"Many be called, but few chosen."
THESE are heavy words, Brethren. Of them, as well as of the doom of the wicked, we would gladly be silent, if we dared. We would gladly speak only of the Love wherewith God so loved the world, as to give His Son to be the Propitiation for our sins; the Love, wherewith God the Son so loved us, as to become one of us, one flesh with us, that we might be one Spirit with Him; the Love, wherewith God the Holy Ghost vouchsafes to hallow us, by dwelling in our clay, knitting us into one with God; the Love, wherewith the Co-Eternal Trinity vouchsafed, in Their Ever-Blessed Eternity, to love our nothingness.
But do we then, whose little love is but a spark from that Sun of Love Which kindleth all which loves in all Creation, do we then indeed love one another, better than He Who is Love? Can it be loving to hold back what He, Who is Love, revealed? Or safe for you, or without peril to our souls?
These Words of our Blessed Lord do give the intensest awe and pain of any in Holy Scripture; ... they render what Holy Scripture says of Eternal Punishment most fearful, and bring it most near ourselves. For they cut at the root of the very comfort, wherewith so many delude their souls, that God cannot mean to punish so great a multitude; that they are no worse than most besides; have done no more harm; not wasted their talents more; not been more irreligious, or impure, or careless than their neighbours. The poor, who speak most honestly, draw out this in words; they tell you, plainly, this is their ground of hope. But is it not that of all, who are not in deep earnest about their souls? Whence is it that, not so long ago, words of Holy Scripture were wrested aside from their real meaning, and that to be "righteous overmuch," was taken as a warning from God Himself, not to be too religious? Whence was it that "pious," or "saint," or (God have mercy) "godly," were used as terms of reproach? Whence is it that, even now, a person who will not content himself with easy ways, thinks it for his soul's good to use more devotion, be stricter with himself, "deny himself," "take up his cross daily" after his Lord, if this becomes known of him, by the mass of Christians, who renounce the world in words but not in deeds, he is made "a proverb of reproach." Whence is it that, whenever our ruder nature is not restrained by forms, and even among the young, not to be ashamed of Christ, amid coarse or finer ridicule, is often one of the sharpest tests by which their steadfast love of Him is tried?
All this is not, simply that people think it all hypocrisy or formalism; it is, that it shakes the foundation on which they themselves are building. If these, who desire to keep the sayings of Christ and do them, are building on the Rock, then they themselves, with their easy ways, are building upon the sand. Would they dare to' speak plainly, it is the one common maxim of all, that Heaven is very easy to gain, that it is even difficult to perish. Would they be content to take the same degree of pains about the very slightest thing which really touches them, nay, about their estates, their very buying and selling, their every-day traffic, their everyday pleasures, that they do about their souls? Would they keep their worldly accounts, as they do the account of their soul? Would they risk the favour of any one, whose goodwill was of any importance to their earthly happiness, in the way they do that of Almighty God? What uncertainty will they not bear, what fickleness! how will they bring all things to bear to gain it; how long will they bear to toil for it, how will their souls hang upon it, how will they feed themselves with the very thought of it, however distant! Patience, endurance, toil, self-denial, all which, endured for God, would win Heavenly Crowns, His Favour and His Love, become easy graces, so soon as the object is one of earth. For Him Alone nothing is done, all is too hard, Who will be the Friend of the soul at once, Who first loved it, in order to win its love.
What does lie at the root of all this intense serving of self, and this forgetfulness of God, but a deep, fixed persuasion that God cannot mean to be what they think so severe; that He cannot really intend to destroy so many: that although God Himself has said "Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil," it must be safe to be with the multitude? And they will bear themselves out by a bold praise of God, as though God would "accept flattering words;" and men who know not what real love is, who never thought of God so as to love Him, and could scarcely pretend that they know what it is to love Him, or that they ever felt it, will say that so heavy dealings are contrary to the Love of God. It is but a few steps further, to deny that Hell will last for ever, or to deny Hell altogether. The principle is the same. It is just as hard to conceive of one soul, or Satan himself, lost for ever, as to believe that any number will, however miserably large.