuch. So it must be in this way.

(S. Hieron.)

To insist in virtuous courses, and to attain at length to everlasting bliss, is no easy .achievement. To be saved is a very difficult matter. There must be great pains and labour in getting through the gate. In which words you may observe these two general parts.

1. An exhortation to an important duty — "Enter ye in at the strait gate."

2. The reasons and arguments to enforce the practice of this duty, and they are two. The first is taken from the easiness of the contrary performance, and the multitude of those that perish by it. "For wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat." The second argument is taken from the difficulty of this duty, and the paucity of those who perform it aright, and consequently attain to life and happiness. "Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."

I. IT IS FAR MORE HARD AND DIFFICULT TO BE TRULY HOLY, AND TO ENTER INTO HEAVEN AND HAPPINESS, THAN MEN COMMONLY IMAGINE. This is founded upon these positive words of our Saviour, " Strait is the gate," &c. This happens thus upon this twofold account.

1. By reason of the great things which are to be done by us in order to salvation.

2. Because of the great things which are to be suffered by us.

3. (and which comprehends the former) In regard of the great and powerful enemies that we are to encounter with.

II. My second proposition (which is indeed the consequent of which I have been insisting upon) is this, that OF ALL THE MEN IN THE WORLD THERE ARE BUT FEW THAT ATTAIN TO HEAVEN AND HAPPINESS. The number of them that shall be saved is very little in respect of those that shall be damned. Our Saviour not only tells us that " Strait is the gate and narrow the way which leadeth unto life," but He adds this also, "Few there be that find it." Absolutely speaking, many are saved; but speaking comparatively, very few. The New Jerusalem hath more gates than one (as it is described in Revelation 22.), i.e., as I conceive, many enter into it. But, notwithstanding this, it is likewise an undeniable truth that vast numbers are shut out of the New Jerusalem — yea, many more are excluded than are let in. The greatest number of men are wicked, and follow their evil courses, and perish everlastingly. Weeds and briars grow apace, and fill every field and hedge, but useful flowers and plants are more scarce. Godliness is rare, and hath few followers; but the wicked are very numerous. Sinners go by whole troops to hell. You may behold multitudes of men and women posting with all haste in the broad way. That road is beaten and frequented. The number is very great of scandalous and ungodly men, but there are very few that live according to the rules of the gospel, and attain to celestial bliss and glory.

1. To begin with that which was the sad beginning of all our miseries, it must needs be that the number of those who are saved is but little in comparison of those that are damned; and also that it is a very difficult thing to attain to salvation and happiness; it must needs be so, I say, because of the great shipwreck at Adam's fall. Many were cast away in that bottom. For that first man carried our concerns and effects in his vessel, and when this split on the rock we were all shattered and plunged into misery. Truly it is a wonder that any escaped and got to shore safe.

2. There is in most men a wilful ignorance of the way to salvation, and of their own good and welfare; and this may be assigned as a main cause why so few are saved. How many ignorant souls are there who content themselves with their dark road that they are in? They see others striving to enter in at the strait gate, and they observe that they put themselves to a great deal of trouble and pains; wherefore they, for their part, continue in the blind and obscure path which they have taken, and there they live at ease, and indulge their follies, and are not solicitous to correct them. A considerable part of the Christian world is ruined by this means.

3. Unbelief damns a great part of the world, and causes the number of the blessed to be so scarce. A fault of the will, as well as of the understanding.

4. This may be assigned as another reason why the number of those that are saved is but small, in comparison of the great multitudes that are damned, namely, because men nourish insensibleness and security, and will not be affected with the wretchedness of their condition. There are few that have a sense of the burden of their sins; and how then can it be expected that they should have a desire to be eased of it? Where sin lies light, the salvation by Christ Jesus is ever vilified and disrespected.

5. Pride and self-conceit are another cause why so great multitudes of men fall short of salvation and happiness, and why the number of those that are saved is so rare. It is no wonder that the gospel salvation is everywhere slighted, since it so directly crosses the grain of our nature — I mean, our high opinion of ourselves.

6. The way to life must needs be difficult, and few there be that find it, because men s deceive themselves. This is an undeniable truth (though the generality of the world will not acknowledge it) that there is a cheat in every sin, and that men are grossly deluded and imposed upon by the commission of it. Hence in Scripture you read of the "deceitfulness of riches" (Matthew 13:22), and "deceitful lusts" (Ephesians 4:22), and the "deceivableness of unrighteousness" (2 Thessalonians 2:10), and the " deceitfulness of sin" (Hebrews 3:13). All which acquaints us that when a man breaks God's laws, and acts contrary to his duty, he deceives and cozens himself. The spirit of folly and vanity reigns in him; his judgment of things is nothing but fond mistake and dotage. False propositions are entertained by him, and his whole life is a delusion.It remains now that I make some inferences from both the propositions which I insisted upon —

1. From the difficulty of being saved.

2. From the paucity of those that are saved.Is it so hard a thing to be saved? — then make it not harder. Is the way to heaven so narrow, and the gate strait? — then do not make it straiter than it is. Stop not up the way by your own fault. You have no need to render heaven and happiness more difficult than indeed they are. Take it in these two particulars, straiten not the gate —

(1)By limiting the grace of God.

(2)By imposing unnecessary austerities on yourselves.

2. In the second place, then, is the gate so strait, is the way to heaven so difficult? — then the fond opinion of those men is baffled and confuted who persuade themselves that the purchase of heaven is cheap and easy. They need not take much pains, they say, to attain to happiness. God made man for it, and He will be sure to bestow it on him. Hence they take no care how they act; they sit still, and carelessly look about them, but never mind their proper duty and concern. They hope to get to heaven as well as the best, but they are never solicitous about the way to it. This is a sign indeed that they think it an easy thing to get thither. They must take it with all its hardships.

3. Seriously sit down, and think how few there are in the whole heap and herd of mankind that attain to heaven. This is a seasonable inference from the foregoing doctrine. Your thoughts and meditations cannot be exercised about a more important subject than this.

4. This doctrine which I have been discoursing of to you reproves the guise and manner of life which most men addict themselves to.

5. This doctrine which I have treated of is encouragement to those that are reproached for singularity and preciseness, and because they will not do as others de. because they will not swim with the stream, but bear up against it, and go cross to the sinful world. Let this comfort them that they are not in the broad way, the way which is trod by most, which leads to destruction; but that they have chosen the narrow way, which certainly conducts them to life and bliss.

6. Then I may add this, in the next place, as a proper inference, make not multitude or number an argument in actions of religion. It is reported of a certain pagan king that, being persuaded to be baptized, standing at the font, he asked to what place his predecessors, or most of them, were gone. It was answered they went to hell. To which he replied, "It is best to follow the most rather than the fewest"; and so refused to receive baptism and persisted still in his paganism. The very same argument induces men generally to perish eternally rather than to walk in the way of holiness, and be everlastingly happy. They will do as the most do, whatever comes of it. But do not you think that to be best which is done by the most, and think not that it is safest to go with the crowd. For as multitude excuses not a man from sin; so neither will it privilege him from punishment.

7. Bless God that you are in this way; magnify His holy name, that you have been directed by the spirit of grace to leave the wide path of sin, and to walk in the narrow and strait way which leads to life and happiness.

8. You that have this singular favour conferred upon you, you that have been directed into the narrow way which conducts you to life and happiness, you that are so eminently distinguished from others, you that are so few in number — see that ye be kindly and friendly to one another. You are but a little flock, you are a poor remnant, you are despised and hated by the world; let this remind you of loving one another more.

9. If so few are saved, then you who doubt whether you be of those few, examine yourselves. Search and try your state and condition. Many are called, but few are chosen. There are many in the Church, but few true saints. Therefore suspect yourselves, be anxious and solicitous to know what you are.

10. Then, if there be but few that shall be saved, be sure that you be of that number. When a fatal pestilence enters into a city or town, and begins to spread itself and to infect the neighbourhood, you may take notice how busy men are at such a time in pro. riding for their safety, and in securing themselves from the spreading contagion, Should you not be much more busy and solicitous when sin, the worst of plagues, spreads itself far and near, and disperses its contagion in all places, and amongst all sorts of persons, and when so many die of it, and everlastingly perish? Should you not be very careful to provide for your safety and security, to avoid the fatal infection of sin? Should you not labour to be of that small number who shall not be destroyed by it? And how is this to be done? Take it in brief thus — Live the life of those few that shall be saved. Act, and walk, and behave yourselves in all things as those that are the small elect number of true Christian believers. Let your conversation be as becomes the gospel of Christ.

III. The third and last proposition grounded on the words, and that is this, THOUGH THE GATE RE SO STRAIT AND THE WAY SO NARROW, YET IT IS OUR INDISPENSABLE CONCERN TO ENTER INTO THEM, AND IN ORDER TO THAT TO STRIVE. There is no entering into the gate of life without striving; therefore make it the business of your whole life to strive that you may enter.

1. I say, it must be early. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness." We must make our religion our first care and business. Go into the narrow way speedily, enter into the strait gate presently, before thou art old and decrepid, and canst not be able to get through. Observe how wicked men make haste and delay not to follow their evil ways, and to provoke God, and to act all things unworthily and basely. They crowd so fast into the broad way that one would believe they thought there would not be room enough to hold them unless they made haste. But in the way of life you move slowly, you rid no ground, but you fondly hope that with your soft and easy pace you shall arrive in good time at heaven and happiness. But be not mistaken. This dull pace will not reach heaven.

2. Your striving must be earnest. It must be with great intenseness, vigour, and zeal. "The kingdom of heaven must suffer violence; and the violent take it by force." The Kingdom of Heaven is got by those that "thrust": so the Greek properly is to be rendered. If you would enter in at the strait gate, you must thrust and push forwards, you must make your way with violence and force. It was the resolve of that famous Punic general in his march over the Alps to find, or make way.

3. Tour striving must he constant and persevering. Our striving, as it must begin betimes, so it must continue to the end. As it must be earnest, so it must be frequent and lasting. Assiduity must be joined to earnestness and fervency. No time is to be omitted and neglected, you must in season and out of season, night and day, prosecute this great design. It is said that if a man has once learned to swim he can never forget it, or lose it by long disuse. I am sure it is not so with any moral and spiritual actions. They must be repeated and renewed by constant exercise, or else they will fail. Wherefore the apostle's exhortation is seasonable (1 Timothy 4:7). I will now offer to you two weighty considerations, which you must always have before you, and by the influence of them you will be moved to strive, and that with great zeal, although the greatest difficulties lie in your wayThe considerations are these:

1. Take notice how men strive for the world.

2. Observe how they strive and take pains in the pursuit of sin.

1. I say, consider hew men strive and contend, work and take pains, sweat and toil, to purchase the riches, delights, and honours of the world. And shall they be so solicitous and laborious for their worldly and secular advantage? And wilt not thou strive and labour for the true riches, durable pleasures, and heavenly honours? You must make their practice your example and pattern, i.e., you must strive as much for heaven as they do for earth. It was, I remember, the saying of Cardinal Wolsey, that great and rich prelate, when he grew out of favour, and was sent for, and seized in the king's name, "Had I served God," said he, "as truly and carefully as I have served my master, my sovereign, He would not have forsaken me as this doth." This will be a sad and forlorn reflection to any of you, that you took more pains please man than God; to purchase the favour of some great one rather than His whose favour is better than life. It will be grievous to remember that you toiled and laboured, and disturbed your rest, and incurred innumerable hazards to become wealthy and gain an estate in the world, and yet that you were unconcerned in the business of your immortal souls, that you never took any pains, or lost an hour's sleep about it. This will be a killing reflection to you when you come to die. Be persuaded, therefore, to prevent it by your speedy care and endeavours, by employing your chief time and labour in working out your salvation.

2. Now I will pass to the second, which is this: Consider how men strive and take pains in the pursuit of sin and wickedness, and in the ways of hell and destruction; and let this excite you to be as laborious and diligent in the pursuit of goodness and blessedness. The kingdom of darkness (as well as the kingdom of heaven) suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. Men sweat and toil to purchase damnation. Let this make you ashamed, when you are apt to complain of the strait gate. Remember, that vice as well as virtue hath its hardships, yea it hath many more. To gratify a vain lust, how strangely sometimes do men deprive themselves of all their ease and peace, all their rest and quiet, and plunge themselves into unspeakable sorrows, disturbances, and distractions? Quit not then the way of holiness because of some difficulties which you meet with in it; but consider that there are more difficulties that attend a sinful life. The narrow way is more easy than the broad one. When thou art once used to it, thou wilt find it to be such. And now, in the last place, I have several plain and practical directions to offer to you, by the help of which your striving to enter in at the strait gate will certainly be effectual and successful. The first help is earnest prayer; the second is seriousness, and being in good earnest; the third is to resist the first beginnings of sin; the fourth is to make a conscience of the least sin; the fifth, to avoid the appearance of evil; the sixth, to be always fearful.

(John Edwards, D. D.)

Will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.
Many seek to enter in, but are not able.

1. When they will enter in through another door than the narrow one.

2. When they will enter in through the narrow door indeed, but only if they have made it somewhat wider.

3. When they will enter in through the narrow door indeed, but without leaving behind what cannot be taken along.

(Van Oosterzee.)

Essex Remembrancer.
I. THE WAY OF ENTRANCE INTO THE STRAIT GATE. The way of entering on a truly religious course, and the way of entering into heaven, are precisely the same. We must enter the former by faith in Christ, and by the same means must we enter the latter.

1. A few remarks occur here. One is, that Christian diligence and labour can only be effectual through the aid of the blessed Spirit of God.

2. Another remark is, that labour is quickened by prayer. This strengthens our feeble hands, and calls down those supplies which raise the feeble efforts of nature into the powerful efforts of grace.

3. A still further remark which occurs here is, that the Christian's labour will not extend beyond this life. The Scripture teaches us to conceive of heaven by a few simple ideas. One of those ideas which is particularly soothing and delightful is that of rest. There may be active employment in heaven, but there will be no toil. Be patient then, brethren, under all your labours, whether of the body or of the mind.

II. WE ARE TO CONSIDER THE CHARACTERS, WHO, SEEKING TO ENTER INTO THE STRAIT GATE, SHALL BE REFUSED. "They shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able."

1. The negligent.

2. He who contents himself with mere desires for his religious good.

3. The scorner.

4. He who criminally mistakes the path of life.By this subject —

1. We are taught the personal and individual character of true religion.

2. We are taught how groundless are the fears which our text may sometimes have occasioned in the minds of the sincere and upright.

(Essex Remembrancer.)

I. MANY PROFESSORS ARE DECEIVED. So the text teaches us. It does not say, "a few may be misled," but many shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able. That many professors are deceived is clear enough from the language of Christ Himself, both here and in other places.

II. IT IS NOT SURPRISING THAT THERE ARE FALSE PROFESSORS. There is an imitation of the externals of godliness which it is not easy to detect. Art can carve a statue so that it almost breathes; and some of us in looking at very skilful paintings have mistaken them for realities. In a notable picture in the exhibition, you will have noticed an imitation of sunlight shining under a door, so well effected, that many go up to it to ascertain if it be not really a gleam from the sun. We know that men can counterfeit coins and notes so well that only the most experienced can detect them; and in all commercial transactions men are so well aware of the subtlety of their fellows that they look well lest they be deceived. The vital mysteries of godliness are mysterious: the inner life cannot be perceived by the carnal eye, and the outer life of the godly seemeth to most men to be but morality carried out with care; and hence it becomes but a very simple task for a man to make himself look just like a Christian, so as to deceive the very elect. To learn by heart that which others say from the heart — to get the outline of a believer's experience, and then to adapt it skilfully to one's self as our experience — this is a thing so simple, that, instead of wondering that there are hypocrites, I often marvel that there are not ten times more. And then, again, the graces — the real graces within are very easy to counterfeit. There is a repentance that needeth to be repented of — and yet it approaches near as possible to true repentance. Does repentance make men hate sin? They who have a false repentance may detest some crimes. Does repentance make men resolve that they will not sin? So will this false repentance; for Balaam said, "If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I will not go beyond the word of the Lord." Does true repentance make men humble themselves? So does false repentance; for Ahab humbled himself before God, and yet he perished. And as for faith, how easy it is to counterfeit this I Even in Christ's day, there was a faith which wrought miracles but did not save the soul; and Paul tells us that if we had a faith which could remove mountains, yet if we had not charity, it would profit us nothing. Dear friends, let us remember, too, that there are so many things which help a man to deceive himself. He himself is naturally disposed to be very partial. "Let well alone," is a proverb which most men have learned. Very few men care to look at the worst of their own state; they would rather say, "Peace, peace," than think too harshly of themselves. What man ever gave himself a bad character? or if he did, what man could not abundantly excuse himself for having such a character? Then there is the devil, who never wants us to be too careful, for heedlessness is one of the nets in which he takes his prey.

III. THIS DELUSION MAY CONTINUE THROUGHOUT LIFE, EVEN TO THE LAST MOMENT.

IV. The next point is this — that this delusion, even to the last, MAY SEEM TO HAVE THE MOST EXCELLENT ARGUMENTS TO SUPPORT IT. I shall prove this from Scripture. A man may be a deceiver, and he may accomplish his task all the more readily because he can say, "I have made and I have maintained a very respectable profession in the Church. I do not know that I have ever tarnished my character; I believe I am looked upon by most people as a pattern and example." Yes, this may be all correct, and yet you may be shut out at the last. Again, some may bring a very careful outward observance of religion as an excellent argument, and think the conclusion to be drawn therefrom to be very satisfactory. "Lord, we have eaten and drank in Thy presence, and Thou has preached in our streets." You have been baptized; you are always at the Lord's table; your pew always sees you in it whenever the doors are opened. All this is very proper and right; but it may all help to make you more easily deceived. You may conclude that you must be right because of this; and yet, the Master may say, "I never knew you." If means of grace could raise men to heaven, Capernaum would not have been cast down to hell. O friends, your preachings, prayings, almsgivings, tract distributings, unless grace be in you, help you in your delusion, and make it the more difficult to arouse you from it.

V. And now to the last point, this delusion may last through life, and be sustained by many specious arguments, but IT MUST ALL BE DISPELLED.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Mr. Philip Henry said to some of his neighbours who came to see him on his death-bed, "Oh, make sure work for your souls, my friends, by getting an interest in Christ while you are in health! If I had that work to do now, what would become of me? I bless God, I am satisfied. See to it, all of you, that your work be not undone when your time is done, lest you be undone for ever."

— "When I was a young man," says James Simpson, "there lived a man in our neighbourhood who was universally reported to be uncommonly liberal in his dealings. When he had any of the produce of his farm to dispose of, he made it an invariable rule to give good measure — over good, rather more than could be required of him. One of his friends, observing his frequently doing so, questioned him why he did it, told him he gave too much, and said it would not be to his own advantage. Now mark the answer of this man: 'God Almighty has given me but one journey through the world, and, when gone, I cannot return to rectify mistakes.' Think of this, friends — but one journey through the world."

The difficulty of obtaining shows the excellency; and, surely, if you consider but what it cost Christ to purchase it; what it costs God's Spirit to bring men's hearts to it; what it costs ministers to persuade to it; what it costs Christians, after all this, to obtain it; and what it costs many a half-Christian that, after all, goes without it; you will say, that here is difficulty, and therefore excellency. Trifles may be had at a trivial rate, and men may have damnation far more easily. It is but to lie still, and sleep out our days in careless laziness. It is but to take our pleasure, and mind the world, and cast away the thoughts of sin, and grace, and Christ, and heaven, and hell, out of our minds; and do as the most do, and never trouble ourselves about these high things, but venture our souls upon our presumptuous conceits and hopes, and let the vessel swim which way it will; and then stream, and wind, and tide, will all help us apace to the gulf of perdition. You may burn a hundred houses easier than build one; and kill a thousand men, than make one alive. The descent is easy, the ascent not so. To bring diseases is but to cherish sloth; please the appetite, and take what most delights us: but to cure them, will cost bitter pills, loathsome potions, tedious gripings, abstemious, accurate living, and perhaps all fall short too. He that made the way, and knows the way better than we, hath told us "it is narrow and strait," and requires striving; and they that have paced it more truly and observantly than we, do tell us it lies through many tribulations, and is with much ado passed through. Conclude, then, it is surely somewhat worth that must cost all this.

(R. Baxter.)

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