The Christian Soldier,
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
The Christian must offer violence:
1. To Himself
2. To the World
3. To Satan
4. To Heaven
1. The Christian must offer violence to HIMSELF.
This self-violence consists in two things:
1. Mortification of sin.
2. Provocation to duty.
1. Offering violence to one's self, in a spiritual sense,
consists in mortification of sin: Self is the flesh; this we must offer
violence to. Hierom, Chrysostom and Theophilact, do all expound taking
Heaven by force, the mortifying of the flesh. The flesh is a bosom traitor;
it is like the Trojan horse within the walls which does all the mischief.
The flesh is a sly enemy; it kills by embracing. The embraces of the flesh
are like the ivy embracing the oak; which sucks out the strength of it for
its own leaves and berries. So the flesh by its soft embraces, sucks out of
the heart all good, Gal. v. 17. The flesh lusts against the spirit. The
pampering of the flesh, is the quenching of God's Spirit. The flesh chokes
and stifles holy motions: the flesh sides with Satan and is true to its
interest. There is a party within that will not pray, that will not believe.
The flesh inclines us more to believe a temptation than a promise. There
needs no wind to blow to sin when this tide within is so strong to carry us
there. The flesh is so near to us, its counsels are more attractive. There
is no chain of adamant which binds so tightly, as the chain of lust.
Alexander, who was conqueror of the world, was led captive by vice. Now a
man must offer violence to his fleshly desires if he will be saved, Col.
iii. 5. "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth." The
mortifying and killing sin at the root, is when we not only forbear the acts
of sin—but hate the indwelling of sin. Put to death, therefore, whatever
belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil
desires and greed, which is idolatry. Colossians 3:5
Nay, where sin has received its deadly wound, and is in
part abated—yet the work of mortification is not to be laid aside. The
Apostle persuades the believing Romans to "mortify the deeds of the flesh,
Romans viii.13. In the best of saints, there is something which needs
mortifying; much pride, envy, and passion; therefore mortification is called
crucifixion, Gal. v. 24. which is not done suddenly: every day some limb of
the "body of death" must drop off. Nothing is harder than a rock, (says
Cyril)—yet in the clefts thereof some weed or other will fasten its
roots. None stronger than a believer—yet do what he can, sin will fasten its
roots in him, and spring out sometimes with inordinate desires. There is
always something which needs mortifying. Hence it was, that Paul did "beat
down his body," by prayer, watching, and fasting, 1 Cor. ix. 27.
But, is it not said, Ephes. v. 29. "no man ever yet hated
his own flesh?"
As flesh is taken physically for the bodily
constitution, so it is to be cherished; but as flesh is taken
theologically for the impure lustings of the flesh, so a man must hate
his own flesh. The apostle says, "Fleshly lusts war against the soul," 1
Peter ii. 11. If the flesh does war against us—this is good reason, that we
should war against the flesh.
How may one do to offer violence to himself in mortifying
1. Withdraw the fuel that may make lust burn. Avoid all
temptations. Take heed of that which nourishes sin. He who would suppress
the gout or stone, avoids those meats which are noxious. Those who pray that
they may not be led into temptation, must not lead themselves into
2. Fight against fleshly lusts with spiritual
weapons—faith and prayer. The best way to combat with sin is—upon our knees.
Run to the promise, Romans vi. 14. "Sin shall not have dominion over you:"
or as the Greek word is, it shall not Lord it. Beg strength from Christ,
Phil. ix. 13. Samson's strength lay in his hair; our strength lies in
our head, Christ. This is one way of offering violence to one's self
by mortification. This is a mystery to the major part of the world—who
gratify the flesh rather than mortify it.
2. The second thing in offering violence to a
man's self consists, is, in provocation to duty.
Then we offer holy violence to ourselves when we excite and provoke
ourselves to that which is good. This is called in Scripture, a 'stirring up
ourselves to take hold of God," Isaiah lxiv. 7. Consider,
1. What absolute NEED there is to stir ourselves up to
In respect to the sluggishness of our hearts, to that
which is spiritual; blunt tools need sharpening; a dull creature needs
spurs. Our hearts are dull and heavy in the things of God, therefore we have
need to spur them on and provoke them to that which is good. The flesh
hinders from duty: when we would pray, the flesh resists; when we should
suffer, the flesh draws back. How hard it is sometimes to get the consent of
our hearts to seek God! Jesus Christ went more willingly to the cross—than
we do to the throne of grace. Had not we need then provoke ourselves to
duty? If our hearts are so unstrung in piety, we had need prepare and put
them in tune.
The exercises of God's worship are contrary to nature;
therefore there must be a provoking of ourselves to them. The motion of the
soul to sin is natural—but its motion towards holiness and Heaven is
violent. The stone has an innate propensity downward; but to draw up a
millstone into the air is done by violence, because it is against nature: so
to lift up the heart to Heaven in duty, is done by violence and we must
provoke ourselves to it.
2. What it is to provoke ourselves to duty.
1. It is to awaken ourselves, and shake off spiritual
sloth. Holy David awakens his tongue and heart when he went about
God's service, Psalm lvii. 9. "Awake up my glory, I myself will awaken
early." He found a drowsiness and dullness in his soul, therefore did
provoke himself to duty. "I myself will awake early." Christians, though
they are raised from the death of sin—yet often they fall asleep.
Provoking ourselves to duty, implies an uniting, and
rallying together all the powers of our soul, setting them on work in the
exercises of piety. A man must say to his thoughts, "be fixed on God in this
duty;" and to his affections, "serve the Lord without distraction." Matters
of piety must be done with intenseness of spirit.
3. The third thing is to show the several DUTIES of
Christianity, wherein we must provoke and offer violence to ourselves.
I shall name seven.
1. We must provoke ourselves to READING of the Word.
What an infinite mercy it is that God has blessed us with the
Scriptures! The barbarous Indians have not the oracles of God made known to
them; they have the golden mines—but not the Scriptures which are more to be
desired "than much fine gold," Psalm xix. 10. Our Savior bids us "search the
Scriptures", John v.39. We must not read these holy lines carelessly, as if
they did not concern us, or run over them hastily, as Israel ate the
Passover in haste; but peruse them with reverence and seriousness. The noble
Bereans "searched the Scriptures daily," Acts xvii.11. The Scripture is the
treasury of divine knowledge; it is the rule and touchstone of truth; out of
this well we draw the water of life. To provoke to a diligent reading of the
Word, labor to have a right notion of Scripture.
Read the Word as a book made by God Himself. It is given
"by divine inspiration" 2 Tim. iii.16. It is the library of the Holy Spirit.
The prophets and apostles were but God's amanuenses to write the law at his
mouth. The Word is of divine original, and reveals the deep things of God to
us. There is a sense of deity engraved in man's heart, and is to be read in
the book of the creatures; but who this God is, and the Trinity of persons
in the Godhead, is infinitely, above the light of reason; only God Himself
could make this known. Just so, for the incarnation of Christ; God and man
hypostatically united in one person; the mystery of imputed righteousness;
the doctrine of faith: what angel in heaven, who but God himself, could
reveal these things to us? How this may provoke to diligence and seriousness
in reading the Word which is divinely inspired. Other books may be written
by holy men—but this book is inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Read the Word as a perfect rule of faith; it contains all
things essential to salvation. "I adore the fullness of Scripture," says
Tertullian. The Word teaches us how to please God; how to order our lives in
the world. It instructs us in all things that belong either to prudence or
piety. How we should read the Word with care and reverence, when it contains
a perfect model of piety and is "able to make us wise unto salvation" (2
When you read the Word, look on it as a soul-enriching
treasury. Search it as for hidden treasure! Proverbs 2:4. In this Word are
scattered many divine sayings; gather them up as so many jewels. This
blessed book will enrich you; it fills your head with divine knowledge, and
your heart with divine grace; it stores you with promises: a man may be rich
in bonds. In this field the pearl of price is hidden! What are all the
world's riches compared to these? Islands of spices, coasts of pearl, rocks
of diamonds? These are but the riches that reprobates may have—but the Word
gives us those riches which angels have!
Read the Word as a book of evidences. How carefully does
one read over his evidences! Would you know whether God is your God? search
the records of Scripture, 1 John iii. 24. "Hereby we know that he abides in
us." Would you know whether you are heirs of the promise? you must find it
in these sacred writings. 2 Thes. ii. 13. "He has chosen us to salvation
through sanctification." Those who are vessels of grace—shall be
vessels of glory!
Look upon the Word as a spiritual armory, out of which
you fetch all your weapons to fight against sin and Satan.
1. Here are weapons to fight against SIN. The Word of God
is a holy sword, which cuts asunder the lusts of the heart! When pride
begins to lift up itself, the sword of the Spirit destroys this sin! 1 Peter
iv. 5 "God resists the proud." When passion vents itself, the Word of God,
like Hercules's club, beats down this angry fury! Eccles. V. 9. "Anger rests
in the bosom of fools." When lust boils, the Word of God cools that
intemperate passion! Ephes. V. 5. "No unclean person has any inheritance in
the Kingdom of Christ."
2. Here are weapons to fight against SATAN. The Word
fences off temptation. When the devil tempted Christ, He wounded the old
serpent three times with the sword of the Spirit—"It is written!" Matt. iv.
7. Satan never sooner foils a Christian than when he is unarmed, and without
Look upon the Word as a spiritual looking-glass to dress
yourselves by! It is a mirror for the blind, "The commands of the Lord are
radiant, giving light to the eyes!" Psalm 19:8. In other mirrors you may see
your faces; in this mirror you may see your hearts! Psalm 119.
104. "Through Your precepts I get understanding. This mirror of the Word
clearly represents Christ; it sets him forth in his person, nature, offices,
as most precious and eligible, Cant.vi. 16. "He is altogether lovely; he is
a wonder of beauty, a paradise of delight. Christ who was veiled over in
types, is clearly revealed in the mirror of the Scriptures.
Look upon the Word as a book of spiritual remedies and
antidotes. Basil compares the Word to an apothecary's shop, which has all
kinds of medicines and antidotes. If you find yourselves dead in duty, here
is a receipt, Psalm 119. 50. "Your Word has quickened me." If you find your
hearts hard, the Word does liquify and melt them; therefore it is compared
to fire for its mollifying power, Jer. xxiii. 29. If you are poisoned with
sin, here is an herb to expel it.
Look upon the Word as a sovereign elixir to comfort you
in distress. It comforts you against all your sins, temptations, and
afflictions. What are the promises—but divine cordials to revive fainting
souls. A gracious heart goes feeding on a promise as Samson on the
honeycomb, Judges xiv. 9. The Word comforts against sickness and death, 1
Cor xv. 55. "O death, where is your sting?" A Christian dies embracing the
promise, as Simeon did Christ, Heb. xi. 13.
Read the Word as the last Will and Testament of Christ.
Here are many legacies given to those who love him; pardon of sin, adoption,
consolation. This will is in force, being sealed in Christ's blood. With
what seriousness does a child read over the will and testament of his
father, that he may see what is left him.
Read the Word as a book by which you must be judged: John
xii. 48. "The Word that I have spoken shall judge him at the last day."
Those who live according to the rules of this book, shall be acquitted;
those who live contrary to them, shall be condemned. There are two books God
will go by, the book of Conscience, and the book of Scripture: the one shall
be the witness, and the other the judge. How should every Christian then
provoke himself to read this book of God with care and devotion! This is
that book which God will judge by at the last. Those who fly from the Word
as a guide, shall be forced to submit to it as a judge.
2. The second duty of piety wherein we must provoke
ourselves, is, in HEARING of the Word. We may bring our bodies
to the preaching of the Word with ease—but not our hearts,
without offering violence to ourselves. When we come to the Word preached,
we come to a business of the highest importance, therefore should stir up
ourselves and hear with the greatest devotion. Luke xix. 48. "All the people
were very attentive to hear him." In the Greek it is "they hung upon his
lip."—When the Word is dispensed, we are to lift up the everlasting doors of
our hearts, that the King of glory may enter in!
1. How far are they from offering violence to themselves
in hearing, who scarcely mind what is said, as if they were not at all
concerned in the business. They come to church more for custom, than
conscience. "My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit
before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice.
With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for
unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love
songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear
your words but do not put them into practice." Ezekiel 33:31-32. If we could
tell them of a rich purchase, or of some place of worldly advancement, they
would diligently attend; but when the Word of life is preached, they
2. How far are they from offering violence to themselves
in hearing, who come to the Word in a dull, drowsy manner—as if they came to
church for the purpose of drowsing. The Word is to feed us; it is strange to
sleep at the dinner table. The Word judges men; it is strange for a prisoner
to fall asleep at the time of his sentencing. To such sleepy hearers God may
say, "sleep on!" He may allow them to be so stupefied, that no ordinance
shall them: Matt. iii. 25. "While men slept, his enemy came and sowed
tares." The Devil is never asleep—but sows the tares of sin in a
That we may, when we come to the Word, offer violence to
ourselves, and stir up ourselves to hear with devotion, consider,
1. That it is God himself, who speaks to us! If a
judge gives a verdict upon the bench—all listen. If a king
speaks—all pay attention. When we come to the Word, we should think thus
with ourselves—we are to hear God in this preacher! Therefore Christ
is said—to speak to us from Heaven, Heb. xii. 25. Christ speaks in his
ministers, as a king speaks in the person of his ambassador. When Samuel
knew it was the Lord who spoke to him, he lent an ear, 2. Sam. iii. 5.
"Speak Lord, your servant hears!" Those who slight God speaking in His
Word—shall hear him speaking to them in his wrath, Psalm ii. 5. "Then shall
he speak unto them in his wrath!" "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into
the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels!" Matthew 25:41.
2. Let us consider the weightiness of the matters
delivered to us. As Moses said to Israel,
Deut. xxx. 19. "I call Heaven and Earth to record this day, that I have set
before you life and death." We preach to men of Christ and of eternal
recompenses; here are the weighty matters of the law; and does not
all this call for serious attention? There is a great deal of difference
between a common news article read to us, and a letter of personal business,
wherein our whole land and estate is concerned. In the Word preached our
eternal salvation is concerned; here we are instructed to the kingdom of
God, and if ever we will be serious, it should be now! Deut. xxxvii. 47. "It
is not a vain thing for you, because it is your life."
3. If the Word is not regarded—it will not be remembered.
Many complain they cannot remember; here is the reason, God punishes
their carelessness in hearing—with forgetfulness. He allows
Satan to take away the Word from them, Matt. xiii. 4. "The fowls of the air
came and devoured the seed." The Devil always comes to church—but it is not
with any good intent; he takes away the Word from men. How many have been
robbed of the sermon and their souls both at once!
4. It may be the last time that God will ever speak to us
in His Word. It may be the last sermon that ever we shall hear; and we
may go from the place of hearing—to the place of damning. Did people think
thus when they come into the house of God, "perhaps this will be the last
time that God will counsel us about our souls, perhaps this is the last time
that ever we shall see our minister's face," with what devotion would they
come! how would their affections be all on fire in hearing? We give great
attention to the last speeches of friends. A parent's dying words are
received as oracles. Oh, let all this provoke us to diligence in hearing;
let us think this may be the last time that Aaron's bell shall sound in our
ears, and before another day—we shall be in another world!
3. The third duty wherein we are to offer violence to
ourselves, is in PRAYER. Prayer is a duty which keeps the trade
of piety flowing. When we either join in prayer with others, or pray alone,
we must use holy violence. It is not eloquence in prayer—but
violence carries it. Theodorus, speaking of Luther, "once (says he) I
overheard Luther in prayer: with what life and spirit did he pray! It was
with so much reverence, as if he were speaking to God—yet with so
much confidence, as if he had been speaking to his friend." There
must be a stirring up of the heart, 1. To prayer. 2. In prayer.
1. There must be a stirring up of the heart TO prayer,
Job xi. 13. "If you prepare your heart, and stretch out your hands toward
him." This preparing of our heart by holy thoughts and ejaculations. The
musician first tunes his instrument, before he plays.
2. There must be a stirring up of the heart IN prayer.
Prayer is a lifting up of the mind and soul to God, which cannot be done
aright without offering violence to one-self. The names given to prayer
imply violence. It is called wrestling, Gen. xxxii. 24. and a pouring
out of the soul, 1 Sam. 1:15; both of which imply vehemency. The affection
is required as well as invention. The apostle speaks of an effectual fervent
prayer, which is a parallel phrase to offering violence.
1. Alas, how far from offering violence to themselves in
prayer—are those who give God a dead, heartless prayer. God
would not have the blind offered, Mal. 1:8; as good offer the blind
is as offering the dead. Some are half asleep when they pray, and
will a sleepy prayer ever awaken God? Such as mind not their own prayers,
how do they think that God should mind them? Those prayers God likes best,
which come seething hot from the heart.
2. Alas, how far are they from offering violence—are
those who give God distracted prayer? while they are praying, they
are thinking of their shop and trade. How can he shoot right whose eye is
quite off the mark? Ezek. xxxiii. 31. "Their heart goes after their
covetousness." Many are casting up their accounts in prayer, as Hieram once
complained of himself. How can God be pleased with this? Will a king
tolerate that, while his subject is delivering a petition, and speaking to
him, he should be playing with a feather? When we send our hearts on an
errand to Heaven, how often do they loiter and play by the way? This is a
matter of blushing. That we may offer violence to ourselves and by fervency
feather the wing of prayer, let these things be duly weighed.
1. The majesty of God with whom we have to do. He
sees how it is with us in prayer, whether we are deeply affected with those
things we pray for. "The king came in to see the guests," Matt. xxii.11. So
when we go to pray, the King of glory comes in to see in what frame we are;
he has a window which looks into our breasts, and if He sees a dead heart,
he may turn a deaf ear. Nothing will sooner make God's anger wax hot, than a
2. Prayer without fervency and violence is no prayer; it
is speaking, not praying. Lifeless prayer is no more prayer than the
picture of a man is a man. To say a prayer, is not to pray; Ashanius taught
his parrot the Lord's Prayer. It is the violence and wrestling of the
affections that make it a prayer, else it is no prayer.
3. The zeal and violence of the affections in prayer best
suits God's nature. He is a spirit, John iv. 24. and surely that prayer
which is full of life and spirit is the savory food he loves, 1 Peter ii. 5.
"Spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God." Spirituality and fervency in duty,
is like the spirits of wine, which are the more refined part of the wine.
Bodily exercise profits nothing. It is not the stretching of the lungs—but
the vehemency of the desire, that makes music in God's ears.
4. Consider the need we have of those things which we ask
in prayer. We come to ask the favor of God; and if we have not his love,
all that we enjoy is cursed to us. We pray that our souls may be washed in
Christ's blood, and if he washes us not, "we have no part in him." Such are
these mercies that if God denies us, we are forever undone. Therefore what
violence we need to put forth in prayer. When will a man be earnest, if not
when he is begging for his life?
5. Let it provoke violence in prayer, to consider, that
those things which we ask, God has a mind to grant. If a son asks
nothing but what his father is willing to bestow, he may be the more earnest
in his suit. We go to God for pardon of sin, and no work is more pleasing to
him than to seal pardons. Mercy is his delight, Micah vii. 18. We pray to
God for a holy heart, and this prayer is according to his will, 1 Thes. iv.
3. "This is the will of God, even your sanctification". We pray that God
would give us a heart to love him. How pleasing must this request must be to
God! This, if anything, may excite prayer, and carry it in a fiery chariot
up to Heaven, when we know we pray for nothing but that which God is more
willing to grant than we are to ask.
6. No mercy can be bestowed on us but in a way of prayer.
Mercy is purchased by Christ's blood—but it is conveyed by prayer. All the
promises are bonds made over to us—but prayer puts these bonds in suit. The
Lord has told Israel with what rich mercy He would bespangle them; he would
bring them to their native country, and that with new hearts, Ezek. xxxvi.
Yet this tree of the promise would not drop its fruit, until shaken with
the hand of prayer, verse 67. For "all this I will yet be inquired." The
breast of God's mercy is full—but prayer must draw the breast. Surely, if
all other ways are blocked up, there's no good to be done without prayer;
how then should we ply this oar, and by a holy violence stir up ourselves to
take hold of God.
7. It is only violence and intenseness of spirit in
prayer that has the promise of mercy affixed to it. Matt vii. 7. "Knock,
and it shall be opened." Knocking is a violent motion. The Aediles among the
Romans had their doors always standing open, so that all who had petitions
might have free access to them. God's heart is ever open to fervent prayer.
Let us then be fired with zeal, and with Christ pray yet more earnestly. It
is violence in prayer which makes Heaven-gates fly open, and fetches in
whatever mercies we stand in need of.
8. Large returns God has given to violent prayer. The
dove sent to Heaven has often brought an olive leaf in its mouth: Psalm
xxxiv. 6. "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him." Crying
prayer prevails. Daniel in the den prayed and prevailed. Prayer shut the
lion's mouth and opened the lion's den. Fervent prayer (says one) has a kind
of omnipotency in it. Sozomen said of Apollonius, that he never asked
anything of God in all his life, which he did not obtain. Sleidan reports of
Luther, that perceiving the interest of piety to be low, he betook himself
to prayer; at length rising off his knees, he came out of his closet
triumphantly, saying to his friends, "We have overcome; we have overcome!"
At which time it was observed that there came out a proclamation from
Charles the Fifth, that none should be further molested for the profession
of the gospel. How may this encourage us and make us hoist up the sails of
prayer when others of the saints have had such good returns from the holy
That we may put forth this holy violence in prayer, it is
requisite there be a renewed principle of grace. If the person is graceless,
no wonder the prayer is heartless. The body while it is dead has no heat in
it: while a man is dead in sin, he can have no heat in duty.
9. That we may be the more violent in prayer, it is good
to pray with a sense of our needs. A beggar that is pinched with
poverty, will be earnest in craving alms. Christian, review your needs; you
need a humble, spiritual frame of heart; you need the light of God's
countenance; the sense of need will quicken prayer. That man can never pray
fervently who does not pray feelingly. How earnest was Samson for water when
he was ready to die, Judges xv. 18. "I die for thirst!"
10. If we would be violent in prayer, let us beg for a
violent wind. The Spirit of God is resembled to a mighty rushing wind,
Acts ii. 2. Then we are violent, when this blessed wind fills our sails,
Jude, verse 20, "Praying in the Holy Spirit." If any fire be in our
sacrifice, it comes down from heaven.
The fourth duty wherein we must offer violence to
ourselves is MEDITATION. This is a duty wherein the very heart
and life-blood of piety lies. Meditation may be thus described: it is a holy
exercise of the mind; whereby we bring the truths of God to remembrance, and
do seriously ponder upon them and apply them to ourselves. In meditation
there are two things:
1. A Christian's retiring of himself, a locking himself
up from the world. Meditation is a work which cannot be done in a crowd.
2. It is a serious thinking upon God. It is not a few
transient thoughts that are quickly gone—but a fixing and staying of the
mind upon heavenly objects: this cannot be done without exciting all the
powers of our souls, and offering violence to ourselves.
We are the more to provoke ourselves to this duty,
1. Meditation is so cross to flesh and blood. Naturally
we shun holy meditation. To meditate on worldly, secular things, even if it
were all day, we can do without any difficulty; but to have our thoughts
fixed on God, how hard do we find it? How do our hearts quarrel with this
duty? What pleas and excuses we have to put it off? The natural averseness
from this duty shows that we are to offer violence to ourselves in it.
2. Satan does what he can to hinder this duty. He is an
enemy of meditation. The devil does not care not how much we read—so long as
we do not meditate on what we read. Reading begets knowledge—but meditation
begets devotion. Meditation stabilizes the heart and makes it serious, while
Satan labors to keep the heart from being serious. What need therefore is
there of offering violence to ourselves in this duty? But methinks I hear
some say, when they sit alone they do not know what to meditate about. I
shall therefore furnish them with matter for meditation.
1. Meditate seriously upon the CORRUPTION of your nature.
We have lost that pure holy frame of soul that we once had. There is a sea
of sin in us. Our nature is the source and seminary of all evil. It is like
Peter's sheet, wherein were "wild beasts and creeping things," Acts x. 12.
This sin cleaves to us as a leprosy. This original pollution makes us guilty
before the Lord; and even though we would never commit actual sin, it merits
hell. The meditation of this would be a means to pull down our pride. Nay,
even those who have grace have cause to walk humbly because they have more
corruption in them than grace: their dark side is broader than their light.
2. Meditate seriously upon the death and passion of
CHRIST. His soul was overcast with a cloud of sorrow when he was
conflicting with his Father's wrath; and all this we ourselves, should have
suffered, Isaiah liii. 5. "He was wounded for our transgressions." As David
said, "Lo, I have sinned—but these sheep, what have they done?" 2 Sam. xxiv.
17. So we have sinned—but this Lamb of God—what had he done?
The serious meditation of this would produce repentance.
How could we look upon him "whom we have pierced," and not mourn over him?
When we consider how dearly our sins cost Christ; how should we shed the
blood of our sins which shed Christ's blood?
The meditation of Christ's death would fire our hearts
with love to Christ. What friend shall we love, if not him who died for us?
His love to us made him to be cruel unto himself. As Rebecca said to Jacob,
Gen. xxvii. 13. "Upon me, be your curse." So said Christ, "upon me, be your
curse," that poor sinners may inherit the blessing.
3. Meditate on your EVIDENCES for heaven. What have
you to show for Heaven, if you should die this night?
1. Was your heart ever thoroughly convinced of sin? Did
you ever see yourself lost without Christ? Conviction is the first step to
conversion, John vii. 16.
2. Has God ever made you willing to take Christ upon his
own terms? Zech vi. 13. "He shall be a priest upon his throne." Are you as
willing that Christ should be upon the throne of your heart to rule you—as
well as a priest at the altar to intercede for you? Are you willing to
renounce those sins to which the bias of your heart does naturally incline?
Can you set those sins, as Uriah, in the forefront of the battle to be
slain? Are you willing to take Christ for better and for worse? to take him
with his cross, and to avouch Christ in the worst of times?
3. Do you have the indwelling presence of the Spirit? If
you have, what has God's Spirit done in you? Has he made you of another
spirit? meek, merciful, humble? Is he a transforming Spirit? Has he left the
impress of its holiness upon you? These are good evidences for Heaven. By
these, as by a spiritual touchstone, you may know whether you have grace or
not. Beware of false evidences. None are further from having the true pearl,
than those who content themselves with the counterfeit.
4. Meditate upon the uncertainty of all earthly comforts.
Creature-delights have their flux and reflux. How oft does the sun of
worldly pomp and grandeur goes down at noon. Xerxes was forced to fly away
in a small vessel, who but a little before lacked sea-room for his navy. We
say everything is mutable; but who meditates upon it? The world is resembled
to "a sea of glass mingled with fire" Rev. xv. 2. Glass is slippery; it has
no sure footing; and glass mingled with fire is subject to consume. All
creatures are fluid and uncertain, and cannot be made to fix. What is become
of the glory of Athens, the pomp of Troy? 1 John ii.17. "The world passes
away." It slides away as a ship in full sail. How quickly does the scene
alter? and a low ebb follow a high tide? There's no trusting to anything.
Health may turn to sickness; friends may die; riches may take wings. We are
ever upon the tropics. The serious meditation of this, would, 1. Keep us
from being so deceived by the world. We are ready to set up our rest here,
Psalm xliv. 11. "Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue
forever!" We are apt to think that our mountain stands strong. We dream of
an earthly eternity. Alas, if we would meditate on how casual and uncertain
these things are, we should not be so often deluded. Have not we had great
disappointments; and where we have thought to suck honey, there have we not
2. The meditation of the uncertainty of all things under
the sun, would much moderate our affections to them. Why should we so
eagerly pursue an uncertainty? Many take care to get a great estate; it is
uncertain whether they shall keep it. The fire may break in where the thief
cannot: or if they do keep it, it is a question whether they shall have the
comfort of it. They lay up for a child; that child may die; or if he live,
he may prove a burden. This seriously meditated on, would cure the swelling
of covetousness; and make us sit loose to that which hangs so loose and is
ready to drop from us.
3. The meditation of this uncertainty would make us look
after a certainty: that is, the getting of grace. This holy "anointing
abides," 1 John ii. 27. Grace is a flower of eternity. Death does not
destroy grace but transplant it and makes it grow in better soil. He who has
true holiness can no more lose it than the angels can, who are fixed stars
5. Meditate on God's severity against SIN. Every
arrow in God's quiver is shot against sin. Sin burned Sodom, and drowned the
old world. Sin kindles hell. If when a spark of God's wrath flies into a
mans conscience, it is so terrible, what is it when God 'stirs up all his
wrath"? Psalm lxxviii. 38. The meditation of this would frighten us out of
our sins. There cannot be so much sweetness in sin—as there is sting. How
dreadful is God's anger! Psalm xc. 11. "Who knows the power of his wrath?"
All fire, compared with the fire of God's wrath, is but painted and
imaginary fire. O that every time we meddle with sin, we would think to
ourselves we choose the bramble, and fire will come out of this bramble to
6. Meditate on ETERNAL LIFE. 1 John ii. 25. "This is
his promise, even eternal life." Life is sweet, and this word eternal
makes it sweeter. This lies in the immediate vision and fruition of God.
1. This is a spiritual life. It is opposite to
that animal life which we live now. Here we hunger and thirst; but there we
"shall hunger no more" Rev. vii. 16). There is the marriage supper of the
Lamb, which will not only satisfy hunger—but prevent it. That blessed life
to come does not consist in sensual delights, food, and drink, and music;
nor in the comfort of relations; but the soul will be wholly swallowed up in
God, and acquiesce in him with infinite delight. As when the sun appears,
the stars vanish, so when God shall appear in his glory and fill the soul,
then all earthly sensitive delights shall vanish.
2. It is a glorious life. The bodies of the saints
shall be enameled with glory: they shall be made like Christ's glorious
body, Phil. iii. 21. And if the cabinet be of such curious needle-work, how
rich shall the jewel be that is put into it! how bespangled with glory shall
the soul be! Every saint shall wear his white robe, and have his throne to
sit upon. Then God will put some of his own glory upon the saints. Glory
shall not only be revealed to them—but in them, Romans viii.18. And this
life of glory shall be crowned with eternity; what angel can express it! O
let us often meditate on this.
1. Meditation on eternal life would make us labor for a
spiritual life. The child must be born before it is crowned. We must be born
of the Spirit; before we are crowned with glory.
2. The meditation on eternal life would comfort us in
regard to the shortness of natural life. Our life we live now, flies away as
a shadow: it is called a flower, Psalm ciii. 15. a vapor, James iv. 14. Job
sets forth fragile life very elegantly in three of the elements, land,
water, and air, Job ix. 25,26. Go to the land, and there man's life is like
a swift runner. Go to the water, there man's life is like a ship
under sail. Look to the air, and there man's life is like a flying
eagle. We are hastening to the grave. When our years do increase, our
life does decrease. Death creeps upon us by degrees. When our sight
grows dim, there death creeps in at the eye. When our hearing is bad,
death creeps in at the ear. When our legs tremble under us, death is
pulling down the main pillars of the house: but eternal life comforts us
against the shortness of natural life. That life to come is subject to no
infirmities; it knows no end. We shall be as the angels of God, capable of
no mutation or change. Thus you have seen six noble subjects for your
thoughts to expatiate upon.
But where is the meditating Christian? I lament the lack
of holy meditation. Most people live in a hurry; they are so distracted with
the cares of the world, that they can find no time to meditate or scarcely
ask their souls how they do. We are not like the saints in former ages.
David meditated in God's precepts, Psalm 119. 15. "Isaac walked in the
evening to meditate," Gen. xxiv. 63. He did take a stroll with God. What
devout meditations do we read in Austin and Anselm? But it is too much out
of date among our modern professors.
Those beasts under the law which did not chew the cud,
were unclean. Such as do not chew the cud by holy meditation are to be
reckoned among the unclean. But I shall rather turn my lamentation into a
persuasion, entreating Christians to offer violence to themselves in this
necessary duty of meditation. Pythagoras sequestered himself from all
society, and lived in a cave for a whole year, that he might meditate upon
philosophy. How then should we retire and lock up ourselves at least once a
day, that we may meditate upon glory.
1. Meditation makes the Word preached to profit; it
works it upon the conscience. As the bee sucks the honey from the flower, so
by meditation we suck out the sweetness of a truth. It is not the receiving
of food into the mouth—but the digesting of it which makes it nutritious. So
it is not the receiving of the most excellent truths in at the ear, which
nourishes our souls—but the digesting of them by meditation. Wine poured in
a sieve, runs out. Many truths are lost, because ministers pour their wine
into sieves, either into leaking memories or feathery minds. Meditation is
like a soaking rain, that goes to the root of the tree, and makes it bring
2. Holy meditation quickens the affections. "Oh, how
I love your law! I meditate on it all day long." Psalm 119:97. The reason
why our affections are so cold to heavenly things, is because we do not warm
them at the fire of holy meditation. As the musing on worldly objects makes
the fire of lust burn; the musing on injuries makes the fire of
revenge burn; just so, meditating on the transcendent beauties of
Christ, would make our love to Christ flame forth.
3. Meditation has a transforming power in it. The
hearing of the Word may affect us—but the meditating upon it does transform
us. Meditation stamps the impression of divine truths upon our hearts. By
meditating on God's holiness, we grow holy. As Jacob's cattle, by looking on
the rods, conceived like the rods: so while by meditation we look upon God's
purity, we are changed into his likeness and are made partakers of his
4. Meditation produces reformation. Psalm 119:59. "I
have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes." Did but
people meditated on the damnableness of sin; they would realize that there
is a rope at the end of it, which will hang them eternally in hell; they
would break off a course of sinning, and become new creatures. Let all this
persuade us to holy meditation. I dare be bold to say that if men would
spend but one quarter of an hour every day in contemplating heavenly
objects, it would leave a mighty impression upon them, and, through the
blessing of God might prove the beginning of a happy conversion.
But how shall we be able to meditate?
Get a love for spiritual things. We usually meditate on
those things which we love. The voluptuous man can muse on his pleasures:
the covetous man on his bags of gold. Did we love heavenly things, we would
meditate more on them. Many say they cannot meditate, because they lack
memory; but is it not rather because they lack love? Did they love the
things of God, they would make them their continual study and meditation.
5. The fifth duty wherein we are to offer violence to
ourselves, is SELF-EXAMINATION. "Examine yourselves to see
whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that
Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?" 2 Corinthians
13:5. This is a duty of great importance: it is a parleying with one's own
heart, Psalm lxxxvii. 7. "I commune with my own heart." David did put
interrogatories to himself. Self-examination is the setting up a court, in
conscience and keeping a register there, that by strict scrutiny a man may
know how things stand between God and his own soul. Self-examination is a
spiritual inquisition; a bringing one's self to trial. A good Christian does
as it were, begin the day of Judgment here in his own soul. Self-searching
is a heart-anatomy. As a surgeon, when he makes a dissection in the body,
discovers the inward parts, the heart, liver, and arteries—just so, a
Christian anatomizes himself; he searches what is flesh and what is spirit;
what is sin, and what is grace, Psalm lxxvii. 7. "My spirit made diligent
search." As the woman in the Gospel did light a candle, and search for her
lost coin, Luke xv. 8—so conscience "is the candle of the Lord," Proverbs
xx. 27. A Christian by the light of this candle must search his soul to see
if he can find any grace there.
The rule by which a Christian must try himself, is the
Word of God. Sentimentality and public opinion are false rules to go by. We
must judge of our spiritual condition by the rule of Scripture. This David
calls a "lamp unto his feet," Psalm 119. 105. Let the Word be the umpire to
decide the controversy, whether we have grace or not. We judge of colors by
the sun. So we must judge of the state of souls by the light of Scripture.
Self-examination is a great and necessary duty; it
requires self-excitation; it cannot possibly be done without offering
violence to ourselves. 1. Because the duty of self-examination in itself is
difficult: 1. It is a work of self-reflection; it lies most with the heart.
It is hard to look inward. External acts of religion are easy; to lift up
the eye to Heaven, to bow the knee, to read a prayer—this requires no more
labor than for a Catholic to count over his beads; but to examine a man's
self, to turn in upon his own soul, to take the heart as a watch all in
pieces, and see what is defective; this is not easy. Reflective acts are
hardest. The eye can see everything but itself. It is easy to spy the faults
of others—but hard to find out our own.
2. Examination of a man's self is difficult, because of
self-love. As ignorance blinds, so self-love flatters. Every man is ready to
think the best of himself. What Solomon says of love to our neighbor is most
true of self-love; "it hides a multitude of sins," Proverbs x.12. When
a man looks upon himself in the looking-glass of
self-love, his virtues appear greater than they are, and his sins less.
Self-love makes one rather excuse what is amiss, than examine it.
2. As examination is in itself difficult, so it is a work
which we are very hardly brought to. That which causes a backwardness to
1. Consciousness of guilt. Sin clamors inwardly, and men
are loathe to look into their hearts lest they should find that which should
trouble them. It is little pleasure to read the hand writing on the wall of
conscience. Many Christians are like tradesmen who are sinking in their
estates; they are loathe to look over their books, or cast up their
accounts, lest they should find their estates low: so they are loathe to
look into their guilty heart, lest they should find something there which
should affright them; as Moses was affrighted at the sight of the rod turned
into a serpent.
2. Men are hardly brought to this duty because of
foolish, presumptuous hopes: they fancy their estate to be good, and while
they weigh themselves in the balance of presumption, they pass the test.
Many take their salvation on trust. The foolish virgins thought they had oil
in their lamps, the same as the wise, Matt. xxv. Some are not sure of their
salvation—but secure. If one were to buy a piece of land, he would not take
it upon trust—but examine the title. How confident are some of salvation—yet
never examine their title to Heaven.
3. Men are not forward to examine themselves, because
they rest in the good opinions of others: how vain this is! Alas, one may be
gold and pearl in the eye of others—yet God may judge him reprobate silver!
Others may think him a saint, and God may write him down in his black-book.
Judas was looked upon by the rest of the Apostles as a true believer—yet he
was a traitor. Bystanders can but see the outward behavior—but they cannot
tell what evil is in the heart. Fair streams may run on the top of a
river—but vermin may lay at the bottom.
4. Men are hardly brought to examine themselves, because
they do not believe Scripture. The Scripture says, "The heart is deceitful
above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" Jeremiah 17:9.
Solomon said there were four things too astonishing for him, that he could
not know. Prov xxx. 19. He might have added a fifth. The way of a man's
heart. The heart is the greatest impostor; it will be ready to put one off
with seeming grace, instead of saving. The heart will persuade that a slight
tear is repentance; a lazy desire is faith. Now because the generality of
people do not believe that there is such fallacy in their hearts, therefore
they are so slow to examine them. This natural backwardness in us to
self-reflection, should cause us to offer the more violence to ourselves in
making a thorough investigation and search of our hearts.
O that I might prevail with Christians to take pains with
themselves in this great work of examination. Their salvation depends on it.
It is the wat of a harlot—she is seldom at home, Proverbs vii. 11,12. "her
feet never stay at home; now in the street, now in the squares, at every
corner she lurks." It is a sign of an harlot-professor, to be always abroad,
spying the faults of others; but is never at home with his own heart. Oh let
us try our hearts, as we try gold, by the touch-stone. Let us examine our
sins, and finding out this leaven, burn it. Let us examine our grace,
whether it be of the right kind. One went into the field to gather herbs,
and he gathered wild gourds—and then death was in the pot, 2Kings iv. 40. So
many think they have grace, the right herb; but it proves a wild gourd, and
brings death and damnation. That we may offer violence to ourselves in this
great business of examination, let these few things be seriously weighed.
1. Without self-examination we can never know how it is
with us. If we would die presently, we cannot tell to what coast we should
sail; whether to hell or Heaven. It is reported of Socrates, when he was
going out of the world, he had this speech, I am now to die, and the gods
alone know whether I shall be happy or miserable. That man who is ignorant
of the state of his soul, must needs have the trembling at the heart, as
Cain had a shaking in his body. By a serious scrutiny of our hearts, we come
to know to what prince we belong, whether to the prince of peace, or the
prince of darkness.
2. If we will not examine ourselves, God will examine us.
He will examine us, as the chief captain did Paul, by scourging, Acts xxii.
24. He will ask the same question as Christ, "whose is this image and
superscription?" And if we cannot show him His own image, he will reject us.
3. There is secret corruption within, which will never be
found out but by searching. "There is in the heart" (as Austin said) "hidden
pollution." When Pharaoh's steward accused Joseph's brethren of having the
cup, they dared have sworn they did not have the cup in their sack. Little
does a man know what secret atheism, pride, and lust is in his heart until
4. The great advantage will accrue to us: the benefit is
great whichever way things turn. If upon examination we find that we have
not saving grace—then the mistake is discovered, and the danger can be
prevented. If we find that we have saving grace—we may take the comfort of
it. How glad was he who had "found the pearl of great price?" He who upon
search finds that he has but the least degree of grace, is like one who has
found his box of evidences; he is heir to all the promises, and in a state
And that we may go on the more successively in this work,
let us desire God to help us to find out our hearts, Job xxxiv. 32. "That
which I see not teach you me."—Lord, take off the veil; show me my heart;
let me not perish through mistake, or go to hell with hope of Heaven.
"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way
everlasting." Psalm 139:23-24.
6. The sixth duty wherein we must offer violence to
ourselves, is HOLY CONVERSE. Indeed
we are backward enough to it, therefore had need to provoke ourselves, Mal.
iii. 17. "They that feared the Lord spoke often one to another." A gracious
person has not only piety only in his heart—but also in his tongue, Psalm
xxxvii. 30. "The law of God is in his heart, and his tongue talks of
judgment:" he drops holy words as pearls. It is the fault of Christians,
that they do not in company provoke themselves to good discourse: it is a
sinful modesty; there is much visiting—but they do not give one another's
souls a visit. In worldly things their tongue is as the pen of a ready
writer—but in matters of piety, it is as if their tongue did cleave to the
roof of their mouth. As we must answer to God for idle words: so also for
Oh let us offer violence to ourselves on this, in
initiating good discourse! What should our words dilate and expiate upon but
Heaven? The world is a great Inn; we are guests in this Inn. Travelers, when
they are met in their Inn, do not spend all their time in speaking about
their Inn; they are to lodge there but a few hours, and are gone; but they
are speaking of their home, and the country wither they are traveling. So
when we meet together, we should not be talking only about the world; we are
to leave this presently; but we should talk of our heavenly country, Heb.
That we may provoke ourselves to good discourse (for it
will not be done without some kind of violence) let these considerations be
"The good man brings good things out of the good stored
up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored
up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks."
Luke 6:45. The discourse demonstrates what the heart is. As the
looking-glass shows what the face is—whether it be fair or foul; just so,
our words show what our heart is. Vain discourse reveals a light, feathery
heart. Gracious discourse reveals a gracious heart. The water of the conduit
shows what the spring is.
Holy discourse is very edifying. The apostle bids us
"edify one another," Ephes. iv. 20. And how more than in this way? Godly
discourse enlightens the mind when it is ignorant; settles it when it is
wavering. A good life adorns piety; godly discourse propagates it.
Gracious discourse makes us resemble Christ. His words
were perfumed with holiness: "grace was poured into his lips," Psalm 45:2.
He spoke to the admiration of all: his hands worked miracles and his tongue
spoke oracles, Luke iv. 22. "All bare him witness, and wondered at the
gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth." Christ never came into any
company—but he set good discourse on foot. Levi made him a feast, Luke v.
29. and Christ feasted him with holy discourse. When he came to Jacob's
well, he presently speaks of the "water of life," Jude 4. The more holy our
discourse is, the more we are like Christ. Should not the members be like
God takes special notice of every good word we speak when
we meet. "Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the
Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence
concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name." Malachi 3:16.
Tamerlain, that Scythian captain, had always a book by him of the names and
good deserts of his servants which he bountifully rewarded. As God has a
bottle for the tears of his people—so he has a book in which he writes down
all their good speeches, and will make honorable mention of them at the last
day. "Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so
that you may know how to answer everyone." Colossians 4:6
Holy discourse will be a means to bring Christ into our
company. The two disciples were communing of the death and sufferings of
Christ; and while they were speaking, Jesus Christ came among them, Luke
xxiv. 15. "While they communed together, Jesus himself drew near, and went
with them." When men entertain bad discourse, Satan draws near, and makes
one of the company; but when they have holy and gracious discourse, Jesus
Christ draws near, and wherever he comes, he brings a blessing along with
him. So much for the first directive—the offering of violence to
2. The Christian must offer violence to SATAN.
Satan opposes us both by open violence, and secret treachery. Satan
opposes by open violence—so he is called the Red Dragon. Satan
opposes by secret treachery—so he is called the Old Serpent. We read
in Scripture of his snares and darts; he hurts more by his
snares than by his darts.
1. His VIOLENCE. He labors to storm the castle
of the heart; he stirs up passion, lust, and revenge. These are called
"fiery darts," Ephes. vi.16 because they often set the soul on fire. Satan
in regard to his fierceness, is called a lion, "Be self-controlled
and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking
for someone to devour!" 1 Peter 5:8. Not whom he may bite—but
2. His TREACHERY. What he cannot do by force,
he will endeavor to do by fraud. Satan has several subtle devices in
1. In suiting his temptations to the temper of the
individual. Satan studies our constitutions, and lays suitable baits. He
knew Achan's s covetous heart, and tempted him with a wedge of gold. He
tempts the youthful man with lust.
2. Another of Satan's subtleties, is to draw men to evil,
under a pretense of good. The pirate does mischief by hanging out false
colors; so does Satan by hanging out the colors of religion. He puts some
men upon sinful actions, and persuades them much good will come of it. He
tells them in some cases that they may dispense with the rule of the Word,
and stretch their conscience beyond that line, that they may be in a
capacity of doing more service—as if God needed our sin to raise his glory!
3. Satan tempts to sin gradually. As the farmer digs
about the root of a tree, and by degrees loosens it, and at last it falls.
Satan steals into into the heart by degrees. He is at first more modest. He
did not say to Eve at first, "Eat the apple!" No! but he goes more subtly to
work; he puts forth a question. "Has God said? Surely Eve, you are
mistaken; the bountiful God never intended to debar one of the best trees of
the garden. Has God said? Surely, either God did not say it; or if he did,
he never really intended it." Thus by degrees he wrought her to distrust
God, and then she took of the fruit and ate. Oh, take heed of Satan's first
motions to sin, which seem more modest. He is first a fox, and then a
4. Satan tempts to evil in lawful things. It was
lawful for Noah to eat the fruit of the grape; but he took too much, and so
sinned. Excess turns that which is good—into evil. Eating and drinking may
turn to intemperance. Industry in one's calling, when excessive, becomes
covetousness. Satan draws men to an immoderate love of the creature, and
then makes them sin in that which they love—as Agrippina poisoned her
husband Claudius in that food which he loved most.
5. Satan puts men upon doing good out of evil ends.
If he cannot hurt them by scandalous actions, he will by virtuous actions.
Thus he tempts some to espouse religion out of ulterior motives; and to give
to charity, for applause, that others may see their good works. This
hypocrisy does leaven the duties of religion and makes them lose there
6. The Devil persuades men to evil, by such as are good.
This sets a gloss upon his temptations, and makes them less suspected. The
devil has made use sometimes of the most eminent and holy men to promote his
temptations. The devil tempted Christ by an apostle, Peter dissuades him
from suffering. Abraham, a good man, bids his wife equivocate; Say, you are
These are Satan's subtleties in tempting. Now here we
must offer violence to Satan,
1. By FAITH. "Resist him, standing firm in the
faith." 1 Peter 5:9. Faith is a wise, intelligent grace: it can see a hook
under the bait. 2. It is an heroic grace; it is said above all, to quench
the fiery darts of Satan. Faith resists the devil. "Take up the shield of
faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil
one!" Ephesians 6:16
1. Faith keeps the castle of the heart, so that it does
not yield. It is not being tempted which makes us guilty--but giving
consent. Faith enters its protest against Satan.
2. Faith not only not yields—but beats back the
temptation. Faith holds the promise in one hand, and Christ in the other:
The promise encourages faith, and Christ strengthens it: so faith beats the
enemy out of the field.
2. We must offer violence to Satan by PRAYER. We
overcome him upon our knees. As Samson called to Heaven for help, so a
Christian by prayer fetches in auxiliary forces from Heaven. In all
temptations, go to God by prayer. "Lord, teach me to use every piece of the
spiritual armor; how to hold the shield, how to wear the helmet, how to use
the sword of the Spirit. Lord, strengthen me in the battle; let me rather
die a conqueror than be taken prisoner, and led by Satan in triumph!" Thus
we must offer violence to Satan. There is "a lion in the way," but we must
resolve upon fighting.
And let this encourage us to offer violence to Satan. Our
enemy is beaten in part already. Christ, who is "the captain of our
salvation," has given Satan his death-wound upon the cross, Col. ii. 15. The
serpent is soonest killed in his head. Christ has bruised the head of the
old Serpent! He is a chained enemy, and a conquered enemy; therefore do not
fear him. "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you!" James 4:7. "The God
of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet!" Romans 16:20.
3. The Christian must offer violence to the WORLD.
The world shows its golden apple. It is a part of our Christian
profession, to fight under Christ's banner against the world. Take heed of
being drowned in the world's luscious delights! It must be a strong brain
that can bear heady wine. He had need have a great deal of wisdom and grace
who knows how to maintain a great estate. Riches often send up intoxicating
fumes, which make men's heads giddy with pride. "Jeshurun waxed fat and
kicked," Deut. xxxi. 15. It is hard to climb up the hill of God, with too
many golden weights. Those who desire the honors of the
world—receive the temptations of it. The world is a flattering enemy.
It is given to some, as Michal to David, for a snare. The world shows its
two breasts of pleasure and profit—and many fall asleep with
the breast in their mouth! The world never kisses us—except with an intent
to betray us. The world is a silken halter. The world is no friend to grace;
it chokes our love to heavenly things—the earth puts out the fire.
Naturally we love the world, Job xxxi. 24. "If I have
made gold my hope;" the Septuagint renders it, "If I have been married to my
gold." Too many are wedded to their money; they live together as man and
wife. O let us take heed of being entangled in this pleasing snare! Many who
have escaped the rock of scandalous sins—yet have sunk in the world's golden
quicksands! The sin is not in using the world—but in loving
it. 1 John 2:15. "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone
loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him."
If we are Christians, we must offer violence to the
world. Believers are called out of the world. "They are not of the world,
even as I am not of it." John 17:16. They are in the world—but not
of it. As we say of a dying man, he is not a man for this world. A true
saint is crucified in his affections to the world, Gal. 6:14. He is dead to
the honors and pleasures or it. What delight does a dead man take in
pictures or music? Jesus Christ gave himself "to redeem us from this present
evil world," Gal. 1:4. If we will be saved, we must offer violence to the
world. Living fish swim against the stream. We must swim against the world,
else we shall be carried down the stream, and fall into the dead sea of
hell. That we may offer violence to the world, let us remember:
1. The world is DECEITFUL. Our Savior calls it,
"The deceitfulness of riches," Matt. 13:22. The world promises happiness—but
give less. It promises us Rachel—but gives us bleary-eyed Leah. The
world promises to satisfy our desires—but only increases them.
The world gives poisoned pills—but wraps them in sugar!
2. The world is POLLUTING. "Religion that God our
Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: . . . to keep oneself from
being polluted by the world." James 1:27 As if the apostle would
intimate that the world is good for nothing but to pollute. It first
pollutes men's consciences, and then their names. It is called filthy lucre,
Titus 1:7. because it makes men so filthy. They will damn themselves to get
the world. Ahab would have Naboth's vineyard, though he swam to it in blood.
3. The world is PERISHING. "The world and its
desires pass away." 1 John 2:17. The world is like a flower which withers
while we are smelling it!
kingdom of Heaven suffers violence." Though Heaven is given us freely—yet we
must take pains for it. Canaan was given Israel freely—but they had to fight
with the Canaanites. It is not a lazy wish, or a sleepy prayer, which will
bring us to Heaven; we must offer violence. Therefore in Scripture our
earnestness for Heaven is shown by those allegories and metaphors which
4. Fourthly, the Christian must offer violence to HEAVEN.
1. Sometimes by striving. Luke 13:23-24. "Someone
asked him, "Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?" He said to them,
"Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I
tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to." (The Greek signifies,
"Strive as in an agony.")
2. Wrestling, which is a violent exercise. Eph.
6:12. We are to wrestle with a body of sin, and with the powers of hell.
3. Running in a race, 1 Cor. 9:24. "So run that
you may obtain." We have a long race from earth to Heaven—but a little time
to run; it will soon be sunset. Therefore, so run. In a race there's not
only a laying aside of all weights that hinder—but a putting forth of all
the strength of the body; a straining every joint that men may press on with
all swiftness to lay hold on the prize. Thus Paul pressed towards the mark.
Phil. iii:14. Alas, where is this holy violence to be found?
1. Many have made themselves unfit to run this
blessed race; they are drunk with the pleasures of the world. A drunken man
is unfit to run a race.
2. Others neglect to run this race all their life;
and when sickness and death approach, now they will begin. A sick man is
very unfit to walk, much less to run a race. I acknowledge
that true repentance is never too late; but when a man can hardly move his
hand, or lift up his eyes—that is a very unfit time to begin the race from
earth to Heaven.
3. This earnestness for heaven is compared to fighting,
which implies violence, 1 Tim. vi. 12. "Fight the good fight of faith." It
is not enough to be laborers; we must be warriors. Indeed, in Heaven, our
armor shall be hung up as a token of victory; but now it is a day of battle;
and we must "fight the good fight of faith." As Hannibal forced a way for
his army over the Alps and craggy rocks; so must we force our way to Heaven.
We must not only pray—but pray fervently, James vi.16. This is offering
violence to Heaven.
The reasons why there must be this offering violence
to Heaven are:
1. God's indispensable command. He has enacted a law,
that whoever eats of the fruit of paradise, shall eat it in the sweat of his
brow. 2 Peter i. 10. "Give diligence to make your calling and election
2. God's decree. The Lord has in his eternal decree
joined the end and the means together: striving and entering, the race and
the crown. And a man can no more think to come to Heaven without offering
violence, than he can think to come to the end of his journey, who never
sets a step in the way. Who expects an harvest without plowing and sowing?
How can we expect the harvest of glory without labor? Though our salvation
with respect to Christ is a purchase—yet with respect to us, it is a
3. We must offer violence to Heaven in regard to the
difficulty of the work: Taking a kingdom. First, we must be pulled out of
another kingdom, "The kingdom of darkness," Acts xxvi.18. To get out of the
state of nature is hard, and when that is done, and we are cut off from the
wild olive tree, and implanted into Christ, there is new work still to do;
new sins to mortify; new temptations to resist, new graces to quicken. A
Christian must not only get faith—but go "from faith to faith," Romans i.
17. This will not be done without violence.
4. We must offer violence to Heaven in regard to the
violent assaults made against us.
1. Our own hearts oppose us. It is is a strange
paradox: man, who does naturally desire happiness—yet opposes it; he desires
to be saved—yet hates that holy violence which would save him.
2. All the powers of hell oppose us. Satan stands
at our right hand, as he did at Joshua's, Zech. iii. Shall we not be as
earnest to save our souls, as the dragon is to devour them? Without violent
affections we shall never resist violent temptations.
5. We must be violent, because it is a matter of the
highest importance. A man does not beat his head about trifles—but about
matters wherein his life and estate are concerned. Violence is to be
offered, if we consider:
1. What we shall save: the precious soul.
What pains do we take for the feeding and enriching of the body, the brutish
part? O then what violence should we use for the saving of the soul? The
body is but a ring of clay; the soul is the diamond. The soul is the mirror
wherein the image of God is seen. There are in the soul some shadows and
faint representations of a deity. If Christ thought the soul was worth the
shedding of His blood, well may we think it worth spending our sweat.
2. Consider what we shall gain: a kingdom.
What pains are used for earthly crowns and empires; men will wade to the
crown through blood. Heaven is a kingdom which should make us strive for
it—even to blood. The hopes of a kingdom (says Basil) should carry a
Christian cheerfully through all labors and sufferings.
There must be an offering of violence in regard to that
aptness and proneness in the best to grow remiss in piety. When they have
been quickened in a duty, they are apt to grow dead again. When they have
been heated at the fire of an ordinance, they are apt to freeze again;
therefore they still must be offering violence. The heart, like the watch,
will be apt to run down; therefore it must be continually wound up by prayer
and meditation. The fire of devotion will soon go out if it is not blown up.
A Christian's own experience of his inconstancy in
performing good, is reason enough to holy violence.
If there must be this offering of violence, it shows us
it is not so easy a thing as men imagine to get to Heaven. There are so many
precepts to obey; so many promises to believe; so many rocks to avoid, that
it is a difficult matter to be saved. Some imagine that there is a pleasant,
easy way to Heaven—an idle wish, a deathbed tear—but the text tells us of
offering violence. Alas, there is a great work to be done; the bias of the
heart must be changed. Man by nature does not only lack grace—but hate it.
He has an envenomed spirit against God, and is angry with converting grace;
and is it easy to have the heart metamorphosed? for the proud heart to be
made humble? for the earthly heart to be made heavenly? Can this be done
without using violence? It is all up hill to Heaven, and it will make us
sweat before we get to the top of the hill.
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and
broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But
small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few
find it." Matthew 7:13-14. Indeed hell will be taken without storm: the
gates of hell, like that iron gate, Acts xii. 10. open of their own accord;
but if we get to Heaven, we must force our way; we must besiege it with
sighs and tears, and get the scaling ladder of faith to storm it.
We must not only work—but fight. Like those
Jews who built the wall of Jerusalem, Nehem. 4:17-18. "Those who carried
materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in
the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he
worked." A Christian is commanded to difficult service; he must
charge through the whole army of his lusts, every one of which is stronger
than Goliath. A Christian has no time to drowse; he must be either praying
or watching; either upon the mount or in the valley, on the mount of faith
or in the valley of humility.
Worldly things are not obtained without labor. What
toiling is there in the shop? What sweatings are there in the furnace? And
do we think Heaven will be had without labor? Do men dig for worms, and not
for gold? Those who are in Heaven are employed; much more should
those who are getting there. The angels are ministering spirits, Heb. i. 14.
The wings of the seraphim are many—to show us how swift they are in God's
service. If the angels in Heaven are busying themselves in noble and
honorable employment, how industrious should we be who are getting up the
hill of God, and have not yet arrived at a state of glory? Is salvation-work
so easy? Can a man be saved by a faint wish? Can he leap out of the Devil's
arms into Abraham's bosom? Oh no! there must be offering violence.
Some think free grace will save them; but it must be in
the use of means. "Watch and pray." Others say, the promises will bring them
to Heaven—but the promises of the Word are not to be separated from the
precepts. The promise tells us of a crown—but the precept says, "Run in such
a way as to get the prize," 1 Cor. 9:24. The promises are made to encourage
faith, not to nourish sloth. But others say, Christ has died for sinners;
and so they leave him to do all for them and they will do nothing. Then the
text would be out of date, and all the exhortations to striving and
"fighting the good fight of faith," are in vain. Our salvation cost Christ
blood; it will cost us sweat. The boat may as well get to shore without
rowing, as we can get to Heaven without offering violence.
2. It shows us the great mistake of ignorant people, who
think the bare doing of duties, though in an ever so slight and superficial
manner, is enough. The text tells us of offering violence,
1. In the business of PRAYER. They think it is
enough to utter over a few words though the heart be asleep all the while.
What offering of violence is here? Christ was "in an agony" at prayer, Luke
xxii. 44. Many when they pray, are rather in a lethargy than in an agony.
Jacob wrestled with the angel in prayer, Gen. xxxii. 24. The incense
was to be laid upon burning coals, Lev. xvi. 12. Incense was a type
of prayer and incense upon burning coals was a type of fervency in
prayer. Few know what the spirit of prayer means; or what it is to have the
affections boil over. When they are about the world they are all fire; when
they are at prayer they are all ice.
2. In the HEARING OF THE WORD. Many people think
it is enough to bring their bodies to the assembly—but never look at
their hearts. They satisfy themselves that they have been at church,
though they have not been with God, while there. Others go to a sermon as to
the market—to hear the latest news. New notions please their fancy—but they
do not attend to the Word as a matter of life and death. They do not go to
meet with Christ in an ordinance; to have the breathings of his Spirit, and
the infusions of his love. Alas, what little violence for Heaven is to be
seen in most people's worship! In all the sacrifices of the law, there was
fire. How can those duties be accepted which have no fire in them, no
offering of violence.
3. If there must be this offering of violence to Heaven,
then it shows us how dangerous moderation in piety is. Violence and
moderation are two different things. Indeed, moderation in the things of the
world is commendable. We should moderate our worldly desires—and "use the
world as if we used it not," 1 Cor. vii. 31. We may, as Jonathan, dip the
end of the rod in honey—but not thrust it in too far. In this sense
moderation is good—but moderation in matters of practical piety is sinful—it
is contrary to offering violence. Moderation, in the world's sense, means
not to be too zealous, not to be too fierce for Heaven. Moderation is not to
venture further in piety, than may coexist with self-preservation. As the
king of Navarr told Beza—he would launch no farther into the sea than he
might be sure to return safely to land. To keep on the warm side of the
hedge, is a main article in the politicians creed.
Moderation in the world's sense, is neutrality. The
moderate person finds a medium between strictness and profaneness; he is not
for debauchery, nor for purity. It was the advice Calvin gave Melanchthon,
that he should not so affect the name of moderate, that at last he lost all
his zeal. To be lukewarm in matters of piety, is far from offering violence
to Heaven, Rev iii. 19. "Be zealous and repent." If any should ask us why we
are so violent, tell them it is for a kingdom. If any shall ask us why we
make such haste in the ways of piety, tell them we are running a heavenly
race, and a softly moderate pace will never win the prize. Moderation has
made many lose Heaven; they have not made haste enough; they have come too
late, (like the foolish virgins) when the door has been shut!