Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say to you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.
— 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.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.