ON THE CHRISTIAN’S ARMOUR
Consider first, that the life of a Christian here upon earth being a perpetual warfare, he is under a necessity of providing himself with proper armour, if he hopes to come off with victory. What this armour should be we may learn from the apostle, Eph. vi. 13, & c. ‘Take unto you,’ saith he, ‘the armour of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and to stand in all things perfect. stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of justice, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, in all things taking the shield of faith, wherewith you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take unto you the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, (which is the word of God,) by all prayer and supplication, praying at all times in the spirit, and in the same watching with all instance,’ & c. O how completely shall that Christian be armed against all his enemies that makes such a provision for himself as is here recommended by the apostle, of arms, both defensive and offensive. Let us descend to each particular.
Consider therefore, 2ndly, that the soldier of Christ, in order to be fit to put on his armour, and to stand in the battle, without being hindered by his earthly garments hanging loosely about him, must first gird up his loins; that is, he must set out with a firm resolution of restraining his passions and lusts, and all irregular affections to these earthly things which very much encumber and hinder the Christian in his spiritual conflicts, and give the enemy a great hold of him. Now the girdle or belt he must make use of for this end is truth, ‘for he must be girt about with truth,’ says the apostle; that is with sincerity, uprightness, Christian simplicity, and purity of intention in his undertaking; having purely in view God and his soul, and being resolved at all events to fight till death, and to sacrifice on all occasions his dearest inclinations to the love of God and the salvation of his soul. Thus must he begin, and then proceed to put on the breastplate or coat of mail of Christian justice; by which is here understood not one particular virtue, but the collection of them all, which the soldier of Christ must labour to furnish himself with against the temptations of all their opposite vices. He must also have ‘his feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.’ But what is meant by this? The feet of the soul are his affections, by which she moves towards the things she loves. These, in the Christian soldier, must be properly shod with the preparation, that is, with the readiness and promptitude, of the soul to direct all her steps, not towards the lying vanities and fooleries of the world, in which there is no peace; but to walk in the ways of the gospel, which alone can insure to us any true peace, either for time or eternity.
Consider 3rdly, that after these previous dispositions and general preparations for the spiritual warfare, the apostle recommends as the chief pieces of the Christian’s armour, the shield of faith, which has a particular efficacy in extinguishing all the fiery darts levelled at us by the wicked one; and the helmet of salvation, that is, divine hope, which protects the head of the soul from being wounded by any of his weapons. Yes, Christians, if you would keep your souls from being pierced with the hellish darts of Satan, you must take care to carry about with you the shield of faith, that is, a strong and lively belief of the great truths of the gospel, with a sense of the presence of God, and a remembrance of death, judgment, heaven, and hell, and you shall be out of their reach. But then you must also provide yourselves with the helmet of hope, by joining an absolute distrust in yourselves with an entire confidence in God; lest otherwise your head be left naked and exposed on all sides to the wounds of the enemy, and there be no soundness in it, which is the case of all those who in this kind of warfare build upon themselves and not upon our Lord.
Conclude to spare no pains to procure every part of this heavenly armour; that you may be able to fight the battles of your Lord in such manner as to overcome his and your enemies, and to triumph eternally with him. Especially take care to secure to yourselves the shield of a lively faith by the means of daily meditations on the truths of eternity.