The Christian Armour
By Christmas Evans
“And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” (Ephesians 6:15-16).
The complete armour of soldiers, in the days of the Apostle Paul, consisted of seven different parts; the whole of which he makes use of figuratively, to represent the Christian’s warfare against subtle, deceitful , and invisible enemies, the principalities and powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, and spiritual wickedness in high places; who were not only going about like roaring lions, seeking whom they might devour; but church militant engaged in spiritual things; like the frogs in Egypt on Pharaoh’s table and bedchambers, swarming up from the sea of man’s self-importance, self-interest, and self-righteousness, headed by their general, the prince of darkness. Though some of these armour were to defend those parts which are nearer the set of life than others; yet they are all of the greatest importance to the soldiers of the cross, -- engaged in the spiritual warfare. Whoever will neglect one of these weapons, or any of these defensive armour, is certain of being wounded. Also they make up a complete coat of arms, invented by infinite wisdom, and not one of them can be had without the other; though some of them might appear brighter than others in different characters at different times, as one Christian is excelling another in one thing, and may be deficient in other things. Some excel in courage, others in zeal, others in faith, others in love and affection, and some keep their shoes cleaner than others. The whole armour of God is necessary that we may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand with our loins girt about with truth. Truth is strong, and the strength of fidelity, sincerity and punctuality, are indispensably requisite to fight well under the banner of the cross. Though we are weak, yet are we strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might; for as our day, so our strength shall be. The power of God is manifested in our weakness. And the grace of God is sufficient for us. In this engagement, with the enemies of our souls, we must have on the breastplate of righteousness, which is a most excellent armour to defend us from Satan’s temptations and the snares of the world. We must also have our shoes on; -- a conversation worthy the nature and requirements of the gospel of peace, and holiness. Above all the “shield” of faith, -- a broad piece of defensive armour held on the left arm to ward off the blows of the enemy, and preserve the heart from the deadly arrows; by which ye shall be able to “quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” And take the helmet of salvation, to defend your heads from the poisonous arrows of your enemies, and proceed conquering and to conquer, cutting down your foes, on the right hand and on the left, with the sword of the spirit which is the Word of God. “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Ephesians 6:18). Always recollecting that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but spiritual, and mighty through God to pull down the strong holds of darkness.
From the words of our text we would consider,
I. The armour of defense; and
II. The usefulness of these armour.
1. But we would notice first, the “armour of defense.” Though the shoes of the “preparation of the gospel of peace” is mentioned first in the text; yet as the Apostle says “above all,” or “before all things,” according to the Welsh version, taking the shield of faith; we would in the first place notice, that excellent defensive armour, the shield of faith. And here it may not be improper to glance at the “nature of faith.” What is faith?
There are many passages in the Word of God showing the importance, the value, and the effects of faith; but there is only one showing what it is in itself; and that you will find in the eleventh chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews and the first verse. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen,” or as it may be read, the “confidence” of things hoped for, the “conviction” of things not seen. I am surprised that so little notice is taken of this passage by divines in treating on the nature of faith, that they wander in the wilderness without a guide to direct them, and undertake such a long, and dangerous voyage, without a helm nor a compass; it is no wonder therefore that some of them are making faith to be every thing; and others making it almost a thing of naught. According to the description that is given of faith by the apostle in the above chapter; we find that it is made up of two things. “A conviction of the truth of the testimony relative to invisible things, and a confidence in the character of the invisible testifier or promiser;” this is the foundation of waiting for the good things that the invisible God has promised, which agrees with the Welsh translation of the above passage. In this sense the term “faith” is understood by all men. Here, then, is no mystery. In the common transactions of business, men understand one another very well on this subject. Here is a man who has a note of some considerable amount, sufficient to support him comfortably, if he were to live to the age of Methuselah. Ask him, what does he think of that note? “I am confident, he says, that the note is genuine.” What is the reason then that you are not more cheerful and happy? “I have no confidence in the bank,” he replies. The man hath no faith. It is true he believes, he believes that the note is not a counterfeit, he believes it to be genuine; but such a belief yields him no consolation; there is no alteration whatever to be seen in him; there is none in his countenance, in his dress, nor in his walk; but if he believed that the note was genuine, and was confident that the bank was good, then you should find him to be quite another man. These two emotions of the mind united, constitute, in my humble opinion, the nature of faith---the faith of the gospel without which is it impossible to please God. Believing the truth of the gospel respecting invisible things, and having confidence in the power and faithfulness of God to fulfill His promises, is faith unfeigned, that worketh by love, that overcometh the world, and is infinitely precious.
Every one of you believes the truth of the gospel; but many of you have not the least confidence in the character of God: notwithstanding the promises of the gospel contain a sum sufficient to make you comfortable and happy to all eternity, as such the testimony is worthy of all acceptation; but you have not accepted it any more than if it did not belong to you. In the gospel there is a pearl of great price, an inheritance that is incorruptible, undefiled and that fadeth not away; but you are careless and indifferent about it, you never asked for it, for you never prayed to God; your walk, your life and conversation is not such as will lead you to the possession of it: in short, you have no faith; that being the case language is not able to express your miserable condition.
The specimens of faith recorded in the eleventh chapter of the Hebrews, present before us a very strong and striking evidence of “confidence,” in the promise, the power and faithfulness of God, and in His character and general dealings with men. Abraham, if thou wilt offer thine only son Isaac, what will become of the promise? My mind is easy, I will do what God commanded me, being confident that He is able to raise him up from the dead, that my offspring will be as numerous as the stars, and the sand on the sea shore, and that the Messiah shall spring from him. In Isaac thy seed shall be called. So Abraham determined to offer up Isaac on the altar by strong faith in the promise. By faith in the “power” of God, and in obedience to His command, Moses instituted the passover, and went through the Red Sea. By faith in the “power and authority” of Christ the Centurion’s servant was healed. Only speak the word said he, for by Thy word the world was made, and Thy word is powerful and efficacious enough to heal my servant, though Thou hast given me no promise to that effect. By faith in the “character” of God, and His “habitual practice,” the parents of Moses hid him on the banks of the Nile. -- They are making a basket, and are daubing it with slime and pitch, and put the child in it on the river side. -- Amram and Jochebed, why do you believe that the child will not be drowned in that river? We are confident that God will do unto us good. Remember us, O Lord, with the favor that Thou bearest unto Thy people, is our prayer, O visit us with Thy salvation. Thy character is the essence of goodness, mercy and compassion; Thy habitual practice, is to do good unto all them who trust in Thee, and Thou art a God that hearest prayer.
Faith is the same in its nature whatever the foundation and object of it may be; but it is not so in “degree.” Some are weak in the faith, and we read of some having little faith, and of others being strong in faith giving glory to God. Faith is represented in the Word of God by a variety of expressions. Believing the testimony of God, which is called the belief of the truth; to rely and stay on the Lord -- coming to Christ and beholding His glory---receiving Christ---putting on the Lord Jesus-- committing the keeping of our souls to Him, as our faithful Creator and our most glorious Redeemer. But all this is implied in the description given of faith; by the author to the Hebrews: --It is well known that the old road to life by the law was, “do this and live;” but under the gospel, “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, for he is the way, the truth and the life; by faith alone we can be united to Him, by the eye of faith we see His glory, and by the hand of faith we receive every blessing from Him. -- There is no truth more visible, nor oftener repeated in the Bible, than the absolute necessity of faith in the righteousness of Christ. “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” -- This important truth contains a summary of the gospel. -- The truth which God hath blessed for the conversion of sinners every where and in every age. This was very visible in the case of Martin Luther. With all his erroneous principles, the remains of the corruption of popery with which he was still contaminated; he was very clear on this subject. This was the master key which opened the iron gates of the darkness of antichrist that the light of the gospel shined all over Europe; that the council of Trent, and all the deception and powerful influence of popery could not hide it under a vessel any more. Let us only look at the church of England in the present time, in its weak and languid state, whenever there is a minister in that establishment who preaches clearly and faithfully the above mentioned truth, sinners are converted to God through his instrumentality.
Faith in our text is compared to a “shield.” “Above all taking the shield of faith. . .” Love is the greatest in its nature, and it will be the greatest in Heaven forever--but faith is the greatest as a shield on the field of battle, and on account of the station it occupies, as we may see in the register of the new covenant, it is the leading principle for the enjoyment of godly life and eternal salvation. Having faith, all that we have to do all the days of our life, is to add to it. “. . . Add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. . .” and so on as long as you have life in your blood and breath in your nostrils, that you might be neither barren nor unfruitful, but abounding in all these things.
Faith is the wedding ring in the hand of the Holy Spirit, whereby the sinner is united to Christ, the sentence of condemnation removed, and the poor sinner justified; and faith is a living principle in all his obedience to the divine commands. It worketh by love towards God and man. If God commanded a man to leave his native country, and all that is near and dear to him, and go to a strange land -- to offer up his beloved son -- to build an ark on dry ground -- to go to the fiery furnace or the lion’s den -- and hide himself in caves of the rock from his persecutors, “faith” is the grace that will support him -- its weight cannot be lost in the furnace, it cannot be burnt in the fire, nor drowned in the water, for the end of faith is eternal salvation, and is “first” and “above” all in the gospel armour -- the shield of faith. The “shield” was of great importance to the old warriors. Homer the Poet said, that some of the shields of the warriors at the battle of Troy were made of sevenfold thick bull’s hide covered with brass. Faith as a shield defends the Christian from his head to his feet, and also defends the other graces, for the shield was moveable and might be placed between the warrior and the enemy’s arrow, whether it leveled to the head, the feet, the heart or any other part but his back. The Christian therefore should never backslide; he should never turn his back on the enemy. God has promised to protect your backs only while you are facing the enemy in the path of duty. It is of the greatest importance therefore that you should be careful which way you look, whether backward or forward. David and Peter and many besides them, have been most dreadfully wounded in their backs, because their faces were turned the wrong way. Many professors of religion have been turned to pillars of salt, since Lot’s wife, for looking backward.
Think, O my soul! think seriously of this, and watch and pray with all perseverance. “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.” For he that “continueth to the end” shall be saved; and he that is “faithful unto death,” shall receive the crown of life.
Just for a moment look at that. There is Goliath of Gath, the chief of the Giants, down there in the valley, his armour bearer is carrying a tremendous large shield before him; and there is a fine looking young man by the name of David going to meet him without any weapons of war whatever, -- without any visible shield to shelter him from the destructive weapons of the Giant, he has only his sling and few stones to fight with, and the “impenetrable shield of faith” in the power, faithfulness and goodness of the living God of Israel to shelter him; but while Goliath is raising up his head with the utmost contempt and disdain at the very sight of the stripling youth, behold a stone from the sling lodged in his forehead, and down he fell prostrate to the ground to rise no more.
Faith is a “glass” that can draw fire from the sun; and strength and life from the power of Jehovah. You that are weak be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.
The next armour of defense to which I would call your attention, are the shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace.
The Welsh translation of the 15th verse reads thus, And having on your feet the shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace. (Translator.)
The Christian, when he goes to war, must put on his shoes. Omitting the comparison, the doctrine is this: “That the enjoyment of peace through the death of Christ enables the Christian to walk in the path of duty.” It encourages the mind to climb up the mountains, -- the land of miry clay, and the valley of the shadow of death; as the soldier would feel with good shoes on his feet when traveling on a rough road. When David lost the enjoyment of the peace of God, he soon became barefooted and lame; and could not keep up in the rank as usual. The loss of the joys of God’s salvation weakened and entirely enervated the soldiers of the cross; but the feeling sense of the peace of God, and the joys of His countenance, founded on the gospel, is not only very encouraging, but it secures and protects like good shoes, from serpents and scorpions, the thorns and flinty stones, and enables the Christian to walk with a firm step in the ways of the Lord, as the man who has good shoes on can walk the road.
To travel the road of hearing, praying, singing, and attending to the ordinances of the gospel, when the mind does not lay hold on any thing, is like walking barefooted on a bad road in a cold day, the feel will soon become cold and benumbed; and the mind will soon be dejected; that is the case with every one that attends to the means of grace without the love, the peace and joy of Christ in exercise in the heart, which constrain us sweetly to walk the thorny road, and fight the battles of our God. He feels, without these shoes, as if he were slipping and falling every step he moves, and can make no progress in religion; he is afraid to go back, he is afraid to fall, he is afraid to run, and of course he is afraid to fight; to such a soldier I would say put on your shoes and act like a man, and run the race that is set before you that you may obtain the prize; fight manfully under the banner of the cross, that you may wear the crown.
These shoes are of the preparation of the gospel of peace. Had it not been for the gospel there would have been not one weapon for the Christian to fight against the three grand enemies, the devil, the flesh, and the world, and their allied powers. In the gospel we have peace with God, and peace of conscience; and in the gospel arsenal we have all necessary and suitable armour, so that we might be able to stand against the wiles of the devil; and the believer furnished with these heavenly and spiritual weapons, shall overcome his subtle and powerful foes, and at last he shall be made more than a conqueror over them all, through Him that loved him.
In the gospel is truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Here is the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the preparation of the gospel, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the spirit, and the spirit of prayer. All these are prepared -- ready made on the expense of Christ the captain of our salvation. The gospel never comes to man empty. It is by the influence of the gospel of peace that men enlist as soldiers of the cross. They are clothed not in a shroud; but with the gospel armour, that they might be active beings, surrounded as they are with so many enemies. Having relish for the feast, the rich provisions of the gospel, they are strengthened to work and to fight. Put on my friends, the shoes of godly life and conversation. Only let your conversation be as it becometh the nature and the requirements of the gospel of Christ. -- Be ye holy in all manner of conversation, for the gospel of peace requires holiness of heart, and holiness of conduct; that you should be holy in the different stations you fill in life; as husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and domestics, at home and abroad, in private and in public, in prosperity and in adversity, never forget to put on your shoes. Let your light so shine before men that they might see your good works, and glorify the name of your Father Who is in Heaven. You ought to be as a city built upon a hill, that cannot be hid; and as the salt of the earth, for if the salt has lost its savour wherewith shall it be salted. An intelligent and gifted professor of religion without a godly life, is like a barefooted man, well dressed in his regimentals, but he has no shoes on, -- his life and his profession do not correspond; his feet are wounded, and are swelling most dreadfully; he cannot follow the army; -- down go the sword and the helmet, and the shield is lost, and he is finally taken prisoner by the enemy, and is offered on the altar of destruction. While those who have put on the shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace and walk in them, and fight in them, are seated in the heavenly Jerusalem crowned with honor and glory, exclaiming, not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy name O Lord, be all the glory. There are others now busily engaged, well dressed in full regimental on the field of battle fighting with full assurance of victory.
II. We would not notice the usefulness of these armour.
They are to defend the soul, from the poisonous arrows of the enemy. The Christian has to encounter a great many enemies too numerous to be mentioned.
“Unbelief,” is a very formidable enemy; but it cannot stand before the shield of faith; the very sight of the shield will make it retreat without shooting an arrow.
“Disobedience” is one of the worst enemies in a certain sense, the Christian has. Though it will neither fight nor run away; yet it employs carnal reason, and others to plead and advocate its cause. Obedience to the divine commands, is one of the brightest evidences of true faith. Those two are diametrically opposed to one another; and sometimes cause the sincere Christian to stagger at the tremendous sight of the hill of trial. It requires a strong faith to ascend that hill. Let us pause a moment, and look at good old Abraham going up the hill. The divine command saith to Abraham, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” Carnal reason on the behalf of disobedience, said unto him, If you will keep this command you will break a great many other commands. You must break that strong and powerful knot of Fatherly affection, that is implanted in the nature of man and the great commandment of the moral law -- ”Thou shalt not kill;” even humanity itself, without mentioning religion, shuddereth at the thought of committing such an horrid deed, and what will become of the great promise of the Messiah from Isaac’s loins, upon which you build your faith? If you have a spark of religion and godliness in you, cease from such an act that will make all the nations around you abhor the worship of the true God, and will ever look upon you as a murderer, can your servants look upon you in any other light? and you will most positively break Sarah’s heart, you may as well murder her along with him: but Abraham consulted not with flesh and blood, nor paid any attention to the suggestions of carnal reason. With the utmost contempt he looked upon the enemy disobedience, and rose up early in the morning, and took Isaac and his servants with him to the place appointed. He traveled three days with a full determination to cut Isaac’s body to pieces, and shed the blood of his heart on the burning altar, and consume it to ashes in the devouring flames; ---though he loved him as his own soul; yet the command of his God was dearer to his heart. “And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder,” and “we will” (So is the literal translation from the Welsh Bible. ---Translator.) “worship,” and “we will” “come again to you;” for he firmly believed that God would raise him from the ashes of the altar, and that they would return together. I imagine I see them building the altar on the mount, and I am utterly at a loss for words to express the feelings of either; when Abraham with one hand laid hold on Isaac, his darling, his beloved son, and in the other hand holding the knife ready to plunge it into his heart! I listen not to the solemn sound, for there is none but the dead silence of Mount Moriah, ---earth being not able to speak -- Heaven must now intervene. Hark! O how overwhelmingly joyful the sound! I hear the voice of the great angel of the covenant speaking from Heaven, and saying, “Abraham, Abraham: . . .lay not thine hand upon the lad, . . . for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.” “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from when also he received him in a figure.”
Mount Moriah signifies, the bitterness of Jehovah: part of the same mountain where David was in great straight and bitterness of soul on account of the destructive sword of the angel of the Lord, and reared an altar and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings upon it, in the threshing floor of Arauna -- where thousands of lambs were offered in sacrifices in the temple -- and more than all, it was here the Son of God drank the bitter cup which His Father gave Him to drink, and cried out Eloi, Eloi-lama-sabacthani. So that this interesting account of the faith of Abraham manifested on Mount Moriah, naturally led me to look upon a small eminence on the side of that mountain called Calvary. Here I behold two mountains -- two Fathers -- two altars -- two sacrifices -- two deadly weapons -- manifesting the greatest love in the most wonderful manner: but the love of God on Calvary wears the crown, and carries the palm. --The Lord had an undisputed right to demand Isaac from Abraham, whenever he thought proper; but we have no demand on Him. We did not merit such manifestations of love divine. God commendeth His love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, and enemies to Him by wicked works, Christ died for us. We would do well to consider the “active principle,” in this act of obedience---the power of God was not manifested here, in the same way as it is, in making the sun to rise and set, ---in dividing the Red Sea, and the river Jordan; but it was faith, which is of the operation of the spirit of God, was the active principle that made him willing to obey. All the arrows of “carnal reason,” in pleading the case of disobedience, stuck fast in the shield of faith, and did not in the least injure Abraham.
Faith purifies the heart, worketh by love, and it manifesteth itself by good works, in turning sinners from dumb idols to serve the living God. It overcometh the world, and quencheth all the fiery darts of the wicked, or the fiery darts of Belial; according to the Welsh, the devil the prince of darkness whose basket is full of poisonous arrows. He is a powerful, subtle, and invisible enemy, full of fiery wrath and indignation against God and His people; as the darts in the oriental battles were poisoned at one end, and fire set to the other end. The enemy sometimes throws these fiery darts at the Christian, to kindle the same unhallowed fire in his bosom, that he might roast him before the fire of a guilty conscience, and then that he might take and burn him with fire and brimstone in the bottomless pit. From the temptation basket he shot a “deistical arrow” into mind of Adam in paradise, which set all the world on fire, that has been burning on the altar of idolatry to this day. He shot an arrow of “sinful lusts” at King David, and the arrow of “the fear of man” at Peter, which most dreadfully wounded them both in their backs. And he shot the arrow of “covetousness” at the heart of Judas, because he had no shield to defend himself, and set him on fire, and burned him most awfully, till he dropped down into the eternal fire of Hell.
The fire set to the tail of Satan’s arrows, has a natural tendency to set the sinner’s heart on fire of the love of sin. By these fiery darts, the tongue is set on fire so that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature. Being set on fire of Hell no man can tame it. It is an unruly, evil, full of deadly poison. And by the fire proceeding from these fiery darts the sinner’s bosom is continually burning with the fire of fear and guilt, under a most awful sensation, and certain fearful looking forward, for judgment, and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries. The shield of faith is therefore absolutely necessary as a defensive armour, wherewith you shall be able to quench these fiery darts of the devil. The living principle implanted in the heart, quickens the sinner, and makes him active and watchful. All the awful and solemn things of eternity are set before him, on the tables not somewhere at a distance, but in his sight, close by him, right before him. Faith brings before the mind, the one supreme, eternal, almighty, just, holy, faithful, and merciful God. The moral law shining forth in all its splendor, as holy in its nature and just in all its requirements, bearing the impress of the moral perfections of the Deity. It shows stern and inflexible justice the guilty without a full satisfaction for the offence committed. Then faith points to the Son of God, in all the glories of His person, as God man, in all the excellencies of His offices, as a Prophet, Priest and King; and all the infinite merit of His atonement, by virtue thereof, enemies can be reconciled to God -- the naked clothed -- the unclean washed -- the hungry fed -- the thirsty may drink abundantly -- and the captives liberated, and brought to the glorious liberty of the children of God. There is a full conviction of the separation of the soul and body by death -- the resurrection of the dead -- the final judgment -- the eternal punishment of the ungodly -- and the everlasting happiness of the righteous -- and all the glorious blessings connected with justification and sanctification, with a full assurance that God will fulfill His promises.
The love of sin therefore, cannot kindle a flame in the heart protected by the shield of faith; neither is it in the power of guilt to bring that soul to a state of despair, for faith in the blood of Jesus, quenches the love of sin, and where it is in full action, and all its steam and water power in full operation, stimulated by prayer and perseverance, the love of sin cannot make a great devastation.
All these armour are spiritual and durable in their nature. The same girdle, the same breastplate, the same shield, the same sword, the same helmet, the same shoes during the whole warfare. The same light that shined on Paul’s heart in the road to Damascus -- the same faith, the same hope, and the same love when he finished his course with joy, triumphing in redeeming love.
[From Christopher Cockrell, editor: The Berea Baptist Banner, January 5, 2015, pp. 1, 4-9. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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