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Chapter 3 Verse 8
They all hold
swords, being expert in war: every man hath his
sword upon his thigh, because of fear in the night.
these words is a farther description of the guard about Christ’s bed: and that
I.By their armor; they “all hold swords.”
II.By their skillfulness in using them; being “expert in war.”
III.By their readiness to engage upon any occasion; “every man hath his sword upon his thigh.”
IV.The reason of this guard, and their being thus armed, and standing in this posture, is also assigned; because “of fear in the night.”
I.Here is a farther description of the guard about Christ’s bed, by the armor which they appeared with; they “all hold swords:” they are not only mighty and valiant men, men of courage “but also armed men;” and therefore are more capable to act both defensively and offensively. Now by the sword, which they hold in their hands, or have girt upon their thighs, is meant the word of God, which in scripture is called, 1. “The sword of the spirit,” (Eph. 6:17) and that because it is a spiritual one; for as none of “the weapons of our warfare are carnal,” but spiritual; so likewise is this, which is no small part of our Christian armor; and which none but “the spiritual man” does, or can use to any good purpose against spiritual wickednesses in high places;” as also because it is made by the Spirit of God; he is the author of it; it is he that furnishes us with it, and makes it powerful and efficacious to answer the ends for which it is both made and used. 2. It is called a sharp one, nay, said to be (Heb. 4:12), “sharper than any two edged sword;” which sinners have found to be true, by those sharp threatenings and severe reproofs it has given for sin; and those cutting convictions, which, in the Spirit’s hand, it has laid them under for it; for then it pricks the very heart and conscience, and pierces, “even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit;” it cuts and hews persons down, that are either going on in a course of profaneness, or are vainly boasting of their own righteousness; nay, it not only cuts, but kills, according to Hosea 6:5, compared with verse 4: “therefore have I hewed them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth:” Satan has often felt the keenness of this sword, especially as it was in the hand of Christ, and managed by him against him in the wilderness; who repelled every temptation of his, with a “for it is written:” neither is there any weapon more powerful and successful in the hand of faith, when strengthened by the Spirit of God, to resist that enemy of our souls, than this is; nor is there any that is more formidable to him, nor more dreaded by him. Moreover it has appeared, and has been sufficiently tried to be a sharp sword in the refutation of errors and heresies; it has at once cut the nerves and sinews of sophistic arguments, and laid open naked truth to public view; and will still appear more evidently so in the destruction of Antichrist, that man of sin, “whom the Lord will consume with the spirit of his mouth, and destroy with the brightness of his coming.” 3. It is also called a two-edged one; Christ is represented (Rev. 1:16) as having such an one proceeding out of his mouth; and the saints, in Psalm 149:6 as having the like in their hands; in both which places I am inclined to think, that the word of God is intended, whose two edges are the law and gospel. The law is one of those sharp edges of the word of God, which, in the hands of the Spirit, makes piercing and cutting work in the heart of a poor sinner; it lays open not only the gross enormities of life, but also the vile corruptions of nature, and discovers the wrath of God, which is the due desert thereof; it not only accuses and convicts, but also curses and condemns; nay, becomes a killing letter, so that the poor sinner, under the powerful workings of it, is in his own apprehension a dead man: this sharp and cutting work of the law, the apostle Paul went under; this keen and sharp edge of the word of God he sufficiently felt, as is manifest from Romans 7:9-11. Moreover, the gospel is the other edge of this sword; and a sharp one it is, in the Spirit’s hand, to cut down both the best and worst in man; it cuts down the best in man, his goodness and goodliness, his strength and wisdom, his righteousness and best performances, and lays them all aside in the business of his justification before God, and acceptance with him: it also cuts down the worst of man; it gives the greatest blow at his sins and corruptions of any thing else, and teaches him the most powerfully to deny Ungodliness and worldly lusts; it puts him upon an abasing of himself, and a magnifying of the grace of God. Now this sword, the guard about Christ’s bed had in their hands, and upon their thighs, to defend it from all the dangers it was liable to: and though in our bibles it is rendered swords, in the plural number; yet in the Hebrew text it is in the singular number, the sword;419419brj yzja kate>cotev rjomfa>ian, Sept. tenentes gladium, Cocceius; stringentes gladium, Junius & Tremellius; prehensi gladio Mercerus; apprehend gladio, Montanus; capti sunt gladio, Tigurine version. for it is but one sword, which is the word of God, that these persons were acquainted with; and firmly held for the safety and protection of the church.
And now, by their holding this sword, is meant, not only their acquaintance with the word of God, and their apprehension of it, but also their retention of, and firm adherence to it: they not only held it forth to others, but also held it fast themselves; which is a necessary qualification in the ministers of the gospel, or in those who are about Christ’s bed; for having this sword always in their hands, they are in a readiness to “war a good warfare;” which they are not strangers to, as appears from the following character of them. For,
II.They are farther described by their skillfulness in military affairs, “being expert in war:” these had been in God’s gumna>sion, or school of exercise, where they had been in some good measure taught, and versed in” the art of war, and had their, spiritual senses exercised to discern between good and evil.” The ministers of the gospel are, in common with other Christians, engaged in a war with sin, Satan, and the world; but being endowed with greater light and knowledge, faith and experience, as they must be supposed to have a greater degree of courage to oppose; so they must be allowed to have a greater expertness in managing a war with those spiritual enemies, than usually private believers have; having a large knowledge of, and acquaintance with the many windings and turnings of a deceitful and treacherous heart, as well as the depths of Satan, and the cunning and crafty wiles and methods he takes to deceive souls; as also the various, charming, and alluring baits of an ensnaring world: and besides all this, being set a in higher post and place in the church, it is highly necessary that they should be more expert in fighting “the good fight of faith,” against all opposers of the doctrines of the gospel; for it is not only proper that they should be mighty men, men of courage, who are concerned in such a work; but also men of skillfulness, who know how to use those spiritual weapons which they are accoutered with; so as both the truth of the gospel shall be defended and established, and error and heresy be refuted and overthrown.
III.They are also described by the posture of readiness which they are to engage upon any occasion; “every man hath his sword upon his thigh:” to have the sword upon the thigh, is a preparation for war, and an indication of readiness to engage in it; see Psalm 45:3 for being there, it is near unto them; they can come at it on all proper occasions, and are hereby in a posture of defense. All this may be expressive of that familiar acquaintance which ministers of the gospel have with the word of God, and how near it is unto them? it is in their mouths and in their hearts; it dwells richly in their hearts, with which they meditate upon it; and it is in their mouths in the preaching of it; they can quickly and easily come at it, and furnish themselves with sufficient proofs of gospel-truths, and with proper arguments for the refutation of erroneous doctrines; so that as they are set for the defense of the gospel,” they are always in a posture of readiness to act for it.
IV.The reason of this guard about Christ’s bed, and of their being thus armed and standing, in this posture, is here assigned; which is, “because of fear in the night:” which some understand of that dread and terror which is injected into the minds of men by evil spirits; and so the Targum explains this, as it does also the terror by night, in Psalm 91:5 of apparitions and evil spirits which walk in the night; which those who have the seal of circumcision in the flesh, which the paraphrast supposes is meant by the ‘sword upon the thigh,” have no reason to be afraid of: but it is much better, in the Talmud420420Gemara, Bab. Sanhed. cap. 1. fol. 7. 2. Yebamot, fol, 109. 2. & Yalkut. in loc. understood of the fear of hell, which is comparable to the night; though that fear, which believers are apt to be possessed of in their times of darkness, seems rather to be intended: and from hence may be observed, 1. That believers have their nights of affliction, temptation, desertion, darkness, sleepiness, and carnal security. 2. That they are often possessed with fears in such seasons; as “without are fightings,” so “within are fears;” as that Christ is not theirs; that they shall never get to heaven, nor hold out to the end; and are frequently terrified with the formidable posse their enemies bring against them, to which they find their own power and strength unequal; and therefore are ready to faint, and be discouraged; and their peace, rest, and quietness in Christ, are much disturbed. 3. That Christ has provided a guard for his church, to remove those fears, support them under those discouragements, and defend them from those who would make inroads upon their faith and comfort; and these are the ministers of the gospel, whom he has set upon the walls of Zion, and placed about his bed, the church; that so the out-works and fortifications of gospel doctrines may be kept firm against all opposition without, and the precious promises of the gospel may be open and dispensed within; that so her peace and comfort may not be broken in upon; which, as it shews the safety and security of the church, so it does likewise the tender care and concern of Christ for her.
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