The Broad Way and The Narrow Way Considered
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 who 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 vii:13, 14.
It is mournful proof of the depravity of our race that a large majority of the world is now, and has ever been, opposed to God. The broad way has ever been thronged with thoughtless travelers. All who have reached the end of that way have been overwhelmed with destruction, yet strange to tell, those who are walking in their steps are not deterred from pursuing the dangerous course. They press hastily on, following their ruined predecessors with unwearied step, as if afraid of reaching perdition at too late a period! They are expostulated with by the ministers of Christ, but they heed not expostulations. They are entreated to walk in the narrow way that leads to life, but they say, "We will not walk therein." The glories of heaven are presented to their view, but those glories allure them not. How often does such criminal indifference to the salvation of the gospel call forth
from the heralds of the cross the heart-breaking complaint, "Lord, who hath believed our report?" They become discouraged. Their energies are paralyzed. But while they look on and see such multitudes in the broad way, and remember that the end of the way is death, they forget their discouragement, call into action all their powers, and resolve to spend their lives in persuading sinners to enter in at the strait gate and walk the narrow way. To enter in at the strait gate is to begin a religious life. To become religious implies effort. It requires exertion to pass through the strait gate. Far be it from me to intimate that there are no difficulties connected with piety. The very elements of religion involve self-denial. On the other hand, I readily admit that it is easy to pursue an irreligious course. Nothing more is necessary than to give indulgence to the passions and propensities of the heart. To live in sin may be considered as floating down stream; while living to God's glory may be compared to rowing up stream against wind and current.
The doctrine of the text is this:
SINNERS GO TO HELL WITH FACILITY AND CHRISTIANS GO TO HEAVEN WITH DIFFICULTY.
I shall aim to establish these propositions:
I. SINNERS GO TO HELL WITH FACILITY.
This is true, 1. Because the very commencement of an irreligious life is easy. - This the figurative language of the text imports. Wide is the gate. To enter in at this gate is the beginning of a life
of rebellion against God. Now the facility of passing through this gate is in exact proportion to its dimensions. As the gate is wide the entrance is easy. But, to divest the subject of all figure, I may remark, such is the depravity of Adam's descendants, that, as soon as they become competent to discern between good arid evil they choose evil. They do this with a lamentable unanimity. There are no exceptions. You have never seen one. This propensity to prefer evil to good originates in some native weakness in the constitution of man; but, however mysterious its origin, we know, from its exercise, that the propensity exists. This original bias to evil furnishes every accountable creature with facilities for entering on a course of rebellion against God. In entering on such a course, nothing is necessary but to act out the inclinations of the heart. This is easy to do. Hence the facility with which sinners go to hell.
This is true, 2. Because it requires little or no effort to pursue a sinful course after it has been commenced. - What says the text? Broad is the way that leads to destruction. The breadth of the way promotes the ease and the rapidity of the traveler's progress. No self-denial is required of those who walk in this way. The mortification of no evil propensity is called for. Every sinful passion may be indulged. Every unhallowed desire may be gratified. Every depraved appetite may be consulted and yielded to. Those who walk in the broad way may give the utmost latitude to
their wickedness. They may indulge in every variety of crime. Nor need they apprehend that they will get out of the way. It is a broad way. It can accommodate all classes of sinners. The swearer may take God's name in vain; the liar may utter his falsehoods; the drunkard may quaff the "liquid fire;" the licentious may indulge their lusts; the Sabbath-breaker may desecrate God's holy day; the covetous may love money more and more; the worldly may become more worldly; the neglecters of the "great salvation" may still longer neglect it; and yet they may all continue in this broad way. There is ample space for all. There are abundant facilities for a rapid descent to perdition. Is it not, therefore, easy for sinners to go to hell?
This is true, 3. Because they who travel in the broad way have the majority of the world on their side. - Many go in at the wide gate. Vast numbers are always found in the broad way. Those who prefer this way need fear no want of company, nor anticipate the weariness of solitude. They will find most of the rich their fellow-travelers, and most of the poor will be along with them. The wise and the great of this world, with a few illustrious exceptions, will accompany them. How easy to go with the crowd! How little difficulty in floating on the popular current! Popularity is everything with some. They will even make their way to the chambers of eternal death, because it is popular to go thither; they will sacrifice their immortal interests at the shrine of popularity
They must forsake God because most of the world forsake him. And they attempt to flatter themselves, that as they are in an overwhelming majority, they are neither in a wrong nor dangerous way. How can so many be wrong? say they. How can there be danger where the multitude is so great? And thus it is that the impenitent go to hell with facility, because they have the majority of the world on their side.
II. CHRISTIANS GO TO HEAVEN WITH DIFFICULTY.
Why? 1. Because a great effort is necessary in commencing a religious life. - I have intimated that self-denial is involved in the very rudiments of piety. There can be no religion without it. Strait and narrow is the gate. Its narrowness renders a passage through it difficult. In other words, an arduous struggle is necessary in the adoption of a religious course of life. This will appear evident, if we consider that in becoming Christians, we must abandon the service of Satan - renounce the world - and crucify the desires of the flesh. Those who are devoted to God, must first recover themselves out of the snare of the devil. They must cease to love the world, - their affections must be disengaged from it, for if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. They must no longer live according to the flesh. They must be born of God. They must pass through that important change which makes them new creatures. The kingdom of heaven, so far as they are concerned, must
"suffer violence, and they must take it by force." And is it not difficult to do this? It is no easy matter to enter in at the strait gate. Hence the difficulty of going to heaven.
Why? 2. Because, there is much to impede their progress after they pass through the strait gate. - Narrow is the way that leads to life. This narrowness of the way is an unpropitious circumstance. It may be considered as clearly implying that pilgrims to Zion will have difficulties to encounter. This is manifest from other portions of Scripture. The Christian, when referred to as a soldier in the army of the "Captain of Salvation," is exhorted to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. Endure hardness! Does not this show that it is difficult to go to heaven? When the Christian is represented as running a race, he is required to lay aside every weight, every besetting sin, and run with patience, etc. The life of the believer is a life of constant self-denial - a life of action - a life of labor. The three formidable enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil, that first oppose an entrance through the strait gate, oppose the saints all along the narrow way. They are under the necessity of fighting the good fight of faith, that they may lay hold on eternal life. They have opposition at every step, and did not God infuse strength and courage into their souls, they would fall by the way. They go forward with difficulty.
Why? 3. Because they are few in number. - Comparatively few enter in at the strait gate, and walk
the narrow way. We have seen that sinners are in the majority. Christians being in the minority, are frowned on by the world. They are a peculiar people. They proceed in holy singularity, from strength to strength, till they appear before God in Zion. They are a little flock, but it is their Father's good pleasure to give them the kingdom. A thousand influences are exerted against them, and the difficulties they encounter are great indeed. The righteous are scarcely saved - that is, they are saved with difficulty.
The broad way and the narrow way have now been presented to your view. In which will you walk? Sinners are in the broad way. We have seen that this way is easily traveled; but will you, on this account, continue in it? Will you say that the broad way has temporal advantages connected with it? If this could with propriety be admitted, I ask if the advantages of time will overbalance the disadvantages of eternity? Will the facility with which you go to hell compensate you for the sorrows of that place of torment? For let me tell you that the way in which you walk leads to death, and beyond death - leads to the grave, and lower than the grave - it leads to destruction. O terrible! Everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and the glory of his power. Destruction which involves the torture of the undying worm and the pain of
unquenchable fir? Think of those who traveled in the broad way before you. The Antediluvians! They are, as Peter teaches, in the prison of hell. The inhabitants of Sodom traveled in this way, and they are suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Judas walked in it, and He who could not mistake, said, "good were it for that man had he never been born." The broad way conducts all its travelers to the same dreadful destination.
I entreat you, enter in at the strait gate, and walk in the narrow way. Yon will find difficulties, but what are difficulties, when the salvation of the soul is the consideration involved? You will have spiritual conflicts, but be not intimidated. Yonder is the starry crown, and yonder the unwithering palm. You may have but little earthly company, but you will have angels invisibly present to minister to you as heirs of salvation. And, then, the narrow way leads to life. This is enough. Eternal life in heaven will infinitely more that compensate for all the difficulty of securing it.
[From J. M. Pendleton, Short Sermons on Important Subjects, 1859. This book is from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Library, Wake Forest, NC via ILL through Boone County Public Library, Burlington, KY. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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