Charles Haddon Spurgeon
The following are excerpts from a sermon preached by C.H. Spurgeon on April 19, 1891 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in Newington/London, UK entitled “The Sword of the Spirit”:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the evil day comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT, which is the word of God. And pray in the spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” -Ephesians 6:10-18
-To be a Christian is to be a warrior. The good soldier of Jesus Christ must not expect to find ease in this world: it is a battle-field. Neither must he reckon upon the friendship of the world; for that would be enmity against God. His occupation is war. As he puts on piece by piece of the panoply provided for him, he may wisely say to himself, “this warns me of danger, this prepares me for warfare; this prophesies opposition.”
-It is clear from our text that our defense and our conquest must be obtained by sheer fighting. Many try compromise; but if you are a true Christian, you can never do this business well. The language of deceit fits not a holy tongue. The adversary is the father of lies, and those that are with him understand the art of equivocation; but saints abhor it. If we discuss terms of peace, and attempt to gain something by policy, we have entered upon a course from which we shall return in disgrace. We have no order from our Captain to patch up a truce, and get as good terms as we can. We are not sent out to offer concessions.
-Assuredly this is not the order which our Captain has issued. When peace is to be made, he will make it himself, or he will tell us how to behave to that end; but at present our orders are very different. Neither may we hope to gain by being neutral, or granting an occasional truce. We are not to cease from conflict, and try to be as agreeable as we can with our Lord’s foes, frequenting their assemblies, and tasting their dainties. No such orders are written here. You are to grasp your weapon, and go forth to fight. Neither may you so much as dream of winning the battle by accident. No man was ever holy by a happy chance. Infinite damage may be done by carelessness; but no man ever won life’s battle by it. To let things go on as they please, is to let them bear us down to hell. We have no orders to be quiet, and take matters easily. No; we are to pray always, and watch constantly. The one note that rings out from the text is this: TAKE THE SWORD! TAKE THE SWORD! No longer is it talk and debate! No longer is it, parley and compromise! The word of thunder is: Take the sword! The Captain’s voice is clear as a trumpet: Take the sword! No Christian man here will have been obedient to our text unless with clear, sharp, and decisive firmness, courage, and resolve, he takes the sword. We must go to heaven sword in hand, all the way, “TAKE THE SWORD.”
-The Holy Spirit has a sword. He is quiet as the dew, tender as the anointing oil, soft as the zephyr of eventide, and peaceful as a dove; and yet, under another aspect, he wields a deadly weapon. He is the Spirit of judgement and the Spirit of burning, and he beareth not the sword in vain. Of him it may be said, “The Lord is a man of war: Jehovah is his name.”
-The Holy Spirit glorifies Christ not only by what he reveals, but also by what he overturns. The strife may be weary, but it will be carried on from age to age, till the Lord Jesus shall appear; for ever shall the Spirit of God espouse the cause of love against hate, of truth against error, of holiness against sin, of Christ against Satan. He will win the day, and those who are with him shall in his might be more than conquerors. The Holy Spirit has proclaimed war, and wields a two-edged sword.
-The Holy Spirit wields no sword but the Word of God. This wonderful Book, which contains the utterances of God’s mouth, is the one weapon which the Holy Ghost elects to use for his warlike purposes. It is a spiritual weapon, and so is suitable to the Holy Spirit. The weapons of his warfare are not carnal: he never uses either persecution or patronage, force or bribery, glitter of grandeur, or terror of power. He works upon men by the Word, which is to be accomplished.
-The Word, in the Spirit’s hand, gives no dash-wound, but cuts into the man’s heart, and so wounds him that there is no healing save by supernatural power. The wounded conscience will bleed; its pains will be upon it day and night; and though it seek out a thousand medicines, no salve but one can cure a gash which this terrible sword has made. This weapon is two-edged; indeed, it is all edge; and whichever way it strikes, it wounds and kills. There is no such a thing as the flat of the sword of the Spirit; it has a razor edge every way. Beware how you handle it, you critics; it may wound even you; it will cut you to your destruction, one of these days, except you be converted. He that uses the Word in the Lord’s battles may use it upon carnal hopes, and then strike back upon unbelieving fears; he may smite with one edge the love of sin, and then with the other the pride of self-righteousness. It is a conquering weapon in all ways, this wondrous sword of the Spirit of God.
-The Word, we say, is the only sword which the Spirit uses. I know the Holy Ghost uses gracious sermons; but it is only in proportion as they have the Word of God in them. I know the Holy Ghost uses religious books; but only so far as they are the Word of God told out in other language. Conviction, conversion, and consolation still are wrought, and only by the Word of God. Learn, then, the wisdom of using the Word of God for holy purposes.
-The Holy Ghost is God, and therefore he is the greatest spirit in the universe. All wisdom dwells in him. He thought out the laws which govern nature and direct providence. The Holy Spirit is the great teacher of human spirits; he taught Bezaleel and the artificers in the wilderness how to make the fine linen, and the gold and carved work for the tabernacle. All arts and sciences are perfectly known to him, and infinitely more than men can ever discover. Yet he will not use these things in this holy controversy. In the quarrel of his covenant he neither uses philosophy, nor science, nor rhetoric. “It is written” is his master-stroke. Words which God has spoken by holy men of old, and has caused to be recorded on the sacred page – these are the battle-axe and weapons of war of this Spirit. This Book contains the Word of God, and is the Word of God; and this it is which the Holy Ghost judges to be so effectual a weapon against evil that he uses this and this only, as his sword in the great conflict with the powers of darkness.
-The Word is the sword of the Spirit because it is of his own making. He will not use a weapon of human workmanship, lest the sword boast itself against the hand that wields it. The Holy Ghost revealed the mind of God to the minds of holy men; he spake the word into their hearts, and thus he made them think as he would have them think and to write what he willed them to write; so that what they spoke and wrote was spoken and written as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. Blessed be the Holy Spirit for designing to use so many writers, and yet himself to remain the veritable Author of this collection of holy books. We are grateful for Moses, for David, for Isaiah, for Paul, for Peter, for John, but most of all for that superintending Editor, that innermost Author of the whole sacred volume, the Holy Ghost.
-How many people read their Bibles, and yet derive no more benefit therefrom than if they had read an old almanac! In fact, they would more easily keep awake over an ancient Bradshaw than over a chapter of Scripture. The ministers of the gospel may preach God’s Word in all sincerity and purity, and yet, if the Spirit of God be not present, we might as well have preached mere moral essays, for no good can come of our testimony. The Holy Ghost rides in the chariot of Scripture, and not in the wagon of modern thought. Scripture is that ark of the covenant which contains the golden pot of manna, and also bears above it the divine light of God’s shining. The Spirit of God worketh in, by and through, and with the Word; and if we keep to that Word, we may rest assured that the Holy Ghost will keep with us, and make our testimony to a thing of power. Let us pray the Spirit to put an edge on our preaching, lest we say much and accomplish little.
-It is “the sword of the Spirit” because he alone can instruct us in the use of it. You think, young man, that you can pick up your Bible, and go and preach from it at once, properly and successfully. You have made a presumptuous mistake. A sword is a weapon which may do hurt to the man who flourishes with it in mere wanton pride. No one can handle the sword of the Spirit aright save the chosen man whom God hath ordained from before the foundation of the world, and trained in feats of arms. Young soldier, you must go to the training-ground of the Holy Spirit to be made a proficient swordsman. You will go in vain to the metaphysician or to the logician; for neither of these knows how to handle a spiritual weapon. In other arts they may be masters; but in the sacred use of diving theology they are mere fools. In the things of the Word we are dunces till we enter the school of the Holy Ghost. He must take of the things of Christ, and show them unto us. He must teach us how to grip this sword by faith, and how to hold it by watchfulness, so as to parry the adversary’s thrust, and carry the war into the foeman’s territory. He is well taught who can swing this great two-handed sword to and fro, and mow a lane through the midst of his opponents, and come out a conqueror at the end. It may take a long time to hearn this art; but we have a right skillful Teacher.
-Is it not a very high honor put upon you, as soldiers of the cross, that you should be commanded to take the sword of the Spirit? The raw recruit is not trusted with the general’s sword; but here are you armed with the weapon of God the Holy Ghost, and called upon to bear that sacred sword which is so gloriously wielded by the Lord God himself. This we are to bear, and no other.
-Our warfare is not child’s play; we mean business. We have to deal with fierce foes, who are only to be met with keen weapons. Buffets will not suffice in this contest; we must come to sword-cuts. You may be of a very quiet spirit, but your adversaries are not so. If you attempt to play at Christian warfare, they will not. To meet the powers of darkness is no sham battle. They mean mischief. Nothing but your eternal damnation will satisfy the fiendish hearts of Satan and his crew. You must take not so much a flag to unfurl, or a drum to beat, as a sword to use, and a specially sharp sword too. In this combat you will have to use a sword such as even evil spirits can feel, capable of dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow. If you are to live through this fight, and come off victorious, no form of conflict will suffice less sharp and cuting than sword-work. Depend upon it that in this struggle you will be forced to come to close quarters. The foe aims at your heart, and pushes home. A spear will not do, nor bow and arrow; the enemy is too near for anything but hand-to-hand fighting. Our foes are not only of our house, but of our heart. I find an enemy within which is always near, and I cannot get away from him. I find that my antagonist will get his hand on my throat if he can. If our foes were far away, and we could play upon them with artillery which would kill at six or seven miles’ distance, we might lead a pretty easy life. But no; they are here! At our doors! Within us; nearer than hands and feet. Now for the short sword; the claymore of Holy Scripture, to stab and cut, near and now. No sling and stone will avail us here, but we must take the sword. You have to slay your foe, or your foe will slay you. It is with us Christians as it was with the Highlanders in battle, when their leader called out to them, “Lads, there they are! If you dinna kill them they will kill you.” There is no room for peace; it is war to the knife, not only now, but to life’s end.
-It will not suffice for the Christian to guard against sin, and ward off temptation from himself; he has to assail the powers of evil. In our case, the best method of defense is an attack. I have heard of one who would bring an action in law to gain his ends, for he thought this better than being the defendant. That may be matter of question; but in war it is often safer to assail than defend. Carry the warfare into the enemy’s territory. Be trying to win from the adversary, and he will not win so much from you. Do not merely be sober yourselves, but attack drunkenness. Do not be content with being from superstition yourself, but expose it wherever it appears. Do not merely be devout when you feel obliged to be so, but pray for the growth of the kingdom; pray always. Do not merely say, “I will keep Satan out of my family by bringing up my children aright”, but go to the Sunday-school and teach other children, and so carry the war over the border. God forbid that we should ever go to war as a nation! But if we were at war with some nation on the Continent, I should certainly say, “Let the continentals have the battles on their own ground: we do not want a campaign over here.” It is wise to keep the war in the enemy’s own regions. If we had fought the devil more in the world, he might never have been able to invade the church so terribly as he has done. Attack with the sword, for it is your calling, and thus will you best defend yourself.
-We need the sword for real fighting. Do you think that you can dream yourselves into heaven? Or ride there in the chariot of ease? Or fly on the wings of brass music? You make a great mistake if you so imagine. A real war is raging, your opponents are in deadly earnest, and you must take your sword.
-If we fight the devil with human reason, the first time our wooden sword comes in contact with a Satanic temptation it will be cut in pieces. If you do not wield a true Jerusalem blade you are in grave peril; your weapon will break off at the hilt, and where will you be? Standing defenseless, with nothing but the handle of a broken sword in your hand, you will be the object of your adversary’s ridicule. You must have this sword, for no other will penetrate the foe, and no other will last out the battle. After twenty years, what has become of the pious resolutions of your youth? What is the staying power of your consecration made in the hour of enthusiasm? How little trust can be placed in it! What would become of us after thirty years of fighting, if we had not the Word of God to rely upon? The Word of the Lord endureth for ever; but nothing else does. We may do well in early days, but we shall fail in old age if we have not eternal verities to fall back upon.
-The Holy Ghost has in the sacred Word prepared an implement of warfare suited for great minds and small, for the cultured and uneducated. A wonderful sword this is, which, in the hand of faith, reveals an adaptation marvellous to the last degree.
-A soldier is not left to choose his own equipment; he must carry such arms as his sovereign appoints. This is the regulation sword in Christ’s army. The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, is what you are bidden to take; and if you in wilfulness resolve to exchange it for another, you commit an act of rebellion, and you make the change at your own risk and peril. Come, then, let us each one take the Word of God, and carry it nearer our hearts than ever; for such is the word of command, “Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
-Entertainments, amusements, farces, and sing-song are now used to do what the gospel has failed to achieve! Is it not sadly so? Well, if any will try these silly toys, I can only say that they have no command from their Lord to warrant them in their proceedings. Take all these things, and see what they will; but you make the trial at your own risk, and on your own heads the result of failure will fall. The standing-orders are to take the sword of the Spirit, and no new regulation has ever been issued by the great Captain of salvation. From the days of Paul till now, the word stands, “Take the sword of the Spirit.” All other things will surely fail, and hence the one sole abiding command is, “Take the sword of the Spirit.” We are not told to hang up this sword for exhibition. Certain people have a handsomely-bound Bible to lie upon the table of the best room; and a fine ornament it is. A Family Bible is a treasure. But I pray you do not let your love of the Bible end there. With a soldier in war, a sword is not meant to be hung up in the tent, nor even to be flourished in the air; but it is issued to be used. Nor are we to push this sword into a sheath, as many do who take the Bible, and add so much of criticism, or of their own opinion to it, that its edge is not felt. Many men use their low opinion of inspiration as a scabbard into which they push the Bible down. Their vast knowledge makes a beautiful scabbard, and they push down the sword, saying, “Keep still there! O sword of the Lord, rest and be quiet!” After we have preached our heart out, and men have felt the power of it, they make a desperate effort to imprison the Word in their unbelieving theory, or in their worldliness. They hold down the Word all the week with a firm hand, for fear its edge or point should wound them. It is the scabbard of culture, or philosophy, or of progress, and in this they shut up the living Word of God as in a coffin.
-The sword is to be taken for earnest fight. You will not be long before occasion arises in such a world as this. You will have to parry with it, to pierce with it, to cut with it, and to kill with it. “Where shall I begin?” says one. Begin at home, and, for many a day, you will have your hands full. When you have slain all the rebels at home, and long before that, you may take a turn at those around you in the world, and in the professing church. Inside your own heart you will find a band of bandits which should be exterminated. There will always be need to keep the sword going within your own territory. End this civil war before you go into foreign parts.
-Sunday-school teachers, teach your children more and more the pure Word of God; and preachers, do not try to be original, but be content to take of the things of Christ, and show them to the people; for that is what the Holy Ghost himself does; and you will be wise to use his method and his sword. No sinner around you will be saved except by the knowledge of the great truths contained in the Word of God. No man will ever be brought to repentance, to faith, and to life in Christ, apart from the constant application of the truth through the Spirit. I hear great shouting, great noises everywhere, about great things that are going to be done; let us see them. The whole world is going to be embraced within the church; so they say. I fear the world will not be much the better for inclusion in such a church. Big boasters should heed the word of the wise men, “Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off.” If the champion goeth forth with any other sword than the Word of God, he had better not boast at all; for he will come back with his sword broken, his shield cast away, and himself grimy with dishonor. Defeat awaits that man who forsakes the Word of the Lord.
-“Oh,” says one, “I have been in the habit of sinning, and the habit is very strong upon me.” Fight with sinful habits with the Word of God, as the sword of the Spirit; so only will you conquer your evil self. Find a text of Scripture that will cleave your sin down to the chine, or stab it to the heart. “Alas! Satan tempts me horribly,” cries one; “I have been lately assailed in many ways.” Have you? You are not the first. Our divine Lord in the wilderness was tempted of the devil. He might have fought Satan with a thousand weapons; but he chose to defeat him with this one only. He said, “It is written; it is written; it is written.” He pricked the foeman so sorely with this sharp point, that the arch-adversary thought to try the same sword; and he also began to say, “It is written.” But he cut himself with this sword, for he did not quote the passages correctly, nor give the whole of them; and the Master soon found the way to knock aside his sword, and wound him still more. Follow your Lord’s example. “Oh, but”, says one, “I am so low in spirits.” Very well; fight lowness of spirits with the Word of God. “The doctor recommended me,” says one, “to take a little spirits to raise my spirits.” Those doctors are always having this sin laid to their charge. I am not so sure that they are not often maligned. You like the dose, and that is why you take it. Try the Word of God for lowness of spirits, and you will have found a sure remedy. I find, if I can lay a promise under my tongue, like a sweet lozenge, and keep it in my mouth or mind all the day long, I am happy enough. If I cannot find a Scripture to comfort me, then my inward troubles are multiplied. Fight desondency and despair with the sword of the Spirit. I cannot tell what your particular difficulty may be at this moment; but I give you this direction for all holy warfare – “Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” You must overcome every enemy; and this weapon is all you need. If you would overcome sin and conquer unbelief, take such a word as this, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth;” and as you look you shall be saved, and doubt shall die, and sin be slain. God grant you his Spirit’s aid, for Christ’s sake! Amen.