Forts Demolished and Prisoners Taken
“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”— 2 Corinthians x. 5.
THIS chapter presents the remarkable spectacle of a minister of the gospel of peace going forth to war. At first sight we wonder how the meek and gentle Paul should speak about warring and talk of pulling down strongholds, and “having a readiness to revenge all disobedience.” The surprise is all the greater because he is going to war in the church: a shepherd entering the fold with a sword. One would not so much marvel that he carried his weapons against the outside world, but on this occasion it is within the church at Corinth that he is about to commence a campaign. Yet observe how earnestly he deprecates the conflict, how he beseeches them by the meekness and gentleness of Christ to spare him a task which was so unpleasant to his feelings as to deal sternly with those whom he would far rather have commended. But the wonder ceases when we find that the shepherd fights only with grievous wolves, and even in that conflict declares, “though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh.” Note, moreover, that his weapons are of a peculiar kind,— “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal.” He is not about to assault his antagonists in the church with bitter words of railing such as they used against himself; he is not about to meet the philosophers with such philosophies and sophisms as those with which they assailed the gospel; neither is he coming forth with any kind of temporal weapon to inflict aught of injury upon the leaders in error; his weapons are of a very different sort. They are not carnal, but spiritual. Trials under a Public Worship Act he knew nothing of, an appeal to Caesar upon church matters never crossed his mind. For the church of God ever to avail itself of force or compulsion in order to propagate its doctrines would be clean contrary to the spirit of Christianity: for the Christian bishop to become a soldier, or employ the secular arm, would seem to be the very climax of contradiction. A warrior ambassador is a dream of folly. I remember a story which illustrates that absurdity. When a certain bishop-prince in the olden times went forth himself personally to battle, and was taken prisoner, the Pope sent word to the king who had captured him that he was to set him at liberty at once, for he was a son of the church. The king, with considerable wit, sent back to the Pope the coat of armour which the bishop had worn on the field with this message, “This have we found: know now whether it be thy son’s coat or no.” And so we might send back, I think, to the nominal church the black and bloodstained gown of the Inquisition, the garb of the headsman and the hangman, the smoke-browned raiment of those who lighted the Smithfield fires, and even the parchments on which are written the Test and Corporation Acts, and the Act of Uniformity, and say, “Know now whether these be thy sons’ coats or no.” Is the raiment of a man of war the vestment of a servant of the Lord? Are robes of legal authority the adornments of heralds of peace? Jesus Christ did not thus array his apostles when he sent them forth, to the war, and not with such weapons did Paul arm himself when he entered the conflict.
“The weapons of our warfare are not carnal yet the spiritual weapons which can be wielded by the Christian minister, and indeed by every Christian man, are not to be despised, for while not fleshly, they are mighty through God. God is in them; God is with those who use them. The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, the arrows of truth which pierce the consciences of men, the weapon of all prayer, the influence of the Holy Ghost— that divine power— such weapons as these are by God’s power made mighty to the overthrow of spiritual principalities and powers. Truth and holiness are the appointed engines for the pulling down of the castles of evil. Blessed is he who in every conflict for God takes heed to use none other weapons than those which the Lord hath hung up in the tower of David, builded for an armoury, wherein do hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men. Those only can fight the Lord’s battles successfully who come to him to be armed for the fight, and reject all fleshly force. The spiritual shall be victorious, but others must fail.
The passage, if I were to confine it to its immediate connection, would represent Paul as dealing with those lofty ones who had usurped authority in the church at Corinth, who denied his apostleship, and set themselves up as superior to him, while they themselves preached error, and led the people astray. Paul declared that when he came among them armed with the power with which God had clothed him, he should overthrow every proud opposition, and convince them all of the truth to their conversion or to their confusion. But I shall speak rather of a warfare carried on in individuals, a warfare in our own souls, for what is true of the triumphs of the gospel in the mass is true because it gains the like conquest over individuals. While I am speaking of the war of the gospel against sin within the heart of man, may you who have never felt its power be praying that it may conquer even you, and may those who have experienced its sacred omnipotence be pleading to be yet more completely subjugated to its sway.
Great King of Grace, our hearts subdue,
May we be led in triumph too,
As willing captives to our Lord,
To sing the victories of his word.”
There are three things in the text worthy of our observation. The first is fortresses demolished— “casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God”; then, secondly, prisoners seized— “bringing into captivity every thought”; and thirdly, prisoners led away captive— for such is the force of the Greek “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ,”— as if the captured ones were taken away and put under new service to the anointed Prince.
I. First, let us look at FORTRESSES DEMOLISHED. When the gospel endeavours to penetrate the human heart it meets with earthworks of prejudice, which men have cast up to screen their minds from the force of the truth. Many things are opposed to the knowledge of God. The object sought for is that men may be brought to know God, to know who he is and what he is, to know their relation to him as fallen men, to know his plan of restoration, to know him in Christ Jesus, and so to know as to love him, to obey him, and to become like him. This is the great object for which the gospel is sent into the world, that the knowledge of the glory of God may cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. But men desire not the knowledge of God’s ways, and shut up their hearts against the entrance of divine light by many reasonings and imaginings.
Some are garrisoned against the knowledge of God by the feeling that they do not want to know God. The masses of our fellow-countrymen are not so much opposed to the gospel as indifferent to it. They pass by our places of worship and they see their neighbours entering, and they sometimes say, “Who preaches there? but “What is preached there?” is a question seldom asked. Religious enquiry seems to be very dull at the present time. Time was when the announcement of evangelical doctrine excited universal attention, though at the same time almost universal opposition: that opposition was better than a state of stagnation like the present. Men nowadays pass by the cross as if a dying Saviour were nothing to them. Graceless zealots, as they call them, may fight about their creeds: as for them, they have something more practical to think of. “What shall we eat? what shall we drink? and wherewithal shall we be clothed?” are far more important questions to them, than “What must we do to be saved?” This entrenchment has to be carried, and the gospel does carry it by the power of the Holy Ghost, for it flashes conviction on the soul, creates alarm, arouses apprehension, and so storms the stronghold of indifference and utterly demolishes it. When the Holy Ghost convinces a man of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment to come, he is indifferent no longer. We call him an “enquirer,” and the name is correct, for he does enquire about the weightiest matters, which concern eternity, and God, and heaven, and hell, and his own immortal destiny. He wants to know at first more than he is at that time capable of learning: he questions about high mysteries which are for men in Christ rather than for babes; but most of all he wants to know “How can I be at peace with God?” If the Holy Spirit does but apply to a man’s heart such a truth as this,— that he is condemned already because he hath not believed in Christ, then difference is as a bowing wall, and as a tottering fence. Even if a man had no other sin whatsoever, it is quite sufficient to condemn him for ever, that he neglects his God and turns away from his Saviour; for unbelief is an act of high treason against the divine majesty, plucking at the crown jewel of Jehovah’s truthfulness. Hence “the wicked shall be turned into hell with all the nations that forget God.” Lay this Krupp gun in proper position, and let it be fired by the Eternal Spirit against the indifference of the human heart and it soon casts down the wall of carelessness. Then the sinner discovers that if he does not know his God it were better for him that he had never been born. He finds out that if he does not know his Saviour he is doomed to endless woe, and this makes him cry out in anguish of heart: “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
Amongst the other “imaginations” with which man fortifies himself is the idea of many that they know already. Trained from their childhood in false doctrine, they hold fast to it, and defy the gospel to reach them. They are Christians by birth, they say, forgetting the inspired declaration,— “that which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Others make up their minds as to what the knowledge of God ought to be, and of course they quarrel with God’s view of things. They fashion a god and a gospel after their own fond notions, and then they dream that they have reached the sum of wisdom. They refuse to go to school to Christ, and when he says, “Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of God,” they turn from him with disdain. They know quite enough, and are resolved to learn no more. A large proportion of our fellow men are in this condition, and are perfectly content and satisfied to remain as they are. Graduates in the university of self-importance, full of ignorance and equally full of pride, they scarcely deign to give Christ a hearing, and hardly go as far as the Athenians who said, “What will this babbler say?” Nothing shuts the heart more completely against the knowledge of God than the conceit that we know already and need no teaching from above. It is written of the true church, “All thy children shall be taught of the Lord,” but many are not such children, for they are wise in their own eyes and refuse instruction. But, O sirs, how the Holy Spirit casts down this imagination when he makes men feel that they are blind by nature, and lets them know that the natural man understandeth not the things which be of God, for they are spiritual and must be spiritually discerned. A little heavenly light suffices to reveal to men their darkness, for if they will but think they must admit that if God deigns to teach us in the Scriptures it must be because apart from them we are ignorant. There is no need of revelation, and the Bible is worthless; there is no need of an incarnate deity, and Calvary is a superfluity, if men already know God apart from the Lord Jesus, and the word by which he is pleased to reveal himself. Let but the Holy Spirit bring this home to a man’s heart and he begins to cry out against his own pride, he bemoans his own blindness, and he is quite willing to become a fool that he may be wise, a child that he may sit at Jesus’ feet.
Another entrenchment, behind which many are hiding securely, is the idea that if they do not know God they can find him out without his help. This is a very general notion nowadays. Scientific thought is supposed to be the way for finding out God himself, and the old Scripture is out of date which says, “Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall lire.” Plain truth is in this wonderful century of small account; men crave to be mystified by their own cogitations. Many glory in being too intellectual to receive anything as absolute certainty: they are not at all inclined to submit to the authority of a positive revelation. God’s word is not accepted by them as final, but they judge it and believe what they like of it. This is madness. I speak to those who believe in the Scriptures, and I say if, indeed, there be a revelation, it becomes us to be silent before it, and accept it without dispute. The Lord knows what he is better than we can ever know, and if he has been pleased to speak in his Word plainly and solemnly, it is ours to believe what he says, because he says it. It may be all very well to prove that such and such a revelation of God is consistent with reason, consistent with analogy, consistent with a thousand things; but the spirit which needs such argument is a spirit of rebellion against God. If there be a revelation, every part of it is of authority, and must be believed. Human thought is not the arbiter of truth, but the infallible Word is the end of all strife. It is not ours to say what the truth must be, or what we think it should be, or what we would like it to be, but reverently to sit down with open ear and willing heart to receive what God has spoken. If an astronomer were to forbear to examine the stars, and teach an astronomy invented in his own brain, he would be an idiot: and those who treat theology in like fashion are not much better. “Surely,” saith one, “we ought to modify our beliefs by public opinion, and the current of thought.” I say “no” a thousand times. The incorruptible word of God liveth and abideth for ever, and is incapable of modification. To modify is to adulterate and nullify it, and render it of none effect, so that it becomes another gospel, and, indeed, no gospel. The thought of tampering with revealed truth is vicious, and ought not to be tolerated by any Christian for a second. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not a thing which is to be moulded according to the fashion of the period: it is “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and for ever.” Whether the Greek philosophy rules or is exploded, whether some more modern theory blazes up or smoulders down, is small concern of ours, for we are set to preach the one unvarying gospel of Jesus Christ, with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. No man was ever led to a saving faith by our meeting him half way, and consenting to his unbelief. No real faith was ever wrought in man by his own thoughts and imaginations; he must receive the gospel as a revelation from God, or he cannot receive it at all. Faith is a supernatural work wherever it is found, and if we think that we can beget faith in ourselves or others by the use of the fleshly weapons of philosophy we shall certainly be foiled. The Scriptures pressed home by the Holy Ghost are God’s power unto salvation, and not men’s cogitations and imaginations. There is the revealed gospel,— reject it at your peril; there is Jehovah’s revelation of himself to men,— receive it or be lost; this is the ground to go upon if we would speak as the oracles of God. God grant that proud thinkers may come upon this ground and become believers. Here we are boldly met by some who say, “We do not want this doctrine which you call the knowledge of God: we know of something letter already. We tell you that your gospel, about which you make such a fuss, is outworn and done with.” Treat it so, sirs, and perish, if you will, but as for us, we will mourn day and night over your unbelief. You will surely destroy your souls in rejecting the divine testimony, but in so doing you will prove that word to be true, which saith that the gospel is a savour of death unto death as well as of life unto life. You know better, you say; but how can this be? Do you know God better than God knows himself? Do you know more about his way of reconciling men to himself than his own messenger, the Lord Jesus Christ, knows? Do you profess to know better than the Eternal Spirit who inspired the Scriptures? It is to those Scriptures that we crave your reverent attention, and not to any assertions of ours; we pray you do not reject them. I heard one say the other day that he never felt any desire to pray, and never had prayed in all his life; and, though I looked at him with sorrow, I could only say to him, “Dead men never cry: you are dead in sin, and so have not the breath divine. You have not been born again, you have not a new nature or a right spirit: if you had you could not help praying and believing.” To me his statements were confirmations of Bible teaching concerning the real state of all unregenerate men. The gospel, as we have said before, wherever it creates faith begets it by its own power, and by the power of the Eternal Spirit convincing men of the truth, and enlightening those whom the Lord our God hath chosen. Now, where the gospel comes, it undermines and overturns everything which opposes the truth of God, and makes a man feel that of himself he knows nothing, until the Lord reveals it to him. Find a sinner made conscious of sin and you have found a man who does not know better than his God: find a man with an awakened conscience, and you have found a man who does not know better than his God: find one who believes in Christ, and sits at Jesus’ feet, and the more he learns the more surely have you found in him a man who does not know better than his God, but who still cries out to be taught more, that he may possess to the full the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
There is yet another entrenchment behind which some hide themselves from the knowledge of God, and that is “I never can know. I do not know, and I never can know. I despair of ever being able to know the Lord.” In this despair the rebel entrenches himself as in a very Malakoff, and becomes desperate in his resistance to the gospel. Yet even this rampart is cast down by mighty grace. When the Holy Ghost comes with the word of reconciliation the sinner catches at the idea of an atonement by a substitute. He is charmed by the truth— “I am lost in myself, but saved in Christ. I am in myself judged and condemned for sin, but in Christ I see my sin laid on another and put away.” He catches at that truth, so simple, so sublime, and as he believes it he begins to know him whom to know is life eternal. The Spirit of God, as he shines with light divine into the soul, soon sweeps away the Egyptian darkness of despair, and in the light of God the man sees light.
You see what my drift is. It is just this, that there are certain walls of reasonings, reckonings, thinkings,— our version calls them “imaginations,” which are to be cast down, and the gospel does this when used by the Holy Ghost. Nor is this all, for with the walls the battlements fall. Man having devised the fortress of reasoning, erects thereon towers of pride, which the apostle calls “high things,” of which he says that the power of God casts down “every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God.” These lofty castles are such as the following:— “I have a noble nature within me: my instincts are towards right. I have not done much amiss. I am as good as my neighbours. I can overcome any temptation. I am persuaded that I can fight my own way into eternal felicity,”— and all such vain ideas. Let but the gospel come with power, and all these citadels are laid low. Away they go, like Jericho’s old bulwarks, rocking and reeling, till in a cloud of dust they thunder to their fall. In how many cases we have seen this to be so! Fine men have come into this place, men that knew a great deal better than anything they could find in the Bible, quite confident that nothing would ever alter them. These have sat down like ancient knights, mailed from head to foot, invulnerable to any shafts of ours, but the blessed Spirit has found an arrow in some simple saying that we have gathered from God’s blessed word, and, lo, the proud warriors have fallen in the dust. Convinced that they were ignorant and foolish, the formerly proud boasters have begun to cry, “What must we do to be saved?” and ere long, made champions of the faith, it has been their delight humbly to yield judgment and will and heart to the obedience of Christ. O that the Lord would thus storm the prejudices and self-conceits of all my unconverted hearers and sweep them away by his mighty love.
II. After a breach has been made and the city has been taken, PRISONERS ARE MADE: this is our second point. The text runs thus, “Bringing into captivity every thought.” The word translated “thought” has a very broad meaning, but its best explanation is that which is placed first in the lexicon, “everything which comes from the mind.” The mind is like a city, and when it is captured the inhabitants which swarm its streets are the thoughts, and these are taken prisoners. Look at the process, which I will rapidly describe. The gospel comes with power to the heart of a man, and he begins to fear the wrath of God and the judgment to come. See how he trembles. Christ has captured his thoughts of self-security. He no more says, “Though I add drunkenness to thirst, it shall surely be well with me.” On the contrary he cries, “I am guilty; I have broken God’s law, and I am condemned.” The Lord has captured his thoughts of self-righteousness. This is the man who yesterday boasted in himself that he was righteous: the pure and holy law of God has come near his conscience, and he feels himself guilty, and therefore sues for mercy. Now he begins to pray, “God be merciful to me a sinner,” and it is clear that his thoughts of independence, his ideas that he could do without his God, are made prisoners. His thoughts of pleasure in alienation from the Great Father are now slain, for he desires to draw near to the Most High. See! a little hope begins to dawn, he hopes that there may be salvation for him. His thoughts of rebellious despair are led captive in fetters of iron. Praise ye the Lord! Watch him still further. The Spirit of God encourages him, and he comes to believe in Jesus: his self-trust is a prisoner. That Jesus died for sinners is a truth which he accepts, and he casts himself upon it; his proud intellect is a captive, and he gladly bows at the Redeemer’s feet. Hear him as he sings, “I am forgiven: God assures me of it. I am justified because I have believed in Jesus. Oh, how I love his precious name.” His inmost heart is captured, all the thoughts of his love are now subdued, and the Saviour whom he once despised he now adores. See how with gratitude he brings his alabaster box to break it, and pour the sweet perfume on the Saviour’s feet. Jesus has won his heart, and holds it in a willing captivity, and henceforth the man consecrates himself to Christ, to live and to die for him. Thus the whole mind of the man, yea, the whole man, has thrown down its rebellious weapons and surrendered unconditionally to the conquering arm of the Lord Jesus.
I dwell very briefly upon this point, because I wish to enlarge upon the last.
III. These prisoners are to be LED AWAY INTO CAPTIVITY, “Bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” Monarchs of the olden times, such as the kings of Assyria and Babylon, when they subdued a country, removed the people to a distance away from their old haunts, to find new homes. Now, when the Lord captivates the thoughts of our mind he leads them all away, conducting them to another region altogether. The offspring of the mind he guides into the spiritual realm, wherein they delight in the Lord, and bow themselves before him. Let us see this procession of captives led away to grace the triumph of the conqueror and to settle down in another region under another King than they ever knew before. From the highest to the lowest all the faculties of the soul are made to pass under the yoke; I shall not attempt a list according to mental science, but mention them as they occur to me. He who being made conscious of his sin believes in Jesus Christ submits all the thoughts of his judgment and understanding to the obedience of Christ, and this is a great point gained. Before, he put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter, darkness for light and light for darkness: but now, when he is in difficulty about a moral question he asks his Lord; now, if pleasure tempts him he judges whether it be sweet by the question whether it would be sweet to his Lord; now, if a certain doctrine is stated he weighs it not in the balances of his own thoughts, much less in the scales of popular opinion, but he asks, “What did my Master say? How would the Lord Jesus think of this?” He suspends his own judgment upon his Master’s judgment. He does not say “I am a law unto myself,” but he says, “Christ is the way, and in his steps I desire to follow.” Thus his reason is led into captivity to the higher reason and understanding of his supreme Lord. If there be a truth which he does not know he tries to learn it, if his Lord sets it before him as a lesson, and if it be hidden from him, he is content not to know. His prayer is, “Lord, teach me, for else I shall never learn. I wish to have my understanding developed to the full, but let it be under thy sweet light. Let my mind blossom and open all its flowers beneath the sunlight of thy divine instruction.” I know it is not so with some professed Christians, for they too often invent their own doctrines, and think out their opinions apart from their Master. To think is admirable, but not if we mean thereby to supplement the teachings of Christ, or to improve upon them, or to accommodate them to popular theories in science and philosophy. For my part, true science may say what it will, and never lack for an attentive listener while I live: the more loudly it shall speak the better, if it will speak facts and not theories, if it will tell me what God has done and not what man has dreamed. All that true science ever can discover must tally with the word of revelation, for God speaks in nature no lie, but the selfsame truth as he has written in the holy Scriptures. Let our wise men ransack earth to its centre, and climb to heaven and make inquisition through every star, the testimony of universal nature if heard aright shall never contradict the inspired utterances of the Holy Ghost. The evil is that the wise men add their own inferences to the facts as if they were of equal authority. What, then, is to be done? Shall we alter the deductions of the fallible, or try to shape the declarations of the infallible? The question is not hard to answer. We are not to revise the statements of the Book, but the inferences of the philosophers. When philosophy contradicts revelation, what say I? So much the worse for philosophy. The Word of God is no lie; the lie is on the other side. In spite of the perpetual restlessness which I see in many who are for ever mending that which is perfect in itself, my understanding is happy to delight in the infallible testimonies of Jehovah. Let those fellows alter, we shall not! Let them come up to us; verily, believers in God’s revelation will never go down to them, for that would be to be disloyal to our Master Christ, whose teachings are too sacred for us knowingly to alter a letter of them. Whatever others may do, it is the delight of those who have felt the overwhelming power of the divine Spirit to find in Christ the wisdom with which their intellect is more than content.
The same power of truth and of the Holy Ghost leads captive the will. My Lord Will-be-will, as Bunyan describes him, is a very stout fellow. In some men he is exceedingly obstinate,— “I will, and I will, and I will,” — and by no means can they be made to yield. In truth the will has a wonderful power over all the faculties, and rules them like a despot. It is boasted that the will of man is free, yet was Luther quite correct when he called it a slave. Never is it so much a slave as when it brags of its own liberty. Let the Spirit of God come into the heart and apply with power the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the human will no longer glories in its freedom, but surrenders, and is subjugated. It remains a will still, but the will of God is supreme over it. Hear it describe itself,— but “Lord as ,thou this wilt is my will, or what I want to be my will— ‘Not as I will, them with happy lips, so glad to find true freedom in being subdued to the obedience of Christ. It is very beautiful also to see how human hopes are spell-bound by grace. These winged things were wont to flutter no higher than the tainted atmosphere of this poor world; but now they find stronger pinions and soar aloft to things not seen as yet, eternal in the heavens. The man’s fears, too, all nestled in the ruins of his sinful joys, or were aroused by the voices of his fellow man, but now, ennobled by grace, they ascend into another sphere, they cover their faces with their wings before the throne of God, while the man fears to grieve the Holy Spirit, fears to offend against the Father’s love, fears to do anything which would dishonour the Saviour. His joys and sorrows are now found where they never went before; he rejoices in the Lord, and he sorrows after a godly sort. His memory also now retains the precious things of divine truth, which once it rejected for the trifles of time, and his powers of meditation and consideration keep within the circle of truth and holiness, finding green pastures there. This done, you shall see the same enthralment east over the Christian man’s desires and aspirations. He has flung away his old ambitions, and aspires to nobler things. He is not without his longings, but he longs for heavenly blessings. His wishes and desires fly to Christ as doves to their windows. His affection, which is no longer set upon things upon the earth, but on things above, draws upward his desires. He pines for holiness, for usefulness, for the glory of God. His own glory he discards, and is willing to be of no repute, so long as he may but make the name of Jesus famous among the sons of men. I would to God, dear brothers and sisters, that this sacred vassalage would be more fully felt by every motion of the mind, so that no desire would dare to wander beyond bounds even for a moment.
The same blessed servitude binds the man’s plots and designings. He plans still, but it is not for his own aggrandisement: his grandest design is to bring jewels to the crown of Christ. He arranges his life now with circumspection and with diligence, but not with cunning and craftiness, for holiness is his policy, and his scheme of life is sanctity. Does not this talk of mine sound rather like sarcasm to some who profess to be Christians? If it does, stand convicted, for it is not I that am wrong in this, but you; for every thought is to be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and even when we are thinking about common things, matters that have to do with business, we are to be serving our Lord, for “every thought,” not some thought, is to be bowed unto the obedience of Christ. It is a wicked error to conceive that so much of our life ought to be religious and so much to be secular. A Christian’s whole life is to be his religion, and his religion is to saturate his whole life. You are as religiously to eat your meals as you eat at the sacred supper, as religiously to speak the truth in your parlour as you would in the pulpit. Whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever you do, it is all to be done to the glory of God. The great thought you are to have in opening your shops, in trading, in toiling, in furnishing your houses, in nursing your children, and even in taking recreation, is still to be, “How can I glorify God in all this?” All, all must be brought into captivity to Christ. When a man yields himself to Jesus he should comprehend his house, his money, his body, his time, his wife, his children,— everything in the deed of surrender; for he who bought us with his precious blood did not buy us with a reserve and leave the devil a mortgage upon us, but we are our Lord’s unencumbered freehold for ever. We are his own conquered portion, which he took out of the hand of the Amorite with his sword and with his bow, and therefore over the whole of our being he has an absolute and undivided right of property.
The renewed man’s love and hate are both held captive by the power of grace. He loves Jesus truly and intensely; he hates sin with his whole soul. Indignation is a hard thing to tame, but to my mind it is a grand thing to see a man’s anger made the servitor of Christ, so that he only grows indignant when he wars with that which is mean, cruel, unjust, un-Christlike. Then he doth well to be angry, for his anger is but virtue on a blaze. It is a fair sight to see Christ’s sacred bands worn by our tastes, which are so volatile and hard to constrain. Concerning tastes it is never wise to dispute, but Jesus’ love creates a delicacy of mind, a discernment of that which is tender and gentle, and pure and heavenly, an abhorrence of that which is evil, so that the Lord’s redeemed become very connoisseurs in things moral and divine. The fancy, too, that impalpable cloud, painted as by the setting sun, that will-o’-th’-wisp of the spirit, even this is impressed into royal service, and made to wear the livery of Christ, so that men even dream eternal life. When godly men give their imagination rein even Pegasus bears a royal burden, and in his flight from the actual to the imaginative he feels the golden bridle of the King’s rule restraining and directing all his airy motions. Yes, the Holy Spirit wins an undisputed sway, “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”
Do you not wish for this complete subjection, you to whom Jesus is God and Lord? I know you do, and what is more, I am sure you wish for the time when that which is wrought in yourselves shall be accomplished in all mankind. Christ’s gospel has not come into the world to be co-equal with other faiths and share a divided kingdom with differing creeds. False gods may stand face to face to each other in one Pantheon, and be at peace, for they are all false together, but where Christ comes, Dagon must go down, not even the stump of him must stand. Truth is of necessity intolerant of falsehood, love wars with hate, and justice battles with wrong. Christ Jesus will be all in all, and sit upon the throne alone. May the day come in which obedience to Christ shall be universal. What a scene would present itself if every thought of every human being were in holy subjection to Christ! Not a poor woman would muse beneath her lowly roof of thatch without rendering holy adoration, while on the throne neither queen nor prince would purpose anything but what should be for the glory of Jesus. No council chamber would know a policy which would be contrary to the Prince of love, nor would the freest thinker think aught contrary to the thoughts of Jesus. The wild men of the plain would cease to forget the Lord, and the civilized dwellers in cities would no longer cast off his fear. The common people would seek unto him in multitudes, and the nobles would study how to honour him. How happy will the time- be when all inventive genius shall own the sway of Jesus, and man shall desire no more to fashion weapons of war, but only to design that which shall minister to the well-being of mankind; when art with pencil and chisel shall refrain from all which excites lascivious thoughts and perpetuates the memory of blood and slaughter, and shall bow at Jesus’ feet to honour God by setting nature’s beauties before reverent eyes; when learning poring over its classic tomes shall find in human wisdom trophies for the surer wisdom of Jesus; and study, searching by the midnight lamp, shall seek out the heights and depths of love divine. It charms me to think of every poet singing divine songs for earth’s great King, drinking no more from the Castalian fount, but finding all his springs in God alone. Then, too, shall music compose her most harmonious symphonies, and pour forth her richest notes in worship of the redeeming Lord; while eloquence, no longer declaiming in the defence of wrong, shall spend her force in the maintenance of peace and righteousness, and in the extolling of the Lord. Dawn even now, auspicious day. Why hangs the night so heavy? Why bides the darkness around us for so many ages?
Great Captain of salvation, thou canst achieve the victory. We have compassed this Jericho these many days, but still the walls fall not. Up, thou mighty man of war, for thou art such, and come thou to the battle and then the battlements of sin will fall. “The Lord is a man of war: Jehovah is his name.” Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab and wounded the dragon? Because of truth and righteousness, ride forth in thy majesty. For peace on earth and glory to God in the highest, come forth in the glory of thy might with the everlasting gospel, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”