"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."—Matt. 7:13, 14.
That we may readily apprehend the meaning of this passage, we must consider its relation to the immediate context, and give to it an interpretation which will harmonize with the character and perfections of our heavenly Father, and the just and beneficent principles of his moral government. Many have erred in attempting to bring the Divine Being down to their mistaken and unworthy ideas, and making Him conform to their theological opinions, instead of bringing their own sentiments into harmony with the charter and perfections of God. Hence an interpretation has been given to the passage before us, opposed to the nature of God, and the teachings of his word.
It is believed that all men, being born totally depraved, with corrupt natures, are in the broad road to destruction, which leads to endless pain and wretchedness, and that millions on millions of God's intelligent offspring will be endlessly destroyed. They will suffer, as Dr. Watts expresses it, amidst
"Eternal plagues and heavy chains, Tormenting racks and fiery coals."
But such opinions are opposed to the teachings of nature and revelation, and we dismiss them as unworthy of our regard.
What then is meant, we pass now to inquire, by "Entering into the strait gate?" The context shows that Jesus had reference to those moral obligations and duties, which grow out of our relation to kindred humanity and which are enjoined upon us, because of our relationship to each other. God being the common Father of all, consequently we are members of one great family, hence, there are relative duties growing out of this relationship, the discharge of which, constitutes us characteristically, children of God, and true and faithful disciples of his Son. Jesus was imparting that moral instruction designed to enlighten man in regard to his duties and obligations, both towards God and kindred humanity. He would send him to search his own heart and detect the passions lurking there; enter into a thorough examination of himself, and not overlook his own imperfections and wrongs, in searching for the sins of others.
As the moral obligations and duties thus imposed upon man were so numerous, instead of individual specifications, Jesus sums them up in the following broad and comprehensive language: "Therefore, All things, whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets." And then he adds immediately: "Enter ye in at the strait gate," or, enter ye in at this strait gate of doing to others, as ye would that they should do unto you. By the "strait gate," and "narrow way which leadeth unto life," we understand that reference is made to that course of moral excellence and Christian principle, and integrity, which the gospel recognizes, and which leadeth unto life. Such, animated by a divine spirit, are spoken of as being in the "kingdom of God," which consists in "righteousness, peace and joy in the holy spirit." Such were in possession of "everlasting life."
It was only by complying with the requisitions of Christ, and doing to others as he would be done by, that man could become a Christian and enter into life. And as few only, made practical the Savior's teachings, hence, it was said, "few there be that find it." As the masses were governed by opposite principles, which lead to retaliation and revenge, it was appropriately said: "Broad is the way which leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat." Those who were regardless of moral principles, were in the broad road to destruction. They were in the way of sin and death, while those who gave heed to the Savior's teachings were in the narrow way of life and peace.
The Psalmist says: "Open to me the gates of righteousness, I will praise the Lord. This gate of the Lord, into which the righteous shall enter." When a man begins to live the Christian life, then doth he enter the gate of righteousness; and through this gate of righteousness, or right doing, does he enter into the kingdom of God, which consists in righteousness, peace and joy in the holy spirit. And so small was the number comparatively, who entered the gate of righteousness, by doing as they would be done by, that it was said, "few there be that find it." He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction. Those who gave heed to the instructions of Jesus were in the way of life — they were in possession of everlasting life. Christ said: "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life," and those who kept his words were in the way of life, for "he that hath the Son, hath life."
In this enlightened and Christian age of the world, how few enter this gate of righteousness, and walk in this narrow way of doing to others in all things as they would that others should do unto them. In this material age, when so many bow at the shrine of mammon, when there is such a fearful rush for gold, for honor, and fame, and office, how few there are who find this narrow way? Alas! how many rush into the broad road of sin and death!
"Broad is the way which leadeth to destruction." This language has no reference to the future immortal world, but refers simply to the destructive power of sin in this life. He who is in the way of sin is in the way of destruction. Paul, speaking of the Jew and Gentile, says: "they have all gone out of the way Destruction and misery are in their ways." And so destruction and misery are in the way of every sinner. The way of the transgressor is hard, we should therefore, flee from sin and walk in the way of life — this strait and narrow way which leadeth unto life, and shineth more and more, even unto the perfect day. All are called away from the broad road of sin and destruction. Sin mars the moral image of God, and is destructive to man's peace and happiness, we should, therefore, flee from it as from a pestilence.
What we need is simply to make Christianity practical, to enter this strait gate, and walk in this narrow way of doing to others in all things, as we would that they should do unto us. Then shall we be in the way of life, of peace and salvation.