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I proceed now to the Application.
Inference 1. That salvation is not so easy a thing as it is imagined to be. This is attested by our Lord Jesus Christ himself: “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leadeth to life, and few there be that find it.” The gate of conversion is a very strait gate, and yet every man that would be saved eternally, must enter in at 180this strait gate; for salvation is impossible without it: “Except a man be born again,” born from above, “he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Not that this gate is strait simply, and in respect of itself:—No; for converting grace is free. The gate of mercy stands open all the day long. In the tenders of gospel grace, none are excluded, unless they exclude themselves. Christ doth not say, If such and such will come to me, I will ‘not cast them out;’” but “him that cometh unto me,” be he who or what he will, if he hath a heart to close with me, “I will in nowise cast him out.” He saith not, “If this or that man will, here is water of life for him;” but, “If any man will, let him take the water of life freely.” Christ grudgeth mercy to none; though salvation was dearly purchased for us, yet it is freely proffered us.
So that the gate which leadeth to life is not strait on Christ’s part, or in respect of itself, but it is strait in respect of us, because of our lusts and corruptions, which make the entrance difficult. A needle’s eye is big enough for a thread to pass through, but it is a strait passage for a cable rope: either the needle’s eye must be enlarged, or the cable rope must be untwisted, or 181the entrance is impossible. So it is in this case—the gate of conversion is a very strait passage for a carnal, corrupt sinner to go in at. The soul can never pass through with any one lust beloved and espoused; and, therefore, the sinner must be untwisted from every lust: he must lay aside the love of every sin, or he can never enter in at this gate, for it is a strait gate. And when he is in at this strait gate, he meeteth with a narrow way to walk in: so our Lord Christ saith, “Narrow is the way that leadeth to life;” and what way is this, but the way of sanctification? “For without holiness no man shall ever see the Lord.”
Now this way of sanctification is a very narrow way, for it lies over the neck of every lust, and in the exercise of every grace, subduing the one, and improving the other; dying daily, and yet living daily; dying to sin and living to God:—this is the way of sanctification! And O, how few are there that walk in this way! The broad way hath many travellers in it, but this narrow way is like the ways of Canaan in the days of Shamgar. It is said, “In the days of Shamgar, the son of Anath, the highways were unoccupied, and the travellers walked through by-ways.” In the Hebrew, it is, “through crooked ways:” the way of holiness is by the most an unoccupied 182way—so saith the prophet. “A way shall there be, and it shall be called the way of holiness, the unclean shall not pass over it; no lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beasts shall go up thereon; but the redeemed shall walk there.” The unclean, and the lion, and the ravenous beast, they are in the crooked ways: none but the redeemed of the Lord walk in the way of the Lord.
It is no wonder, then, that our Lord Christ saith of life, that “few there be that find it,” when the gate is strait, and the way narrow, that leadeth to it. Many pretend to walk in the narrow way, but they never entered in at the strait gate; and many pretend to have entered in at the strait gate, but they walk not in the narrow way.
It is a very common thing for a man to perish upon a mistake of his way; to go on in those paths that take hold of hell, and yet hope to find heaven at last. Those twenty parts, fore-mentioned, run into destruction, and yet many choose them, and walk in them as the way of salvation. As many profane and open sinners perish by choosing the way of death, so many formal professors perish by mistaking the way of life. This I gather from what our Lord Christ saith “Few 183there be that find it;” which doth clearly imply what in Luke xii. 24, he doth plainly express, to wit, that many seek it; many seek to enter in, and yet are not able; many run far, and yet do not “so run as to obtain;” many bid fair for the Pearl of price, and yet go without it. Hell is had with ease, but the “kingdom of heaven suffers violence.”
Inference 2. If many go thus far in the way to heaven, and yet miscarry, O then, what shall be the end of them who fall short of these! If he shall perish who is almost a Christian, what shall he do who is not .at all a Christian! If he that owneth Christ, and professeth Christ, and leaveth many sins for Christ, may be damned notwithstanding; what then shall his doom be that disowneth Christ, and refuseth to part with one sin, one lust, one oath for Christ; nay, that openly blasphemeth the precious name of Christ! If he that is outwardly sanctified shall yet be eternally rejected, what will the case be of such as are openly unsanctified—that have not only the plague of a bad heart within, but also the plague-sore of a profane life without?, If the formal professor must be shut out, surely then the filthy adulterer, swinish drunkard, the deep swearer, the profane Sabbath-breaker, the foul-mouthed 184scoffer, yea, and every carnal sinner much more. If there be a wo to him that falleth short of heaven, then how sad is the wo to him who falls short of them that fall short of heaven! Ah, that God would make this an awakening word to sinners that are asleep in sin, without the least fear of death, or dread of damnation!
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