Examination and Objections
3. Let us then examine whether we put forth this holy violence for Heaven? What is an empty profession without this? Like a lamp without oil. Let us all ask ourselves, what violence do we use for Heaven?
1. Do we strive with our hearts to get them into an holy frame? How did David awaken all the powers of his soul to serve God, Psalm lxxxvii. 6. ‘I myself will awake early.’ The heart is like a bell that is a long while rising.
2. Do we set time apart to call ourselves to account, and to try our evidences for Heaven? Psalm lxxxvii. 6.’My spirit made diligent search.’ Do we take our hearts as a watch all in pieces, to see what is amiss and to mend it? Are we curiously inquisitive into the state of our souls? Are we afraid of artificial grace, as of artificial happiness?
3. Do we use violence in prayer? Is there fire in our sacrifice? Doth the wind of the Spirit, filling our sails, cause ‘groans unutterable?’ Rom. viii. 25. Do we pray in the morning as if we were to die at night?
4. Do we thirst for the living God? Are our souls big with holy desires? Psalm lxxiii. 25. ‘There is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.’ Do were desire holiness as well as Heaven? Do we desire as much to look like Christ, as to live with Christ? Is our desire constant? Is this spiritual pulse ever beating?
5. Are we skilled in self-denial? Can we deny our ease, our aims, our interest? Can we cross our own will to fulfill God’s? Can we behead our beloved sin? To pluck out the right eye requires violence.
6. Are we lovers of God? It is not how much we do, but how much we love. Doth love command the castle of our hearts? Does Christ’s beauty and sweetness constrain us? 2 Cor. v. 14. Do we love God more than we fear hell?
7. Do we keep our spiritual watch? Do we set spies in every place, watching our thoughts, our eyes, our tongues? When we have prayed against sin, do we watch against temptation? The Jews, having sealed the stone of Christ’s sepulcher, ‘set a watch,’ Matt. xxvii. 66. After we have been at the word, or sacrament, (that sealing ordinance) do we set a watch?
8. Do we press after further degrees of sanctity? Phil iii. 13. ‘Reaching forth unto those things which are before.’ A good Christian is a wonder; he is the most contented yet the least satisfied: he is contented with a little of the world, but not satisfied with a little grace; he would have still more faith and be anointed with fresh oil. Paul desired to ‘attain unto the resurrection of the dead,’ Phil. iii. 11, that is, he endeavored (if possible) to arrive at such a measure of grace as the saints shall have at the resurrection.
9. Is there an holy emulation in us? Do we labor to out-shine others in religion? — To be more eminent for love and good works? Do we something which is singular? Matt. v. 47. ‘What do ye more than others?’
10. Are we got above the world? Though we walk on earth, do we trade in Heaven? Can we say as David? Psalm cxxxxix. 17. ‘I am still with thee.’ This requires violence; for motions upward are usually violent.
11. Do we set ourselves always under God’s eye? Psalm xvi. 8. ‘I have set the Lord always before me.’ Do we live soberly and godly, remembering that whatever we are doing our Judge looks on?
Out of this text I may draw forth several arrows of reproof.
It reproves slothful Christians who are settled on their knees: they make a lazy profession of religion, but use no violence. — They are like the lilies, which toil not, neither do they spin. The snail, by reason of its slow motion, was reckoned among the unclean, Levit. xi. 30. St. Augustine calls idleness the burial of a man alive. There are some faint wishes, oh that I had Heaven! but a man may desire venison, and want it, if he does not hunt for it.� Prov. xiii. 4. ‘The soul of the sluggard wisheth and hath nothing.’
—- Neque mola, neque farina —-
Men could be content to have the kingdom of Heaven; but they are loath to fight for it. They choose rather to go in a feather bed to Hell than to be carried to Heaven in a ‘fiery chariot’ of zeal and violence. How many sleep away, and play away, their time; as if they were made like the Leviathan, to play in the sea! Psalm civ. 26. It is a saying of Seneca, ‘No man is made wise by chance.’ Sure it is, no man is saved by chance, buthe must know how he came by it, namely, by offering violence. Such as have accustomed themselves to an idle, lazy temper will find it hard to shake off, Cant. v. 3. ‘I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on?’ The spouse had laid herself upon the bed of sloth, and though Christ knocked at the door, she was loath to rise and let him in. Some pretend to be believers, but are idle in the vineyard. — They pretend to make use of faith for seeing, but not for working; this faith is fancy. O that Christians had a spirit of activity in them, 1 Chron. xxii. 16. ‘Arise and be doing, and the Lord be with thee.’� We may sometimes learn of our enemy. The Devil is never idle; he ‘walketh about,’ 1 Peter v. 8. The world is his diocese and he is every day going on his visitation. Is satan active? Is the enemy upon his march coming against us? And are we asleep upon our guard? As Satan himself is not idle, so he will not endure that any of his servants should be idle. When the Devil had entered into Judas, how active was Judas! He goes to the high priest, from thence to the band of soldiers and with them back to the garden, and never left till he had betrayed Christ. Satan will not endure an idle servant; and do we think God will? How will the heathen rise up in judgment against slothful Christians! What pains did they take in the Olympian games: they ran for a garland of flowers, and do we stand still who run for a crown of immortality? Certainly, if only the violent take Heaven, the idle person will never come there. God puts no difference between these two, slothful and wicked, Matt. xxv. 26.‘Thou wicked and slothful servant.’ (more…)
Fourthly, we must offer violence to Heaven. ‘The kingdom of Heaven suffereth 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, 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 xiii.24. ‘Strive to enter in at the strait gate.’-The Greek signifies, Strive as in an agony.
2. Wrestling, which is a violent exercise. Eph. vi. 12. We are to wrestle with a body of sin, and with the powers of hell.
3. Running in a race, 1 Cor. ix.24. ‘So run that ye 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?
2. We must offer violence to Satan. Satan opposeth us both by open violence, and secret treachery. By open violence, so he is called the Red Dragon; 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 labours to storm the castle of the heart; he stirs up passion, lust, and revenge. These are called ‘fiery darts,’ Ephes. vi.16 because they oft set the soul on fire. Satan in regard to his fierceness is called a Lion, 1 Peter iv. 6. ‘Your adversary the Devil is a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour.’ Not (saith Chrysostom) whom he may bite, but devour.
2. His Treachery. What he cannot do by force, he will endeavor to do by fraud. Satan hath several subtle policies in tempting.
In suiting his temptations to the complexion and temper of the body, Satan studies physiognomy, and lays suitable baits. — He knew Achan’s s covetous humour, and tempted him with a wedge of gold. He tempts the sanguine man with beauty.
2. Another subtlety is to draw men to evil, sub specie boni, under a pretence of good. — The pirate doeth mischief by hanging out false colours; so does Satan by hanging out the colours 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 husbandman digs about the root of a tree, and by degrees loosens it, and at last it falls. Satan steals by degrees into the heart: 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. Hath God said? Sure Eve, thou art mistaken; the bountiful God never intended to debar one of the best trees of the garden. Hath God said? Sure, either God did not say it; or if he did, he never really intended it. Thus by degrees he wrought her to distrust and then she took of the fruit and ate. Oh, take heed of Satan’s first motions to sin, that seem more modest — principiis obsta. He is first a fox, and then a lion.
The Christian Soldier; or Heaven Taken by Storm (Part 6, by sanctifying the Lord’s Day and holy conversation)
The sixth duty wherein we must offer violence to ourselves, is the religious sanctifying of the Lord’s day. That there should be a day of holy rest dedicated to God appears from its institution. ‘Remember to keep holy the Sabbath.’ Our Christian Sabbath comes in the room of the Jewish Sabbath: it is called the Lord’s day, Rev. i.10. from Christ the author of it. Our Sabbath is altered by Christ’s own appointment. He arose this day out of the grave, and appeared on it often to His disciples, 1 Cor. xvi. 1: to intimate to them (saith Athanasius) that he transferred the Sabbath to the Lord’s day. And St. Austin saith that by Christ’s rising on the first day of the week, it was consecrated to be the Christian Sabbath, in remembrance of his resurrection. This day was anciently called dies lucis, the day of light, as Junius observes. The other days of the week would be dark, were it not for the shining of the sun of righteousness on this day. This day hath been called by the ancients, regina dierum, the queen of days. And St. Hierom prefers this day above all solemn festivals. The primitive church had this day in high veneration: it was a great badge of their religion: for when the question was asked, servasti dominicum?, keepest thou the Sabbath?; the answer was, Christianus sum, I am a Christian; I dare not omit the celebration of the Lord’s day! What great cause do we have to thankfully remember this day! As the benefit of Israel’s deliverance from the Babylonish captivity was so great that it drowned the remembrance of their deliverance from Egypt, Jer. xvi. 14: so the benefit of our deliverance from Satan’s captivity and the rising of Christ after finishing the glorious work of our redemption are so famous, that in respect of his other benefits, receive as it were in diminution. Great was the work of creation; but greater the work of redemption. It cost more to redeem us than to make us. In the one, there was only the speaking a word, Psalm cxlviii. 5: in the other, the shedding of blood, Heb. ix. 22. The creation was the work of God’s fingers, Psalm viii. 3: the redemption, the work of his arm, Luke i. 5. In creation God gave us ourselves; in redemption he gives us himself. So that the Sabbath, putting us in mind of our redemption, ought to be observed with the highest devotion. — Herein we must offer holy violence to ourselves.
When this blessed day approacheth, we should labour, that as the day is sanctified, so may our hearts be sanctified. (more…)