Adapted from a Sermon by J.C. Ryle
“Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” Luke 13:24
THE man in our passage this morning asked our Lord Jesus Christ a very deep question. He said to Him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” (v.23)
Who this man was we do not know. What his motive was for asking this question we are not told. Perhaps he wanted to gratify an idle curiosity: perhaps he wanted an excuse for not seeking salvation himself. The Holy Spirit has kept back all this from us: the name and motive of the inquirer are both hidden.
But one thing is very clear, and that is the vast importance of the saying of our Lord to which the question gave rise. Jesus seized the opportunity to direct the minds of all around Him to their own plain duty. He knew the train of thought which the man’s inquiry had set moving in their hearts: He saw what was going on within them. “Strive,” He cries, “to enter through the narrow door.” Whether there be few saved or many, your duty is clear;—strive to enter in. Now is the accepted time. Now is the day of salvation. A day shall come when many will seek to enter in and shall not be able. “Strive to enter in now.”
Let us consider this morning the solemn lessons which this saying of the Lord Jesus is meant to teach. It is one which deserves special attention in our day. It teaches unmistakeably that mighty truth: our own personal responsibility for the salvation of our souls. It shows the immense danger of putting off the great business of religion, as so many unhappily do. On both these points the witness of our Lord Jesus Christ in the text is clear. He, who is the eternal God, and who spoke the words of perfect wisdom, says to the sons of men,—“Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”
(I) Here, in the first place, is a description of the way of salvation. Jesus calls it “the narrow door.”
(II) Next, in the second place, here is a plain command. Jesus says, “Strive to enter” in.
(III) Lastly, here is an awful prophecy. Jesus says, “Many will seek to enter and will not be able.”
May the Holy Spirit apply the subject to our hearts! May each one here present know the way of salvation experimentally, obey the command of the Lord practically, and be found safe in the great day of His second coming!
And so, to begin,
I. Here is a description of the way of salvation. Jesus calls it “the narrow door.”
There is a door which leads to pardon, peace with God, and heaven. Whosoever goes in by that door will be saved. Never, surely, was a door more needed. Sin is a vast mountain between man and God. How shall a man climb over it?—Sin is a high wall between man and God. How shall man get through it?—Sin is a deep gulf between man and God. How shall man cross over it?—God is in heaven, holy, pure, spiritual, undefiled, light without any darkness at all, a Being who cannot bear that which is evil, or look upon iniquity. Man is a poor fallen worm, crawling on earth for a few years,—sinful, corrupt, erring, defective,—a being whose imagination is only evil, and whose heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. How shall man and God be brought together? How shall man ever draw near to his Maker without fear and shame?
Blessed be God, there is a way! There is a road. There is a path. There is a door. It is the door spoken of in the words of Christ,—“the narrow door.”
This door was made for sinners by the Lord Jesus Christ. From all eternity He agreed and engaged that He would make it. In the fulness of time He came into the world and made it, by His own atoning death on the cross. By that death He made satisfaction for man’s sin, paid man’s debt to God, and bore man’s punishment. He built a great door at the cost of His own body and blood. He raised a ladder on earth whose top reached to heaven. He made a door by which the chief of sinners may enter into the holy presence of God, and not be afraid. He opened a road by which the vilest of men, believing in Him, may draw near to God and have peace. He cries to us, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved.” (John 10:9.) “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6.) “In whom,” says Paul, “we have boldness and access with confidence.” (Eph. 3:12.) Thus was the door of salvation formed.
This door is called the narrow door, and it is not called so for no reason. It is always narrow, and difficult to pass through for some people, and it will be so as long as the world stands. It is narrow to all who love sin, and are determined not to part with it. It is narrow to all who set their affection on this world, and seek first its pleasures and rewards. It is narrow to all who dislike trouble, and are unwilling to suffer and make sacrifices for their souls. It is narrow to all who like to ‘fit in’, and want to keep in with the crowd. It is narrow to all who are self-righteous, and think they are good people, and deserve to be saved.
To all such, the great door, which Christ made, is narrow and strait. In vain they seek to pass through. The door will not let them in. God is not unwilling to receive them; their sins are not too many to be forgiven: but they are not willing to be saved in God’s way. Thousands, for the last twenty centuries, have tried to make the doorway wider: thousands have worked and toiled to get to heaven on lower terms. But the door never changes. It is not elastic: it will not stretch to accommodate one man more than another. It is still the narrow door.
Narrow is this door, it is the only one by which men can get to heaven. There is no side door; there is no bye-path; there is no gap or low-place in the wall. All that are ever saved will be saved only by Christ, and only by simple faith in Him.
-Not one will be saved by repentance. Today’s sorrow does not wipe off yesterday’s debt.
-Not one will be saved by his own works. The best works that any man can do are little better than splendid sins.
-Not one will be saved by his formal regularity in going to church or almsgiving or prayer.
When we have done all, we are poor “unprofitable servants.” It is a mere waste of time to seek any other road to eternal life. Men may look right and left, and weary themselves with their own devices, but they will never find another door. Proud men may dislike the door if they will. Reckless men may scoff at it, and laugh at those who use it. Lazy men may complain that the way is hard. But men will discover no other salvation than that of faith in the blood and righteousness of a crucified Redeemer. There stands between us and heaven one great door: it may be narrow; but it is the only one. We must either enter heaven by the narrow door, or not at all.
Narrow as this door is, it is a door ever ready to open. No sinners of any kind are forbidden to draw near: whosoever will may enter in and be saved. There is but one condition of admission: that condition is that you really feel your sins and desire to be saved by Christ in His own way.
Are you really sensible of your guilt and vileness? Have you a truly broken and contrite heart? Behold the door of salvation, and come in. He that made it declares,—“Whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37.) The question to be considered is not whether you are a great sinner or a little sinner—whether you are elect or not,—whether you are converted or not. The question is simply this, “Do you feel your sins? Do you feel burdened and heavy-laden? Are you willing to put your soul into Christ’s hand?” Then if that be the case, the door will open to you at once. Come in this very day. “Why do you stand outside?” (Gen. 24:31.)
Narrow as this door is, it is one through which thousands have gone in and been saved. No sinner was ever turned back, and told he was too bad to be admitted, if he came really sick of his sins. Thousands of all sorts have been received, cleansed, washed, pardoned, clothed, and made heirs of eternal life. Some of them seemed very unlikely to be admitted: you and I might have thought they were too bad to be saved. But He that built the door did not refuse them. As soon as they knocked, He gave orders that they should be let in.
Manasseh, King of Judah, went up to this door. None could have been worse than he was. He had despised his good father Hezekiah’s example and advice. He had bowed down to idols. He had filled Jerusalem with bloodshed and cruelty. He had slain his own children. But as soon as his eyes were opened to his sins, and he fled to the door for pardon, the door flew wide open, and he was saved.
Saul the Pharisee went up to this door. He had been a great offender. He had been a blasphemer of Christ, and a persecutor of Christ’s people. He had laboured hard to stop the progress of the Gospel. But as soon as his heart was touched, and he found out his own guilt and fled to the door for pardon, at once the door flew wide open, and he was saved.
Many of the Jews who crucified our Lord went up to this door. They had been grievous sinners indeed. They had refused and rejected their own Messiah. They had delivered Him to Pilate, and entreated that He might be killed. They had desired Barabbas to be let go, and the Son of God to be crucified. But in the day when they were pricked to the heart by Peter’s preaching, they fled to the door for pardon, and at once the door flew open, and they were saved.
The jailer at Philippi went up to this door. He had been a cruel, hard, godless man. He had done all in his power to mistreat Paul and his companion. He had thrust them into the inner prison, and fastened their feet in the stocks. But when his conscience was aroused by the earthquake, and his mind enlightened by Paul’s teaching, he fled to the door for pardon, and at once the door flew open, and he was saved.
And since then multitudes have gone to “the narrow door “ and have entered in by it and been saved. Thousands of all ranks, classes, and ages,—learned and unlearned, rich and poor, old and young,—have tried the door and found it ready to open,—have gone through it and found peace to their souls and the way to real happiness. They have not brought up one bad report of the country inside. They have found Christ’s yoke to be easy, and His burden to be light. Their only regret has been that so few enter in, and that they themselves did not enter in before.
This is the door which you are entreated to enter; Not merely to go to church but to go with heart and soul to the door of life; Not merely to believe there is such a door, and to think it a good thing, but to enter by faith and be saved.
Think what a privilege it is to have a door at all. The angels, who fell from their first estate, fell, never to rise again. To them there was no door of escape opened.—The heathen never heard of any way to eternal life. What would not many of them give to only hear one plain sermon about Christ?—The Jews in Old Testament times only saw the door dimly and far away. “The way into the holy places was not yet opened as long as the first section was still standing.” (Heb. 8:8.)
You have the door set plainly before you: you have Christ and full salvation offered to you, without money and without price. You never need be confused as to which way to turn. Consider what a mercy this is! Beware that you do not despise the door and perish in unbelief. Better a thousand times not to know of the door than to know of it and yet linger outside. How indeed will you escape if you neglect so great a salvation?
Think what a thankful man you ought to be if you have really gone in at the narrow door. To be a pardoned, forgiven, justified soul,—to be ready for sickness, death, judgment and eternity,—to be ever provided for in both worlds,—surely this is matter for daily praise. True Christians ought to be more full of thanksgivings than they are. It is to be feared that few sufficiently remember what they were by nature, and what debtors they are to grace.
It was been observed that singing hymns of praise was one special mark of the early Christians. Well would it be for Christians in the present day, if they knew more of this frame of mind. It is no mark of a healthy state of soul when there is much complaining and little praise. It is an amazing mercy that there is any door of salvation at all; but it is a still greater mercy when we are taught to enter in by it and be saved.
II. In the second place, here is a plain command.—Jesus says to us, “Strive to enter through the narrow door.”
There is often much to be learned in a single word of Scripture. The words of our Lord Jesus in particular, are always full of matter for thought. Here is a word which is a striking example of this. Let us see what the great Teacher would have us gather out of the word “Strive.”
“STRIVE” teaches that a man must use means diligently, if he would have his soul saved. There are means which God has appointed to help man in his endeavours to approach Him. There are ways in which a man must walk, if he desires to be found of Christ. Public Worship, reading the Bible, hearing the Gospel preached,—these are such types of things. They lie, as it were, in the middle, between man and God. Doubtless no one can change his own heart, or wipe away one of his sins, or make himself in the least degree acceptable to God; but clearly if man could do nothing but sit still, Christ would never have said “Strive.”
“STRIVE” teaches that man is a free agent, and will be dealt with by God as a responsible being. The Lord Jesus does not bid us to wait, and wish, and feel, and hope, and desire. He says, “Strive.” It is a miserable religion which teaches people to be content with saying, “We can do nothing of ourselves,” and makes them continue in sin. It is as bad as teaching people that it is not their fault if they are not converted, and that God only is to blame if they are not saved. But there is no such theology in the New Testament. There we hear Jesus saying to sinners, “Come—repent—believe—labour—ask—seek—knock.”
On the one hand we see plainly that our salvation, from first to last, is entirely of God; but we see also, with no less plainness, that our ruin, if lost, is wholly and entirely of ourselves. It is clear that sinners are always addressed as accountable and responsible; and there is no better proof of this than is contained in the word “Strive.”
“STRIVE” teaches that a man must expect many adversaries and a hard battle, if he would have his soul saved. And this, as a matter of experience, is strictly true. There are no “gains without pains” in spiritual things any more than in temporal. That roaring lion, the devil, will never let a soul escape from him without a struggle. The heart which is naturally sensual and earthly will never be turned to spiritual things without a daily fight. The world, with all its opposition and temptations, will never be overcome without a conflict. But why should all this surprise us? What great and good thing was ever done without trouble? Wheat does not grow without ploughing and sowing; riches are not obtained without care and attention; success in life is not won without hardships and toil; and heaven, above all, is not to be reached without the cross and the battle. And so a man must “strive.”
“STRIVE” teaches that it is worthwhile for a man to seek salvation. Consider: If there is anything that deserves a struggle in this world, it is the prosperity of the soul. The objects for which the great majority of men strive are comparatively poor and trifling things. Riches, and greatness, and rank, and learning, are a corruptible crown.” The incorruptible things are all within the narrow door. The peace of God which passes all understanding,—the bright hope of good things to come,—the sense of the Spirit dwelling in us,—the consciousness that we are pardoned, safe, ready, provided for in time and eternity, whatever may happen,—these are true gold, and durable riches. Well may the Lord Jesus call on us to “strive.”
“STRIVE” teaches that laziness in religion is a great sin. It is not merely a misfortune, as some imagine,—a thing for which people are to be pitied, and only a regrettable matter. It is something far more than this. It is a breach of a plain commandment. What shall be said of the man who transgresses God’s law, and does something which God says, Thou shalt not do? There can only be one answer. He is a sinner. “Sin”, John writes, “is lawlessness.” (1 John 3:4.) And what shall be said of the man who neglects his soul, and makes no effort to enter the narrow door? There can be only one reply. He is omitting a positive duty. Christ says to him, “Strive,” and behold, he does not.
“STRIVE” teaches that all who are outside the narrow door are in great danger. They are in danger of being lost for ever. There is only a step between them and death. If death finds them in their present condition, they will perish without hope. The Lord Jesus saw that clearly. He knew the uncertainty of life and the shortness of time: He would have sinners hurry and not delay, lest they put off the business of their soul too late. He speaks as one who saw the devil drawing near to them daily, and the days of their life gradually ebbing away. He would have them be careful that they be not too late: therefore He cries, “Strive.”
That word “Strive,” raises solemn thoughts to the mind. It is brimming with condemnation for thousands of baptized persons. It condemns the ways and practices of multitudes who profess and call themselves Christians. Many there are who neither swear, nor murder, nor commit adultery, nor steal, nor lie; but one thing unhappily cannot be said of them: they cannot be said to “strive” to be saved. The “spirit of slumber” possesses their hearts in everything that concerns religion. About the things of the world they are active enough: they rise early, and go to bed late; they labour; they toil; they are busy; they are careful: but about the one thing needful they never “strive” at all.
What shall we say of those who neglect public worship on Sunday? There are hundreds of thousands in our country whom this describes. Sometimes, if they feel like it, they go to some church or chapel, and attend a religious service; at other times they stay at home and read the paper, or idle about, or look over their accounts, or seek some amusement. Let us ask and answer honestly: Can this be called “striving”?
What shall we say of those who come regularly to a place of worship, but come entirely as a matter of form? There are many in this condition. Their fathers taught them to come; their custom has always been to come: it would not be respectable to stay away. But they care nothing for the worship of God when they do come. Whether they hear law or Gospel, truth or error, it is all the same to them. They remember nothing afterwards. They put off their form of religion with their Sunday clothes, and return to the world. Let us ask and answer honestly: Can this be called “striving”?
What shall we say of those who seldom or never read the Bible? There are thousands, it is to be feared, who answer this description. They know the Book by name; they know it is commonly regarded as the only Book which teaches us how to live and how to die: but they can never find time for reading it. Newspapers, reviews, novels, romances, they can read, but not the Bible. Let us ask and answer honestly: Can this be called “striving” to enter in?
What shall we say of those who never pray? There are multitudes in this condition. Without God they rise in the morning, and without God they lie down at night. They ask nothing; they confess nothing; they return thanks for nothing; they seek nothing. They are all dying creatures, and yet they are not even on speaking terms with their Maker and their Judge! Let us ask and answer honestly: Can this be called “striving”?
It is a solemn thing to be a minister of the Gospel. It is a painful thing to look on, and notice the ways of mankind in spiritual matters. They hold in their hands that great statute Book of God, which declares that without repentance, and conversion, and faith in Christ, and holiness, no living person can be saved.
In the carrying out of their office they urge on men to repent, believe, and be saved; but, alas, how frequently their labour seems all in vain. People attend church, and listen, and approve, but do not “strive” to be saved.
The sinfulness of sin is shown; the loveliness of Christ is unfolded; the vanity of the world is exposed; the happiness of Christ’s service is set forth; to the wearied and heavy laden children of Adam, the living water is offered: but, tragically, how often all this seems to be spoken to the winds.
Their words are patiently heard on Sundays; their arguments are not refuted: but it is plain to see during the week that people are not “striving” to be saved. There comes the devil on Monday morning, and offers his countless snares; there comes the world, and holds out its seeming prizes: and they follow them greedily. They work hard for this world’s goods; they strive for what this world calls success, they toil at Satan’s command: but for the one thing needful they will not “strive” at all.
Ryle laments: “I am not writing from hearsay. I speak what I have seen. I write down the result of thirty-seven years’ experience in the ministry.” He says that he has learned lessons about human nature during that period which he never knew before. That he has seen how true are our Lord’s words about the narrow way. That he had discovered how few there are that “strive” to be saved.
Earnestness about the things of time is common enough. Striving to be rich and prosperous in this world is not rare at all. Pains about money, and business, and politics,—pains about trade, and science, and fine arts, and amusements,—pains about rent, and wages, and labour, and land,—pains about such matters are abundant anywhere you care to look. But there are few who take pains about their souls. Few anywhere who “strive” to enter in at the narrow door.
And this should not be surprising at all. The Bible says that it is only what is to be expected. The parable of the great supper is an exact picture of this (Luke 14:16.) Their the Lord says, that “men make excuses.” One has his piece of land to see; another has his oxen to examine; a third has his family hindrances. But all this ought to deeply grieve the heart of every true believer; to grieve to think that they should have eternal life so close to them, and yet be lost because they will not “strive” to enter in and be saved.
I cannot see into your heart and know what is the state of your soul. But I warn you to be careful that you do not perish for ever for lack of “striving.” Do not suppose that it takes some great outrageous sin to bring you to hell. You only have to sit still and do nothing, and you will find yourself there at last.
Satan does not ask you to walk in the steps of Cain, and Pharaoh, and Ahab, and Belshazzar, and Judas Iscariot. There is another road to hell quite as sure,—the road of spiritual idleness, spiritual laziness, and spiritual sloth.
Satan has no objection to your being a respectable member of the Christian Church. He will let you contribute your dues; he will allow you to sit comfortably in church every Sunday you live. He knows full well, that so long as you do not “strive,” you must come at last to the worm that never dies, and the fire that is not quenched. Be careful that you do not come to this end. Consider well this solemn truth: you have only to do nothing, and you will be lost.
And if you have been taught to “strive” for your soul’s prosperity, I encourage you never to suppose you can go too far. Never give way to the idea that you are being too careful about your spiritual condition, and that there is no need for so much watchfulness. Settle it rather in your mind that “in all labour there is profit,” and that no labour is so profitable as that spent on the soul.
It was a saying among good farmers that the more they did for the land the more the land did for them. It should be a saying among Christians that the more they do for their religion the more their religion will do for them. Watch against the slightest inclination to be careless about any means of grace. Beware of shortening your prayers, your Bible reading, your private communion with God. Be careful that you do not give way to a thoughtless, lazy manner of using the public services of God’s house. Fight against any rising disposition to be sleepy, critical, and fault-finding, while you listen to the preaching of the Gospel.
Whatever you do for God, do it with all your heart and mind and strength. In all other things be moderate,—and dread running into extremes. In the matters of the soul fear moderation just as you would fear the plague. Do not worry about what men think of you. Let it be enough for you that your Master says, “STRIVE.”
III. The last thing we will consider this morning is the awful prophecy which the Lord Jesus delivers.
He says, “many will seek to enter and will not be able.” When shall this be? At what period will the gate of salvation be shut for ever? When shall “striving” to enter be of no use? Are these not serious questions? The door is now ready to open to the chief of sinners; but a day is coming when it will open no more.
The time foretold by our Lord is the time of His own second coming to judge the world. The long-suffering of God will at last have an end. The throne of grace will at length be taken down, and the throne of judgment shall be set up in its place. The fountain of living waters will at length be closed. The narrow door will at last be shut and locked. The day of grace will be passed and over. The day of reckoning with a sin-laden world will at length begin. And then will be brought to pass the solemn prophecy of the Lord Jesus,—“Many will seek to enter and will not be able.”
All prophecies of Scripture that have been fulfilled to this day, have been fulfilled to the very letter. They have seemed to many unlikely, improbable, impossible, up to the very time of their accomplishment; but not one word of them has ever failed.
The promises of good things have come to pass, in spite of difficulties that seemed insurmountable. Sarah had a son in her old age; the children of Israel were brought out of Egypt and planted in the promised land; the Jews were redeemed from the captivity of Babylon, after seventy years, and enabled once more to build the temple; the Lord Jesus was born of a virgin, lived, ministered, was betrayed, and cut off, precisely as Scripture foretold. In all these cases the Word of God had pledged that it should be. And so it was.
The predictions of judgments on cities and nations have come to pass, though at the time they were first spoken they seemed incredible. Egypt is no longer a world power; Edom is a wilderness; Tyre is a rock for drying nets; Nineveh, that “exceeding great city,” is laid waste, and become a desolation; Babylon is a dry land and a wilderness,—her broad walls are utterly broken down. In all these cases the Word of God foretold that it should be so. And so it was.
The prophecy of the Lord Jesus Christ, which I press on your attention this day, will be fulfilled in the same way. Not one word of it shall fail when the time of its accomplishment is due. “Many will seek to enter and will not be able”
There is a time fast approaching when seeking God will be useless. Would that people would remember that! Too many seem to imagine that the hour will never come when they will seek and not find: but they are sadly mistaken. They will discover their mistake one day to their own confusion, unless they repent. When Christ comes “many will seek to enter and will not be able.”
There is a time coming when many shall be shut out from heaven for ever. It will not be the lot of a few, but of a great multitude; it will not happen to one or two in this town, and one or two in that: it will be the miserable end of a vast crowd. “Many will seek to enter and will not be able.”
Knowledge will come to many too late. They will see at last the value of an immortal soul, and the happiness of having it saved. They will understand at last their own sinfulness and God’s holiness, and the glorious fitness of the Gospel of Christ. They will finally understand why ministers and godly friends seemed so anxious, and preached so long, and entreated them so earnestly to be converted. But, tragically, they will know all this too late!
Repentance will come to many too late. They will discover their own exceeding wickedness and be thoroughly ashamed of their past folly. They will be full of bitter regret and fruitless lamentations, of keen convictions and of piercing sorrows. They will weep, and wail, and mourn, when they reflect on their sins. The remembrance of their lives will be grievous to them; the burden of their guilt will seem intolerable. But, alas, like Judas Iscariot, they will repent too late!
Faith will come to many too late. They will no longer be able to deny that there is a God, and a devil, a heaven, and a hell. Deism, and scepticism, and infidelity will be laid aside for ever; scoffing, and jesting, and liberal-thinking will cease. They will see with their own eyes, and feel in their own bodies, that the things of which ministers spoke were not cunningly devised fables, but great, real, truths. They will find out to their cost that evangelical religion was not empty talk, extravagance, fanaticism, and enthusiasm: they will discover that it was the one thing needful, and that for lack of it they are lost for ever. Like the devil, they will at length believe and tremble, but too late!
A desire of salvation will come to many too late. They will long after pardon, and peace, and the favour of God, when they will no longer be available. They will wish they might have one more Sunday over again, have one more offer of forgiveness, have one more call to prayer. But it will matter nothing what they think, or feel, or desire then: the day of grace will be over; the door of salvation will be shut and locked. It will be too late!
Consider what a change there will be one day in the price and estimation at which things are valued. Look around this world in which we live; mark the current price of everything this world contains; then look ahead to the coming of Christ, and the great day of God. Consider the new order of things, which that day will bring in; And then remember the words of the Lord Jesus, when He describes the master of the house rising up and shutting the door; and as you do consider how great a change there will soon be.
What are the precious things now? Gold, silver, precious stones, bank notes, stocks, houses, land, cars, furniture, food, drink, clothes, and the like. These are the things that are thought valuable; these are the things that drive the market; these are the things which you can never get below a certain price. The one who has much of these things is counted a wealthy man. Such is the world!
And what are the cheap things now? The knowledge of God, the free salvation of the Gospel, the favour of Christ, the grace of the Holy Spirit, the privilege of being God’s son, the title to eternal life, the right to the tree of life, a place in a mansion in heaven, the promises of an incorruptible inheritance, the offer of a crown of glory that will never fade. These are the things that no one hardly cares for. They are offered to the sons of men without money and without price: they may be had for nothing to whosoever will reach out and take his portion. But, sadly, there is no demand for these things! They stand neglected. They are scarcely looked at. They are offered in vain. Such is the world!
But a day is fast approaching when the value of everything will be changed. A day is coming when bank-notes will be as useless as rags, and gold will be as worthless as the dust of the earth. A day is coming when thousands will care nothing for the things for which they once lived, and will desire nothing so much as the things which they once despised. The halls and palaces will be forgotten in the desire of a “house not made with hands.” The favour of the rich and great will be remembered no more, in the longing for the favour of the King of kings. The silks, and satins, and velvets, and laces, will be lost sight of in the anxious desire for the robe of Christ’s righteousness. All will be changed in the great day of the Lord’s return. “Many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”
It was a weighty saying of some wise man, that “hell is truth known too late.” It is to be feared that thousands of professing Christians in our day will find this out by experience. They will discover the value of their souls when it is too late to obtain mercy, and see the beauty of the Gospel when they can derive no benefit from it. Would that people would become wise in time!
There are few passages of Scripture more awful than that in the first chapter of Proverbs, hear these verses of Proverbs chapter 1:
”Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, (25) because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, (26) I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, (27) when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. (28) Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. (29) Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, (30) would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, (31) therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices.” (Proverbs 1:24-31)
Sadly there are many who really neither like the faith nor practice which the Gospel of Christ requires. They think those who constantly urge them to repent and be converted are tiresome and over-zealous and extreme. They think it is to ask too much when they are urged to come out from the world, and take up the cross, and follow Christ. But one day they will confess their mistake. Sooner or later, in this world or the next, they will acknowledge that they were wrong.
Indeed! It is truly a sad thought for all who preach the gospel, that all who hear them will one day admit that their counsel was good. Mocked, despised, scorned, neglected as their testimony may be on earth, a day is coming which will prove that truth was on their side. The rich man who hears them and yet makes a god of this world; the businessman who hears them and yet makes his ledger his Bible,—the farmer who hears them and yet remains cold as the clay on his land,—the labourer who hears them and feels no more for his soul than a stone,—all, all will at length acknowledge before the world that they were wrong. All will at length desire earnestly that very mercy which is now set before them in vain. They “will seek to enter and will not be able.”
But if you are one of those who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity you may well take comfort when you look ahead. You often suffer persecution now for your religion’s sake. You have to suffer hard words and unkind insinuations. Your motives are often misrepresented, and your conduct slandered. The reproach of the cross is still a reality. But you may well take courage when you look forward and think of the Lord’s second coming.
That day will make up for everything. You will see those who now laugh at you because you read the Bible, and pray, and love Christ, in a very different state of mind. They will come to you as the foolish virgins came to the wise, saying, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” (Matt. 25:8.) You will see those who now hate you and call you fools because, like Caleb and Joshua, you bring up a good report of Christ’s service, altered, changed, and no longer like the same men. They will say, “Oh, that we had taken part with you! You have been the truly wise, and we the foolish.”
Then do not fear the reproach of men. Confess Christ boldly before the world. Show your colours, and do not be ashamed of your Master. Time is short: eternity is quickly approaching. The cross is only for a little while: the crown is for ever. Work hard for that crown: leave nothing uncertain. “Many will seek to enter and will not be able.”
And now, as we come to a close, a few parting words in order to apply the whole subject to our souls. You have heard the words of the Lord Jesus unfolded and expounded. You have seen the picture of the way of salvation: it is a narrow door.—You have heard the command of the King: “Strive to enter in.”—You have been told of His solemn warning: “Many will seek to enter and will not be able.”—Bear with me a little longer while I try to impress the whole matter on your conscience.
(1) For one thing, I will ask you a plain question. Have you entered in through the narrow door or not? Old or young, rich or poor, I repeat my question, Have you entered in at the narrow door?
The question is not whether you have heard of it, and believe there is a door. Or whether you have looked at it, and admired it, and hope one day to go in. The question is have you have gone up to it, knocked at it, been admitted, and are now inside?
If you are not inside, what good have you got from your religion? You are not pardoned and forgiven. You are not reconciled to God. You are not born again, sanctified, and fit for heaven. If you die as you are, the devil will have you for ever, and your soul will be eternally miserable.
Think! Think what a state this is to live in! Think above all things, what a state this is to die in! Your life is like a mist. A few more years at most and you are gone: your place in the world will soon be filled up; your house will be occupied by someone else. The sun will go on shining; the grass and daises will soon grow thick over your grave; your body will be food for worms, and your soul will be lost to all eternity.
And all this time there stands open before you a door of salvation. God invites you. Jesus Christ offers to save you. All things are ready for your deliverance. One thing only is lacking, and that is that you should be willing to be saved.
Do think of these things, and be wise!
(2) For another thing, I will give plain advice to all who are not yet inside the narrow door. That advice is simply this: to enter in without a day’s delay.
Seek Christ this very day, and enter in through the door of life while you can! Make a beginning this very day. Go to that merciful and mighty Saviour in prayer, and pour out your heart before Him. Confess to Him your guilt and wickedness and sin. Unburden yourself of everything to Him: keep nothing back. Tell Him that you cast yourself and all your soul’s affairs wholly into His hands, and ask Him to save you according to His promise, and put His Holy Spirit within you.
There is everything to encourage you to do this. Thousands as bad as you have applied to Christ in this way, and not one of them has been sent away and refused. They have found a peace of conscience they never knew before, and have gone on their way rejoicing. They have found strength for all the trials of life and none of them have been allowed to perish in the wilderness. Why should you not also seek Christ?
There is everything to encourage you to do this at once. There is no reason why your repentance and conversion should not be as immediate as that of others before you. The Samaritan woman came to the well an ignorant sinner, and returned to her home a new creature. The Philippian jailor turned from darkness to light, and became a professed disciple of Christ in a single day. And why should not others do the same? Why should you not give up your sins, and lay hold on Christ this very day?
Can anyone quarrel with this advice? The grand question is, Will you take it?
(3) The last thing I have to say shall be a request to all who have really entered through the narrow door. That request is, that you will tell others of the blessings which you have found.
Would that all converted people were missionaries in spirit, and strive to do good at home. That they would testify to all around them that the narrow door is the way to happiness, and to persuade them to enter in by it.
When Andrew was converted he found his brother Peter, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). (and) He brought him to Jesus.” (John 1:41, 42.) When Philip was converted he found Nathaniel, and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” (John 1:45, 46.) When the Samaritan woman was converted, she “left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” (John 4:28, 29.) When Saul the Pharisee was converted, “Immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” (Acts 9:20.)
Let us labour to have more zeal to commend the narrow door to all who are yet outside, and have more desire to persuade them to enter in and be saved. A happy Church it is whose members not only desire to reach heaven themselves, but desire also to take others with them!
The great door of salvation is yet ready to open, but the hour is fast approaching when it will be closed for ever. Let us work while it is called today, for “night is coming, when no one can work.” (John 9: 4.) Let us tell our relatives and friends, that we have tested the way of life and found it pleasant, that we have tasted the bread of life and found it good.
Let us remember, that God is “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9.) The one who endeavours to show his neighbour the narrow door is doing a work which God approves. He is doing a work which angels look down on with interest, and with which the building of a pyramid will not compare in importance. What do the Scriptures say? “Whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:20.)
Let us all awaken to a deeper sense of our responsibility in this matter. Let us look round the circle of those among whom we live, and consider their state before God. Are there not many of them yet outside the door, unforgiven, unsanctified, and unfit to die? Let us watch for opportunities of speaking to them. Let us tell them of the narrow door, and entreat them to “strive to enter in.”
Who can tell what “a word spoken in due season” (Prov 15:23) may do? Who can tell what it may do when spoken in faith and prayer? It may be the turning-point in someone’s history. It may be the beginning of thought, prayer, and eternal life. Would that there would be more love and boldness among believers! Think what a blessing to be allowed to speak even just one converting word!
Let us try to remember Christ’s solemn words every day,—“Many will seek to enter and will not be able.” Let us keep these words in mind, and then be careless about the souls of others, if we can.