Fighting the Good Fight (2)
Ryle, on the weapons of our warfare:
A general faith in the truth of God’s written Word is the primary foundation of the Christian soldier’s character. He is what he is, does what he does, thinks as he thinks, acts as he acts, hopes as he hopes, behaves as he behaves, for one simple reason—he believes certain propositions revealed and laid down in Holy Scripture. ‘He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him’ (Heb. 11:5).
A religion without doctrine or dogma is a thing which many are fond of talking of in the present day. It sounds very fine at first. It looks very pretty at a distance. But the moment we sit down to examine and consider it, we shall find it a simple impossibility. We might as well talk of a body without bones and sinews. No man will ever be anything or do anything in religion, unless he believes something. . . .
As for true Christians, faith is the very backbone of their spiritual existence. No one ever fights earnestly against the world, the flesh and the devil, unless he has engraven on his heart certain great principles which he believes. . . . Wherever you see a man, whether rich or poor, learned or unlearned, wrestling manfully with sin, and trying to overcome it, you may be sure there are certain great principles which that man believes. The poet who wrote the famous lines:
‘For modes of faith let graceless zealots fight,
He can’t be wrong whose life is in the right,’
was a clever man, but a poor divine. There is no such thing as right living without faith and believing.
A special faith in our Lord Jesus Christ’s person, work, and office, is the life, heart, and mainspring of the Christian soldier’s character.
He sees by faith an unseen Saviour, who loved him, gave Himself for him, paid his debts for him, bore his sins, carried his transgressions, rose again for him, and appears in heaven for him as his Advocate at the right hand of God. He sees Jesus, and clings to Him. Seeing this Saviour and trusting in Him, he feels peace and hope, and willingly does battle against the foes of his soul.
He sees his own many sins—his weak heart, a tempting world, a busy devil; and if he looked only at them he might well despair. But he sees also a mighty Saviour, an interceding Saviour, a sympathizing Saviour—His blood, His righteousness, His everlasting priesthood— and he believes that all this is his own. He sees Jesus, and casts his whole weight on Him. Seeing Him he cheerfully fights on, with a full confidence that he will prove ‘more than conqueror through Him that loved him’ (Rom. 8:37).
Habitual lively faith in Christ’s presence and readiness to help is the secret of the Christian soldier fighting successfully.
. . . Nothing makes the anxieties of warfare sit so lightly on a man as the assurance of Christ’s love and continual protection. Nothing enables him to bear the fatigue of watching, struggling, and wrestling against sin, like the indwelling confidence that Christ is on his side and success is sure. It is the ‘shield of faith’ which quenches all the fiery darts of the wicked one.—It is the man who can say, ‘I know whom I have believed’—who can say in time of suffering, ‘I am not ashamed.’—He who wrote those glowing words, ‘We faint not,’—‘Our light affliction which endureth but for a moment worketh in us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory’—was the man who wrote with the same pen, ‘We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.’—It is the man who said, ‘I live by the faith of the Son of God,’ who said, in the same Epistle, ‘the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.’—It is the man who said, ‘To me to live is Christ,’ who said, in the same Epistle, ‘I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content.’—‘I can do all things through Christ.’—The more faith the more victory! The more faith the more inward peace! (Eph. 6:16; 2 Tim. 1:12; 2 Cor. 4:17, 18; Gal. 2:20; 6:14; Phil. 1:21; 4:11, 13).
—J. C. Ryle, Holiness (Banner of Truth, 2014), 79—81
What It Means to Be a Christian
What I Believe