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THE WAY TO LIFE, AND THE WAY TO DESTRUCTION UNFOLDED*

MATTH. Vii. 13, 14,

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.

MEN in this life are but on their way, not in their home-house, where they are to abide; and it nearly concerns all, since life on the one hand, and destruction on the other, are before them, having their different gates and ways leading to them, to take heed which gate, which way they choose, to enter and go by. "Enter ye in at the strait gate," &c.

The scope of these words is, to remove a great stumbling-block against serious religion, that lies in the way of the world; that is, the great difficulty there is in such a course of life, and the very small number of those that follow it. This makes terrible havoc in the world, and time after time men fall over this stumbling-block. Our Saviour had been preaching his sermon on the mount, wherein he gives such a view of true and real religion, as could not miss to be very unacceptable to carnal men. They were ready thereupon to say, These were hard sayings, few will ever fall in with them; the vote of the plurality of men is against that way, and points to a far easier course; and can we imagine but there is safety in the trodden path, and shall we forsake it for an overgrown one? To remove this, our Saviour peremptorily determines the wide and beaten road, wherein the throng of the world goes, to be the way to destruction; and that the way to life is a very narrow one, hard to find, and hard to walk in; and therefore, from the necessity there is of obtaining eternal life, and escaping eternal destruction, at any rate, cost what it will, exhorts us to enter in at the strait gate.

In the words we have two things.

I. An exhortation and warning how to direct our course for the other world, which this world and life is but the avenue to; "Enter ye in at the strait gate," &c. And here we have,

1. The course pointed out to us which is the safe one, "the strait gate." A gate is properly the port of a city, as Acts xii. 10, or of a court, as Acts iii. 10, but I do not find it used for the door of a house. So here it is plain there is a metaphor; and some think the

* Several sermons preached at Ettrick, in the year 1731.

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metaphor is double, namely, (1.) That heaven is here compared to a house, into which a strait gate leadeth; (2.) To a city, to which is a narrow way. But if heaven is here compared to a city, hell is so too; for there is a wide gate, and a broad way leading to destruction, as well as a strait gate and a narrow way leading unto life. But I think it is not the scripture way to speak of hell under the notion of a city. I judge, then, the metaphor is one: that heaven is here compared to a house; as Luke xiii. 25, "When once the master of the house is risen up," &c.; as hell also is, being held out under the notion of a prison, pit, dungeon, &c.; but such a house as has a court before it where is the gate which they must enter by that would enter into the house. So it is plain, that the "gate," the " way," and "the entering in at the gate," is in this world, and in this life, Gen. xxviii. 17. And so it is in the case of hell. Wherefore the godly, true converts, are, as it were, in the outer court of heaven; the ungodly and unregenerate in the cuter court of hell; both making forward to their place.

2. A course hinted at which is unsafe. For speaking of the strait gate, he supposes there is also a wide gate, the which also he directly teaches after. So there are two gates before us, very different in themselves, and leading to very different ends.

3. Our duty and interest with respect to these gates. It is to enter in at the strait one. Here the Lord directs our choice as to these gates. As soon as we begin to discern betwixt good and evil, we begin, as it were, to enter at one of these gates; and we will be sure to choose the wide one as easiest, till we hear the voice of Christ, and be persuaded to change our course. Satan invites to the wide one, the world throngs in at it, it is most agreeable to the flesh; but our Saviour bids us choose the strait one, warns us to beware of the wide one. This is a shocking call and warning to nature, hard to digest. Who would choose to thrust in by a strait gate, where there were a broad one in which one might have full scope? Therefore we have

II. A reason for this exhortation and warning, consisting of two parts.

First, That though the other gate is easy, and much frequented, yet it is most dangerous; and they are fools that prefer the road unto destruction, to the road unto life, because the former is easier than the latter; for what wisdom can there be in fondly embracing that present ease, which must end in eternal agony? Here, then, our Saviour points out the opposite gate, the gate opposite to the strait one, that we may avoid it; and he points it out, together with the way conformed thereto. The gate and the way, I think, are

not to be conceived as separate things, as a way leading to a city, and a gate leading into a house, but as an undivided space; however, the gate and the way may be distinguished; they are to be conceived as making one undivided space, for our Saviour speaks of them as one, "that go in thereat," or "by it," not "by them."

Some take the way in this metaphor for the space between the two sides of the gate, at which rate the gate contains the way. But this makes the gate the immediate entrance into the house, which I do not find that word used for; for certainly the way lands one in the house, according to the text. Besides, the mention of the way of the same nature with the gate, would at this rate be superfluous; for wherever there is a wide gate, there must be such a broad space; and where a strait gate, there must be such a narrow space; for it is the broadness or narrowness of the space left betwixt the sides of the gate, that makes the gate broad or strait. Wherefore I judge the gate and the way are to be conceived as a continuous space, the one terminating in the other.

Some conceive the way to lead to the gate, and so to be first in order. But this still makes the gate the gate of the house, or the door of it, which, we have found, cannot be admitted; and our Saviour himself distinguishes these two, Luke xiii. 24, 25.

Wherefore I conceive, that, according to the order of the text, the gate is before the way; so that entering in by it, we enter into the way, as one going in at the gate of an outer court, and passing through it, passes on the way into the house. And thus ye have the metaphor stated, which is necessary for understanding the mind of the spirit in the text, as to the spiritual doctrine taught thereby. Now here we have,

1st, The nature of the gate opposite to that we are called to enter in by, and of the way joining it.

1. The gate is a wide one. The entrance into the way to hell is very easy. It is a room port and spacious, whereat multitudes may throng in, without troubling one another. None will need to thrust through here, it will admit them with all ease; for it is perfectly agreeable to the flesh, to the natural inclinations. It is so wide, that people may close their eyes, run at random, and not miss it; even young ones may get in at it without difficulty.

2. The way that joins it is broad. When they are through the gate, they are on a way that is a broad one, where they will get full scope and elbow-room. They will not find themselves pent up there, as in a narrow road. There they are not hampered in their natural inclinations, by conscience, Bible, &c., but get full scope for the vanity of their minds, the aversion of their wills to good, and proneness to evil, and all their disorderly affections.

2dly, The use made of it. It is much frequented; "many there be which go in thereat." The wideness of the gate, and breadth of the way, affording so much ease to passengers, invite people to it: and it takes so, that the throng of the world goes that way. There are many different dispositions of carnal men, these contrary one to another; there are covetous and prodigals, profane and formalists, &c., but however opposite they are one to another, they meet there; and the gate and the way are so wide, that there are roads therein for each of them.

3dly, The end of it, and tendency. The end of it is destruction, and to that it tends, (Gr.) leads away. However easy the gate and way are, every step taken therein is a step to eternal ruin. So, however inviting the beginning and progress in it be, the end of it is frightful. There is a pit at the end of the broad way, which may scare men from entering on it.

The second part of the reason is, That though the gate we are called to enter in by is indeed difficult, yet it is safe, and a happy

one.

1st, The nature of the gate and way joining it.

1. The gate is strait. The entry into the way of religion is difficult; it will require a great deal of resoluteness to get in by it. Luke xiii. 24, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate." One must thrust through it, cast off their burdens; they will not get in with them on their backs, they must bring themselves into a narrow compass, leaving all superfluity of naughtiness at the entry. The Jewish doctors speak of the gate of repentance, the gate of prayer, and the gate of tears. These and the like are indeed the gate we are to enter by; and they are strait.

2. The way joining it is narrow, (Gr.), afflicted or compressed. It is like a strait shoe that presses the foot. It is not easy walking in it, more than in such a shoe, or in a way where there is little room for the foot. Afflictions and temptations beset it, and it leads over the belly of natural inclinations; which march cannot be easy.

2dly, The unfrequentedness of it; few find it. There is no difflculty to find the wide gate, it glares in the eyes of every passenger; and no difficulty of entering by it. But there be few that so much as find the strait gate; they seek it not; blinded with corrupt lusts, they cannot take it up; and, consequently, few enter by it; either they perceive it not, or if they do, the straitness of it frights them.

3dly, and Lastly, The happy tendency and end of it, notwithstanding; (Gr.) which leadeth into life. It is not a stepping into it, but a going to it in a continued course. It leads away from the devil, the world, and the flesh; and brings at length through many a

weary step into eternal life in heaven. So all the hardship of the gate and way is recompensed at length in the end.

Several doctrines are deducible from the words.

DOCTRINE I. Whosoever would direct their course aright for the other world, must necessarily enter in by the strait gate.

In discoursing this doctrine, I shall,

I. Shew what is supposed in it.

II. Consider this strait gate.

III. The entering in by it.

IV. Lastly, Apply.

I. There are some truths supposed in this. It supposes, that,

1. All men here are on their journey to the other world; Eccl. ix. 10, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest." This life is but the avenue to the other life, and this world but a thoroughfare to the other world; like a town lying on the road to a city, which passengers go through on their journey; Eccl. i. 4. However men talk, none have a tack of life. The young are but on their journey, even as the aged. All know what part of their way is passed, but none knows what remains.

2. We will all get there at length one way or other, without all peradventure. There is no doubt of finding a course that will carry us thither; all the difficulty is in falling on and steering the right course; Psalm xlix. 10. Many have taken journeys which they have never got to the end of; many have been baulked of the end of their intended journey, because they took the wrong way. But right or wrong, we will all get to the other world.

3. There is a wrong course for the other world, which we are in hazard of taking. It is a wrong one, as leading, though surely enough to the other world, yet to the wrong part of it, the land of death and destruction eternal; "for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat." And we are in hazard of taking that road; for the natural bent of our spirits lies that way. Satan is busy to decoy us into it, and the example of the throng of the world has great influ

ence.

4. Yet there is a right course for that world too; a way to it opened, which if we can fall on, it will bring us safely to that part of the other world that is the land of eternal light and life. It is true. it was once blocked up; but Christ, by his obedience and death, hath opened it; Heb. x. 19, 20. This should be gladly received by us, since it is of such a vast moment to us.

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