The weapons of our warfare are not the weapons of the world. Instead, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.
1. THE NATURE OF THE WEAPONS CHRISTIANITY EMPLOYS AND SANCTIONS. It is evident from this and other passages that Paul did not place his main reliance upon the miraculous and supernatural powers which he possessed, and sometimes wielded.
1. Carnal weapons are disclaimed; e.g. the appeal to force of arms or of law; the appeal to the superstitious fears of men; the address to interest and selfishness, in the use of worldly policy and craft.
2. Spiritual weapons are relied upon. The truth of God, the gospel of Christ, - this was the arm in which inspired apostles were wont to trust.
3. These weapons are mighty. In fact, there are no means of combating error and sin, of promoting the cause of truth and righteousness, so powerful as those which are taken from the armoury of the New Testament. They are "mighty through God," i.e. their power is of Divine origin, the Holy Spirit accompanying them to the souls of men.
II. THE EFFICACY OF THE WEAPONS WHICH CHRISTIANITY EMPLOYS AND SANCTIONS.
1. They are mighty to demolish. As in warfare fortresses and cities are taken by a victorious army, and are then demolished, razed to the ground, so when the religion of Jesus went forth, conquering and to conquer, it attacked and brought low every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God. Thus sin, ignorance, error, superstition, vice, crime, bigotry, malice, were again and again vanquished by the victorious energy of the gospel.
2. They are mighty to subjugate. Captivity was the common lot of the conquered foe. And as thoughts are the motive power of life, the gospel attacked these; and rebellious, disobedient, indifferent, ungrateful thoughts were captured, and, by the gentle but mighty force of Divine truth, were brought into subjection to Christ, whom to obey is liberty, peace, and joy. - T.
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty, to the pulling down of strongholds.
I. WE BEGIN WITH CHRISTIANITY AS ADAPTED TO THE CONVERTING INDIVIDUALS. And we fasten upon the expression of the apostle that his weapons were not carnal; they were not such weapons as a carnal policy would have suggested, or a carnal philosophy have approved. The doctrines advanced did not recommend themselves by their close appeal to reason; neither did they rely for their cogency on the eloquence with which they were urged. It seems implied that the virtue of the weapons lay in the fact of their not being carnal, for the apostle is put on his defence, and the not using carnal weapons is his self-vindication. And, beyond question, in this lies the secret of the power of Christianity, and of the thorough insufficiency of every other system. If Christianity demanded nothing more than confession of its truth, Christianity would be carnal, seeing that we satisfied ourselves of its evidences by a process of reasoning, and such process is quite at one with the carnal nature, flattering it by appealing to the native powers of man. If, again, Christianity depended for its reception on the eloquence of its teachers, so that it rested with them to persuade men into belief, then again Christianity would be carnal, its whole effectiveness being drawn from the energy of the tongue and the susceptibility of the passions. And if Christianity were thus carnal — as every system must be which depends not on a higher than human agency — it could not be mighty in turning sinners unto God. But Christianity, as not being carnal, brings itself straightway into collision with every passion, principle, and prejudice of a carnal nature, and must therefore either subdue, or be subdued by that nature. I do not think it possible to insist too strongly on the fact that the great work of Christianity, considered as an engine for altering character, is derived from its basing itself on the supposition of human insufficiency. If it did not set out with declaring man helpless, it would necessarily, we believe, leave man hopeless. It goes at once to the root of the disease by proclaiming man lost if left to himself. It will not allow man to take credit to himself for a single step in the course of improvement, and that it is which makes it mighty, inasmuch as being proud of the advance would ensure the falling back. Hence the stronghold of pride gives way, for there must be humility where there is a thorough feeling of helplessness, and with the stronghold of pride is overturned also the stronghold of fear, seeing that the lesson which teaches us our ruin, teaches us, with equal emphasis, our restoration. And the stronghold of indifference — this, too, is cast down; the message is a stirring one; it will not let the man rest till he flee impending wrath. Neither pan the stronghold of evil passions remain unattacked; for the gospel scheme in proffering happiness exacts the mortification of lusts.
II. BUT WE SHALL GREATLY CORROBORATE THIS ARGUMENT IF WE EXAMINE THE POWER OF CHRISTIANITY IN CIVILISING NATIONS. It admits of little question that paganism and barbarism go generally together, so that the worshippers of idols are ordinarily deficient in the humanities of life. We may not indeed affirm that heathenism and civilisation cannot co-exist; for undoubtedly some of the nations of antiquity, as they could be surpassed by no modern in superstition, so they could by few, if by any, in literature and arts. We shall not pretend to say that a vast revolution might not be wrought among a heathen population if you domesticated in their land the husbandman and the artificer, and thus awakened in them a taste for the comforts of civilised life, even though you left them undisturbed in their idolatry, and sent them no missionary to publish Christianity. So that we are not about to affirm that Christianity is the only engine of civilisation; but we venture to affirm that none can be compared with it as to effectiveness. You may introduce laws, but laws can only touch the workings, not the principles of evil; whereas every step made by Christianity is a step against the principles, and therefore an advance to the placing government on its alone secure basis. To civilise must be to raise man to his true place in the scale of creation, and who will affirm this done whilst he bows down to the inferior creatures as God? We have a confidence in the missionary which we should not have in any lecturer on political economy, or any instructor in husbandry and handicraft. You may think it a strange method of teaching the savage the use of the plough to teach him the doctrine of the atonement. But the connection lies in this — and we hold it to be strong and well defined — by instructing the savage in the truths of Christianity I set before him motives, such as cannot elsewhere be found, to the living soberly, industriously, and honestly; I furnish him at once with inducements whose strength it is impossible to resist, to the practising the duties and evading the vices which respectively uphold and obstruct the well-being of society. And, if this has been done, has not more been done towards elevating him to his right place in the human family than if I had merely taught him an improved method of agriculture? Shall not the mental process be deemed far superior to the mechanical? And shall it be denied that the savage who has learned industry in learning morality has gone onward with an ampler stride in the march of civilisation than another who has consented to handle the plough because perceiving that he shall thereby increase his animal comforts? This we conceive is the true order; not to attempt to civilise first, as though men in their savage state were not ready for Christianity, but to begin at once with the attempt to Christianise, computing that the very essence of the barbarism is the heathenism, and that in the train of the religion of Jesus move the arts which adorn and the charities which sweeten human life. And in this is Christianity "mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds." The missionary, with no carnal weapon at his disposal, with no engine but that gospel, has a far higher likelihood of improving the institutions of a barbarous tribe, introducing amongst them the refinements of polished society, increasing the comforts of domestic life, and establishing civil government on more legitimate principles, than if he were the delegate of philosophers who have made civilisation their study, or of kings who would bestow all their power on its promotion. We will ask the missionary who is moving, as the patriarch of the village, from cottage to cottage, encouraging and instructing the several families who receive him with smiles, and hear him with reverence. We will ask him by what engines he humanised the savages, by what influence he withdrew them from lawlessness, and formed them into a happy and well-disciplined community. Did he begin with essays on the constitution of society; on the undeveloped powers of the country; on the advantages derivable from the division of labour; or on those methods of civilisation which might be thought worthy the patronage of some philosophical board? Oh, the missionary will not tell you of such methods of assaulting the degradation of centuries; he will tell you that he departed from his distant home charged with the gospel of Christ, and that with this gospel he attacked the strongholds of barbarism; he will tell you that he preached Jesus to the savages, and that he found, as the heart melted at the tidings of redemption, the manners softened and the customs were reformed; he will tell you that he did nothing but plant the Cross in the waste, and that he had proved that beneath its shadow all that is ferocious will wither, and all that is gentle spring up and ripen. Such is Christianity, mighty in the converting individuals, mighty in the civilising nations. This is the engine through which we ourselves have risen to greatness, and from which each of us draws the means of grace and the hope of glory. This is the religion, thus effective in fertilising the waste places of the earth, and elevating the most degraded of our species.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)I. THE WARFARE. It is —
1. A moral warfare. It is the cause of truth against error; of knowledge against ignorance and superstition; of liberty against vassalage; of holiness against sin. Its object is that the kingdom of darkness may be overthrown and the kingdom of Christ established.
2. A necessary contest. It is not optional. We must conquer or be conquered.
3. An arduous conflict. It cannot be maintained by an idle show on the parade, but only by actual and persevering service. Our enemies are —(1) Numerous. We wrestle not against flesh and blood.(2) Ever on the alert. We cannot with safety reckon on any cessation of hostilities.
4. A most momentous struggle. In it are involved interests the most solemn and interminable.
II. THE WEAPONS.
1. Every Christian is a soldier, and he puts on the whole armour of God (Ephesians 6:11, etc.). Those engaged in this warfare fight according to prescribed laws. Wherever they go they erect the standard of the King of kings. They fight and conquer by their faithful preaching, holy living, works of faith, and labours of love.
2. These weapons are not carnal. Men are not to be dragooned into Christianity. Errors are not to be cut to pieces by the sword.
3. But though they are not carnal, they are real and powerful. How mighty —(1) Compared with those used by the warriors of this world! What can they do? — they can wound the body; but the soul defies their power. But here are weapons which can take hearts prisoners, and carry them away in delightful captivity.(2) Compared with the weapons of those who oppose themselves to Christ — the jests of impiety — the subtleties of sophistry, the feathered arrows of sarcasm. When by the means of these has ever error been wrung from the heart?
4. Whence arises this might? Let us take care not to attribute too much to our weapons. They are mighty through God. He furnishes and accompanies the right use of them with His presence and His power.
III. THE ISSUE.
1. The pulling down of strongholds. The enemy, after having been worsted in open conflict, flee to the strongholds; but we are to lay siege to and destroy the foe in their very fortresses. And what is any unregenerate heart but a stronghold? Men are under the influence of the spirit that worketh in the hearts of the children of disobedience. Is he not fortified there by ignorance, by pride, by corrupt passions, by unbelief?
2. "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing," etc. The allusion here is to those engines which are employed to destroy walls and towers of defence. The terms apply to "philosophy, falsely so called." How many high things are there still in the world which must be cast down!
3. The captivity of every thought to the obedience of Christ.(1) The enemy has been pursued, his fortresses have been thrown down, his citadel has been taken, and every individual within has been carried away in triumph. The whole man with all his powers is overcome. A victory this such as the warriors of this world never achieved. Bodies may be taken captive, still the thoughts are free. But here is a conquest over the thoughts.(2) And this captivity is as honourable and delightful as it is complete. What can be more degrading than to be a captive of sin and Satan? — but to be taken captive by Christ, and to be obedient to Him, what an honour, a joy!Conclusion: We may learn that our common Christianity —
1. Is not a system of seclusion and quietism. It is a warfare. Neutrality is out of the question here. "Curse ye Meroz," etc.
2. Is not only defensive, but aggressive. The principal reason why the gospel has not made more progress in the world is this: we have contented ourselves with a defensive rather than an aggressive warfare. What are we doing — defending the outworks, showing our dexterity in distinguishing nice points, and sometimes wounding a fellow-soldier, perhaps, because his habiliments differed from our own? This we have done, instead of uniting in one broad phalanx against the common foe!
3. Is destined ultimately to triumph.
(R. Newton, D. D.)I. ITS WEAPONS.
1. They are not carnal. They are not —(1) Miraculous. Miracles were employed in the cause of truth; but they were never intended to be permanent.(2) Coercive. The civil magistrate has sought by penalties to force Christianity upon the consciences of men. Such means misrepresent it, and were proscribed by its Founder.(3) Crafty. In nothing perhaps has the craftiness of men appeared more than in connection with the profession of extending Christianity.
2. Though not carnal, they are mighty — through God because —(1) They are His productions. Gospel truths are the ideas of God — remedial ideas embodied in His Son; and they are the "power of God." The gospel has proved itself the greatest power in the social world.(2) They are the instruments of God. When we put our ideas in a book we cannot personally accompany them. We know not their effects, and then we die, and must leave them behind. But God goes with His ideas, and works by them.
II. ITS VICTORIES.
1. They are mental. There is not much glory in destroying the bodily life of man. Wild beasts, a poisonous gust of air, will excel man in this. And then you do not conquer the man unless you conquer his mind.
2. They are corrective. They do not destroy the mind nor any of its native faculties, but certain evils that pertain to it.(1) The evil fortifications of the mind. The depraved mind has its strongholds against truth and God — prejudices, worldly maxims, associations, passions, habits.(2) The corrupt thinking of the mind: "Casting down imaginations" (marg. "reasoning"). It is against evil thinkings, whether of a poetic, a philosophic, or any other character.(3) The antitheistic impulses of the mind: "and everything that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God." Every feeling and passion that rise against God.
3. They are Christian. They are victories won for Christ.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
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