May 13, 2009
Holy Violence, Pt. 2
Part two of the C.H. Spurgeon sermon on the passage out of Matthew 11:12 - "From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and violent men take it by force."
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 many—and are there not many among us—men 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 churches—I know where to point them out—and 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 statues—the 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.