By John Angell James, 1859


"But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a HELMET." 1 Thes. 5:8

The figure of 'the HELMET of salvation' forms a part of one of the most instructive, impressive, and beautiful passages of Holy Writ; I mean Ephesians 6:12—"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood—but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." In this wonderful and rousing paragraph, we are led to contemplate the malignity, the power, and the craft of that mighty and mysterious enemy of God and man—the devil. There is a terrific grandeur connected with this dreadful personage—and an obscurity never to be cleared up until the light of eternity shall reveal the subject. That he has a true personality, and is no an oriental personification of the principle of evil, must be admitted by all who will place implicit confidence in the Scripture narrative, If Satan be a mere figure of speech, why may not even Christ, and the whole historic facts of the Bible—be a collection of myths and fables? Yes, he is a personality, and a being of vastly greater power, perhaps, than the most vigorous imagination every yet conceived.

Our great Bard has done all that poetic genius can accomplish in the way of setting forth the power; the hatred, the rage, and craft of the fallen and diabolized archangel. But it is a subject under which even his noble intellect bends, and the Satan of the "Paradise Lost" conveys, perhaps, only a poor and feeble idea of this mighty foe of all holiness and holy beings, compared with the less poetic, yet more awfully mysterious and super-human, yes, almost super-angelic, personage of the sacred Scriptures. One of the impressive disclosures of eternity will be the full manifestation of the terrible power of this leader of rebellion against God in the universe; this agent by whom moral evil was introduced into our world; this first apostate from holiness, whose influence fascinated so large a portion of the heavenly hosts to their ruin, and formed a confederacy in heaven against its Omnipotent Sovereign. The devil is yet a deep mystery of wickedness and power. One of the chief glories to be witnessed in another world will be Christ's triumph over him; and one of the greatest wonders connected with ourselves will be our own deliverance from his wiles, his malice, and his power.

What a view of this adversary does the passage just quoted give us. The apostle calls upon us to arm ourselves with the whole armor of God against the "wiles" of the devil; intimating that his warfare is conducted with consummate craft, and consists of continued stratagems. His battles are the rush of a sudden ambush, when and where they are least expected. He fights not on an open field—but by sudden assault, secret, and cunning onslaught, and his aim is to throw his opponents off their guard, and then to surprise them. Sleepless vigilance, self-possession, and promptitude are therefore indispensable to cope with him. They are all the more necessary, as "we wrestle not with flesh and blood." It is not a contest with mere humanity, with man against man, the potsherd striving with the potsherd—but man against spirit; humanity engaged in the unequal contest with a demonized archangel. It is a contest "against principalities and powers." Beings of high order, and rank, and dominion in the world of spirits; an army marshaled under one great arch-fiend, a chief among the lost. It is not merely the common damned, the vulgar herd of fiends we encounter—but the leader and his staff of the great rebellion, such as are darkly eminent in rank and dignity; "against the rulers of the darkness of this world," the spirits which reign and rule amid the darkness of Paganism, Mohammedanism, Judaism, Popery, and Infidelity; forming the spiritual darkness which so painfully environs the church, and producing that murky zone which has covered an unbelieving world with such an ominous and lowering shadow.

It is from hence, as well as from many other parts of Scripture, very obvious that, in some mysterious ways unknown to us, these fallen spirits have dominion over the realms of ignorance, superstition, heresy, infidelity, and idolatry—and rivet the chains of error upon the enslaved intellect of man. "Against spiritual wickedness in high places," or as it might, and should be, rendered, "against the spirits of evil," or "wicked spirits in heavenly places." Yes, spirits—wicked spirits. Their nature is evil; their commission is evil; their work is evil. Evil, and evil only are they, alike in essence and operation. All their powers, which are vast both for contrivance and execution; all their activities, ceaseless and unwearied, are employed for evil. And all this operation for evil "in heavenly places," not only in the earthly places of the world—but in the heavenly places of the church. They scruple not to invade the kingdom of Christ. Yes, their great aim is to pollute, to divide, to secularize, to overthrow, the church. See how they have succeeded in the rise, progress, and wide extent and dominion of the Papacy. Nothing gives such an idea of the subtlety and power of Satan, as this dreadful system, which, where it prevails, is Christianity thrown into almost total eclipse by the power and craft of the devil.

Here, then, is the description of our great adversary. To rouse up the Christian soldiery, not to dishearten or discourage them—but to excite them to valorous deeds and determined opposition, the apostle gives us an impressive description of our enemy and his power. He marshals the forces of our adversary before us, and bids us look at our foe. Can we wonder that, in order to prevent us from being appalled and dismayed, he should introduce this all but overwhelming representation of our enemy—with so precious an exhibition of our resources as is contained in that short but all comprehensive admonition, "Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might?" Was it not a wise master-stroke of sacred policy, before he led us out to conflict with our foe, to take us into "the secret places of the most high," and surround us "with the shadow of the Almighty!" Yes, and even before he conducts us into the armory, and bids us put on the armor provided, to lead us up to God, that we may contemplate his omnipotence, and thus fill our souls with courage for the conflict? It does not matter what armor is provided, how finely tempered, how highly polished, how closely fitted it may be—if there be no courage in the heart; if a man has merely the dress of a soldier, with the heart of a coward.

Soldiers usually have an invincible courage when they have confidence in the skill and bravery of their leader. And the power of his might, in which they are strong, has proved its vigor in routing the foe which they are summoned to encounter. As "the Captain of salvation," Christ "spoiled principalities and powers," and now calls us to engage in battle with the same enemies, and, in fact, to arm ourselves with the same power, even his own. Satan may be, is, powerful, more powerful than we imagine—but God is all powerful; and therefore whatever potency we go to conflict with, we go to meet it with Omnipotence. There is an uncommon force in the expression, "Be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might." It was as if he had said—Clothe yourselves with Omnipotence; aim yourselves with Omnipotence; fight with Omnipotence; God lends you his almightiness. Go to the field not only as warriors and heroes—but as God-prompted, God-sustained men.

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 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. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." Ephesians 6:10-13

Now let us enter the armory of the Lord, and look at the weapons, offensive and defensive, provided for us. You will see that the command is to take "the whole armor." We must engage, in our conflict with Satan, armed from head to foot. No part of the soul must be left uncovered—and it must be protected by the very armor which God has provided. We must not go to philosophy, to reason, to any scheme of defense against our spiritual foes—which is devised by man. It must be God's arsenal, and not man's that must supply the armor. And all this, that we may "stand in the evil day," that is, the day of Satan's terrible assault.

It is called the "evil day," because it is an evil thing even to be tempted. It costs us much perplexity and distress to be thus assailed; our fears are excited; our alarms are painful; our apprehensions of defeat sometimes agonizing. And if the temptation proves successful, it is an evil day indeed, as multitudes have found it to be—in their damaged reputation, their disturbed peace, their prostrate honors, their impaired usefulness. Hence the necessity of praying, "Lead us not into temptation," and hence also the propriety of the apostle's exhortation, "Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he devour," 1 Peter 5:8.

Now consider the ARMOR.

"Stand firm then, with the belt of TRUTH buckled around your waist." This is an allusion to the military belt or sash, which was with the ancients, as it is now with the moderns, an important part of their uniform; it served for both ornament and use; it was designed to keep the other parts of their armor in their place. In the Christian profession and the spiritual life, truthfulness or sincerity acts the part of the belt.

Next comes "the breastplate of RIGHTEOUSNESS." The breastplate was a coat of metal, or folds of leather, or chain armor, to protect the chest and body in front. In our warfare, righteousness, or holiness of life, answers this purpose.

Next comes "having your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace." The ancients defended their legs and feet, the latter with sandals, and the former with greaves—or a kind of legging which came from the foot up the front of the leg or shinbone. The Christian warrior is to be defended from Satanic assaults "by joy and peace in believing."—The joy of the Lord is unspeakable, and the peace that passes understanding, will keep him in the midst of danger.

"Above all," or "over" all, says the apostle, take "the shield of FAITH whereby you shall be able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked one." This defensive weapon was usually made of light wood, with a ring of brass, and covered with several folds of stout hide; it was held on the left arm, and was intended to protect the body from the sword or arrows of the assailant. Arrows were sometimes employed, which were tipped with a small cavity containing combustible materials, and which by the power of the atmosphere, or by the percussion when they struck on an object, was set on fire, and thus communicated the flames to ships, tents, or any inflammable substance. To the shield answers faith, and by which the fiery darts of Satan are quenched. By these some understand that particular species of temptation which consists of wicked, horrid, blasphemous, and very distressing suggestions and excitements to evil, which in the most unaccountable manner sometimes rise up in the mind, to the great affliction of pious people. None of us are without these. No association of ideas can account for them; no immediate objects before us lead to them; they come suddenly into the soul, and occasion much agony and astonishment.

I have often had to quiet the apprehensions of pious people alarmed by these things, by assuring them we are not answerable for what thoughts come into the mind—but only for what thoughts we keep in the mind. To these we must ever oppose the shield of faith, which will put them all out, as a wall would put out a candle thrown against it.

But is the head to be left unprotected? No—for we are to take the "helmet of HOPE." As this is the subject of the present chapter, I shall enlarge on it presently; and in the meantime remark that all the armor hitherto mentioned is defensive. Is the Christian then ever to stand upon the defensive? Is he to make no aggressions upon his enemies? Is he to remain always at his post, and never engage in the assault? No! He is to "take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." That Word of revealed truth which is written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit—by which the Spirit carries on his renewing, comforting, and sanctifying work in the souls of believers—and by which the great Captain of our salvation himself defeated the enemy, when tempted in the wilderness.

Nor must we stop here, for to all must be added, that without which all the rest, would be ineffectual, the "all PRAYER and supplication." Without constant, believing, fervent prayer, however he may seem to be protected and armed, the believer cannot stand against his foe. The devil will laugh at the strongest professor, and the best adapted armor which is unattended by prayer. But—

"But Satan trembles when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees."

I now come to consider the HELMET. I scarcely need say that the helmet is a piece of armor for the defense of the head. Now, is there anything in Christian hope which renders the helmet a specially appropriate figure to set it forth? Perhaps there is. The head contains the brain, which is the organ of thought. When we distinguish between the intellect and the emotions, we speak of the former as the head, the latter as the heart. So in the Christian life, we use precisely the same figures—the head in "the new man" is our mind, as our affections are the heart. The helmet, in this divine armor of the soul, is for the defense of the understanding from wrong thinking, either in the way of sin, worldliness, or error. How much of true godliness lies in a right condition of the Christian intellect. It is but a part of religion, which consists in action. The greater portion of man's moral history lies in the soul, out of sight of our fellow creatures—but not out of sight of God. I much fear this is not sufficiently understood or remembered. Yet it is a most momentous idea.

Our conduct and words form a very small part of our moral selves. Let any one imagine how much is ever going on in the secret recesses of the soul—what multitudes of thoughts are ever crowding the intellect, and what multitudes of feelings the heart; and the greater portion of them partaking of a moral character. Let it be considered how much of evil a wicked man perpetrates in desires, wishes, intentions, volitions, devices, and imaginations—how much more indeed than he has the opportunity or the courage to bring out into action. Even the Christian must be sensible of this fact, that there is more evil in the HEART, than is put into PRACTICE.

Yes, and so of the opposite. How much of holy desire, volition, purpose, plan—is ever going on within the bosom of a child of God, which no eye but that of his Father sees. Hence the truth of the assertion, that it is but a portion of our moral history which is seen in the outward character, and the indispensable necessity of our looking well to the state of the heart. Let us take good care of the heart, and the heart will take care of the life. We must watch well our thoughts, for holy thinking gives rise to holy feeling, and ends in holy action. It is much the same with sin, for the apostle says, "When lust (or evil desire) has conceived, it brings forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death."—James 1:15. This is the order of exercise in all rational creatures—the thought—the feeling—the volition—the action. The thought is the bud, of which the feeling is the blossom, the will the setting, and the action the fruit.

All wrong doing begins in wrong thinking. All right doing begins in right thinking. Hence it is of infinite importance for the Christian to be attentive, seriously, devoutly, anxiously attentive, not only to the state of the heart—but the state of the head. This was what Solomon meant where he says—"Keep the heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life." Keep a strict watch over your thoughts and inclinations. The mind is always consciously busy in its waking hours. We can no more suspend the power and action of our thinking principle, than we can suspend the action of our heart, or lungs. Nor can we prevent the entrance of evil thoughts into our mind; these, like bad company, will obtrude themselves upon us—but it is at our option to retain or expel them. They will alight, like birds of prey, even upon our sacrifices of devotion—but we can chase them away if we please, or allow them to pollute and consume the offering.

Our thoughts are in their 'first rise' involuntary—and the soul is passive in their reception. But the soul is active in its treatment of our thoughts, once they have come. Hence the control of the thoughts is one of the most necessary exercises of self-government—one of the most important parts of personal piety. There must not only be the government of the senses, or a strict watch over the exercise of these upon external objects, though this is both necessary and important, for the senses are the doors of the soul—but a most vigilant attention to what is passing within the mind.

There are various classes of evil thoughts, against which we must be upon our guard as pernicious.

1. There are IDLE thoughts, or the perpetual exercise of the intellect about the merest trifles, matters that have not the weight of a feather, or the value of a grain of sand. It is a pitiable sight to behold an intellect that can contemplate such sublime subjects as God, Christ, salvation, heaven, eternity—wasting its energies, and frittering away its feeble powers—on absolute littlenesses, on almost nonentities; in short, evaporating the powers of a man in the exercises of a child! Many carry their intellects as a little child does a watch, ignorant alike of its construction and its uses. It would be instructive and somewhat humiliating for them, and indeed for us all, sometimes to ask, at the close of a day, "What have I been thinking about today? What matters have engaged my attention and employed my intellect?" This folly of idle thoughts is a double waste—of intellect and of time.

Now Christian hope will be a defense against this, by giving us something great to think about, and by prompting us to think about it. Even Christians need to be admonished on this head; their renewed and sanctified intellects are too full of little matters—even they, since they became men, have not put away all childish things. With their immortal hopes—they are too babyish, and taken up with the toys of the children of the world—when they should be engaged with the subjects that occupy the attention of archangels!

2. Then there are WORLDLY thoughts, I mean there are minds thinking about nothing else, wholly and entirely engrossed in things of the world. There are people, of whom it can be most truly and emphatically said, "They mind earthly things." Their intellect is a kind of shop, or market, or exchange, or manufactory—where nothing but crowds of buyers and sellers; nothing but bargain and sale; nothing but calculations of profit and loss; nothing but the buzz and hum of trade and commerce—are ever heard. Of course there must be much of this—but it is a sad thing where there is nothing else; and where that soul, which was intended to be a temple for God, is nothing better than a house of merchandise.

Christian hope, if in vigorous exercise, while it would not unfit a man for business, nor paralyze his industry, nor extinguish his desire of success—would still raise him above the world, and give him something else to think about. It is this that is needed in greater power among professing Christians. The spirit of the world is coming, has come, into the church. Business, business, business—profit, profit, profit—elegance, entertainment, and luxurious gratification—are occupying far more than they ought to do the minds of professing Christians. Why? Because their hope of heaven is low. Their helmet is laid aside. The world is aiming a blow at the head, and professors are not sufficiently protected against it. It is only the desire and expectation of heaven—that can be a sufficient defense against the influences and encroachments of earth. We do not let "the glory that excels" come in, as we should do, upon the glory of this lower world.

3. How apt are many to harbor PROUD thoughts. Pride seems natural to humanity, and it is strange and even ridiculous to see what really insignificant and almost contemptible matters will give occasion for its exercise. On what trifles will some people base their claims to superiority, when comparing themselves with their fellow-creatures. Could we search the heart as God can, and does—how much of this self-exaltation, high-regard, and admiration, would we see always going on. Pride has its operation, not only in the world—but in the church! It is not only intellect, and wealth, and rank, and beauty, that give occasion for it—but piety, experience, liberality, activity, success. The more real excellence there is, the greater the danger of falling into this sin.

Spiritual pride is, of all kinds, the most hateful and offensive both to God and man. And what Christian is there, who, if he is attentive to his own thoughts, does not know that he has often detected himself standing before the mirror, and admiring the beauty of his character and conduct? Against this, Christian hope is one of the best preservatives. Who can look down at the foundation, and recollect that he owes all to grace, and rests entirely upon the atonement and merit of Christ for his eternal salvation; and then look up and consider the perfection of heaven, which brings out so strongly his own imperfection—and not feel all occasion for pride taken away?

Who does not know, by experience, that he is never so low, so humble, so unworthy in his own eyes as when he looks up into heaven and contemplates not only the excellence of the spirits of just men made perfect; not only the spotless innocence of angels—but the infinite, immaculate purity of the Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty Humility grows most rapidly and most healthily by heavenly-mindedness. It was this that humbled the prophet Isaiah, and made him cry out, "Woe is me, for I am undone, for I am a man of unclean lips." It was this that took all high thoughts from the patriarch Job—"I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear—but now my eye sees you! Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." Yes, and the nearer we come, by devout contemplation and lively hope, to the heavenly world, the more shall we enter into those beautiful words of Watts—

"The more your glories strike my eyes,
The humbler I shall lie,
Thus while I sink, my joys shall rise
Unmeasurable high!"

4. In addition to these, there are ANGRY, VENGEFUL, MALICIOUS thoughts—alas, alas, how m any of these are to be found in the minds of us all; how difficult is it under provocation, and injury, and insult, to exercise the love "that suffers long, and is kind." How difficult to keep out implacable, revengeful malicious thoughts; not to brood over the offence with inflamed imaginations and exaggerating ideas. What pictures of the offender we draw, how hideous a monster we are apt to make him; how we represent him as entirely destitute of all claims to love or even forgiveness. We thus tempt our feelings by our thoughts; our feelings prompt our words; and our words end in actions that return evil for evil.

Genuine love under injury is the most rare, because the most difficult of all duties; and yet it is made by the apostle indispensable to all true religion—it is in fact true religion itself. How shall we defend our head against the blows of our great enemy in endeavoring to slay us, by tempting us to malice, wrath, and all uncharitableness? How? By putting on our helmet, which is the hope of salvation; the ardent desire and confident expectation of heaven is one of our most secure defenses against malicious and revengeful thoughts.

What is heaven? A region of holy love, perfect love, eternal love; no malice shall ever enter there—the unruffled serenity of a bosom which is a stranger to ill-will, shall reign there; not a thought contrary to the most entire and universal benevolence shall ever enter the mind of a single inhabitant of that happy world. Now the very hope of such a heaven tends to change the mind into the likeness of itself; the contemplation of that state brings loving, holy thoughts into the mind, and thus expels others of a contrary nature. Bring me a passionate, wrathful, implacable, and malevolent professor, thinking of the evil his brother has done to him, and meditating what evil he will in return do to him, and I will ask him, "Do you hope for heaven? Do you believe you can have a title to heaven without a fitness? Is not fitness holy love? Will not holy love lead you to forgive? Do you desire this fitness? Can you possess it if you harbor all kinds of unforgiving thoughts? Would you overcome this malevolent temper?" Then I say, keep up your Christian hope. Be often at the gates of heaven. Meditate on its ineffable glories. Consider they are all glories of love. I tell you one of the best cures of an unforgiving mind, is the intelligent, scriptural hope of heaven.

5. Many have to complain of IMPURE, LUSTFUL thoughts; they come unbidden into the mind; no object appealing to the senses excites them, and to the pure in heart they are an offense and a grief. Of course all that would excite them should be avoided, such as books, pictures, natural objects, and conversation. We must watch the senses, and make a covenant with our eyes not to look on what would suggest impure thoughts. He who carries gunpowder should not venture near the fire; and he who would not catch the plague, should not some in contact with a person infected with it. As I have lately said, we are not answerable for thoughts that come unbidden into the mind—but we are for such as we invite, and we do invite them when we hold familiar communion with subjects that necessarily produce them. In this case, whether the thoughts are brought in, or come in—hope is our defense. Before the rays of the excellent glory which fall upon the soul in full contemplation of heaven, these unhallowed fires will be extinguished. When these obscene ideas come into the mind, turn it heavenward; drive back the foul current by a stronger and a purer one.

6. I must not omit HARD THOUGHTS OF GOD regarding the dispensations of his providence. Sometimes these are produced by heavy, peculiar, and long-continued afflictions. In those night seasons of the Christian life, when the outer darkness deepens into an inner gloom of the mind still more dark, what fearful questionings—what awful skepticism, what sullen moodiness of spirit, what rebellious ideas, what atheistic reasonings—haunt the soul. Satan sees it in this sad perplexity, and rushes in with his fiery assault. It is now the palpable gloom, the darkness that may be felt, the very valley of the shadow of death. The soul is in great danger of absolute despair, or overwhelming skepticism. What shall preserve it, in such a case? Only turning from the mysteries of providence—to the scheme of saving grace. Only the hope of that world where what is now dark will be illumined, and what is mystery will become revelation; only the expectation of the end, where all that now puzzles and perplexes us, will astonish and delight us; only the contemplation of that ocean of light, love, and joy, into which these dark and meandering streams of Providence will discharge themselves, and help to swell that boundless, stormless sea,

"Where not a wave of trouble rolls
Across the peaceful bosom."

7. And are there not thoughts of ERROR against which a defense is necessary? What better defense can we find than this helmet, which is the hope of salvation? Never was there an age in which the Christian more needed to be completely armed against the attacks of heresy, than the present. An undisguised infidelity which is assiduously laboring to associate even science with itself; an atheistic philosophy which is seizing our press, and insinuating itself into our general literature; and what is still more dangerous, because not so openly, nor so intentionally hostile to Christianity, false systems of doctrine, which, while professing to do homage to Christianity, and to propound its leading truths, obscure the objects of our faith, and undermine the foundation of our hope—these, all these perils thrown in our way and rendered still more perilous by the genius and the eloquence by which they are set forth and recommended, are filling the minds of many professors of true religion, and especially the younger ones, with thoughts that endanger their steadfastness in the faith.

The winds of false doctrine are blowing from every quarter; and even within the pale of what we consider and call evangelical religion, a leaven of error is unquestionably at work, and diffusing itself, the sad results of which, at no very distant day, will be unquestionably seen. A gradual—but unintentional preparation for this is to my eye clearly discernible in those apologies which we are continually hearing or reading from men generally, and, upon the whole, orthodox, on behalf of those who, if not off the foundation, are obviously out of the balance of revealed truth. I confess to a considerable jealousy of much that is said and done in the circle of what is still called evangelism. Some, we are told, do not view divine truth from the same standpoint; do not speak of it in precisely the same language as others, and yet hold the same doctrines in substance; and we must therefore have a broad and ample love to cover over these differences. Provided the great fundamental truths of the mediatorial scheme of the gospel are really retained, truths which are "the family jewels of God's redeemed family, the heirloom to be handed down from generation to generation, there can be no heresy in having them reset in language and style of composition suited to the taste of the age." I most willingly concede this; yet I am not easy under the excessive demand which is made for a change of the outward form of truth; this is to me somewhat portentous. It seems a dangerous opiate that will close the watchful eye with which the sacred deposit of divine truth ought ever to be watched.

In this age we are in no danger of a narrow-minded bigotry, a tyranny of authority, an obstinate attachment to old forms, a childish veneration for hoary antiquity, or a propensity to forge shackles for liberty and independence of thought. Our danger lies in the opposite extreme, of a liberty that runs into licentiousness; a worship of novelty; a contempt for collective wisdom and the accumulations of experience; and a disposition amid modern illumination, to treat as worthless, all the great lights of bygone ages. That sound orthodoxy, both in the established church and among the dissenting bodies, is somewhat in danger, at least for a season, I have no doubt.

The best defense we can set up against this tendency is, to keep up the vigor of spiritual life in our churches, of which the Christian hope is one of the most essential and healthful exercises. 'Fundamental error' is not likely to gain entrance and exercise in a heavenly mind; and heavenliness implies hope. While the soul is maintaining a solemn, devout, and practical regard to the celestial state, it keeps its hold on the truth as it is in Jesus. No one who is looking for eternal life will, or can, be indifferent to the basis on which such an expectation rests. He will take heed that he is not raising a Babel on a quicksand. We have already shown that Christ, in his atoning work, is the only foundation of a good hope. As long, therefore, as there is an earnest desire and confident expectation of eternal happiness, there will be no disposition to give up those great truths on which the soul builds her immortal hopes. It is only when she has become earthly in her habitual state, only when she has lost her high and holy aspiration towards the heavenly kingdom, that she can become reconciled to error, and in such a state she can be very soon reconciled to it. To a carnal, earthly mind, there is much in errors of various kinds to recommend them. Error and earthliness are compatible states of mind. Hence we see that those communities which have given up the fundamental doctrines of the gospel, are distinguished for their worldliness. Let our churches become worldly, and the same effect will soon be visible, in their indifference to doctrinal truth.

If this be true, and it cannot be doubted, much less denied, it shows us the importance of our ministers being not only earnest for the preservation of sound doctrine—but, as a means of preserving it, equally earnest for maintaining spiritual life. Lifeless orthodoxy is no better than lifeless error—they are both but corpses, only one is less hideous and less offensive than the other. It is well enough to "contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints," but it is no less well to contend as earnestly for the blessed hope of the redeemed church. Let us all consider we are safe from error—only so far as we find, feel, and exhibit a living power in the truth we hold.

Let us, then, look well to our helmet, and never venture into the field without it; and let us take heed that it be of the right kind, made of the right material, and able to resist the assaults of the foe. A good hope through grace; a hope founded exclusively on Christ, which looks for an eternity of holiness, as that which can yield an eternity of happiness—this, and this only, constitutes the helmet that will resist the blows of Satan, aimed at the head of the Christian!

The facts of ecclesiastical history will serve as proof and illustration of all that has been said in this chapter. When spiritual life has been lost—creeds, confessions, and articles of faith have been found an insufficient breakwater against the waves of error, and a feeble defense of sound orthodoxy. To this we ascribe the prevalence of Rationalism in Germany, and other parts of the Continent, where the formularies of Luther and Calvin still continued to be the established standard of truth long after their spiritual influence was gone. Both the Scottish and English establishments furnished similar evidence, and so also does the history of Nonconformity. This might be illustrated also in the case of individual ministers. I know one who is still living, who, after being educated at one of our colleges, embraced Unitarianism, and for a time preached its doctrines; he was, however, at length brought back to his former views. In an interview I had with him, I asked him if he could trace his doctrinal lapse to any particular cause? He said, "Yes, I lost the power of vital godliness, and then theological orthodox opinions became a matter of indifference to me, and I abandoned them for others more flattering to the pride of intellect." These, if not his exact words, contain the substance of what he said—and this one fact shows the vast importance of keeping up the true spiritual life. Truth in the intellect and life in the heart, act and re-act upon each other, just as the healthy state of the brain and the right action of the heart in the human body influence each other. We must have sound doctrine to originate, sustain, and quicken spiritual life—and we must have vigorous spiritual life to strengthen our hold upon sound doctrine.