31 October 2005

Spurgeon on warfare, compromise, and the sword of the Spirit

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon

PyroManiac devotes Monday space to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive.

SpurgeonHere's an excerpt one of the last sermons Spurgeon ever preached at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. This was preached on April 19, 1891—less than a year before Spurgeon's death. Spurgeon was embroiled in a great theological conflict at the time. It was the height of the "Down-Grade Controversy."

The sermon's theme is spiritual warfare. That, of course, has also been the central motif here at PyroManiac for several days. In this introduction to his sermon, Spurgeon makes some excellent points about the Christian's weaponry, the futility of compromise, and the need to stand.

Lord willing, we'll follow up some of these thoughts in Tuesday's post. In the meantime, if you want to read more of Spurgeon's sermon, the text is Ephesians 6:17 ("take . . . the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God"); the title is "The Sword of the Spirit," and you'll find the complete sermon at The Spurgeon Archive.

TO BE A CHRISTIAN is to be a warrior. The good soldier of Jesus Christ must not expect to find ease in this world: it is a battle-field. Neither must he reckon upon the friendship of the world; for that would be enmity against God. His occupation is war. As he puts on piece by piece of the panoply provided for him, he may wisely say to himself, "This warns me of danger; this prepares me for warfare; this prophesies opposition."

Difficulties meet us even in standing our ground; for the apostle, two or three times, bids us—"Stand." In the rush of the fight, men are apt to be carried off their legs. If they can keep their footing, they will be victorious; but if they are borne down by the rush of their adversaries, everything is lost.

You are to put on the heavenly armor in order that you may stand; and you will need it to maintain the position in which your Captain has placed you. If even to stand requires all this care, judge ye what the warfare must be!

The apostle also speaks of withstanding as well as standing. We are not merely to defend, but also to assail. It is not enough that you are not conquered; you have to conquer: and hence we find, that we are to take, not only a helmet to protect the head, but also a sword, with which to annoy the foe.

Ours, therefore, is a stern conflict, standing and withstanding; and we shall want all the armor from the divine magazine, all the strength from the mighty God of Jacob.

It is clear from our text that our defense and our conquest must be obtained by sheer fighting. Many try compromise; but if you are a true Christian, you can never do this business well. The language of deceit fits not a holy tongue. The adversary is the father of lies, and those that are with him understand the art of equivocation; but saints abhor it.

If we discuss terms of peace, and attempt to gain something by policy, we have entered upon a course from which we shall return in disgrace. We have no order from our Captain to patch up a truce, and get as good terms as we can. We are not sent out to offer concessions.

It is said that if we yield a little, perhaps the world will yield a little also, and good may come of it. If we are not too strict and narrow, perhaps sin will kindly consent to be more decent. Our association with it will prevent its being so barefaced and atrocious. If we are not narrow-minded, our broad doctrine will go down with the world, and those on the other side will not be so greedy of error as they now are.

No such thing. Assuredly this is not the order which our Captain has issued. When peace is to be made, he will make it himself, or he will tell us how to behave to that end; but at present our orders are very different.

Neither may we hope to gain by being neutral, or granting an occasional truce. We are not to cease from conflict, and try to be as agreeable as we can with our Lord's foes, frequenting their assemblies, and tasting their dainties. No such orders are written here. You are to grasp your weapon, and go forth to fight.

Neither may you so much as dream of winning the battle by accident. No man was ever holy by a happy chance. Infinite damage may be done by carelessness; but no man ever won life's battle by it. To let things go on as they please, is to let them bear us down to hell. We have no orders to be quiet, and take matters easily. No; we are to pray always, and watch constantly.

The one note that rings out from the text is this:—TAKE THE SWORD! TAKE THE SWORD! No longer is it, talk and debate! No longer is it, parley and compromise! The word of thunder is—Take the sword. The Captain's voice is clear as a trumpet—Take the sword! No Christian man here will have been obedient to our text unless with clear, sharp, and decisive firmness, courage, and resolve, he takes the sword. We must go to heaven sword in hand, all the way. "TAKE THE SWORD." On this command I would enlarge. May the Holy Spirit help me!

It is noteworthy that there is only one weapon of offense provided, although there are several pieces of armor. The Roman soldier usually carried a spear as well as a sword. We have seen frequent representations of the legionary standing upon guard as sentry, and he almost always stands with a spear in his right hand, while his sword hangs at his side. But Paul, for excellent reasons, concentrates our offensive weapon in one, because it answers for all. We are to use the sword, and that only.

Therefore, if you are going to this fight, see well to your only weapon. If you are to have no other, take care that you have this always in your hand.

C. H. Spurgeon

Phil's signature

8 comments:

Student of History said...

I just want to wish you a happy Reformation day! You are one of my favorite stops on the web for good old fashioned theology discussion.

I appreciate you, Phil!

Warmly,
Kate

bluecollar said...

What "student of history" said!

Amen!

Jim Crigler said...

I just want to add that that this is an especially appropriate post for Reformation Day. Much of evangelicalism seems to be intent on compromise with Rome (is this analogous with the Down-Grade Controversy, Phil?), and in such "ecumenical" discussions, Rome has never given an inch.

For a reasonably detailed record of how this worked out over the second half of the 20th century, see Ian Murray's book, Evangelicalism Divided. Parts of this book left me quite literally breathless.

A couple of other Reformation Day resources come from Dr. Mike and All His Many Friends And Relations: The September-October issue of Modern Reformation, themed "Shall We Still Protest?", and the October 30th broadcast of The White Horse Inn, which features an interview with Mark Noll and then some discussion of where Prof. Noll's analysis in a recent book (I can't recall the title) falls short. (These guys have done better shows on the Reformation, but this one is still pretty good.)

Mike Perrigoue said...

Spurgeon said,

"Neither may we hope to gain by being neutral, or granting an occasional truce. We are not to cease from conflict, and try to be as agreeable as we can with our Lord's foes, frequenting their assemblies, and tasting their dainties. No such orders are written here. You are to grasp your weapon, and go forth to fight."

Oh, my. This should bring conviction to all for "frequenting their assemblies and tasting their dainties"...and even more conviction for making our own 'Christian' assemblies and dainties look and taste like 'Theirs'.

Yes, Happy Reformation Day!

Bewildered Berean said...

Amen and Amen.

Happy Reformation Day to all!

I worked in youth ministry for years and so most of the teens of then are in their 20's now. Most of them have myspace.com accounts. On the list of friends there, I only have former students on it. Last night I sent all of them a brief encouragement of what Reformation Day is. I was delighted to have replies from them saying how awesome they thought that was. Most had no idea when it happened. So hopefully a little light was shown in their post-modern relativistic lives. The battle is so hard, I am only weary on my own, but by His strength, I am made strong.

Broken Messenger said...

It is noteworthy that there is only one weapon of offense provided, although there are several pieces of armor. The Roman soldier usually carried a spear as well as a sword. We have seen frequent representations of the legionary standing upon guard as sentry, and he almost always stands with a spear in his right hand, while his sword hangs at his side. But Paul, for excellent reasons, concentrates our offensive weapon in one, because it answers for all. We are to use the sword, and that only.

..."the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God."

Thanks Phil, very good stuff.

Brad

Bhedr said...

Never a dull message with the Chuckster. He fought all the way to the end. Will we then?

ajlin said...

Happy Reformation Day!
If anyone's interested in reading some old-fashioned "Monday Menagerie"-type material, check out my post from today on Alferd Packer.