War Against Sin

Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. ~ 1 Timothy 6:12

Blessed be the Lord my strength which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight: ~ Psalm 144:1

But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. ~ Romans 7:23

The Christian Warrior. Wrestling with Sin, Satan, the World and the Flesh, by Isaac Ambrose.

Address to Christian Warriors.

Soldiers of Christ be aware that you are highly advanced in God’s creation, that you occupy an important station, that you have an arduous work allotted to you and that you have neither time nor talent to throw away. For you are enlisted under the banner of Christ, you have entered the armies of the Most High, and have taken the oath of allegiance to the King of Sion, and bound yourselves by an oath, to fight the good fight of faith, against sin, Satan, the world and the flesh. What formidable enemies are these I You have to encounter all the powers of hell, and their name is Legion. Fight them you now must, for you have put on the armour, and taken the field to fight all the enemies of God and man. When you survey the enemies’ camp, and see their strength, their number, their stratagems, and inveterate malice ; and are then made to feel your own weakness and nothingness you tremble, and say, How shall I go against these mighty hosts. Yet I must conquer them all, or die an eternal death. O soldiers of Christ! banish all your guilty fears. There is, after all, far more for you than against you. You are on the Lord’s side, who fighteth for you. He is your refuge and strength, your sun and shield. He is with you^in the field, to teach your hands to war, and to cover your head in the day of battle, and hath promised you the victory. If God be for you, who is he that can overcome you, and put you to death, when you are hid in the Lord’s pavilion, and surrounded with the wall of salvation ?

While in the heat of the battle, be filled with the hope of victory, and feel assured, that you shall finally obtain a complete and glorious conquest over all that come against you ; for hath not the Captain of your salvation engaged to subdue Satan and all his armies, shortly under your feet? Trust him, and take courage, then, you cannot meet with disappointment, ”for faithful is he that promised, who also will do it.” With a view to strengthen your hope of victory, keep in mind that you have not an enemy, difficulty, or danger to encounter, but which has been already conquered and subdued for yon, by the great Captain of your salvation. And the countless millions of his soldiers. who are now arrived safe in glory, singing the song of Moses and the Lamb, were once here below, wrestling with all the enemies and difficulties which you now have to encounter. Only war a good warfare, then, and rest assured, that he who carried them safe through the war, will carry you also to the triumphs of the world to come. Not one of all his true soldiers was ever left to perish on the field of battle. Put on courage, ye Christian Warriors ! fight the good fight of faith, be faithful unto death, and then, your Captain will release you from the war, and give you the crown of life, which you shall for ever wear, in honour of your gracious Lord and Saviour.

Part I.

We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places — Ephesians vi. 12.

Chapter I.

Statement of the doctrines to be handled.

I. All the people of God must be warriors,

II. We have powerful and malicious enemies to contend with.

III. We must wrestle and strive hard against them.

I. — All God’s people must be in the war.

1 . The wicked refuse to engage in this war. Instead of fighting the Lord’s battles, they take up arms on the enemy’s side. They spend their time in chambering and wantonness, in idleness and carnal security. They are altogether ignorant of Satan’s assaults, and of their own danger. Oh that their eyes were opened to see their perilous condition ! Oh that such men knew their danger in time to escape it ! They are not the Lord’s soldiers, but the devil’s revellers. They will not fight against Satan, and Satan will not disturb their sleep. So they are in covenant with death and hell.

All the people of God, from first to last, are, and must be engaged in this spiritual warfare , and can say, we do not war after the flesh, the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds. Such has been the language of the saints in all ages ; they were all in the war, even the most holy of them all. Job, Moses and Aaron, Lot and David : the Patriarchs and the Prophets : all had their fiery trials. And so those under the gospel : Peter was winnowed, — Paul was buffeted, and even Christ himself was led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.

Must all God’s people war with devils? Then consider what religion will cost you. The christian soldier must endure hardness. Saints must be winnowed, buffeted, tried and tempted. Wars and dangers shall be their portion. And through much tribulation must they enter into the kingdom of God.

See how Paul is in labours, in stripes, in prisons, in deaths. He was always in perils, wherever he went.

Christianity will cost you much here, and save you for ever. Then be a christian, that you may be a conqueror.

Are we to fight against sin and Satan, the world and the flesh then, courage, Christians. Be not dismayed. Are you afraid of these formidable enemies? Go forth in the strength of the Lord God, and he will put all your enemies shortly under your feet. Satan’s fiery darts and all your trials shall do you good, and be to you as the waves to the ark, as the whale to Jonah, as the file that brightens the iron, as the mill that grinds the wheat, or as the fire that separates the dross from the gold. Do you not feel your spirits sharpened, your pride subdued, your flesh cooled, and every sin mortified, and every grace invigorated, by these temptations and trials? Tell me, are not you roused to make earnest and ardent prayers, by these wars and conflicts ? Are not Satan’s temptations like bellows to blow the fire of devotion in your soul, and like a hedge of thorns to keep you from going astray? Oh vain men! be not afraid of the war, but enlist into the armies of Christ, and fight valiantly under the banner of the cross. It is an honourable war, Christ invites you to it, and promiseth to cover your head in the day of battle, and to crown you in the end. And what more would you have? ” Put on the whole armour ‘ of God, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might,” and he is engaged to give you the victory.

II. We have powerful and malicious enemies to contend with,

1. We wrestle not with flesh and blood, i. e. not with men, but with devils ; not with feeble frail mortals like ourselves ; but with mighty hosts of spiritual adversaries, with Satan at their head.

The main contest is not with the corruptions of our nature, but with principalities and powers, with Beelzebub and his legions. We have indeed within us hosts of busy and injurious enemies ; and these are often ” like the sons of Zeruiah, too hard for us.” *’ Within are fightings;” the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and often brings us into captivity to the law of sin.’* We often groan, earnestly longing to be delivered from this body of sin and death. These inward sins in our souls and bodies are very formidable enemies, if there were no other.

Christians, how doth it concern you to stand upon your watch tower ! You have enemies within you. If a city was besieged by foreign armies, would the citizens harbour traitors within their walls?— nay, would they not put them to death, for their own safety? You have within you a host of treacherous enemies, and these seek all occasions to betray you into the devil’s hands. Is it not high time for us all to mortify the flesh with its affections and lusts, and to implore the aid and assistance of God^s Spirit, to mortify our bosom traitors and murderers? These are in some respects more dangerous than the devil himself, because they are within us. They open the door to let the enemy in.

Satan can do nothing, till your bosom sins betray you into his hands. He can never force you to sin, but must first gain your consent. Oh, then, how carefully should you watch over your own hearts, and live in prayer.

2. Our formidable enemies are, ** principalities, powers, rulers of darkness, and spiritual wickednesses.” A few words for each term, to shew what we have to contend with. Principalities.— Much more than all princes, — Satan rules over all the earth, and is called ” the god of this world.” ” The earth indeed is the Lord’s,” and ** the Most High ruleth over the kingdoms of men.^’ Yet Satan has now the dominion over the world in its corrupted state. When the world left God, then God, in judgment, gave Satan his dominion over it, and gave him leave to rule “Over all the wicked. And thus Satan rules over ail the children of disobedience, and his dominion is here called, ” principalities.”

Powers. — They are princes, with, mighty power : we cannot tell how great the power of Satan is. When God permits him, he makes a wonderful display of his power in all creation, over all the elements. He has power over fire. He can cause thunders and lightnings in the firmament, and set the heavens on fire. He has power over the air, ‘* He is the prince of the power of the air.” It was he that caused the mighty wind from the wilderness to fall upon Job’s house, and kill his children. Without God’s permission, he cannot make a breath of air to blow, but with permission he can at any time raise wind enough to remove mountains. Satan has power over water. He can hurl the sea into such commotion , that the depth shall boil like a pot. Satan has power over the earth, and can cause earthquakes to swallow up towns and cities, rocks and rivers.

Satan can enter into the bodies of beasts. A legion of devils entered into an herd of two thousand swine, and hurried them violently over a precipice into the sea, and drowned them. And they have no less power over the bodies of men. Read of the lunatics, the deaf and the dumb, which were healed of Christ, when on earth. And did they not carry the body of Christ himself through the air?

And what mighty power the devil has over the souls of men ! He can work on the understanding, and cause thousands of evil thoughts to arise there, to our sorrow, by working on the corruptions which he finds in the soul. The devil can do great mischief in the will of men. Though he cannot command and determine it, yet he can persuade and allure it to a thousand evils. Satan works on the affections and passions of men. He deals much with our imaginations, paints sinful objects as lovely and desirable, and so kindles our affections towards them, till the consent of the will is obtained, and the soul is led captive.

Rulers, of the darkness of this world. — The darkness of this world is the seal of Satan’s empire. His time is, during this world. He began with Adam in Paradise, and will continue to rule, till time is no more. At the end of the world, he shall be shut up as a close prisoner in hell.

Satan’s dominion is in the earth and the air. In heaven the devils rebelled, and were cast out, and now they rule in the earth and in the air. Here they seduce and destroy the souls of men as fast as they can. Woe, woe, to the inhabitants of the earth, who dwell among such enemies. Yet let the saints rejoice, no enemies shall be in heaven to torment us. This may well make us long to change earth for heaven. Soldiers in bloody wars cannot but long earnestly for victory, and to be released from the war, and enjoy peace. Like the mariners who being tossed on the boisterous sea, naturally long for the haven of rest and safety ; so must the soldiers of Christ ardently long for the promised victory over their spiritual adversaries, and to land on the shore of eternal rest.

Oh, Christians press on towards heaven ; for the earth is full of snares and plots of Satan, who tries to take,
and to ruin you for ever.

Spiritual Wickedness.’ Oh! what enemies are these ! We have to wrestle with evil spirits, which are full of subtlety, full of malice, and full of power to hurt and to destroy. These can attack us in all conditions, and in all places, when we see them not. They are not only spirits, but evil spirits, full of malice. Satan is more than wicked, he is maliciously wicked. His constant trade and greatest delight is to allure men to hell, to be tormented for ever. The devils tempt us, not only to outward transgressions, but also to spiritual sins, such as pride, hypocrisy, unbelief, and blasphemy. Satan fights with the people of God, not about the things of earth, such as gold mines, lands, and treasures, but about heavenly things, such as our salvation and happiness in Christ, and meetness for glory. He strives to rob us of our God, our Redeemer, our Sanctifier and Comforter, and to allow us nothing but sin and misery, guilt, condemnation, and torments.

Such are the enemies which we have to contend with, and which must be conquered, or we are undone for ever.

Are devils thus mighty and malicious ? Then it is high time to lay to heart the work you have to do, i. e. to contend with, and to subdue these formidable enemies. Bless God that you are not already destroyed by them. Should the Lord let them loose, what work would they do in the earth ! They would rend the heavens, shake the earth, and destroy all mankind, in an instant. My brethren, you should not dread them too much, for God is your refuge and strength. Neither must you slight them, for no mere creature on earth can stand before them. Oh, bless God for the restraints he lays upon Satan! Are devils so mighty and malicious ? Then let all tempted souls flee to God, and rely on his strength, who governs heaven, earth, and hell. Let the righteous flee under the wings of the Almighty, where they shall find a safe shelter in every time of danger. ” The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous *runneth into it, and is safe.’^

III. — On Wrestiing with these enemies*

1. This combat is called wrestling, because Satan does not fight with us at a distance, but comes into close struggle. He eloseth in with us, yea, gets within us, and lays hold on the heart. Other enemies may lay hold on our bodily limbs, but Satan is a spirity and lays hold on our spirits, and all the powers of our mind ; and nothing can escape his fangs.

It is called wrestling, because it is violent. Wrestling is not an easy, idle work, but requires strength, skill, and vigour. Satan deals with us as a roaring lion, and strives to destroy our souls. Then striving earnestly is necessary on our part, that we may not become his prey. Oh, brethren, “‘be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might,” that you may escape hell, and take heaven by violence. We must not dally with such an enemy, but resist unto blood. We must wrestle, because of the many arts and tricks which the enemy will use against us. He is a very cunning wrestler, and conquers by art as well as by strength. He has thousands of artful stratagems.

He has also numberless plots formed in secret, and has the experience of thousands of years, so that he knows well how to take advantage of us, and assail us unawares. And should not we study his arts and wiles, so that we may ‘* not be ignorant of his devices ?” Soldier, keep your armour on, go forth in the strength of the Lord, and no enemy can prevail against you.

We must wrestle, because Satan has his seconds to fight on his side ; the world and the flesh are his chief captains. The world presents its golden apples to tempt us ; then the flesh lays hold on the bait, and we are drawn away from God. When Satan sees a fit time, he threatens us with poverty and distress; he turns all smiles into frowns; instead of honours and riches, he sets before us nothing but darkness and distress, and we know how terrible these are to our frail nature. So the subtle enemy vanquisheth some by prosperity, and others by adversity. Few come off conquerors. Let those of us that are true warriors take courage, for we have God on our side, and Christ is the captain of our salvation. Likewise the angels of God encamp round about the saints. What a comfort is this, that we have the angels of God, and the God of angels for our defence ! There are more for us than can come against us ; and this will secure to us the victory.

1. Of terror to the wicked.

Is our spiritual combat a hard wrestling? Then woe to the wicked, who never wrestle at all. Let them know that they are not the Lord’s soldiers, but the devil’s revellers. As they are his captives, he lets them alone to take their sleep quietly. ‘^ When the strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace;’ but when Christ comes to dispossess him, there will be a great struggle, and many a battle fought. Woe be to them that are at ease in Zion I Can we be God’s servants, and not his soldiers ? Is not Christ’s Church on earth truly militant? The saints are warriors^ as well as travellers. Oh then, what is their condition, who sleep in the arms of death ! They will not even resist Satan, but go where he leads them. They lie down in carnal security, and dream of heaven, till they find themselves in the torments of hell. The enemy hath already secured them in his net, and now hath nothing more to do, but to drag them from their bed of slumbers, and cast them into the deep.

2. Encouragement to the warriors.

Is our spiritual combat a wrestling ? Then courage, Christians ! ‘^ Be strong in the l^ord, and in the power of his might.” The Christian above all men, needs courage. A cowardly spirit unfits us for the lowest duty. It is the valiant that takes heaven by a holy violence. The soldiers of Christ must have an heroic spirit, and dare to be holy in spite of men and devils. Sinners are bold, and shall saints be timid ? The one resolves to be wicked, and shall the other be wavering in his holy course ? Hell keeps the field impudently, with displayed banners of open profaneness, and shall saints hide themselves for shame ? Oh let this never be the case with the armies of the living God. Take courage ^ therefore, O ye saints, ”and be strong.” When Joshua was to march before Israel into Canaan, the Lord would raise his spirits with saying, ** Be strong, be of good courage.” So would I say to every man of grace, ” Be strong, and of good courage.” ” Be not dismayed, for the Lord thy God is with thee, whithersoever thou goest.” So he saith to you who march through the wilderness to the heavenly Canaan, Be full of faith, for the Lord is with thee: what, if devils fly in your face, and grappie with you hand to hand ? Any feeble David may wrestle with Goliath, so long as the battle is the Lord’s; and the warrior comes to the field in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel. Is your spiritual combat a wrestling? come then, and play the man. Here are legions of devils ready to devour. See them coming speedily and furiously against you, determined to destroy soul, body, and spirit. What will you do now ? will you turn your back and fly ? Shall Satan conquer without a struggle ? Oh no ; stand to your arms, and bid him defiance — resist him, and he will flee from you. But he will come again.

3. Motives to continue the war.

There is a necessity for it. Either you must wrestle with the enemy, or be taken captive by him. Shall not this necessity make you fight ? Necessity would make cowards fight, and shall you, a soldier of Christ, lay down your arms in despair ? Only wrestle in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the victory is sure. When Christ resisted Satan, he fled away, and left him. Resist him, and he will flee from you also. Satan is a conquered enemy; Christ conquered him for you, and he will conquer him by you, when you fight in his name. The sweetness of victory will abundantly repay for the trouble of wrestling. While the wicked think of the sweetness of sin, and the trouble of wrestling, let the Christian think of the fruits of victory over sin, death and hell^ he will then earnestly, and voluntarily strive to obtain this glorious conquest. The war is only for time, the victory is for eternity. The combat is lawful and just appointed of God.

It is he that bids us to put on the armour, and take the field against our spiritual adversaries. The Lord warns us, that Satan comes against us as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, and bids us to resist him steadfastly in the faith. You see, brethren, that your cause is just, and you have God’s authority for engaging in it — you are God’s property, by creation, redemption, and self-dedication — Satan is an usurper, that can have no right to you. In fighting Satan, you do but defend your own right, and the dominion of God in your own souls ; your cause is just and good ; then fight and conquer.

You have already in baptism taken a military sacrament, and there vowed that you would continue God’s faithful soldiers and servants unto your lives’ end. What! my brethren, shall you take press money to serve in God’s wars, against the devil and all that help him, and now run away from your colours ? A sworn enemy to sin and Satan should never turn his back on those who seek his life. Keep your oath in mind, and resist even unto blood, and unto death. The Lord measureth your temptations, and weigheth your strength : he gives the shoulders, and ffitteth the burden, and will never lay on you more than he will enable you to bear. As thy day is, so shall thy strength be. Souls are apt to complain and say, the devil is mighty, and his temptations strong ; while I am feeble and foolish. How then can I stand in the wars ? Remember, that all your conflicts are weighed in the balance, and God saith unto Satan, ” hitherto shalt thou go, and no further.’* No doubt but Satan would destroy you at once, but God restrains him, and saith of you as he did of Job, *’ touch not his life.” God sets bounds to Satan, and gives strength to his people. Then let them fight on and take courage.

The Lord hath promised his presence with you, on the field of battle, not only as a looker on, but as a protector, by weakening the power of the enemy, and increasing your strength. During the encounter, God will enfeeble the arm of the enemy, and confound his plans. He will, at the same time, give you the skill of a warrior, and cover your head in the day of battle. In this way, the soldiers of Christ are made more than conquerors, by having the Lord on their side— Christians are indeed foiled now and then ; but their Lord restores them, and renews their strength, by putting underneath them the everlasting arms.

In addition to all this, God hath provided for you a complete and impenetrable armour. This armour is the girdle of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, and prayer in the spirit. In other words, this holy armour is to have all the graces of the Holy Spirit in lively exercise. Having this armour on, we shall be able to stand in the evil day, the wiles of the devil, and to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. But recollect that all the virtue of this armour, wholly depends upon God alone. Without Christ, every part of the armour would be broken to pieces with one stroke of our adversary. But while fighting in the whole armour of God» none has ever yet lost the field. Oh what encouragement is this unto us !

As the victory is sure to all who are clad with the armour of God^ so the reward is truly great. Jesus promiseth to give them life eternal ; to eat of the tree of life ; to feed on the heavenly manna ; and to give them the crown of life, and to reign with himself for ever. We do not contend for counterfeits, but for crowns ; not for temporal crowns, but for the crown of life, which fadeth not away. The crown of conquerors endures for ever.
Wrestlers shall finally triumph. When? In the day of judgment — they who now serve Satan, and refuse to wrestle against him, shall in the end be led in triumph by him down to hell. But to you who fight the Lord^s battles, the day is coming, when you shall march in triumph with Christ into glory, and shall see your enemies no more for ever. When Christ, with the countless multitudes which have conquered through the blood of the Lamb, shall mount the throne of glory, what triumphant hallelujahs will fill the arch of heaven ! O my brethren, where is your courage gone ? Where is your ambition ? Set your hearts, not on mean and dying things ; but on crowns and kingdoms : on glorious victories, and eternal triumphs. Amen.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. ~ Ephesians 6:12