The Christian Soldier, or
Heaven Taken by Storm
by Thomas Watson, 1669
A practical handbook on Christian living,
showing the holy violence a Christian is
to put forth in the pursuit after glory.
"The Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and
the violent take it by force." Matthew 11:12
Examination and Objections
Let us then EXAMINE whether we put forth
this holy violence for Heaven? What is an empty profession without this? It
is Like a lamp without oil. Let us all ask ourselves—what violence do we use
1. Do we strive with our hearts to get them into a holy
frame? How did David awaken all the powers of his soul to serve God,
Psalm 87:6. "I myself will awake early."
2. Do we set time apart to call ourselves to account, and
to try our evidences for Heaven? Psalm lxxxvii. 6. "My spirit made
diligent search." Do we take our hearts as a watch all in pieces, to see
what is amiss and to mend it? Are we meticulously inquisitive into the state
of our souls? Are we afraid of artificial grace, as of artificial happiness?
3. Do we use violence in prayer? Is there fire in our
sacrifice? Does the wind of the Spirit, filling our sails, cause "groans
unutterable?" Romans viii. 25. Do we pray in the morning as if we were to
die at night?
4. Do we thirst for the living God? Are our souls big
with holy desires? Psalm lxxiii. 25. "There is none upon earth that I desire
beside you." Do were desire holiness as well as Heaven? Do we desire as much
to look like Christ, as to live with Christ? Is our desire constant? Is this
spiritual pulse always beating?
5. Are we skilled in self-denial? Can we deny our
ease, our aims, our interest? Can we cross our own will to fulfill God's?
Can we behead our beloved sin? To pluck out the right eye requires violence.
6. Are we lovers of God? It is not how much we do—but
how much we love. Does love command the castle of our hearts? Does
Christ's beauty and sweetness constrain us? 2 Cor. v. 14. Do we love God
more than we fear hell?
7. Do we keep our spiritual watch? Do we set spies in
every place, watching our thoughts, our eyes, our tongues? When we have
prayed against sin, do we watch against temptation? The Jews, having sealed
the stone of Christ's sepulcher, 'set a watch," Matt. xxvii. 66. After we
have been at the Word, do we set a watch?
8. Do we press after further degrees of sanctity?
Phil iii. 13. "Reaching forth unto those things which are before." A godly
Christian is a wonder; he is the most contented yet the least satisfied: he
is contented with a little of the world—but not satisfied with a little
grace; he would have still more faith and be anointed with fresh oil. Paul
desired to "attain unto the resurrection of the dead," Phil. iii. 11, that
is, he endeavored (if possible) to arrive at such a measure of grace as the
saints shall have at the resurrection.
9. Is there a holy emulation in us? Do we labor to
out-shine others in piety? To be more eminent for love and good works? Do we
something which is singular? Matt. v. 47. "What do you do, more than
10. Are we got above the world? Though we walk on
earth, do we trade in Heaven? Can we say as David? Psalm cxxxxix. 17. "I am
still with you." This requires violence; for motions upward are usually
11. Do we set ourselves always under God's eye? Psalm
xvi. 8. "I have set the Lord always before me." Do we live soberly and
godly, remembering that whatever we are doing our Judge looks on?
If it be thus with us, we are happy people. This is the
holy violence the text speaks of, and is the right way of taking the kingdom
of God. And surely never did Noah so willingly put forth his hand to receive
the dove into the ark, as Jesus Christ will put forth His hand to receive us
Before I press the exhortation, let me remove some
OBJECTIONS that may be made against this blessed violence.
1. But we have no power of ourselves to save ourselves?
You bid us be violent, as if you should bid a man chained fast in fetters to
It is true, we cannot, until grace comes, effectually
operate to our own salvation. Before conversion we are purely passive; and
when God bids us convert and turn, this is to show us what we ought to do,
not what we can do. Yet let us do what we are able.
We have power to avoid those rocks, which will certainly
ruin our souls—I mean gross sins. A man does not need to be in bad company;
he does not need to swear, or tell lies; nor would he do it if it were by
law death to swear an oath.
We have power to cast ourselves upon the use of means,
praying, reading, holy conference. This will condemn men at the last day;
that they did not act so vigorously in their sphere as they might; they did
not use the means, and see whether God will give grace. God will come with
that soliciting question at last, "You should have put my money on deposit
with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with
interest." Mat. 25:27. "Why did you not improve that power which I gave
Though we do not have power to save ourselves—yet we must
pursue after salvation, because God has made a promise of grace, as well as
to grace. He has promised to circumcise our hearts; to put his Spirit within
us; to enable us to walk in his statutes, Ezek. xxxvi. 27. So that by prayer
we are to put the bond in suit, and to press God with his own promise.
Though I will not say with the Arminians, that upon our endeavor God is
bound to give grace; yet he is not lacking to those who seek his grace; nay,
he denies his grace to none but those who willfully refuse it, Psalm lxxxi.
11, "Israel would have none of me."
2. But this offering violence is HARD, and I shall never
be able to go through it.
Admit it to be hard—yet it is a duty, and there is no
disputing duty. God has made the way to Heaven hard.
To try our obedience. A child obeys his father, though he
commands him hard things. Peter's obedience and love was tried when Christ
bade him come to him upon the water.
God does it that he may raise the price of heavenly
things. Were the kingdom of glory easily obtained, we would not value its
worth. Such is our nature, that we slight things which are easily come by.
If pearls were common, they would soon fall in their price. If Christ and
Heaven might be had without violence, these blessings of the first magnitude
would not have been had in such high veneration.
But let not the difficulty be objected. What if
salvation-work is hard.
1. Is it not harder to lay in Hell? Is not suffering
vengeance worse than offering violence?
2. We do not argue so in other things. An estate is hard
to come by; therefore we will sit still? No! difficulty does the more whet
and sharpen our endeavor; and if we take such pains for these inferior
things, how should we for that which is more noble and sublime! The profit
will abundantly countervail the labor.
3. Though the business of piety at first seems hard—yet
when once we are entered into it, it is pleasant. When the wheels of the
soul are oiled with grace, now a Christian moves in piety with facility and
delight, Romans vii. 22. "I delight in the law of God after the inward man."
Christ's yoke at the first putting on seems heavy; but when once it is on,
it is easy. To serve God, to love God, to enjoy God, is the sweetest freedom
in the world. The poets say the top of Olympus is always quiet. The first
climbing up the rocky hill of Heaven is hard to flesh and blood; but when we
are gotten up towards the top, there is peace and delight; we see a pleasant
prospect, and are ready to cry out as Peter on the mount of transfiguration,
"It is good to be here!" What hidden manna do we now find! This is the
anticipation or foretaste of glory.
3. But if I put myself upon this violent exercise in
piety, then I shall lose that pleasure I have in my sin, my mirth and
melody, and I shall exchange delight for labor; and so I shall be
no more Naomi—but Marah. Voluptuous people speak as the fig tree in the
parable, Judges ix. "Shall I leave my fatness and sweetness," all my former
pleasures, and now offer violence to Heaven, live a strict mortified life?
This crosses the stream of corrupt nature.
Leave the pleasure in sin. The Scripture does so describe
sin, that one would think there should be little pleasure in it.
1. Scripture calls sin a debt. Sin is compared to
a debt of "ten thousand talents" Matt. xviii. 24. A talent of gold among the
Hebrews, was valued at almost four thousand pounds. Ten thousand talents is
a figurative speech, to express how great a debt sin is; and do you call
this a pleasure? Is it any pleasure for a man to be in debt?
2. Scripture calls sin a disease, Isaiah i. 5.
"The whole head is sick." Is it any pleasure to be sick? Though all do not
feel this sickness—yet the less the distemper is felt, the more deadly it
3. The Scripture compares sin to "gall and
wormwood," Deut. xxix. 18. It breeds a bitter worm in the conscience.
Sin stings a man with wrath, John iii. 34. And do you call this a pleasure?
Surely, you "put bitter for sweet," Isaiah v, 20.
The pleasures of sin gratify only the senses of man, and
are not soul. Pleasures are called carnal, because they delight only the
body. How absurd was that speech of the rich man in the Gospel, when he was
speaking of his store of goods and his barns being full, 'soul, take your
ease," Luke xii.19. He might have said more properly, "body, take your
ease;" for his soul was never the better for his riches, nor could it feel
any delight in them. Though his barns were full, his soul was empty.
Therefore, when Satan tell you, "if you use violence for Heaven, you will
lose all your pleasures;" ask him, "what pleasures are they, Satan? such as
please only the senses, they do not delight the mind; they do not comfort
the conscience; they are such delights wherein the brute creatures do exceed
These sugared pleasures in sin the Scripture says are but
"for a season," Heb. xi. 25. They are like straw in a fire—which makes a
blaze—but is presently out. 1 John ii. 17. "The world passes away, and the
lust thereof." It passes away swiftly as a ship under sail. Worldly
pleasures perish in the using; like a fleeting shadow or flash of
lightning; and are these to be preferred before an eternal weight of glory?
The present sweetness which is in sin will turn to
bitterness at last. Like the book the prophet ate, Ezek. iii. 3, sweet in
the mouth—but bitter in the belly. Honey is sweet—but it turns to nausea.
Sin is a sweet poison, it delights the palate—but torments the soul. When
once the sinner's eyes come to be opened at death, and he feels some sparks
of God's wrath in his conscience, then he will cry out in horror, and be
ready to lay violent hands upon himself. We may say of the pleasures of sin,
as Solomon says of wine, Prov xxiii. 32. "Afterwords it bites like a
serpent." So look not on the smiling pleasures of sin; be not delighted with
its beauty—but affrighted of its sting! Do the damned in Hell feel any
pleasure now in their sins? Has their cup of wrath have one drop of honey in
it? Oh remember, after the golden crowns, and women's hair—come the lions
teeth! Rev. iv. 8. Thus I have answered the first part of the objection; I
shall lose all my pleasures in sin.
If I put forth this violence in piety, I shall exchange
my delight for labor. I must dig away through the rock, and while
I work I must weep."
Though you must use violence—yet it is a sweet violence;
it is a labor turned into delight. Psalm cxxxviii. 5. "They shall sing in
the ways of the Lord." To send out faith as a spy to view the heavenly
Canaan, and pluck a bunch of grapes there—this is great delight! Rom xv. 13.
"Joy in believing." To love God, (in whom all excellencies are combined) how
sweet is this! To love beauty is delightful. To walk among the promises as
among beds of spices and to taste the fruit, oh how pleasant is this! The
labor of a Christian brings peace of conscience, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
And whereas it is said that this holy violence takes away
our joy, and while we work we must weep; I answer, a Christian would not be
without these tears. The tears of a saint (says Bernard) have more
true joy in them than all worldly delights! The oil of joy is for
mourners, Isaiah lxi. 3.
4. I would use this violence for Heaven—but I shall
expose myself to the censure and scorn of others. They will
wonder to see me so altered, and think it nothing but a religious frenzy.
1. Consider who will reproach you; they are the
wicked! They are such if Christ were alive on earth, would reproach him.
They are blinded by the Satan, the god of this world, 2 Cor. iv. 4. It is as
if a blind man should reproach a beautiful face!
2. What do they reproach you for? It is for
offering violence to Heaven. Is it a disgrace, to be laboring for a kingdom?
Tell them you are doing the work which God has set the about. Better they
should reproach you for working in the vineyard—than God damn you for not
3. Jesus Christ was reproached for your sake, Heb xii. 2.
"He endured the shame of the cross;" and will not you be contented to bear
reproaches for him? These are but the chips of the cross, which are
rather to be despised than laid to heart.
5. If I use this holy violence, and turn religious, then
I shall lose such yearly profits which my sin has brought in. As
Amaziah said, "But what about the hundred talents I paid for these Israelite
troops?" 2 Chron. 25:9.
Is there any profit in sin? Did anyone ever thrive upon
that trade? By the time you have cast up the reckoning, you will find but
1. By the incomes that sin brings in—you treasure up
God's vengeance! Romans ii. 5. While you put unjust gain in the bag—God puts
wrath in his vial! Will you call this profit? Whatever money a man gets in a
sinful way—he must pay interest for it in hell!
2. That cannot be for your profit, which makes you come
off a loser at last. You lose Heaven and your soul; and what can countervail
this loss? "What is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and
lose his own soul?" Matt. xvi. 26. "God" (says Chrysostom) "has given a man
two eyes; if he loses one, he has another. But he has but one soul, and if
that be lost—he is undone forever!"
6. But I have so much business in the world that I can
find no time for this holy violence. As the king of Macedon said,
when they presented him with a book treating of happiness, "I have no time
See the folly of this objection; what is the main
business of life—but looking after the soul? And for men to say they are so
immersed in the world, that they cannot mind their souls—is most absurd and
irrational. This is to make the greater give way to the lesser. As if a
farmer should say, he is so busy looking after his hobbies, that he has no
time to plow or sow. What is his occupation but ploughing? Such madness is
it to hear men say they are so taken up about the world that they have no
time for their souls.
Could God find time to think of your salvation? Could
Jesus Christ find time to come into the world, and be here thirty-three
years in carrying on this great design of your redemption; and can you find
no time to look after it? Is the getting a little money that which obstructs
this violence for Heaven? Your money will perish with you!
Can you find time for your body? time to eat and sleep?
and not find time for your soul? Can you find time to use for your
recreation? and no time to use for your salvation? Can you find
time for idle visits? and no time to visit the throne of grace?
Oh take heed that you go not to Hell in the crowd of
worldly business! Joshua was a commander of an army—yet his work as a
soldier was not to hinder his work as a Christian: he must pray as well as
fight and take the book of the law in his hand, as well as the sword, Josh.
You, whoever you are, who makes this objection about
worldly business, let me ask you—do you think in your conscience, that this
will be a good excuse at the last day, when God shall ask you, "Why did you
not take pains for Heaven?" You shall say, "Lord, I was so steeped in
worldly business, that I was hindered." Was it a good plea for a servant to
say to his master, that he was so drunk that he could not work! Truly, it is
a poor excuse to say that you "were so drunk with the cares of the
world—that you could not be violent for the kingdom!"