The Church God's Battle Axe
Jeremiah 51:20
You are my battle ax and weapons of war: for with you will I break in pieces the nations, and with you will I destroy kingdoms;

God ever employs instruments to accomplish his purposes. He is a God that "hideth" himself. Hence many see nothing but instruments, and forget, or deny, the hand that uses them. "That does not seem much of a sword;" said one, as he looked upon the treasured weapon of a great national hero and valiant soldier. Ah, but you do not see the hand that wielded it, was the just reply. So as we look on the agencies God employs, how feeble they seem to be! But think of the force behind them, and then the works they accomplished are explained. Now, this is true of all God's works. Especially is it true in all the great spiritual achievements which we have heard of or seen. This verse refers to Israel, in reference to the idolatrous nations around them, and to Babylon especially. Israel was the unseen cause that led to the overthrow and destruction of one nation after another. For the Church's sake God governs the world. "All things are yours." Now, note -

I. THE WITNESS OF HISTORY to the truth that God's people are his "battle axe and weapons of war." "I came not to send peace upon earth, but a sword," said Jesus, and in the same sense as this verse declares that word is true. "Magna est veritas, et prevalebit," is another rendering of the same fact.

1. Before the birth of Christ the pure monotheistic faith of Israel had, after their captivity, begun its iconoclastic work. Over large portions of the then civilized world that faith began to permeate and cleave its way. So that the old idolatries were in many places stricken with a mortal blow before even he was proclaimed who was to draw all men unto him.

2. The downfall of paganism. Notwithstanding the many accretions of error and superstition with which the pure faith of Christ so soon became encumbered, there yet remained inherent in it and inseparable from it such vital and mighty energy that it smote as with a "battle axe" one falsehood after another, until they were well nigh all slain. The forces against her in that ancient world were simply tremendous, but the Church went forth conquering and to conquer. In vain the scorn of the great, the fires of awful persecution, the power of venerable superstition; in vain the hindrances which she herself put in her own way; the Church was still God's destroying power against the false religions of that age, until at length the last emperor of Rome who endeavoured to revive paganism, Julian - whom a corrupt hierarchy malignantly branded as "the apostate," though, in fact, he was less apostate than themselves - confessed with his dying breath, "O Galilaean, thou hast conquered!" In all that long and heart-stirring conflict this declaration of the prophet was illustrated again and again.

3. In the Reformation. Not alone in those nations in which the Reformation principles took root, but in the Church of Rome herself, was the error and evil destroying power of the truth that dwelt in the hearts of God's people made manifest. See in such a book as Ranke's 'History of the Popes' what vast difference and improvements were brought about in the Catholic Church itself by the awful discipline through which she had then to pass. Whatever stern censures may have to be passed on that Church since the days of the Reformation - and they are neither few nor light - yet candour must admit that they are far fewer and far lighter than those which the outraged conscience of Christendom heaped upon her in the generations before.

4. In all missionary and evangelistic triumphs over heathendom.

II. THE WITNESS OF INDIVIDUAL CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE. We are wont to speak of the truth of God as "mighty to the pulling down of the strongholds of sin and Satan." This is a Christian commonplace. And is it not true? What but this battle axe slew the giant sins that ruled and oppressed in each soul?

III. THE SECRET OF THIS FORCE. What makes the Church God's battle axe? We answer:

1. The truth that sustains her. The truth concerning God and our relations to him - he our Father and we all his children.

2. The spirit that animates her; not one of hate or disregard to man, as was common before Christ came, but love - love even towards the vilest for Christ's sake.

3. The rule that regulates her. The heathen looked on with amazement at the blamelessness of life and the sanctity of character which the faith of the Church produced, and they felt and owned its power.

4. The love that constrains her. She ever "bore about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus," and, mindful of that, she shrank from no suffering and refused no service.

5. The hope that cheers her. She wrought, not for a corruptible crown, but an incorruptible; and the hope, "that blessed hope," of her Lord's appearing to receive and reward his people, cheered them on amid the awful sufferings which they were called on to bear. And still it is in proportion as these mighty motives animate the Church in the individual soul that faithful and effectual service is done for Christ against the many and mighty adversaries of God with which the world abounds. - C.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Thou art my battle axe and weapons of war: for with thee will I break in pieces the nations, and with thee will I destroy kingdoms;

WEB: You are my battle axe and weapons of war: and with you will I break in pieces the nations; and with you will I destroy kingdoms;

The Portion of Jacob Contrasted with the Confidences of Babylon
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