The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Holy violence

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From Charles Spurgeon’s sermon on ‘holy violence’, preached on 15 May, 1859, from Matthew 11.12 – “For the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.”

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.”

Written by Jeremy Walker

Tuesday 16 November 2010 at 18:33

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