Egremont Castle

I called at Egremont Castle last week. This Cumbrian fortress is now a ruin, frequented by the town’s juveniles who frolic in its shadow. Among the ancient stones grow flowers, and from its motte exotic trees. The castle was built by a great crusader, William Meschin, lord of Egremont, Allerdale and Skipton in the 1120s. He had participated in the First Crusade, which established a Roman Catholic kingdom in Palestine at the Muslim Saracens’ expense. Sir Eustace and Hubert de Lucy, later occupants of the castle, joined subsequent crusades, while Anthony de Lucy fought with the Teutonic Knights against the pagan Lithuanians. He became the famous St Bees Man, for his fallen body having returned intact from that great fight.

It seems strange that a remote, northern castle should be so well associated with religious wars waged the other side of the continent or world. Modern Christians are ashamed of these military exploits fought in the name of Christ and for the many atrocities they justified. Scripture makes it clear that we battle not against flesh and blood ‘but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.’ (Ephesians 6:12). Yet these Cumbrian barons' martial spirit, so acutely directed for (what they supposed to be) God’s honour, may still offer prescient instruction. We Christians at Salem Chapel, and similar places besides, are engaged in spiritual combat and holy war. When we pray, the heavens open and the demons flee; when gospel truth is proclaimed, dark forces recoil and shudder. I pray we shall not become as ruined as Egremont Castle, but that we might rather replicate its strength and owners’ soldierly zeal.

This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare. 1 Timothy 1:18