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Standards Of Life And Service by T. H. Howard

XV Fighting Holiness

'Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life.' (1 Timothy vi.12.)

My object, in announcing 'Fighting Holiness' as my subject, is to make it quite clear that a Full Salvation does not mean a hot-house emotionalism or glass-case sanctity, but a vigorous, daring, aggressive religion, on the lines of the Saviour's words, 'The Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force'.

If this text, 'Fight the good fight of faith', means anything at all, it means you must struggle for the thing you believe in. If you do not fight for it, the inference is either that you have little love for and confidence in your cause, or that you are indolent and unfaithful to that cause.

You say you believe in the rightness of God's claims upon the hearts and lives of men; you believe in the humiliation and passion of Christ to redeem men; you believe in the necessity for and possibility of rescuing human souls from the curse of evil and the eternal penalty of sin; but, believe me, your faith is vain if you do not stand for, and labour and fight to enforce, God's claims to proclaim Christ's redeeming grace, and to deliver men from going down to the pit.

The aspects of personal Holiness set out in terms such as 'perfect peace' and the 'rest of faith' are frequently before us, and I do not desire to reduce their value, for it is a blessed truth that 'we which have believed do enter into rest'. If by the 'rest of faith' is meant that calm confidence in the power and grace of God by which the believing and obedient soul is kept in perfect peace, then, all right; that, however, is very different from the only-believe-and-do-nothing policy of some people who adopt the phrase. Let there be no mistake about the fact that every consecrated man must take his place in God's fighting line.

The story of Mary of Bethany, 'who sat at the Lord's feet, and heard His word', also appeals to me; but the emphasis is not quite as some people put it. What Christ commended in Mary was not that she sat at His feet whilst Martha did all the hard work, but that she had 'chosen the good part -- the one thing needful', which her anxious sister seems to have overlooked.

There is rest for the struggling soul who finds in Jesus a real deliverer. There is rest for the soul tossed about on waves of doubt and fear, who, anchoring in the haven of the Saviour's love, finds peace in believing. For the faithful but tired servant of Christ who 'works whilst it is called day', for the warrior also who has faced the enemy and braved the danger, there is rest; but the rest comes after the working and fighting is over.

I like the words 'fight' and 'fighting', because they involve taking a side, and devoting oneself to secure victory for the side one belongs to. I heard some one remark the other day, 'God wants fighting saints as well as kissing saints'; truly the phrase is not without its lesson for us. This is the very opposite to the attitude known as 'sitting on the fence', or that wretched fear which seems to possess some professed followers of Jesus Christ, who, outside a church or religious Meeting, are afraid to declare themselves for Him.' I am for Jesus Christ, and I want everybody to know it'; that is the line of the true Soldier.

Oh, how the spirit of compromise curses and hinders the work of God! I think the man who invented the phrase 'out-and-out consecration' was a benefactor to the cause, seeing it is such a contradiction of the half-and-half spirit which characterizes so much religious profession and service.

When reading the history of the American Civil War, I found instances of strange fraternizing on the part of the soldiers of contending armies. Sometimes the soldiers of the North would be on one side of a river when the Southern troops were on the other side. With the evening came suspension of hostilities, and under cover of darkness men of one army would cross over to the enemy's camp to smoke and talk with men who during the day had sought their destruction. That may have seemed very fine, from a certain point of view, but is regrettable in religious warfare. When the Soldiers of Jesus cross over to the Devil's forces for their pleasure and refreshment, it indicates little devotion to their King or enthusiasm for His cause.

Why should we be friends with the enemies of our Lord? If we have sincerely chosen His side, let all compromise cease, and each of us declare and stand for Him at all costs.

Then this idea of Fighting Holiness implies that the sanctified Soldier of Christ is an aggressor in the struggle for his Lord's supremacy. He cannot be content with following the line of the least resistance; he is rather in the spirit of the words already quoted, 'The Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force'.

The business of attack in Spiritual Soldier-ship is quite as important as the protection of your own soul or defence of your position. It may involve doing violence to your own feelings, and oft-times to the feelings of others, but you cannot be faithful to your profession unless willing to attack the Devil's strongholds, and fight evil in its own entrenchments.

I was much interested a few days ago in the story of a man connected with a Corps where there has been a marvellous religious awakening. The man got truly saved, and became a Salvation Soldier. A month later he was convinced of his need of a clean heart, his chief conviction being that he ought to become 'a fisher of men'. He went to the mercy-seat, made his consecration, claimed the blessing and power, and began fishing for souls. That was a little over a year ago; recently the results of that man's personal fishing were ascertained, and it was seen that since his consecration he had personally induced over 300 persons to go to the mercy-seat for Salvation. That is an illustration of the aggressive spirit included in Fighting Holiness.

We each find our own particular difficulties with which we should grapple, and the enemies whom we ought to attack; but, speaking generally, I point to the evil influences which are around us, cursing the people, the victims, alas! being multiplied by those who fatten on the woes and vices and even ruin of their fellows. These influences must be resisted, the fiends of Hell in human form must be grappled with, and 'the prey be taken from the mighty'. People must be aroused from their indifference and selfishness; the cold-blooded carelessness and worldliness of formal religionists must be assailed as well as help rendered to those who are ready to perish. Our fighting programme must include all this, if we are to be consistent professors of holy consecration to God and His Kingdom.

Then, further, I recognize that personal spiritual conflicts are included in Fighting Holiness. That is to say, our battles and victories relate not only to resistance of the Devil and the rescue of his captives, but in the varying phases of personal experiences we have to fight this good fight of faith.

Spiritual conflicts often have much mystery connected with them. If the fact had not been recorded, that Christ was tempted in all points like as we are, and learned obedience in the things which He suffered, we should wonder whether some of our struggles of faith were not the result of personal sin. We know, however, that there may be much temptation without either contracting the guilt or stain of sin.

It is true that spiritual conflicts are all the more dangerous for those who have not yet found deliverance from their own unsanctified passions and tendencies. A heart in which such things as pride and evil desire, lust, worldly ambition, and ill-tempers remain, is like a citadel in which traitors lurk to respond to the call of outward enemies. But when the heart is sanctified, and we are equipped with the armour of which Paul wrote to the Ephesians, the attacks of the enemy can be continually resisted.

I cannot cover the area of spiritual conflict. As varied as our characters are our temptations, and with all the changes in circumstances and physical or mental condition come enticements to evil. We have never taught that Holiness of heart means freedom from temptation. In one form or another temptation will come to the holiest of us, and the fight of faith has to be sustained even up to the very gates of Heaven.

The fully consecrated soul has not only to resist the temptations to positive sin, but must manifest its victory in the patient endurance of physical ills and the trials of life; and that apostolic note of triumph is also a word of guidance, 'This is the victory which overcometh ... even your faith'.

Human nature, even with the best of us, is a marvellous combination. We have nerves which sometimes vibrate like the wires of a highly-strung harp. Mental clouds at times seem to shut the sun out of the conditions of life, and dark shadows stretch across or along the pathway. Some of us have dispositions which, whilst capable of exquisite pleasure, also expose us to the most acute pain and disappointment. Then comes the temptation to charge against our spiritual condition weaknesses which are purely physical. To resist such temptations is indeed the fight of faith.

Physical depression comes upon some people until, for the time being, life is a burden and death would be a relief. Measured by their bodily and mental sensations, their experience is sometimes like a stretch of arid desert, and in such hours the enemy assails the mind with difficulties and suggestions to doubt, which can only be conquered by steady confidence in the love and wisdom and prevailing grace of the living God. That is the good fight of faith.

I hope that what I have said will not discourage any soul. Remember, if we are fully given up to God, and seeking to realize His will for us, we are not fighting a losing battle; 'He that is with us is greater than they that be against us'. The provision of Divine Grace is such that, in spite of enemies and dangers, our life can be one of victory; we can be more than conquerors through Him that loved us. The victor's palm and the overcomer's crown will more than compensate for the self-denial and loss of things which the world counts gain.

Many of you know the story of a certain Indian conqueror who, in his onward march, came to a temple containing a specially sacred idol. This he was proceeding to destroy, when the priests and others pleaded with him, and offered a large sum of money if he would only spare that idol; but, refusing the bribe, the conqueror demolished the image, and found within it the treasures of the temple, which for safety had been hidden there. There are many things which we may lose by fighting our battles faithfully, but the heavenly treasure will more than make up for it all.

'Be thou faithful unto death' is a strong exhortation; but that which makes it a positive inspiration to loving and enduring service and fighting is the added sentence, 'I will give thee a crown of life'.

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