The Christian Soldier, or
Heaven Taken by Storm

by Thomas Watson, 1669

A practical handbook on Christian living,
showing the holy violence a Christian is
to put forth in the pursuit after glory.

"The Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and
 the violent take it by force." Matthew 11:12

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 the flesh?

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 temptation.

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 holy duties.

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 Tim. 3:15)!

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 Scripture weapons.

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, 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 disregard it.

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 drowsy hearer.

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 cold prayer.

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 land.

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, because:

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 drunk wormwood.

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 in glory.

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 devour us.

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 forth fruit.

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 divine nature.

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 self-examination, is,

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 he searches.

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 of salvation!

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 sinful silence.

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. xi. 16.

That we may provoke ourselves to good discourse (for it will not be done without some kind of violence) let these considerations be duly weighed.

"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 the head?

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 ourselves.

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 devour.

2. His TREACHERY. What he cannot do by force, he will endeavor to do by fraud. Satan has several subtle devices in tempting:

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 lion.

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 reward.

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 my sister.

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!

4. Fourthly, the Christian must offer violence to HEAVEN.
"The 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 imply violence.

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 sure."

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 conquest.

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!