The mortal world a field is of battle
Which is the cause that strife doth never fail
Against man, by warring of the flesh
With the devil, that always fighteth fresh
The spirit to oppress by false envy;
The which conflict is continually
During his life, and like to lose the field.
But he be armed with weapon and shield
Such as behoveth to a christian knight,
Where God each one, by his Christ chooseth right
Sole captain, and his standard to bear.
Who knoweth it not, then this will teach him here
In his brevyer, poynarde, or manual
The love shewing of high Emanuell.
In giving us such harness of war
Erasmus is the only furbisher
Scouring the harness, cankered and adust
Which negligence had so sore fret with rust
Then champion receive as thine by right
The manual of the true christian knight.
– Desiderius Erasmus
The importance of the Christian soldier echoes through history. Winston Churchill saw the Christian soldier as the sure hope of the world in 1941. George Washington called his men to this way of life in 1776. Jesus Christ himself was impressed by the faith of a Roman Centurion in the first century? What did it mean to be a Christian soldier then and what does it mean now?
I first discovered the Enchridion Militis Christiani a few years ago reading Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s book, On Combat, which offered a ten point summary of the work calling it the Guide for the Righteous Protector. The presentation in On Combat is brief, and in the spirit of The Ten Ancient Principles, makes the secular case for the benefits of Biblical truth. This approach lets the information into places that it would not otherwise be accepted, however, the work is not secular at all. Desiderius Erasmus was a Catholic priest and theologian who clearly had Christ in mind when he penned it in 1501. Although it is over 500 years old, I hope you will appreciate the relevance today of these 22 rules in Erasmus’ Manual of a Christian Knight.
Rule #1 – Increase Your Faith
Rule #2 – Act on Your Faith
Rule #3 – Analyze Your Fears
Rule #4 – Make Christ the Only Goal of Your Life
Rule #5 – Turn Away from Material Things
Rule #6 – Train Your Mind to Distinguish the True Nature of Good and Evil
Rule #7 – Never Let any Setback Stop You in Your Quest
Rule #8 – Face Temptation with God, not with Worry
Rule #9 – Always Be Prepared for Attack
Rule #10 – Always Be Prepared for Temptation
Rule #11 – Guard Against Two Dangers; Surrender and Pride
Rule #12 – Turn your Weakness into Strength
Rule #13 – Treat Each Battle as if it Were Your Last
Rule #14 – Virtue does not Permit Vice
Rule #15 – Weigh Your Alternatives Clearly
Rule #16 – Never, Never, Never Give Up
Rule #17 – Always Have a Plan of Action
Rule #18 – Always Consider the Consequences of Your Actions
Rule #19 – Apply the “Would-My-Loved-Ones-Approve” Test
Rule #20 – Virtue has its Own Reward
Rule #21 – Life is Hard and Quick, Make it Count
Rule #22 – Repent of Your Wrongs
For the complete text as translated from the original latin, click here.
About the artwork: Albrecht Dürer, Knight, Death and the Devil.
‘Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil’ (Psalm 23), could be a caption for this engraving. The horseman is the ‘knight of Christ’, a phrase that Dürer was to use of his contemporary Erasmus of Rotterdam, who had written a Handbook of the Christian Soldier in 1501. Death is at the horse’s feet in the form of a skull, beside the plaque with Dürer’s monogram. Death is also the ghastly corpse without nose or lips, who holds a hourglass up to the knight as a reminder that his time on earth is limited. The knight rides on, looking neither to the right, left, nor backwards, where the Devil, with an ingratiating grin, seems powerless while ignored. High above this dark forest rises a safe stronghold, apparently the destination of the knight’s journey.