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BEING THE LAST PREACHED TO THE XVIIIth, Or
Roy AL REGIMENT OF IRELAND;
EPHESIANS, Ch. VI. v. 10.—20, inclusive,
IN my former Sermon from this Text, expecting it might be the last which I might address to you, I pressed into its Conclusion, as full an Account and Explanation of the Spiritual Armour, which St. Paul recommends to the Christian Soldier, as the time would allow. But it was only a general Account and Explanation; and I cheerfully embrace the present opportunity of entering more particularly into the detail of this important subject; although it will unavoidably be attended with some repetitions, which I know, you will readily excuse. The first part of this Heavenly Armour, recommended by the apostle is “the Girdle of Truth;”— “Stand, therefore, says he, having your loins girt about with Truth.” Armour, my Brethren, cannot be put on, unless we have some Girdle, or Belt, round us, to which it is to be appended. Most properly, therefore, does the apostle recommend Truth, as that to which the whole of our Spiritual Armour must be fixed.
“In handling this fine allegory of St. Paul (as Locke expresses it) viz. “the providing Armour for his Christian Soldier, so as to arm him at all points, there is no need curiously to explain wherein the peculiar correspondence between those Virtues, and those Pieces of Armour consisted; it being plain enough what the Apostle means, and wherewith he would have Believers to be armed for their Warfare.”
By Truth is meant not merely Moral Truth, and strict Veracity, in all our Speech and Conduct; but (as hinted before) “by Truth,” in the epistles of St. Paul, is often emphatically meant, the blessed Gospel of Jesus Christ—the whole Sum and Substance of the Christian Doctrines and Revelation. Without this Girdle around us, therefore, without a deep and serious Persuasion, that the Gospel of Christ contains the words of Eternal Life; without a transcendent Love and Zeal for it, wrapping ourselves up in it as our Security and Strength, as our strong-Hold and Castle of defence, against all the attacks of our Spiritual enemies;—our other Christian Armour would be of little effect, and could neither be buckled round us, nor carried out with us, in the hour of greatest need. Now, if, in the Heathen world, the Man who in all his Words and Actions, guarded himself on every side by a sovereign Love of Truth and Justice, was held in the utmost Veneration, and could in no Trial of Life be surprized, or found without this heavenly girdle around him;—How far more glorious a Figure must the Man be, in the Christian world, who is never found unless having his Loins divinely girt about, with the everlasting Truths of the Gospel? Great, and greatly to be admired, were those ancient Worthies, who rather chose to drink the poisoned bowl, to its very dregs, than to give up one Article of those Truths which they had received only from the Light of Nature!—Yet what were those Worthies, when we compare them with the catalogue of Christian Heroes—Apostles, Martyrs, suffering Saints and Confessors, in every age of the Church; who, having their loins girt about with Everlasting Truth, in Imitation of their great Master and Captain, Jesus Christ; strove, and were enabled, to quench all the fiery Darts of Wickedness? Conscious that the Scriptures of God, contained the Way and the Life; having the Heavenly Prize of Immortality full in their view; “looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of their Faith;”—No Enemies, either Spiritual or Temporal; no Threats or Promises; no short-lived Temptation of this world; no Difficulties or Dangers, nay nor Death itself, could attack them unprovided with their armour; or slacken their ardour in the defence of the mighty Truths of God, so as to appal them in their warfare! Their Support and Triumph was in this—“That the God of all Grace, who had “called them unto His eternal Glory, by Christ “Jesus; after that they had suffered a while, would “make them perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle “ them.*,” and give them everlasting victory! Oh! that some portion of this primitive Love of GospelTruth might descend upon us, and that we could think it our very first Duty to have our “Loins girt about with it, to be able always to stand, in the evil day; and, after having done all, to Stand!” The second piece of Christian Armour, which the apostle recommends is—“ the Breast-plate of Righteousness.” What a profound significancy there is, my Brethren, in this expression?—“the Breast-plate of Righteousness!” How idle and vain are all those Preachers and Interpreters of St. Paul, who would strive to persuade us, that in any place of his writings, he teaches that a man may be Saved, by mere Faith in the Gospel alone, and a Belief in its Doctrines; without Obedience to its Laws, and keeping its Commandments; thus joining Works to Faith? A man would certainly appear to be ridiculously armed, who should only tie his girdle round his waist; but none of the weapons which it is intended to carry? The Girdle of Truth, therefore—a thorough Love and stedfast Belief of the everlasting Word of God, is, indeed the first thing to be put on! But, after all this, it may be asked—Where is the armour that belongs to it? Where is Righteousness and Obedience to God's Will, that strong Breast-plate, which will fortify us in all dangers; and, without which all our other armour is in vain? The next piece of accoutrement, which the Apostle recommends,--is to have “our Feet shod with “ the Preparation of the Gospel of Peace.” Shoes were always considered as a Part of Military armour; and to be shod signifies our being prepared for any Work or Duty set before us. Thus, when the Israelites were to make their Journey out of Egypt to the promised land, they were commanded to eat the Passover shod, that they might be in readiness; and the Apostles were required to be shod with Sandals, that they might be prepared to go whither their Master should send them.
So likewise now, the true Disciples and Soldiers of Christ, are to be shod with the Preparation of the Gospel of peace. We are always to be meditating on the Word of God! We are to have it engrafted on our very Hearts, and worked into the Temper and Frame of our Lives, that we may thus be constantly ready to be guided by its Spirit. For, when the Enemy attacks, and when Duty presses hard upon us; then is not the Time to look for any Part of our Armour! It would not be convenient that we should refrain from Action, till we go and consult what the Gospel says; but we are to live in the Spirit of it— and our feet to be taught to walk daily in its Ways! If we have this blessed Spirit within us, following Peace with all men, exercising ourselves in Meekness, Patience, Forbearance and Long-suffering; such a conduct will be as effectual to preserve us from external injuries, as were those Greaves, or Armour of brass, which the ancient Soldiers often prepared to keep their Legs and Feet from being wounded, by the sharp pointed sticks and traps, which the enemy used privily to lay in their way— to obstruct or retard their march.
But above all, says our apostle, in the next place— we are to take the “Shield of Faith, whereby we shall. be able to quench all the fiery darts of wickedness.”