Faith And Works
( Originally Published 1902 )
IN the year 891 the Danes invaded the kingdom of the West Saxons, bent on conquest and the extinction of Christianity. Ethelred was king of the Saxons, and commanded one wing of his army, while his brother and successor, Alfred, commanded the other force. The opposing armies encamped near one another at Aescesdune, resting in readiness for the decisive battle, which should be fought the next day. At early dawn, Ethelred gathered all his officers into his tent for worship, assured that the issue of the day would depend upon the favor of heaven. Alfred was eager for the contest, and drew his men up in battle array, inciting them to courage. Impatient at his brother's delay, he went out to meet the Danes and fought with marvelous skill and courage, but was facing probable defeat, when Ethelred, his devotions ended, marched to his assistance, and together they turned the tide of defeat into victory and checked the progress of the invader.
Some think that it was the prayers of Ethelred, and others that it was the soldiers of Alfred that gave victory that day. The praying and the fighting were both necessary to success. The prayer for divine help and the sharp steel of the men were both arms of God in the conflict. The Anglo-Saxon since that fight has waged wars for which there can be no justification ; but he has also fought many just battles for liberty and God, in which his overcoming faith and keen sword have been factors equally essential. In the Christian conflict, faith without works is death, works without faith are death, but faith and works are life. We are to watch and fight and pray.