The Whole Armour of God - Part 2
II. -And then comes the heavenly recipe, how to take, wear, and use this armour aright.
"Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints." It is by faith, as we shall presently see, that the heavenly armour is received, worn, and used: but it is chiefly by the "prayer of faith:" for by believing prayer is the armour taken: by continual prayer "praying always" kept on: and by spiritual prayer "supplication in the Spirit" used and wielded. If we do not continually "pray in the Spirit," the limbs will, so to speak, shrink: and the armour drop off.
The knights of old exercised themselves every day in their full armour, or they could not have borne it, nor used their weapons with dexterity and strength. So must the Christian warrior, by prayer and supplication, "exercise himself unto godliness." Without "praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance" -standing sentry in the armour, keeping ward and watch -its very weight will crush us. But it is "praying in the Spirit." Not loud, long, formal prayers, nor vain repetitions; but, as Jude speaks, "praying in the Holy Ghost," by the help and intercession of the Spirit; and that "always;" at all seasons, all times, all places, everywhere, and whenever the Spirit of grace and supplication may fall.
Again; it must be "all prayer;" that is, all kinds of prayer- public prayer, private prayer, mental prayer, crying prayer, groaning prayer, weeping prayer, meditating prayer; prayer feeble, prayer strong; prayer of necessity, prayer of importunity; prayer of distance, and prayer of nearness; the prayer of the publican, the leper, and the outcast, as well as the prayer of the believing, the hoping, and the loving. With prayer, must be joined "supplication," that is, beseeching the Lord, weeping at his feet, begging of him to appear, clasping his knees, and pouring out the soul into his bosom. To this must be added, "watching thereunto." To watch for the answer; to wait for the appearing of the Lord "more than they that watch for the morning." And this, "with all perseverance," never giving it up, taking no denial, begging of the Lord again and again, and wrestling with him till he appear to bless, visit, and shine upon the soul.
O how this heavenly recipe keeps every part of the armour bright, and the soldier active and expert in its use! The armour indeed of itself, as being from heaven, gets neither dull nor rusty. It is we who get sluggish in its use. But, to our apprehension, faith and prayer make it glitter more brightly. How, for instance, "the prayer of faith" brightens up the girdle of truth, and makes it glitter and shine! How it burnishes the breastplate, and makes it fit tightly round the bosom! How it makes the helmet glitter in the sun, and its noble plumes to wave in all their native lustre! How it beats out every dent the shield may have received from the fiery darts, arid fits it for fresh encounters! And how it sharpens "the sword of the Spirit," gives it a brighter polish, and nerves the arm to wield it with renewed activity and vigour! O this is the secret of all true victory! All is, all must be well, when we are in a prayerful, meditative, watching state: and all is ill, when this heavenly recipe is neglected: when the hands droop, and the knees faint, and prayer seems dead and motionless in the breast. Let there be in the soul an abiding spirit of prayer, and victory is sure. Satan has little power against the soul that has an abiding spirit of prayer, and is "watching thereunto with all perseverance." But, without this spirit of prayer, we are a prey to all his temptations, and can neither take, wear, nor use the only armour against them.
Such, then, is the armour that God has provided: and such is the way in which it is to be taken, worn, and used -taken by faith, worn by prayer, and wielded with perseverance -for it is never to be laid by till death unclasps it. And, you may depend upon it, that God would not have provided such an armour as this, so complete a panoply, unless there were a real battle to fight. Christian warriors are not Chinese soldiers, who wear armour of pasteboard, painted to resemble iron; but their armour is of real steel. As, therefore, God has provided such an armour as this, it is plain they have no puny enemy to fight.
Now Satan s grand stratagem is to conceal and hide his strength. He is like a skilful general, who does not shew all his army, but conceals them behind hedges, walls, and trees, and keeps them close in the trenches, so that the enemy may not see all his force. Satan is never so powerful as when we know least of his power, and he is never so successful as when he shoots at us from behind the trench. The apostle, therefore, says, "Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." It is his devilish craft and subtlety that we have so much to dread. Lay aside one piece of the armour, and you are at once shot down.
The text speaks of "an evil day;" that is, a day of danger, of alarm: a day on which the Prince of Evil is plotting: and an evil, dark and gloomy day for us, unless we have on the heavenly armour, and know how to wear and use it. "Put on," says the apostle: "take unto you the whole armour of God." There is a putting of it on. It is not like the Armoury in the Tower. where guns. and pistols, and other military weapons are hung up in ornamental circles to be looked at as a spectacle: but it is to be taken, to be put on, to be received from the hands of God, and clasped round by his own fingers.
I have already shewn how needful prayer and watchfullness are to the putting on of heavenly armour. But I may further add, that it is by faith we put on every piece. If we have no faith, we have no Christian sincerity, nor spiritual knowledge of the truth; therefore, "the loins are not girt about with truth." If we have no faith, we have on no breastplate of Christ s righteousness; for that is only put on by faith. If we have no faith, we have no defence for our feet; for by faith we stand and walk; and therefore the feet are not "shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace." If we have no faith, we have no helmet, because "salvation" is laid hold of by faith. If we have no faith, we cannot have "the shield of faith;" that is evident. If we have no faith, we cannot use "the sword of the Spirit," which is only wielded by faith. If we have no faith, we have no true prayer; for it is "the prayer of faith" that is effectual with God.
By faith, therefore, is every piece of the heavenly armour put on; and by faith, living faith, is every piece of it used. What strange characters we are! Able to fight one day, fleeing the next; resisting Satan this moment, and giving way that. How is this to be accounted for? Because at this moment we have faith; at the next, we have, or seem to have none. Faith is to the soul what a main-spring is to the watch. The main-spring is broken, or wanting. What is the watch worth? So faith is the main-spring of the soul. Let there be no faith, there is no inward movement. There may be hands, but like the hands of a child s watch, they are made for shew, not for use: a bauble and a toy, not a working instrument. There must be faith in the soul in order that the hands may move in accordance with the will of God, and keep right time with the dial of the Sun of Righteousness.
Faith too, we need not only to wear, but to wield this heavenly armour, so as to "withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." It is, in the margin, "having overcome all, to stand." And what a flood of light does this cast upon a Christian s path- that the greatest danger lies in, and after victory! Bunyan has beautifully touched upon this, where he represents Christian as stumbling and falling immediately after he had got the start of his brother. When you have, in the strength of Christ, overcome one temptation, you are standing upon the brink of another: and the very pride that may lift up your heart for having gained one battle, only opens a way to fall by the next encounter.
What a strange warfare! Paul s maxim would not do for the Duke of Wellington, "When I am weak, then am I strong." That would not do to go to Waterloo with. We are never so weak as when in ourselves we are strong; we are never so strong as when in ourselves we are weak. Let me think myself secure, I fall; let me fear to fall, I am safe. O the mysteries of the Christian life! O the paradox of the heavenly warfare! And therefore, with the deepest wisdom, the apostle has said, "Take unto you the whole armour of God." Do not leave a single piece out; your life is at stake; forget not one buckle; leave loose not a single clasp; "that ye may withstand in the evil day." There is an evil day coming; a day of temptation, an hour of trial; an evil day when the clouds gather blackness, the welkin is overspread with gloom, and the enemy comes forth in all his strength. In that "evil day," the hour of temptation, who can stand? None but he who has on "the whole armour of God."
Well; the evil day passes over; the sky clears, the clouds break, the
sun comes forth, and its bright beams glance upon the warrior
O, we must never lay aside the heavenly armour! And this is a mercy, that if we have one piece, we have all. God does not send us to the battle half armed. He who has provided one, has provided all. Let this too be remembered, and laid to heart, by way of encouragement- that the Lord, in choosing recruits, does not, like our army sergeants, choose the strong, active, stout, lusty, vigourous, and healthy. He admits strange characters into his regiment; those whom no army doctor would pass; the halt, and the lame, the blind, the crippled, and asthmatic, the wheezing, and the paralysed; the consumptive in lung, the diseased in heart, and the withered in limb; he enlists them in his heavenly regiment, makes them all whole by a touch of his finger, clothes them with his heavenly armour, sends them forth to battle, and fights for them as "the God of armies." Thus, weak in themselves, they are strong in Christ, and in the power of his might. And every such soldier will eventually win the day, gain the prize, and come off more than conqueror through him who loved and gave himself for him.