They are not Valiant-for-the-truth upon the earth. (Jer. 9:3)
A superficial glance at the man would write him off as a flashy swashbuckler. He does wear well the dashing swordsman’s hat of the times, is covered with a steel breastplate, topped with a tough, hard leather jacket, and stands with a naked sword in his hand. However, there is a patch in his left trouser leg, his right sleeve has been, by an opponent, slit from shoulder to wrist, and a long gash appears on the right side of his face just over the eye, extending down to the corner of the mouth. The man is no novice, but a veteran, with battle scars covering him from head to foot. The facial expression is kindly, loving, yet somewhat sad, with regular, utterly masculine features illuminated with bright, uncompromising eyes. The weapon carried is no parade or dress sword, but a beautiful, deadly double-edged instrument of destruction. The other hand, gesturing, calls attention to the Book, the Word of God, thus graphically indicating what sword it really is he carries, and what cause he is ready to fight for to the death. This is no diplomat, no politician, no neutral waving a flag of truce. As he indicates from His Book, his orders are to grip his sword, then go out and fight.
This is Mr. Valiant-for-truth. He is a pilgrim and a stranger in the earth, coming out of Darkland, the peninsula where the chief port is the City of Destruction. His recent wounds were received when attacked in Dead Man’s Lane by three enemies of the truth, Wildhead, Inconsiderate and Pragmatic. Others tried approaching these enemies with “negotiation” and “dialog,” but they are dead now. Such tactics do not work in Darkland or anywhere else against the implacable rage of the ubiquitous Amalakites. He is a picture of a man going to heaven, sword in hand all the way. For one must fight to get there, fight his way over the dead bodies of the world, the flesh and the devil.
When Mr. Great-heart examined the sword of Valiant-for-truth, he called it “a right Jerusalem blade.” In former days, Toledo and Damascus blades were famous. Warriors found that if they did not have one of these they were in grave danger in battle. A bamboo sword can pierce like an arrow to cut through flesh and bone, but may be cut down to a tooth-pick by a steel blade. Rigid steel may shatter on contact with armor, leaving little more than sword handle and hilt in the hand. The Arab felt he must have a sword both flexible and able to withstand shock of impact, to continue in its stroke to cleave steel helmet and head beneath. Valiant’s sword was forged in the heavenly Jerusalem. It is the sword of the Spirit, for it is of His own making. He uses no weapon of human workmanship, lest the sword boast against the hand that wields it. So the Holy Spirit made this Book we use. Every page bears His initial. The weapon is divinely made.
In that dark lane in Darkland, Valiant- for-truth was first attacked by Wildhead. He had his head full of proud lies and heresies. Heresies are but the natural man’s thoughts expressed in bold opinions sparked with wit and gotten up in attractive philosophical form. We all have a heretic in our hearts, and by nature are prepared to drink in and spout out all kinds of lies and errors, as we are said to speak lies from birth (Ps. 58:3) because that is our nature. There is a pope in every man’s heart, said Luther. So we are born Pelagians, Libertines, Papists and Atheists. As to the latter, Wildhead was full of it. “The fool hath said in his heart, ‘There is no god!’ (Ps. 14:1). Never-the-less, he was loaded with Gentilism, the doctrine of many gods. “There be gods many,” he concluded. For whatever we fear or love that we worship. The natural man is a pagan and an idolater. Being Pelagian, it is natural he would deny original sin and the imputation of Adam’s sin to all men. Pelagius, naturally, thought the natural man was basically good. The man on the street Pelagianizes, “All these things have I kept from my youth up!” The doctrine of works and merit as exclusively the only real grace is in every man’s heart. Chance, fortune and free will in opposition to God’s decrees are man’s natural opinions. The Jew who naturally abhors idols (Rom. 2:22) in one breath says, “Shalom leka, ve-mazel tov!” Peace to you, and, oh yeah, good luck!
A cohort of Wildhead’s was Inconsiderate, kin to “green-headed Ignorance.” He loved to come up with conjectural theologizings, a euphemism for the thoughts of the ignorant. He preached Free Will with a vengeance in his favorite texts, “Cast away their cords” and “who is lord over us?” (Ps. 2:3; 12:4). Inconsiderate would not be zealous lest he be accounted bitter. He led people to lose doctrine in wranglings about discipline, and vice versa. He could talk very piously, sing as beautifully as a Mormon, and with such clever shuffles cheat his hearers of the gospel. Go along with Inconsiderate, and you degenerate to ridiculous superstitions, you get tangled up in a little bundle of silly, pompous ceremonies, and you slide along with the long stream of generations ignorant of what the gospel is all about.
The third in the treacherous trio against Valiant-for-truth was Pragmatic. He did not see any objective truth. To him, “truth” is only the worth of an idea. That is “true” which at the moment is the best our thinking can produce, and that is “good and right” which at the moment is the most advantageous behavior. Advantage is whatever is the style, the fashion, the facility. “Truth” is not concerned with precise thought, but with practical results. “Truth” is not concerned with eternal principles, but with present facts and future consequences. Mr. Pragmatic would not ask, as Mr. Scholastic, What is the thing? to lose it in quibbles. He would not as Darwin ask, What is its origin? to get lost in nebulas. Mr. Pragmatic asks, What are its consequences? He deems thought valuable only as it proves useful, facing the future with action. Valiant-for-truth was hard put to it, fighting off these enemies. “This kind goeth not out but with prayer and fasting.”
Some people are valiant for anything or everything but the truth. But Valiant-for-truth was concerned not for trivial matters, but for the one great thing: The Truth! Pride may lead a man to strive and contend for just a different mode of expression, which may result in stirring up a great noise over a mistake. Foolishness may cause some to wrangle over small matters, endangering the communion of saints. People are never so furious as when they have least ground and reason for what they assert. Where there is fundamental agreement, private differences in smaller matters should not make us break off from one another. We could say, Mr. Itch-for-disputing and Mr. Zeal-for-an-opinion, rather than the essentials of Reformed Truth, are bad characters. What a character he is who, though in the right, thinks all religion and piety is within the compass of his opinions! He succeeds to the extreme of being “righteous overmuch.”
But Valiant-for-truth did earnestly contend for the fundamentals and the essentials of the faith. He was concerned with keeping them in their entirely and without any corruption of them, he acted on the principle that ignorance of the truth is damnable, and its denial heretical. The one great fundamental principle of Reformed-truth is the absolute sovereignty of God. That leads us to the fundamental truth of the doctrine of creation (in six days out of nothing), and the correlative of that, God’s providence, then the other fundamentals, the fall of man, his misery because of sin, deliverance by Christ, the necessity of regeneration, the infallibility of Holy Scripture, the mystery and union of the two natures in the divine person of the Son, the return of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, the final judgment and the life everlasting. These are matters of the greatest moment, to mention but a few of them. For these we are to be valiant.
It was Great heart who, commenting on Valiant-for-truth’s cuts and wounds received in the battle for truth, said, “Thou hast resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” He not only earnestly contended for the faith, but was ready to die for the faith. When we come across one like this character we are brought to pray not only for laborers, but for champions, for not only such as can handle the trowel, but the sword in the church’s battles.