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
Hindrances, Directions, and Conclusions
I shall, in the next place, lay down some rules or
directions on how to get this blessed violence.
1. Take heed of those things which will HINDER this
violence for Heaven.
1. If you would be violent for Heaven—take heed of
UNBELIEF. Unbelief is a great impediment, for it is discouraging.
When a Christian is working for Heaven, unbelief whispers thus, "To what
purpose are all these pains? I might just as well sit still. I may pray, and
not be heard; I may work, and have no reward; I may come near heaven—yet
miss it!" Jer viii.12. "And they said, there is no hope." Unbelief destroys
hope; and if you cut this sinew of piety, all violence for Heaven ceases.
Unbelief raises a cloud of despondency in the heart. "Alas, you will never
be able to go through the work of piety. There are so many precepts to obey;
so many temptations to resist; so many afflictions to bear—that you will
fall under the heavy burden; you will tire in your march to Heaven!"
Unbelief raises jealous thoughts of God, it represents
him as an austere master, and that if we fail in so little a punctilio, he
will take the extremity of the law upon us. This discourages the soul in the
use of means. Unbelief does as Sanballat and Tobiah and to the Jews, Nehem.
vi. 9. "They all made us afraid, saying, Their hands shall be weakened from
the work." O take heed of unbelief; it destroys this holy violence. We read
of Jeroboam's arm being withered, 1 Kings xiii. 4. Unbelief withers the
arm of the soul, that it cannot stretch itself forth to any spiritual
action! Unbelief does the Devil the greatest kindness; it makes way for
his temptations to enter, which do so enchant and bewitch us, that we cannot
work. Beware of this sin—believe the promises! God "is good to the soul that
seeks him," Lam. iii. 25. Do but seek him with importunity, and he will open
both his heart and Heaven to you!
2. If you would be violent for Heaven—take heed of
puzzling your thoughts about ELECTION. A Christian may think
thus, "Why should I take pains? Perhaps I am not elected, and then all my
violence is to no purpose!" Thus many are taken off from the use of means
and the business of piety comes to a stand-still. Whereas the truth is—that
no man can justly say he is not elected. It is true, some of God's children
have said so in temptation; but, as Peter did not know what he was saying at
Christ's transfiguration; so these in temptation. But no man can say on just
grounds, that he is not elected, unless he can prove that he has sinned the
unpardonable sin against the Holy Spirit. For anyone to assert non-election
is a sin; for that which keeps him in sin must needs be sinful. But this
opinion keeps him in sin; it discourages him from the use of means and cuts
the sinews of all endeavors! Do not therefore perplex your thoughts about
election. The book of election is sealed, and no angel can unclasp it. The
rule Christians are to go by is, God's revealed will, not his
secret will. God's revealed will is, that we should pray and repent; by
this we make our calling sure; and by making our calling sure, we make our
election sure. If I see the beds of spices grow and flourish, I know the sun
has been there. Just so, if I find the fruits of obedience in my heart, I
may conclude God's electing love has shined upon me! 2 Thes. ii. 13. "God
has from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification."
3. If you would be violent for Heaven—take heed of too
much violence after the WORLD. The world cools holy affections.
The earth puts out the fire. The world's silver trumpet sounds a retreat—and
calls men away from their pursuit after Heaven. The world hindered the young
man from following Christ, "he went away sorrowful!" Whereupon, says our
Savior, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!" Luke
18:24. Demas' piety was buried in the earth, 2 Tim iv. 10. "Demas has
forsaken me—having loved this present world." Jonathan pursued the victory
until he came to the honeycomb, and then he stood still, 1 Sam. xiv. 27.
Many are violent for the kingdom of God, until gain or preferment offers
itself; when they meet with this honey, then they stand still. The world
blinds men's eyes that they do not see the narrow way to heaven! It fetters
their feet that they do not run in the way of God's commandments.
Mithridates, king of Pontus, being beaten by the Romans, and fearing he
would not escape them—caused a great deal of silver and gold to be scattered
in the ways, which while the Roman soldiers were busy gathering, he got away
from them. The like stratagem Satan uses; knowing what tempting things
riches are, he throws them as baits, in men's way, that while they are
eagerly gathering these, he may hinder them in their pursuit of eternal
I have observed some who did once, Jehu like, drive on
furiously in the cause of piety; when the world has come in upon them their
chariot-wheels have been pulled off, and they have "driven on heavily!" It
would hinder a man to climb up a steep rock, with heavy weights tied to his
legs. Men's golden weights hinder them in climbing up this steep rock which
leads to salvation. The world's music charms men asleep, and when
they are asleep, they are not fit to work. A thing cannot be carried
violently to two extremes at once. The ship cannot go full sail to the east
and west at the same time. Just so, a man cannot be violent for Heaven and
earth at once: he may have Christ and the world—but cannot love Christ and
the world, 1 John ii. 15. He who is all on fire for the world, will be all
ice for Heaven. Take heed of engaging your affections too far in these
earthly things. Use the world as your servant—but do not follow it as your
4. If you would be violent for Heaven, take heed of
indulging any LUST. Indulging in sin, will spoil all effort for
Heaven. Sin enfeebles; it is like the cutting of Samson's hair—then the
strength departs. Sin is the soul's sickness. Sickness takes a man off his
legs and so dispirits him that he is unfit for any violent exercise. A sick
man cannot run a race. Sin lived in, takes a man quite off from duty, or
makes him dead in it. The more lively the heart is in sin, the more dead it
is in prayer. How can he be earnest with God for mercy, whose heart accuses
him of secret sin? Guilt breeds fear, and that which strengthens fear,
weakens violence. Adam, having sinned—was afraid and hid himself, Gen. iii.
10. When Adam had lost his innocence—he lost his violence.
Therefore lay the axe to the root! Let sin be hewn down!
Do not only abstain from sin in the act--but let the love of sin be
mortified, and let every sin be put to the sword! Many will leave all their
sins but one. They save one sin --and lose one soul! One sin is a fetter! A
man may lose the race as well by having one fetter on his leg—just as if
he had many. I have read of a great monarch, who, fleeing
from his enemy, threw away the crown of gold on his head--that he might run
the faster. So, that sin which you wore as a crown of gold--throw it away
that you may run the faster to the heavenly kingdom!
5. If you would be violent for Heaven, take heed of
DESPONDENCY of spirit. Be serious, but cheerful. He whose spirit
is pressed down with sadness, is unfit to go about his work. An uncheerful
heart is unfit to pray, or praise God. When the strings of a lute are wet,
it will not put forth any sweet harmony. Such as go drooping under fears and
discouragements cannot be violent in piety. When a soldier faints in the
field, he soon lets his sword fall. David chides himself out of his
melancholy, Psalm. xliii. 5. "Why are you cast down, O my soul? Why are you
disquieted within me? Hope in God!" A sad heart makes dull action. We use
the drum and trumpet in battle, that the noise of the trumpet may excite and
quicken the soldiers spirits, and make them fight more vigorously.
Cheerfulness is like music in battle; it excites a Christian's spirits and
makes him vigorous and lively in duty. What is done with cheerfulness is
done with delight—and the soul flies most swiftly to Heaven upon the wings
6. If you would be violent for Heaven, take heed of a
slothful, LAZY disposition. A slothful Christian is like a
fearful soldier, who has a good desire for the plunder—but is loathe to
storm the castle. A slothful person would gladly have Heaven—but is loathe
to take it by storm. Sloth is the soul's sleep. Many instead of working out
salvation, sleep away salvation. Such as will not labor, must be put at last
to beg. They must beg, as Dives in hell--for one drop of water. An idle man
(says Solomon) "puts his hand in his bosom," Proverbs xix. 24. He should
have his hand to the plough, and he puts it in bosom. God
never made Heaven a hive for drones. Sloth is a disease apt to grow upon
men—shake it off! A sluggish ship is a prey to the pirate. A sluggish soul
is a prey to Satan. When the crocodile sleeps with his mouth open—the rat
gets into his belly and eats his entrails. Just so, while men are asleep in
sloth—the Devil enters and devours them!
7. If you would be violent for Heaven, take heed of
consulting with flesh and blood. As good consult with the Devil
as the flesh. The flesh is a bosom traitor. An enemy within the walls is the
worst enemy. The flesh cries out, there is a "lion in the way!" The flesh
will bid you, 'spare yourself!" as Peter did Christ. "O, do not be so
violent for Heaven, spare yourself." The flesh says as Judas, "Why all this
waste?" "Why all this praying and wrestling? Why do you waste your strength?
Why all this waste?" The flesh cries out for ease; it is loathe to put its
neck under Christ's yoke. The flesh is for pleasure; it would rather be
playing gaimes—than running the heavenly race. There is a description of
fleshly pleasures, "You lie on beds inlaid with ivory and lounge on your
couches. You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves. You strum away on
your harps like David and improvise on musical instruments. You drink wine
by the bowlful and use the finest lotions." Amos 6:4-6. These are the
delights of the flesh.
There was one who tried to please all of his five senses
at once. He had a room richly decorated with beautiful pictures; he had the
most delectable music; he had all the choice aromatics and perfumes; he had
all the sumptuous candies of the confectioner; he was lodged in bed with a
beautiful paramour. Thus he indulged the flesh, and swore that he would
spend all his estate to live one week like like this—though he were sure to
be damned in hell the next day. "There was a rich man who was dressed in
purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. In hell, where he was
in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.
So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to
dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony
in this fire!'" Luke 16:19, 23-24
O take heed of holding intelligence with the flesh! The
flesh is a bad Counselor. Paul would "not confer with flesh and blood," Gal.
i. 16. The flesh is a sworn enemy to this holy violence. "For if you live
after the flesh—you shall die! But if you through the Spirit do mortify the
deeds of the body—you shall live." Romans 8:13
8. If you would be violent for Heaven, take heed of
listening to the voice of such carnal friends, as they will call you away
from this blessed violence. Fire when in snow, will soon lose its
heat and by degrees go out. Among bad company you will soon lose your heat
for piety. The company of the wicked will sooner cool you—than your company
will heat them. Vinegar will sooner sour the wine—than the wine will sweeten
the vinegar. How often do carnal friends do the same to our souls—as
infected people do to our bodies by conveying the plague. The wicked are
still dissuading us from this violence; they will say that it is needless
preciseness and singularity; just as Christ's friends laid hold on him when
he was going to preach, Mark iii. 21. "They went to take charge of him, for
they said—He is out of his mind." Such as are unacquainted with the
spirituality and sweetness of piety, judge all Christian zeal to be madness;
and therefore will lay hold upon us to hinder us in this sacred violence.
When we are earnest suitors to piety, our carnal friends
will raise some bad report of it, and so endeavor to break the match.
Galeacius, marquis of Vico, being resolved for Heaven—what a block in his
way did he find his carnal relations! and what ado he had to endure to break
through that impediment!
Take heed of the snare in your family! It is one of the
Devil's great subtleties, to hinder us from piety by our nearest relations,
and to shoot us with our own rib! He tempted Adam by his wife, Gen. iii. 6.
Who would have suspected the Devil there? He handed over a temptation to Job
by his wife, Job ii. 9. "Do you still retain your integrity?" "What,
notwithstanding all these disasters that have befallen you, do you still
pray and serve God? Throw off his yoke; curse God and die!" Thus would the
Devil have cooled Job's love for God; but the shield of his faith quenched
this fiery dart.
Spira's friends stood in his way to Heaven. For
consulting with them about Luther's doctrine, they persuaded him to recant,
and so openly abjuring his former faith, he felt a hell in his conscience.
Take heed of such tempters; resolve to hold on your violence for Heaven,
though your carnal friends dissuade you. It is better to go to Heaven with
their hatred—than to Hell with their love. It was a saying of Hierom, "If my
parents should persuade me to deny Christ; if my wife should go to charm me
with her embraces, I would forsake all and fly to Christ!" It is better
to go to Heaven with their hatred—than to Hell with their love! If our
dearest friends and family lie in our way to Heaven—we must either leap over
them, or tread upon them! "A man's enemies will be the members of his
own household. Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not
worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not
worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not
worthy of me." Matthew 10:36-38
9. If you would be violent for Heaven, take heed of
setting up your abode in the lowest pitch of grace. He who has
the least grace, may have motion, but not violence. It is a
pitiful thing to be contented with just so much grace as will keep life and
soul together. A sick man may have life—but is not lively. Grace may live in
the heart—but is sickly, and does not flourish into lively acts. Weak grace
will not withstand strong temptations, or carry us through great sufferings;
it will hardly follow Christ upon the water. Little grace will not do God
much service. A tree which has but little sap—will not have much fruit. It
may be said of some Christians, though they are not stillborn—yet they are
stunted in grace. They are like a ship which comes with much difficulty, to
the haven. Oh, labor to grow to further degrees of sanctity. The more grace,
the more strength; and the more strength, the more violence. "But grow in
the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory
both now and forever!" Amen. 2 Peter 3:18
10. If you would be violent for Heaven, take heed of the
opinion that it is not so hard to get the kingdom; hence, less violence will
serve. He who thinks he need not run a race so fast, will be apt
to slacken his pace. This has undone many. Who will take pains for Heaven,
who thinks that it may be had at a cheaper rate? But if it be so easy, what
need was there for Christ to say, strive as in an agony. What did Paul need
to beat down his body? Why does the text speak of taking the kingdom by
force? Is not conversion called a "new birth" and "a new creation"? Is that
easy? O take heed of imagining that that work easy—which is both above
nature and against it. It is as great a wonder for a soul to be saved—as to
see a mill-stone flying up to the moon!
If you would be violent for Heaven, use those MEANS which
will promote this holy violence.
1. If you would be violent for Heaven—keep up daily
PRAYER. Prayer is the bellows which blows up the affections. A
Christian is most active, when his affections are most violent. Prayer keeps
the trade of piety going. Prayer is to the soul, as the heart is to the
body; the heart makes the body agile and lively; so does prayer for the
soul. That the motion of a watch may be quicker, the spring must be wound
up. Christian, wind up your heart every day by prayer. Prayer fetches in
strength from Christ; and when his strength comes in, it sets the soul to
work. Prayer leaves the heart in a holy frame—as the morning sun leaves a
warmth in the room for the rest of the day. When Christians lay aside
prayer, or leave off fervency in it—then by degrees they lose their holy
2. If you would be violent for Heaven—get under godly
PREACHING. The Word is "living and powerful," Heb. iv. 12. It
puts life into a dead heart. It is both a sword to cut down sin, and a spur
to quicken grace. The Word is a fire to thaw a frozen heart, Jer xxiii. 29.
"Is not my Word fire?" As good almost be without preaching, as to be under
such preaching as will not warm us. The Word not only informs—but
inflames. Psalm 119:50, "Your Word has quickened me." Tis the lively
dispensation of the oracles of Heaven, which must animate us, and make us
lively in our duties.
3. If you would be violent for Heaven—get your hearts
filled with love to piety. This is like the myrtle staff in the
traveler's hand, (Pliny speaks of) which makes him fresh and lively in his
travel, and keeps him from becoming weary. When a man has warmed himself by
the fire, he is fittest for work. If you would be violent in working out
salvation, warm yourselves by this fire of love. A man will only strive for
that which he loves. Why are men so eager in their pursuit after gold—but
because they love it? Love causes delight, and delight causes violence. What
made Paul labor more than all the other apostles? "Christ's love compels
us!" 2 Corinthians 5:14. Love is like oil to the wheels. Get love for piety
and you will never be weary; you will count those the best hours which are
spent with God. He who digs in a gold mine sweats—yet love for the gold
makes his labor delightful.
4. If you would be violent for Heaven—be vigilant.
The prophet stood upon his "watch tower," Hab. ii.1. Why are
Christians so listless in their work—but because they are so careless in
their watch. Did they but watch to see how their enemy watches, they
would be violent to resist him! Did they but watch to see how fast their
time runs, or rather flies, they would be violent to redeem it! Did they
but watch to see how their hearts loiter in piety, they would spur on
faster to Heaven. The reason there is so little violence in piety—is because
there is so little vigilance. When Christians neglect their spiritual watch,
and grow secure, then their motion to Heaven is retarded and Satan's motions
to sin are renewed. Our sleeping time is Satan's tempting time!
5. If you would be violent for Heaven—bind your heart to
God by sacred vows. A servant will be more diligent after he is
bound to his master. Vow to the Lord that by his grace you will act more
vigorously in the sphere of piety, Psalm. lvi. 12. "Your vows are upon me, O
God." A vow binds the votary to duty. He then looks upon himself as under a
special obligation—and that quickens endeavor. No question but a Christian
may make such a vow, because the ground of it is morally good. He vows
nothing but what he is bound to do, namely, to walk more closely with God.
Only remember, that we do not vow in our own strength—but Christ's. We must
confide in him as well for strength as for righteousness. Isaiah xlv. 24.
"In the Lord have I righteousness and strength."
6. If you would be violent for Heaven—be sure you make
going to Heaven your main business. Whatever a man looks on with
indifference—he will never be violent for. But that which he makes his main
business—he will be industrious about. A man looks upon his trade as the
only thing to get a livelihood by—and he follows it closely. Just so, if we
would but look upon piety as the main business wherein our salvation is
concerned, we would be violent in it. Luke x. 42. "But one thing is
needful." This is the one thing, to get Christ and Heaven—this is the end we
came into the world for! If we could thus look upon the things of eternity
as our business—the one thing—how earnest would we be in the pursuit of
7. If you would be violent for Heaven—have Heaven
continually in your eye. This made Christ violent to death; he
had an eye to the joy set before him, Heb. xii. 2. Set the crown ever before
you, and that will provoke endeavor.
The mariner has his hand to the stern, and his
eye to the star. While we are working, let us have an eye to that place
where Christ is, the bright morning Star. How willingly does a man wades
through deep water, when he sees dry land before him, and is sure to be
crowned as soon as he comes to shore! Every time you cast your eyes up to
Heaven, think, "Above that starry heaven, is the celestial Heaven which I am
striving for!" Thus did Moses; the eye of his faith quickened the
feet of his obedience, Heb. xi. 26. "He looked to the recompense of the
reward." When Christians lose their prospect of Heaven, then they begin to
slacken their pace in the way there.
8. If you would be violent for Heaven—keep company with
such as are violent. When we need fire—we go to our neighbor's
hearth and fetch fire. Often be among the godly, and so you shall fetch some
heat and quickening from them, Psalm 119. 63. "I am a companion of all those
who fear you" Good company quickens. The holy discourse and example of one
saint—wets and sharpens another. The saints never go so fast to Heaven as
when they go in company. One Christian helps another forward. In other races
that are run, many times one hinders another; but in this race to Heaven,
one Christian helps forward another. Thess. v. 11. "Edify one another, even
as also you do" O let not this article of our creed be forgotten, "The
communion of saints."
9. If you would be violent for Heaven—never leave until
you have the Spirit. Desire of God to put forth the sweet
violence of his Spirit; the spouse begged a gale of the Spirit, Cant. iv.
16. "Awake, O north wind, blow, O south." When God's Spirit blows upon us,
then we go full sail to Heaven. When the Spirit of the living creatures was
in the wheels, then they moved, Ezek. i. 21. The wheels of our endeavor move
apace, when the Spirit of God is in these wheels. Seeing there are so many
violent winds of temptation blowing us backward, we must have the violent
wind of God's Spirit blowing us forward to Heaven. Let this suffice for
speaking of the means for this holy violence.
Conclusion: What shall we do?
But some may say, we have used this violence for Heaven;
what remains for us to do? As the people said to Christ, Luke i. 13. "What
shall we do?"
You who have been violent for Heaven, and are now aged
Christians, let me beseech you to still keep alive this holy violence. Not
only keep up duty—but violence in duty. Remember, you have that corruption
within you which is ready to abate this blessed violence. The brightest coal
has those ashes growing on it, as are apt to choke the fire. You have those
inbred corruptions, which, like ashes, are ready to choke the fire of your
zeal. How was Peter's grace cooled when he denied Christ! The church of
Ephesus lost her keen edge of piety, Rev. ii. 4. Take heed of declining in
your affections. Be not like a body in an atrophy: be most violent to the
last. You have but a little time now to work for God, therefore, work the
harder. Be like the church of Thyatira; her "last works were more than her
first," Rev. ii. 19. Be as the sun that shines brightest before its setting.
Be as the swan that sings sweetest before its death. Rom xiii. 11. "Your
salvation is nearer than when you believed." If your salvation be nearer,
your violence should be greater. How should you quicken your pace, when you
are within sight of the kingdom! He is a happy man of whom it may be said,
spiritually, as of Moses literally before his death, Deut. xxxiv. 7. "His
eyes waxed not dim and his natural force was not abated." So a Christian's
force and violence for Heaven is not abated—he keeps the best wine of his
life until last.
Here is strong consolation to the violent Christian—you
are in the way to the kingdom. Though perhaps you have not much in the way,
yet it is happy that you are in the way. Bless God that while some lie in
the total neglect of duty, God has given you a heart to seek him, Psalm cv.
3. "Let the heart of them rejoice, who seek the Lord." Nay, God has not only
given you a heart to do duty—but to do duty mixed with love—which makes it
savory food; and to do duty stamped with fervency—which makes it pass
current with God. O bless God who has raised you off the bed of sloth and
stirred up the zeal of your soul for Heaven. He who has made you violent
will make you victorious. Wait a while, and you shall possess the kingdom.
When Moses went up to receive God's commands, he stayed
six days on the Mount, and on the seventh day God called him Exod. xxiv. 16.
Though we wait long, and have not the thing waited for—yet let us continue
doing our duty; shortly, God will call us from Heaven, "Come up here!" And
we shall go from the mount of faith, to the mount of vision, and behold
those glorious things which "eye has not seen, nor can it enter into man's
heart to conceive."
But may a child of God may say, "I fear I am not one of
those violent ones that shall take Heaven. I find such a deadness of heart
in duty, that I question whether I shall ever arrive at the kingdom."
1. This deadness of heart may arise from natural
causes. Weakness of body may occasion indisposition of mind. Your prayer may
be weak, because your body is weak. A lute that is cracked cannot send forth
so sweet a sound, as if it were whole.
2. This indisposition of soul perhaps is only casual, and
for a time; it may be in a deep fit of melancholy, or in desertion. When the
sun is gone from our climate, the earth is as it were in desertion, and the
trees are without blossom or fruit; but this is only for a time. Let but the
sun return again in Spring, and then the herbs flourish and the trees put
forth their fruit. So when God hides his face, there is a deadness upon a
Christian's heart—he prays as if he prayed not. But let the Sun of
Righteousness return, then he is divinely animated, and is as vigorous and
lively in his operation as ever; he then recovers his first love. Therefore,
weak Christian, be not discouraged, so long as you do not allow yourself in
your distemper; a dead heart is your burden, look up to Christ your
High-Priest, who is merciful to bear with your infirmities and is mighty to