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. 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.
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.