And 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
What violence is meant here - it is a holy violence. This is twofold. 1. We must be violent for the truth. Here Pilate's question will be cited, "What is truth?" Truth is either the blessed Word of God which is called the Word of truth; or those doctrines which are deduced from the Word, and agree with it as the dial with the sun or the transcript with the original; as the doctrine of the Trinity, the doctrine of the creation, the doctrine of free grace, justification by the blood of Christ, regeneration, resurrection of the dead, and the life of glory. These truths we must be violent for, which is either by being advocates for them or martyrs.
Truth is the most glorious thing; the least filing of this gold is precious: what shall we be violent for, if not for truth? Truth is ancient; its grey hairs may make it venerable; it comes from him who is the ancient of days. Truth is unerring, it is the Star which leads to Christ. Truth is pure, Psalm cxix. 140. It is compared to silver refined seven times, Psalm xii. 6. There is not the least spot on truth's face; it breathes nothing but sanctity. Truth is triumphant; it is like a great conqueror; when all his enemies lie dead, it keeps the field and sets up its trophies of victory. Truth may be opposed but never quite deposed. In the time of Dioclesian things seemed desperate and truth ran low. Soon after was the golden time of Constantine, and then truth did again lift up its head. When the water in the Thames is lowest, a high tide is ready to come in. God is on truth's side and so long as there is no fear it will prevail: The heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, 2 Peter iii. 12. but not that truth which came from Heaven, 1 Peter. i. 25.
Truth has noble effects. Truth is the seed of the new birth. God does not regenerate us by miracles or revelations, but by the word of truth, James i. 18. As truth is the breeder of grace, so it is the feeder of it, 1 Tim. iv. 6. Truth sanctifies: John xvii. 17. Sanctify them through Thy truth. Truth is the seal that leaves the print of its own holiness upon us; it is both speculum and lavacrum, a glass to show us our blemishes and a laver to wash them away. Truth makes us free, John xviii. 32. it bears off the fetters of sin and puts us into a state of Sonship, Rom. viii.11, and Kingship, Rev. i. 6. Truth is comforting; this wine cheers. When David's harp and viol could yield him no comfort, truth did, Psalm cxix. 50. 'This is my comfort in my affliction, for thy word hath quickened me.' Truth is anantidote against error. Error is the adultery of the mind; it stains the soul, as treason stains blood. Error damns as well as does vice. A man may as well die by poison as by pistol; and what can stave off error but truth? The reason so many have been tricked into error is because they either did not know, or did not love, the truth. I can never say enough in the honor of truth. Truth is basis fidei,the ground of our faith; it gives us an exact model of religion; it shows us what we are to believe. Take away truth and our faith is fancy. --Truth is the best flower in the church's crown; we have not a richer jewel to trust God with than our souls, nor He a richer jewel to trust us with than His truths. Truth is insigne honoris, an ensign of honor; it distinguishes us from the false church, as chastity distinguisheth a virtuous woman from an harlot. In short, truth is ecclesiae praesidium, that is, the bulwark a nation: 2 Chron. xi. 17. it is said, the Levites (who were the antesignani, that is, the ensignbeaners of truth) strengthened the kingdom. Truth may be compared to the capitol of Rome, which was a place of the greatest strength; or the Tower of David, on which 'there hang a thousand shields,' Cant. iv. 4. Our forts and navies do not so much strengthen us as truth. Truth is the best militia of a kingdom; if once we part with truth and espouse popery, the lock is cut where our strength lies. What then should we be violent for, if not for truth? We are bid to contend as in an agony 'for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints,' Jude verse 3. If truth once be gone, we may write this epitaph on England's tomb-stone, Thy glory is departed.
2. This holy violence is also when we are violent for our own salvation, 2 Peter i. 10. 'Give diligence to make your calling and election sure' The Greek word signifies anxious carefulness, or a serious bearing of one's thoughts about the business of eternity, such a care as sets head and heart at work. In this channel of religion all a Christian's zeal should run.
3. The third thing is, what is implied in this holy violence? It implies three things:1. Resolution of will.
2. Vigor of affection.
3. Strength of endeavor.
1. Resolution of the will. Psalm cxix. 6. 'I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments.' Whatever is in the way to heaven, (though there be a lion in the way) I will encounter it like a resolute commander that charges through the whole body of the army. The Christian is resolved, come what will, he will have heaven. Where there is this resolution, danger must be despised, difficulties trampled upon, terrors contemned. This is the first thing in holy violence: resolution of will; I will have heaven whatever it costs me, and this resolution must be in the strength of Christ.
Resolution is like the bias to the bowl, which carries it strongly. Where there is but half a resolution, a will to be saved and a will to follow sin, it is impossible to be violent for Heaven. If a traveller be unresolved, sometimes he will ride this way, sometimes that; he is violent for neither.
2. Vigor of the affections. The will proceeds upon reason; the judgment being informed of the excellency of a state of glory and the will being resolved upon a voyage to that holy land, now the affections follow and they are on fire in passionate longings after heaven. The affections are violent things, Psalm xlii. 2. 'My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God.' The Rabbins note here, that David saith not, My soul hungereth, but thirsteth, because naturally we are more impatient with thirst than hunger. See in what a rapid, violent motion David's affections were carried after God. Affections are like the wings of the bird which make the soul swift in its flight after glory; where the affections are stirred up, there is offering violence to heaven.
3. This violence implies strength of endeavor, when we strive for salvation as though a matter of life and death. 'Tis easy to talk of Heaven, but not to get to Heaven; we must operam navare, put forth all our strength, and call in the help of heaven to this work. - Thomas Watson