The apostle had laid down in general, ver. 13, what armour the Christian soldier must use—armour of God. Now, lest any should stamp divinity upon what is human, and make bold to set God’s name on their counterfeit ware, calling that armour of God which comes out of their private forge, as Papists, and many carnal Protestants also, do, who invent weapons to fight the devil with that never came into God’s heart to appoint; he therefore comes more particularly to show what this whole armour of God is, describing it piece by piece, which together make up the complete suit, and every way furnish the Christian to take the field against this his enemy. We shall handle them in that order we find them here laid by the apostle. Only something would briefly be first said to the posture given us in charge, as that which we are to observe in the use of every piece, and [which is] therefore prefixed to all. The posture lies in these words—‘stand therefore;’ στ_τε, stand. This word is the same with the last in the precedent verse; but [is] neither in the same mood nor tense. There [it is] put for victory and triumph when the war is done; here for the Christian’s posture in the fight, and in order to it. It is a military expression, a word of command that captains use upon different occasions to their soldiers, and so imports several duties that are required at the Christian’s hands.
[The necessity of resisting Satan’s temptations, with the danger of yielding to them.]
First. To stand, is opposed to a cowardly flight from, or treacherous yielding to, the enemy. When a captain sees his men beginning to shrink, and perceives some disposition in them to flee or yield, then he bids stand; that is, stand manfully to it, and make good your ground against the enemy, by a valiant receiving his charge, and repelling his force. The word taken thus, points at a suitable duty incumbent on the Christian, which take in this note—
Doctrine. Satan in his temptations is stoutly to be resisted, not in anywise to be yielded unto.
Reason First. The command is express for it: ‘Whom resist steadfast in the faith,’ I Peter 5:9. Set yourselves in battle against him, as the word imports, fight him whenever he comes. Soldiers must keep close to their commission, whatever comes on it. When Joab sent Uriah to stand in the forefront of the battle, in the face of death itself, he could not but see his danger, yet he disputes not the matter with his general; obey he must, though he loses his life upon the place. Cowardice and disobedience to the leader’s command are counted among the Turks the most damning sins; and shall they be thought peccadillos, little ones, by us that have Christ for our Captain to serve, and sin and the devil for enemies to fight? To resist some temptations may cost us dear: ‘Ye have not yet resisted unto blood,’ saith the apostle, ‘striving against sin,’ Heb. 12:4, implying that it may come to that, and if it should, [that] it alters not the case, nor gives a dispensation to shift for ourselves by choosing to sin rather than to suffer. The Roman captain said it was necessary to sail, not to live; and shall a Christian be afraid of his duty, when it is attended with outward hazard? The soldier carries his prince’s honour into the field with him, and so doth the Christian his God’s, whenever he is called to contest with any temptation. Now it will be seen at what rate he values his honour. David’s subjects valued him worth ten thousand of their lives, and therefore would die every man of them, rather than hazard him. O, how unworthy is it then, to expose the name of God to reproach, rather than ourselves to a little scorn, temporal loss, or trouble! It was Pompey’s boast, that at a word or nod of his, he could make his soldiers creep up the steepest rock on their hands and knees, though they were knocked down as fast as they went up. Truly, God is not prodigal of the blood of his servants, yet sometimes he tries their loyalty in hard services, and sharp temptations, that he may from their faithfulness to him, and holy stoutness in their sufferings for him, triumph over Satan, who was so impudent as to tell God, that one of his choicest servants did but serve himself in serving him, ‘Doth Job fear God for nought?’—as if, when any sharp encounter came, he would turn head, and rather curse God than submit to him. And therefore, we find the Lord glorying over Satan, ‘Still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him,’ Job 2:3—as if the Lord had said, ‘What dost thou think now, Satan? hath not Job proved thee a loud liar? I have some servants, thou seest, that will serve me without a bribe, that will hold fast their integrity, when they can hold fast nothing else. Thou hast got away his estate, servants, and children, and yet he stands his ground, and thou hast not got thy will of him, nor his integrity from him.’
Reason Second. God furnisheth us with armour for this end, that we should stand it out valiantly, and not yield to Satan tempting. To deliver up a castle into an enemy’s hand, when it is well provided with ammunition to defend it, is shameful and unworthy of such a trust. This makes the Christian’s sin more dishonourable than another’s, because he is better appointed to make resistance. Take a graceless soul, when solicited, suppose, to a sin that promiseth carnal pleasure, or profit, it is no great wonder that he yields at first summons, and delivers himself up prisoner to Satan. The poor wretch, alas, hath no armour on to repel the motion. He tastes no sweetness in Christ. What marvel is it, if his hungry soul, for want of better food, falls on board upon the devil’s cheer?—that he, who hath no hope for another world, be made to shark and prole to get some of this? The goat, we say, must browse where she is tied, and the sinner feed on earth and earthly things, to which he is staked down by his carnal heart; but the Christian hath a hope in his bosom of another guess-glory, than this peddling world can pretend to, yea, a faith that is able to entertain him at present with some of heaven’s joys—it being the nature of that grace to give existence to the good things of the promise. This helmet on and shield lift up, would keep off a whole shower of such arrows from hurting the Christian. God hath reason to take it the worse at his hands to yield, that might have stood, would he but have made use of those graces which God hath given him for his defence, or called in help from heaven to his succour. ‘Hast thou eaten,’ saith God to Adam, ‘of the tree, whereof I commanded thee, that thou shouldest not eat?’ Gen. 3:11. The accent lies on thou. It was not sure for hunger, thou hadst a whole paradise before thee; hast thou eaten that wert provided so well to have withstood him? Hast thou, may God say to the Christian, eaten of the devil’s dainties, who hast a key to go to my cupboard? does thy heavenly Father keep so starved a house, that the devil’s scraps will go down with thee?