The Armour of Light

BY M. F. SADLER,
The night is far spent, the day is at hand : let us therefore cast off the
works of
darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Romans xiii. 12.
THE Second Coining of Christ into the world, which fills so pro-
minent a position in the teaching of our Church, exercises but
little practical influence upon religious life in our own day. It was
not so when the Apostle Paul thus appealed to the Second Advent.
In the preceding verses S. Paul inculcates various duties — the
duty of obedience to the State authorities ; the duty of keeping the
Commandments ; the duty of Christian love. These duties he
enforces by a consideration of the utmost importance, even that of
the coming of the Lord. ' ow it is high time to awake out of
sleep : for now is our salvation nearer than when we first believed.
The night is far spent, the day is at hand : let us therefore cast
off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.'
Doubtless, the effect of this consideration, so frequently and so
forcibly impressed upon Christian converts, was prodigious ; an ex-
pectation so awful in some of its aspects, so joyous in others, so
momentous in all, vividly realised as it was by the Apostles them-
selves, necessarily directed Christian hopes, fashioned Christian life,
and moulded Christian teaching.
That the belief has the same practical influence at the present
day can scarcely be maintained. Then^ men were deeply stirred by
the strangeness and novelty of the declaration ; now, the keenness of
their interest is dulled by long familiarity with an announcement
repeated in the same language for centuries. The temperature of
their belief has been chilled.
or can it be said that Christians of our day are so practically
influenced by the truth as to be distinguished from the rest of the
world by walking honestly, as in the day. We cannot point to them
and say. These are men who have put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and
who make no provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof. More
truthfully, I fear, might the Divine lament be repeated, ' My people
doth not know ; My people doth not consider.** Our minds can
scarcely be concentrated upon matters of gravest import which
fall within our daily experience ; how much more difficult is it to
excite an interest in those which require anxious thoughts to appre-
hend, and deep faith to realise .?
I. Special times, appropriate seasons, particular occasions arise,
when this subject of Advent assumes colossal form and vivid reality.
Seen in the light of sickness, danger, or disaster, it takes startling
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OUTLIES O THE EPISTLE
and majestic proportions ; it not merely passes across the mind, but
absorbs, occupies, and fills it with a solemn awe. Heard at such
moments, the words, ' The night is far spent, the day is at hand,'
ring in upon our ears with such a volume of sound that our brains
reel and stagger.
These are indeed rays of glory, which dart in upon the mind like
the bright beams of morning, chasing the darkness of night — sudden
inspirations that challenge believers to wait with patience, and yet
expect with eagerness, the coming of the Day of God. But, alas !
how rare are these gleams ! How far rarer are the men who are so
moved by these visions of the great Day as habitually to prepare for
its coming ! How small the handful of those who, with varying
shades of belief, live and act and speak as if they believed that it
might come on them at any moment ! How vast the multitude, on
whose life it has not the slightest influence, who practically treat it
as if it were wasted time to spare a single thought to its considera-
tion !
II. The doctrine of the Advent of Christ to judge the world rests
upon evidence as sure, and statements as plain, as any other received
mystery of Scripture. And experience shows us that men who accept
the truth and hopefully anticipate its literal fulfilment, gain an incite-
ment to watchfulness and to carefulness of life, which those wholly
lack who think that the only true fulfilment is to be expected in the
summons of each individual soul from life to judgment. The con-
viction that any day — ^this very night, or to-morrow — may witness
the close of this present Dispensation, the belief that we with our
bodily eyes may behold our Lord in glory, as surely as they looked
upon Him who persecuted and pierced Him, are habits of mind power-
fully calculated to affect our lives, to solemnise our thoughts and
actions.
III. There can be no doubt that the anticipation of that Day
was to the Apostle a source of strength and of gladness. It was an
expectation which cheered him in the midst of his trials. It is in sad
contrast with our unbelief, or half-belief It suggests inquiry into
the true reasons of the startling dissimilarity of our attitude towards
the Second Advent. S. Paul knew indeed that he himself should
pass from death unto life before the Day of which he speaks arrived
Yet still he looked and longed for Christ's coming, or the day of his
going to Christ, with infinite hope, and without a shade of fear
Either event completed his salvation ; either event was gain.
It is far different with most of us. We anticipate with no such
satisfaction the fate which inevitably awaits us all. We contemplate
with no such longing, the appearance of Christ in glory before we
shuffle off* our mortal coil. It is not a doubt of the truth of the
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ADVET SUDAY
doctrine, it is not a disbelief in its efficacy, that makes us so sedulously
ignore tlie Second Advent. o ; it is because we have not assumed
the armour of light. In fact, our opposition to the doctrine of
Christ's Advent springs from the same cause as our repugnance to
death itself. Death is for most of us a subject of unmingled terror.
With no less terror do we expect the Advent of Christ. We have no
heart for either, because our hearts are wholly here. This life to
most of us, spite of its many sorrows, is strangely full of sweetness.
We are loth to leave it ; for then we pass to a condition, the wondrous
beauty of which our feeble belief can but faintly realise. We cannot
willingly exchange what we consider the realities of this life for
those which our faith has never embodied in any definite or sub-
stantial form. And so we mourn, with almost hopeless sorrow, for
those who go before us, as if the world beyond the grave offered
nothing comparable to the joys they leave behind. In fine, both for
ourselves and others, we dread death as the event most truly to be
feared, and most eagerly to be averted. Old age is lonely. It is
accompanied by many infirmities, which are often intensified by
poverty. Our old companions in arms have left us, our founts of
happiness are cut off at their very source, yet still we cling to life as
death approaches. We clasp all our miseries and disappointments to
our bosoms, as though they were precious possessions from which we
cannot bear to be separated.
IV. Love is ' the armour of light.' Reject it not because of its
simplicity. This love is that very ' armour of light ' in which men
will be found best and most safely arrayed. It is the glory of the
best and the saintliest of men. It has made the world what it is in
all its highest and best aspects. It is the whole armour of God.
Let us put it on and wear it as long as we are here in this mortal
life. H. PROTHERO,
The Armour of Light, p. I.
The Doctrine of S. Paul.
The night is far spent, the day is at hand : let us therefore cast off the
works of
darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as
in the
day ; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and
wantonness, not in
strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not
provision
tor the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. Romans xiii. 12, 13, 14.
IT has been observed what advantage is given to any speaker or
teacher who takes his stand, not merely on his powers of teaching
or speaking, but on some famous deed that he has done, some long
experience that he has won, even some great hereditary name and
14
OUTLIES O THE EPISTLE
ancestry. We are hushed into silence even before he begins to
speak, we listen to what he tells us with an interest independent
of his actual words; what he has done is a pledge to us that what
he says is worth receiving. So it is with many passages of Scripture.
They come down to us, not only armed with their Divine authority,
not only relying on their intrinsic excellence, but invested with a long
train of recollections, bearing with them the trophies and spoils of
the strong men of the earth whom they have vanquished, calling upon
us to listen to them by virtue of the victories they have already
achieved. Such is the passage which closes the Epistle of this day's
service. Doubtless every Advent as it comes round brings with its
impressive and consoling accents something that moves some one soul
that was never moved before ; and when the great day arrives which
shall disclose the secrets of all hearts, when every deed and word
of man shall give up its account to God, this text will lay before
the throne thousands whom it has caused to awake out of sleep,
to cast away the deeds of darkness, and to put on the armour of
light.
I. Let us remember the great importance attached by the Apostle
himself to the practical portions of his Epistles. In saying this, we
do not disparage any other part. Most instructive is the representa-
tion of the Apostle's personal feelings ; most useful for the history and
government of the Church his directions as to worship, and order, and
teaching ; most interesting, even when most difficult, his controversies
with Jew and Gentile which have furnished so many a text of contro-
versy to Christians of later times. or, again, need we separate the
two portions of his teaching asunder, as if one did not bear upon the
other. othing is less practical than a mere moral essay. — We often
read the story, and miss the moral, — we often learn more from a
deed, from a look, from a gesture, of a good man, than from many
precepts. But it is the charm of these practical exhortations of
S. Paul that they are not mere moral essays — they are not mere moral
lessons attached to truths, which can be better understood without
them. They are full of his own life and spirit ; they are the out-
pouring of his innermost mind ; they are the very flower and fruit
of all that tangled undergrowth of thorny thickets, through which we
struggle to arrive at these blessed conclusions.
What Luther once, in a hasty mood, of which he afterwards re-
pented, said of the Epistle of S. James, that it was an epistle of straw,
we are sometimes apt to think deliberately of all the practical por-
tions of the Apostolical writings. We think them too easy, or too
simple, to need our attention ; we think that the other portions are
the pure doctrine of the Apostle, ' gold, silver, and precious stones,'
and that these are ' but as straw, hay, and stubble.'
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ADVET SUDAY
So thought not the great S. Augustine when the practical
words of the text went as a sword through his heart, — so thought
not the blessed Apostle himself. Look at the place which they
occupy in his writings. In almost every instance it is the final
concluding portion, — the very place which, in our speeches, in our
sermons, in our letters, we reserve for whatever we wish to be the
most impressive, the most telling, the most striking of all that we
have to say. And even where the general argument, as in the Epistles
to Corinth, cannot be thus wound up, yet then each particular argu-
ment is interwoven with the same practical conclusion. We cannot
escape from it. The Apostle would no more omit such moral ex-
hortations in his Epistles, than preachers of modern days would omit
to enforce whatever was to them the peculiar tenet or doctrine of
their own peculiar sect. In other points his mode of dealing with
the subject before him varies, according to times, and persons, and
places. In this point, he is always the same with himself, and with
his brother Apostles.
The distinction which we sometimes draw between the doctrinal
and the practical portion of his Epistles was unknown to him. To
him all was ' doctrine ' alike ; or rather, that was especially '
doctrine,"*
to which we now often deny the name. ' The form of doctrine ' in
which the Romans were instructed was that which made them ' free
from sin and servants of righteousness.'^ Those against whom he
warned Timotheus as contrary to ' sound doctrine ' were not teachers
of erroneous opinions, but 'unholy and profane, murderers, men-
stealers, liars, perjurers.' ^ Christian principle and conduct was to
him the noblest orthodoxy, unchristian practice was to him the
worst heresy.
' Love,' ^ ' love to our neighbour as to ourselves,' is, as he says in
the words immediately preceding the text, ' the fulfilling of the law.'
' Love,' we may also say, is ' the fulfilling of the Gospel.' It is the
very doctrine into which the Gospel is drawn out, — it is the
atmosphere in which the truths of the Gospel live and move, out
of which they die and fade away.
II. And this brings me to the next point which makes these por-
tions so necessary to be considered. They are amongst all the mani-
fold displays of the Apostle's wisdom, those which exhibit a spirit
the most purely Evangelical, — that is to say, they are the portions
which most resemble, most closely unite us to the actual teaching
of the Gospels themselves. Whatever difference may be exhibited
between other portions of the Epistles and the Evangelical narratives,
differences occasioned by peculiarities of time, place, and object, too
long here to be examined, yet between these portions of the Epistles
1 Rom. vi. i8. ^ I Tim. i. 9, 10. • Rom. xiii. la
16
OUTLIES O THE EPISTLE
and the Evangelical narratives there is absolutely no difference at
all. The one is but the expansion, the application of the other : the
spirit of the four Gospels breaks out in every sentence ; here, at any
rate, we feel that, in listening to the Apostle, we are listening to the
very words and tones of Jesus Christ our Lord. Often the very
same expressions recur : but even when the expressions are different,
the spirit is the same. o one can mistake, for instance, that the
climax of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, in the description of
Love or Charity, is the peculiar product of the Life and Teaching of
Christ, and of no one else.
III. Yet, once more, if these chapters are most Apostolical and
most Evangelical, they are also, in the fullest sense of the word, most
Catliolic. The other portions of the Epistles are useful for special
occasions, for special classes of men. The philosophical student will
delight in the depth and subtilty of the 7th and 9th chapters
of the Epistle to the Romans; the historical student will turn to
the lively descriptions of the early Church and of the character of
the Apostle in the First and Second Epistles to the Corinthians ; the
Pastoral Epistles will be read by those who have to teach and rule
the Church. But all can equally delight in those parts of which I
am now speaking. If the other portions of S. PauFs Epistles contain,
as S. Peter says,^ ' things hard to be understood, which the unlearned
and unstable wrest, to their own destruction^ if they are guarded by
gigantic difficulties which stand at the entrance like the cherubs with
the flaming sword to ward off rash intruders ; these portions contain
hardly anything but what he who runs may read ; in this respect, as
in so many others, approaching to the homely yet lofty and universal
character of the teaching of our Lord Himself.
IV. Once more, these samples of the Apostolical teaching are not
only most Catholic, but they are also, in the best sense of the word,
most Protestant. There have been many corruptions and superstitions
growing up in the Church in different times and countries. But there
is one main corruption and superstition, against which it is our duty
at all times and in all countries to protest. Every religious com-
munity, nay, every religious individual, is tempted to set the outward
above the inward, the ceremonial above the spiritual, the feelings or
the understanding above the conscience ; to think more of sacrifice
than of mercy, more of the blood of bulls and goats, more of mint,
anise, and cummin, more of saying 'Lord, Lord,' than of justice,
humility, and truth. Against this tendency, wheresoever shown,
there is, if one may use the expression, an eternal Protest — an eternal
Protestantism — enshrined in every part of Scripture, but nowhere
more visible than in these chapters of the Apostolical Epistles. Let
* 2 Pet. iii. i6.
B 17
ADVET SUDAY
a man study them well, mark their supreme importance, drink in
their spirit with his whole mind and soul ; and then he will be proof
against all the various errors which lead us to regard outward forms,
or correct opinions, or religious emotions, as more pleasing in the
siglit of God than the Christian graces which the Apostle here urges
upon us as the object of his whole teaching.
V. Yet further ; these portions of Scripture exhibit, in a striking
shape, a remarkable characteristic of all Scripture, its foresight, its
anticipation of modern thoughts and wants most remote from the
time when the words were written, but most near to our own. ' The
night is far spent, the day is at hand.' So wrote the Apostle, in the
expectation, as it would seem, of a closer approach of the latter days
than was borne out by the actual event. Yet that very expectation
seems to have been made the means, under God, of carrying him
forward into the future ; of placing him, as it were, in the midst of
our own days, of our own trials, of our own questions.
VI. And, finally, — this teaching of the Apostle is the most im-
portant to all of us, because, in one word, it is the most practical.
ot to the world at large only, but to each one amongst us, ' the
night is far spent, the day is at hand.' Young and old, our time is
passing away : we are every one of us drawing nearer to that day
when we shall meet the Judge of all mankind. God knows that we
have all need of mercy — of His infinite mercy. But not the less
must we bear in mind that even our sense of God's mercy will be
shaken unless it is accompanied by the sense of His eternal justice, of
our eternal duty. This it is which is set before us by these practical
chapters, these farewell entreaties, these solemn conclusions of the
whole Apostolical doctrine. We may not limit the mercy of God —
but neither may we invent any other way of salvation than that
which He has appointed for us. A. P. STALEY,
Canterbury Sermons, p. 149.
The ight and the Day.
The night is far spent y the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the
works of
darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Romans xiii. 1 2.
THE Apostle calls this present time night, because the deeds of
darkness are done in it, and because it does not shine as the
coming day will, with the light shining from the Lord ; but in
another sense it is day, because ' now is the accepted time, now is the
day of salvation.'
I. What is our work in preparation for the coming day ?
To cast off the works of darkness. What are these ? They are
18
OUTLIES O THE EPISTLE
the evil things called the works of the flesh in Gal. v. 19 : * Adultery,
fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred,
variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings,
murders, drunkenness, revelling, and such like.' ow notice that in
these works of the flesh, i.e. of darkness, there is not only adultery
and fornication, but hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife,
seditions, heresies, envyings.
II. How are these to be put oW? By repentance — by confession^
not only to God, but to our ministers, our neighbours, especially
those we have injured : by faith looking to Christ as the great Healer,
by determined resolution, by keeping out of the way of temptation,
by unremitting watchfulness and prayer, by the use of Scripture, as
did the Lord in His time of temptation (S. Matt. iv. 1-10). By
using every means of grace, especially the Blessed Sacrament, the
means by which our souls are strengthened and refreshed.
III. ' To put on the armour of light.' This armour is described
in Eph. vi. A true belief in the Gospel, that is, the truth of Christ
Incarnate, Crucified, Risen, and Ascended, is the only thing which can
give us a sure footing. ' The shield of faith.' Faith alone can defend
us. Whenever Satan attacks us with any insinuation against the
Gospel, we must fall back upon that truth which is opposed to his
fiery dart. The helmet of salvation is the hope of salvation, as in
1 Thess. V. 8. The sword of the Spirit — the Word of God, by which
our Lord repelled the attacks of Satan (S. Matt. iv. 1-10).
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