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Apathy, Stagnation, Deadness, and Indifference

Whether we are Churchmen or not, one thing is certain,—this Christian warfare is a great reality, and a subject of vast importance. It is not a matter like Church government and ceremonial, about which men may differ, and yet reach heaven at last. Necessity is laid upon us. We must fight. There are no promises in the Lord Jesus Christ’s Epistles to the Seven Churches, except to those who “overcome.” Where there is grace there will be conflict. The believer is a soldier. There is no holiness without a warfare. Saved souls will always be found to have fought a fight.

 

It is a fight of absolute necessity. Let us not think that in this war we can remain neutral and sit still. Such a line of action may be possible in the strife of nations, but it is utterly impossible in that conflict which concerns the soul. The boasted policy of non-interference,—the “masterly inactivity” which pleases so many statesmen,—the plan of keeping quiet and letting things alone,—all this will never do in the Christian warfare. Here at any rate no one can escape serving under the plea that he is “a man of peace.” To be at peace with the world, the flesh and the devil, is to be at enmity with God, and in the broad way that leadeth to destruction. We have no choice or option. We must either fight or be lost.

 

It is a fight of universal necessity. No rank, or class, or age, can plead exemption, or escape the battle. Ministers and people, preachers and hearers, old and young, high and low, rich and poor, gentle and simple, kings and subjects, landlords and tenants, learned and unlearned,—all alike must carry arms and go to war. All have by nature a heart full of pride, unbelief, sloth, worldliness, and sin. All are living in a world beset with snares, traps, and pitfalls for the soul. All have near them a busy, restless, malicious devil. All, from the Queen in her palace down to the pauper in the workhouse, all must fight, if they would be saved.

 

It is a fight of perpetual necessity. It admits of no breathing time, no armistice, no truce. On week-days as well as on Sundays,—in private as well as in public,—at home by the family fireside as well as abroad,—in little things like management of tongue and temper, as well as in great ones like the government of kingdoms,—the Christian’s warfare must unceasingly go on. The foe we have to do with keeps no holidays, never slumbers, and never sleeps. So long as we have breath in our bodies we must keep on our armor, and remember we are on an enemy’s ground. “Even on the brink of Jordan,” said a dying saint, “I find Satan nibbling at my heels.” We must fight till we die.

 

Let us consider well these propositions. Let us take care that our own personal religion is real, genuine, and true. The saddest symptom about many so-called Christians, is the utter absence of anything like conflict and fight in their Christianity. They eat, they drink, they dress, they work, they amuse themselves, they get money, they spend money, they go through a scanty round of formal religious services once or twice every week. But of the great spiritual warfare,—its watchings and strugglings, its agonies and anxieties, its battles and contests,—of all this they appear to know nothing at all. Let us take care that this case is not our own. The worst state of soul is “when the strong man armed keepeth the house, and his goods are at peace,”—when he leads men and women “captive at his will,” and they make no resistance. The worst chains are those which are neither felt nor seen by the prisoner. (Luke 11:21; 2 Tim. 2:26.)

 

We may take comfort about our souls if we know anything of an inward fight and conflict. It is the invariable companion of genuine Christian holiness. It is not everything, I am well aware, but it is something. Do we find in our heart of hearts a spiritual struggle? Do we feel anything of the flesh lusting against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh, so that we cannot do the things we would? (Gal. 5:17.) Are we conscious of two principles within us, contending for the mastery? Do we feel anything of war in our inward man? Well, let us thank God for it! It is a good sign. It is strongly probable evidence of the great work of sanctification. All true saints are soldiers. Anything is better than apathy, stagnation, deadness, and indifference. We are in a better state than many. The most part of so-called Christians have no feeling at all. We are evidently no friends of Satan. Like the kings of this world, he wars not against his own subjects. The very fact that he assaults us, should fill our minds with hope. I say again, let us take comfort The child of God has two great marks about him, and of these two we have one. HE MAY BE KNOWN BY HIS INWARD WARFARE, AS WELL AS BY HIS INWARD PEACE.

 

 

Ryle, J. C. (1889). Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots (pp. 80–82). William Hunt and Company. (Public Domain)

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