This selection comes from a sermon of Scougal’s sermon entitled “That There are But a Small Number Saved”, based on the text from Luke 13:23,
“Then said one unto him,
“Lord, are the few that be saved?”
In this selection, we find Scougal proposing a theology that bears a sharp contrast the the inclusivism of the Anglican church of his day, as well as that of many Christian churches in America today. Consider this interview between Larry King and Joel Osteen:
KING: What if you’re Jewish or Muslim, you don’t accept Christ at all?
OSTEEN: You know, I’m very careful about saying who would and wouldn’t go to heaven. I don’t know …
KING: If you believe you have to believe in Christ? They’re wrong, aren’t they?
OSTEEN: Well, I don’t know if I believe they’re wrong. I believe here’s what the Bible teaches and from the Christian faith this is what I believe. But I just think that only God with judge a person’s heart. I spent a lot of time in India with my father. I don’t know all about their religion. But I know they love God. And I don’t know. I’ve seen their sincerity. So I don’t know. I know for me, and what the Bible teaches, I want to have a relationship with Jesus.
When King pushes Osteen for a direct response to the question, “What if people don’t accept Christ?” Osteen repeats, “I don’t know,” several times. He doesn’t want to make a distinction between those who believe in Christ and those who don’t. He wants to make the way to heaven seem as open and available as possible. As we see in Luke 13:23 and in Scougal’s sermon, this is not only a flawed position; it is lethally dangerous.
Amongst all the stratagems whereby the great Enemy of mankind contrives their ruin, few are more unhappily successful than the fond persuasion he has filled them with, that heaven and everlasting happiness are easily attainable. What one says of wisdom, we may, with little alteration, apply unto this purpose: ‘That many might have reached heaven, if they had not been so confident of it.’
The doors of the Christian Church are now very wide, and men have access unto them upon easy terms; nay, this privilege descends unto men by their birth, and they are reckoned among Christians before they come well to know what it means. The ordinances of our religion are common to all, save those whom gross ignorance or notorious crimes exclude; there are no markers on the foreheads of men whereby we can judge of their future; they die, and are laid in their graves, and none cometh back to tell us how it fareth with them, and we desire to think the best of every particular person.
But whatever charity be in this, there is little prudence in the inference that many draw from it, who think they may live as their neighbors do, and die as happily as they, and since the greatest part of men are such as themselves, heaven must be a very empty place if all of them be debarred. Thus perhaps you have seen a flock of sheep upon a bridge, and the first leapeth over, and the rest not knowing what is become of those that went before, all of them follow their companions into that hazard of ruin. Interest and self-love so strongly blind the minds of men, that they can hardly be put from the belief of that which they would fain have true.
Hence it is that, notwithstanding all we are told to the contrary, the opinion of the broadness of the way that leads to heaven, is still the most epidemic, and I think the most dangerous heresy. Many are so ignorant as to avow it, and the strange security of more knowing persons as loudly proclaim it.
I know he undertakes an unwelcome errand, who goes about to dispossess the minds of men of such a pleasant and flattering error; but what shall we do? Shall we suffer them to sleep on and take their rest, until the everlasting flames a wake them? Shall we draw their blood on our heads, and involve ourselves in their ruin, by neglecting to advertise them of their hazard?
No, my friends; duty doth oblige us, and the Holy Scriptures will warrant us to assure you, that there are very, “few that shall be saved”; that “the whole world lieth in wickedness” (1); and that they are a “little flock” to whom the Father will give the kingdom .”(2)