Preface“Enter ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” —Matthew 7:13-14
If any uninspired writer has been entitled to the name of Boanerges, or a son of thunder, it is the author of the following treatise. Here we have a most searching and faithful display of the straitness or exact dimensions of that all-important gate, which will not suffer many professors to pass into the kingdom of heaven, encumbered as they are with fatal errors. Still “it is no little pinching wicket, but wide enough for all the truly gracious and sincere lovers of Jesus Christ; while it is so strait, that no others can by any means enter in.” This is a subject calculated to rouse and stimulate all genuine professors to solemn inquiry; and it was peculiarly intended to dart at, and fix convictions upon, the multitudes of hypocritical professors who abounded in Bunyan’s time, especially under the reigns of the later Stuarts.
During the Protectorate, wickedness was discountenanced, and skulked in the holes and corners of Mansoul; but when a debauched monarch, who had taken refuge in the most licentious court in Europe, was called to occupy the throne of his fathers, the most abandoned profligacy and profaneness were let loose upon the nation. Vice was openly patronized, while virtue and religion were as openly treated with mockery and contempt. Bunyan justly says, “The text calls for sharpness, so do the times.” “With those whose religion lieth in some circumstantials, the kingdom swarms at this day.” When they stand at the gate, they will “shake like a quagmire—their feigned faith, pretended love, shows of gravity, and holiday words, will stand them in little stead; some professors do with religion just as people do with their best apparel—hang it on the wall all the week, and put it on on Sundays; they save it till they go to a meeting, or meet with a godly chapman.” This state of society called for peculiar sharpness, and Bunyan preached and published, in 1676, this awful alarm to professors. No subject could be more peculiarly applicable than “The Gate of heaven,” and “the difficulties of entering in thereat”; a subject of the deepest interest to all mankind—to stimulate the careless to find, and to enter the gate of this the only city of refuge from eternal misery—to fill the heart of God’s children with love and joy in their prospects of a blessed immortality—and to sting the hypocrites with the awful thought of finding the gate shut against them for ever. Their cries and tears will be too late; they will stand without and vehemently cry, “Lord, Lord, open unto us”; in vain will be their outcry, “the devils are coming; Lord, Lord, the pit opens her mouth upon us; Lord, Lord, there is nothing but hell and damnation left us, if thou hast not mercy upon us.” These were professors who pretended to have found the gate and way to heaven; who passed for pilgrims who were seeking a better, even a heavenly country; such deluded victims must be, of all men, the most miserable.
Faithfulness becomes the ministers of Christ in dealing with the souls of men; and pre-eminently faithful is John Bunyan in this treatise. Reader, he will be clear of thy blood. Enter upon the solemn inquiry, Have I sought the gate? Shall I be admitted into, or shut out from, that blessed kingdom? The openly profane can have no hope. Are you a professor?—there is danger sill. In vain will it be to urge, “We have prophesied in thy name, and in thy name cast out devils.” To the secretly profane, whatever may be their profession, there can be no well-grounded hope of entrance in at this gate. Those only will be admitted whom the Lord knows to be his—the sheep of his pasture, who have heard his voice, and obeyed it. Against all others the door will be shut, and the awful words, “I know you not—depart, ye cursed,” will hurry them to eternal darkness. The question, “Are there few that be saved?” will suggest itself to our minds; may the answer fix upon our conscience, “STRIVE to enter in.” It is very probable that it was in preaching upon this text, Bunyan was assailed with a want of charity. The anecdote is thus narrated by Mr. Doe in The Struggler:—“As Mr. Bunyan was preaching in a barn, and showing the fewness of those that should be saved, there stood one of the learned to take advantage of his words; and having done preaching, the schoolman said to him, You are a deceiver, a person of no charity, and therefore not fit to preach; for he that [in effect] condemneth the greatest part of his hearers hath no charity, and therefore is not fit to preach. Then Mr. Bunyan answered, The Lord Jesus Christ preached in a ship to his hearers on the shore (Mat 13), and showed that they were as four sorts of ground, the highway, the stony, the thorny, and the good ground, but those represented by the good ground were the only persons to be saved. And your position is, That he that in effect condemneth the greatest part of his hearers, hath no charity, and therefore is not fit to preach the gospel. But here the Lord Jesus Christ did so, then your conclusion is, The Lord Jesus Christ wanted charity, and therefore was not fit to preach the gospel. Horrid blasphemy; away with your hellish logic, and speak Scripture.” Of one thing we are certain, that while hollow-hearted hypocritical professors will ever complain of faithful dealing with their soul’s eternal interests; the sincere and humble Christina will be most thankful for searching inquiries, that, if wrong, he may be set right before his final destiny is irrevocably fixed. May our souls submit to a scriptural measurement of this gate, and the terms upon which alone it can be opened unto us.
The difficulties that prevent “the many” from entering in are, 1. Forgetfulness that we can only enter heaven by the permission of the law—every jot and tittle must be fulfilled. Now, if we could live from our conversion to our death in the holiest obedience to all its precepts, yet, having previously violated them, the stain must not only be washed away in the blood of atonement, but we, as part of the body of Christ, must, in him, render perfect obedience. 2. In addition to the disinclination of our hearts to submit to this perfect righteousness, we have outward storms of temptation and persecution. “The world will seek to keep thee out of heaven with mocks, flouts, taunts, threats, jails, gibbets, halters, burnings, and a thousand deaths; therefore strive! Again, if it cannot overcome thee with these, it will flatter, promise, allure, entice, entreat, and use a thousand tricks on this hand to destroy thee; and many that have been stout against the threats of the world have yet been overcome with the bewitching flatteries of the same. O that we may by grace escape all these enemies, and so strive as to enter into the joy of our Lord.”
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