9 War


Edward Madeley



WE frequently read in the Holy Word of cruel wars, and of weapons of war, which, because they all, either in a, good or a bad sense, represent states of spiritual warfare, and describe the instrumentalities by which they are carried on, appear in the letter of the Word to be sanctioned and applauded, and are sometimes represented as commanded by Jehovah ; as, ” The Lord hath sworn that the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation” (Ex. xvii. 16). Nothing can be more abhorrent to the Divine character or revolting to Christian feeling than the ferocious spirit of war ; and yet the Lord commanded the children of Israel not only to exterminate the Amalekites, but the inhabitants of Heshbon and Bashan. In Deuteronomy we read how this was done : ” And the Lord our God delivered the king before us, and we smote him and his sons and all his people. And we took all his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed the men and the women and the little ones of every city ; we left none to remain ” (ii. 33, 34 ; iii. 6). While such revolting cruelty was permitted on account of the degeneracy of mankind, and was even attributed to the Lord, because it was, as in all other similar cases, a lesser evil for a greater good, it must be evident that it was recorded by inspiration for some more hidden meaning than the mere history, though that history be true. Let us call to mind ” the foes of our own household ” (Matt. x. 36), the adversaries lurking in our own bosoms, the enemies of our eternal peace, and how beautiful is the lesson of instruction with which we are at once supplied ! How deeply interesting is the command to destroy, by the power of truth and love, all our bitter antagonists, our selfish passions and unclean persuasions, to let not one remain! Both in the Old and New Testaments armor and instruments of war are continually mentioned in reference solely to their internal significations.

Turn to Joel : ” Prepare war,” saith the Lord ; ” beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning-hooks into spears ; let the weak say, I am strong” (iii. 10). Now read Isa. ii. 4 : ” They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into priming-hooks ; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” We have here, in the literal sense of the Word, two divine commands and predictions the very opposite of each other. There is another striking instance in the New Testament of a precisely similar description, amounting to an apparent contradiction. In Luke it is said that ” the Lord hath visited us to guide our feet into the way of peace ” (i. 79) ; and we read that the angels sang at his nativity,” Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards men [or to men of good will] ” (ii. 14). But what does our blessed Lord himself say ? ” Think not that I am come to send peace on earth ; I came not to send peace, but a sword ” (Matt. x. 34).

Equally inexplicable in the letter only are two passages of similar import, which the Lord spake nearly at the same period to his disciples, one of which is recorded in Matt. xxvi. 52 : “All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword ; ” and the other in Luke xxii. 36, where He says, “He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.” By the mere letter these apparent contradictions never can be harmonized ; the spiritual sense can alone reconcile them. Every other mode of interpretation leaves them unexplained mysteries. How interesting and instructive, how plain and simple, how pure and true are all such passages when their hidden meaning is unfolded by the great law of correspondence ! As we read them, let us contemplate that triumph over sin and folly, in intention, thought, and deed, which must ever precede a state of internal peace, and which devout and humble faith in the Word of God, our armory and our ” quiver,” and ready obedience to its commands, always gives ; for doing this we have ” our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Eph. vi. 15). Let us think, therefore, of our spiritual warfare against evil and hell; “for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places ” (Eph. vi. 12). Let us think of the panoply of strength requisite to give us victory over all our inward foes and persecutors ” the helmet of salvation,” “the breastplate of righteousness,” ” the shield of faith,” “the sword of the Spirit,” “the spear” of true doctrine, the sharppointed arrows of truth, and ” the whole armor of God ” (Eph. vi. 10-17) ; clothed and armed with which we have to wage this inward combat, destroying, by the power of faith and love, all our spiritual enemies, young and old, before we can sit down in tranquillity before the Lord Jesus Christ can impart to our souls ” that peace which the world can neither give nor take away,” and all becomes at once luminous, intelligible and practical, and in the inspired language of the Psalmist we are ready to exclaim, ” Plead my cause, O Lord, with them that strive with me ; fight against them that fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for my help. Draw out also the spear, and stop the way against them that persecute me : say unto my soul, I am thy salvation ” (Ps. xxxv. 2, 3) ; ” Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty. Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies” (xlv. 3, 6) ; “Blessed be the Lord my strength, who teacheth my hands to war and my fingers to fight” (cxliv. 1), and to ascribe from the heart all the power and the glory to Him alone. “Thou, Lord, hast given me the shield of thy salvation : and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great. Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip. I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them : neither did I turn again till they were consumed. I have wounded them that they were not able to rise : they are fallen under my feet. For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle : thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me. The Lord liveth ; and blessed be my rock ; and let the Lord God of my salvation be exalted ” (Ps. xviii.35-39, 46).

Again : treating of the final destruction of all our spiritual enemies, the sacred prophet, addressing his divine deliverer, in whose name and by whose strength the regenerating Christian ever ” comes off more than conqueror,” says, ” Thou [O Lord, by thy Word] 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 ; and with thee will I break in pieces the horse and his rider ; with thee also will I break in pieces man and woman ; and with thee will I break in pieces old and young; and with thee will 1 break in pieces the young man and the maid ; I will also break in pieces with thee the shepherd and his flock ; and with thee will I break in pieces the husbandman and his yoke of oxen ; and with thee will I break in pieces captains and rulers ” (Jer. li. 20-23). It is in this, the true inward sense of temptation conflict, that the apostle Paul exhorts Timothy to fight the good fight of faith and lay hold on eternal life, and as an encouragement sets before him his own example and experience at the close of his ministry in these touching words : ” I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith : henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me at that day ; and not me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim. iv. 6-8).

In connection with this spiritual signification of warfare, and in further illustration of the science of correspondences, let me recall your attention to the battle fought by ” the children of Israel with the Amalekites ; ” and I allude to it thus specifically, because in the internal sense subjects of the most edifying tendency are presented before us, which yet do not appear on the surface of the history. Without some deeper meaning than that of the letter, it is nothing more than the narration of a battle and a victory, a descriptive scene of strife and bloodshed, together with a most remarkable intervention of Divine power. It is thus stated : ” Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim. And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek : to-morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand. So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek : and Moses, Aaron and Hur went up to the top of the hill. And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed : and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses hands were heavy ; and they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat thereon ; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side ; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword ” (Ex. xvii. 8-13). In the spiritual im port of this sacred history, it treats of a state in man s regeneration, or the gradual process by which he is saved from evil and hell. The hosts of Israel signify, collectively, the Lord’s church, and, individually, every sincere member of it, who, in consequence of the indefinite number of affections and thoughts, faculties and powers, constituent of the human mind, and the abundant principles of goodness and truth of which they may be receptive, is called ” a host.” The armies of Amalek signify those spiritual adversaries which, with deadly animosity, oppose our progress towards the kingdom of God, or in the attainment of a heavenly state of mind and life, represented by the land of Canaan. These implacable enemies of our salvation include not only ” the principalities and powers of darkness,” but all those false principles and selfish persuasions springing from the love of evil, those disorderly tempers and unclean thoughts, those malicious dispositions and cruel lusts, in which they delight to dwell.

The battle, therefore, in every particular recorded, was so described in the Word of God as to represent the spiritual conflict between the powers of heaven and hell which is waged in every bosom in the course of regeneration ; the means which can alone be effectually employed for the soul s deliverance, and the certain victory to be obtained through perseverance in the Christian course. The fact of Joshua marshalling Israel s hosts, and, under the direction of Moses, leading them forth to the combat, represented the authority of the truth adapted to the natural man, which arranges all within the mind in due order, under the immediate direction of the truth, adapted to the spiritual man, derived from the spirit of the Holy Word, signified by Moses. The battle was fought in a valley, and a valley means the low state of the natural mind, where opposition to heavenly things is always to be met, and which is called elsewhere ” the valley of decision ” (Joel iii. 14). The success of the battle is not made to depend either on the personal valor of the combatants or on the military skill of their leaders, but on the singular circumstance of the hands of Moses being ” held up” towards heaven or ” let down” towards the earth, as he stood or sat on the top of a neighboring hill. The hands always mean ability or power, both of the understanding and the will, the former being signified by the left hand and the latter by the right ; and the hands of Moses signify the power of truth derived from the Word when received in the mind, and also the faculties of apprehending and obeying it.

A hill, in contradistinction to a valley, denotes a state of charity or love actuated by lofty or heavenly motives, in opposition to such as are low, carnal, or grovelling. This is the hill of blessing, the source of all spiritual strength, that girds us for the battle. ” I will lift up mine eyes to the hills,” saith the Psalmist, ” from whence cometh my help” (Psalm cxxi. 1). The holding up of the hands of Moses was an impressive figure of the lifting up, by the power of truth, of all the inward faculties of the soul towards the Lord, that they may be constantly renewed and invigorated by the divine energy and life. “Let us lift up our hearts with our hands unto God in the heavens” (Lam. iii. 41). But the letting down of his hands will represent a decline of the mental faculties towards the earthly nature, or towards those objects of self and the world, which are beneath, thus, the substitution of self-will for the Divine Will, of self- intelligence for the Divine Wisdom, and of self-dependence for the Divine Providence. The heaviness of the hands of Moses denotes man s proneness to rest on his own power, in the hour of danger and temptation ; and that even truth, however vivid may be its impression on the memory and intellect, is, in such a season of self-reliance, drawn downwards towards earthly objects and sensual pursuits, and is then powerless against the armies of Amalek, which, notwithstanding its presence, prevails overthe hosts of Israel. ” Aaron and Hur,” therefore, we learn, ” took a stone and placed it under Moses, and stayed up both his hands, till the going down of the sun, and Amalek was discomfited.”

Aaron and Hur, the servants and priests of the Most High God, represent the varied principles of faith, accommodated to the outward and to the inward man, the truth believed from affection and rationally perceived. These are the ministers of the Lord in the soul, the only principles that can aid and support the sinking, the desponding mind, in the time of spiritual warfare. They are the reactive agents, in unison with the operations of God, for the promotion of our salvation, essential mediums of spiritual victory in the hour of trial. The stone placed under Moses signifies the truth, which inculcates a life of order in the use of the senses, and is thus a support to the divine law in the Word, which rests thereon, and is, in the letter, often meant by a ” stone ” or ” rock.” Such a consistent life is the real prop and support of all inward truth and goodness, and is absolutely essential to preserve them from being wasted. The hands of Moses being firmly sustained till the going down of the sun, signifies that such elevation of man s inward powers and gifts, both of reason and freedom, of thought and will, must be perseveringly maintained, till the state of spiritual conflict here treated of is terminated. Then our enemies being vanquished, we shall build, like the triumphant and grateful Israelites of old, the altar of true spiritual worship in our hearts, inscribing it with the holy name, ” JEHOVAH NISSI” (the Lord my banner), in the heartfelt acknowledgment that all power to resist evil and do good comes from the Lord alone, who has solemnly proclaimed that ” He will have war with Amalek from generation to generation” (Ex. xvii. 16).