George Everard, 1866
An old picture represents the Christian in three attitudes. He is represented as a . . .
1. little child, and upon his lips are the words "I learn."
2. laborer, with spade in hand, and upon his lips are the words "I work."
3. soldier, clad in armor, and his motto is, "I fight."
Such a life is to be that of each follower of Christ. Sitting at the feet of Jesus, he must seek Divine instruction in Holy Scripture. With all diligence he must work the works of Him that sent him. In His Church none may be idlers: "Son, go work today in my vineyard," is the call addressed to each.
He must likewise be a soldier, and fight a good warfare. It is written, "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life." "You therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ," (1 Timothy 6.12; 2 Timothy 2.3.)
In these words we have a valiant soldier of the Cross, whose time of service was nearly expired, calling on another to carry on manfully the same warfare. The Apostle of the Gentiles was about to lay aside the sword, and receive the crown. Hear his words, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day — and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing!" 2 Timothy 4:7-8. Urged by such a plea as this, with what additional power would the appeal of Paul come home to the heart of Timothy.
Let us inquire what is needed in this warfare, and
how we may approve ourselves good and faithful soldiers.
A hearty decided choiceis the first requisite. It is an individual matter between God and our own souls, which none other can decide for us.
It must be a choice well considered. Our King has no such lack of soldiers, that He will receive recruits decoyed in an unthinking moment, or persuaded by promises that cannot be fulfilled. A solemn deliberate choice is essential. And what must be the motive for it? When young men enlist into our English army, they are swayed by various considerations. One is tired of home life, another dislikes work on the land, a third longs for more society, a fourth desires the bounty offered, or seeks to gain distinction in the battlefield.
But with every true soldier of Christ the chief motive is the same. One word expresses it — LOVE. The Spirit reveals to a man his great need; he beholds in Christ that need fully met; he finds here mercy, and grace, and life; he ponders the love which brought Jesus from His throne, and the price laid down for his salvation; then he cannot but feel a desire to show forth his gratitude. In his heart he says, "Christ has loved me, and given Himself for me — henceforth I will serve Him, and Him alone!"
Upon a soldier's tomb was the following epitaph. It sets before us the right motive for service.
"In early days, I freely shed my blood,
Both for my Queen and for my country's good:
In later days, I soldier came to be
To Him who freely shed His blood for me."
Reader, would you be a good soldier of the Cross?
Begin with receiving the great salvation. Fall low at Christ's
mercy-seat; own there your sin, and take hold of the free promise of
life. Then, under a joyful sense of acceptance, cheerfully enrol
yourself among His followers.
Another requisite for a good soldier is separation to Christ's service.
"Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs — he wants to please his commanding officer." 2 Timothy 2:3-4
In our English army, when once a soldier has enlisted, he gives himself up to this one pursuit. No longer is he, like others, his own master. His choice is made, and he must abide by it. Though not at all times engaged in active warfare — yet he is ever in training for it. Beside this, he is a marked man. Wherever he goes, through a village or through the streets of a city, his bearing and his uniform alike give unmistakable evidence of his profession.
Even so must it be in the army of Christ. Each soldier is to be separate from the world around. He is peculiar in the privileges he enjoys, he must be peculiar also in the character he bears. It is written, ""Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." 2 Corinthians 6:17-18
A Christian ought to be recognized wherever he may go, not by a loud profession — but by a clear one — by a life of marked holiness, by watchfulness against sin, and by abstinence from all questionable amusements. A willingness to bear reproach for Christ, is frequently one of the greatest acts of heroism.
In a cathedral city, where a large battalion of our
army was stationed, a public ball was held, attended by nearly all the
officers, and many of the gentry, in the town and neighborhood. The same
evening a meeting was held, to promote the circulation of the Word of
God. The best speech of the evening was that of a gallant young officer,
who thus boldly came out from his associates, and bore a noble testimony
for the Master. Here was separation unto Christian service.
It is likewise needful daily to put on the whole armor of God. What can a soldier on the battle field do without sword, or rifle, or bayonet? "Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
What can the Christian soldier do in the conflict
which he has to wage, unless he girds on the armor provided for
him? Great and formidable are the foes with whom he has to
an enemy without — and an enemy within,
the destroyer of souls — and a treacherous heart,
deceitful lusts — and an ensnaring world.
But clad in heaven-proof armor, he can resist and overcome them. Mighty is the strength imparted by the weapons of our spiritual warfare. See the description given in Ephesians 6.10-18.
"Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth." Let genuine truthfulness, let thorough hearty sincerity of purpose and character be your belt.
"And having on the breastplate of righteousness." By this it would seem we are to understand a holy, loving life. The Spirit of God enabling us, we must ever maintain a good conscience, and live godly, righteously, and soberly, in an evil world.
"And your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace." Shoes were needed, that the warrior might stand firm and not be moved, while contending hand to hand with his adversary. If in your Christian warfare you would be steadfast and immoveable, let your foot be set firmly upon the sure promises and hopes of the everlasting Gospel. Wherever you go, let them accompany you. Let them evermore be the rejoicing of your own heart, and the theme upon which you love to dwell.
"Above all, taking the shield of faith, with which you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked."
In the fabled siege of Troy, great was the protection afforded to Achilles by the shield wrought for him by Vulcan. The sharp point of many a spear was turned by the shield. Thus powerful, is a strong reliance on the mighty aid of Jehovah. "Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength."
"And take the helmet of salvation." Be joyful, knowing that all earthly loss is heavenly gain, and that within your Father's house shall you find a mansion prepared for you.
"And the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." Of the sword of Goliath David said, "There is none like it." So say we of this sword — the Holy Bible.
At the coronation of young King Edward, when two swords were presented to him, he bade them bring a third — the Word of God; which he declared that he valued far more than those emblems of royalty.
"Praying always, with all prayer and supplication, in the Spirit." The weapon of "all prayer" gives efficacy to the rest. It brings success to all efforts. The soldier about to fire his rifle, goes upon his knee. The Christian fights praying. "When I cry unto You, then shall my enemies turn back; this I know, for God is for me."
Restraining prayer, we cease to fight,
Prayer makes the Christian's armor bright.
And Satan trembles when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees.
Oh, Christian brother or sister, would you be strong,
would you avoid bitter hours of vain regret, would you shrink from
bringing reproach on the name of Him you love — then with all
carefulness gird on this Heavenly Armor, and wear it at all
seasons. Never lay it aside for a single waking hour, until your toil is
over and your victory won!
Immediate, implicit obedienceis another mark of a good soldier.
The duty of a soldier is, not to reason — but to obey. Into what hopeless disorder would an army be thrown, if each one in the ranks were to question, before he obeyed, the orders of his superior officer. A ready ear for the word of command is essential to good discipline, and consequently to success.
Our part, likewise, is promptly, readily to obey the word of our Captain. Our inquiry must be, "Lord, what will You have me to do?" And when this is clear, we have simply to carry it out. The hardest and the easiest precepts have the same authority — and must have the same regard and obedience. It may be that the path marked out for you may bring with it great loss or inconvenience — yet swerve not from it. The rough road of thorough obedience is far better in the end — than the smooth, flowery path of self-pleasing.
Abraham found it so, when first he left his home, and afterwards, at God's bidding, was willing to sacrifice his beloved Isaac.
The three Hebrew young men found it so, when, rather than bow down to the golden image, they braved the burning fiery furnace.
A young Brahmin, in Travancore, who was sorely tried when he embraced Christianity, found it so also. Among other trials, he had a young wife, whom he dearly loved, and who endeavored to dissuade him from it. Taking hold of his arm, he said, "I love her better than this flesh." Yet she, with her mother, threatened never to touch food again, if he became a Christian. Still he determined to obey God, and leave all consequences to Him. As he feared that he never should see her again, he bade her a last farewell, and was baptized. The result was, that within two or three months, both his wife and her mother followed in his footsteps, and gave themselves up to Christ.
Take heed not to excuse yourself from the performance of difficult or unpleasant duties. A still small voice within may remind some reader of such a duty. The dying charge of a relative or friend may have been neglected; the soul of a child or parent may not have been cared for as it ought; restitution may never yet have been made for some injury done to another; some evil thing may be cherished, which ought to be abandoned; whatever the matter be, search it out, and delay not. For the honor of Christ, for your own peace, it is well to do so.
Let the Christian, also, mark the least intimation of
Christ's will. A little boy may sometimes be noticed on the Thames'
steamers, looking out for orders from the captain. The motion of the
hand is observed, the signal is understood, and at once obeyed. Thus let
us mark what the will of the Lord is.
A cheerful readiness for active warfare, and unflinching courage in the field, is also necessary. A good soldier is not content with an idle life at home. It is not his wish to remain long in the barracks; he prefers actual service. Rather would he be with his comrades in the battle, taking part in their struggles, and sharing the honors they may win.
Sufficient work may ever be found to try the courage of Christ's soldiers. There is ever work to be done in fighting against sin.
A story is told of an old man, who lived long ago; forcible was the way in which he spoke of the struggles he had to carry on.
A friend asked him the cause of his struggles, since
in the evening he so often had great weariness and pain. "Alas,"
answered he, "I have every day so much to do; I have . . .
two falcons to tame,
two hares to keep from running away,
two hawks to manage,
a serpent to confine,
a lion to chain, and
a sick man to tend and wait upon."
"Why, this is only folly," said the friend, "no man has all these things to do at once."
"Yet indeed," he answered, "it is with me as I have said.
The two falcons are my two eyes, which I must diligently guard, lest something should please them which may be hurtful to my salvation.
The two hares are my feet, which I must hold back, lest they should run after evil objects, and walk in the ways of sin.
The two hawks are my two hands, which I must train and keep to work, in order that I may be able to provide for myself and for my brethren who are in need.
The serpent is my tongue, which I must always keep in with a bridle, lest it should speak anything unseemly.
The lion is my heart, with which I have to maintain a continual fight, in order that vanity and pride may not fill it, but that the grace of God may dwell and work there.
The sick man is my own body, which is ever needing my watchfulness and care. All this daily wears out my strength."
The friend listened with wonder, and then said, "Dear brother, if all men labored and struggled after this manner, the times would be better, and more according to the will of God."
There is ever work to be done also in the struggle which is being carried on for setting up the kingdom of Christ on earth. Be valiant for the truth. Contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. Do not trim your sails to the wind, and turn aside from the great verities of the Christian faith, because they happen to be unpopular.
That all Scripture is given by inspiration of God;
the death of Christ a true atonement for the believer's sins;
a free justification by faith alone;
regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit;
the everlasting condemnation of such as die in their sins
— these necessary truths must ever be held fast, and boldly proclaimed, by every faithful watchman in Zion.
Be valiant in winning souls. Every soul saved by our means will hereafter be a source of endless rejoicing. Even now it brings a great reward.
A Christian lad, in America, who himself had discovered the truth by the study of the New Testament, had an elder brother, who was still a Roman Catholic. After a while he brought him to the Pastor whom he loved. "We have had a hard fight in our house," he said, "but Jesus has won the day." Henceforth, like Andrew and Peter, the two brothers followed Christ.
Be not cast down if the work seems unpromising. Volunteer for the forlorn hope, if anything can be called such when Christ is on our side. Though the class in the school may he inattentive or refractory, though the one you pray for may yet be as far off as possible from the kingdom — yet remember that nothing is too hard for the Lord. Go to the scoffer, go to the aged sinner, go to the thoughtless child of vanity, speak a word in faith and prayer, and be assured, for your consolation, that no effort thus made can wholly fail, and that the greatest blessing has often been granted in the most unlikely cases.
In a soldier,
no qualification is more valuable than this. To most men, far easier is
it to go forth courageously in the excitement of the battle — than to
endure patiently where the danger may be less. The long weary march
beneath the hot sun, the cold dark night passed while watching in the
trenches — work like this is apt to wear out the bravest spirit.
Cultivate steadfast patience in waiting.
The Christian soldier finds that similar trials are to be met in his course. The lengthening out of some season of deep anxiety, the gloomy imprisonment of the sick chamber, the petition so often presented, and yet the answer apparently as distant as ever — a cross like this is one of the very hardest to bear.
Yet put your shoulder beneath it, and carry it while it is laid upon you. Yield not to the suggestions of the Tempter. Distrust not Him who does all things well. Hurry not to and fro, hither and thither — to escape the dreariness of your waiting season. Under the smile of Jesus, tarry the Lord's leisure, and you shall see in the end "that He is very pitiful, and of tender mercy."
Do you ask, "When does His hour come?"
When it shall be best for you!
Trust His faithfulness and power,
Trust in Him and quietly rest.
Suffer on, and hope, and wait,
Jesus never comes too late"
There is need also of each Christian patiently abiding in the position which the providence of God has allotted to him, until it be manifestly the Lord's will that he should leave it.
An excellent illustration has been given of this. It is taken from the history of the Peninsular War. The Captain of a division was placed by Wellington at a point, remote from the field where a battle was about to be fought. He was expressly ordered to remain there, and on no account to leave his post. When the battle was raging fiercely, the Captain could no longer endure the inaction of his position, and so left it and joined in the fight. The enemy were driven from the field, and fled in the very direction that Wellington had anticipated, and where the Captain with his men had been posted. The General felt confident that their flight would be cut off; but great was his anger, when he found that his orders had been disobeyed, and the post vacated. It is said that he never again employed the Captain in any important affair, and that the latter died of a broken heart, through the loss of his reputation as an officer.
Let us take heed lest we act in the same spirit. We
may not run, before we are sent. We may not leave a quieter sphere, for
a more exciting one, until the Lord calls us. Never are we so safe and
happy, as when, like little children, we leave ourselves wholly at the
disposal of our loving Father in Heaven.
Lastly, the soldier of Christ must exercise unlimited dependence upon his great commander. A soldier can never fight bravely, unless he has full confidence in the plans of those who conduct the campaign. What perfect reliance may we place in the Captain of our Salvation! His plans are all wisely laid and successfully carried out. Nothing can defeat His gracious purposes. However dark the sky may seem to us, however depressing the aspect of affairs with reference to His Church — yet He can in a moment, if He desires, turn the scale, and make His people rejoice in the marvels of His power and grace.
In the story of the Iliad, again and again is it told, how that when one of their deities — Jove, or Pallas, or Apollo — mingled in the fray, the tide of victory was turned, and those just before driven out of the field turned again and won the day.
The fiction has a truth beneath it. There is One, and One only, to whom all power has been committed in Heaven and in earth. When He puts forth His mighty arm, then His people go forth and conquer, and their enemies turn and flee!
Nor does the great Helper forget to aid each one of His redeemed people. His eye is fixed on each one who fights in His cause, and He never fails to support them as they require.
The grand old poem I have referred to may remind us also of this. When the chief heroes of the story were called forth into the conflict, frequently was it by the secret direction of some favoring god; and, beneath the same guardianship and care, were they fortified with fresh courage, shielded from imminent peril, or conveyed away in safety from the field.
Is there not a parable here also, for those fighting beneath the banner of Christ? Does He not call them forth by a still small voice, unheard by others? Does He not strengthen them with inner might? Does He not keep them in the hour of danger? Does He not shelter them where none can harm?
Strong in the Lord of Hosts,
And in His mighty power;
Who in the strength of Jesus trusts
Is more than conqueror.
Christian soldier, commit yourself wholly to the care of Christ. He will ever be near you. When you have been cast down, He will lift you up. Trusting in Him you may exclaim, "Rejoice not against me, O my enemy! When I fall — I shall arise; when I sit in darkness — the Lord shall be a light unto me." Through every conflict, even the last, will He safely bring you, and then upon your head will He place the crown of victory. "Be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life."