Anvil and Cross

As the English preacher Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) said, "The anvil is not afraid of the hammer."

Anvils in the workshop

Anvil and Cross

Before welding and steam hammers became the favoured method of metal workers in the early 20th century, the anvil was one of the basic tools of artisans such as blacksmiths.

This ancient piece of equipment retains much of its value today in the 21st century, not only by farriers and by craftsmen in developing countries, but in any location or situation where more modern equipment is unavailable or impractical. 

In heraldry

In heraldry therefore, the anvil might be the emblem of a smith's trade, and such trades have customarily been regarded most honourably. We say "might be", because catalogues indicate it is a relatively uncommon heraldic charge.

However, in a Christian context, the anvil takes on a very special meaning.

In Christianity

The anvil adorns a cross in the emblem used by the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) . Their website explains:

Anvil and Cross

The Anvil ... has a symbolic and a historical meaning which must be noted by all who call themselves African Methodist. OUR beginnings emerged from the depths of racism and bigotry and when our founding fathers chose to stay with Methodism they purchased a blacksmith's shop and converted it into their house of worship; they called it BETHEL, meaning "House of God." In the blacksmith's shop was an anvil used to pound and shape metal ores into a usable and functioning object. And, as any blacksmith will tell you, hammers may wear down, and many a man may loose [sic] his life to the exhaustion from the hard work of being a blacksmith, but the Anvil never fails. A man only need to purchase one in his or her entire lifetime, and it continues to last through MANY lifetimes. So it is with God; He cannot be beaten down and He is Eternal. The Anvil represents our beginning and the lasting Strength of our Lord and Saviour that never ceases.

The Cross and the Anvil: Our Salvation and our Strength. Our beginnings in a blacksmith shop and our eternal ending in God's heavenly realm.

Now, many churches have emblems which incorporate various symbols; the Lutherans and the Presbyterians, for example. But those adornments almost invariably help focus on particular theological beliefs. In contrast, the anvil of the AME symbolises something more sociological.

The AME was founded at a time when racial discrimination and segregation was the norm, even in the relatively liberal Methodist Church. John Wesley himself was staunchly anti-slavery and yet in US Methodist churches, it was difficult for African-Americans to remind the white congregation that God loves all men equally.

Jesus himself was probably not very white, yet racism still exists in the Church.

Yes, one of the lowest of low-tech equipment still has value. Not only to humans but also to other primates and even birds, who smash open shells on anvil stones. If Darwinians are correct, chimpanzees and eagles might one day build steam hammers.

African Methodist Episcopal Church main website:

Meaning of the cross and anvil:

The anvil could relate the methods used to both enslave people and to release them from bondage. See also "binding and loosing" with the Keys or Heaven


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