I am editing these sections down, but I hope you will take the time to read the entire thing, as it has many more examples and Scripture references, and you can find it here:
And here are the previous blog posts:
Part 1 - Astonishment at Rich Men's Difficulty
Part 2 - Doubt at Difficulty, but Generally Proved
Part 3 - Human Nature & the Habit of Worldliness
Part 4 - The Power of Worldliness
Part 5 - Why This Is Important
From Thomas Manton:
Mark 10:26 - "And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?"
But now presumption leaves out the difficulty, and reflects only upon the possibility: some may be saved, surely God will not damn all his creatures, therefore I shall be saved: but suppose the contrary, few are saved, then what shall become of me?
On the other side, despair reflects only upon the difficulty, and leaves out the possibility: O it is hard, it is impossible with men, therefore they give it over! I shall make no work of it, saith despair. Now the scripture that would breed and nourish in us a true hope, doth all along lay forth the difficulty, to prevent slightness of spirit, and yet represents the possibility to prevent despair: the difficulties to quicken our endeavours, and the possibility to encourage men to hope for the grace of God.
Use 2. It presseth us to mortify our addictedness to present things. O Christians! If you could overcome the world, you pluck out the root of all temptations, and then the commandments of God would not be grievous, John 5:3-4, 'For this is the victory whereby we overcome the world, even our faith'. The world is the great let [preventer] which hinders us from keeping the command, from being so exact, punctual, and sincere with God: overcome the world, and the work will be easy.
Take heed of pleasing the flesh, or letting the world have too great an interest in your hearts; let it not seem a great thing in your eye. Until your hearts are drawn off from present things, and you are wholly baptized into that spirit that suits with the world to come, to make that your main care and desire, you will never prosper in heavens way, until your thoughts be loosened from the world, and you are carried out more to heaven and heavenly things. Consider, why should you be addicted to present things? You that are strangers and not inhabitants, your happiness lies not here; if our hopes were only in this life, we were of all men most miserable, 1 Cor. 15.19. We are but probationers for heaven: our conversation [behavior] should be in heaven, Phil. 3.20.
Use 3. To fortify us against the difficulties in the way of salvation. You must be at some pains and labour, John 6:27, 'Labour not for the meat that perisheth, but for that meat that endureth unto everlasting life': do not slacken your endeavours. To quicken you, consider
(2.) There is difficulty both in the way to heaven and hell. Lusts are ravenous things, and cannot be fed or kept without much self-denial: you must deny yourselves either for God or the devil: you must deny your comforts, and your estate. Men will venture much for their lusts, and for their sensuality [pleasing to the human senses], there must be a great deal of charge to feed this humour, to satisfy the pleasures of the flesh.
Worldliness wastes the spirits, racks the brain: for ambition, how many hazards do men run for their greatness in the world? How many men sacrifice their lives upon the point of honour, for revenge, and for a little vain glory? Now if a man will take pains to go to hell, shall he not take pains to go to heaven? When men will be at such costs for lusts, as to deny conscience, and slight many of the comforts of the present world for lusts sake, shall we take no pains, and exercise no self-denial for heaven?
(3.) If we be at a little labour, it will not be in vain in the Lord, 1 Cor. 15:58, 'Be steadfast and unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for as much as you know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord': whether you consider your vales or wages, your labour is not in vain. Your vales: Christ's servants have a great deal of comfort and sweetness, Prov. 3:17, 'Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace': and for the world to come, there is a full and sure reward, therefore do not stick at a little pains; though it be difficult, yet remember it is for salvation.
Use 4. Let us look to our own selves, how is it with us? Are we in the way to hell or heaven? Let us look to our own standing, do we leave the boat to the stream? Do we give up our selves to the sway of our corrupt and carnal affections? Or else do we row against the stream and current of flesh and blood? It is no easy matter to be saved.
I do not ask now what will become of those that never minded salvation; that never busied their thoughts about it; but even in effect say, Let them take heaven that list [will]: but I ask, what will become of those slothful perfunctory Christians that count a little slight and formal religion enough, which is without any life, alacrity and power? Will this do the deed? Such will fall short of heaven.
May God grant us a true desire for Him, to be with Christ forever, and the desire and strength to busy ourselves in the ways of holiness!
Stay tuned for part 7, if the Lord wills!