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Are only a few people going to be saved?
(J. C. Ryle, "Few Saved!" 1877)
"Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?"
He said to them, "Make every effort to enter through
the narrow door, because I tell you, many will try to
enter and won't be able." Luke 13:23-24
There is a wide-spread delusion abroad about the number
who shall be saved, and that this very delusion is one of
the greatest dangers to which our souls are exposed.
What do people generally think about the spiritual
state of their relatives, and friends, and neighbors,
and acquaintances? They know that all around them
are going to die, and to be judged. They know that
they have souls to be lost or saved. And what do
they consider their end is likely to be?
Do they think those around them are in danger of hell?
There is nothing whatever to show they think so. They
eat and drink together; they laugh, and talk, and walk,
and work together. They seldom or never speak to one
another of God and eternity--of heaven and of hell.
Will they allow that any of their friends are wicked or
ungodly? Never!--whatever may be his way of life.
He may be a neglecter of the Bible; he may be utterly
without evidence of true religion. Yet his friends will
often tell you, "It does not matter! He has a good
heart at the bottom, and is not a wicked man."
And what do people generally think about the
spiritual state of others--after they are dead?
I say that there is an unhappily common fashion
of speaking well of the condition of all who have
departed this life. It matters little, apparently, how
a man has behaved while he lived. He may have
given no signs of repentance, or faith in Christ; he
may have shown no evidence whatever of conversion
or sanctification; he may have lived and died like a
creature without a soul. And yet, as soon as this man
is dead, people will dare to say that he is "happier
than ever he was in his life." They will tell you
complacently, that "he has gone to a better world."
They will follow him to the grave without fear and
trembling, and speak of his death afterwards as
"a blessed change for him." They may have disliked
him, and thought him a bad man while he was alive;
but the moment he is dead, they turn around in
their opinions, and say that he is gone to heaven!
And what does all this prove? It proves that people
flatter themselves there is no great difficulty in getting
to heaven. It proves plainly that people are of opinion
that most people will be saved.
Now what solid reason can people show us for these
common opinions? Upon what Scripture do they build
this notion--that salvation is an easy business, and
that most people will be saved?
They have none--literally none at all. They have not
a text of Scripture which supports their views. They
have not a reason which will bear examination. They
speak smooth things about one another's spiritual
state, just because they do not like to admit that
there is danger. They build up one another into an
easy, self-satisfied state of soul, in order to soothe
their consciences and make things pleasant. They
cry "Peace, peace," over one another's graves,
because they want it to be so, and would gladly
persuade themselves that so it is. Surely against
such hollow, foundationless opinions as these, a
Christian may well protest.
Whether we like to believe it or not, hell is filling fast.
Many are in the broad way that leads to destruction!
Few are in the narrow way that leads to life!
Many, many will be lost. Few, few will be saved.
"Enter in by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate
and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and
many are those who enter in by it. How narrow is
the gate, and restricted is the way that leads to
life! Few are those who find it." Matthew 7:13-14
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