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THE CHRISTIAN SOLDIER'S SPIRITUAL DUTY, 8ec.
IN TWO SERMONS, DURING THE SUMMER, 1768.
EPHESIANS, Ch. VI. v. 10—20, inclusive.
filially, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the ^hole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 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. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breast-plate of righteousness; 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. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayerand supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints: and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth Wdly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
From St. John the Baptist's answer to the questions of the soldiery, Luke, iii. 14, I have considered the Christian Soldier's duty, chiefly in a temporal view, and in a three-fold Light—
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1. As Servants of their God. 2. As Servants of their King; or the Powers that rule over them; from whom they actually derive their authority, and receive their wages or pay. 3. As Members of Society interested, alike with their fellow-citizens, in all the good or evil, that can befall their country. I now take up a new Text, but not foreign to the former one, so far as concerns the Christian Soldier’s Duty to his Country; as a public Servant, employed to repel Violence, and the Injustice of fellow-men, when offered against the Laws and Rights of the community. According to the text now chosen, I have to consider you, my Brethren, as enlisted in a Spiritual, as well as Temporal, Warfare; and to fight under the banners of a more glorious Leader than any in this world—namely, the Lord Jesus Christ, the great Author and Captain of our Salvation! In this Warfare, therefore, I have to consider you also in a further view, not merely as contending against flesh and blood; but “ against Principalities and Powers, the “Rulers of the Darkness of this World, and Spiritual “Wickedness in high places.”—But, nevertheless, let us rejoice, my Heaven-protected, and Heaven-supported, Fellow-Christians! that we are called, in this warfare, to fight not only under such a Leader;— “but to be strong in the Lord, and in the Power of “His Might; to put on the whole armour, the rich “Panoply, of God—that we may not fear the attacks “ of our Spiritual enemies; but be able to Stand, “even against the wiles of the Devil himself.”
Behold! He, this great and mighty Leader, is ready to invest you with your victorious Armour— 4' The Girdle of Truth, the Breast-plate of Righteousness; the Preparation of the Gospel; the Shield of Faith; the Helmet of Salvation; and the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God;" to which you must add—" Prayer and Supplication in the Spirit, Watching thereunto with all perseverance; (not forgetting Prayers and Intercessions) or Supplications for all Saints; and for Me, says the Apostle (by which may be understood, all the preachers of the Gospel, who should follow his example, through every age) that Utterance might be given unto Him and Them; to open their mouths boldly, to make known the mysteries of our Holy Christianity."
Blessed God! give a portion of this Utterance to thy Servant, the present Preacher; and aid Him with Thy divine Spirit, while He now proceeds to explain the Nature, and teach the Use, of this divine Catalogue of Christian Armour; that, being strong in its Environments, we may be enabled, to seek and to find, and to maintain the Truth, in such manner that—" the Truth shall make us Free—Free to "Fight the Good Fight of Faith, and to lay Hold of "Eternal Life!"
In maintaining this Good Fight, in supporting this Spiritual Warfare, it will be necessary to consider some of the impediments, and obstructions, which, in this world, beset us and keep us from coming to an immediate and direct View of the Truth; a strict Perception of the Nature of Moral Good and Evil, and a due Discernment of the difference bc« tween them!
It will not be needful, in many words, to shew that our journey through life, and our searches after Happiness and Good, are so opposed, by strong inward Biasses, and conflicting Passions, that we are constantly called to maintain a Spiritual Warfare, and to contend with the Powers of Darkness, in our way to the Kingdom of Light and Glory!
So sensible of these inward struggles, were even many of the wisest Heathens themselves, that not being able to account for this apparent Contradiction in the Structure of their Nature, viz. " some powerful Biass or inward Motive towards Evil, constantly striving against all their Virtuous Motions"—They invented, or resolved it into, the doctrine of Two Gods—or two Main Principles—one of Good, the other of Evil, existing in Nature, and at continual enmity, one with the other!
But to us, who rejoice in the light of divine Revelation, this matter is not left wrapped up in the obscurity of man's conjectures, or to be spelled out by a vain and superficial philosophy. From the eternal Fountain of all Truth, we are fully taught, that the Principle of Good is nothing else but the Great Creator, or the Voice of God within us; who, being Himself everlasting and essential Goodness, is constantly desiring to assimilate all mankind to Himself; and to perfect goodness in them, so far as is consistent with that Freedom of their Will, which constitutes them Moral Agents.
On the other hand, the Principle of Evil, is nothing else, but the Prince of Darkness; who, haying rebelled against the supreme Order and Ruler of the Universe, and defiled its original Beauty, is ever striving to pervert it more and more, into his own depraved and deformed likeness!
That unembodied Spirits, Good as well as Evil, can influence, or operate upon our Spirits, is a point, which (under the light of the Gospel) none will deny; although we are not able to explain the Nature of those secret and invisible Illapses, by which we are
When the prince of Darkness, and his Legions of Rebellious Followers, were precipitated from the Kingdom of Heaven, they were not immediately bound or shut up in Outer Darkness; but left, for a time, to wander to and fro; as the scriptures phrase it, " in dry places;" and to prey upon the spirits of those who are inattentive to all heavenly Influences; seeking whom they may lead astray and devour. For, as it is with true Goodness, which is not content to be Happy alone, or in solitary enjoyment; so it is with Sin and Wickedness, which is ever striving to make others share their Misery. Our Saviour himself, and his most faithful Followers, have been attacked with powerful Temptations, from the Spirit of Evil; and have set us a glorious example by what Armour we are to come off Conquerors, in every great Trial. In a word, as there are divine irradiations, often illuminating our souls, which can only come from God; so there are frequent wicked Suggestions, which can only proceed from the Apostacy of our Nature, and the Spirit of all Evil. Whoever will attend, or listen, to the language of his own heart, will hear the Voice