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