I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
The Spiritual Warfare
Samuel Davies (1723–1761)
Arm thee in panoply divine,
My soul, and fired with courage rise;
A thousand enemies combine
To obstruct thy progress to the skies.
Infernal darts perpetual fly
And scatter various deaths around;
Around thee thousands daily die
And none escape without a wound.
The world presents her tempting charms,
And wears the aspect of a friend,
Yet, ah, she carries deadly arms,
And all her smiles in ruin end.
But, oh, the flesh, that latent foe,
That treacherous enemy in my breast!
’Tis hence proceeds my overthrow,
And hence I’m conquered by the rest.
Through troops of potent enemies,
Through hostile snares and fields of blood,
If I expect the glorious prize,
I must pursue my dangerous road.
But, ah, how can a feeble worm
Obtain so hard a victory?
Alas, I perish in the storm,
And helpless fall, and bleed, and die.
The glorious prize stands in view,
But deaths and dangers stop my way;
Thou glorious prize! Adieu, adieu!
Here, cruel foes! Come size your prey.
But hark, an animating voice,
Majestic breaks from the upper sky,
Courage, frail worm! Live and rejoice,
I have procured the victory.
“Suspended on the accursed tree,
I crushed the might of all thy foes,
Dying, I spoiled their tyranny,
And triumphed over them when I rose.
“This arm that props the universe,
And holds up natures tottering frame,
Can all surrounding harms disperse,
And safe protect the feeblest name.
“The captain of salvation deigns
To lead the van, and guard thy way;
And since thy conquering Leader reigns,
The infernal powers shall miss their prey.
“In me confide; from me derive
Courage and strength to keep the field;
In crowds of death then thou shalt live,
And all thy foes shall stubborn yield.
“The Spirit’s sword victorious yield,
And steel thy breast with righteousness;
Let faith be thy triumphant shield;
Thy helmet, hope of heav’nly bliss.
“See in my hands the glorious prize;
This crown the conqueror shall wear.
Rise then with dauntless courage rise,
And bid adieu to every fear.
“Though sharp the conflict, ’tis but short;
Victr’y with active wings draws nigh.
And my brave soldiers, all unhurt,
Ere long shall triumph in the sky.”
Blessed Jesus, with martial zeal,
I arm, and rush into the fight;
And through my weakness still I feel,
I am almighty in thy might.
Thy gracious Words my heart inspire
With generous zeal for noble deeds;
Let hell and all her hosts appear,
My soul, undaunted, now proceeds.
Satan, affrighted at Thy frown,
Retreats, despairing of his prey;
And all the flatteries earth has shown,
In vain their treacherous charms display.
The flesh, subdued by grace divine,
No more shall triumph o’er the man.
Now, glorious prize, I call thee mine,
Though earth and hell do all they can.
—Worthy Is the Lamb (Soli Deo Gloria, 2004).
Confession by Peter
As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” 68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. 69 We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?” 71 Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him.
These verses form a sorrowful conclusion to the famous discourse of Christ which occupies the greater part of the sixth chapter. They supply a melancholy proof of the hardness and corruption of man’s heart. Even when the Son of God was the preacher, many seem to have heard in vain.
Let us mark in this passage what an old sin backsliding is. We read that when our Lord had explained what He meant by “eating and drinking his flesh and blood,”—“From that time, many went back and walked no more with him.”
The true grace of God no doubt is an everlasting possession. From this men never fall away entirely, when they have once received it. “The foundation of God standeth sure.” “My sheep shall never perish.” (2 Tim. ii. 19; John x. 28.) But there is counterfeit grace and unreal religion in the Church, wherever there is true; and from counterfeit grace thousands may, and do, fall away. Like the stony ground hearers, in the parable of the sower, many “have no root in themselves, and so in time of trial fall away.” All is not gold that glitters. All blossoms do not come to fruit. All are not Israel which are called Israel. Men may have feelings, desires, convictions, resolutions, hopes, joys, sorrows in religion, and yet never have the grace of God. They may run well for a season, and bid fair to reach heaven, and yet break down entirely after a time, go back to the world, and end like Demas, Judas Iscariot, and Lot’s wife.
It must never surprise us to see and hear of such cases in our own days. If it happened in our Lord’s time and under our Lord’s teaching, much more may we expect it to happen now. Above all, it must never shake our faith and discourage us in our course. On the contrary, we must make up our minds that there will be backsliders in the Church as long as the world stands. The sneering infidel, who defends his unbelief by pointing at them, must find some better argument than their example. He forgets that there will always be counterfeit coin where there is true money.
Let us mark, secondly, in this passage, the noble declaration of faith which the Apostle Peter made. Our Lord had said to the twelve, when many went back, “Will ye also go away?” At once Peter replied, with characteristic zeal and fervor, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and art sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.”
The confession contained in these words is a very remarkable one. Living in a professedly Christian land, and surrounded by Christian privileges; we can hardly form an adequate idea of its real value. For a humble Jew to say of one whom Scribes, and Pharisees, and Sadducees agreed in rejecting, “Thou hast the words of eternal life; thou art the Christ,” was an act of mighty faith. No wonder that our Lord said, in another place, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is heaven.” (Matt. xvi. 17.)
But the question with which Peter begins, is just as remarkable as his confession. “To whom shall we go?” said the noble-hearted Apostle. “Whom shall we follow? To what teacher shall we betake ourselves? Where shall we find any guide to heaven to compare with thee? What shall we gain by forsaking thee? What Scribe, what Pharisee, what Sadducee, what Priest, what Rabbi can show us such words of eternal life as thou showest?”
The question is one which every true Christian may boldly ask, when urged and tempted to give up his religion, and go back to the world. It is easy for those who hate religion to pick holes in our conduct, to make objections to our doctrines, to find fault with our practices. It may be hard sometimes to give them any answer. But after all, “To whom shall we go,” if we give up our religion? Where shall we find such peace, and hope, and solid comfort as in serving Christ, however poorly we serve Him? Can we better ourselves by turning our back on Christ, and going back to our old ways? We cannot. Then let us hold on our way and persevere.
Let us mark, lastly, in this passage, what little benefit some men get from religious privileges. We read that our Lord said, “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil.” And it goes on, “He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.”
If ever there was a man who had great privileges and opportunities, that man was Judas Iscariot. A chosen disciple, a constant companion of Christ, a witness of His miracles, a hearer of His sermons, a commissioned preacher of His kingdom, a fellow and friend of Peter, James, and John,—it would be impossible to imagine a more favourable position for a man’s soul. Yet if anyone ever fell hopelessly into hell, and made shipwreck at last for eternity, that man was Judas Iscariot. The character of that man must have been black indeed, of whom our Lord could say he is “a devil.”
Let us settle it firmly in our minds, that the possession of religious privileges alone is not enough to save our souls. It is neither place, nor light, nor company, nor opportunities, but grace that man needs to make him a Christian. With grace we may serve God in the most difficult position,—like Daniel in Babylon, Obadiah in Ahab’s court, and the saints in Nero’s household. Without grace we may live in the full sunshine of Christ’s countenance, and yet, like Judas, be miserably cast away. Then let us never rest until we have grace reigning in our souls. Grace is to be had for the asking. There is One sitting at the right hand of God who has said,—“Ask, and it shall be given you.” (Matt. vii. 7.) The Lord Jesus is more willing to give grace than man is to seek it. If men have it not, it is because they do not ask it.