Think Well On't/Day 18

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Think Well On't or, Reflections on the great truths of the Christian religion for every day of the month  (1801)  by Richard Challoner
Day 18: On the small number of the elect.


On the small number of the elect.

CONSIDER these words of Christ: many are called but few are chosen: which contain a great and dreadful truth, frequently inculcated by the mouth of truth itself, to rouse unthinking mortals from their profound lethargy, into which the enemy has lulled them. This is one of those lessons, which he has laid down for a foundation of Christian morality, in his divine sermon on the mountain, where he bids us: St. Mat. vii. 13, 14. Enter in at the narrow gate, for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there are that go in thereat. How narrow is the gate and strait the way that leads to life, and few there are that find it. Hence in the same sermon, he declares to us: not every one that says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father, who is in heaven: viz. by a faithful compliance with the law of God and his gospel. Without this, he assures us, that it will avail us nothing, even to have done miracles in his name. Many shall say to me in that day: (of judgment) Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and cast out devils in thy name, and done many wonders in thy name? And then I will declare to them: I never knew you, depart from me, ye workers of iniquity. Good God! what will become of us, if those, that have even done miracles in thy name, shall nevertheless be excluded thy eternal kingdom?

2. Consider how many ways this frightful truth has been declared or prefigured to us in the Old Testament. Of all the inhabitants of the earth, only eight souls: viz. Noah and his family, were preserved in the ark, from the waters of the deluge: of six hundred thousand of the children of Israel, who came out of the land of Egypt under the conduct of Moses, only two persons, Joshua and Caleb, entered Canaan, the land of promise; which figure the apostle St. Paul expressly applies to us Christians. 1 Cor. x. To the same effect the prophet Isaiah, chap. xxiv. 13, 14. likens those that shall escape the divine vengeance to that small number of olives that remains on the tree after the fruit is gathered; or to the fewness of the grapes that are found on the vines after a well gleaned vintage. Ah! Christians, hear then and obey the voice of your Saviour, when he says to you: St. Luke xiii. 24. Contend, that is, strive with all your force, to enter in at the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, shall seek to enter, and shall not be able: because the generality of Christians, though they use some endeavours to enter, yet do not strive with all their force; they are not thoroughly in earnest in their seeking, and therefore shall never find. Hear again with fear and trembling the great apostle St. Peter, when he tells you, that if the just will hardly be saved, where will the sinner appear? 1 Pet. 4. 18. O my soul, let us then take care, as the same apostle admonishes, 2 Pet. i. by good works to make our election sure: and if others will go in crowds to hell, let us resolve not to go with them for company's sake.

3. Consider, that though the scripture had said nothing of the small number of the elect, yet this truth must appear evident to us, if we compare the lives of the generality of Christians with the gospel of Christ, and his holy commandments. If thou wilt enter into life, says our Lord, Mat. xix. keep the commandments. There is no other way to life everlasting. And the first and greatest of all the commandments is this: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. Mat. xxii. Now how few are there that keep this commandment? It is easy to say, with the generality of Christians, that we love God with our whole heart; but what is the practice of our lives? Does not self-love, vainglory, sensuality &c. on every occasion take place of God? If so, it is in vain to say we love him above all things. And yet there is no salvation without this love. Think well on this. Besides, the apostle St. James declares: chap. iv. 4. whosoever will be a friend of this world, becomes an enemy of God. And St. John: Epist. 1, chap, ii. 15. If any one love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. And Christ himself declares, that we cannot serve two masters. Matt, vi. 24. How then can we think to reconcile the conduct of the greater part of those that call themselves Christians, (whose whole study is to please the world, and to conform themselves to its false maxims, corrupt customs, and deluded vanities) with their expectation of the kingdom of heaven, which is not to be obtained but by using violence to ourselves, by renouncing this sinful world, and by a life of self-denial and mortification?

4. Consider how great a corruption is generally found even amongst the greater part of true believing Christians; and from thence make a judgment of their future lot. How few are proof against human respects, and the pernicious fear of what the world will say! Alas! what numbers sacrifice their eternal salvation to this cursed fear, by rather choosing to forfeit the grace of God, than the false honour and esteem of this world!

How many of those, whose birth and fortune have advanced them above the level of their fellow mortals, live continually in the state of damnation, by a cursed disposition of never putting up with an affront, and of preferring their worldly honour before their conscience! Unhappy men! who by conforming themselves now to those false maxims of deluded worldlings, will be trampled under foot by insulting devils for all eternity. How few masters of families are sincerely solicitous for those under their charge, to see that instructions be not wanting, devotions be not neglected, &c. and that nothing scandalous or sinful lurk under the favour of their negligence or connivance! And yet the apostle assures us, that if any man neglect the care of his family, he is worse than an infidel. 1 Tim. v. 8. How few parents effectually take care to bring up their children from their infancy in the fear of God, and early to inspire into them the horror of sin above all evils! Ah! what a double damnation will the greater part bring upon themselves, by sacrificing these tender souls to the devil and the world, which they might with so much ease have consecrated to heaven! In fine, not to run over all states of life in particular, is it not visible that injustice, impurity, pride, detraction, &c. everywhere reign amongst Christians; and that the number of those who live up to the gospel is indeed very small? Good God! have mercy on us, and give us grace to be of the number of the few, that so we may be of the number of the saved.