A Sermon Delivered By Hulda Rees, Location Unknown, December 17th, 1893.
Rees, Byron J., ed. Hulda, The Pentecostal Prophetess. Philadelphia: Christian Standard Co., 1898, pages 86-95.
This is The Quaker Homiletics Online Anthology, Part Three: The 19th Century.
Notice the subjects expressed in the text, "The armor of God" and "The wiles of the devil." It is is called the armor of God because he prepares and gives it. We are asked to put it on in order that we may be able to resist and frustrate the designs and schemes of the devil.
Now, this wonderful armor would not be worth considering if there was no devil, or if he was the weak, inoffensive being which some foolishly imagine him to be. But we are fighting against "powers" (v. I2), and not against "flesh and blood." We are not antagonizing people, but the devil in people. If it were not for him, they would become loving, gentle, good and holy.
The devil is a fallen angel, and retains much of his original astuteness and penetration. He is wise, and the most subtle beast of the field. He is a prime hand at strategy, and is called "that old serpent."
He is an advancing and defiant enemy. Like Goliath of Gath, he "defies the armies of the living God." He stands up against us to wage deathless war. (I Chron. xxi: I.)
Of one thing we must take especial notice: The Christian soldier wearing this armor is not fighting depravity, or, indeed, sin in the heart, but rather an enemy outside of himself.
We are led by the context to believe that there are many evil agencies subject to their chief. There are various kinds of devils, as well as many in number. Ecclesiastical devils possess the heart of a man who, under the guise of church membership and religious forms, covers his unclean heart with a profession of religion. He is a leper, covering his foul disease beneath the filthy rags of self-righteousness.
There are "literary and cultured" devils. These are they who say beautiful things. They talk in lovely strains. If they were going to behead you they would say in that bland, suave, polite manner: "Excuse me, sir, for thus depriving you of your head, but, believe me, it is entirely necessary." These devils are extremely dangerous, and possibly you have been deceived by them. They talked so prettily and entertainingly that you did not have the heart to deny them. You said: "Why, they seem so good; they must be all right," and you were beheaded, not for truth's sake, but for a lie's sake.
But there are multitudes of species of devils--saloon devils, political devils, fleshly, carnal devils, lucre devils, etc., etc. We cannot attend to these in detail, for we must needs examine the armor.
"Girdle of truth." The first temptation the devil used with our first parents was deceit, a lie. He began by saying, "Yea." He assents and agrees at first, but he ends with the insinuation of doubt, "Yea hath God said?" In this way he beguiles the soldier to-day. Beecher began, not by declaring that all men would be saved, but by asking if they would not, and it was not long until he could say. "Ye shall not surely die." This all came about because of asking questions to which God's answers were already given.
Truth is most important. You sometimes hear people say, "I do not think it matters much what we believe;" but it is "belief of the truth" that saves people. There are many professing Christians who do not seem to know the truth. They hear a preacher who proclaims that "faith in the blood of Jesus saves." They go away saying, "That's very good." They hear another who preaches "works" and "natural goodness" as means of salvation, and they go away and say again, "That is very good," and it seems almost impossible to arouse them to a sense of the inconsistency of their conduct.
But Jesus gives us a promise that we shall "know the truth" (John viii: 32). Error
can be gilded, but we can see the difference between it and truth, provided our
eyes are opened by the Spirit of truth. We may be ignorant, but we will know the
truth. Pretty verses and poems will not dupe us with their silken softness and
specious, crippling error. We read this stanza:
"I know not where God's islands lift Their fronded palms in air, I only know I cannot drift Beyond His love and care."
And immediately truth says: "Except ye repent ye shall likewise perish." Dynamite has exploded and error is no more.
"Breastplate of righteousness." This piece of armor protects the heart and vital organs. It is the garment, the "coat of mail" of right-doing. The soldier wearing this breastplate may not be wise in worldly matters, but he will do right. Like David when falsely accused, he will "restore that which he took not away." Jesus was so uncompromising in His life that He could consistently utter the most scathing words when truth was at stake, yet, "lest He should offend (cause them to stumble) them," He paid an extortionate tax, one which it was not His duty to pay. The Holy Ghost brings out the same thought in one of the epistles: "As much as lieth in you live peaceably with all men." "Take joyfully the spoiling of your goods." "Resist not evil," says Jesus in the mountain sermon. Thank God, all this is easy to the man who is fully equipped with the armor, because he has the love of right-doing in his heart.
"Your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace." There is a great deal in the Bible about a "prepared way," a "straight way," but here the shoes which are to tread this way are spoken of. But how strange to speak of peace right here! There stands our soldier. He has his "girdle of truth," his "breastplate of righteousness;" soon he will "take the sword of the Spirit," and "the shield of faith." What can he want with peace shoes? Ah! there is a deep lesson here. Would God we knew it better. Beloved, we are fighting soldiers, but we must stay on the territory of peace. If anybody gets mad or bitter, it must be an opposer of truth, not the soldier of Jesus. He may utter plain truths, but they must come from a heart full of love and the peace of God. "The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient." (II Tim. ii: 24.) It is of the utmost importance that the blessed Spirit be not grieved by any impatience on our part. Did you ever notice that at one time, when Jesus was saying some plain things, saying that the blood of the prophets would be required at the hands of his hearers, that the Scribes and Pharisees began to urge him vehemently and to provoke him to speak of many things. (Luke xi: 53.) So Satan would like to urge us on to say things which are best left unsaid.
"Shield of faith." If the devil does not succeed in overcoming the Christian soldier on any of these lines, he will probably get angry, and begin to hurl fiery darts. They are either poisoned, or their points are heated red-hot. They fall thick and fast. It may have been when the soldier was getting along so finely, soul all calm and serene, prospect bright and serene, that Satan shot thoughts of evil into his mind, and tried to make him take them as, his own. He tried to set his imagination on fire, and draw him away from God. Possibly he sought to make him jealous of somebody, or endeavored to get him to build ,air-castles of earthly or churchly honor.
The devil says to God concerning us as he did of Job, "Doth Job serve God for
naught? Thou hast hedged him about and made his life pleasant. Of course he
will serve Thee." "No," says God, "he would trust Me anyway. Try him, and see
for yourself." And so God permits the devil to try us. He touches this thing and
that, and for the trial to be a fair one we are not to walk by sight or feeling, but
by faith. The shield of faith is the one protection now. The Roman shield was an
oblong piece of steel, to protect the whole body. In this trial you have the
breastplate of righteousness, but that does not relieve you. You have the girdle of
truth and the shoes of peace, but they do not deliver you. You cannot pray
yourself out. There is something which prayer may lead to which is higher than
even prayer itself. The Holy Ghost says: "Above all, take the shield of faith,
whereby we shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked."
Beloved, there are times in the experience of sanctified people when there is simply nothing to be done but to stand and hold up the shield of faith, believing God against every seeming contradiction, just holding steady in it all. God is watching you in the furnace. The devil has it in mind to destroy you, but God, bless His Name, is making a brave, true soldier of you that can be trusted anywhere.
Well do we remember that once, when passing through a trial so severe that there was nothing to do but just wait and trust, a dear lady, deeply taught of God, called on us. She said, "I rejoice with you. I am sure you will trust God through it all. And afterward you can say, with greater confidence and with more effect on other hearts, God does not fail!"
If your soul has taken sides with Jesus in such testing times, when everything you ever rested upon was tested to .its fullest powers when you actually kissed the dear Bible, because you felt God's Word, His simple Word, was all you had left, you can truthfully say, faith in God has saved my soul in peril.
"Helmet of salvation." Here is something for the soldier's head. It is sadly needed to-day. The head is the point of attack to-day. The powers of evil seem to be aware that it is our weak point. So many learned things are said! There is so much Bible study now that the Bible student frequently becomes puffed with his own wisdom. Do you know the devil would just delight in giving us "views," and notions and ideas that would make us ignore Jesus? We hear about people having "Methodist views" and "Friends' views," etc. What do these views amount to, anyway, without they are God's views? Let us get His thoughts; they are spirit and they are life.
"Sword of the Spirit." We cannot dwell long here, but you see that the sword is the only weapon, and yet it is a mighty one. Cod enable us to use it until it cleaves to the hand, as it did to the hand of Eleazer. The sword is "the Word of God." Jesus used this weapon against the devil, and found it sufficient. He said, "It is written."
We must delight in the Word. It must be sweet to our taste. We must have confidence in the truth to do execution.
Thank God for this portrait of the soldier of Jesus! He will not be overcome by
Satan's wiles, but at the end will be able to say, "I have fought a good fight, I
have finished my course, I have kept the faith, and there is a crown!" How
heaven will ring with shouts as these soldiers enter!
Jesus Himself will crown them, and say, "Well done!" Glory!