The Lord's Prayer
By Thomas Watson
The Second Petition in the Lord's Prayer
"May Your kingdom come." Matthew 6:10
What MEANS must we use—that we do not fall short of the
kingdom of heaven?
(1) If we would not come short of this heavenly
kingdom—let us be much in the exercise of SELF-DENIAL. "If any
man will come after me, let him deny himself." Matthew 16:24. He who would
go to heaven must deny self-righteousness. We must beware of our own
righteousness. "That I may be found in him, not having my own
righteousness." Phil 3:9. The spider weaves a web out of her own bowels.
Just so, a hypocrite would spin a web of salvation out of his own
righteousness. We must deny our morality in point of justification.
Morality is a good staff to walk with among men—but it is a bad ladder to
climb up to heaven! We must deny our holy things, in point of
justification. Alas! how are our duties chequered with sin! Put gold in the
fire, and out comes the dross. Just so, our most golden services are mixed
with unbelief. Deny self-righteousness; use duty—but trust to Christ. Noah's
dove made use of her wings to fly—but trusted to the ark for safety! Let
duties have your diligence—but not your confidence. Self-denial is the way
to the kingdom. There is no getting into heaven, but through this strait
gate of self-denial.
(2) The second means for obtaining the kingdom is serious
CONSIDERATION. Most men fall short of heaven for lack of
We should often consider what a kingdom heaven is.
It is called a prepared kingdom, which implies something that is rare
and excellent. Matthew 25:34. God has prepared in his kingdom such things as
"eye has not seen nor ear heard." 1 Cor 2:9. Heaven is beyond hyperbole.
In particular in this celestial kingdom are two things—a stately palace,
and a royal feast.
The stately palace is large and
spacious. The dimensions of it are twelve thousand furlongs, or, as it
is in some Greek copies, twelve times twelve thousand furlongs, a finite
number put for an infinite; no arithmetician can number these furlongs. Rev
21:15. Though there be an innumerable company of saints and angels in
heaven—yet there is infinitely enough room to receive them. The palace of
this kingdom is lucid and transparent; it is adorned with
light, and the light is sweet. Hell is a dark dungeon—but the palace above
is bespangled with light. Col 1:12. Such illustrious beams of glory shine
from God, as shed a brightness and splendor upon the empyrean heaven. This
palace of the kingdom is well situated for good air and a pleasant
prospect. There is the best air, which is perfumed with the fragrance of
Christ's ointments; and a most pleasant prospect of the bright morning-star.
The palace is rich and sumptuous. It has gates of pearl. Rev
21:21. It is enriched with white robes and crowns of glory; it never falls
to decay, and the dwellers in it never die. "They shall reign forever and
ever." Rev 22:5.
There is also a royal feast.
It is called "the marriage-supper of the Lamb." Rev 19:9. Bullinger and
Gregory the Great understood this of the magnificent supper prepared in the
kingdom of heaven. A glorious feast it will be in respect of the founder.
The glorified saints shall feast their eyes with God's beauty, and
their hearts with his love.
A delicious feast it will be in respect of the festivity
and holy mirth. What joy shall there be in the anthems and triumphs of
glorified spirits! Saints and angels shall mingle together in an inseparable
union of love, and lie in each others sweet embrace.
A royal banquet it will be, where there is no surfeit,
because a fresh course is continually served in.
The serious consideration of what a kingdom of heaven is,
would be a means to quicken our endeavors in the pursuit after it. What
causes men to make voyages to the Indies, but the consideration of the gold
and spices which are to be had there? Did we survey and contemplate the
glory of heaven, we would soon take a voyage, and never leave until we had
arrived at the celestial kingdom.
How it will trouble you if you should perish to think you
came short of heaven for lack of of a little more pains! The prophet Elisha
bid the king of Israel smite the ground six times, and he smote but thrice,
and stopped. 2 Kings 13:19. He lost many victories by it. Just so, when a
man shall think thus, "I did something in religion—but did not do enough; I
prayed—but it was coldly; I did not put coals to the incense. I heard the
word—but did not meditate on it. I smote but thrice, when I should have
smote six times; had I taken a little more pains I had been happy—but I have
lost the kingdom of heaven by short-shooting!" The consideration, how
terrible the thought will be of losing heaven for lack of a little more
pains, should be a means to spur on our sluggish hearts, and make us more
diligent to get the kingdom.
(3) The third means for obtaining this kingdom is to keep
up daily PRAYER. "I give myself unto prayer." Psalm 109:4. Prayer
inflames the affections, and oils the wheels of endeavor. Prayer prevails
with God, unlocks his affections, and then he unlocks heaven. All who have
gotten to heaven—have crept there upon their knees. The saints now in heaven
have been men of prayer. Daniel prayed three times a day, Jacob wrestled
with God in prayer, and as a prince, prevailed. Prayer must be fervent, else
it is, as Luther says, a golden censer without fire. O follow God
with prayers and tears; say as Jacob to the angel, "I will not let you go,
unless you bless me." Gen 32:26. As Luther says, "Prayer conquers the
Omnipotent." Elijah by prayer opened heaven; by ardent and constant prayer,
heaven is opened to us.
(4) If you would obtain the heavenly kingdom—get a LOVE
to heaven. Love puts a man upon the use of all means to enjoy the
thing loved. He who loves the world—how active is he! He will break his
sleep and peace for it. He who loves honor—what hazards will he run! He will
swim to the throne in blood. Jacob loved Rachel—and what would he not do,
though it were serving two seven-year apprenticeships for obtaining her!
Love carries a man out aggressively to the object loved. Love like wings to
the bird, like sails to the ship—carries a Christian full sail to heaven.
Heaven is a place of rest and joy, it is paradise—and will you not love it?
Love heaven, and you cannot miss it! Love breaks through all opposition;
it takes heaven by storm. Though it labors, it is never weary. It is like
the myrtle rod in the traveler's hand, which makes him fresh and lively in
his travel, and keeps him from being weary.
(5) If you would obtain the kingdom of heaven—make
religion your MAIN CONCERN. What a man looks upon as an
unnecessary thing—he does not much mind. If ever we would have heaven, we
must look upon it as our main concern; other things do but concern our
livelihood, this concerns our salvation. We make religion our business when
we wholly devote ourselves to God's service. Psalm 139:18. We count those
the best hours which are spent with God; we give God the cream of our
affections, the flower of our time and strength; we traffic in heaven every
day, we are merchants for the "pearl of great price." He will not get an
estate—who does not mind his trade; he will never get heaven—who does not
make religion his main business.
(6) If you would obtain the kingdom of heaven—bind your
hearts to God by sacred VOWS. Vow to the Lord that, by his grace,
you will be more intent upon heaven than ever. "Your vows are upon me, O
God." Psalm 56:12. A vow binds the votary to duty; he looks upon himself as
obliged by his vow to cleave to God. When bees fly in a great wind, they
ballast themselves with little stones, that they may not be carried away.
Just so, we must fortify ourselves with strong vows, that we may not be
carried away from God with the violent wind of temptation. No question, 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 by virtue of his baptismal vow,
namely, to walk with God more closely, and to pursue heaven more vigorously.
(7) If you would obtain the kingdom—embrace all SEASONS
and opportunities for your soul's welfare. "Redeeming the time."
Eph 5:16. Opportunity is the cream of time; improving seasons of grace is as
much as our salvation is worth. The mariner, by taking the present season
while the wind blows, gets to the haven. Just so, by taking the season,
while we have the means of grace, and the wind of the Spirit blows—we may
arrive at the kingdom of heaven. We know not how long we shall enjoy the
gospel. The seasons of grace, like Noah's dove, comes with an olive branch
in their mouth—but they soon take wings and fly. Though they are sweet—yet
they are swift. God may remove the golden candlestick from us, as he did
from the churches of Asia. We have many sad symptoms, "Grey hairs are here
and there upon him." Hos 7:9. Therefore let us lay hold upon the present
seasons. Those who sleep in seedtime, will beg in harvest.
(8) If you would go to the kingdom of heaven—you must
keep a daily WATCH. "I say unto all, watch." Mark 13:37. Many
have lost heaven for lack of watchfulness. Our hearts are ready to
decoy us into sin, and the devil lies in ambush by his temptations.
We must every day set a spy, and keep sentinel in our souls. "I will stand
upon my watch." Hab 2:1.
1. We must watch our eye. "I made a covenant with
my eyes." Job 31:1. Much sin comes in by the eye. When Eve saw that
the tree was good for food, and pleasant to the eyes—then she took. Gen 3:6.
First she looked—and then she lusted. The eye, by beholding an impure
object, sets the heart on fire. The devil often creeps in at the window of
the eye. Watch your eyes!
2. Watch your ear. Much poison is conveyed through
the ear. Let your ear be open to God—and shut to sin.
3. Watch your hearts. We watch suspicious people.
"The human heart is most deceitful and desperately wicked." Jer 17:9. Watch
 When you are about holy things, it will be slipping
out to vanity. "When I am at prayer," says Jerome, "either I am walking
through galleries or casting up accounts."
 Watch your hearts when you are in company. The
basilisk poisons the herbs he breathes on. Just so, the breath of the wicked
is infectious. Nay, watch your hearts when you are in good company. Such as
have some good in them may be some grains too light, and have much levity of
discourse; so that, if no scum boils up—yet there may be too much
froth. The devil is subtle, and he can as well creep into the dove
as he did once into the serpent. Satan tempted Christ by an
 Watch your hearts in prosperity. Now you are in
danger of pride. The higher the water of the Themes rises, the higher the
boat is lifted up. Just so, the higher men's estates rise, the higher their
hearts are lifted up in pride. In prosperity, you are in danger not only to
forget God—but to lift up the heel against him. "Jeshurun waxed fat, and
kicked." Deut 32:15. It is hard to carry a full cup without spilling. Just
so, it is hard to carry a full, prosperous estate without sinning. "Soft
riches have ruined the age by disgraceful luxury." Seneca. As Samson fell
asleep in Delilah's lap--so many have fallen so fast asleep in the lap of
prosperity--that they never awoke until they awoke in hell!
 Watch your hearts after holy duties. When Christ had
been praying and fasting, the devil tempted him. Matthew 4:3. After
combating with Satan in prayer, we are apt to grow secure and take our
spiritual armor off—and then the devil falls on and wounds us! Oh, if you
would get to heaven, be always upon your watch-tower, set a spy, keep close
sentinel in your souls. Who would not watch—when it is for a kingdom!
(9) If you would arrive at the heavenly kingdom—get these
three GRACES, which will undoubtedly bring your there.
 Divine KNOWLEDGE. There is no going to
heaven blindfold. In the creation, light was the first thing that was
made. Just so, it is in the new creation. Knowledge is the pillar of
fire which goes before us, and lights us into the heavenly kingdom. It is
light which must bring us to the "inheritance in light." Col 1:12.
 FAITH. Faith ends in salvation. "Receiving
the end of your faith, salvation." 1 Peter 1:9. He who truly believes, is as
sure to go to heaven as if he were in heaven already. Acts 16:31. Faith
touches Christ; and can he miss of heaven who touches Christ? Faith unites
to Christ; and shall not the members be where the head is? All have not the
same degree of faith; we must distinguish between faith and assurance; yet
the least seed and spark of faith gives an undoubted title to the heavenly
kingdom. I am justified because I believe—not because I know I believe.
 LOVE to God. Heaven is prepared for those
who love God. 1 Cor 2:9. Love is the soul of obedience, the touchstone of
sincerity; by our loving God, we may know he loves us. 1 John 4:19. And
those whom God loves, he will lay in his bosom. Ambrose, in his funeral
oration for Theodosius, brings in the angels hovering about his departing
soul, and ready to carry it to heaven, who ask him, "What that grace was he
had practiced most on earth?" Theodosius replied, "I have loved, I have
loved," and straightway, by a convoy of angels, he was translated to glory.
Love is a sacred fire kindled in the breast; in the flames of which the
devout soul ascends to heaven.
(10) If we would obtain this heavenly kingdom—let us
labor for SINCERITY. "Whoever walks uprightly, shall be saved."
Proverbs 28:18. The sincere Christian may fall short of some degrees of
grace—but he never falls short of the kingdom. God will pass by many
failings, where the heart is right. "He has not beheld iniquity in Jacob,
neither has he seen perverseness in Israel" Numb 23:21. True gold may have
grains of alloy. "You desire truth in the inward parts." Psalm 51:6.
Sincerity is the sauce which seasons all our actions, and makes them savory
to God. Sincerity is an ingredient in every grace; it is called "sincere
faith," and "love in sincerity." 2 Tim 1:5; Eph 6:24. Coin will not go
current, which lacks the king's stamp; and grace is not current, if it is
not stamped with sincerity. Glorious duties soured with hypocrisy,
are rejected; when great infirmities sweetened with sincerity, are accepted.
If anything in the world will bring us to heaven—it is sincerity. Sincerity
signifies plainness of heart. "In whose spirit there is no deceit," Psalm
32:2. The plainer the diamond is, the richer.
Sincerity is when we serve God with our heart; when we do
not worship him only—but love him. Cain brought his
sacrifice—but not his heart. God's delight is a sacrifice flaming
upon the altar of the heart. A sincere Christian, though he has a double
principle in him, flesh and spirit—has not a double heart, his heart is for
Sincerity is when we aim purely at God in all we do. The
glory of God is more worth than the salvation of all men's souls. Though a
sincere Christian comes short in duty, he takes a right aim. As the
sunflower turns about according to the motion of the sun, so a godly man's
actions all move towards the glory of God.
(11) If we would obtain the heavenly kingdom—let us keep
up fervency in duty. What is a dead form without the power?
"Because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue you out of
my mouth." Rev 3:16. Fervency puts life into duty. "Fervent in spirit,
serving God;" in the Greek it is "boiling over." Romans 12:11. Christ prayed
"more earnestly." Luke 22:44. When the fire on the golden censor was ready
to go out, Aaron was to put more coals to the incense. Just so, praying with
devotion is putting more coals to the incense. It is not formality—but
fervency, which will bring us to heaven. The formalist is like
Ephraim, a cake not turned, hot on one side, and uncooked dough on the
other. In the external part of God's worship, he seems to be hot; but as for
the spiritual part of God's worship, he is cold. Oh! if you would have the
kingdom of heaven, keep up heart and fervor in duty. Elijah was carried up
to heaven in a fiery chariot. Just so, if you would go to heaven, you must
be carried there in the fiery chariot of zeal. It is violence which takes
the kingdom of heaven.
(12) If we would arrive at the heavenly kingdom—let us
nourish the motions of God's Spirit in our hearts. The mariner
may spread his sails—but the ship cannot get to the haven without a gale
of wind. Just so, we may spread the sails of our endeavor—but we cannot
get to the haven of glory without the north and south wind of God's
Spirit. How greatly therefore, does it concern us to make much of the
motions of the Spirit—motions to prayer, motions to repentance. "As soon as
you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, move
quickly, because that will mean the Lord has gone out in front of you." 2
Samuel 5:24. So, when we hear a voice within us, a secret inspiration
stirring us up to godly duties, we should bestir ourselves. While the Spirit
works in us, we should work with the Spirit.
Many men have God's Spirit striving with them, he puts
good motions in their hearts and holy purposes; but they neglect to
prosecute these good motions, and the Spirit is grieved, and, being grieved,
withdraws his assistance, and that assistance being gone, there is no
getting to heaven. Oh! make much of the motion of the Spirit; it is as much
as your salvation is worth.
The Spirit of God is compared to fire. Acts 2:3.
If we are careful to blow the spark, we may have fire to inflame our
affections, and to light our feet into the way of heaven. If we quench the
Spirit by neglecting and resisting his motions, we cut ourselves off from
salvation. The Spirit of God has a drawing power. Canticles 1:4. The blessed
Spirit draws by attraction, as the loadstone the iron. In the preaching of
the Word, the Spirit draws the heart up to heaven in holy longings and
ejaculations. Now, when the Spirit is about thus to draw us, let us take
heed of drawing back, lest it be to perdition. Heb 10:39. Do as Noah, who,
when the dove came flying to the ark, put forth his hand, and took it into
the ark; so when the sweet dove of God's Spirit comes flying to your hearts,
and brings a gracious impulse as an olive-branch of peace in its mouth, O
take this dove into the ark; entertain the Spirit in your hearts, and he
will bring you to heaven.
How shall we know the motions of the Spirit from a
The motions of the Spirit are always agreeable to the
Word. If the Word is for holiness, so is the Spirit. The Spirit persuades to
nothing but what the Word directs. Whichever way the tide of the Word
runs—that way the wind of the Spirit blows.
(13) We obtain the kingdom of heaven—by uniform and
cheerful OBEDIENCE. Obedience is the road through which we travel
to heaven. Many say they love God—but refuse to obey him. Does
he love the prince—who slights his commands?
1. Obedience must be uniform. "Then I shall
not be ashamed" (Heb. I shall not blush) "when I have respect unto all your
commandments." Psalm 119:6. As the sun goes through all the signs of the
zodiac, so we must go through all the duties of piety. If a man has to go a
hundred miles, and he goes ninety nine, and there stops, he comes short of
the place he is to travel to. If, with Herod, we do many things which God
commands—yet, if we die in the total neglect of any duty, we come short of
the kingdom of heaven. For instance, if a man seems to make conscience of
duties of the first table, and not the duties of the second; if he seems to
be religious—but is not just, he is a transgressor, and is in danger of
losing heaven. As the needle which points the way which the loadstone
draws—so an obedient heart moves the whichever way the Word draws.
2. Obedience must be cheerful. "I delight to do
your will, O my God, yes, your law is within my heart." Psalm 40:8. That is
the sweetest obedience which is cheerful, as that is the sweetest honey
which freely drops from the honey-comb. God sometimes accepts
willingness without the work—but never of the work without willingness. "The
wind was in their wings." Zech 5:9. Wings are swift—but wind in the wings
denotes great swiftness; and is an emblem of the swiftness and cheerfulness
which should be in obedience. We go to heaven in the way of obedience.
(14) If we would obtain this kingdom—we must be much in
the COMMUNION of saints. One coal of juniper will warm and
inflame another; so, when the heart is dead and frozen, the communion of
saints will help to warm it. "Those who feared the Lord spoke often one to
another." Mal 3:16. "Christians should never meet," says Mr. Boston,
"without speaking of their meeting together in heaven." One Christian may be
very helpful by prayer and conference to another, and give him a lift
towards heaven. Old Latimer was much strengthened and comforted by hearing
Bilney's confession of faith. We read that when Moses' hands were heavy, and
he was ready to let them fall, Aaron and Hur held them up. Exod 17:12. A
Christian who is ready to faint under temptation, and lets down the hands of
his faith—by conversing with other Christians is strengthened, and his hands
are held up. A great benefit of holy conference is counsel and advice. "If a
man," says Chrysostom, "who has but one head to advise him, could make that
head a hundred, he would be very wise; but a single Christian has this
benefit by the communion of saints, that they are as so many heads to advise
him what to do in such a case or exigency." By Christian conference the
saints can say, "Did not our hearts burn within us?" Communion of saints we
have in our creed—but it is too little in our practice. Men
usually travel fastest in company. Just so, we travel fastest to
heaven in the communion of saints.
(15) If we would attain to this kingdom of heaven—let us
be willing to come up to Christ's terms. Many will cheapen, and
bid something for the kingdom of heaven. Some will avoid gross sin, and will
come to church, and say their prayers; and yet all this while they are not
willing to come up to God's price, that is, they will not resist the idol
of self-righteousness, flying only to Christ as the horns of the altar.
Others will not sacrifice their bosom-sin. Others will not give God
spirit-worship, serving him with zeal and intenseness of soul. John 4:24.
Others will not forgive their enemies. Others will not part with their
carnal profits for Christ. Many would have the kingdom of heaven—but they
will not come up to the price. If you would have this kingdom, do not barter
and bargain with Christ—but accept of his terms. Say, "Lord, I am willing to
have the kingdom of heaven, whatever it cost me; I am willing to pluck out
my right eye, to part with all for the kingdom. Here is a blank paper I put
into your hand, Lord, write your own articles, I will subscribe to them!"
(16) If we would obtain the heavenly kingdom—let us
attend to the holy ORDINANCES, by which God brings souls to
heaven. "Except these abide in the ship, you cannot be saved." Acts 27:31.
Some people would leap out of the ship of ordinances, and then God knows
where they leap; but except you abide in the ship of ordinances, you cannot
be saved. Especially, if you would get to heaven, attend to the Word
preached. It was by the ear—by our first parents listening to the
serpent, that we lost paradise; and it is by the ear—by hearing of the Word,
that we get to heaven. "Hear, and your soul shall live." Isaiah 55:3. God
sometimes in the preaching of the Word—drops the holy oil into the
ear, which softens and sanctifies the heart! The Word preached is
called the "ministry of the Spirit," because the Spirit of God makes use of
the engine to convert souls. 2 Cor 3:8.
If the Word preached does not work upon men, nothing
will; not judgment, nor miracles; no, not though one should rise from the
dead! "If they won't listen to Moses and the prophets, they won't listen
even if someone rises from the dead!" Luke 16:31. If a glorified saint
should come out of heaven, and assume a body, and tell you of all the glory
of heaven, and the joys of the blessed, and attempt to persuade you to
believe; if the preaching of the Word will not bring you to heaven, neither
would his rhetoric do it, who rose from the dead.
In heaven there will be no need of ordinances—but while
we live here there is. The lamp needs oil—but the star needs none. While the
saints have their lamp of grace burning here, they need the oil of
ordinances to be continually dropping upon them; but there will be no
need of this oil when they are stars in heaven! If you intend to get
to heaven, be swift to hear: for faith comes by hearing. Romans 10:14, 17.
Peter let down the net of his ministry, and at one draught caught three
thousand souls. If you would have heaven's door opened to you, wait at the
posts of wisdom's door.
(17) If you would arrive at heaven—have this kingdom ever
in your eye. Our blessed Lord looked at the joy which was set
before him; and Moses had an "eye to the recompense of the reward." Heb
11:26. Let the kingdom be much in your thoughts. Meditation is the
means to help us to heaven. How does it help?
To meditate on the kingdom of heaven—would be a means to
prevent sin. There is no sword like meditation, to cut asunder
the sinews of temptation. It is almost impossible to sin presumptuously,
with lively thoughts and hopes of heaven. It was when Moses was out of
sight, that Israel set up a calf, and worshiped it. Just so, when the
kingdom of heaven is out of sight, out of men's thoughts, they set up their
lusts and idolize them. The meditation of heaven banishes sin; he who thinks
of the weight of glory, throws away the weight of sin!
To meditate on the kingdom of heaven—would excite and
quicken obedience. We should think that we could never pray
enough, never love God enough—who has prepared such a kingdom for us! Glory
possesses an immeasurable stimulus. Paul had heaven in his eye, he was once
caught up there; and how active was he for God! 1 Cor 16:10. This oils the
wheels of obedience.
To meditate on the kingdom of heaven—would make us strive
after holiness, because none but such are holy—are admitted into
this kingdom. Only the pure in heart shall see God. Matthew 5:8. Holiness is
the language of heaven, it is the only coin which will pass current there.
This consideration should make us "cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of
the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." 2 Cor 7:1.
(18) The last means for obtaining the heavenly kingdom—is
PERSEVERANCE in holiness. "Be faithful unto death—and I will give
you a crown of life." Rev 2:10. "It is not the beginning—but the end which
wins praise." Jerome. "It is the one who has endured to the end, who will be
saved." Matthew 10:2.
Is there such a thing as persevering until we come to
heaven? That anyone endures to the kingdom of heaven, is a wonder, if you
(1) What a great mass of sin and corruption is mingled
with grace. Grace is apt to be stifled, as the coal to be choked
with its own ashes. Like a spark in the sea, it is a wonder that grace is
not quenched. It is a wonder that sin does not overlay grace, as the nurse
sometimes does the child, that it dies.
(2) The implacable malice of Satan. He envies
that we should have the kingdom of heaven, when he himself is cast out. It
cuts him to the heart, to see a piece of dust and clay made a bright star in
glory, and he himself a demon of darkness. He will work with all the powers
of hell—to hinder us from the kingdom! Satan spits his venom, shoots his
fiery darts, raises a storm of persecution; yes, and prevails against some.
"There appeared a great red dragon, and his tail drew the third part of the
stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth." Rev 12:3, 4. By the red
dragon is meant the heathenish empire; now, when his tail cast so many to
the earth, it is a wonder that any of the stars keep fixed in their orb.
(3) The blandishments of riches. The young man
in the gospel went very far—but he had rich possessions, and these golden
weights hindered him from the kingdom. Luke 18:23. Jonathan pursued the
battle until he came at the honeycomb, and then he stood still. 1 Sam
14:27. Many are forward for heaven, until they taste the sweetness of the
world; but when they come at the honeycomb, they stand still, and go
no further. "The gain of money, is the ruin of the soul!" Those who have
escaped the rocks of gross sins, have been cast away upon the golden sands.
What a wonder therefore that anyone holds on, until he come to the kingdom!
(4) It is a wonder that any hold out in grace, and do not
tire in their march to heaven, if you consider the difficulty of the
Christian's work. He has no time to waste. He is either
watching or fighting! Nay, he is to do those duties which to the eye of
sense and reason, seem inconsistent. While he does one duty, he seems to
cross another. He must come with holy boldness to God in prayer—yet must
serve him with fear. He must mourn for sin—yet rejoice. He must be
contented—yet covet the greater gifts (1 Cor 12:31). He must condemn men's
impieties—and yet reverence their authority. What difficult work is this! It
is a wonder that any saint arrives at the heavenly kingdom!
To this I might add, the evil examples all around
us, which are so attractive, that we may say that the devils have come among
us in the likeness of men! What a wonder is it that any soul perseveres
until he comes to the kingdom of heaven! But great as the wonder is, there
is such a thing as perseverance. A saint's perseverance is built upon three
1. A saint's perseverance is built upon God's eternal
love. We are inconstant in our love to God; but he is not so in his love
to us. "I have loved you with an everlasting love!" Jer 31:3. God's love to
the elect is not like a king's love to his favorite, which when it is at the
highest spring-tide, soonest ebbs; but God's love is eternal. He may
desert us for a time, but he will never disinherit us. He may
change his love into a frown, but never into hatred. He may
alter his providence, but never his decree. When once the
sunshine of God's electing love is risen upon the soul—it never sets
2. A saint's perseverance is built upon the covenant
of grace. It is a firm, impregnable covenant; as you read in the words
of the sweet singer of Israel. "God has made with me an everlasting
covenant, ordered in all things and sure." 2 Samuel 23:5. It is a sweet
covenant, that God will be our God. This is the marrow and quintessence
of all blessing. The covenant of grace is a sure covenant, that he
will put his fear in our heart, and we shall never depart from him. Jer
32:40. This covenant is inviolable, it cannot be broken. Indeed, sin
may break the peace of the covenant—but it cannot break the bond
of the covenant.
3. The third pillar upon which perseverance is built, is
the mystic union with Christ. Believers are incorporated into Christ,
they are knit to him as members to the head—by the nerve and ligament of
faith, so that they cannot be broken off. Eph 5:23. What was once said of
Christ's natural body is as true of his mystic body. "No bone of his shall
be broken." John 19:36. As it is impossible to sever the leaven and the
dough when they are once mingled—so it is impossible when Christ and
believers are once united, ever by the power of death or hell, to be
separated. How can Christ lose any member of his body and be perfect? You
see upon what strong pillars the saints' perseverance is built.
How does a Christians hold on until he comes to the
kingdom? How does he persevere?
(1) By the help of the Spirit. God carries on
a Christian to perseverance by the energy and vigorous working of his
Spirit. The Spirit maintains the essence and seed of grace; it blows up the
sparks of grace into a holy flame. "The Spirit is the Vicar of Christ."
Tertullian. He is Christ's deputy and proxy; he is every day at work in a
believer's heart, exerting grace into exercise, and ripening it into
perseverance. The Spirit carves and polishes the vessels of mercy, and makes
them fit for glory.
(2) Christ causes perseverance, and carries on a saint
until he comes to the heavenly kingdom—by his intercession. He is
an advocate as well as a surety; he prays that the saints may
arrive safely at the kingdom. "Therefore he is able to save them to the
uttermost (that is perfectly), seeing he ever lives to make intercession for
them." Heb 7:25. That prayer he made for Peter on earth, he prays now in
heaven for the saints, that their faith fail not, and that they may be
with him where he is. Luke 22:32. John 17:24. And surely if he prays
that they may be with him in his kingdom, they cannot perish along the way.
Christ's prayer is efficacious. If the saints' prayers have so much force
and prevalence in them, as Jacob, who had power with God, and as a prince
prevailed, and Elijah by prayer unlocked heaven; if the prayers of the
saints have so much power with God—what has Christ's prayer? How can the
children of such prayers miscarry? How can they fall short of the kingdom,
who have him praying for them, who is not only a Priest—but a Son? Besides,
what he prays for—he has power to give as he is God.
But methinks I hear some Christian say, if only
perseverance obtains the kingdom, they fear they shall not come there; they
fear they shall faint along the way, and the weak legs of their grace will
never carry them to the kingdom of heaven.
Were you indeed to stand in your own strength, you might
fall away. The branch withers and dies—which has no root to grow upon. You
grow upon the root Christ, who will be daily sending forth vital influence
to strengthen you; though you are imbecile and weak in grace—yet fear not
falling short of heaven: For,
(1) God has made a promise to weak believers. What is
a bruised reed—but an emblem of a weak faith? Yet it has a promise made to
it, "A bruised reed shall he not break." Matthew 12:20. God has promised to
supply the weak Christian with as much grace as he shall need, until he
comes to heaven. Beside the two pence which the good Samaritan left to pay
for the cure of the poor wounded man, he pledged his word for all that he
should need beside. Luke 10:35. So, Christ does not only give a little grace
in hand—but his bond for more, that he will give as much grace as a saint
should need until he comes to heaven. "The Lord will give grace and
glory," that is, a fresh supply of grace, until we are perfected in
glory. Psalm 84:11.
(2) God has most care of his weak saints, who fear they
shall never hold out until they come to the kingdom. Does not the mother
tend the weak child most? "He shall gather the lambs with his arm,
and carry them in his bosom." Isaiah 40:11. If you think that you are so
weak that you shall never hold out until you come to heaven, you shall be
carried in the arms of the Almighty. He gathers the lambs in his
arms. Christ, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, marches before his people, and
his power upholds them—so that none of them faint or die in their march to
What are the ENCOURAGEMENTS to make Christians hold on
until they come to the kingdom of heaven?
(1) It is a great credit to a Christian, to hold fast the
truth until he comes to heaven. When grace flourishes into
perseverance, and with the church of Thyatira, our last works are more than
our first, it is insigne honouris, a star of honor. Rev 2:1. It is
matter of renown to see grey hairs shine with golden virtues.
The excellency of a thing lies in the finishing of it. Where is the
excellence of a building? Not when the first stone is laid—but when it is
finished. So the beauty and excellence of a Christian is, when he has
finished his faith, having done his work, and is landed safe in heaven.
(2) You who have made a progress in religion, have not
many miles to go before you come at the kingdom of heaven. "Now
is our salvation nearer than when we believed." Romans 13:11. You who have
hoary hairs, your green tree is turned into an almond tree; you are near to
heaven, it is but going a little further and you will set your feet within
heaven's gates. Oh! therefore now be encouraged to hold out, your salvation
is nearer than when you first began to believe. Our diligence should be
greater, when our salvation is nearer. When a man is almost at the end of
the race, will he now tire and faint? Will he not put forth all his
strength, and strain every limb, that he may lay hold upon the prize? Our
salvation is now nearer; the kingdom is as it were within sight; how should
we now put forth all our strength, that we may lay hold upon the garland of
glory! Doctor Taylor, when going to his martyrdom, said, "I have but two
stiles to go over, and I shall be at my Father's house." Though the way to
heaven is up-hill, you must climb the steep rock of mortification; and
though there are thorns in the way—you have gone the greatest part of it,
and are within a few days march of the kingdom—and will not you persevere?
Christian, pluck up your courage, fight the good fight of faith, pursue
holiness. Before long you will take off your armor, and end all your weary
marches, and receive a victorious crown; your salvation is nearer, you are
within a little distance of the kingdom, therefore now persevere, you are
ready to commence and take your prize of glory.
(3) The blessed promise annexed to perseverance is an
encouragement. The promise is a crown of life. Rev 2:10. Death is
a worm which feeds in the crowns of princes—but behold here a living crown,
and a never-fading crown. 1 Peter 5:4. "He who overcomes, and keeps my works
to the end, I will give him the morning-star." Rev 2:28. The morning-star is
brighter than the rest. This morning-star is meant of Christ; as if Christ
had said, I will give to him who perseveres some of my beauty; I will put
some of my illustrious rays upon him; he shall have the next degree of glory
to me, as the morning-star is next the sun. Will not this animate and make
us hold out? We shall have a kingdom, and that which is better than a
kingdom, a bright morning-star!
What are the MEANS which conduce to perseverance, or,
what shall we do that we may hold out to the kingdom?
(1) Take up religion upon good grounds—not in
a fit or humor, or out of worldly design; but be deliberate, weigh things
well in the balance. "For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn't
first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to
complete it?" Luke 14:28. Think with yourselves what religion must cost you;
it must cost you the parting with your sins; and may cost you the parting
with your lives. Consider if a kingdom will not counterbalance your
sufferings. Weigh things well, and then make your choice. "I have chosen
the way of truth." Psalm 119:30. Why do many apostatize, and fall
away—but because they never sit down and count the cost?
(2) If we would hold out to the kingdom—let us cherish
the grace of FAITH. "By faith you stand." 2 Cor 1:24. Faith, like
Hercules' club—beats down all opposition before it. Faith is a conquering
How does faith come to be so strong?
Faith fetches Christ's strength into the soul. Phil 4:13.
A captain may give his soldier armor—but not strength. Faith partakes of
Christ's strength, and gets strength from the promise; as the child by
sucking the breast gets strength—so faith gets strength by sucking the
breast of the promise; hence faith is such a wonder-working grace, and
enables a Christian to persevere.
(3) If you would hold out to the kingdom, set before your
eyes the EXAMPLES of those noble heroic saints who have persevered to the
kingdom. Vivitur exemplis [Life is lived by examples.]
Examples have more influence upon us than precepts. "My foot has held his
steps." Job 23:11. Though the way of religion has flints and thorns in
it—yet my foot has held its steps; I have not fainted in the way, nor turned
out of the way. Daniel held on his religion, and would not leave off prayer,
though he knew the writing was signed against him, and a prayer might cost
him his life. Dan 6:10. The blessed martyrs persevered to the kingdom
through sufferings. A martyr, kissing the stake, said, "I shall not lose my
life—but exchange it for a better; instead of coals I shall have pearls."
What a spirit of gallantry was in these saints! Let us learn constancy from
their courage. A soldier, seeing his general fight valiantly, is animated by
his example, and has new spirits put into him.
(4) Let us add fervent PRAYER to God, that he would
enable us to hold out to the heavenly kingdom. "Hold me up—and I
shall be safe!" Psalm 119:117. Let us not presume on our own strength. When
Peter cried to Christ on the water, "Lord save me!" then Christ took him by
the hand. Matthew 14:30. When he grew confident of his own strength, Christ
let him fall. Oh pray to God for persevering grace. The child is safe when
held in the father's arms. Just so, are we safe in Christ's arms. Let us
pray that God will put his fear in our hearts, that we do not depart from
him; and that prayer of Cyprian, "Lord, perfect that which you have begun in
me, that I may not suffer shipwreck when I am almost at the haven."
Use 5. Here let me lay down some powerful persuasive, or
divine arguments to make you put to all your strength for obtaining this
(1) The great purpose for which God sent us into the
world, is to prepare for this heavenly kingdom. "Seek first the
kingdom of God." Matthew 6:33. First in time—before all things; and
first in affection—above all things. Great care is taken for securing
worldly things. Matthew 6:25. To see people laboring for the earth, as ants
on an anthill, would make one think that this was the only purpose they were
here for. But, alas! what is all this, compared to the kingdom of heaven? I
have read of a devout pilgrim traveling to Jerusalem, who passing through
several cities, where he saw many stately edifices, wares and monuments,
would say, "I must not stay here, this is not Jerusalem." Just so, when we
enjoy worldly things, peace and plenty, and have our baskets full, we should
say to ourselves, "this is not the kingdom we are to look after, this is not
heaven!" It is wisdom to remember our purpose. It will be but sad upon a
death-bed for a man to find he has busied himself about trifles—played with
a feather—and neglected the main thing he came into the world for.
(2) Seeking the heavenly kingdom will be judged most
prudent by all men at last. Those who are most heedless of their
souls now, will wish when they die, that they had minded eternity
more. When conscience is awakened, and men begin to come to themselves, what
would they give for the kingdom of heaven! How happy would it be if men were
of the same mind now—as they will be at death! Death will alter men's
opinions! Those who most slighted and disparaged the ways of religion, will
wish their time and thoughts had been taken up about the excellent glory. At
death, men's eyes will be opened, and they will see their folly when it is
too late. All men, even the worst, will wish at last that they had minded
the kingdom of heaven. Why should not we do now what all will wish they had
done, when they come to die?
(3) This kingdom of heaven deserves our utmost pains and
1. It is GLORIOUS, beyond hyperbole. Suppose
earthly kingdoms more magnificent than they are—their foundations of gold,
their walls of pearl, their windows of diamond—even then, they would not be
comparable to the heavenly kingdom. If the pavement of heaven is
bespangled with so many bright shining lights and glorious stars, what is
the kingdom itself? "It does not yet appear what we shall be." 1 John 3:2.
This kingdom exceeds our imagination. How sublime and wonderful is that
place where the blessed Deity shines forth in his immense glory, infinitely
beyond the comprehension of angels!
2. The kingdom of heaven is a place of HONOR.
There are glorious triumphs and sparkling crowns. In other kingdoms there is
but one king—but in heaven, all are kings! Rev 1:6. Every glorified
saint partakes of the same glory as Christ does. "The glory which you gave
me, I have given them." John 17:22.
3. This kingdom is a place of JOY. "Enter into
the joy of your Lord." Matthew 25:21. To have a continual aspect of God's
lovely face, to be crowned with immortality, to be as holy as the angels, to
drink of the rivers of pleasure forever—this will cause raptures of joy!
Surely it deserves our utmost pains to pursue and to secure this kingdom. If
we will not take pains for the kingdom of heaven—what kingdom will we take
pains for? It was the speech of the spies to their brethren, "We have seen
the land, and it is very good. You should not hesitate to go and take
possession of it." Judg 18:9. We have had a lively description of the glory
of heaven, we find the kingdom is very good; why then do we sit still? Why
do we not put forth our utmost zeal and industry for this kingdom? The
diligence of others in seeking after earthly kingdoms, shames our coldness
and indifference in pursuing after the kingdom of heaven!
(4) The time we have to make sure of the heavenly
kingdom, is very short and uncertain. "What is your life? You are
a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes away!" James 4:14.
Take heed it does not slip away before you have prepared for the kingdom.
Time passes on apace! It will not be long before the silver cord of life
snaps and the golden bowl is broken. Eccl 12:6. The skull wherein the brains
are enclosed, is a bowl which will soon be broken. Our soul is in the body,
as the bird in the shell, which soon breaks—and the bird flies out. The
shell of the body is soon broken—and the soul flies into eternity! We know
not whether we shall live another day. Before we hear another sermon-bell
ring, our death-bell may ring. Our life runs as a swift stream—into the
ocean of eternity!
Brethren, if our time is so short and transient; if the
candle of life is so soon consumed, or perhaps blown out by an
unexpectant death--how should we use all our strength, that we may obtain
the kingdom of glory! If time is so short, why do we waste it on trivial
things--and neglect the "one thing needful," which is the kingdom of heaven?
A man who has a great work to be done, and but one day for doing it, needs
to work hard. We have a great work to do, we are striving for a kingdom, and
alas! we are not certain of one day to work in! Therefore what need have we
to bestir ourselves, and what we do for heaven, to do it with all our might!
(5) To excite our diligence, let us consider how
inexcusable we shall be, if we miss the kingdom of heaven. Who
have had such helps for heaven as we have had? Indians who have mines of
gold, have not such advantages for glory as we. They have the light of the
sun, moon, and stars, and the light of reason—but this is not enough to
light them to heaven. We have had the light of the gospel shining in our
horizon; we have been lifted up to heaven with ordinances; we have had the
Word in season and out of season. The ordinances are the pipes of the
sanctuary, which empty the golden oil of grace into the soul; they are the
ladder by which we ascend to the kingdom of heaven. "What other nation is so
great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us
whenever we pray to him?" Deut 4:7. We have had heaven and hell set before
us; we have had counsels of friends, warnings, examples, the motions and
inspirations of the Holy Spirit! How should all these spurs quicken
us in our pace to heaven? Should not that ship sail apace to the haven which
has the tide of ordinances, and the wind of the Spirit to carry it? Surely
if we, through negligence, miss the kingdom of heaven, we shall have nothing
to say for ourselves; we shall be as far from excuse as from
(6) You cannot do too much for the kingdom of heaven.
You cannot pray too much, nor love God too much. In secular things a man may
labor too hard—he may kill himself with work; but there is no fear of
working too hard for heaven. "In righteousness there is no need to fear
excess." Seneca. The world is apt to censure the godly, as if they were too
zealous, and overstrained themselves in religion. Indeed, a man may follow
the world too much, he may make too much haste to be rich. The ferry-man may
take too many passengers into his boat, so as to sink it. Just so, a man may
heap up so much gold and silver—as to sink himself in perdition. 1 Tim 6:9.
We cannot be too earnest and zealous for the kingdom of heaven; there is no
fear of excess here; when we do all we can, we come short of the golden rule
set us, and of Christ's golden pattern. When our faith is highest, like the
sun in the meridian, still there is something lacking in our faith—so that
all our labor for the kingdom is little enough. 1 Thess 3:1. When a
Christian has done his best, still he has sins, and needs to bewail.
(7) You may judge of the state of your souls, whether you
have grace or not, by your earnest pursuit after the heavenly kingdom.
Grace infuses a spirit of activity into a person; it does not lie
dormant in the soul; it is not a sleepy habit—but it makes a Christian like
the seraphim, swift and winged in his heavenly motion. Like fire, it makes
him burn in love to God; and the more he loves him, the more he presses
forward to heaven, where he may fully enjoy him!
Hope is an active grace, it is called "a living
hope." 1 Peter 1:3. It is like the spring in the watch, which sets all the
wheels of the soul running. Hope of a crop makes the farmer sow his
seed; hope of victory makes the soldier fight; and a true hope of
glory makes a Christian vigorously pursue it. Here is a spiritual
touchstone by which to test our grace. If we have the anointing of the
Spirit, it will oil the wheels of our endeavor, and make us lively in our
pursuit of the heavenly kingdom. No sooner had Paul received saving grace,
that it is said, "Behold, he prays." Acts 9:11. The affections are by
divines called "the feet of the soul;" if these feet move not towards
heaven, it is because there is no life in them.
(8) Your labor for heaven is not lost. Perhaps
you may think that you have served God in vain; but know that your pains are
not lost. The seed is cast into the earth, and it dies—yet at last it brings
forth a plentiful crop. Just so, your labors seem to be fruitless—but at
last they bring you to a kingdom! Who would not work hard for one hour,
when, for that hour's work, he would be a king as long as he lived? And let
me tell you, the more labor you have put forth for the kingdom of heaven—the
more degrees of glory you shall have. As there are degrees of torment in
hell—so there are degrees of glory in heaven. Matthew 23:14. As one star
differs from another in glory—so shall one saint. 1 Cor 15:41. Though every
vessel of mercy shall be full—yet one may hold more than
another. Such as have done more work for God, shall have more glory in the
heavenly kingdom. Could we hear departed saints speaking to us from heaven,
surely they would speak after this manner: "Were we to leave heaven awhile,
and live on the earth again, we would do God a thousand times more service
than ever we did; we would pray with more life, act with more zeal; for now
we see, the more has been our labor, the greater is our reward in heaven!"
(9) While we are laboring for the kingdom, God will help
us. "I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my
statutes." Ezek 36:27. The promise encourages us, and God's Spirit
enables us. A master gives his servant work to do—but he cannot
give him strength to work. But God both gives us our work—and gives
us strength. "Give your strength unto your servant." Psalm 86:16. God not
only gives us a crown when we have done running—but he also gives us legs to
run! He gives enabling, assisting grace. [Law commands, grace assists]; the
Spirit helping us in our work for heaven, makes it easy. If the loadstone
draws the iron—it is not hard for the iron to move. Just so, if God's Spirit
draws the heart, it moves towards heaven with adeptness and alacrity.
(10) The more pains we have taken for heaven, the sweeter
heaven will be when we come there. When a farmer has long been
working hard--it is pleasant to enjoy the fruit his labors. Just so, when in
heaven, we shall remember our former zeal and earnestness for the kingdom,
which will sweeten heaven. It will add to the joy of heaven, for a Christian
to ponder, "Such a day I spent in examining my heart. Such a day I was
weeping for sin. When others were at their amusements, I was at prayer. And
now, have I lost anything by my devotion? No! My tears are wiped away, and
the wine of paradise cheers my heart. I now enjoy him whom my soul loves, I
am possessed of a glorious kingdom! My labor is over--but my joy remains
(11) If you do not take pains for the kingdom of heaven
now, there will be nothing which can be done for your souls after death.
This is the only fit season for working; and if this season be lost—the
kingdom is forfeited! "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your
might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor
planning nor knowledge nor wisdom." Eccl 9:10. It was a saying of Charles V,
"I have spent my treasure—but that I may recover again; I have lost
my health—but that I may have again; but I have lost a great many
brave soldiers—but them I can never regain." So other temporal
blessings may be lost and recovered again; but if the term of life, wherein
you should work for heaven, is once lost, it is past all recovery, you can
never have another season again for your souls!
(12) There is nothing else but this kingdom of heaven, of
which we can make sure.
We cannot make sure of life. When our breath goes
out, we know not whether we shall draw it in again! How many
are taken away suddenly! "Why, you do not even know what will happen
tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little time
and then vanishes away!" James 4:14.
We cannot make sure of riches. It is uncertain
whether we shall ever get them. The world is like a lottery, in which
everyone is not sure to draw a prize. If we do get riches, we are not
sure to keep them! "Riches make themselves wings—they fly away!"
Proverbs 23:5. Experience seals the truth of this. Many who have had
plentiful estates, by fire, or losses at sea, have been squeezed as sponges,
and all their estates exhausted. But even if men should keep their estates
awhile—death strips them of all! When death's gun goes off, away flies the
estate. "We didn't bring anything with us when we came into the world, and
we certainly cannot carry anything with us when we die!" 1 Tim 6:7. "I have
observed something else in this world of ours. The fastest runner doesn't
always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn't always win the
battle. The wise are often poor, and the skillful are not necessarily
wealthy. And those who are educated don't always lead successful lives."
Ecclesiastes 9:11. "Command those who are rich in this present world not to
be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to
put their hope in God." 1 Timothy 6:17.
So that there is no making sure of anything here
below—but we may make sure of the kingdom of heaven. "To him who sows
righteousness, shall be a sure reward." Proverbs 11:18. He who has grace is
sure of heaven, for he has heaven begun in him! A believer has an evidence
of heaven. "Faith is the evidence of things not seen." Heb 11:1. He has a
pledge of glory. "Who has given us the pledge of the Spirit." 2 Cor 1:22. A
pledge is part of the whole sum. He has a sure hope. "Which hope we have as
an anchor." Heb 6:19. This anchor is cast upon God's promise. "In hope of
eternal life, which God who cannot lie, has promised." Tit 1:2. So that here
is great encouragement to take pains for heaven, that we may make sure of
(13) The kingdom of heaven cannot be obtained without
labor. The way from earth to heaven is not easy. A boat may as
well get to land without oars, as we to heaven without labor. We cannot have
the world without labor, and do we think we can have heaven without labor?
If a man digs for gravel—much more for gold. "I press toward
the mark." Phil 3:14. Heaven's gate is not like that iron gate which opened
to Peter of its own accord. Acts 12:10. Heaven is not like those ripe figs
which fall into the mouth of the eater. Nah 3:12. No, there must be taking
pains. Two things are requisite for a Christian, a watchful eye and a
working hand. We must force a way to the heavenly kingdom through
difficulties. We must win the garland of glory by labor, before we wear it
with triumph. God has enacted this law, "That no man shall eat of the tree
of paradise, but in the sweat of his brow." How, then, dare any censure
Christian diligence? How dare they say, that you take more pains for heaven
than are needful? God says, "Strive as in an agony: fight the good fight of
faith;" and they say, "You are too strict:" but whom shall we believe, a
holy God who bids us strive, or a profane atheist who says we strive too
(14) Much of our time being already misspent, we had need
work the harder for the kingdom of heaven. He who has lost his
time at school, and often played truant, had need ply it the harder, that he
may gain a stock of learning; and he who has slept and loitered in the
beginning of his journey, had need ride the faster in the evening, lest he
fall short of the place to which he is traveling. Some are in their youth,
others in the flower of their age, others have grey hairs, the almond tree
blossoms, and yet perhaps have been very regardless of their souls and
heaven. Time spent unprofitably is not time lived—but time lost.
"Redeeming the time." Ephesians 5:16. Those who have misspent their golden
hours, they have not only been slothful—but wasteful servants. They had need
now to redeem the time, and press forward with might and main to the
heavenly kingdom. "The time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought
the will of the Gentiles." 1 Peter 4:3. It may suffice that we who have lost
so much time already, should now work the harder. Those who have crept as
snails, had need now fly as eagles to the paradise of God. If, in
the former part of your life, you have been as willows, barren in goodness;
in the latter part, be as "an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant
fruits." Canticles 4:13. Recompense former remissness, with future
(15) How unfitting and sordid, a slothful temper of soul
is! "Warn those who are idle." 1 Thessalonians 5:14. "I will
punish the men who are settled on their lees;" (Heb. "Curdled on their
lees.") Zeph 1:12. Settling on the lees is an emblem of a dull, inactive
soul. The snail, by reason of its slow motion, was reckoned among the
unclean. Lev 11:30. "A slothful man hides his hand in his bosom:" he is
reluctant to pull it out, though it be to lay hold on a crown. Proverbs
19:24. [The gate of heaven does not receive those who are dull with sloth.]
Brugensis. The devil himself cannot be charged with idleness. He "walks
about." 1 Peter 5:8. An idle soul stands in the world for a cipher, and God
writes down no ciphers in the book of life. Heaven is no hive for drones. An
idle person is an easy target for temptation. When the bird sits still upon
the bough, it is in danger of being shot. Just so, when one sits still in
sloth, the devil shoots him with a temptation. Standing water putrifies.
Heathen will rise up in judgment against sleepy Christians. What pains did
they take in the Olympic games! They ran but for a garland of flowers, or an
olive branch; and do we sit still—who run for a glorious kingdom! How can he
who never works—expect a reward! How can he who never fights—expect a crown?
Sloth is the soul's sleep. Adam, when asleep, lost his rib; and when a
person is in the deep sleep of sloth, he loses salvation.
(16) Holy activity and industry ennoble a Christian.
[Work is adorned with honor.] Cicero. The more excellent anything is,
the more active. The sun is a glorious creature—and it is ever in
motion, going its circuit. Fire is the purest element, and the most
active, it is ever sparkling and flaming. The angels are the most
noble creatures, they are represented by the cherubim, with wings displayed.
The more active for heaven, the more illustrious, and the more do we
resemble the angels. The phoenix flies with a coronet on its head. Just so,
the industrious soul has his coronet, his labor is his ensign of honor.
(17) It is a mercy that there is a possibility of
happiness, and that upon our pains taking we may have a kingdom.
By our fall in Adam we forfeited heaven. Why might not God have dealt with
us as with the lapsed angels? They had no sooner sinned than they were
expelled from heaven, never to come there more. We may say, as the apostle,
"Behold the goodness and severity of God." Romans 11:22. The apostate angels
behold the severity of God—that he should throw them down to hell forever!
We behold the goodness of God in that he has put us into a possibility of
mercy. Just so, that if we do but take pains, a kingdom stands ready for us.
How should this whet and sharpen our industry, that we are in a capacity of
salvation; and that if we do but what we are able—we shall receive an
eternal weight of glory!
(18) Our labor for the kingdom of heaven is light and
transient. It is not to endure long; it expires with our life. It
is but a short while—and we shall be finished with our working. For a little
labor—we shall have an eternal rest! Who would think much to wade through a
little water, if he were sure to be crowned as soon as he came on shore?
Christians, let this encourage you, you have but a little more pains to
take, a few tears more to shed—and, behold an eternal recompense of reward.
What are a few tears—compared to a crown. What are a few minutes of
time—compared to an eternity of glory?
(19) What striving is there for earthly kingdoms, which
are corruptible, and subject to change! With what vigor and
alacrity did Hannibal's soldiers continue their march over the Alps, and
craggy rocks! Men will will swim to a crown in blood. Will they venture thus
for earthly promotions, and shall not we strive more for a heavenly kingdom?
This is "a kingdom which cannot be moved" (Heb 12:28); a kingdom where there
is unparalleled beauty, unstained honor, unmixed joy; a kingdom where there
shall be nothing present which we could wish were removed, and nothing
absent which we could wish were enjoyed. Surely if there is any spark of
grace, or true generosity in our breasts, we shall not allow ourselves to be
out-striven by others; we shall not let them take more pains for earthly
honors, than we do for that excellent glory which will crown all our
(20) What pains some men take to go to hell, and shall
not we take more pains to go to heaven? "They weary themselves to
commit iniquity." Jer 9:5. Sinners hire themselves out in the devil's
service. What pains some men take to satisfy their unclean lusts! They waste
their estates, wear the shameful marks of their sin about them, and visit
the harlot's house, though it stands the next door to hell. "Her house is
the way to hell." Proverbs 7:27.
What pains do others take in persecuting the godly!
Holiness is the mark they shoot at. The devil blows the horn and men run
speedily to hell--as if they feared hell would be full before they could get
there! When Satan had entered into Judas, how active was he! He went to the
high priests, from them to the band of soldiers, and with them back again to
the garden, and never left until he had betrayed Christ! How industrious
were the idolatrous Jews! So fiercely were they bent upon their sin, that
they would sacrifice their sons and daughters to their idol-gods. Jer 32:35.
Do the ungodly take all these pains for hell—and shall not we take pains for
the kingdom of heaven? The wicked have nothing to encourage them in their
sins, they have all the threatenings of God as a flaming sword against them.
Oh, let it never be said, that the ungodly serve the devil better--who
rewards them only with fire and brimstone; than we serve God--who rewards us
with a glorious kingdom!
(21) The labor we take for heaven is a labor full of
pleasure. Proverbs 3:17. A man sweats at his recreation, tires
himself with hunting—but there is a delight he takes in it which sweetens
it. "I delight in the law of God after the inward man." (Gr. I take
pleasure) Romans 7:22. Not only is the kingdom of heaven delightful—but the
way there is also pleasurable. What a delight has a gracious soul in prayer!
"I will make them joyful in my house of prayer." Isaiah 56:7. While a
Christian weeps, joy drops with tears; while he is musing on God, he
has such quickening of the Spirit, and, as it were, such transfigurations of
soul, that he thinks himself half in heaven! "My soul shall be satisfied as
with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed," etc. Psalm 63:5, 6.
A Christian's work for heaven is like a bridegroom's work
on the morning of the marriage-day, he puts on his vesture and wedding-robes
in which he shall be married to his bride; so, in all the duties of piety,
we are putting on those wedding robes in which we shall be married to Christ
in glory. Oh, what solace and inward peace is there in close walking with
God! "The work of righteousness shall be peace." Isaiah 32:17. Serving God
is like gathering spices or flowers, wherein there is some labor—but the
labor is recompensed with delight. Working for heaven is like digging in a
gold mine; the digging is labor—but getting the gold is pleasure! O, then,
let us bestir ourselves for the kingdom of heaven; it is a labor of
pleasure. A Christian would not part with his joy for the most delicious
music; he would not exchange his anchor of hope for a crown of
gold. Well might David say, "In keeping your precepts there is great
reward," not only after keeping your precepts—but in keeping
them. Psalm 19:11. A Christian has both the spring-flowers and the crop;
inward delight in serving God is the spring-flowers, in the kingdom of glory
at last is the full crop.
(22) How industrious have the saints in former ages been!
They thought they could never do enough for heaven; they could
never serve God enough, love him enough. Augustine, "Lord, I have loved you
too little!" What pains did Paul take for the heavenly kingdom. "Reaching
forth unto those things which are before." Phil 3:13. The Greek word, to
reach forth, signifies to stretch out the neck; a metaphor from racers, who
strain every limb, and reach forward to lay hold on the prize. Anna, the
prophetess, "departed not from the temple—but served God with fastings and
prayers night and day." Luke 2:37. Basil, by much labor for the kingdom,
exhausted his bodily strength. "Let racks, pulleys, and all torments come
upon me," said Ignatius, "just so that I may win Christ." The industry and
courage of former saints, who are now crowned with glory, should provoke our
diligence, that so at last we may sit down with them in the kingdom of
(23) The more pains we take for heaven, the more welcome
will death be to us. What is it that makes men so reluctant to
die? They are like a tenant which will not go out of the house until the
officer pulls him out. They do not like to hear of death. Why so? Because
their conscience accuses them, that they have taken little or no pains for
heaven; they have been sleeping when they should have been working—and now
they are afraid lest death should carry them prisoners to hell. But he who
has spent his time in serving God, can look death in the face with comfort.
He was wholly taken up about heaven—shall now be taken up to heaven; he
traded before in heaven, and now he shall go to live there. "I desire to
depart, and to be with Christ." Phil 1:23. Paul had wholly laid himself out
for God, and now he knew there was a crown laid up for him, and he longed to
Thus I have given you twenty-three persuasive or
arguments to exert and put forth your utmost diligence for obtaining the
kingdom of heaven. O that they were written in all your hearts, as with the
point of a diamond! Because delays in these cases are dangerous, let me
desire you to set upon this work for heaven at once. "I made haste, and
delayed not to keep your commandments." Psalm 119:60. Many people are
convinced of the necessity of looking after the kingdom of glory—but they
say as those in Hag 1:2, "The time is not come." They adjourn and put off
until their time has slipped away—and so they lose the kingdom of heaven.
Beware of this fallacy. Delay strengthens sin, hardens the heart, and
gives the devil fuller possession of a man.
"The king's business required haste." Just so, the
business of salvation requires haste. 1 Sam 21:8. Do not put off an hour
longer. [The fleeting hour flies on fickle wings.] What assurance have you,
that you shall live another day? Have you any lease of life granted? Why
then do you not immediately arise out of the bed of sloth, and put forth all
your strength and effort, that you may possessed the kingdom of glory?
Should not things of the highest importance be done first? Settling a man's
estate, and clearing the title to his land, is not delayed—but done in the
first place. What is there of such grand importance as the saving of your
souls, and the gaining a kingdom? Therefore today hear God's voice;
now mind eternity; now get your title to heaven cleared before
the decree of death brings forth. What imprudence is it to lay the
heaviest load upon the weakest horse! So it is to lay the heavy load of
repentance on yourself—when you are enfeebled by sickness, the hands shake,
the lips quiver, and the heart faints. O be wise in time; prepare now for
the kingdom. If a man begins his voyage to heaven in the storm of death—it
is a thousand to one—that he suffers an eternal shipwreck!
Use 6. For exhortation to those who have any good hope
through grace. You who are the heirs of this kingdom—let me
exhort you to six things:
(1) Often take a prospect of this heavenly kingdom.
Climb up the celestial mount; take a turn, as it were, in heaven every day
by holy meditation. "Walk about Zion, go around her, count her towers,
consider well her ramparts, view her citadels." Psalm 48:12, 13. See what a
glorious kingdom heaven is! Christian, show your heart the gates of pearl,
the beds of spices, the clusters of grapes which grow in the paradise of
God. Say, "O my soul, all this glory is yours! It is your Father's good
pleasure to give you this kingdom." The thoughts of heaven are very
delightful and ravishing. Can men of the world so delight in viewing their
bags of gold, and fields of corn—and shall not the heirs of promise take
more delight in contemplating the celestial kingdom? The serious meditation
of the kingdom of glory would work these three effects:
1. Meditation on the heavenly kingdom, would put a damp
and slur upon all worldly glory. To those who stand upon the top
of the Alps—the great cities of Campania seem but small in their eye. Just
so, could we look through the telescope of faith, and take a view of
heaven's glory, how small and minute would all other things appear! Moses
slighted the honors of Pharaoh's court, having an eye to the recompense of
reward. Heb 11:26. When Paul had a vision of glory, and John was carried
away in the Spirit, and saw the holy Jerusalem descending out of heaven,
having the glory of God in it—how did the world appear in an eclipse to
2. Meditation on the heavenly kingdom, would much promote
holiness in us. Heaven is a holy place: "an undefiled
inheritance." 1 Peter 1:4. It is described by transparent glass, to denote
its purity. Rev 21:21. Contemplating heaven would put us upon the study of
holiness, because none but those who are holy, are admitted to that kingdom.
Heaven is not like Noah's ark, into which came clean and unclean animals.
Only the pure in heart shall see God. Matthew 5:8.
3. Meditation on the heavenly kingdom, would be a spur to
diligence. [Glory possesses an immeasurable stimulus.] "Always
give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your
labor in the Lord is not in vain." 1 Cor 15:58. When the mariner sees the
haven, he plies harder with his oars. Just so, when we have a sight and
prospect of glory, we should be much in prayer and watching; it should add
wings to duty, and make the lamp of our devotion burn brighter.
(2) If you have hopes of this kingdom—be content though
you have but a little of the world! Contentment is a rare thing,
it is a jewel which few Christians wear; but if you have a grounded hope of
heaven, it may work your heart to contentment. What though you have but
little in possession, you have a kingdom in reversion! Were you to take an
estimate of a man's estate, how would you value it? By what he has in his
house, or by his land? Perhaps he has little money or jewels in his
house—but he owns vast lands—there lies his worth. A believer has but a
little oil in the cruse, and meal in the barrel—but he has a title to a
kingdom, and may not this satisfy him? If a man who lived here in England,
had a great estate beyond the seas, and perhaps had no more money at present
but just to pay for his voyage, he is content; he knows when he comes to his
estate he shall have money enough. Just so, you who are a believer have a
kingdom befallen you; though you have but little in your purse—yet if you
have enough for your voyage to heaven, it is sufficient. God has given you
grace, which is the fore-crop, and will give you glory, which is the
after-crop; and may not this make you content?
(3) If you have hope of this blessed kingdom—pray often
for its coming. Say, "May Your kingdom come." Only believers can
pray heartily for the hastening of the kingdom of glory.
They cannot pray that Christ's kingdom of glory may come,
who never had the kingdom of grace set up in their hearts. Can the guilty
prisoners pray that the trial may come?
They cannot pray heartily that Christ's kingdom of glory
may come, who are lovers of the world. They have found paradise, they are in
their kingdom already; this is their heaven, and they desire to hear of no
other; they are of his mind who said, that if he might keep his cardinalship
in Paris, he would give up his part in paradise.
They cannot pray heartily that Christ's kingdom of glory
may come, who oppose his kingdom of grace, who break his laws, which are the
scepter of his kingdom, who shoot at those who bear Christ's name and carry
his colors. Surely these cannot pray that Christ's kingdom of glory may
come, for then Christ will judge them; and if they say this prayer, they are
hypocrites, they mean not what they speak.
But you who have the kingdom of grace set up in your
hearts, pray much that the kingdom of glory may hasten; say, "May Your
kingdom come." When this kingdom comes, then you shall behold Christ in all
his embroidered robes of glory, shining ten thousand times brighter than the
sun in all its meridian splendor. When Christ's kingdom comes, the bodies of
the saints that sleep in the dust shall be raised in honor, and made like
Christ's glorious body; then your souls like diamonds, shall sparkle with
holiness; you shall never more have a sinful thought, you shall be as holy
as the angels; you shall be as holy as you desire to be, and as holy as God
would have you to be. Then you shall be in a better state than in innocence.
Adam was created a glorious creature—but mutable; a bright
star—but a falling star; but in the kingdom of heaven is a
fixation of happiness. When Christ's kingdom of glory comes, you shall
be rid of all your enemies; as Moses said, "The Egyptians whom you have seen
to day, you shall see them no more forever." Exod 14:13. So those enemies
who have ploughed on the backs of God's people, and made deep their furrows,
when Christ shall come in his glory, you shall see no more. All Christ's
enemies shall be "put under his feet." 1 Cor 15:25. Before the wicked are
destroyed, the saints shall judge them. "Do you not know that the saints
shall judge the world?" 1 Cor 6:2. It will cut the wicked to the heart that
those whom they have formerly scorned and scourged, shall sit as judges upon
them, and vote with Christ in his judicial proceedings. Oh, then, well may
you pray for the hastening of the kingdom of glory, "May Your kingdom come."
(4) If you have any good hope of this blessed kingdom—be
of a joyful, cheerful temper. Have you a title to a kingdom, and
are sad? "We rejoice in hope of the glory of God." Romans 5:2. Christians,
the trumpet is ready to sound, an eternal jubilee is at hand, when a freedom
from sin shall be proclaimed; your coronation-day is coming. It is but
putting off your clothes, and laying your head upon a pillow of dust—and you
shall be enthroned in a kingdom, and invested with the embroidered robes of
glory! Does not all this call for a cheerful spirit? Cheerfulness adorns
religion. It is a temper of soul who Christ loves. "If you loved me, you
would rejoice." John 14:28. It makes many suspect heaven is not so pleasant,
when they see those who are going there sad. How does the heir rejoice in
hope of the inheritance? Who should rejoice if not a believer, who is heir
of the kingdom, and such a kingdom as eye has not seen? When the flesh
begins to droop, let faith lift up its head, and cause a holy jubilation and
rejoicing in the soul.
(5) Let the saints long to be in that blessed kingdom.
Does not a prince who travels in foreign countries, long to be in
his own nation, that he may be crowned? The bride desires the marriage day.
"The Spirit and the bride say, "Come! Even so, come, Lord Jesus." Rev 22:17,
20. Surely our unwillingness to go hence, shows either the weakness of our
faith in the belief of the heavenly kingdom, or the strength of our doubts
whether we have an interest in it. Were our title to heaven more clear, we
would need patience to be content to stay here any longer.
Again, our unwillingness to go hence, declares we love
the world too much, and Christ too little. "Love," as Aristotle says,
"desires union." Did we love Christ as we should, we should desire to be
united to him in glory, when we might take our fill of love. Be humbled that
you are so unwilling to go hence. Let us labor to arrive at that divine
temper of soul, which Paul had: "Having a desire to depart and to be with
Christ." Phil 1:23.
We are compassed with a body of sin; should we not long
to shake off this viper? We are in Mesech, and the tents of Cedar, in a
place where we see God dishonored. Should we not desire to be gone? We are
in a valley of tears. Is it not better to be in a glorious kingdom? Here we
are combating with Satan. Should we not desire to be called out of the
bloody field, where the bullets of temptation fly so fast, that we may
receive a victorious crown? O you saints, breathe after the heavenly
kingdom. Though we should be willing to stay to do service—yet we should
anxiously desire to be always sunning ourselves in the light of God's
countenance. Think what it will be to be forever with the Lord! Are there
any sweeter smiles or embraces than his! Is there any bed so soft as
Christ's bosom! Is there any such joy as to have the golden banner of
Christ's love displayed over us! Is there any such honor as to sit upon the
throne with Christ! Rev 3:21. O, then, long for the celestial kingdom!
(6) Wait for this kingdom of glory. It is not
incongruous or improper to long for heaven—yet wait for it. Long for it
because it is a kingdom—yet wait your Father's good pleasure. God could
bestow this kingdom at once—but he sees it good that we should wait awhile.
 Had we the kingdom of heaven as soon as ever grace is
infused, then God would lose much of his glory. Where would be
our living by faith, which is the grace that brings in the chief revenues of
glory to God? Romans 5:20. Where would be our suffering for God, which is a
way of honoring him which the angels in heaven are not capable of? Where
would be the active service we are to do for God? Would we have God give us
a kingdom, and we do nothing for him before we come there? Would we have
rest before labor, a crown before victory? This were hypocritical. Paul was
content to stay out of heaven awhile that he might be a means of bringing
others there. Phil 1:24.
 While we wait for the kingdom, our grace is
increasing. Every duty piously performed, adds a jewel to our
crown. Do we desire to have our robes of glory shine brighter? Let us wait
and work. The longer we wait for the principal, the greater will the
interest be. As the farmer waits until the seed springs up, wait for the
harvest of glory. Christ says, men ought to pray, and not to faint. Luke
18:1. So, wait, and faint not. Be not weary, the kingdom of heaven will make
amends for waiting. "I have waited for your salvation, O Lord," said the
dying patriarch. Gen 49:18.
Use 7. For comfort to the people of God.
(1) In all their sufferings. "The true saint,"
as Luther says, "is heir to the cross." Affliction is his portion, but this
keeps him from fainting—that his sufferings bring a kingdom. "The hope of
the kingdom of heaven," says Basil, "should soften and sweeten all our
troubles." "If we suffer—we shall also reign with him." 2 Tim 2:12. It is
but a short fight—but an eternal triumph. This light suffering produces an
"eternal weight of glory." 2 Cor 4:17. The more weighty precious things are,
the more they are worth, as the more weight in a crown of gold, the more it
is worth. Did this heavenly glory last only for awhile only, it would much
abate and embitter the joys of heaven; but it runs parallel with eternity.
God will be a deep sea of blessedness, and the glorified saints shall
forever bathe themselves in this ocean! One day's wearing the crown will
abundantly pay for all the saints' sufferings; how much more when "they will
reign forever and ever!" Revelation 22:5.
O let this be our support under all the calamities and
sufferings in this life. What a vast difference is there between a
believer's sufferings and his reward! "The sufferings of this present time
are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."
Romans 8:18. For a few tears--we shall receive rivers of pleasure! For
mourning, white robes. This made the primitive Christians laugh at
imprisonments, and snatch up torments as so many crowns. Though now we drink
in a wormwood-cup, there is sugar in the bottom to sweeten it. "Fear not,
little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the
kingdom!" Luke 12:32
(2) Comfort in death. That which takes away
from God's children the terror of death, is that they are entering
into the kingdom. No wonder if wicked men are appalled and terrified at the
approach of death, for they die unpardoned. Death carries them to the jail,
where they must lie forever, without bail or deliverance; but why should any
of God's children be scared with thoughts of death? What hurt can death do
to them—but lead them to a glorious kingdom! Faith gives a title to
heaven—but death gives a possession of heaven. Let this be a gospel
antidote to expel the fear of death. Let them fear death who do not fear
sin; but let not God's children be over much troubled at the grim face of
that messenger, which brings them to the end of their sorrow, and the
beginning of their joy.
"Death is yours," it is a part of the believer's
inventory. 1 Cor 3:22. Is a prince afraid to cross a narrow sea, who shall
be crowned when he comes to shore? Death to the saints shall be an usher to
bring them into the presence of the King of glory! This thought puts lilies
and roses into the ghastly face of death, and makes it look amiable. Death
brings us to a crown of glory which never fades away. The day of death is
better to a believer than the day of his birth. Death is an entrance into a
blessed eternity! Fear not death—but rather let your hearts revive when you
think these rattling wheels of death's chariot are but to carry you
home to an everlasting kingdom!