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Holy Violence

Written by: Spurgeon, C.H.    Posted on: 04/03/2003

Category: Sermons

Source: CCN

                                                            Holy Violence

                                                      A Sermon                                                           (No. 252)

                            Delivered on Sabbath Morning, May 15th, 1859, by the                                               REV. C.H. SPURGEON                                     at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.



              "From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent               take it by force,"Matthew 11:12.

          WHEN JOHN THE BAPTIST preached in the wilderness of Judea, the throng of people who pressed           around him became extremely violent to get near enough to hear his voice. Often when our Saviour           preached did the like scene occur. We find that the multitudes were immense beyond all precedent. He           seemed to drain every city, every town, and every village, as he went along preaching the word of the           gospel. These people, moreover, not like our common church-and-chapel-goers,content to hear, if they could,           and yet more content to keep without hearing, if it were possible,were extremely earnest to get near enough to           hear anyhow. So intense was their desire to hear the Saviour that they pressed upon him, insomuch that they trod           one upon another. The crowd became so violent to approach his person, that some of the weaker ones were cast           down and trodden upon. Now, our Saviour, when he witnessed all this struggling round about to get near him,           said, "This is just a picture of what is done spiritually by those who will be saved. As you press and throng about           me," said Christ, "and thrust one another, with arm and elbow, to get within reach of my voice, even so must it be           if ye would be saved, 'For the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.'" He pictured           to himself a crowd of souls desiring to get to the living Saviour. He saw them press, and crowd, and throng, and           thrust, and tread on one another, in their anxious desire to get at him. He warned his hearers, that unless they had           this earnestness in their souls, they would never reach him savingly; but if they had it, they should certainly be           saved. "From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent           take it by force."               "But," says one, "do you wish us to understand, that if a man is to be saved he must use violence and           vehement earnestness in order to obtain salvation?" I do, most assuredly; that is the doctrine of the text. "But,"           says one, "I thought it was all the work of God." So it is, from first to last. But when God has begun the work in           the soul, the constant effect of God's work in us is to set us working; and where God's Spirit is really striving with           us, we shall begin to strive too. This is just a test whereby we may distinguish the men who have received the           Spirit of God, from those who have not received it. Those who have received the Spirit in verity and truth are           violent men. They have a violent anxiety to be saved, and they violently strive that they may enter in at the strait           gate. Well they know that seeking to enter in is not enough, for many shall seek to enter in but shall not be able,           and therefore do they strive with might and main.               I shall this morning, first, direct your attention to these violent men. Look at them. Secondly, we shall show           their conduct. What makes them so violent? Are they justified in this impetuous vehemence? We shall next rejoice           in the fact, that they are sure to be successful in their violence. And then, I shall endeavour to arouse in your           hearts, by the help of God's Holy Spirit, that holy violence, without which the gates of heaven will be shut in your           teeth, and you will never be able to enter the pearly portals of Paradise.               1. First then, LET US LOOK AT THESE VIOLENT MEN. Understand that what they are, they have been           made by divine grace. They are not so naturally of themselves. But there has been a secret work of grace in them,           and then they have become violent men. Look at these violent men, who are violently in earnest to be saved. You           will observe them when they come up to the house of God; there is no yawning with them, no listlessness or           inattention, no imagination that if they do but sit in the place the hour-and-a-half which is regularly allotted to           divine worship, they will have done enough. No; they hear with both their ears, and they look with both their eyes,           and all through the service they have an intense desire that they may find Christ. Meet them as they go up to the           house of prayer, and ask them why they are going there. They know right well what they are going after. "I am           going there to find mercy, and to find peace and rest to my soul; for I am in anguish about sin, and I want to find           the Saviour; I am in hopes that being in the way the Lord will meet with me, so I am about to lay myself down by           the side of the pool of Bethesda, in the hope that the Holy Spirit will stir the pool and enable me to step in." You           do not find these people like the most of modern hearers, critical, or else careless. No; they are all awake to see           whether there is not something to be had which may be a balm to their wearied spirits, and a cordial to their           troubled breasts. Mark these violent people after they have gone home. They go to their chambers and they begin           to pray; not that prayer between sleeping and waking that some of you are used to attend to, not that drowsy           supplication which never gets beyond the ceiling of your bedroom; but they fall on their knees and with a holy           anxiety they begin to cry, "Lord, save or I perish; O Lord save me; I am ready to perish, Lord; I beseech thee,           stretch out thine hand and rescue my poor soul from that destruction which now haunts my spirit." And see them           after they have prayed, how they turn over the Word of God. They do not read its chapters as if the mere looking           at the letters was enough, but they read just as Watts says in his hymn,

                                              "Yet save a trembling sinner, Lord,                                           Whose hope, still hovering round thy word                                           Would light on some sweet promise there,                                               Some sure support against despair."

          And down they are on their knees again. "O Lord speak to my soul through thy word! Lord help me to lay hold on           the promise, enable me to grasp it! Oh, let not my soul perish for lack of thy help and thy grace." And then see           these violent men whom God has really made in earnest about being saved. You will not find them leaving their           devotions in their closets, or in their house of prayer. Wherever they go there is a solemn earnestness upon them,           which the world cannot understand. They are seeking after Jesus, and rest they neither will nor can until they find           him. Their nights are disturbed with dreams, and their days are made sad with their pantings after the           blessingwithout which they cannot live, and without which they dare not die.               My hearer, have you ever been one of these violent men, or are you so now? Blessed be God if this holy           violence is in your spirit: you shall take heaven by force yet; you shall take it by storm, and carry the gates of           heaven by the battery of your prayers. Only persevere with importunity; still plead, still wrestle, still continue to           strive, and you must at length prevail. But ah! my hearer, if thou hast never had a strong unconquerable anxiety           about thy soul, thou art as yet a stranger to the things of God. Thou dost not understand that violence victorious           without which the gates of heaven never can be stormed. Some of us can look back to the time when we were           seeking Christ. I could myself awake of a morning easily then. The first ray of light that came into my chamber           would awaken me to take up Baxter's Call to the Unconverted that lay under my pillow. I believed I had not           repented enough, and I began to read that. Oh! how I hoped that would break my heart. And then I would get           Doddridge's Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul, and Allen's Alarm, and read them. But, still, I think I           might have read them to this day, and not been a whit the better, if I had not something better than alarm, in           remembering that Christ came into the world to save every sinner who was willing to cast himself upon his blood           and righteousness, and take him at his word, and trust God. Have ye not seen manyand are there not many           among usmen who have said, "I must have mercy, I must have it: it is not a thing which I may have, or may not           have; but I am a lost soul if I have it not?" And when they have gone to pray they have seemed like Samsons;           they have got hold of the two posts of heaven's gate of mercy, and they have pulled as if they would pull them up           by their eternal roots sooner than not get the blessing. They have hammered at the gates of heaven until it seemed           as if they would split the golden bolts rather than be turned away. No man ever gets peace until he gets into such a           passion of earnestness to be saved, that he cannot find peace until Christ speaks pardon to his soul, and brings him           into life and liberty. "The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force."               But this violence does not end when a man finds Christ; it then begins to exercise itself in another way. The           man who is pardoned, and who knows it, then becomes violently in love with Christ. He does not love him just a           little, but he loves him with all his soul and all his might. He feels as if he could wish to die for Christ, and his heart           pants to be able to live alone with his Redeemer, and serve him without interruption. Mark such a man who is a           true Christian, mark his prayers, and you will see there is violence in all his supplications when he pleads for the           souls of men. Mark his outward actions, and they are violently sincere, violently earnest. Mark him when he           preaches: there is no dull droning out of a monotonous discourse, he speaks like a man who means what he says,           and who must speak it, or else woe would be unto him if he preached not the gospel. As I look around on many of           the churches, yea, on many members of my own church, I am apt to fear that they are not God's children at all,           because they have nothing of this holy violence. Have ye ever read Coleridge's Ancient Mariner? I dare say you           have thought it one of the strongest imaginations ever put together, especially that part where the old mariner           represents the corpses of all the dead men rising up,all of them dead, yet rising up to manage the ship; dead men           pulling the ropes, dead men steering, dead men spreading the sails. I thought what a strange idea that was. But do           you know I have lived to see that true: I have seen it done. I have gone into churches and I have seen a dead man           in the pulpit, and a dead man as a deacon, and a dead man holding the plate at the door, and dead men sitting to           hear. You say "Strange!" but I have. I have gone into societies, and I have seen it all going on so regularly. These           dead men, you know, never overstep the bounds of prudence,not they: they have not life enough to do that.           They always pull the rope orderly, "as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end,           Amen." And the dead man in the pulpit, is he not most regular and precise? He systematically draws his           handkerchief from his pocket, and uses it just at the regular period, in the middle of the sermon. He would not           think of violating a single rubric that has been laid down by his old-fashioned church. Well, I have seen these           churchesI know where to point them outand have seen dead men doing everything. "No," says one, "you           can't mean it?" Yes, I do, the men were spiritually dead. I have seen the minister preaching, without a particle of           life, a sermon, which is only fresh in the sense in which a fish is fresh when it has been packed in ice. I have seen           the people sit, and they have listened as if they had been a group of statuesthe chiseled marble would have been           as much affected by the sermon as they I have seen the deacons go about their business just as orderly, and with           as much precision as if they had been mere automatons, and not men with hearts and souls at all. Do you think           God will ever bless a church that is like that? Are we ever to take the kingdom of heaven with a troop of dead           men? Never! We want living ministers, living hearers, living deacons, living elders, and until we have such men           who have got the very fire of life burnings in their souls, who have got tongues of life, and eyes of life, and souls           of life, we shall never see the kingdom of heaven taken by storm. "For the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence,           and the violent take it by force."               Frequently complaints are made and surprise expressed by individuals who have never found a blessing rest           upon anything they have attempted to do in the service of God. "I have been a Sunday-school teacher for years,"           says one, "and I have never seen any of my girls or boys converted." No, and the reason most likely is, you have           never been violent about it; you have never been compelled by the Divine Spirit to make up your mind that           converted they should be, and no stone should be left unturned until they were. You have never been brought by           the Spirit to such a passion, that you have said, "I cannot live unless God bless me; I cannot exist unless I see           some of these children saved." Then, falling on your knees in agony of prayer, and putting forth afterwards your           trust with the same intensity towards heaven, you would never have been disappointed, "for the violent take it by           force." And you too, my brother in the gospel, you have marvelled and wondered why you have not seen souls           regenerated. Did you ever expect it? Why, you preach like one who does not believe what he is saying. Those           who believe in Christ, may say of you with kind partiality, "Our minister is a dear good man;" but the careless           young men that attend your ministry, say, "Does that man expect to make me believe that which he only utters as           a dry story, and to convince me when I see him go through the service with all the dulness and monotony of dead           routine?" Oh, my brethren, what we want today in the churches is violence, not violence against each other, but           violence against death, and hell, against the hardness of other men's hearts, and against the sleepiness of our own.           In Martin Luther's time, truly the kingdom of heaven suffered violence. The whole religious world was wide           awake. Now, I fear for the most part it is sound asleep. Go where you may, our churches have come to be           old-established businesses. They do not care to extend themselves. We must have new blood, nay, we must have           new fire from heaven to fall upon the sacrifice, or else, like Baal's priests, we may cut and hack our bodies, and           distract our minds in vain; there will be "no voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regardeth." The sacrifice shall           lay unburnt upon the altar, and the world will say our God is not the living God, or surely we are not his people,           "And thou shalt grope at noon-day, as the blind gropeth in darkness, and thou shalt not prosper in thy ways: and           thou shalt be only oppressed and spoiled evermore, and no man shall save thee." Violent men, then, are those that           take the kingdom of heaven by force.               II. NOW, BRING THESE VIOLENT MEN FORWARD, AND LET US ASK THEM WHAT THEY ARE           ABOUT. When a man is very earnest, he ought to be ready to give a reason for his earnestness. "How now, sirs,           what is all this strife about? why all this earnestness? You seem to be boiling over with enthusiasm. What is up? Is           there anything that is worth making such a stir about?" Hear them, and they will soon convince you that all their           enthusiasm and striving to enter the kingdom of heaven by force, is not a whit more strong than reasonable.               The first reason why poor sinners take the kingdom of heaven by force is, because they feel they have no           natural right to it; and, therefore, they must need take it by force it they would get it at all. When a man belongs to           the House of Lords, and knows that he has got a seat there by prescriptive right and title, he does not trouble           himself at the time of the elections. But there is another man, who says, "Well, I should like a seat in the House of           Commons, but I have no absolute right to it. If I get it, it will be by a desperate struggle." Do you not see how           busy he is on the day! how the carriages fly about everywhere; and how earnest are his supporters that he may           stand at the head of the poll and win the day! He says, "I have no absolute right to it; if I had, then I would just           take it easy and walk into my seat at the proper time." But now he labors, and strives, and wrestles, because           without so doing he does not expect to succeed. Now, look at those who are saved; they have no right to the           inheritance they are seeking. What are they? Sinners, the chief of sinners; in their own esteem the vilest of the vile.           Now, if they would get heaven they must take it by force, for they have no right to it by birth or lineal entail. And           what are they else? They are the poor ones of this earth. There stands the rabbi at the gate, and he says, "You           can't come in here; this is no place for the poor to enter." "But," says he. "I will;" and pushing the rabbi aside, he           takes it by force. Then, again, they were Gentiles too; and Jews stood at the gate, and said, "Stand back, you           Gentile dogs, you cannot come in." Now, if such would be saved, they must take the kingdom of heaven by           storm, for they have no rights to assert. Ah, my fellow men, if ye sit down and fold your arms, and say, "I am so           good I have a right to heaven,"how deceived you will be. But if God has convinced you of your lost, ruined,           and undone condition, and if he has put his quickening Spirit within you, you will use a bold and desperate           violence to force your way into the kingdom of heaven. The Spirit of God will not lead you to be obsequious in           the presence of foes, or faint-hearted in the overwhelming crisis; he will drive you to desperate labour that you           may be saved.               Ask one such man, again, why is he so violent in prayer; he replies, "Ah, I know the value of the mercy I           receive. Why, I am asking for pardon, for heaven, for eternal life, and am I to get these with a few yawns and           sleepy prayers? I am asking that I may wear the white robe, and sing the never-ending song of praise; and do you           think that a few poor supplications are to be enough? No, my God; if thou wouldst make me tarry a hundred           years, and sigh, and groan, and cry through that long century;yes, if I might but have heaven at last, all my           prayers would have been well-spent; nay, had they been a thousand times as many, they were well rewarded if           thou wouldst hear me at last. But," says he again, "if you want to know why I am so earnest, let me tell you it is           because I cannot bear to he lost for ever." Hear the earnest sinner when he speaks. You say to him "Why so           earnest?" The tear is in his eye, the flush is on his cheek, there is emotion in every feature, while he says, "Would           to God I could be far more earnest; do you know I am a lost soul, perhaps before another hour is over I may be           shut up in the hopeless fires of hell! Oh, God, have mercy on me, for if thou dost not, how terrible is my fate. I           shall be lostlost for ever!               Once let a man know that hell is beneath his feet, and if that does not make him earnest, what would? No           wonder that his prayers are importunate, that his endeavours are intensely earnest, when he knows that he must           escape, or else the devouring fire will lay hold on him. Suppose now, you had been a Jew in the olden time, and           one day while taking a walk in the fields you had seen a man running with all his might. "Stop!" you say, "stop!           my dear friend, you will exhaust yourself." He goes on, and on, with all his might. You run after him. "Pause           awhile," you say, "and rest; the grass is soft, sit down here, and take your ease. See, here I have some food and a           bottle; stop and refresh yourself." But without saluting you, he says, "No, I must away, away, away." "Why?           wherefore?" you say. He is gone so far ahead, you run after him with all your might; and scarcely able to turn his           head, he exclaims, "The city of refuge! the city of refuge! the manslayer is behind me." Now, it is all accounted           for; you do not wonder that he runs with all his might now. When the manslayer is after him, you can well           understand that he would never pause for rest until he has found the city of refuge. So let a man know that the           devil is behind him, that the avenging law of God is pursuing him, and who can make him stop? Who shall           endeavor to make him stay his race until he enters Christ, the city of refuge, and finds himself secure? This will           make a man earnest indeedto dread "the wrath to come," and to be labouring to escape therefrom.               Another reason why every man who would be safe must be in earnest, and be violent, is this, there are so           many adversaries to oppose us, that if we are not violent we shall never be able to overcome them. Do you           remember that beautiful parable in John Bunyan's Pilgrim? "I saw also, that the Interpreter took him by the hand,           and led him into a pleasant place, where was built a stately palace, beautiful to behold; at the sight of which           Christian was greatly delighted. He saw also upon the top thereof certain persons walking, who were clothed all in           gold. Then said Christian, 'May we go in thither?' Then the Interpreter took him and led him up toward the door           of the palace; and behold, at the door stood a great company of men, as desirous to go in, but durst not. There           also sat a man at a little distance from the door, at a table-side, with a book and his ink-horn before him, to take           the name of him that should enter therein; he saw also that in the doorway stood many men in armour to keep it,           being resolved to do to the men that would enter what hurt and mischief they could. Now was Christian somewhat           in amaze. At last, when every man started back for fear of the armed men, Christian saw a man of a very stout           countenance come up to the man that sat there to write, saying, Set down my name, sir;' the which when he had           done, he saw the man draw his sword, and put a helmet upon his head, and rush toward the door upon the armed           men, who laid upon him with deadly force; but the man, not at all discouraged, fell to cutting and hacking most           fiercely. So after he had received and given many wounds to those that attempted to keep him out, (Matt. xi. 12.           Acts xiv. 22.) he cut his way through them all, and pressed forward into the palace; at which there was a pleasant           voice heard from those that were within, even of those that walked upon the top of the palace, saying,

                                                    'Come in, come in,                                    

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