Posted by: rcottrill | March 14, 2012

Soldiers of Christ, Arise

Words: Charles Wesley (b. Dec. 18, 1707; d. Mar. 29, 1788)
Music: Diademata, by George Job Elvey (b. Mar. 27, 1816; d. Dec. 9, 1893)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The Cyber Hymnal gives us a dozen stanzas for this hymn (of the original sixteen!), but many hymn books now use only three: CH-1, 2, and for a final stanza the first two lines of CH-4, and the first two of CH-12, like this:

Leave no unguarded place, no weakness of the soul,
Take every virtue, every grace, and fortify the whole;
From strength to strength go on, wrestle and fight and pray,
Tread all the powers of darkness down, and win the well fought day.

A number of the other stanzas are a bit awkward. For example, the third line of CH-4 calls upon us “indissolubly joined, to battle all proceed.” The Cyber Hymnal lists a number of tunes for this hymn. St. Ethelwald, by William Monk, works well too.

This hymn is based upon Ephesians 6:10-17, a passage about spiritual warfare, and the means God has provided for our triumph in the battle. The hymn, as published in 1742, was entitled, “The whole armour of God, Ephesians 6.” Twice in the Ephesians passage we read that phrase, “the whole armour” (vs. 11, 13). The Greek word is panoplia, giving us the English word “panoply,” meaning the complete outfit, all the necessary equipment. Wesley adopts that term in CH-2, challenging us to “take, to arm you for the fight, the panoply of God.”

There’s an interesting literary reference in CH-5. Charles Wesley alludes to John Milton’s masterwork Paradise Lost (Book vi, 110) which describes the devil this way:

Satan, with vast and haughty strides advanced,
Came towering, armed in adamant and gold.

(“Adamant” refers to the great hardness of his armour, and “gold” to its splendour.) In our hymn, with daring boldness, Wesley suggests in CH-5 that we’re not only a match for the enemy, but we can turn his equipment against him (italics mine).

But, above all, lay hold on faith’s victorious shield;
Armed with that adamant and gold, be sure to win the field.

Satan advances in self-confidence (cf. Isa. 14:12-14), believing in his own abilities, but we stand our ground against him with God-confidence, if I can put it that way (cf. Rom. 8:29-31). We resist the devil (I Pet. 5:8-9), confident in, and sustained by, the promises of Almighty God. God’s truth is infinitely superior to Satan’s lies, and far more glorious.

CH-1) Soldiers of Christ, arise, and put your armour on,
Strong in the strength which God supplies through His eternal Son.
Strong in the Lord of hosts, and in His mighty power,
Who in the strength of Jesus trusts is more than conqueror.

The often unused CH-8, by its repetition, expresses the urgent necessity of the Christian soldier keeping in touch with his heavenly Commander, through prayer. This is based on the end of the passage about our spiritual armour, where the apostle exhorts us to be “praying always with all prayer” (Eph. 6:18; cf. I Thess. 5:17).

CH-8) Pray without ceasing, pray, your Captain gives the word;
His summons cheerfully obey and call upon the Lord;
To God your every want in instant prayer display,
Pray always; pray and never faint; pray, without ceasing, pray!

1) What are some aspects or fields of our spiritual battle, at the personal level, and the public level?

2) It has been pointed out that the Ephesians passage lists no armour for the soldier’s back. What is the possible significance of this?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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