“Spurgeon and Shakespeare” – COVID Era Devotion, Day 36

Brothers and Sisters,

I’m continuing today on the martial note sounded by yesterday’s devotion with its reference the United States Air Force Academy, Class of 2020.  I’m doing so because of what I read last night in Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening.  Some of you may know Spurgeon.  He served as a preacher, teacher, and pastor in Victorian-era London during the latter half of the 19th century.  Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening is a devotional book with two entries for every date on the calendar (one to be read in the morning, and one to be read at night).  I don’t pick it up every day, but last night and I did, and I found myself reading Spurgeon’s brief meditation on 1 Samuel 18:17, a portion of which he quotes as follows: “Fight the Lord’s battles.”

I want to reproduce Spurgeon’s words for you below, but, as I do, I want to add in one other element.  I want to weave into Spurgeon some of the lines from one of my favorite speeches in all of literature, namely Shakespeare’s “Saint Crispin’s Day Speech” from Henry V.  Shakespeare and Spurgeon are somewhat odd literary companions, but, after all, they are both Englishmen!  For years I’ve loved the Saint Crispin’s Day speech, but it has about it a certain worldliness.  That worldliness necessarily limits the degree to which one’s heart can soar with the poet.  But, if we place Shakespeare’s language within the context of Spurgeon’s sanctified meditation, then perhaps the preacher can redeem the poet.  Perhaps Shakespeare can find a new and better life when put in the context of true reality.  With that said, here goes (Note: Spurgeon shows up below in italics, and Shakespeare in normal font):

The sacramental host of God’s elect is warring still on earth, Jesus Christ being the Captain of their salvation.

If we are mark’d to die, we are enow

To do our country loss; and if to live,

The fewer men, the greater share of honor.

God’s will!  I pray thee, wish not one man more.

By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,

Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;

It yearns me not if men my garments wear;

Such outward things dwell not in my desires:

But if it be a sin to covet honor,

I am the most offending soul alive.

He has said, “Lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Hark to the shouts of war! Now let the people of God stand fast in their ranks, and let no man’s heart fail him. It is true that just now in England the battle is turned against us, and unless the Lord Jesus shall lift his sword, we know not what may become of the church of God in this land; but let us be of good courage, and play the man.

 No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England:

God’s peace!  I would not lose so great an honour

As one man more, methinks, would share from me

For the best hope I have.  O, do not wish one more!

Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,

That he which hath no stomach to this fight,

Let him depart; his passport shall be made

And crowns for convoy put into his purse:

We would not die in that man’s company

That fears his fellowship to die with us…

There never was a day when Protestantism seemed to tremble more in the scales than now that a fierce effort is in the making to restore the Romish antichrist to his ancient seat. We greatly want a bold voice and a strong hand to preach and publish the old gospel for which martyrs bled and confessors died. The Saviour is, by his Spirit, still on earth; let this cheer us. He is ever in the midst of the fight, and therefore the battle is not doubtful. And as the conflict rages, what a sweet satisfaction it is to know that the Lord Jesus, in his office as our great Intercessor, is prevalently pleading for his people! O anxious gazer, look not so much at the battle below, for there thou shalt be enshrouded in smoke, and amazed with garments rolled in blood; but lift thine eyes yonder where the Saviour lives and pleads, for while he intercedes, the cause of God is safe. Let us fight as if it all depended upon us, but let us look up and know that all depends upon him. 

 But we in it shall be remembered;

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,

This day shall gentle his condition:

And gentlemen in England now a-bed

Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks

That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

Now, by the lilies of Christian purity, and by the roses of the Saviour’s atonement, by the roes and by the hinds of the field, we charge you who are lovers of Jesus, to do valiantly in the Holy War, for truth and righteousness, for the kingdom and crown jewels of your Master. Onward! “for the battle is not yours but God’s.”

(Back to P.J.’s voice now) Maybe this interweaving works for you, maybe not.  But, if nothing else, you can head for sleep tonight able to say that you read both Spurgeon and Shakespeare on the same day.  How often does that happen?  I trust that somewhere in the middle one or both helped you to think true things about Jesus.

In Christ,

P.J.

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