It is very important when we enter into a conflict that we know who are our enemies; that we may recognize them in whatever garb or form they may appear, and it is equally important that we may at all times be enabled, through continual watchfulness, to recognize our friends, lest peradventure we might injure the tender branches of the spiritual vine. An avowed and open enemy is one who is arrayed against us by common consent, or by declared enmity. Such are not to be so greatly feared as the secret contriving enemy who with deceit and many wiles steals into our friendship and confidence, that he may rob us of all we hold dear and precious. Can it be said we are our own enemies! Yes, no doubt it can. Ignorance of law does not exempt from punishment. By reason of the violation of the laws of our nature, we pay the penalty in sickness and ill health; Therefore we not only become enemies to our own comfort and usefulness, but also to him who created us and placed us under law. And when we have been delivered from the power of darkness into the light and, liberty of God’s dear Son, then can we take sweet counsel with the apostle when to us he says, “And you that were sometime alienated, and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblamable and unreprovable in his sight.” Enmity to God, and self-righteousness, are the ruling principles in the creatures of Adam; the light of immortality hath never shined in their hearts. Wisdom hath not entered the portals of the natural life. The “darkness [which] was upon the face of the deep “in the beginning, continues to enshroud them. When they seek knowledge, it is of the things which exist in the darkness. Their “mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways, and the way of peace they have not known; there is no fear of God before their eyes.” There is a peculiar sense in which the world is the enemy to the saints of God.
First. An enemy in the mind by wicked works; a natural enmity of the carnal mind against God.
Second. An aversion and hatred to holiness. I have sometimes said, they hate the doctrine which we profess, but it is more than that, when they come in contact with the people of God they sniff the air of holiness, which is abhorrent to them. In hating God they also hate all that love and praise him. In this age of the world’s history the saints are not molested in their worship, but rather they are severely let alone. Therefore the unregenerate men and women of the world are not our open and avowed enemies even. In a worldly sense we are friendly one with another; and in a still more worldly sense, discovering whom we follow, they simply cast us to one side as a something not worth their consideration; as enemies, but not worthy of their steel. The so-called religious world are our enemies only in the sense that they desire to see us perish from off the face of the earth, hoping such a consummation will soon come to pass. An enemy is only so considered when danger is apprehended to our person or our life. Of the religious world we have no such fear, for we do know, if perchance some of our precious lambs become enticed into their pasture of weeds and husks, and dip their tongues into their foul pools of unrighteousness, they will not perish, but the Lord will deliver them out of their distresses as he has promised, so they give us no concern. We must then come closer to home in search of whom we fear with perfect fear, and hate with perfect hatred. Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword, * * * and a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” Brethren, is this a part (or indeed all) of your experience! Each one of you will say, Yea, verily, the words are prophetic, and have come to pass as I bear about in my body the dying of the Lord Jesus. The principle of evil, unbelief and sin, was at ease in the world, its seductions and wantonness ran at a rapid pace without let or hindrance, until Jesus came as the Captain of our salvation with drawn sword, and with mighty power, arraying himself in his Spirit in the habiliments of the great principle of holiness and godliness, against that other principle of sin and ungodliness. Two great mysteries at variance one with another in that complex being called the child of God. The world has been at variance with itself in all generations; there have been wars and rumors of wars in every age; internal wars and nation warring against nation, yet with all of them peace is restored from time to time, and war ceases. But from the time the wicked Cain slew his righteous brother in enmity and in bitter hatred, the sword has never been sheathed between sin on the one hand, and righteousness upon the other, in a literal sense. Away back in the olden time, there did come a time when it did look as though a cessation of hostilities would surely come, for, “It came to pass when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.” This certainly looked auspicious. What more could be desired? But alas, the inherent wickedness of man, and the depravity of his nature, was so full and complete that the wickedness in the earth grew and increased at a more rapid pace than before. “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thought of his heart was only evil continually. In consequence of which God caused the waters of destruction to cover all the earth, to destroy the life of every living thing, save the eight souls whom by the same waters he saved in the ark. And even, when only these eight souls existed on the earth, sin reigned to that extent that continual servitude was imposed upon one of the number for outward acts of shame, and all of this ceaseless antagonism continued from Cain and Abel through every age until the coming of Christ, and he comes announcing the words already quoted, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth. * * * I came not to send peace, but a sword.” The literal strife of which we read in all the pages of the Bible, was only typical of that ceaseless struggle now going on in the hearts of the children of the living God, and in this war the edict has gone forth that there shall be no discharge. Each and every soldier of the cross of Christ must wear the armor of his warfare both night and day through all the years of his pilgrimage, and his armor shall not be carnal weapons as in the days of old, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” So the armor! shall be, the girdle of truth about the loins, the breastplate of righteousness,
“The shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.” “The feet also shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace,” and especially, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” Then do we not perceive how important it is that we should know who are our enemies! We profess to be followers of Christ, therefore the enemies of Christ are our enemies, and he brought the sword in the earth not for peace, but for war. Manifold blessings rest upon this precious company whose God is the Lord, (“as it were the company of two armies,”) and one of the rich blessings is that “They know the joyful sound.” The truth is their watchword. They have also quick ears to detect error. All that is not truth is error. Truth is light, but ‘‘ the light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not.” So if we are deceived by carnal reasoning, we become involved in darkness, (although we are children of light) and we fall by the way, wounded by the sword of the enemy. What a subtle, treacherous enemy is our carnal reason, and we must indeed be instant in prayer and all supplication to withstand such a foe; he lurks in every by way and in every high place, lying in wait to find us off our guard, and woe unto him who watcheth not continually. The slightest deviation from the way of truth and equity is taken up by Satan in the armor of carnal reason, and he presents himself as an angel of light, and so cunningly does he reason, that we are by his craftiness led imperceptibly farther and farther from the truth until ere we are aware we are plunged into the very depths of despair and of sorrow, filled with wounds from our hated enemy. And when the sword of the Spirit of Christ has delivered us out of our trouble, we feel that a lesson has been severely learned, and we will so profit by it that we will not fall again. But alas, we neither know our own weakness, nor have we measured the resources of our enemy. But we are fast learning who is our enemy, and that he is a formidable one. The selfish, ruling spirit of the opposing principle in our flesh is also an arm of strength in his seductions. How easily we become puffed up in our minds by flattery and deception, for that is what our flesh feeds upon. We become “heady and high minded,” and so destroy the peace of our brethren, and our own usefulness. Our assemblies become a mockery, and so we remain in a troubled sea of unrest and confusion until Jesus again undertakes for us, and brings peace to the troubled soul. Every propensity of the flesh is brought into the service of sin, as our enemy to destroy our soul. Sin abounds, and is active in every conceivable shape, but always within us. Grace however doth much more abound, therefore are we secure. “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.” We must discover sooner or later in our journey that our enemy is our own flesh. And when the love of God reigns in our heart then do we love righteousness, desire holiness, and rejoice in the righteousness of Christ, and hate our own flesh, and our own life, for they have become our deadliest enemies. What is the ultimate end of all strife and conflict! Is it not peace? With the honorable warrior it must be an honorable peace; with the church of Christ in its internal conflict, the law must be satisfied and made honorable, the demands of justice must all be complied with, the judgments of God must be wrought out in every jot and tittle. Jesus is the life of his people. The violated law demands the life of the transgressor. Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you.” What a dreadful condition was this people in; no place for them anywhere; neither hope nor God in the world, until Jesus came with his blessed word of truth, full of comfort and hope, “I go to prepare a place for you.” Ye poor, wandering, lost sheep, look up; a ransom is found; your Shepherd hath declared, “I lay down my life for the sheep.” Jesus died, the conflict is ended, peace is restored, and again the longing soul hears the sweet refrain from Jesus’ lips, “My peace I give unto you.” And now in our experience, although the conflict goes on, never ceasing, yet in the very midst of the striving between the flesh and the Spirit, we have the blessed assurance that the promise of Jesus is fulfilled in our experience, and that blessed peace which passeth understanding shall be ours for ever and ever.
B. F. COULTER.
Philadelphia, Pa., Sept. 21, 1901.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 69, No. 21.
NOVEMBER 1, 1901.