“the good will of Him that dwelleth in the bush”
“with good will doing service as to the Lord!”
“on earth peace, in men good will”
-The Heavenly Host
Christian, recovering from the set-back caused him by following Mr. Worldly-Wiseman’s counsel, went on once more in The Way with haste, heeding no one. Finally, he reached the Little Gate he had been seeking, which had a sign over it, “Knock and it shall be opened unto you.” It was necessary to knock more than once or twice, to even call out, “Will He within open to sorry me?” At last he was rewarded with the appearance of a man, but not one the most attractive to a young person, one severely serious, who demanded he identify himself, state his business and whence he was. Immediately striking about the gatekeeper was his commanding seriousness. The significance of his gravity did not dawn on Christian until later as he proceeded in the Narrow Way. Then he would think back and see what he had not before noticed. The location of the gate was enough to banish lightheartedness from any in the area, for the gatehouse was just up hill from the Slough of Despond, the miasmatic damps of which filled the air with a dank depressing atmosphere. Also, the peep slots of the gatehouse looked down on the City of Destruction in the distance and the Wilderness of Sin surrounding it. Then the characters who applied at that gate up to all hours of the night never showed a smiling face. Furthermore, every applicant at the gate had to be pulled in, for there were dangers right at the entrance. Nearby stood Beelzebub’s castle. From the tower arrows flew and thudded into the gate posts. They were meant to make the seeker give up entering and going in The Way. Christian, trembling, but rejoicing, began to think of what the arrows were. All arrows have their own peculiar identification on the shafts. There was the arrow of persecution and the arrow of ridicule. Other arrows were the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, the pleasures of this life and the lusts of other things. The arrow most dangerous to you, young reader, is probably that one, the pleasures of this life. When that arrow is shot it usually has a note wrapped around it which reads, “Christians don’t have a good time!” One person, converted to the Lord like the Ethiopian eunuch, warded off that arrow, saying, “I am happier now when I’m not happy than I was before I was happy!” That is what the man meant who said, “O, wretched man…! Who shall deliver me…! I thank God!”
Now you can see why Goodwill was of such sober cast. Yet, he was not morose, despairing or desponding. Actually, he was a fundamentally joyful man. Who would not be, holding such a post, having such work as his to do? Also you must have a good guess of his nature from his name and know him to be a happy man. Goodwill and his gatehouse were full of goodness, and, holding forth at the head of the good old way, were also full of heavenly happiness. He also anticipates a full glory of happiness when he pulls in the last marcher to Zion.
Knowing Goodwill a little better, you would expect him to direct Christian, having entered the strait gate, in the narrow way. He did. “This is the way thou must go.” He told him of the broad way to hell, the many who crowd in upon it, and the one, only way to heaven, which sometimes has no more on it than a lonely footprint, or a trail of blood. He who commanded, “Strive to enter in through the strait gate” really calls that striving agony. He also said, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and tale up his cross and follow Me.” Does His service cause you any agony? What cross do you daily take up? Where or in what do you deny yourself? Write it in code on the margin of your Bible. In the working out of your own salvation will the most microscopic scrutiny find any fear and trembling? If not, then you probably have not yet met friend Goodwill, either in your parents or in your pastor. For he informs you that “the way thou must go” is steep, narrow, becoming narrower as you proceed, till it almost crushes you, is dangerous and lonely all its way. That book in your hand, what does it say? Watch and pray! Give the more earnest heed! Run with endurance the race set before you! Earnestly agonizing for the faith once-for-all delivered to the saints! Pressing on, reaching forth toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus! What does he know of the truth of Christ or the way to heaven who is a stranger to these things?
By nature Christian was Graceless. There is something about him, all along his pilgrim journey that is graceless. But it is as Christian, not as Graceless that he enters through the strait gate. Asking, seeking and knocking to do so he does as Christian, enquiring, “Are there no turnings or windings by which a stranger may lose his way?” As Christian he was more afraid of missing the way than of meeting the hardships in it. Graceless neither asks, nor seeks, nor knocks, nor strives to enter. Christian was not so ignorant and foolish as to suppose that “our striving or agonizing is the prerequisite for entering into life” as though Graceless may become Christian if only he will fulfill that prerequisite. Christian knew that the striving is a mark of that much coveted life, and that both are God’s gift. Graceless has no care, concern, ability or hope of ability to perform any “prerequisites”.
Goodwill’s gate is one going easily unnoticed by the majority of worldly wisemen rushing back and forth in the throngs “where cross the crowded ways of life”. It is isolated off to the side, “far from the madding crowd”. It is usually shut when an applicant comes up to it, with no attendant visible. If this is the gate to The Way, then why is there not a welcoming committee of at least one standing there with open arms, garlands of orchids, an enthusiastic hand shake, hug and kiss of reconciliation which sweetly draws us in from the hail of Beelzebub’s arrows? What do you want, a medal? Before the battle is even begun? You recently faced a battle. You knelt in secret prayer to face it. What was visible to you then? Nothing more than living room chair, study desk or bed! No angel! No glorious manifestation of the Divine presence! You prayed a short but earnest prayer. Did you rise from prayer disappointed because “nothing happened” no one appeared to comfort you? Look at the one who now enters the little gate. First he knocked, then he pounded, finally he banged on the door. If he had to, he would take it by storm. He would not merely send up a little prayer, then leave off. Continual prayer, impatient prayer would find him calling.
May I now enter here? Will He within
Open to sorry me, though I have been
A wandering rebel? Then shall I
Not fail to sing His lasting praise on high!
Goodwill was brave, not sour. As we now know him, he was a man full of joy, one who brought much joy to many. Entering that gate and continuing in its way has its difficulties, yet not without its joys. “Hark!” cried Mercy, “Don’t you hear a noise?” “Yes,” answered Christiana, “I believe a noise of music, for joy that we are here.” “Wonderful!” replied Mercy, “Music in the house, music in the heart and music also in heaven for joy that we are here!” In this way they conversed a while before going to bed. In the morning Christiana inquired, “What was the matter? You laughed in your sleep last night! You were in a dream?” “Yes, I was,” Mercy admitted, “and a sweet dream it was. But are you sure I laughed?” “Yes, you laughed heartily; but Mercy, tell me your dream.” “I was dreaming I sat all alone bemoaning the hardness of my heart when I saw One with wings coming toward me, who said, ‘Mercy, what aileth thee?’ (Gen. 21:17). When He had heard my complaint, He said, ‘Peace be to thee.’ He also dried my eyes and clad me in silver and gold (Ezek. 16:8-11). He put a chain about my neck, earrings in my ears and a beautiful crown upon my head. I followed Him until we came to a golden gate. Within, the place looked like the stars, rather, the sun! But did I laugh?” “Laugh? Ay, and well you might, to see yourself so well!” Joy is not so evident at the gate, or in entering it, except as one is mindful of the joy that is set before one at the end of the narrow way. Like Abraham (Gen. 17:17) and Sarah (21:6), one may with that view before the eye of faith laugh indeed.
Good news, yet heart-searching, heart-breaking that welcome of Goodwill’s. “Any, notwithstanding all that they have done before they come hither, they in no wise are cast out.” Christian would, indeed, recall, not all, but much of the worst he had done. Like the woman of Sychar, he felt that “He told me all things that ever I did.” This made Christian conscious again of the place he fled, where he would go and of the burden on his back. From that time on he would often think:
He that would enter in, must first without
Stand knocking at the gate, nor need he doubt
That is a knocker, but to enter in:
For God will love him and forgive his sin.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 29 No. 9 January 1970