(From William Spurstowe’s The Spiritual Chymist, 1666)
Who can either think or read what a slaughter was made by one angel in the numerous army of Sennacherib, who in a night destroyed a hundred fourscore and five thousand men [Is. 37:36] without reflecting upon a vast disparity that is between the strength and power which in angelical and human beings?
Great things are recorded in sacred history to be done by some of Israel’s Judges and David’s worthies which would be looked upon as impossibilities, if the Spirit of God were not the voucher of the truth of them. Shammer slew six hundred Philistines with an ox goad; Sampson with the jaw bone of an ass laid heaps upon heaps; and Adino the Tachmonite lifted up his spear against eight hundred, who he flew at one time.
But if these and the like remarkable acquists [acquisitions, events] which others also are famed for and have their names enrolled in the list of worthies were as several parcels brought to one total, how far short would the foot of the account [the total, the summation] be in regard of this number fell by the sword of one angel?
Well might the Scripture give to them the name of mighty ones of principalities and powers such as excel in strength. How quickly would a legion of such elohims [Hebrew for gods, mighty one] turn the whole world into a charnel house [house of dead bodies] filled with the skulls and bones of its inhabitants when a single angel can in a small space of time change so many living person into dead carcasses? How soon could they cloy and surfeit the grave itself which is insatiable as any those four things that say, It is not enough? [Prov. 30:15-16]
Does not all this therefore greatly heighten the wonder of the spiritual warfare in which the frail Christian, who has not put off the infirmity of the flesh, does yet go forth to fight and war with the combined hosts and powers of darkness? If young David were looked upon as an unequal match by Saul and all Israel to commute with Goliath, the vastness of whose stature and warlike arms had struck terror into the whole camp; how strange must it needs be deemed that one who to the outward view is as any other man should conflict not with flesh and blood but with spiritual wickedness, which are for number many and for power great?
What is one weak lamb to resist the lions of the forrest? Or one harmless dove to encounter with birds of prey? As impotent as either of these, may the strongest man seem, to do ought to deliver themselves or to offend any of their spiritual enemies when they assault them.
But yet the resolved Christian, who is called to a holy warfare by God, he does such noble exploits against sin and Satan, as cause both a shout and a wonder in heaven. Angels are affected to behold what a great fight of afflictions he [the Christian] endures; what replaces he die to the reiterated assaults of enraged fiends; and when at any time worsted, who he rallies again, recovers his ground and comes off both with victory and triumph, putting to flight whole armies of those infernal Anakims. [Joshua 14:12]
It is worth our inquiry and knowledge of them to understand wherein this great strength of a Christian lies, which is not a natural but a mystical and sacramental strength, like Sampson. But it lies not in his hair [like Sampson, Judges 16:17], but in his head and in his armor, which for efficiency of it, as well as for excellency of it, is called the Armor of God. [Ephesians 6:13]
First, the head of every believer is Christ, who derives an influence of life and power of himself [that is, from Christ; Col. 2:10 & 19] worthy of himself. I can do all things (says Paul) through Christ that strengtheneth me. [Phil. 4:13] There is a continued efflux of virtue that goes from him which to every Christian communicates a kind of omnipotency; He, who without Christ can do nothing, can in him [Christ] can do everything.
What a catalogue of forces does the apostle muster up in the eighth of Romans, from which he supposed an opposition may come: Life, death, angels, principalities, powers, things present, things to come, height, depth. And that he may leave out none, he adds, any creature. And yet he pronounces them, that in all these, We are conquerors, yea more than conquerors. [Rom. 8:37-39]. Which, as Chrysostom interprets it, is to overcome them with ease, without pains, and without sweat.
O that Christians did but understand their own strength, that they war in the power of his might [Eph. 6:10], who spoiled principalities and powers and made a show of them openly, leading them as so many pinioned captives after the chariot of his cross [Eph. 4:8; Col. 2:15], whereon he showed many signal testimonies of a glorious victory in saving a their without means [Luke 23:43]; in ending the veil of the temple from top to the bottom, in the shaking of the earth, cleaving the rocks asunder, opening graves and causing many bodies of saints to arise. [Matt. 27:51-53] How greatly would these thoughts keep us from being weary and faint in our spiritual war, and make our hands steady like the hands of Moses until going down of the sun of our life [Exodus 17:11].
Secondly, a Christian’s strength lies in his armor which when rightly put on is able to preserve that the evil one touch him not. [Eph. 6:13] There is no standing in the battle without it, and there is no fear of perishing in it. When did ever Satan bruise or wound the head of him that had the helmet of Salvation for his covering? Or endanger the vitals of him who had put on the breast plate of righteousness, and his loins girt about with truth? What one fiery dart of the wicked did ever so burn that the shield of faith could not quench? Or what way of suffering could not he walk in, whose feel are shod with the preparation of the Gospel of Peace? [Eph. 6:13-17]
Methinks when I consider that God, who best knows the utmost both of Satan’s power and policies, is the maker of the armor It is a voice becoming every soldier of Christ to say, Of whom shall I be afraid? [Ps. 27:1] If he calls to fight, and furnishes us with arms that unable to defend us, or to offend our enemies, he would suffer in his glory as well as we in our comfort: He would then have his champions to be Satan’s captives, and the banner which they spread to his Name become Hell’s trophy. And can he, do you think endure at once to see the destruction of his people and the dishonor of his Name?
Whosoever therefore you be, that are clad in his armor of proof [tested, pure], let me say unto you as the Lord to Gideon, Go in this thy might and fight the battles of Jehovah. [Judges 6:14] Take unto you the Sword of the Spirit, that will kill lusts and make the Devil flee: It has wrought wonder in all ages and its edge is still as sharp as ever it was.
By the word of thy lips (says David) I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer. [Ps. 17:4] It is written, says our Savior, when he foiled his and our Adversary and him to flight after his repeated assaults. [Matt. 4:1-11] And in that great battle that we read was fought between Michael and his angels and the Dragon and his angels [Rev. 12:7-17], he and his hosts overcome by the Blood of the Lamb and the Word of their testimony. [Rev. 12:11]
Let every man then have his sword upon his thigh, because of fear in the night: put not off your armor till you have put on your robes. [Rev. 7:13]. It is made to be worn, not to be laid up, nor yet to be laid down, because our warfare and our life are both finished together. Till then there is not a truce, must less a peace for to be expected. Sooner may we contract a league [make a treaty, become allies] with poisons that when taken down they shall not kill; or with fiery serpents and cockatrices that they bite not, than to obtain respite in this war, in which the malice of the cursed devils is an unquenchable as the fire of Hell, to which they are doomed.
Lord, therefore do thou
Who are the Prince of Life,
The Captain of Salvation to all thy people,
Who hath finished thine own warfare,
and behold theirs,
Enable me to prevail unto victory;
Shew forth thy wonders in me,
That I may overcome the Wicked One.
And though the conflict should be long and bitter,
Yet make me to know
That the sweetness of thy reward
Will abundantly recompense the trouble of resistance
And the joy of trip ump,
The bloodiness of war.