Having answered these objections, let me reassume the exhortation, pressing all christians to this violence for the heavenly kingdom. As David's three worthies ventured their lives, and brake through the host of the Philistines for water, 2 Sam. xxiii. 46, -- Such a kind of violence must we use, breaking through all dangers for obtaining the 'water of life.'
1. Consider the deplorable condition we are in by nature; a state of misery and damnation; therefore what violence should we use to get out of it? Were one plunged into quicksands, would he not use violence to get out? Sin is a quicksand, and is it not wisdom to extricate ourselves out? David being encompassed with enemies, said 'His soul was among lions,' Psalm lvii. 4. 'Tis true in a spiritual sense, our soul is among lions. Every sin is a lion that would devour us, and if we are in the lion's den, should not we use violence to get out? The angels used violence to Lot; they laid hold on him and pulled him out of Sodom, Gen. xix. 16. Such violence must be used to get out of the spiritual Sodom. It is not safe to stay in the enemy's quarters.
2. It is possible that in the use of means we may arrive at happiness. Impossibility destroys endeavor; but here is a door of hopeopened. The thing is feasible. It is not with us as with the damned in hell; there is a tomb-stone rolled over them. But while we are under the sound of Aaron's bell, and the silver trumpet of the gospel is blown in our ears, while the spirit of grace breathes on us, and we are on this side of the grave, there is great hope that by holy violence we may win Paradise. An absolute impossibility of salvation is only for those who have sinned against the Holy Ghost, and cannot repent; but who these are is a secret sealed up in God's book: else here is great encouragement to all to be serious and earnest in the matters of eternity, because they are yet in a capacity of mercy, no final sentence is already passed; God hath not yet taken up the drawbridge of mercy. Though the gate of Paradise is strait, yet it is not shut. This should be as oil to the wheels, to make us lively and active in the business of salvation. -- Therefore as the husbandman plows in hope, James v. so we should pray in hope; do all our work for heaven in hope; for the white flag of mercy is yet held forth. So long as there was corn to be had in Egypt, the sons of Jacob would not sit starving at home, Gen. xliii. 3. So there is a kingdom to be obtained; therefore let us not sit starving in our sins any longer.
This violence for Heaven is the grand business of our lives: What did we come into the world for else? We did not come here only to eat and drink, and wear fine clothes; but the end of our living is, to be violent for the kingdom of glory. Should the body only be tended, this were be to trim the scabbard, and let the blade rust; to preserve the lumber, and let the child be burnt. God sends us into the world as a merchant sends his goods to trade for him beyond the seas. -- So God sends us here to follow a spiritual trade, to serve him and save our souls. If we spend all our time aut aliud agendo, aut nihil, in dressing and pampering our bodies, or idle visits, we shall give but a sad account to God, when he shall send us a letter of summons by death and bid us give an account of our stewardship. Were not he much to be blamed who would have a great deal of timber given him to build a house if he only cut all this brave timber into chips? Just so is the case of many; God gives them precious time in which they are to provide for a kingdom, and they waste this time of life and cut it all into chips. Let this excite violence in the things of God. It is the main errand of our living here and shall we go through the world and forget our errand?
4. How violent are the wicked in ways of sin! Violent for their malicious lusts, Prov. i. 16. 'Their feet run to evil.' Violent for their unclean lusts. Amnon offered violence to his sister; he would have his lust, though it cost him his life. Sinners tire themselves out in the devil's drudgery, Jer. ix. 5. They 'weary themselves to commit iniquity.' They are out of breath with sin, yet not out of love with sin, Jer. l. 33. 'They are mad upon their idols.' So violent were the Jews, that they would spare no cost in their idolatrous worship, Isaiah xlvi. 6. 'They lavish gold out of the bag.' So fiercely were they bent upon idolatry, that they would sacrifice their sons and daughters to their idol gods, Jer. xxxii. 35. 'They built the high places of Baal to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire.' Were men were thus violent for their lusts and idols; shall not we be violent for a kingdom? Nay, you that are now ingrafted into Christ, how violent perhaps have some of you formerly been in evil? How did you once spend yourselves in a sinful way! -- Perhaps even like Paul, who before his conversion breathed out 'threatenings and slaughÂter against the disciples of the Lord,' Acts ix. 1. Perhaps you have been violent in drawing others to sin, you have been tempters to them; and perhaps some of them whom you have seduced to sin, are now crying because of you in hell, and saying They had never come there if it had not been for your example: Should not the consideration of this humble you? Should not this make you the more violent in religion, that you may bring some glory to God before you die? Should you not be as industrious to save souls, as you have been to damn them? Were you to live to the age of Methuselah, you could never do God sufficient service for the dishonor you have done to him.
5. This holy violence hath much delight mingled with it, Prov iii. 17. 'All her ways are pleasantness' Though the way of religion hath thorns in it, (in respect to persecution) yet it is full of roses, in respect to that inward peace and contentment that the soul finds in it. A man is violent at his recreation; but there is an inward delight he takes in it which sweetens that violence. St. Paul made religion his recreation. Rom vii. 22. 'I delight in the law of God after the inward man.' In the Greek, I take pleasure. Not only Heaven itself is delightful, but the way thither. What ravishing delight a gracious soul has in prayer? Isaiah lvi. 7. 'I will make them joyful in the house of prayer.' -- What delight in holy contemplation! A Christian has such alapses of the Spirit, and meets with such transfigurations of soul, that he thinks himself half in heaven. Serving of God is like gathering spices, or flowers, wherein there is some labour, but the labour is recompensed with delight: -- The way of sin hath bitterness in it. The bears, while they lick honey, are stung with the bees. So while men are following their lusts, they have checks of conscience, which are a foretaste of hell. Better want the honey, than have this sting. But violence for heaven is spiced with such joy, that it is not labour, but pleasure.
6. This violence and activity of spirit in religion, puts a lustre upon a christian. -- The more excellent anything is, the more active it is. The sun is a glorious creature, as a giant 'it runs its race,' Psalm xix. 5. -- Fire, the noblest element, sparkles vigorously. The angels are described with wings, Isaiah vi. 2. which is an emblem of their swift obedience. The more violent we are in religion, the more angelical we are.
7. How violent Christ was about our salvation! He was in agony; he 'continued all night in prayer,' Luke vi. 2. He wept, he fasted, he died a violent death; he rose violently out of the grave. Was Christ so violent for our salvation, and doth it not become us to be violent, who are so intimately concerned in it? Christ's violence was not only satisfactory, but exemplary. It was not only to appease God, but to teach us. -- Christ was violent in dying, to teach us to be violent in believing.
8. This holy violence brings rest. Motion tends to rest, Heb. iv. 9. 'There remaineth a rest to the people of God.' Indeed, there is a motion which doth not tend to rest; they who are violent in a way of sin shall never have rest, Rev. iv. 8. 'They rest not day and night.' Such as are graceless, shall be restless. But the violence a Christian takes, leads to rest. As the weary traveller sits down at night and rests him, Psalm cxvi. 7. 'Return to thy rest, O my soul.' Holy violence is like the flying of Noah's dove to the ark where it found rest.
9. If we use what violence we are able, God will help us. Phil. ii. 12. 'It is God who worketh in you both to will and to do.' The Spirit helps us in prayer and so proportionately in all other duties of religion. Rom. viii. 26. The promise encourageth, and the Spirit enableth. In all earthly races a man runs in his own strength; but in the race to Heaven we have the Spirit of God helping us; he not only gives us the crown, when we have finished running, but he gives us legs to run; he gives us quickening and assisting grace; the Spirit of God helping us makes our work easy. If another helps us to carry a burden, it is less difficult. If the loadstone draw the iron, it is not hard for the iron to move. If the Spirit of God, as a divine loadstone, draws and moves the heart in obedience, then the work goes on with more facility.
10. This blessed violence in religion, would be preventive of much sin. While men are idle in the vineyard, they are a prey to every temptation. We do not sow our seed in fallow ground; but Satan doth sow most of his seed of temptation in hearts that lie fallow. When he sees persons unemployed, he will find work for them to do; he will stir them up to one sin or other. Matt xiii. 25. While men slept, the enemy sowed tares.' When Satan finds men in a drowsy condition, their sleeping time is his tempting time; but by holy violence we prevent the Devil's design; we are so busy with salvation that we have no leisure to listen to temptation. Jerome advised his friend to be always well employed, that when Satan came with a temptation he might find him working in the vineyard. When the bird is flying, it is safe; when it sits still on the bough, it is in danger of being shot. When a christian sits still and is inactive, then the Devil shoots him with his 'fiery darts.'
11. Consider the folly of such as are violent for the world, but not for the kingdom above. Alas, how insipid are all these things that we lay out our sweat for and our violence upon, they will not make us happy. King Solomon did as it were put all the creatures into a limebec, stilled out the quintessence of them and said, 'behold, all is vanity,' Eccles. ii. 8.
1. These earthly things that we so toil for, are 'uncertain,' 1 Tim. vi. 17. 'Tis uncertain whether we shall get them. All that are suitors to a virgin do not succeed. -- All that come to a lottery have not win a prize.
2. They are unsatisfactory. Could men heap up silver as dust; had they as much as the Devil promised Christ, 'All the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;' yet they can no more fill the heart, than a drop of water can fill a cistern. Eccles. v. 16. 'What profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind?'
3. They are transient; death feeds at the root. All worldly possessions are like a castle of snow in the sun; or like a posy of flowers, which withers while we are smelling them. Oh, folly is it to put forth all one's violence for the world, which is but 'for a season,' and not for Christ and grace. As if a condemned man being earnest to get his dinner, but not concerned with getting his pardon.
12. The next motive is in the text; this violence is for a kingdom. The kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence. And what will we be violent for, if not for a kingdom? -- Men will wade to a kingdom through blood: this is a kingdom worth striving for. Cyprus is an island so exceedingly fertile and pleasant, that it was anciently called Macaria, which signifies blessed. This title of blessed may more fitly be given to the heavenly kingdom. If the mountains were gold; if every sand of the sea were a diamond; if the whole globe were a shining cryolite; it would all still be infinitely beneath the glory of this kingdom.
1. The immunities of the heavenly kingdom are great.
1. There shall be freedom from sin; here sin keeps house with us; it is as natural to us to sin as to breathe. The soul that is most refined, and clarified by grace, is not without some dregs of corruption. St. Paul cried out of a 'body of sin.' He who is inoculated into Christ still has a taste and relish of the wild olive. But when we ascend to the heavenly kingdom, this mantle of sin shall drop off. That kingdom is so pure, that it will not mix with any corruption, Rev. xxi. 27. A sinful thought shall not creep in there. There is beauty which is not stained with lust, and honor which is not swelled with pride.
2. In that blessed kingdom there shall be freedom from the assaults of the red dragon. Tis sad to have Satan daily soliciting us by his temptations, and labouring to trepan us into sin. Temptation is the Devil's powder 'plot to blow up the fort-royal of our grace; but this is the blessed freedom of the heavenly kingdom, it is not capable of temptation. The old serpent is cast out of Paradise.
3. In that blessed kingdom there shall be freedom from divisions. In this world God's own tribes go to war. Ephraim envies Judah, and Judah vexeth Ephraim. The soldier's spear pierced Christ's side, but the divisions of saints pierce his heart. Christ prayed that all his people might be one, as fie and his Father are one, Jo. 17:21. -- But how do Christians by their discords and animosities go about with all their power to frustrate Christ's prayer! But in the kingdom of Heaven there is perfect love, which as it casts out fear, so it casts out strife. Those Christians that could not live quietly together here, in that kingdom shall be united. There Calvin and Luther are agreed. In that celestial kingdom there shall be no vilifying or slandering one another, no raking into those sores which Christ died to heal. Christians who could not pray together, shall sing together in that glorious choir: there shall not be one jarring string in the saints' music.
4. In that heavenly kingdom there shall be freedom from all molestations. Our lives now are interlined with troubles. Psa. xxxi. 10. 'My life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing.' There are many things to occasion disquiet; sometimes poverty afflicts; sometimes sickness tortures; sometimes unkindness of friends breaks the heart. Our lives, like the Irish seas, are full of tempests, but in the kingdom of Heaven is nothing to administer grief; there, all is serene and calm; nothing within to humble, or without to molest.
2. The royalties and excellencies of that kingdom are great. We may say of Heaven, as it was said of Laish, Judges xviii. 9,10. 'We have seen the land, and, behold, it is very good; a place where there is no want of any thing'
The heavenly kingdom abounds with riches, Rev. xxi. 27. 'The twelve gates were twelve pearls.' Earthly kingdoms are fain to traffic abroad for gold and spices. In the kingdom of God all rarities are to be had, all commodities are of its own growth, therefore figured by the tree of life bearing several sorts of fruit, Rev. xxii. 2. How rich is that place where the blessed Deity shines forth in its immense glory infinitely beyond the comprehension of angels!
2. The delights of the heavenly kingdom are unmixed. The comforts here below are checkered. Honor may be stained with disgrace; joy interwoven with sorrow. Our stars are mixed with clouds; but the delicacies of heaven are pure as well as pleasant. There is honey that has not one drop of gall. The crystal spring of joy has no settlings of sorrow at the bottom. The rose in that paradise is without prickles; the sun in that horizon is without eclipse.
3. This kingdom above is durable. Suppose earthly kingdoms to be more glorious than they are, their foundations of gold, their walls of pearl, their windows of sapphire are still corruptible, Hos. i. 1. 'I will cause the kingdom to cease.' Troy and Athens now lie buried in their own ruins. But the kingdom of glory, as it is made without hands: so it is without end. It is 'the everlasting kingdom,' 2 Pet. i. 11. Now, methinks, that if we ever will use violence, it should be for this kingdom; this kingdom will make amends for all our labor and pains. Caesar, marching towards Rome, and hearing that all the people were fled from it, said, they will not fight for this city, what city will they fight for? So if we will not put forth violence for this Kingdom of Heaven, what will we be violent for? I say to all, as the children of Dan in another sense, Judges xviii. 9. 'We have seen the land, and behold, it is very good; and are ye still? Be not slothful to go, and to enter to possess the land.'
13. The more violence we have used for Heaven, the sweeter Heaven will be when we come there. As when a man hath been grafting trees, or setting flowers in his garden, it is pleasant to review and look over his labors: so in Heaven, when we shall remember our former zeal and activity for the kingdom, it will indulcorate Heaven, and add to the joy of it. For a Christian to think, such a day I spent in examining my heart; such a day I was weeping for sin; when others were at their sport, I was at my prayers: and now, have I lost anything by this violence? My tears are wiped away, and the wine of paradise cheers my heart. I now enjoy him whom my soul loves; I now have the crown and white robes I so longed for. O how pleasant will it be to think, this is the Heaven my Savior bled for, and I sweat for.