The Good Soldier's Pursuit!
James Smith, 1864
"Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus!" 2 Timothy 2:3
"I have pursued my enemies and destroyed them!" 2 Samuel 20:38
The writer of these words was a captain in the army of the Lord Almighty. He refers to danger, difficulty, and deliverance. He had been in danger from his foes, these were difficult to conquer — but he was delivered from them. He . . .
reviews the past with gratitude;
records his conquests with humility,
and prepares for future service.
The war was not ended, the enemies were not all subdued, the field was not to be abandoned. Just so, should every faithful soldier of the Lord Jesus do. We must not put off our armor — until we put on our shroud! We must never enter into a truce with any of our foes. We were enlisted to fight. Our armor was provided for the day of battle, and that day lasts through the whole of the present life. The enemies of our King are our enemies, and (blessed be God), our enemies are the enemies of our King. Let us therefore pursue, let us overtake them, and let us never sheath our sword until we have overcome them. To arms! to arms! The enemy is in the field, and the trumpet sounds to victory!
First. The enemies of the soldier of the Cross, are only the enemies of his King and country.
There is SIN — this is the enemy of Jesus, it prostrated him in the garden, it pierced him through and through upon the cross. It is the enemy of his person, his people, and his crown.
Sin is in the world — and we must resist it there unto blood. We must give it no quarters, make no allowance for it, never palliate it or treat it with tenderness.
Sin is within us, and we must watch it, oppose it, and seek its extermination and destruction. No peace with sin, is the motto of every loyal soldier of the King of kings, and Lord of lords.
There is SATAN; he is the enemy of Jesus too, we must resist him steadfast in the faith. We must give him no place — but strike at him with the sword of the Spirit, and so use the shield of faith, as to quench all his fiery darts. He cares not for argument, he fears not our vows or promises — but he trembles before the Word of God and prayer. He hates — but is obliged to fly before the name of the great Captain of our salvation.
There is the WORLD; it has apostatized from God, it is in rebellion against God, and does all it can to dishonor God. We must therefore come out of it, and be separate from it. We may pity its poor deluded votaries — but we must hate its practices, maxims and motives. There must be no friendship between us and it, for "if any man is a friend of tne world — he is the enemy of God."
There is DEATH; this is sin's first-born. It is the King of terrors, and the enemy of humankind. It once seized our Captain, and for a short time brought him under its power. But he overcame it and triumphed. He overcame it, not merely for himself — but for us. And we by faith in his name, by union to his person, and by close and holy fellowship with him, must overcome it too.
Soldier of the cross! here are your enemies; they are linked together, they are well drilled and determined, they appear invincible! But up and at them, meet them in the name of Jesus, resist them steadfast in the faith — and it shall be said of you, as of that glorious battalion in the days of old, "They overcame by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives unto death."
Secondly. The good soldier hates these enemies of his King. He hates them for his King's sake, and he hates them for his own sake. His hatred is just, holy, deep, and abiding. He must hate them, hate them every moment, hate them under every shape and form — or he cannot be loyal to his Prince. His hatred grows with his years, and Scriptural meditation deepens and strengthens it. If he views them rightly, he views them as the enemies of his gracious God, the enemies of his loving Savior, the enemies of his Christian brethren, the enemies of his fellow-creatures, and his own enemies too. Such views must deepen his hatred to them, and lead him to say with an old warrior on the battlefield, "Do not I hate those who hate you? I hate them with perfect hatred." At the word of command from his victorious general, he pursues them through every highway and byway, over every mountain and down into every valley, across every plain and into every thicket, in the crowded city and the unpeopled desert. He pursues them as for his life. He thirsts for their life, and sighs for their entire annihilation.
His is a bloodless warfare — but it is nevertheless arduous. It is a warfare that calls for sleepless vigilance, untiring zeal, undaunted courage, and unwearied perseverance.
There is no discharge in this war. The armor must never be taken off. The soldier must never quit the field, until his Captain calls him to receive his crown.
He seeks the utter destruction of all that is hostile to the divine government, derogatory to his Savior's honor, injurious to his own character, or calculated to injure his fellow-men. He fights to introduce peace on earth, and to bring glory to God in the highest: and until God has the highest possible glory, and man perfect and uninterrupted peace — he never wishes to quit the field.
Noble enterprise this! Glorious calling this! Let every soldier count it his highest honor, nor envy even an angel — for he is in the path to glory, honor, and immortal life. He will gain laurels that will never fade, a diadem that will ever sparkle on his brow, and a title which will dignify him forever in a better world. Jesus, Captain, make me a valiant, skillful, victorious soldier in your army — and I ask no higher honor!
Thirdly. The faithful soldier will certainly overcome every foe. If his heart is honest, if he is but faithful — victory is absolutely certain. He may be overcome in a skirmish, as many a brave soldier has — but he shall overcome at last. He may occasionally yield to fear and doubt the outcome of the contest — but he will prove to be more than a conqueror through Jesus who has loved him. By faith in Christ, by strength received from Christ, and after the example of Christ — he will . . .
He will stand at the grave's mouth, with eternity full in view, and with a loud voice and fearless heart, exclaim "O death! where is your sting? O grave! where is your victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law: but thanks be unto God that gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!" The enemy that shall be destroyed last is death — but it shall be destroyed; and the faithful soldier rise to enjoy a deathless state of existence, beneath unclouded skies, where sorrow and sighing shall forever flee away. O glorious termination of a righteous war! O blessed reward of faithfulness to our illustrious general!
Brother soldier, do you look upon SIN as the greatest enemy of God and man? Are you manfully resisting it in yourself, in your comrades, and in the world in general? It does not matter whatever else you conquer — if you do not conquer sin. Overcome this, and every other foe will soon fall before you. Get your sins pardoned through the blood of Jesus, and strive to subdue your sins through the Spirit of Christ. Oppose everything that opposes Jesus. Fight against everything that would dishonor his name, rob him of his glory, or grieve his loving heart.
Make no compromise with the WORLD, it is radically evil. It must be conquered by us — or it will conquer us. "This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith." Confidence in Christ's word, dependence on his sacrifice, trust in his veracity, and reliance on his faithfulness, will bring us off victorious over all the powers of earth and Hell.
SATAN cares nothing for the crucifix — but he will flee before the cross. Does he tempt you to despond because your sins are great and many? Tell him that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin. Does he fill you with fears of judgment, and try to lead you to despair? Tell him that there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus; and that those that come to him, he will never cast out.
Look at DEATH through Jesus, and it will lose all its terrors; it will appear stripped of all its formidable power; and it will be seen to be only a sleeping in Jesus, a resting until the mystery of redemption shall be finished.
But no unconverted sinner, can be Christ's soldier — and only the soldiers of Jesus gain the victory. Dear reader, are you converted to God? Have you been washed in his blood? Are you clothed in his righteousness? Does his Spirit dwell in you preparing you for glory? Are you relying on his sacrifice alone for your acceptance with God? And do you strive to please him in all that you do? If so, happy are you, "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad," you will soon be found in the ranks of God's elect in the New Jerusalem, and enjoy the smile of the Prince of peace forever. Yet a little while, and duty below will be done, and an eternal discharge will be given, and with it, not a mere pension — but a crown of glory, a weight of glory, a priceless inheritance — an inheritance that is kept in Heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay!