Onward Christian Soldiers marching as to comfort?

in General on February 20, 2013

Every now and then I’ll go on a buying spree on Amazon. I’ll buy a book I know will burn revival in me. Then I’ll start on the trail, clicking some of the books others have bought. If you do that a few times you end up looking at books you’ve never heard of and are mostly out of print. More often than not, these books are terribly difficult to read because they were written by a bearded old man who sat in his study 5 days a week smoking a tobacco pipe and reading biblical commentaries. The only breaks they took were to go outside and chop firewood. They speak in olde English and swear the King James Version of the Bible is the only version worth reading. If I were to get into a biblical debate with one of these men they would surely shred my knowledge of the Bible and I would possibly end up weeping in the corner being told I know nothing of the depravity of man, etc. So why read these books? Because, usually contained in them is something so profound, so revolutionary, so transformational that it changes you by revealing a facet of the Lord’s character you were unaware of. So, as I’ve been studying the Whole Armor of God which Paul talks about in Ephesians 6 – I pulled out “The Whole Armor of God” by Ralph W. Sockman. After quoting some shakespeare he pulls out this punch to the face: “When we compare the sacrifices of the early Christians with our own, we see how soft and easy we have made religion. Dean Inge of St. Paul’s London, was a man of piercing intellect and mordant wit. He realized the contrast between heroism of Christ’s first followers and the softness of our comfort-seeking churches. He suggested that a change should be made in a certain familiar hymn. The hymn goes like this:

They climbed the steep ascent of heav’n, Thro’ peril, toil, and pain: O God, to us may grace be given To follow in their train!
Dean Inge’s suggestion is that the last lines of the stanza should read:
O God, to us may grace be given To follow by the train.
Yes, we follow by Pullman where the pioneer saints trod with blood and sweat and tears. There is such obvious irony in likening conventional modern churchmen with the early soldiers of Christ that we are loath to sing the old crusading hymns of the church. As a lad I was stirred by the strains of “Onward, Christian Soldiers.” But now I see the difficulty of singing:
Like a mighty army Moves the Church of God; Brothers, we are treading Where the saints have trod.
You see, we do not try to recruit members for the church as if they were enlisting in an army. Whereas the early Christians heard the call of Christ as the summons of a commander to battle, the popular trend of our day is to invite men to church as a salesman calls to a bargain. … As has been said, the tendency of the modern church is to take out the cross and put in cushions.” How do we present christianity? As even more of a challenge, mainly to me, I’ll leave the lyrics of one of my favorite hymns.
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord: He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored; He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword: His truth is marching on. I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps, They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps; I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps: His truth is marching on. I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel: “As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal; Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel, his truth is marching on.” He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat; He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat: Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet! Our God is marching on. In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea, With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me: As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free, While God is marching on. He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave, He is Wisdom to the mighty, He is Succour to the brave, So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of Time His slave, Our God is marching on. Glory, glory, hallelujah! Glory, glory, hallelujah! Glory, glory, hallelujah! Our God is marching on.

Categories: General

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