Sermon LIV. THE STRAIT GATE.
     By Rev. Richard Watson
Sermon LIV. THE STRAIT GATE
By Rev. Richard Watson.
VOL. 3 NO. 02 October 2001

"Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are," Luke xiii, 23-25.

While Christ was on earth he was not what might be termed a most successful preacher. Afterward, however, his work appeared to his servants. Hence, in the preceding verses, he compares the kingdom of God to the leaven for a time hid in three measures of meal; and to the mustard seed, cast into the earth. Thus did he go "through the cities and villages, teaching;" sowing the seed which was to become a great tree, imparting the leaven which was to leaven the whole lump. While thus employed, one came and said to him, "Lord, are there few that be saved?"-a serious, but probably a curious, question too. Perhaps it was not, in itself, an improper question; for our Lord gives an immediate, though indirect, reply to it; taking occasion to give the advice which Luke has recorded in the text; and words more solemn, more deeply impressive, never fell even from the lips of the Saviour himself. Let us observe,

I. The folly of making religious inquiries, except in order to holy and practical results. I do not depreciate the value of religious information. There is a curiosity in reference to it, which to a certain extent is laudable. -Moses said, "I beseech thee show me thy glory." Approach to distinct vision is an approach toward the perfection of the future state. But the text does not suggest the notion of such as, taking care to secure right principles in order to right practice, humbly look into the mysteries of religion. It rather reminds us of such as cherish a speculative habit, and chiefly employ themselves in discussing doctrines, wrestling with difficulties, and pursuing various inquiries, as though the whole system of truth must be explained to them, before they could have any interest in it. To such persons the text is most instructive. "Are there few that be saved?" inquired the man. Strive thyself to be of the number, was the reply he received. So, on another occasion, when it was said to him, "And what shall this man do?" the reply was, "What is that to thee? follow thou me." What is it to me, whether few or many be saved, if I am not saved myself? What avails it that we know the mystery of the trinity, if we neither love nor serve God? What does my knowledge of the origin of evil signify, if I am not found striving against sin? what, that I understand the mysteries of Divine Providence, unless I am humbled by its judgments, or moved to grateful love by its mercies? what, if I know why the heathen have been so long overlooked, if I am not improving the superior advantages which I myself possess? But,

II. The answer of our Lord implies that, in his time, at least, the number of the saved was but small. Few strove to enter in at the strait gate; and therefore were so many found walking in the broad way leading to death. This does not, however, conclude upon the question, whether few or many will be saved at the last. Perhaps the "multitude which no man can number" will include a large majority of the human race; especially taking infants into the account. Nor does it weaken the hope that an age will arrive when the many shall be saved. But at the time when our Lord spoke, and, alas! at the present time, is this description awfully applicable. "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, and few there be that find it." And what is the reason of this? Have only a few been redeemed? Nay, but " he gave himself a ransom for all." Are but a few called? Nay, the declaration is, "Many are called." "Wisdom crieth aloud; she uttereth he voice in the streets." The reason is found where our Lord himself places it: "Ye will not come unto me." Many will not even listen to the truth. Of those who hear, many will not lay it to heart. Many think without resolving; many resolve without executing; many begin to execute, who do not endure to the end. Awfully serious is the thought, that, of the multitudes we see around us, there are but few that be saved.

III. If we would be of the number of the saved, we must "strive to enter in." It is of the greatest importance that we mark the force of the word which our Lord employs. Our own word "agonize" is derived from it. It is used of the candidates for victory in the ancient games; of those who had to run, to fight, to wrestle; all implying vigorous and persevering exertion. In our own case, the exhortation implies great opposition and difficulty. We may not deceive you. Salvation is, comparatively, a work of difficulty. Many underrate this; we should therefore endeavour to be fully aware of it.

There is our own heart. This is naturally corrupt, possessing no one principle friendly to good. All good is to be brought into it, and is opposed by it. Therefore we have to strive. There is the influence of outward things. We are prone to walk by sight. There is a constant bearing on our affections from without; from our trials, and even our blessings. We are opposed by a strong current, setting directly against us, which can only be overcome by being breasted. We must strive. And the force of this current is increased by the added stream of example. There are not only the worldly who call us to accompany them, but lukewarm, slothful professors. How necessary that we strive!

There is the devil, a murderer of souls from the beginning, always tracking our path; seasons of powerful temptation. We cannot conquer unless we strive.

There are the sacrifices which must be made. Our interest, when duty requires it, must be given up. The cross must be taken up and borne. The flesh must be denied. The offending right hand is to be cut off. Against this self-denying life nature will stir up all her opposition. To overcome it, we must strive. Such is the picture of our difficulties. There is the gate of safety before us; but a crowd stands there to keep us from entering: the wicked who remain with us; apostates who bring a bad report of the way; numerous pleasures which would hold us in silken bands; our own giant corruptions seizing us with strong arm; and all marshalled under their great leader, the god of this world. Prepare to strive, or give up the hope of entering. Gird on your armour; fight, wrestle, pray, or you are eternally undone. And forget not, that, having entered, there shall remain enemies to be overcome, difficulties to be surmounted. To the very end we must strive. But observe,

IV. We have but a limited and uncertain time in which we may strive. Some parts of the following verses refer to the Jews; but their principle is as appropriate to ourselves. The door which is open will by and by be closed; and then we may seek to enter in, but shall not be able. In the views afforded us by these latter verses, we have,

1. The master of the house waiting to receive his guests to the feast of heavenly joy. In the meanwhile, his servants spread his invitations, and say, "Come, for all things are now ready."

2. The expiration of the limited time. He rises up, and shuts to the door. This happens, as to each of us, at the hour of death. The day of judgment shall solemnly proclaim that the season for striving is past.

3. The amazing change in the opinions of men. Now, few seek to enter in, as setting no value on spiritual and heavenly good. Then, that will be seen to be all. Many will seek, but in vain. Our opinions shall certainly undergo a change; either before it is too late, or, at farthest, then.

4. The pleas used. The light of eternity not only presents things under an aspect in which we had before refused to consider them, but recalls the past to memory. We view some slight connection with Christ and his cause, and endeavour to urge it in our own favour.-"We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets." But all in vain: he shall declare that he never knew us, and we shall be compelled to depart.

5. And what an aggravation of our punishment, to see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God,-to see the comers from east, west, north, and south,-and we ourselves thrust out! We see the reality of the joys we despised; the success of those whom we ridiculed, and whose example we spurned. There they are in God's everlasting kingdom, partakers of the endless festivities of heaven.-And we, once invited, thrust out. We would not enter in, and we shall not. Strive, then, without delay, without intermission, and to the end.


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