Acacia John Bunyan

Strait Gate
O R,
Great Difficulty of Going to Heaven:
Plainly proving, by the Scriptures, that not only the rude and profane, but
many great professors, will come short of that kingdom:
with directions how and why every one should strive to enter in.

"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

By J O H N.B U N Y A N.


I will show you some reasons of the point, besides those five that I showed you before. And, First, I will show you why the poor, carnal, ignorant world miss of heaven; and then, Second, why the knowing professors miss of it also.

[First, Why the poor, carnal, ignorant world miss heaven.]

1. The poor, carnal, ignorant world miss of heaven even because they love their sins, and cannot part with them. "Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." (John 3:19) The poor ignorant world miss of heaven, because they are enemies in their minds to God, his Word, and holiness; they must be all damned who take pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thess 2:10-12) The poor ignorant world miss of heaven, because they stop their ears against convictions, and refuse to come when God calls. "Because I have called, and ye refused, I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded, but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof; I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh - as desolation, and your destruction - as a whirlwind, when distress and anguish cometh upon you; then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me." (Prov 1:24-29)

2. The poor ignorant world miss of heaven, because the god of this world hath blinded their eyes, that they can neither see the evil and damnable state they are in at present, nor the way to get out of it; neither do they see the beauty of Jesus Christ, nor how willing he is to save poor sinners. (2 Cor 4:2,3)

3. The poor ignorant world miss of heaven, because they put off and defer coming to Christ, until the time of God's patience and grace is over. Some, indeed, are resolved never to come; but some, again, say, We will come hereafter; and so it comes to pass, that because God called, and they did not hear; so they shall cry, and I will not hear, saith the Lord. (Zech 7:11-13)

4. The poor ignorant world miss of heaven, because they have false apprehensions of God's mercy. They say in their hearts, We shall have peace, though we walk in the imagination of our heart, to add drunkenness to thirst. But what saith the Word? "The Lord will not spare him; but then the anger of the Lord, and his jealousy, shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven." (Deu 29:19- 21)

5. The poor ignorant world miss of heaven, because they make light of the gospel that offereth mercy to them freely, and because they lean upon their own good meanings, and thinkings, and doings. (Matt 22:1-5, Rom 9:30,31)

6. The poor carnal world miss of heaven because by unbelief, which reigns in them, they are kept for ever from being clothed with Christ's righteousness, and from washing in his blood, without which there is neither remission of sin, nor justification. But to pass these till anon.

[Second.] I come, in the next place, to show you some reasons why the professor falls short of heaven.

First. In the general, they rest in things below special grace; as in awakenings that are not special, in faith
[16] that is not special, &c.; and, a little to run a parallel betwixt the one and the other, that, if God will, you may see and escape.

1. Have they that shall be saved, awakenings about their state by nature? So have they that shall be damned. They that never go to heaven may see much of sin, and of the wrath of God due thereto. This had Cain and Judas, and yet they came short of the kingdom. (Gen 4, Matt 27:4) The saved have convictions, in order to their eternal life; but the others" convictions are not so. The convictions of the one doth drive them sincerely to Christ; the convictions of the other doth drive them to the law, and the law to desperation at last.

2. There is a repentance that will not save, a repentance to be repented of; and a repentance to salvation, not to be repented of. (2 Cor 7:10) Yet so great a similitude and likeness there is betwixt the one and the other, that most times the wrong is taken for the right, and through this mistake professors perish. As, (1.) In saving repentance there will be an acknowledgment of sin; and one that hath the other repentance may acknowledge his sins also. (Matt 27:4) (2.) In saving repentance there is a crying out under sin; but one that hath the other repentance may cry out under sin also. (Gen 4:13) (3.) In saving repentance there will be humiliation for sin; and one that hath the other repentance may humble himself also. (1 Kings 21:29) (4.) Saving repentance is attended with self-loathing; but he that hath the other repentance may have loathing of sin too; a loathing of sin, because it is sin, that he cannot have; but a loathing of sin, because it is offensive to him, that he may have. The dog doth not loath that which troubleth his stomach because it is there, but because it troubleth him; when it has done troubling of him, he can turn to it again, and lick it up as before it troubled him. (2 Peter 2:22) (5.) Saving repentance is attended with prayers and tears; but he that hath none but the other repentance, may have prayers and tears also. (Gen 27:34,35, Heb 12:16,17) (6.) In saving repentance there is fear and reverence of the Word and ministers that bring it; but this may be also where there is none but the repentance that is not saving; for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and holy, and observed him; when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly. (Mark 6:20) (7.) Saving repentance makes a man's heart very tender of doing anything against the Word of God. But Balaam could say, "If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the commandment of the Lord." (Num 24:13)

Behold, then, how far a man may go in repentance, and yet be short of that which is called, "Repentance unto salvation, not to be repented of." (a.) He may be awakened; (b.) He may acknowledge his sin; (c.) He may cry out under the burden of sin; (d.) He may have humility for it; (e.) He may loath it; (f.) May have prayers and tears against it; (g.) may delight to do many things of God; (h.) May be afraid of sinning against him–and, after all this, may perish, for want of saving repentance.

Second. Have they that shall be saved, faith? Why, they that shall not be saved may have faith also; yea, a faith in many things so like the faith that saveth, that they can hardly be distinguished, though they differ both in root and branch. To come to particulars.

1. Saving faith hath Christ for its object, and so may the faith have that is not saving. Those very Jews of whom it is said they believed on Christ, Christ tells them, and that after their believing, "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do." (John 8:30-44) 2. Saving faith is wrought by the Word of God, and so may the faith be that is not saving. (Luke 8:13) 3. Saving faith looks for justification without works, and so may a faith do that is not saving. (James 2:18) 4. Saving faith will sanctify and purify the heart, and the faith that is not saving may work a man off from the pollutions of the world, as it did Judas, Demas, and others. (2 Peter 2) 5. Saving faith will give a man tastes of the world to come, and also joy by those tastes, and so will the faith do that is not saving. (Heb 6:4,5, Luke 8:13) 6. Saving faith will help a man, if called thereto, to give his body to be burned for his religion, and so will the faith do that is not saving. (1 Cor 13:1-5) 7. Saving faith will help a man to look for an inheritance in the world to come, and that may the faith do that is not saving. All those virgins "took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom." (Matt 25:1) 8. Saving faith will not only make a man look for, but prepare to meet the bridegroom, and so may the faith do that is not saving. "Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps." (Matt 25:7) 9. Saving faith will make a man look for an interest in the kingdom of heaven with confidence, and the faith that is not saving will even demand entrance of the Lord. "Lord, Lord, open to us." (Matt 25:11) 10. Saving faith will have good works follow it into heaven, and the faith that is not saving may have great works follow it, as far as to heaven gates. "Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?" (Matt 7:22)

Now, then, if the faith that is not saving may have Christ for its object, be wrought by the Word, look for justification without works, work men off from the pollutions of the world, and give men tastes of, and joy in the things of another world–I say again, if it will help a man to burn for his judgment, and to look for an inheritance in another world; yea, if it will help a man to prepare for it, claim interest in it; and if it can carry great works, many great and glorious works, as far as heaven gates, then no marvel if abundance of people take this faith for the saving faith, and so fall short of heaven thereby. Alas, friends! There are but few that can produce such [works] for repentance; and such faith, as yet you see I have proved even reprobates have had in several ages of the church.


Third. They that go to heaven are a praying people; but a man may pray that shall not be saved. Pray! He may pray, pray daily; yea, he may ask of God the ordinances of justice, and may take delight in approaching to God; nay, further, such souls may, as it were, cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and crying out. (Isa 28:2, Mal 2:13)

Fourth. Do God's people keep holy fasts? They that are not his people may keep fasts also–may keep fasts often–even twice a week. "The Pharisee stood, and prayed thus with himself: God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess." (Luke 18:11,12) I might enlarge upon things, but I intend but a little book. I do not question but many Balaamites will appear before the judgment-seat to condemnation; men that have had visions of God, and that knew the knowledge of the Most High; men that have had the Spirit of God come upon them, and that have by that been made other men; yet these shall go to the generations of their fathers, they shall never see light. (Num 24:2,4,16, 1 Sam 10:6,10, Psa 49:19)

I read of some men whose excellency in religion mounts up to the heavens, and their heads reach unto the clouds, who yet shall perish for ever like their own dung; and he that in this world hath seen them, shall say at the judgment, Where are they? (Job 20:5-7) There will be many a one, that were gallant professors in this world, be wanting among the saved in the day of Christ's coming; yea, many whose damnation was never dreamed of. Which of the twelve ever thought that Judas would have proved a devil? Nay, when Christ suggested that one among them was naught, they each were more afraid of themselves than of him. (Matt 26:21-23) Who questioned the salvation of the foolish virgins? The wise ones did not; they gave them the privilege of communion with themselves. (Matt 25) The discerning of the heart, and the infallible proof of the truth of saving grace, is reserved to the judgment of Jesus Christ at his coming. The church and best of saints sometimes hit, and sometimes miss in their judgments about this matter; and the cause of our missing in our judgment is, 1. Partly because we cannot infallibly, at all times, distinguish grace that saveth from that which doth but appear to do so. 2. Partly also because some men have the art to give right names to wrong things. 3. And partly because we, being commanded to receive him that is weak, are afraid to exclude the least Christian. By a hid means hypocrites creep into the churches. But what saith the Scripture? "I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins." And again, "All the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts; and I will give unto every one of you according to your works." (Jer 11:20, 17:10, Rev 2:23) To this Searcher of hearts is the time of infallible discerning reserved, and then you shall see how far grace that is not saving hath gone; and also how few will be saved indeed. The Lord awaken poor sinners by my little book.

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[16] The word "faith" was changed in 1737 for "repentance," which has been continued in subsequent editions; "faith" is right. Awakenings and repentance are classed together under the first head, and faith under the second.–Ed.

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[17] Many readers will cry out, Who then can be saved? Without charity, or the love of Christ in the heart, all faith and works are but dross. Love is the touchstone of faith and works–not to glorify ourselves, but him who has bought us with his own most precious blood. Carry the solemn inquiry to the throne of grace, Have I passed from death unto life? for whosoever thus liveth believeth in Christ, and amidst the fatal wreck of professors, he shall never die.–Ed.