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diers anciently used in battle to defend themselves against the spears and darts of their enemies. In handling it they were so expert, that they could usually guard any part of the body, at which a pass was made. In allusion to this, the Apostle directs Christians, not only to gird the loins with truth, defend the breast with righteousness, and secure the feet with the sandals of peace; but to assume the shield of faith, an instrument of more general defence, by which they will repel all the fiery darts of the wicked one, This we are to take above all things. Faith is a grace of universal influence. It is the basis of all Christian graces. It is the ground work of religion in the heart. On this we must build ourselves up, adding to it all other virtues. This is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. This purifies the heart and quickens to obedience. This unites the soul to Christ, and embraces the promises of God in him. This looks to God as a present help in trouble, and relies on the Holy Spirit for support in the time of need. It contemplates with joy the captain of salvation, who has overcome the world, and triumphed over principalities and powers. It considers him, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, and is now set down on the right hand of God, and who has graciously promised, that they who overcome shall sit with him on his throne.
Faith thus operating is a more effectual defence against the temptations of Satan and the world, than the shields of the mighty against the darts and spears of their enemies.
5. "Take the helmet of salvation."
Or, as it is expressed elsewhere, "put on for an helmet the hope of salvation." The expression is taken from Isaiah, who, speaking of the Almighty dressed in arms to subdue his enemies, says, "He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation was on his head." God brings salvation. We ap propriate it by hope. This is our helmet.
The use of the helmet is to secure the head in the day of battle. It was of special utility in former times, when armies met and disputed the ground sword in hand. In the Christian warfare, not a helmet of brass, but the hope of salvation, must be the defence. We must fight the good fight of faith in hope that the captain of salvation will support us in the conflict and lead us to victory. We must endure temptations in hope of a crown of glory-continue in well doing in hope of eternal life-abound in the work of the Lord in hope that our labor is not in vain. In the clear view of a future world, and in the full expectation of a blessed immortality, what difficulty can discourage us-what temptation can divert us-what danger can deter us from the religious life? "Our present light affliction, which is but for a moment, will work for us a far more exceeding and an eternal weight of glory."
6. "Take the Sword of the Spirit which is the word
The former pieces of armor were for defence:-This is for annoyance, as well as defence. The divine word is called "the sword of the Spirit," either because it is a spiritual weapon adapted to the religious warfare, in distinction from the carnal weapons used in the lit eral warfare; or because it is an instrument rendered effectual by the Spirit to slay the fleshly lusts and repel the outward temptations which war against the soul. "The word of God is quick and powerful, sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intentions of the heart." This was the weapon which our Lord used in his conflict with Satan. In his hands it was effectual: By his aid it will be effectual in ours.
1. We see of what importance it is that we have the power of religion in our hearts. It is only by this, that we become strong in the Lord. The whole armor of God consists in truth, righteousness, peace, faith, hope, and the word of God dwelling in us. Real religion is the principle of true courage. Let us have root in ourselves, and be grounded and established in the faith. We may without sincerity assume the form of religion; but without sincerity we shall easily drop the form which we have assumed. The hypocrite will be put out of countenance by those scoffs and reproaches, which only warm the zeal, and strengthen the resolution of the real Christian.
2. It concerns us to live much in the exercise of faith. This is the great principle of Christian fortitude. "Add to your faith virtue." It is a main implement in the spiritual armor. "Above all things take the shield of faith." He that is strong in faith, will be stedfast in religion. When Paul suffered in the cause of Christ, he professed, that he was not ashamed, because he knew whom he had believed.
3. Let us exercise our courage according to the various exigencies of the Christian life.
It requires much resolution to subdue our corrupt inclinations, restrain our irregular passions and follow the dictates of religion, when interest, custom and reputation seem to prescribe a different line of conduct.
There is need of fortitude that we may openly profess and steadily practice religion, when it is treated with ridicule and contempt by those with whom we are connected.
The young convert has occasion for courage that he may break off his intimacy with ungodly associates, and say to them, "Depart from me, for I will keep the commandments of God."
The young householder, dwelling in an irreligious neighborhood, and among those who make a mock of family devotion, needs resolution, that he may say with Joshua, "If it seem evil to you to serve the Lord, choose ye, this day, whom ye will serve: But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
It is a work of courage to begin and carry on a reformation in families and neighborhoods, to oppose error and vice, and patronize truth and virtue, when the general voice is against us.
It requires resolution to vindicate an injured character, and plead in defence of oppressed innocence, when it is become an object of common slander and obloquy. There is need of fortitude to persevere in wel! doing against all the oppositions and discouragements, which may meet us in our way.
So many and various are the calls for Christian fortitude, that every one who enters on the religious life, should set out with it, and in his progress often contemplate those truths which may increase and strengthen it.
To conclude: As we have engaged in the service of Christ, let us be faithful to the death. Enemies we have to conflict with; but let us not fear: Greater is he who is with us, than they who are in the world. Let us put on his armor, go forth in his name, obey his orders, strive lawfully, be sober and vigilant, endure hardness as good soldiers, rely for support on him who has called us, quit ourselves like men and be strong: Thus we shall overcome, and inherit all things.
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance, and supplication for all saints; and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gosfel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds, that therein I may speak boldly as I ought to speak.
OUR vigor and activity in the use of the divine armor, described in the preceding verses, depend on the constant energy and support of God's grace. Therefore with the use of this armor the Apostle exhorts us to join vigilant, sincere and persevering prayer. His instructions on this subject are contained in the words now read, which I shall open to you in several observations.
I. The Apostle here supposes our obligation to prayer to be so plain, that every rational mind will see it, and so important, that every pious heart will feel it. Therefore, instead of adducing arguments to prove the duty, he rather points out the manner in which it should he performed.
Our obligation to prayer naturally results from our weakness and dependence, and God's allsufficiency and VOL. III.