“Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall: the archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: but his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob.” Genesis 49:22, 23, 24
One would have thought that Joseph being a fruitful bough could have looked with complacency, almost with holy scorn, upon these archers who shot at him, but it was not so; “they sorely grieved him.” To be sold by his own brethren into Egypt; the dreams and visions God had given him to be derided; to be cast into prison as an ungodly man through the very person who was tempting him to ungodliness, and there to be neglected and forsaken; how these archers had shot their arrows against his bosom, and sorely grieved him! It was because he had the fear of God, because his feelings were tender, that the arrows found a place. Had he had a bosom of steel, had he had a heart of stone, the arrows would have fallen off blunted and pointless; but it was because he had tender feelings, a living conscience, warm affections, godly fear, and a work of grace upon his soul, that he presented a tender spot for these arrows to stick in; therefore the archers not only “hated him, but shot at him, and sorely grieved him.” But did they prove his destruction? Did any one drain his life blood? Did he sink and die like a wounded hart? Did he fall upon the plain and gasp out his forlorn life? No; for “his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob.” He then had a bow; he could shoot too. And what was his bow? and how did he direct the arrow? He picked up the arrows that were shot at him, or rather he took them out of his own wounded bosom; and instead of aiming these shafts against those who had so sorely grieved him, he shot upward; he launched his arrows towards the throne of the Majesty on high; he turned their bitter shafts into prayers, supplications, and petitions. Thus the very arrows shot at him he turned into petitions wherewith to approach the throne of God. He drew his bow even up to the heaven of heavens; and that is what you should do. Never return evil for evil; never return railing for railing. When you are shot at by the archers, do not shoot at them again. Take your arrows and bring them before the throne; present your feelings wounded as they are, your groans and sighs, with your warm petitions, and spread them before God, who hears and answers prayer; and you will find the benefit and blessing of it. They will beat you at shooting if you shoot at them. They can use language that you cannot. A man of birth and education, drawn into collision with a street ruffian, cannot bandy words with him; he must pass on; he would soon be beaten in the strife of words. So you must never shoot arrow against arrow with those archers who sorely grieve you. You have a tender conscience; you have the fear of God; you weigh your words; you know what will grieve your mind when it comes back upon you, and you are therefore sparing of your speech. Cease from that war; return not a single arrow, let them shoot away, take their arrows, direct your bow upward, turn them all into prayers and supplications, and in due time sweet answers of mercy and peace will come into your bosom. Thus Joseph’s bow “abode in strength,” and all their arrows neither struck his bow out of his hand, nor broke it asunder. He could shoot as well as they, but not in the same way nor at the same object. We see, then, Joseph’s fruitfulness; we see the source of it; we see the persecutions his soul was grieved by; and we see the final victory that he gained. God of his infinite mercy lead our souls into the same blessed track, apply his truth to our hearts, that our bow may abide in strength, and that the arms of our hands may be made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.” Mark 4:28
Faith, I believe, has in it always a measure of assurance. For what is assurance? It is merely the larger growth and fuller development of faith. The nature of assurance is much misunderstood. It is often considered something distinct from faith. This is not the case. It is merely faith in a fuller, larger development. The word “assurance” in the original has a very simple, yet beautiful meaning. It means literally “a full bearing;” and the word is applied sometimes to a large crop of corn or fruit, and sometimes to the tide coming in with a fuller wave. Now it is the same corn which grows in the fields, whether the crop be much or little; it is the same tide that comes up the river whether in a scanty or full flow. So it is with assurance and faith: it is the same faith, only increased, enlarged, bearing more abundant fruit, or flowing in a more abundant tide. Assurance in Scripture is not confined to faith; there is “the full assurance of understanding” (Col. 2:2), that is, a fuller measure and amount, a greater enlargement of understanding to know the truth of God. The understanding is the same; but there is a larger measure of it. So there is the full assurance of hope, that is, a hope strengthened and enlarged, bearing more fruit and flowing in a fuller tide. But it is the same hope; the same in kind, though larger in degree; a stronger anchor, and yet an anchor still (Heb. 6:19). Similarly there is the full assurance of faith (Heb. 10:22), that is, a larger, fuller measure of faith; a richer crop, a more abundant tide. Thus you have a measure of the assurance of faith if you have faith at all. In fact, if you have no assurance of the truth of these things, why do you follow after them? Why do you hang upon them, why do you hope in them, and why do you seek the power and experience of them in your soul? Have you not arrived at this point yet? “We have not followed cunningly devised fables; these things that I am following after are realities; these objects set before me are certainties.” I grant that you may be much exercised about your interest in them. Still, unless you know that they are certainties, why do you believe them? Why are you anxious to know your interest in them? Why do you sink in doubt and fear for want of clearer evidences of an interest in them? And why do you spring up in peace and joy the moment that a little light from them beams upon your soul, and a little sweetness out of them drops into your heart? Because you know that these things are realities. So far then you have an assurance that they are certainties, and in due time, as God is pleased, you will have the assurance in your own breast, not only that they are certainties, but that you have them in your own sure and certain possession.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3
If you are blessed with all spiritual blessings, it is only “in Christ” you are so blessed. If you were chosen before the foundation of the world, it was only “in Christ” that you were chosen. He is our covenant Head. What we are we are only in him. There is nothing in self; no fixedness there. All is fluctuating here below; all is uncertain as regards man. Certainty is with God; and the fixedness of God’s purposes is our grand, our only support. Thus the doctrine of election received into the heart diffuses a sacred blessedness over the whole truth of God, for it gives stability to it. It is not a dry doctrine which men may toss about from hand to hand like a tennis ball; it is not an article of a creed written down in church articles, or a theory to be argued by divines. Nor is it a mere loose, floating idea gathered from a few dim and doubtful passages of God’s word. It is no ignis fatuus, no meteor light dancing over morasses and swamps. It is a steady light set by the hand of God in the Scriptures, as he set of old lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth. It therefore diffuses its rays over the whole of God’s truth. For it is “in Christ” his people were chosen, and therefore election being in Christ, it is reflected with all the beams of the Sun of righteousness upon every gospel truth. There is not a single gospel truth, or a single spiritual blessing, which does not derive its blessedness from its connection with the Person and work of the Son of God; and what is true of all, is true of this, that the blessedness of election is because it is “in Christ.”
But some may say, “These things are hard to believe.” They are very hard to believe, for our unbelieving heart finds it very hard to believe anything that is for our good. We can believe Satan’s lies with great readiness; we can give an open, willing ear to anything which our evil heart suggests. But to believe God’s truths so as to enter into their beauty and blessedness, to feel their quickening power, and live under their cheering, invigorating influence, this is another matter. But where is the life of our religion when these things are taken away from it? Take, if you could take—God be praised it is beyond the reach of human hand!—but take away that solemn fact, that God has blessed the Church with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, where would there be room for any blessing to rest upon our soul? Why, any sweet promise that comes rolling into your breast, any lifting up of the light of God’s countenance in seasons of darkness and adversity, any liberty in prayer, any looking up and receiving out of Christ’s fulness; all hang upon this grand point, the blessings wherewith God hath already blessed us in Christ Jesus. So that all we have to do—and it is a great thing to do—God alone can enable us to do it—is to receive what God has been pleased so mercifully to give; and as he has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, to feel their power, to enjoy their sweetness, and to know for ourselves by the sealing of the Spirit that he has blessed us, even us, and that with life for evermore.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“And Enoch walked with God.” Genesis 5:24
The chief way whereby we walk with God is by faith, and not by sight. Abraham walked in this way. Unbelief severs the soul from God. There is no communion between God and an infidel. An unbelieving heart has no fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ; but a believing heart has communion with him. It is by faith that we have fellowship with God and his dear Son; and you will find that just in proportion to the strength or weakness of your faith is your walking with God. If you have faith in blessed exercise, as you look to the atoning blood, you find that you can walk with God; you can pour out your heart before him, tell him all your concerns, spread before him the inmost movements of your mind, and look to him for peace and consolation. But when your faith is weak, when it gives way under trial, and cannot take hold of the promises, then communion is interrupted; there is no longer a walking with God. But in proportion as faith is strong, so there is a walking with God in sweet agreement; for faith keeps eyeing the atonement; faith looks not so much to sin, as to salvation from sin; at the way whereby sin is pardoned, overcome, and subdued. So it is by faith, and in proportion to our faith, that we walk together with God.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“But in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” 1 Corinthians 2:4
In human reasoning, demonstration cannot usually be obtained except in mathematics, but not so in divine. There grace outshines and exceeds nature, for the teaching and testimony of the blessed Spirit is always demonstrative, that is, convincing beyond the possibility of doubt. It is not demonstration simply we require, not demonstration of the word, as if there were some innate proof and power in the word itself to demonstrate its own truth, though doubtless it is so when the Spirit shines upon it, but it is the “demonstration of the Spirit.” This is very necessary to observe, for you will often hear the word of God spoken of, as if the Bible possessed not only demonstrative proof of its own inspiration, but was able to give that demonstration to the souls of men. But the demonstration not of the word but of the Spirit in, through, and by the word, is the thing wanted to convert sinners and satisfy saints. This is proof indeed, not cold and hard like mathematical demonstration, but warm, living, softening, and sanctifying, being the very light, life, and power of God himself in the soul. Now Paul’s preaching was this demonstration of the Spirit. The Spirit of God speaking in him and by him, so demonstrated the truth of what he preached that it came, as he elsewhere speaks, “not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance” (1 Thess. 1:5). There are now no Pauls; and, yet, unless we have a measure of the same demonstration of the Spirit, all that is said by us in the pulpit drops to the ground; it has no real effect; there is no true or abiding fruit—no fruit unto eternal life. If there be in it some enticing words of man’s wisdom, it may please the mind of those who are gratified by such arts; it may stimulate and occupy the attention for the time; but there it ceases, and all that has been heard fades away like a dream of the night; and, as regards the family of God, we may apply to all such preaching the words of the prophet: “It shall even be as when an hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty: or as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite” (Isaiah 29:8). But anything which is communicated by the Holy Ghost, which is demonstrated by the Spirit to your soul, which is brought into your heart with light, life, and power, sealed and witnessed by that sacred Teacher and divine Comforter; that abides, you take it home with you; it comforts you, not only at the time, but when you look back to it in days to come; it is a bright spot in your soul’s experience, when you can believe that then and there God was pleased to bless his word to your soul, and seal it home with a sweet influence upon your conscience. This is “demonstration of the Spirit.”
And where there is this, there is “power:” for the Apostle adds, “and of power.” The grand distinguishing mark of the kingdom of God is that “it is not in word, but in power.” Thus power is given to believe in the Son of God, and we cannot believe truly and savingly in him till power is put forth; power to receive the Lord in all his covenant characters and gracious relationships in the gospel of his grace; power to believe that what God has done he does for ever; power to come out of every doubt and fear into the blessed light and liberty of the truth which maketh free.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom.” 1 Corinthians 2:4
It is not the work of the Spirit to produce doubts and fears, but to overcome them. And yet we are continually subject to them. Infidel thoughts fly across the mind; doubts and questionings suggest themselves Satan is busy in plying his arguments; a guilty conscience falls too readily under his accusations; painful recollections of past slips, falls, and backslidings strengthen the power of unbelief, so that to come to a spot wherein there is not the least shadow of a doubt of divine realities, and, what is far more, of our own interest in them, is a rare circumstance, and only attainable at those favoured moments when the Lord is pleased to shine into the soul and settle the matter between himself and our conscience. But these very doubts, these very questionings, these cutting, killing fears, these anxious surmisings work together for good, and are mercifully overruled for our spiritual benefit. What else has brought us to this point that nothing short of demonstration will satisfy the soul really born and taught of God? It must have demonstration: nothing else will do. We cannot live and die upon uncertainties. It won’t do to be always in a state that we don’t know whether we are going to heaven or hell; to be tossed up and down on a sea of uncertainty, scarcely knowing who commands the ship, what is our destination, what our present course, or what will be the end of the voyage. Now all human wisdom leaves us upon this sea of uncertainty. It is useful in nature, but useless in grace. It is foolish and absurd to despise all human learning, wisdom, and knowledge. Without them we should be a horde of wild, wandering savages. But it is worse than foolish to make human wisdom our guide to eternity, and make reason the foundation of our faith or hope. What you thus believe today, you will disbelieve to-morrow; all the arguments that may convince your reasoning mind, all the appeals to your natural passions, which may seem for the time to soften your heart, and all the thoughts swaying to and fro which may sometimes lead you to hope you are right and sometimes make you fear you are wrong,—all these will be found insufficient when the soul comes into any time of real trial and perplexity. We want, therefore, demonstration to remove and dispel all these anxious questionings, and settle the whole matter firmly in our heart and conscience; and this nothing can give us but the Spirit by revealing Christ, taking of the things of Christ, and shewing them unto us, applying the word with power to our hearts, and bringing the sweetness, reality, and blessedness of divine things into our soul. It is only in this way that he overcomes all unbelief and infidelity, doubt and fear, and sweetly assures us that all is well between God and the soul.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” Romans 8:37
Those who know nothing of their own heart, of their own infirmities, of their own frailties, of their own inward or outward slips and backslidings, know nothing of the secret of superabounding grace, nothing of the secret of atoning blood, nothing of the secret of the Spirit’s inward testimony. They cannot. Only in proportion as we are emptied of self in all its various forms, are we filled out of the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.
Now you, perhaps, (I address myself personally to some poor, tempted child of God, that in touching one, I may touch others,) are a poor, tempted creature; and your daily sorrow, your continual trouble is, that you are so soon overcome; that your temper, your lusts, your pride, your worldliness, your carnal, corrupt heart are perpetually getting the mastery. And from this you sometimes draw bitter conclusions. You say, in the depth of your heart, “Can I be a child of God, and be thus? What mark and testimony have I of being in favour with God when I am so easily, so continually overcome?” Now I want you to look to the end. What is the issue of these defeats? Remember, it is a solemn truth, and one that we learn very slowly—that we must be overcome in order to overcome. There is no setting out with a stock of strength, daily adding to it, weekly increasing it, and then gaining the victory by our own resolutions, our own innate strength. Such feigned holiness may come under a gospel garb, may wear a fair appearance; but it only more hides the rottenness of the flesh. Then, remember this—that in order to gain the victory, we must know our weakness; and we can only know our weakness by its being experimentally opened up in our consciences. We cannot learn it from others; we must learn it in our own souls; and that often in a very painful manner. But these painful sensations in a tender conscience lead a man more humbly, more feelingly, more believingly to the Lord of life and glory, to receive out of his fulness. Thus every defeat only leads to and ensures victory at the last. Says the Apostle, “In all these things we are more than conquerors.” How? Through our resolutions, through our wisdom? No; “through Him that loved us.” There is no other way, then, to overcome, but by the “strength of Jesus made perfect in our weakness.”
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.” Hebrews 10:12
It is a fundamental article of our most holy faith, that the man Christ Jesus is now at God’s right hand, a very man, not a shadowy, aerial substance. “There is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” God looks at him as such with eyes of intense delight, with ever new approbation and love; and views him as the representative of all that are interested in him; he being the Head, the Church the members; he the Bridegroom, the Church the bride; he the great High Priest, and the Church the house of God. As living for her at the right hand of the Father, he is ever presenting on her behalf the validity of his intercession. The fact, the reality that he is there, is the Church’s joy, as it is all her hope and all her boast. “Because I live, ye shall live also.” To him, then, do we direct our prayers; on his glorious Person we fix our believing eyes; upon his blood we hang our hope; under his righteousness we ever desire to shelter; to feel his presence, taste his grace, experience his love, and know his power, is what our soul, under divine teaching, is ever longing for. See, then, the grounds of holy boldness for a poor sinner to enter into the holiest. Blood has been shed, which blood has the validity of Godhead stamped upon it. A new and living way has been consecrated, in which a living soul may walk. A great High Priest is set over the house of God, who is ever presenting the merits of his intercession. Thus, those who feel their need of him, who cannot live and dare not die without him, whose eyes are upon him and hearts towards him, are encouraged to enter with all holy boldness into the holiest, that they may have communion with Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.” Isaiah 40:4
If in your road heavenward, no valley ever sank before you; if no mountain and hill ever rose up in sight; if you encountered no crooked path through the dense wood; and no rough places, with many a rolling stone and many a thorny briar in the tangled forest, it would not seem that you were treading the way which the saints of God have ever trod, nor would it appear as if you needed special help from the sanctuary, or any peculiar power to be put forth for your help and deliverance. But being in this path, and that by God’s own appointment, and finding right before your eyes valleys of deep depression which you cannot raise up; mountains and hills of difficulty that you cannot lay low; crooked things which you cannot straighten; and rough places which you cannot make smooth; you are compelled, from felt necessity, to look for help from above. These perplexing difficulties, then, are the very things that make yours a case for the gospel, yours a state of mind to which salvation by grace is thoroughly adapted, yours the very condition of soul to which the revelation of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ is altogether suitable. So that if you could at the present moment view these trials with spiritual eyes, and feel that they were all appointed by unerring wisdom and eternal love, and were designed for the good of your soul, you would rather bless God that your pathway was so cast in providence and grace that you had now a valley, now a mountain, now a crook, and now a thorn. And even as regards the present experience of your soul, you would feel that these very difficulties in the road were all productive of so many errands to the throne—that they all called upon you, as with so many speaking voices, to beg of the Lord that he would manifest himself in love to your heart. We all want ease; we love a smooth path. We should like to be carried to heaven in a palanquin; to enjoy every comfort that earth can give or heart desire, and then, dying without a pang of body or mind, find ourselves safe in heaven. But that is not God’s way. The word of truth, the sufferings of Christ, and the universal experience of the saints, all testify against the path of ease; all testify for the path of trial; they all proclaim, as with one united voice, “Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction,”—and this is the way of ease and of that prosperity which destroys fools (Prov.1:32); but “strait is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life,”—and this is the path of suffering and sorrow.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“I will give thee the treasures of darkness.” Isaiah 45:3
Is not this a strange expression? “Treasures of darkness!” How can there be darkness in the City of Salvation of which the Lord the Lamb is the eternal light? The expression does not mean that the treasures themselves are darkness, but that they were hidden in darkness till they were brought to light. The treasures of Belshazzar, like the Bank bullion, were buried in darkness till they were broken up and given to Cyrus. It is so in a spiritual sense. Are there not treasures in the Lord Jesus? Oh! what treasures of grace in his glorious Person! What treasures of pardon in his precious blood! What treasures of righteousness in his perfect obedience! What treasures of salvation in all that he is and has as the great High Priest over the house of God! Yet, all these treasures are “treasures of darkness,” so far as they are hidden from our eyes and hearts, till we are brought by his special power into the City of Salvation. Then these treasures are not only brought to light, revealed, and made known, but the soul is at once put into possession of them. They are not only seen, as the Bank of England clerk sees notes and sovereigns, but are by a special deed of gift from the Court of Heaven made over to him who by faith in the Lord Jesus receives him into his heart. No one has the least conception of the treasures of grace that are in the Lord Jesus till he is brought out of darkness into God’s marvellous light, and knows him and the power of his resurrection by the sweet manifestations of his presence and love.
But the word “treasures” signifies not only something laid up and hidden from general view, but, being in the plural number, expresses an infinite, incalculable amount—an amount which can never be expended, but suffices, and suffices, and suffices again for all wants and for all believing comers. When we get a view by faith of the Person and work of the Lord Jesus and see the everflowing and overflowing fulness of his grace, and how it superabounds over all the aboundings of sin, it may well fill our minds with holy wonder and admiration. When we get a glimpse of the virtue and efficacy of his atoning blood, that precious blood which “cleanseth from all sin,” and that divine righteousness which is “unto all and upon all them that believe,” what treasures of mercy, pardon, and peace are seen laid up in him! To see this by the eye of faith, and enter into its beauty and blessedness, is indeed to comprehend with all saints the length, and breadth, and depth, and height, and to know something of the love of Christ which passeth knowledge. The sun will cease to give his light, and the earth to yield her increase; but these treasures will still be unexhausted, for they are in themselves infinite and inexhaustible.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869