The Lord's Prayer by Thomas Watson File 12 (... continued from file 11) How it will trouble you if you should perish to think you came short of heaven for want of a little more pains! The prophet Elisha bid the king of Israel smite the ground six times, and he smote but thrice, and stayed. 2 Kings 13:19. He lost many victories by it; so when a man shall think thus, I did something in religion, but did not do enough; I prayed, but it was coldly; I did not put coals to the incense; I heard the word, but did not meditate on it; I did not chew the cud; I smote but thrice, when I should have smote six times; had I taken a little more pains I had been happy, but I have lost the kingdom of heaven by short-shooting. The consideration, how terrible the thought will be of losing heaven for want of a little more pains, should be a means to spur on our sluggish hearts, and make us more diligent to get the kingdom. (3) The third means for obtaining this kingdom is to keep up daily prayer. 'I give myself unto prayer.' Psa 109: 4. Prayer inflames the affections, and oils the wheels of endeavour; it prevails with God, unlocks his bowels, and then he unlocks heaven. All that have got to heaven have crept thither upon their knees. The saints now in heaven have been men of prayer. Daniel prayed three times a day, Jacob wrestled with God in prayer, and as a prince, prevailed. Prayer must be fervent, else it is thuribulum sine prunis, as Luther says, a golden censer without fire. O follow God with prayers and tears; say as Jacob to the angel, 'I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.' Gen 32: 26. Prayer vincit Invincibilem; as Luther says, it conquers the Omnipotent. Elijah by prayer opened heaven: by ardent and constant prayer heaven is opened to us. (4) If you would obtain the heavenly kingdom, get a love to heaven. Love puts a man upon the use of all means to enjoy the thing loved. He who loves the world, how active is he! He will break his sleep and peace for it. He that loves honour, what hazards will he run! He will swim to the throne in blood. Jacob loved Rachel, and what would he not do, though it were serving two seven-years' apprenticeships for obtaining her! Love carries a man out violently to the object loved. Love like wings to the bird, like sails to the ship, carries a Christian full sail to heaven. Heaven is a place of rest and joy, it is paradise, and will you not love it? Love heaven, and you cannot miss it. Love breaks through all opposition; it takes heaven by storm. Though it labour, it is never weary. It is like the rod of myrtle in the traveller's hand, which makes him fresh and lively in his travel, and keeps him from being weary. (5) If you would obtain the kingdom of heaven, make religion your business. What a man looks upon as a parergon, a thing by the by, he does not much mind. If ever we would have heaven, we must look upon it as our main concern; other things do but concern our livelihood, this concerns our salvation. We make religion our business when we wholly devote ourselves to God's service. Psa 139: 18. We count those the best hours which are spent with God; we give God the cream of our affections, the flower of our time and strength; we traffic in heaven every day, we are merchants for the 'pearl of price.' He will not get an estate who does not mind his trade; he will never get heaven who does not make religion his main business. (6) If you would obtain the kingdom of heaven, bind your hearts to God by sacred vows. Vow to the Lord that, by his grace, you will be more intent upon heaven than ever. 'Thy vows are upon me, O God.' Psa 56: 12. A vow binds the votary to duty; he looks upon himself as obliged by his vow to cleave to God. When bees fly in a great wind, they ballast themselves with little stones, that they may not be carried away; so we must fortify ourselves with strong vows, that we may not be carried away from God with the violent wind of temptation. No question, a Christian may make such a vow, because the ground of it is morally good, he vows nothing but what he is bound to do by virtue of his baptismal vow, namely, to walk with God more closely, and to pursue heaven more vigorously. (7) If you would obtain the kingdom, embrace all seasons and opportunities for your soul's welfare. 'Redeeming the time.' Eph 5: 16. Opportunity is the cream of time; improving seasons of grace is as much as our salvation is worth. The mariner, by taking the present season while the wind blows, gets to the haven; by taking the season, while we have the means of grace, and the wind of the Spirit blows, we may arrive at the kingdom of heaven. We know not how long we shall enjoy the gospel. The seasons of grace, like Noah's dove, come with an olive branch in their mouth, but they soon take wings and fly. Though they are sweet, yet they are swift. God may remove the golden candlestick from us, as he did from the churches of Asia. We have many sad symptoms, 'Grey hairs are here and there upon him.' Hos 7: 9. Therefore let us lay hold upon the present seasons. They that sleep in seedtime, will beg in harvest. (8) If you would go to the kingdom of heaven, you must excubias agere, keep a daily watch. 'I say unto all, watch.' Mark 13: 37. Many have lost heaven for want of watchfulness. Our hearts are ready to decoy us into sin, and the devil lies in ambush by his temptations; we must every day set a spy, and keep sentinel in our souls. 'I will stand upon my watch.' Hab 2: 1. We must watch our eye. 'I made a covenant with mine eyes.' Job 31: 1. Much sin comes in by the eye. When Eve saw the tree was good for food, and pleasant to the eyes, then she took. Gen 3: 6. First she looked, and then she lusted; the eye, by beholding an impure object, sets the heart on fire; the devil often creeps in at the window of the eye. Watch your eyes. Watch your ear. Much poison is conveyed through the ear. Let your ear be open to God, and shut to sin. Watch your hearts. We watch suspicious persons. 'The heart is deceitful.' Jer 17: 9. Watch your heart,  When you are about holy things, it will be stealing out to vanity. When I am at prayer, says Jerome, aut per porticum deambulo aut de foenore computo; either I am walking through galleries or casting up accounts.  Watch your hearts when you are in company. The basilisk poisons the herbs he breathes on; so the breath of the wicked is infectious. Nay, watch your hearts when you are in good company. Such as have some good in them may be some grains too light, and have much levity of discourse; so that, if no scum boils up, yet there may be too much froth. The devil is subtle, and he can as well creep into the dove as he did once into the serpent. Satan tempted Christ by an apostle.  Watch your hearts in prosperity. Now you are in danger of pride. The higher the water of the Themes rises, the higher the boat is lifted up: the higher men's estates rise, the higher their hearts are lifted up in pride. In prosperity, you are in danger not only to forget God, but to lift up the heel against him. 'Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked.' Deut 32: 15. It is hard to carry a full cup without spilling, and to carry a full, prosperous estate without sinning. Turpi fregerunt saecula luxu divitiae molles [Soft riches have ruined the age by disgraceful luxury]. Seneca. As Samson fell asleep in Delilah's lap, so many have fallen so fast asleep in the lap of prosperity, that they have never awaked till they have been in hell.  Watch your hearts after holy duties. When Christ had been praying and fasting, the devil tempted him. Matt 4: 3. After combating with Satan in prayer, we are apt to grow secure and put our spiritual armour off, and then the devil falls on and wounds us. Oh, if you would get to heaven, be always upon your watch-tower, set a spy, keep close sentinel in your souls. Who would not watch when it is for a kingdom! (9) If you would arrive at the heavenly kingdom, get these three graces, which will undoubtedly bring your thither.  Divine knowledge. There is no going to heaven blindfold. In the creation, light was the first thing that was made; so it is in the new creation. Knowledge is the pillar of fire that goes before us, and lights us into the heavenly kingdom. It is light that must bring us to the 'inheritance in light.' Col 1: 12.  Faith. Faith ends in salvation. 'Receiving the end of your faith, salvation.' I Pet 1: 9. He who believes, is as sure to go to heaven as if he were in heaven already. Acts 16: 31. Faith touches Christ; and can he miss of heaven who touches Christ? Faith unites to Christ; and shall not the members be where the head is? All have not the same degree of faith; we must distinguish between the direct act of faith and the reflex act of affiance and assurance; yet the least seed and spark of faith gives an undoubted title to the heavenly kingdom. I am justified because I believe, not because I know I believe.  Love to God. Heaven is prepared for those that love God. I Cor 2: 9. Love is the soul of obedience, the touchstone of sincerity; by our loving God, we may know he loves us. I John 4: 19. And those whom God loves, he will lay in his bosom. Ambrose, in his funeral oration for Theodosius, brings in the angels hovering about his departing soul, and ready to carry it to heaven, who ask him, 'What that grace was he had practised most on earth?' Theodosius replied, Dilexi, Dilexi, 'I have loved, I have loved,' and straightway, by a convoy of angels, he was translated to glory. Love is a sacred fire kindled in the breast; in the flames of which the devout soul ascends to heaven. (10) If we would obtain this heavenly kingdom, let us labour for sincerity. 'Whoso walketh uprightly, shall be saved.' Prov 28: 18. The sincere Christian may fall short of some degrees of grace, but he never falls short of the kingdom. God will pass by many failings where the heart is right. Numb 23: 21. True gold, though it be light, has grains of alloy. 'Thou desires truth in the inward parts.' Psa 51: 6. Sincerity is the sauce which seasons all our actions, and makes them savoury; it is an ingredient in every grace; it is called 'unfeigned faith,' and 'love in sincerity.' 2 Tim 1: 5; Eph 6: 24. Coin will not go current that wants the king's stamp; and grace is not current if it be not stamped with sincerity. Glorious duties soured with hypocrisy are rejected, when great infirmities sweetened with sincerity are accepted. If any thing in the world will bring us to heaven, it is sincerity. Sincerity signifies plainness of heart. 'In whose spirit there is no guile,' Psa 32: 2. The plainer the diamond is, the richer. Sincerity is when we serve God with our heart; when we do not worship him only, but love him. Cain brought his sacrifice, but not his heart. God's delight is a sacrifice flaming upon the altar of the heart. A sincere Christian, though he has a double principle in him, flesh and spirit, has not a double heart, his heart is for God. Sincerity is when we aim purely at God in all we do. The glory of God is more worth than the salvation of all men's souls. Though a sincere Christian comes short in duty, he takes a right aim. As the herb, heliotropium, turns about according to the motion of the sun, so a godly man's actions all move towards the glory of God. (11) If we would obtain the heavenly kingdom, let us keep up fervency in duty. What is a dead form without the power? 'Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.' Rev 3: 16. Fervency puts life into duty. 'Fervent in spirit, serving God;' Gr. Zeontes, 'boiling over.' Rom 12: 11. Christ prayed 'more earnestly.' Luke 22: 44. When the fire on the golden censor was ready to go out, Aaron was to put more coals to the incense; so praying with devotion is putting more coals to the incense. It is not formality, but fervency, that will bring us to heaven. The formalist is like Ephraim, a cake not turned, hot on one side, and dough on the other. In the external] part of God's worship, he seems to be hot; but as for the spiritual part of God's worship, he is cold. Oh! if you would have the kingdom of heaven, keep up heart and fervour in duty. Elijah was carried up to heaven in a fiery chariot: if you would go to heaven, you must be carried thither in the fiery chariot of zeal. It is violence that takes the kingdom of heaven. (12) If we would arrive at the heavenly kingdom, let us cherish the motions of God's Spirit in our hearts. The mariner may spread his sails, but the ship cannot get to the haven without a gale of wind; so we may spread the sails of our endeavour, but we cannot get to the haven of glory without the north and south wind of God's Spirit. How nearly therefore does it concern us to make much of the motions of the Spirit - motions to prayer, motions to repentance. 'When thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees, then thou shalt bestir thyself, for then shall the Lord go out before thee.' 2 Sam 5: 24. So, when we hear a voice within us, a secret inspiration stirring us up to good duties, we should bestir ourselves. While the Spirit works in us, we should work with the Spirit. Many men have God's Spirit striving with them, he puts good motions in their hearts and holy purposes; but they neglect to prosecute these good motions, and the Spirit is grieved, and, being grieved, withdraws his assistance, and that assistance being gone, there is no getting to heaven. Oh! make much of the motion of the Spirit; it is as much as your salvation is worth. The Spirit of God is compared to fire. Acts 2: 3. If we are careful to blow the spark, we may have fire to inflame our affections, and to light our feet into the way of peace. If we quench the Spirit by neglecting and resisting its motions, we cut ourselves off from salvation. The Spirit of God has a drawing power. Cant 1: 4. The blessed Spirit draws by attraction, as the loadstone the iron. In the preaching of the word, the Spirit draws the heart up to heaven in holy longings and ejaculations. Now, when the Spirit is about thus to draw us, let us take heed of drawing back, lest it be to perdition. Heb 10: 39. Do as Noah, who, when the dove came flying to the ark, put forth his hand, and took it into the ark; so when the sweet dove of God's Spirit comes flying to your hearts, and brings a gracious impulse as an olive-branch of peace in its mouth, O take this dove into the ark; entertain the Spirit in your hearts, and it will bring you to heaven. How shall we know the motions of the Spirit from a delusion? The motions of the Spirit are always agreeable to the word. If the word be for holiness, so is the Spirit. The Spirit persuades to nothing but what the word directs. Which way the tide of the word runs, that way the wind of the Spirit blows. (13) We obtain the kingdom of heaven by uniform and cheerful obedience. Obedience is the road through which we travel to heaven. Many say they love God, but refuse to obey him. Does he love the prince's person who slights his commands? Obedience must be uniform. 'Then shall I not be ashamed' (Heb. I shall not blush) 'when I have respect unto all thy commandments.' Psa 119: 6. As the sun goes through all the signs of the zodiac, so we must go through all the duties of religion. If a man has to go a hundred miles, and he goes ninety nine, and there stops, he comes short of the place he is to travel to. If, with Herod, we do many things that God commands, yet, if we die in the total neglect of any duty, we come short of the kingdom of heaven. For instance, if a man seem to make conscience of duties of the first table, and not the duties of the second; if he seem to be religious, but is not just, he is a transgressor, and is in danger of losing heaven. As the needle which points the way which the loadstone draws, so a good heart moves the way which the word draws. Obedience must be cheerful. 'I delight to do thy will, O my God, yea, thy law is within my heart.' Psa 40: 8. That is the sweetest obedience which is cheerful, as that is the sweetest honey which drops from the comb freely. God sometimes accepts willingness without the work, but never of the work without willingness. 'There came out two women, and the wind was in their wings.' Zech 5: 9. Wings are swift, but wind in the wings denotes great swiftness; and is an emblem of the swiftness and cheerfulness which should be in obedience. We go to heaven in the way of obedience (14) If we would obtain this kingdom we must be much in the communion of saints. One coal of juniper will warm and inflame another; so, when the heart is dead and frozen, the communion of saints will help to warm it. 'They that feared the Lord spake often one to another.' Mal 3: 16. 'Christians should never meet,' says Mr Boston, 'without speaking of their meeting together in heaven.' One Christian may be very helpful by prayer and conference to another, and give him a lift towards heaven. Old Latimer was much strengthened and comforted by hearing Mr Bilney's confession of faith. We read that when Moses' hands were heavy, and he was ready to let them fall, Aaron and Hur stayed them up. Exod 17: 12. A Christian who is ready to faint under temptation, and lets down the hands of his faith, by conversing with other Christians is strengthened, and his hands are held up. A great benefit of holy conference is counsel and advice. 'If a man,' says Chrysostom, 'who has but one head to advise him, could make that head a hundred, he would be very wise; but a single Christian has this benefit by the communion of saints, that they are as so many heads to advise him what to do in such a case or exigency.' By Christian conference the saints can say, 'Did not our hearts burn within us?' Communion of saints we have in our creed, but it is too little in our practice. Men usually travel fastest in company; so we travel fastest to heaven in the communion of saints. (15) If we would attain to this kingdom of heaven, let us be willing to come up to Christ's terms. Many will cheapen, and bid something for the kingdom of heaven; they will avoid gross sin, and will come to church, and say their prayers; and yet all this while they are not willing to come up to God's price, that is, they will not resist the idol of self-righteousness, flying only to Christ as the horns of the altar; they will not sacrifice their bosom-sin; they will not give God spirit-worship, serving him with zeal and intenseness of soul. John 4: 24. They will not forgive their enemies; they will not part with their carnal profits for Christ; they would have the kingdom of heaven, but they will not come up to the price. If you would have this kingdom, do not article and bargain with Christ, but accept of his terms; say, 'Lord, I am willing to have the kingdom of heaven, whatever it cost me; I am willing to pluck out my right eye, to part with all for the kingdom; here is a blank paper I put into thy hand, Lord, write thy own articles, I will subscribe to them.' (16) If we would obtain the heavenly kingdom, let us attend to the holy ordinances, by which God brings souls to heaven. 'Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.' Acts 27: 31. Some people would leap out of the ship of ordinances, and then God knows whither they leap; but except ye abide in the ship of ordinances, ye cannot be saved. Especially, if you would get to heaven, attend to the word preached. It was by the ear, by our first parents listening to the serpent, that we lost paradise; and it is by the ear, by hearing of the word, that we get to heaven. 'Hear, and your soul shall live.' Isa 55: 3. God sometimes in the preaching of the word drops the holy oil into the ear, which softens and sanctifies the heart. The word preached is called the 'ministration of the Spirit,' because the Spirit of God makes use of the engine to convert souls. 2 Cor 3: 8. If the word preached does not work upon men, nothing will; not judgement, nor miracles; no, not though one should rise from the dead. Luke 16: 31. If a glorified saint should come out of heaven, and assume a body, and tell you of all the glory of heaven, and the joys of the blessed, and persuade you to believe; if the preaching of the word will not bring you to heaven, neither would his rhetoric do it who rose from the dead. In heaven there will be no need of ordinances, but while we live here there is. The lamp needs oil, but the star needs none. While the saints have their lamp of grace burning here, they need the oil of ordinances to be continually dropping upon them; but there will be no need of this oil when they are stars in heaven. If you intend to get to heaven, be swift to hear: for faith comes by hearing. Rom 10:14, 17. Peter let down the net of his ministry, and at one draught caught three thousand souls. If you would have heaven's door opened to you, wait at the posts of wisdom's door. (17) If you would arrive at heaven, have this kingdom ever in your eye. Our blessed Lord looked at the joy that was set before him; and Moses had an 'eye to the recompence of the reward.' Heb 11: 26. Let the kingdom be much in your thoughts; meditation is the means to help us to heaven. How does it help? As it is a means to prevent sin. No sword like this to cut asunder the sinews of temptation. It is almost impossible to sin presumptuously with lively thoughts and hopes of heaven. It was when Moses was out of sight that Israel set up a calf, and worshipped it; so when the kingdom of heaven is out of sight, out of men's thoughts, they set up their lusts and idolise them. The meditation of heaven banishes sin; he who thinks of the weight of glory, throws away the weight of sin. To meditate on the kingdom of heaven would excite and quicken obedience. We should think we could never pray enough, never love God enough, who has prepared such a kingdom for us. Immensum gloria calcar habet [Glory possesses an immeasurable stimulus]. Paul had heaven in his eye, he was once caught up thither; and how active was he for God! I Cor 16: 10. This oils the wheels of obedience. It would make us strive after holiness, because none but such are admitted into this kingdom; only the pure in heart shall see God. Matt 5: 8. Holiness is the language of heaven, it is the only coin that will pass current there. This consideration should make us 'cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.' 2 Cor 7: 1. (18) The last means for obtaining the heavenly kingdom is perseverance in holiness. 'Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.' Rev 2: 10. In Christians non initia set fines laudantur [it is not the beginning but the end which wins praise]. Jerome. Is there such a thing as persevering till we come to heaven? That any one holds out to the kingdom, is a wonder, if you consider, (1) What a world of corruption is mingled with grace. Grace is apt to be stifled, as the coal to be choked with its own ashes. Like a spark in the sea, it is a wonder it is not quenched. It is a wonder that sin does not overlay grace, as the nurse sometimes does the child, that it dies. (2) The implacable malice of Satan. He envies that we should have a kingdom, when he himself is cast out. It cuts him to the heart to see a piece of dust and clay made a bright star in glory, and he himself an angel of darkness. He will Acheronta movere, move all the powers of hell to hinder us from the kingdom; he spits his venom, shoots his fiery darts, raises a storm of persecution; yea, and prevails against some. 'There appeared a great red dragon, and his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth.' Rev 12: 3, 4. By the red dragon is meant the heathenish empire; now, when his tail cast so many to the earth, it is a wonder that any of the stars keep fixed in their orb. (3) The blandishments of riches. The young man in the gospel went very far, but he had rich possessions, and these golden weights hindered him from the kingdom. Luke 18: 23. Jonathan pursued the battle till he came at the honeycomb, and then he stood still. I Sam 14: 27. Many are forward for heaven, till they taste the sweetness of the world; but when they come at the honeycomb, they stand still, and go no further. Faenus pecuniae funus animae [The gain of money is the ruin of the soul]. Those who have escaped the rocks of gross sins, have been cast away upon the golden sands. What a wonder therefore that any holds on till he come to the kingdom! (4) It is a wonder that any hold out in grace, and do not tire in their march to heaven, if you consider the difficulty of the Christian's work. He has no time to lie fallow, he is either watching or fighting; nay, he is to do those duties which to the eye of sense and reason seem inconsistent. While he does one duty, he seems to cross another. He must come with holy boldness to God in prayer, yet must serve him with fear; he must mourn for sin, yet rejoice; he must be contented, yet covet (I Cor 12: 31); condemn men's impieties, and yet reverence their authority. What difficult work is this! It is a wonder that any saint arrives at the heavenly kingdom. To this I might add, the evil examples abroad, which are so attractive, that we may say the devils are come among us in the likeness of men. What a wonder is it that any soul perseveres till he come to the kingdom of heaven! But great as the wonder is, there is such a thing as perseverance. A saint's perseverance is built upon three immutable pillars. Upon God's eternal love. We are inconstant in our love to God; but he is not so in his love to us. 'I have loved thee with an everlasting love;' with a love of eternity. Jer 31: 3. God's love to the elect is not like a king's love to his favourite, which when it is at the highest spring-tide, soonest ebbs; but God's love is eternized. He may desert, not disinherit; he may change his love into a frown, not into hatred; he may alter his providence, not his decree. When once the sunshine of God's electing love is risen upon the soul, it never sets finally. A saint's perseverance is built upon the covenant of grace. It is a firm, impregnable covenant; as you read in the words of the sweet singer of Israel. 'God has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure.' 2 Sam 23: 5. It is a sweet covenant, that God will be our God; the marrow and quintessence of all blessing; and it is a sure covenant, that he will put his fear in our heart, and we shall never depart from him. Jer 32: 40. This covenant is inviolable, it cannot be broken; indeed, sin may break the peace of the covenant, but it cannot break the bond of the covenant. The third pillar upon which perseverance is built is the mystic union. Believers are incorporated into Christ, they are knit to him as members to the head, by the nerve and ligament of faith, so that they cannot be broken off. Eph 5: 23. What was once said of Christ's natural body is as true of his mystic body. 'A bone of him shall not be broken.' John 19: 36. As it is impossible to sever the leaven and the dough when they are once mingled, so it is impossible when Christ and believers are once united, ever by the power of death or hell to be separated. How can Christ lose any member of his body and be perfect? You see upon what strong pillars the saints' perseverance is built. How does a Christians hold on till he comes to the kingdom? How does he persevere? (1) Auxilio Spiritus [By the help of the Spirit]. God carries on a Christian to perseverance by the energy and vigorous working of his Spirit. The Spirit maintains the essence and seed of grace; it blows up the sparks of grace into a holy flame. Spiritus est Vicarius Christi [The Spirit is the Vicar of Christ]. Tertullian. It is Christ's deputy and proxy; it is every day at work in a believer's heart, exerting grace into exercise, and ripening it into perseverance. The Spirit carves and polishes the vessels of mercy, and makes them fit for glory. (2) Christ causes perseverance, and carries on a saint till he comes to the heavenly kingdom, vi orationis, by his intercession. He is an advocate as well as a surety; he prays that the saints may arrive safe at the kingdom. 'Wherefore he is able to save them to the uttermost (i.e. perfectly), seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.' Heb 7: 25. That prayer he made for Peter on earth, he prays now in heaven for the saints, that their faith fail not, and that they may be with him where he is. Luke 22: 32. John 17: 24. And surely if he pray that they may be with him in his kingdom, they cannot perish by the way. Christ's prayer is efficacious. If the saints' prayers have so much force and prevalence in them, as Jacob, who had power with God, and as a prince prevailed, and Elijah by prayer unlocked heaven; if the prayers of the saints have so much power with God, what has Christ's prayer? How can the children of such prayers miscarry? How can they fall short of the kingdom who have him praying for them, who is not only a Priest, but a Son? Besides, what he prays for as he is man, he has power to give as he is God. But methinks I hear some Christian say, if only perseverance obtains the kingdom, they fear they shall not come thither; they fear they shall faint by the way, and the weak legs of their grace will never carry them to the kingdom of heaven. Wert thou indeed to stand in thy own strength, thou mightest fall away. The branch withers and dies that has no root to grow upon. Thou growest upon the root Christ, who will be daily sending forth vital influence to strengthen thee; though thou art imbecile and weak in grace, yet fear not falling short of heaven: For, (1) God has made a promise to weak believers. What is a bruised reed but an emblem of a weak faith? yet it has a promise made to it. 'A bruised reed shall he not break.' Matt 12: 20. God has promised to supply the weak Christian with as much grace as he shall need, until he comes to heaven. Beside the two pence which the good Samaritan left to pay for the cure of the poor wounded man, he passed his word for all that he should need beside. Luke 10: 35. So, Christ does not only give a little grace in hand, but his bond for more, that he will give as much grace as a saint should need till he comes to heaven. 'The Lord will give grace and glory:' that is, a fresh supply of grace, till we be perfected in glory. Psa 84: 11: (2) God has most care of his weak saints, who fear they shall never hold out till they come to the kingdom. Does not the mother tend the weak child most? 'He shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom.' Isa 40: 11. If thou thinkest that thou art so weak that thou shalt never hold out till thou comest to heaven, thou shalt be carried in the arms of the Almighty. He gathers the lambs in his arms. Christ, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, marches before his people, and his power is their rereward, so that none of them faint or die in their march to heaven. What are the encouragements to make Christians hold on till they come to the kingdom of heaven? (1) It is a great credit to a Christian, not only to hold forth the truth, but to hold fast the truth till he comes to heaven. When grace flourishes into perseverance, and with the church of Thyatira, our last works are more than our first, it is insigne honouris, a star of honour. Rev 2: 1. It is matter of renown to see grey hairs shine with golden virtues. The excellency of a thing lies in the finishing of it. Where is the excellence of a building? Not when the first stone is laid, but when it is finished. So the beauty and excellence of a Christian is, when he has finished his faith, having done his work, and is landed safe in heaven. (2) You that have made a progress in religion, have not many miles to go before you come at the kingdom of heaven. 'Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.' Rom 13: 11. You who have hoary hairs, your green tree is turned into an almond tree; you are near to heaven, it is but going a little further and you will set your feet within heaven's gates. Oh! therefore now be encouraged to hold out, your salvation is nearer than when you first began to believe. Our diligence should be greater when our salvation is nearer. When a man is almost at the end of the race, will he now tire and faint? Will he not put forth all his strength, and strain every limb, that he may lay hold upon the prize? Our salvation is now nearer; the kingdom is as it were within sight; how should we now put forth all our strength, that we may lay hold upon the garland of glory! Doctor Taylor, when going to his martyrdom, said, 'I have but two stiles to go over, and I shall be at my Father's house.' Though the way to heaven be up-hill, you must climb the steep rock of mortification; and though there be thorns in the way, you have gone the greatest part of it, and are within a few days' march of the kingdom, and will not you persevere? Christian, pluck up thy courage, fight the good fight of faith, pursue holiness. Ere long you will put off your armour, and end all your weary marches, and receive a victorious crown; your salvation is nearer, you are within a little of the kingdom, therefore now persevere, you are ready to commence and take your degree of glory. (3) The blessed promise annexed to perseverance is an encouragement. The promise is a crown of life. Rev 2: 10. Death is a worm that feeds in the crowns of princes, but behold here a living crown, and a never-fading crown. I Pet 5: 4. 'He that overcometh, and keepeth my works to the end, I will give him stellam matutinam, the morning-star.' Rev 2: 28. The morning-star is brighter than the rest. This morning-star is meant of Christ; as if Christ had said, I will give to him that perseveres some of my beauty; I will put some of my illustrious rays upon him; he shall have the next degree of glory to me, as the morning-star is next the sun. Will not this animate and make us hold out? We shall have a kingdom, and that which is better than a kingdom, a bright morning-star. What are the means which conduce to perseverance, or, what shall we do that we may hold out to the kingdom? (1) Take up religion upon good grounds, not in a fit or humour, or out of worldly design; but be deliberate, weigh things well in the balance. 'Which of you intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first and counteth the cost?' Luke 14: 28. Think with yourselves what religion must cost you; it must cost you the parting with your sins; and may cost you the parting with your lives. Consider if a kingdom will not countervail your sufferings. Weigh things well, and then make your choice. 'I have chosen the way of truth.' Psa 119: 30. Why do many apostatise, and fall away, but because they never sit down and count the cost? (2) If we would hold out to the kingdom, let us cherish the grace of faith. 'By faith ye stand.' 2 Cor 1: 24. Faith, like Hercules' club, beats down all opposition before it; it is a conquering grace. How comes faith to be so strong? Faith fetches Christ's strength into the soul. Phil 4: 13. A captain may give his soldier armour, but not strength. Faith partakes of Christ's strength, and gets strength from the promise; as the child by sucking the breast gets strength, so faith by sucking the breast of the promise; hence faith is such a wonder- working grace, and enables a Christian to persevere. (3) If you would hold out to the kingdom, set before your eyes the examples of those noble heroic saints who have persevered to the kingdom. Vivitur exemplis [Life is lived by examples], examples have more influence upon us than precepts. 'My foot has held his steps.' Job 23: 11. Though the way of religion has flints and thorns in it, yet my foot has held its steps; I have not fainted in the way, nor turned out of the way. Daniel held on his religion, and would not intermit prayer, though he knew the writing was signed against him, and a prayer might cost him his life. Dan 6: 10. The blessed martyrs persevered to the kingdom through sufferings. Saunders, that holy man, said, 'Welcome the cross of Christ; my Saviour began to me in a bitter cup, and shall I not pledge him?' Another martyr, kissing the stake, said, 'I shall not lose my life, but change it for a better; instead of coals I shall have pearls.' What a spirit of gallantry was in these saints! Let us learn constancy from their courage. A soldier, seeing his general fight valiantly, is animated by his example, and has new spirits put into him. (4) Let us add fervent prayer to God, that he would enable us to hold out to the heavenly kingdom. 'Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe.' Psa 119: 117. Let us not presume on our own strength. When Peter cried to Christ on the water, 'Lord save me,' then Christ took him by the hand. Matt 14: 30. When he grew confident of his own strength, Christ let him fall. Oh pray to God for auxiliary grace. The child is safe when held in the nurse's arms; so are we in Christ's arms. Let us pray that God will put his fear in our hearts, that we do not depart from him; and that prayer of Cyprian, Domine, quod coepisti perfice, ne in portu naufragium accidat. Lord, perfect that which thou hast begun in me, that I may not suffer shipwreck when I am almost at the haven. Use 5. Here let me lay down some powerful persuasive, or divine arguments to make you put to all your strength for obtaining this blessed kingdom. (1) The great errand for which God sent us into the world is to prepare for this heavenly kingdom. 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God.' Matt 6: 33. First in time, before all things; and first in affection, above all things. Great care is taken for securing worldly things. Matt 6: 25. To see people labouring for the earth, as ants about a molehill, would make one think it were the only errand they came about. But, alas! what is all this to the kingdom of heaven? I have read of a devout pilgrim travelling to Jerusalem, who passing through several cities, where he saw many stately edifices, wares and monuments, would say, 'I must not stay here, this is not Jerusalem;' so when we enjoy worldly things, peace and plenty, and have our presses burst out with new wine, we should say to ourselves, this is not the kingdom we are to look after, this is not heaven. It is wisdom to remember our errand. It will be but sad upon a death-bed for a man to find he has busied himself about trifles, played with a feather, and neglected the main thing he came into the world about. (2) Seeking the heavenly kingdom will be judged most prudent by all men at last. Those who are most regardless of their souls now, will wish before they die that they had minded eternity more. When conscience is awakened, and men begin to come to themselves, what would they give for the kingdom of heaven? How happy would it be if men were of the same mind now, as they will be at death! Death will alter men's opinions. They who most slighted and disparaged the ways of religion, will wish their time and thoughts had been taken up about the excellent glory. At death men's eyes will be opened, and they will see their folly when it is too late. All men, even the worst, will wish at last that they had minded the kingdom of heaven. Why should not we do now what all will wish they had done when they come to die? The Lord's Prayer by Thomas Watson (continued in file 13...) ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: watlp-12.txt .