The Armour of God Needful—What It Is

The Armour of God Needful—What It Is

To begin with the first, the furniture which everyone must acquire to fight Christ's battles is 'armour.' The question here will be, what is this armour?

First: By armour is meant Christ. We read of putting on the 'Lord Jesus,' Romans 13:14, where Christ is set forth under the notion of armour. The apostle does not exhort them, in place of rioting and drunkenness, to put on sobriety and temperance, or in place of chambering and wantonness to put on chastity, as the philosopher would have done, but bids, 'put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ,' implying thus much: until Christ is put on, the creature is unarmed. It is not a man's morality and philosophical virtues that will repel a temptation sent with a full charge from Satan's cannon, though possibly it may repel the pistol-shot of some lesser solicitation; so that he is the man in armour who is in Christ.

Second: The graces of Christ, these are armour, as 'the girdle of truth, the breastplate of righteousness,' and the rest. Hence we are also bid to 'put on the new man,' Ephesians 4:24, which is made up of all the several graces, as its parts and members. And he is the unarmed soul, that is the unregenerate soul, not excluding those duties and means which God has appointed the Christian to use for his defense. The phrase thus opened, the point is to show that to be without Christ is to be without armour.

The Christless and Graceless Soul is Without Armour, and Therein Lies His Misery

Observe: That a person in a Christless, graceless state is naked and unarmed, and so unfit to fight Christ's battles against sin and Satan. Or thus: a soul out of Christ is naked and destitute of all armour to defend him against sin and Satan. God at first sent man forth in complete armour, 'being created in true righteousness and holiness,' but by a wile the devil stripped him, and therefore as soon as the first sin was completed, it is written, 'they were naked,' Genesis 3:7, that is, they were poor weak creatures, at the will of Satan, a subdued people disarmed by their proud conqueror, and unable to make head against him. Indeed it cost Satan some dispute to make the first breach, but after he once had the gates opened to let him in as conqueror into the heart of man, he plays the king. Behold, a troop of other sins crowd in after him, without any stroke or strife; instead of confessing their sins, they run their head into a bush, and by their goodwill would not come where God is, and when they cannot fly from Him, how do they prevaricate before Him? They peel one another, shifting the sin rather than suing for mercy. So quickly were their hearts hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. And this is the woeful condition of every son and daughter of Adam; naked he finds us, and slaves he makes us, until God by His effectual call delivers us from the power of Satan into the kingdom of His dear Son, which will further appear if we consider this Christless state in a fourfold notion.

First: It is a state of alienation from God: 'Ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise,' Ephesians 2:12. Such a one has no more to do with any covenant promise than he who lives at Rome has to do with the charter of London, which is the birthright of its own denizens, not of strangers. He is without God in the world; he can claim no more protection from God than an outlawed subject from his prince. If any mischief befalls him, the mends are in his own hands; whereas God has His hedge of special protection about His saints, and the devil, though his spite is most at them, dares not come upon God's ground to touch any of them without particular leave. Now, what a deplorable condition is that wherein a soul is left to the wide world, in the midst of legions of lusts and devils, to be rent and torn like a silly hare among a pack of hounds, and no God to call them off! Let God leave a people, though never so warlike, presently they lose their wits, cannot find their hands. A company of children or wounded men may rise up, and chase them out of their fenced cities, because God is not with them; which made Caleb and Joshua pacify the mutinous Israelites at the tidings of giants and walled cities with this: 'They are bread for us, their defence is departed from them.' How much more must that soul be as bread to Satan, that has no defence from the Almighty? Take men of the greatest parts, natural or acquired accomplishments, who only want a union with Christ, and renewing grace from Christ. Oh, what fools does the devil make of them, leading them at his pleasure, some to one lust, some to another! The proudest of them all is a slave to one or other, though it be to the ruin of body and soul forever. Where lies the mystery, that men of such parts and wisdom should debase themselves to such drudgery work of hell? Even here: they are in a state of alienation from God, and no more able of themselves to break the devil's prison than a slave to run from his chain.

Second: The Christless state is a state of ignorance, and such must needs be naked and unarmed. He that cannot see his enemy, how can he ward off the blow he sends? One seeing prophet leads a whole army of blind men whither he pleases. The imperfect knowledge saints have here is Satan's advantage against them. He often takes them on the blind side. How easily then may he with a parcel of good words carry the blind soul out of his way, who knows not a step of the right! Now that the Christless state is a state of ignorance, see Ephesians 5:8: 'For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord.' Ye were darkness, not in the dark, as one that has an eye may be. A child of light is often in the dark concerning some truth or promise, but then has a spiritual eye, which the Christless person wants, and so is darkness. And this darkness cannot be enlightened, but by its union with Christ, which is expressed in the following phrase: 'But now are ye light in the Lord.' As the eye of the body once put out, can never be restored by the creature's art, so neither can the spiritual eye—lost by Adam's sin—be restored by the teaching of men or angels. It is one of the diseases Christ came to cure, Luke 4:18. It is true, there is a light of reason, which is imparted to every man by nature, but this light is darkness compared with the saints', as the night is dark to the day, even when the moon is in its full glory. This night-light of reason may save a person from some ditch or pond—great and broad sins—but it will never help him to escape the more secret corruptions, which the saint sees like atoms in the beams of spiritual knowledge. There is such curious work the creature is to do, which cannot be wrought by candlelight of natural knowledge. Nay more, where the common illumination of the Spirit is superadded to this light of nature, yet there is darkness compared with the sanctifying knowledge of a renewed soul, which does both discover spiritual truths and warm the heart at the same time with the love of truth, having like the sun a prolific and quickening virtue, which the other lacks; so that the heart lies under such common illuminations, cold and dead. He has no more strength to resist Satan than if he knew not the command; whereas the Christian's knowledge, even when taken prisoner by a temptation, pursues and brings back the soul, as Abraham his nephew, out of the enemy's hands. This hints the third notion.

Third: The Christless state is a state of impotence: 'For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly,' Romans 5:6. What can a disarmed people that have neither sword nor gun do to shake off the yoke of a conquering enemy? Such a power has Satan over the soul, as that, Luke 11:21, he is called the strong man that keeps the soul as his palace. If he has no disturbance from heaven, he needs fear no mutiny within; he keeps all in peace there. What the Spirit of God does in a saint, that in a manner does Satan in a sinner. The Spirit fills his heart with love, joy, holy desires, fears; so Satan fills the sinner's heart with pride, lust, lying. 'Why has Satan filled thy heart?' says Peter. And thus filled with Satan (as the drunkard with wine), he is not his own man, but Satan's slave.

Fourth: The state of unregeneracy is a state of friendship with sin and Satan. If it is enmity against God, as it is, then it is friendship with Satan. Now it will be hard to make that soul fight in earnest against his friend. Is Satan divided? Will the devil within fight against the devil without?—Satan in the heart shut out Satan at the door? Sometimes indeed there appears a scuffle between Satan and a carnal heart, but it is a mere cheat, like the fighting of two fencers on a stage. You would think at first they were in earnest, but observing how wary they are, and where they hit one another, you may soon know they do not mean to kill; and that which puts all out of doubt, when the prize is done you shall see them making merry together with what they have got of their spectators, which was all they fought for. When a carnal heart makes the greatest bustle against sin by complaining of it or praying against it, follow him but off the stage of duty, where he has gained the reputation of a saint—the prize he fights for—and you shall see them sit as friendly together in a corner as ever.

Use and Application

Use First: This takes away the wonder of Satan's great conquests in the world. When you look abroad and see his vast empire, and what a little spot of ground contains Christ's subjects, what heaps of precious souls lie prostrate under his foot of pride, and what a little regiment of saints march under Christ's banner, perhaps the strangeness of the thing may make you ask, is hell stronger than heaven? Are the arms of Satan more victorious than the cross of Christ? No such matter. Consider but this one thing, and you will wonder that Christ has any to follow him, rather than that he has so few. Satan finds the world unarmed; when the prince of the world comes, he finds nothing to oppose; the whole soul is in a disposition to yield at first summons. And if conscience, the governor for God in the creature, stands out a while, all the other powers, as will and affections, are in discontent, like mutinous soldiers in a garrison, who never rest till they have brought over conscience to yield, or against its command set open the city gate to the enemy, and so traitorously deliver their conscience prisoner to their lusts. But when Christ comes to demand the soul, he meets a scornful answer. ‘Depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of the Most High. We will not have this man to reign over us.’ With one consent they vote against him and rise up as the Philistines against Samson, whom they called the destroyer of the country. ‘Ye will not come unto me,’ saith Christ. Oh, how true are poor sinners to the devil's trust! They will not deliver the castle they hold for Satan until fired over their heads. Pharaoh opposes Moses on one hand, and Israel cries out upon him on the other. Such measure has Christ both at Satan's hand and the sinner's. That which lessened Alexander's conquests was, [that] he overcame a people buried in barbarism, without arms and discipline of war; and that which heightened Caesar's, though not so many, he overcame a people more warlike and furnished. Satan's victories are of poor ignorant graceless souls, who have neither arms, nor hands, nor hearts to oppose. But when he assaults a saint, then he sits down before a city with gates and bars, and ever rises with shame, unable to take the weakest hold, to pluck the weakest saint out of Christ's hands; but Christ brings souls out of his dominion with a high hand, in spite of all the force and fury of hell, which like Pharaoh and his host pursue them.

Use Second: This gives a reason why the devil has so great a spite against the gospel. Why? Because this opens a magazine of arms and furniture for the soul. The word is that tower of David, ‘Builded for an armoury, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men,’ Song 4:4. Hence the saints have ever had their armour, and the preaching of the gospel unlocks it. As gospel-light ascends, so Satan's shady kingdom of darkness vanishes, Rev. 14:6; there one angel comes forth to preach the everlasting gospel, and another angel follows at his back, ver. 8, crying Victory, ‘Babylon is fallen, is fallen.’ The very first charge the gospel gave to the kingdom of darkness shook the foundations thereof, and put the legions of hell to the run. The seventy whom Christ sent out, bring this speedy account of their ambassage, ‘Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name;’ and Christ answers, ‘I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.’ As if he had said, it is no news you tell me, I beheld Satan falling when I sent you: I knew the gospel would make work where it came: and therefore no wonder Satan labours to dispossess the gospel, which dispossesseth him; he knows that army is near lost, whose magazine is blown up. It is true indeed, under the very gospel the devil rages more in such swinish sinners, as are given over by God to be possessed of that fiend, for rejecting of his grace; but he is cast out of others, who ‘before the loving-kindness of God to man appeared in the gospel,’ were commanded by him, ‘serving divers lusts and pleasures;’ but now by the light of the gospel they see their folly, and by the grace it brings are enabled to renounce him. This, this is that which torments the foul spirit, to see himself forsaken by his old friends and servants, and this new Lord to come and take his subjects from him: and therefore he labours either by persecution to drive the gospel away, or by policy to persuade a people to send it away from their coasts. And was he ever more likely to effect it among us? What a low esteem has he brought the preaching of the gospel to? The price has fallen half and half to what it was some years past, even among those that have been counted the greatest merchants upon the saints’ exchange. Some that have thought it worth crossing the seas, even to the Indies—almost as far as others fetch their gold—to enjoy the gospel, are loath now to cross the street to hear it, at so cheap a rate; and some that come, who formerly trembled at it, make it most of their errand to mock at, or quarrel with it. Nay, it is come to such a pass, that the Word is so heavy a charge to the squeamish stomachs of many professors, that it comes up again presently, and abundance of choler with it, against the preacher, especially if it falls foul of the sins and errors of the times, the very naming of which is enough to offend, though the nation be sinking under their weight. What reproaches are the faithful ministers of the gospel laden with! I call heaven and earth to witness, whether they ever suffered a hotter persecution of the tongue, than in this apostatising age. A new generation of professors has started up, that will not know them to be the ministers of Christ, though those before them (as well in grace as time, [and] more able to derive their spiritual pedigree than themselves), have to their death owned them for their spiritual fathers. And must not the ark needs shake, when they that carry it are thus struck at, both in their person and office? What are these men doing? Alas, they know not. ‘Father, forgive them.’ They are cutting off their right hand with their left; they are making themselves and the nation naked, by despising the gospel, and those that bring it.

Use Third: Consider your deplorable state, [you] who are wholly naked and unarmed. Can you pity the beggar at your door (when you see such in a winter day, shivering with naked backs, exposed to the fury of the cold), and not pity your own far more dismal soul-nakedness, by which you lie open to heaven's wrath and hell's malice? Shall their nakedness cover them with shame, fill them with fear of perishing, which makes them with pitiful moans knock and cry for relief, as it is reported of Russia, where their poor, through extreme necessity, have this desperate manner of begging in their streets: ‘Give me and cut me, give me and kill me.’ And can you let Satan come and cut your throat in your bed of sloth, rather than accept of clothes to cover, yea, armour to defend you?—I mean Christ and his grace, which in the gospel is tendered to you. Do not lightly believe your own flattering hearts, if they shall tell you, You are provided with these already. I am afraid many a gaudy professor will be found as naked in regard of Christ, and truth of grace, as drunkards and swearers themselves. Such there are, who content themselves with a Christ in profession, in gifts, and in duties, but seek not a Christ in solid grace, and so perish. Those indeed are an ornament to the Christian, as the scarf and feather to the soldier, but these quench not the bullet in battle; it is Christ and his grace that does that. Therefore, labour to be sound rather than brave Christians. Grace embellished with gifts is more beautiful, but these without grace are only the richer spoil for Satan.

by William Gurnall


Source: The Christian in Compete Armour