Reader, step back a few paces, and study these gates.
One of them stands upon a rugged hilltop. It is a “strait gate.” Above its arch gleam the momentous words, “UNTO LIFE.” They are words of intense import to mankind; words of meaning unfathomable to human readers. They open a vista without bounds, into the eternal future.
The road leading to the gateway is “narrow,” rough, steep in some places. It winds through dense thickets of test and trial; through close tangles of struggle and effort; through gloomy clusters of pain and sorrow; through thick patches of attempts at well-doing and sad failures; through dark clumps of sudden, thoughtless yielding to evil.
And yet, it is a way of such influence, such uplift that at every mile the traveler may make headway in moral power, in mental might, in spiritual force. But at every step, effort of a high type is in demand. Before the gate is reached, there is call for the traveler’s supreme endeavor, for his utmost steadfastness, for character true, unfeigned, uncounterfeited.
But the gateway gained, success unimaginable awaits him; for it opens into LIFE — life real, life nobler, more potent, more blessed, than we can now conceive. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” I Corinthians 2:9.
Moreover, notwithstanding the disheartening thickets, tangles, and patches, this ascending roadway contains remarkable attractions. Here and there may be plucked the exquisite flowers of patience, gentleness, kindliness, and that royal bloom faith, opening out daily more regal, more radiant, as the struggler approaches the gateway.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.
“By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.
“By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, ‘and was not found, because God had taken him’; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
“By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
“By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude—innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.
“By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.
“By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.
“By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones.
“By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s command.
“By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.
“By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them.
“By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned.
“By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days. By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.
“And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again.
“Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.
“And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.” Hebrews 11:1–40.
Then, too, this narrow, arduous avenue to the hilltop is bountifully lighted by day and by night. From those two short words glowing over the gateway, streams a glory, a splendor, which illuminates even the starting point, at the busy valley in the distance. Less brilliant at the starting point, the light deepens, intensifies, as the climber urges his feet toward the realm of peace, of glory, of beatitude, inside the gate.
The Wide Gate
At the other gate one’s interest does not wane, but changes, differs immensely. The circumstances vary vastly. The conditions are the reverse. Instead of a cheering, animating ascent from the beginning of the roadway thereto, there is a slope, a descent, an incline, steep at some points, with never an upward trend. The way is broad and alluring, but halts, ceases at a large, open, inviting gateway, closed neither night nor day. “Wide is the gate, and broad is the way,” are the words that fell from the lips of the divine Master during that matchless sermon delivered on a mountainside.
Two words, as in the other case, but fearfully suggestive in their import, are inscribed above this gate, “To Destruction.” Sufficient light illumines them to publish to the crowding, urging multitude which throngs that way, its certain danger.
Strive to Enter In
Many in that doomed company never heed these startling words. Scores do not even glance at them. Hundreds fail to realize that, when a thing reaches “destruction,” that ends its existence. Thousands of uninstructed believers in intrinsic immortality assured that the term means simply death — the ending only of the present phase of being, and the stepping out upon another and higher plane of existence — rush on to the absolute total extinguishment of life.
When Christ, the mightiest of human word painters, touched the first gate, 1900 years ago, with His brush of fadeless dyes, He left gleaming above it the stimulating, encouraging sentence, “STRIVE to enter in at the strait gate” (Luke 13:24), thus publishing to all the race with which He had allied Himself, the inspiring possibility of entering thereat.
Nor was this needless urgency, nor prodigal use of counsel. While Christ knew that eternal LIFE is the gift of God through faith in the Saviour’s great sacrifice of Himself, yet He well understood that winning the imperial prize would cost man’s utmost efforts at upright living, at that most remunerative of all work—character building: Therefore He added His reason for the advice—“Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14). [Emphasis added.]
Every day there may be seen many illustrations of the fact that before the vast assembly of mankind, are set forth numerous attractive prizes, true recompenses, worthy compensations, for noble striving, for arduous endeavor in the race of life; and yet, how few, compared with the vast multitude of men and women, make the effort absolutely necessary to attain the regal climax, to reach the acme of the struggle!
This lamentable fact also Christ well understood; and hence with gracious forethought, mercy, and love He gave to every person before whose eyes or into whose ears the momentous words should fall, the ringing advice and warning: “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.” (Matthew 7:13).
In this great trial day, when millions of our rushing race seems to take no thought for the final consequence of conduct, these salutary words might well be set up before the doorway of every home, and in all byways and highways for human feet.
But how shall one hold himself in the narrow way, that he may enter the strait gate and find LIFE? The word of God contains countless directions for securing this supreme result. Notice a few of them.
Proverbs 3:1, 3, 23: “My son, … let thine heart keep My commandments: … bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart. … Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble.” Proverbs 7:1-3: “My son, … keep My commandments, and LIVE. … Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart.”
Moses, the “friend of God,” in his masterful review, before Israel’s great host, of the laws, statutes, and commandments which God delivered to him on Sinai, urged them with intense fervor, to obey these laws that they might LIVE. “Thou shalt … talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way. … Thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes” (Deuteronomy 6:7, 8).
No safer policy of life insurance can man carry, in these stressful days, than the unswerving resolution to live out daily the straight principles of the Word of God. “That thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey His voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto Him: for He is thy LIFE, and the length of thy days” (Deuteronomy 30:20).
The Signs of the Times, March 6, 1911.