May 12, 2009

Holy Violence, Part 1

I was thinking last week about an interesting verse out of Matthew. My friend did a little research and dug up an incredible Spurgeon sermon on the verse. It's incredibly long, so I'm going to be posting a 4 part series every day of this week, starting today. It will be well worth your reading. You should also note the comment on the previous Blog post as quite the answer to prayer. Thank you, Jesus.

Holy Violence

A Sermon Delivered on Sabbath Morning, May 15th, 1859,
by the
(At the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens - Kennington, London)

"From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers 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 blessing—without which they cannot live, and without which they dare not die.


Chris Donato said...

Amen. We are but cowards unable to even lift one finger in violence toward the kingdom if not for the grace of God in Christ.

Chad Johnson said...

Isn't that the truth, my friend? I was just reading this morning about Paul's sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11 and how much they humble any experience I've ever been through, regardless of how much I presumed to have been suffering.

Love and miss you buddy. cj

JRG said...

The Lord first lit up this verse to me through John Eldredge. It struck me, and I wasn't sure what to make of it. I've read it in numerous translations hoping to find some clarity, and really only muddied my understanding further.

When I realized that the Spurgeon sermon you chose to include was about this verse, my jaw dropped. I know the Lord led me to read it at this time. He has something for me. May He empower me to take my place in His Kingdom and in Heaven forcefully, violently.