Above all, taking the shield of faith, with which you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
I. We are first to consider FAITH IN ITS NATURE. "Above all." Our first impression would be, that the apostle intended to give faith the preeminence over all the other graces of the Christian character; that he meant, in fact, to set it forth as the grace of all graces, the excellence of all excellences, that which, if retained, would compensate for the loss of all the other parts of our spiritual preparation. The shield is that which in ancient warfare the soldier prided himself upon retaining to the last. "Come home dead upon thy shield," said the Spartan mother to her son, "rather than come home alive without it."
1. And now, in considering the nature of this faith, observe, first, that it is the faith of the heart, as distinguished from any purely intellectual faith.
2. Again, this faith is a faith of appropriation - that is, it is a faculty by which we make all the promises our own. Faith is the sustaining power of our regenerate life.
3. Therefore we say further, that in describing the nature of this faith, we must consider it as a faith or union and communion with Christ.
II. But we come next to consider FAITH IN ITS EXERCISE, OR THE SPIRITUAL USES of this shield of faith. Thus, its chief use is to defend the soul at all points. The great advantage of the shield to the ancient warrior consisted in the fact that it was a movable defence; that it was fixed neither to the head nor to the feet, neither to the shoulders nor to the waist, but was held upon the arm, so as to interpose resistance to any part which might happen to be exposed to danger. In ancient warfare this shield was made so large as nearly to cover one side of the person. Hence that expression in the Psalms, "The Lord will bless the righteous: with favour wilt Thou compass: him as with a shield." Faith, then, is that weapon of the soul which moves at will, and, as occasion calls, defends all the parts and powers of the tried and tempted spirit. Thus, is the reasoning faculty the object of Satan's attack? Is the believer tempted with hard thoughts of God, with difficulties in the ways of His providence, with things hard to understand in Scripture, or with some mysterious dealings, it may be, in regard to his own soul? Faith offers the shield, reminds him that at present we know but in part; that when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. Or does the adversary address himself to the conscience of the child of God? Is the burden of sin too intolerable. for him to bear, or its grievousness too great for the mercy of Heaven to forgive? Faith can interpose the shield, and on its polished surface we see the bright superscription written, "Christ is able to save to the uttermost all them that come unto God by Him." Or, once more, is it the perverse and wayward will that is assaulted of Satan, so that in the spirit of that rebellion which is "as the sin of witchcraft" we seem almost resolved to throw off the yoke of Christ altogether, or cannot cut off the right hand, or pluck out the right eye, or raise the sacrificial knife to slay what seemed to us the dear child of promise? The shield of faith again comes to the rescue, and round it, all over it, are blessed testimonies written: "His commandments are not grievous"; "Wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness"; "My yoke is easy, and My burden is light."
3. Another use of the Christian shield is to preserve the strength of the other graces of the soul. The shield was not only to defend different parts of the soldier's person, but, as I have said, it was designed to guard other portions of the armour itself. Many a breastplate would have been pierced, and many a helmet shivered in pieces, but for the additional interposition of the shield. In like manner in our spiritual warfare all the other graces of Christian character are maintained in their integrity and exercise by the power of faith.
III. And then we come, in the last place, to consider FAITH IN ITS VICTORIOUS RESULTS - "Wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked." "Fiery darts" - the allusion is to small firebrands, which in ancient warfare were twisted into the form of arrows or darts, and in this way shot out of the bow into the midst of the ranks of the enemy. It is not difficult to see why temptation should be described under such an image as this. A dart wounds suddenly; so does temptation. A dart is thrown by some invisible hand; so for the most part are, temptations. A dart may pierce through the very smallest aperture, may penetrate even between the joints of the harness; so also will temptation. The eye, the ear, the smallest inlet or avenue to the soul, may admit a death wound by admitting one of these fiery darts of the wicked. How, then, does faith enable us to quench these darts? Why, first, by teaching us to keep a watchful eye against the first approach of temptation, to guard against the beginning of sin, to be on the look out for its stealthy advances, to preserve with unslumbering vigilance all those sources of thought and feeling out of which are the issues of life.
2. Another way by which faith enables us to quench these darts of the adversary is by preparing the heart to resist them. A fiery dart would be dangerous according to the surface upon which it should chance to fall.
3. Again, faith makes us victorious over temptations by setting before us the gain and loss of yielding to them. And now, brethren, in conclusion, let me direct your attention to the one practical inquiry, How is your possession of this victorious faith to be ascertained? I answer, by the same law which ascertains all other realities, and which declares, "By their fruits ye shall know them."
(D. Moore, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.