“AND YOUR FEET SHOD WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE”
BY BISHOP EDWARD MALCOLM
I want to encourage you to stand firm, in peace, in the Gospel. The third piece of armour which the Christian soldier is to put on is footwear. The words ‘put on!’ are a military order. They ring out with the clear note of a bugle summoning to the fight without delay. The picture is of the Roman heavy infantryman, ten cohorts of whom provided the principal strength of an imperial legion. You, as a soldier of Jesus Christ, are compared to such a man, not to the lightly armed skirmisher, or the soldier in barracks to whom Paul was chained. Among the ten cohorts, you have chosen the post of honour, the thickest part of the fight, one of those eleven hundred and five soldiers of the first cohort, the guardians of the sacred eagle, the most approved for valour and fidelity. That is the Apostle’s comparison here, not to the Jewish warrior, even though Judah the Lion was and is formidable in the fight.
You have chosen, having done all, to stand and fight just where the devil is attacking, the most exposed place, the most criticized, marginalized, pitied, and despised. Hear what Martin Luther said. “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battle front besides is mere flight and disgrace – if he flinches at that point.”
I say from my heart that you are the ones who have taken a logical position, where you can stand. Many are attempting to shut doors through which the horse has already bolted. I say this after many years of watching the situation: it is impossible to stand foursquare for the Gospel being preserved in the Church of England if your position involves some degree of unreality, or fighting at some other front than the hottest part of the battle. What is at stake is not some minor matter; it is the Gospel of peace as we know it.
1. YOUR SANDALS ARE FOR THE DEFENCE OF THE GOSPEL
Notice here the word ‘preparation’. One meaning is ‘preparedness’, defence being the foremost idea. But the word is not just that, it is more. It is the attack by the Christians with the Gospel. The Roman Empire had long frontiers facing the barbarian hordes. They despised as weakness keeping the legions in fortified cities. No! Instead they placed them on the frontiers in the open field, apparently in maximum danger. In fact it was wisdom, it gave them mobility, showing the barbarians they were not afraid, but would rush out like a swarm of bees if provoked. Preparedness thus is not just a prepared foundation. It is that, for we know and depend on the Gospel to give us peace and stability of life and conscience. But it is more, we stand unmoved against the foe, ready to defend ourselves and the Gospel at any moment. That is the great need today.
2. YOU HAVE GOSPEL SANDALS FOR FLUIDITY
The old Greek phalanx stood shoulder to shoulder, each man’s shield covering the next. The legions beat the Greeks by opening out the lines, three feet between each man, eight feet between the ranks. This gave room for long, rapid charges and room to weave and fight, and to run in reinforcements among the exhausted legionaries during long, hard-fought battles. The sandal speaks of disciplined manœvering.
The Gospel is under a thousand attacks today from every quarter. How quickly the devil can change his appearance, weapons and dispositions. He appears to hold the initiative, and we are always forced to respond. However, shod with gospel sandals we can move as fast as he. The gentle, quick movements of the Gospel are like the feet of a Roman soldier in the thick of the fight, turning this way and that as fresh waves of attackers come on, never taken at a disadvantage.
The movements of the National Church appear to me to be those of men responding – always one step behind the devil, always reacting, while he always advances. Now I say this, if they would only trust the Gospel of our Lord Jesus, they would take the initiative from the devil, and the world. The church behaves like the back wheel of a bicycle whose front wheel is the world. By this Gospel, in peace, not continual bickering over baptisms, services, an almost endless list, with clever men taking the chance to show their superior knowledge; but in peace, the Gospel makes us the front wheel.
3. YOU HAVE GOSPEL SANDALS TO GIVE GREAT SWIFTNESS
The central meaning of the word ‘preparation’ is ‘equipment’, meaning what makes the soldier prepared, ready. THE great mark of the Roman legion was speed, and that depended on the sandal. Caesar won his wars like Alexander or Napoleon, by the sandal! Again and again advancing so rapidly that the enemy were caught when they thought there was plenty of time yet to set up defensive lines. The first and great use of the nail-studded Roman sandal was to march – nearly 20 miles in the first six hours, 40 a day normally, over all types of terrain, in all weathers. The meaning is simple: swiftness of movement in response is the best method of defence.
4. YOU HAVE GOSPEL SANDALS BECAUSE YOU ARE IN CONFLICT
The idea Paul has in mind is wrestling with the devil, standing firm against all his many tricks, stratagems and powers. We have withstood the headlong rush of the devil’s troops, and now we are in the thick of it. Unless we stand in the Gospel of peace, we shall fall and be beaten. The sandal was designed to keep the soldier on his feet on blood-soaked, slippery, muddy ground, in the thick of battle, or running to the ramparts of the overnight fort to repel a surprise attack of the barbarians under cover of darkness. It included carrying the battle to the enemy in disciplined advance, preserving the battle lines, carrying all before.
5. AT ALL TIMES YOU NEED THESE GOSPEL SANDALS
Soldiers’ winter quarters had great sheds in which the Romans fulfilled their motto: prepare for war in time of peace. Here they fought daily, the only difference to the battlefield being the lack of blood. They had five years of exercises when training, which included endurance and agility training designed to learn to keep one’s feet in the thick of a fight. You must always remain fit and active, never let up.
Have we a definite position? Do we know what we stand for? The Romans reduced warfare to an art, teaching tactics, especially knowing how to choose their ground on which to make their stand. Here we stand, this is our chosen position. Will we yield, move away, compromise? Many are saying, why do the various different Continuing Churches not combine? That would give numbers, unity, strength. At present there are at least 20, from Anglo-Catholic to Protestant, from Traditionalist to ourselves. Our answer is, we have no wish to interpret ‘stand’ as immobility, stubborn refusal to be reasonable, but we do mean we have taken our stand on both doctrine and practice, and have no wish to get into contradictory positions. Indeed the call is to accept certain anti-gospel traits of others, so as to include everyone. But above all we are in earnest, and as I look around, many are simply playing with words, lacking deep seriousness, taking a step back from reality and seeming to shrug off responsibility. My answer is, better to reduce one’s army from 32,000 to 300 with Gideon, all determined to stand, for the devil is roaring today. Like Luther let us say: ‘Here I stand, I can do no other’.
Forasmuch as man, being not borne to ease and rest, but to labour and travail, is by corruption of nature through sin, so far degenerated and grown out of kind, that he taketh idleness to be no evil at all, but rather a commendable thing, seemly for those that be wealthy, and therefore is greedily embraced of most part of men, as agreeable to their sensual affection, and all labour and travail is diligently avoided, as a thing painful and repugnant to the pleasure of the flesh: It is necessary to be declared unto you, that by the ordinance of God, which he hath set in the nature of man, every one ought, in his lawful vocation and calling, to give himself to labour: and that idleness, being repugnant to the same ordinance, is a grievous sin, and also, for the great inconveniences and mischiefs which spring thereof, an intolerable evil: to the intent that when ye understand the same, ye may diligently flee from it, and on the other part earnestly apply yourselves, every man in his vocation, to honest labour and business, which as it is enjoined unto man by God’s appointment, so it wanteth not his manifold blessings and sundry benefits.
In what points the true ornaments of the Church or Temple of God do consist and stand, hath been declared in the two last Homilies, entreating of the right use of the Temple or house of God, and of the due reverence that all true Christian people are bound to give unto the same. The sum whereof is, that the Church or house of God, is a place appointed by the holy Scriptures, where the lively word of God ought to be read, taught, and heard, the Lords holy name called upon by public prayer, hearty thanks given to his Majesty for his infinite and unspeakable benefits bestowed upon us, his holy Sacraments duly and reverently ministered, and that therefore all that be godly indeed, ought both with diligence at times appointed, to repair together to the said Church, and there with all reverence to use and behave themselves before the Lord. And that the said Church thus godly used by the servants of the Lord, in the Lords true service, for the effectual presence of God’s grace, wherewith he doeth by his holy word and promises, endue his people there present and assembled, to the attainment, as well of commodities worldly, necessary for us, as also of all heavenly gifts, and life everlasting, is called by the word of God (as it is indeed) the Temple of the Lord, and the house of God, and that therefore the due reverence thereof, is stirred up in the hearts of the godly, by the consideration of these true ornaments of the said house of God, and not by any outward ceremonies or costly and glorious decking of the said house or Temple of the Lord, contrary to the which most manifest doctrine of the Scriptures, and contrary to the usage of the Primitive Church, which was most pure and incorrupt, and contrary to the sentences and judgements of the most ancient, learned and godly Doctors of the Church (as hereafter shall appear) the corruption of these latter days, hath brought into the Church infinite multitudes of images, and the same, with other parts of the Temple also, have decked with gold and silver, painted with colours, set them with stone and pearl, clothed them with silks and precious vestures, fancying untruly that to be the chief decking and adorning of the Temple or house of God, and that all people should be the more moved to the due reverence of the same, if all corners thereof were glorious, and glistering with gold and precious stones. Whereas indeed they by the said images, and such glorious decking of the Temple, have no thing at all profited such as were wise and of understanding: but have thereby greatly hurt the simple and unwise, occasioning them thereby to commit most horrible idolatry. And the covetous persons, by the same occasion, seeming to worship, and peradventure worshipping indeed, not only the images, but also the matter of them, gold and silver, as that vice is of all others in the Scriptures peculiarly called idolatry or worshipping of images. (Eph 5, Col 3) Against the which foul abuses and great enormities shall be alleged unto you: First, the authority of God’s holy word, as well out of the old Testament, as of the new. And secondly, the testimonies of the holy and ancient learned Fathers and Doctors, out of their own works and ancient histories Ecclesiastical, both that you may at once know their judgements, and withal understand what manner of ornaments were in the Temples in the Primitive Church in those times, which were most pure and sincere. Thirdly, the reasons and arguments made for the defence of images or idols, and the outrageous decking of Temples and Churches, with gold, silver, pearl, and precious stone, shall be confuted, and so this whole matter concluded. But lest any should take occasion by the way, of doubting by words or names, it is thought good here to note first of all, that although in common speech we use to call the likeness or similitude of men or other things images, and not idols: yet the Scriptures use the said two words (idols and images) indifferently for one thing always. They be words of divers tongues and sounds, but one in sense and signification in the Scriptures. The one is taken of the Greek word Ei¶dwlon; an Idol, and the other of the Latin word Imago, and Image, and so both used as English terms in the translating of Scriptures indifferently, according as the Septuagint have in their translation in Greek Ei¶dwla, and St. Jerome in his translation of the same places in Latin hath Simulachra, in English, Images. And in the new Testament, that which St. John calleth Ei¶dwlon (1 Jn 5), St. Ierome likewise translateth Simulachrum, as in all other like places of Scripture usually he doeth so translate. And Tertullian , a most ancient Doctor, and well learned in both the tongues, Greek and Latin, interpreting this place of St. John , Beware of Idols, that is to say (saith Tertullian ) of the images themselves: the Latin words which he useth, be Effigies and Imago, to say, an Image (Lib. de corona militis). And therefore it skilleth not, whether in this process wee use the one term or the other, or both together, seeing they both (though not in common English speech, yet in Scripture) signify one thing. And though some to blind men’s eyes, have heretofore craftily gone about to make them to be taken for words of divers signification in matters of Religion, and have therefore usually named the likeness or similitude of a thing set up amongst the Heathen in their Temples or other places to be worshipped, an Idol. But the like similitude with us, set up in the Church, the place of worshipping, they call an Image, as though these two words (Idol and Image) in Scripture, did differ in propriety and sense, which as is afore said) differ only in sound and language, and in meaning be in deed all one, specially in the Scriptures and matters of Religion. And our Images also have been, and be, and if they be publicly suffered in Churches and Temples, ever will be also worshipped, and so Idolatry committed to them, as in the last part of this Homily shall at large be declared and proved. Wherefore our Images in Tem ples and Churches, be in deed none other but Idols, as unto the which Idolatry hath been, is, and ever will be committed.
Almighty GOD, to the intent his most holy Name should be had in honour, and evermore be magnified of the people, commandeth that no man should take his Name vainly in his mouth, threatening punishment unto him that irreverently abuseth it by swearing, forswearing, andblasphemy. To the intent therefore that this commandment may be the better known and kept, it shall bee declared unto you, both how it is lawful for Christian people to swear, and also what peril and danger it is vainly to swear, or to be forsworn.
Unto a Christian man, there can be nothing either more necessary or profitable, than the knowledge of Holy Scripture; forasmuch as in it is contained God’s true word, setting forth his glory, and also man’s duty. And there is no truth nor doctrine, necessary for our justification and everlasting salvation, but that is, or may be, drawn out of that fountain and well of truth. Therefore, as many as be desirous to enter into the right and perfect way unto God, must apply their minds to know Holy Scripture; without the which, they can neither sufficiently known God and his will, neither their office and duty. And as drink is pleasant to them that be dry, and meat to them that be hungry; so is the reading, hearing, searching, and studying of Holy Scripture, to them that be desirous to know God, or themselves, and to do his will. And their stomachs only do loathe and abhor the heavenly knowledge and food of God’s word, that be so drowned in worldly vanities, that they neither saviour God, nor any godliness: for that is the cause why they desire such vanities, rather than the true knowledge of God. As they that are sick of an ague, whatsoever they eat and drink, though it be never so pleasant, yet it is as bitter to them as wormwood; not for the bitterness of the meat, but for the corrupt and bitter humour that is in their own tongue and mouth; even is the sweetness of God’s word bitter, not of itself, but only unto them that have their minds corrupted with long custom of sin and love of this world.
Of all things that be good to be taught unto Christian people, there is nothing more necessary to be spoken of, and daily called upon, then charity: as well for that all manner of works of righteousness be contained in it, as also that the decay thereof is the ruin or fall of the world, the banishment of virtue, and the cause of all vice. And for so much as almost every man, maketh and frameth to himself charity after his own appetite, and how detestable soever his life be, both unto God and man, yet he persuadeth himself still that he hath charity: therefore you shall hear now a true and plain description or setting forth of charity, not of men’s imagination, but of the very words and example of our Saviour Jesus Christ. In which description or setting forth, every man (as it were in a glass) may consider himself, and see plainly without error, whether he be in the true charity, or not.
Among all the creatures that God made in the beginning of the world most excellent and wonderful in their kind, there was none (as the Scripture beareth witness) to be compared almost in any point unto man, who as well in body and soul exceeded all other no less, then the Sun in brightness and light exceedeth every small and little star in the firmament. He was made according to the image and similitude of God, he was endued with all kind of heavenly gifts, he had no spot of uncleanness in him, he was found and perfect in all parts, both outwardly and inwardly, his reason was incorrupt, his understanding was pure and good, his will was obedient and godly, he was made altogether like unto God, in righteousness, in holiness, in wisdom, in truth, to be short in all kind of perfection.
In the last Sermon was declared unto you, what the lively and true faith of a Christian man is, that it causeth not a man to be idle, but to be occupied in bringing forth good works, as occasion serveth.
Of our going from God, the wise man saith, that pride was the first beginning: for by it mans heart was turned from God his maker. For pride (saith he) is the fountain of all sin: he that hath it, shall be full of cursings, and at the end it shall overthrow him. (Ecclus 10) And as by pride and sin we go from God, so shall God and all goodness with him go from us. And the Prophet Hosea doth plainly affirm (Hos 5), that they which go a way still from God by vicious living, and yet would go about to pacify him otherwise by sacrifice, and entertain him thereby, they labour in vain. For, notwithstanding all their sacrifice, yet he goeth still away from them. For so much (saith the Prophet) as they do not apply their minds to return to God, although they go about with whole flocks and herds to seek the Lord, yet they shall not find him: for he is gone away from them.
Because all men be sinners and offenders against God, and breakers of his law and commandments, therefore can no man by his own acts, works, and deeds (seem they never so good) be justified, and made righteous before God: but every man of necessity is constrained to seek for another righteousness or justification, to be received at God’s own hands, that is to say, the forgiveness of his sins and trespasses, in such things as he hath offended. And this justification or righteousness, which we so receive of God’s mercy and Christ’s merits. embraced by faith, is taken, accepted and allowed of God, for our perfect and full justification.