“And they shall spring up as among the grass.”
The Lord’s people are spoken of here as at once “springing up” under the influence of the water poured and of the floods given. We cannot mistake the spiritual meaning of the figure, as it is so clear and certain. In those burning regions where rain does not fall at all seasons from the skies, as in our dripping clime, the effect of copious showers falling upon the parched vegetation is almost miraculous. A few days completely reverse the scene, and on every side vegetation springs up as if it started with gigantic growth out of the bosom of the heated soil. To this the figure in the text alludes, “They shall spring up,” that is, Zion’s children, “as among the grass,” with all that young and active growth which so clearly manifests the power and the blessing of God.
But what may we understand by the expression “grass?” May we not interpret it as emblematic of the flesh, according to the words of the prophet, “All flesh is grass!” (Isa. 40:6.) All the pride, pomp, and beauty of the flesh are but as grass, for “all the glory of man is as the flower of grass” (1 Peter 1:24), which, when cut down by the scythe, soon withers, is gathered into heaps, and swept away out of the field. In this point of view we may consider the children of God to spring up amongst the sons of men as flowers among the grass, bedecking it with beauty—the only beautiful objects among the green blades. O how blessed it is to see children of God springing up here and there amongst the grass which everywhere so thickly covers the mead! Time may have been when you were hidden beneath the grass— when, though a flower in God’s sight, your root was in the dust, and you lay undistinguished amidst the thick herbage. But being a flower, one of the Redeemer’s own lilies, among whom he feeds (Song Sol. 6:3), when the rain of heaven dropped upon you, you sprang up amid the crowded blades which before hid you from view.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“Let us therefore follow after
the things which make for peace.”
What a sweetness is contained in the word “peace.” Bunyan well represents this in his Pilgrim’s Progress, where he speaks of Christian, after having been entertained in the “house Beautiful,” going to sleep in the chamber called “Peace.” And what blessed sensations are couched in that word “Peace!” It was the legacy that Jesus left to his Church. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you;” and the Apostle says of it that it “passeth all understanding.”
Now many even of the Lord’s people seem as if they wanted and were expecting raptures. There is, I believe, a vast deal of enthusiasm in the natural mind of man, as is evident from what I may call its religious history in all ages; and this leads many who, in other points, seem rightly taught to look for wonderful visions, ecstasies, and raptures, things which nature can imitate, or Satan, as an “angel of light,” counterfeit to delude souls.
But I believe Satan cannot speak gospel peace to the conscience; he cannot bring a holy calm into the soul. He could lash the waters of Gennesareth into a storm; but there was only One who could say to them, “Peace, be still.” Satan may raise up a storm in our carnal mind, but he cannot allay it; he cannot pour oil upon the waves; nor calm the troubled breast, and enable it to rest upon God. Of all spiritual blessings, none seem preferable to peace; and I believe that it is what a child of God covets more than anything. For, O how much is implied in the word “peace!” Is not man by nature an enemy to God? Then to be saved he must be reconciled; and that implies peace. Is not his heart often troubled, as the Lord said, “Let not your heart be troubled?” Then he wants peace. And is not his mind often agitated and tossed up and down by conflicting emotions? Then he wants peace to calm it. And when he has to lie upon his dying bed, O, if he can but lie there in peace, peace with God through Jesus Christ, and a holy calm comes over his soul, flowing out of manifested mercy and felt reconciliation, it will beat all the raptures in the world!
To be blessed with peace, through the blood of sprinkling, before the soul glides out of its earthly tabernacle to enter into the haven of peace above— this indeed will make a death-bed happy, this will extract every thorn from the dying pillow, and enable the departing believer to say, with holy Simeon, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.”
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“And he said unto them,
I beheld Satan as lightning
fall from heaven.”
It deserves our utmost attention and prayerful consideration to see, by the eye of faith, the display of wisdom and power shining forth in the way in which the all-wise God sent his dear Son “to destroy” or, as the word is in the original, to unloose “the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Satan had, so to speak, spun a ravelled knot when he cast the cords of sin round man’s heart. This tangled and tight-drawn knot could not be cut through as by a sword of omnipotent power; but had by infinite wisdom and patience to be unravelled through its whole length. The work which Satan had done was to be undone. Disobedience had to be repaired by obedience—the voluntary obedience of the Son of God, and therefore of infinite value. Sin had to be atoned for by sacrifice—the sacrifice of the nature which had sinned, in union with the Person of the Son of God, and therefore deriving from it unspeakable efficacy. Death had to be destroyed by the ever-living Son of God submitting to die. The law must be magnified by being obeyed by him who by his divine Person is above law. The Law-giver must be the Law-fulfiller. He who is the ever-blessed One must be made a curse; and the holy One of Israel, who knew no sin, must be “made sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
“Who would set the briers and thorns against me in battle?” asked the Lord “I would go through them,” is his answer (Isa. 27:4). So our blessed Lord went through these thorns and briers set against him in battle. He thoroughly went through all that he undertook; and by going through unravelled the work of Satan.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord,
and teachest him out of thy law.”
We may observe in the words before us, that the Lord puts chastening before teaching. Is there not something remarkable in this? Why should chastening precede teaching? For this reason. We have no ear to hear except so far as we are chastened. It was so with the prodigal. Until he was brought to his right mind by strokes of hunger, he did not think of his father’s house; he had no heart to return; but a mighty famine sent him home. So it is with God’s children; as long as they are allowed to wander in their backslidings, they have no heart to return. But let the rod come; let them be driven home by stripes; then they have an ear to listen, while God teaches them to profit, instructs them by his blessed Spirit, and speaks into their heart those lessons which are for their eternal good.
“And teachest him out of thy law.” “The law” in the Scriptures has a very wide signification; it means, in the original, instruction. The word is Torah, which signifies “teaching,” or “direction.” Thus the word “law” is not confined to the law of Moses given in thunder and lightning upon Mount Sinai; but it includes also the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ—”the perfect law of liberty;” “the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus;” that law which was in the heart of the Redeemer, when he said, “I come to do thy will, O God; yea, thy law is within my heart.”
Now, as the Lord teaches his children “out of the law,” strictly so called, so he teaches them “out of” the gospel; and to my mind, there is something exceedingly sweet and expressive in the words “out of the law.” It seems to convey, not only that the law is a treasure-house of wrath, but that the gospel also is a treasure-house of mercy. And as those who know most of the law are only taught “out of the law,” and not the whole of the law, only a few drops, as it were, out of the inexhaustible wrath of God; so out of the heavenly treasure-house of the gospel, “the perfect law of liberty,” it is but a little of grace and mercy that in this life can be known.
As Christ said to his disciples in promising the Spirit: “He shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” He cannot take “all,” and shew it unto them; for none could live under the sight. The Spirit, therefore, takes of the things of Christ, and shews here a little, and there a little; some little blessedness here, and some little blessedness there; a suitable promise, a gracious testimony, a comforting text, an encouraging word, a sight of atoning blood, a smile of his countenance, a view of his Person, a discovery of his righteousness, or a glimpse of his love. This is taking of the things of Christ, and revealing them to the soul. And thus, the man whom the Lord takes in hand, he teaches “out of” the gospel by making Christ experimentally known, and revealing his dying love. And thus he teaches each and all “out of his law “—both the law from Sinai, and the law from Zion.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“By his knowledge the depths are broken up,
and the clouds drop down the dew.”
When the Lord said, “Let there be light,” instantly there was light. So when the Lord says, “Let the earth open,” the heart immediately opens, the conscience is made tender, and the soul hears and receives what God speaks. And what follows this opening? The heart receives the dews and showers of God’s grace that fall into it; and these dews and showers of God’s grace communicate to it softness, fertility, and productiveness. O how we have to learn this by painful experience! Is not our heart as hard sometimes as the nether millstone; and to our feelings, utterly destitute of light, life and power, without one grain of brokenness, contrition, godly sorrow, spiritual desire, or fervent breathing after the Lord? This painful experience the Lord’s people have to pass through perpetually, that they may know that “in them, that is, in their flesh dwelleth no good thing,” and that” power belongeth unto God.”
Could I make my own heart soft, should I want the Lord to do it for me? Could I communicate fertility to my own soul, should I ever pant after the dews and showers of the Holy Ghost? Could I bring pardon and peace into my own conscience, should I need the Lord himself to speak with power? Could I believe, hope, rejoice, and have at my own command every gracious and blessed feeling that I desire to experience, there would be no pleading the Lord’s own promises, no wrestling in importunate prayer, no taking the kingdom of God by violence, no longing and panting for the Lord to appear in our souls.
The Lord therefore sees fit that we should walk in these paths, that we may know, “it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“That he would grant unto us, that we
being delivered out of the hand of our enemies
might serve him without fear, in holiness
and righteousness before him,
all the days of our life.”
Luke 1:74, 75
Holiness consists mainly of two points:
1. being made a partaker of the spirit of holiness whereby, as born of God, we are made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; set our affections on things above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God; have our conversation in heaven; put on the new man which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him which created him; live a life of faith in the Son of God, and beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
To be thus spiritually-minded, to be thus brought near unto God through his dear Son, to walk before him in the light of his countenance, and to know something of spiritual communion with the Lord of life and glory as sitting on his mercy- seat in the fulness of his risen power, and in the heights, depths, lengths, and breadths of his dying love—this to taste, to handle, to experience, and to enjoy is to be made a partaker of true holiness, and to be sanctified by the Spirit of God as an indwelling Teacher, Guide, Advocate, and Comforter. And if we know nothing of these things, at least in some small measure, or are not looking after and longing for them to be brought into our heart by a divine power, we give but little evidence that the grace of God has reached our heart and renewed us in the spirit of our mind.
2. The second branch of holiness is a life, conduct, and conversation agreeable to the precepts of the gospel; and the one springs out of the other. “Make the tree good,” said our blessed Lord, “and his fruit good, for the tree is known by his fruit.” Gospel fruit must grow upon a gospel tree, and thus the fruits of a holy and godly life must spring out of those divine operations of the Holy Ghost upon the heart of which we have just spoken. Thus to speak, live, and act is to be “holy in all manner of conversation,” that is in our daily walk; and is a fulfilling of the precept which God gave of old to his typical people Israel, and quoted in the New Testament to shew that it is spiritually fulfilled in that peculiar people whom he calls by his distinguishing grace under the gospel.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“The Lord knoweth how to deliver
the godly out of temptations.”
2 Peter 2:9
Few will sincerely and spiritually go to the Lord, and cry from their hearts to be delivered from the power of a temptation, until it presses so weightily upon their conscience, and lies so heavy a burden upon their soul, that none but God can remove it. But when we really feel the burden of a temptation; when, though our flesh may love it, our spirit hates it; when, though there may be in our carnal mind a cleaving to it, our conscience bleeds under it, and we are brought spiritually to loathe it and to loathe ourselves for it; when we are enabled to go to the Lord in real sincerity of soul and honesty of heart, beseeching him to deliver us from it, I believe, that the Lord will, sooner or later, either remove that temptation entirely in his providence or by his grace, or so weaken its power that it shall cease to be what it was before, drawing our feet into paths of darkness and evil.
As long, however, as we are in that state of which the prophet speaks, “Their heart is divided; now shall they be found faulty” (Hosea 10:2); as long as we are in that carnal, wavering mind, which James describes, “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways;” as long as we are hankering after the temptation, casting longing, lingering side glances after it, rolling it as a sweet morsel under our tongue, and though conscience may testify against it, yet not willing to have it taken away, there is no hearty cry, nor sigh, nor spiritual breathing of our soul, that God would remove it from us.
But when we are brought, as in the presence of a heart-searching God, to hate the evil to which we are tempted, and cry to him that he would, for his honour and for our soul’s good, take the temptation away, or dull and deaden its power; sooner or later the Lord will hear the cry of those who groan to be delivered from those temptations, which are so powerfully pressing them down to the dust.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“Underneath are the everlasting arms.”
The “everlasting arms” of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the divine Jehovah, are “underneath” every one of his people, and, being underneath them, they can neither fall through them nor out of them; but they are borne, and supported, and carried along by them until they are brought to the eternal enjoyment of a Three-One God. Now, if these “everlasting arms” were not underneath a man, so deceitful is his heart, so desperately wicked is his corrupt nature, such awful stratagems does Satan lay for his feet, and such numerous perils encompass every step, that he must infallibly perish.
But what we want to feel is, that these arms are underneath us. What good will the doctrine do us? The doctrine of the “everlasting arms” being underneath us will not satisfy our souls, if we feel that we are sinking fathoms. If we keep sinking, sinking, sinking, and are afraid, at times, that we shall sink at last into hell, the bare doctrine that the “everlasting arms” are underneath God’s people will not satisfy us; but we want to feel them under us, so that we can rest upon them, and enjoy a blessed support in them and coming out of them.
How secure the babe lies in its mother’s arms as long as it can feel the arms touching and supporting its body; but let the mother withdraw the arm, the babe is in fear; it cries out in alarm; but so long as it feels the pressure of the mother’s arms, it sleeps on calm and secure. So with living souls; if they cannot find the “everlasting arms” underneath them, they cannot rest in the mere doctrine of God’s upholding the Church; but when they can feel a support given; when in trouble, in affliction, in sorrow, in temptation, there is a sensible leaning upon the everlasting arms, and a sensible support communicated by them, then they can rest calmly and contentedly upon them.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“And he led them forth by the right way,
that they might go to a city of habitation.”
“He led them forth.” Forth out of the world—forth out of sin—forth out of a profession— forth out of a name to live—forth out of everything hateful to his holy and pure eyes. “To go to a city of habitation.” They had no city to dwell in here below; but they were journeying to a city of habitation above, whose walls and bulwarks are salvation, and whose gates are praise; where there are eternal realities to be enjoyed by the soul; where there is something stable and eternal; something to satisfy all the wants of a capacious and immortal spirit, and give it that rest which it never could find while wandering here below. If we have a city here, we want no city above; and if we have a city above, we want no city here.
This then must be our state and case; either to be pilgrims, journeying onwards, through troubles, to things above, or taking up our abode below; seeking heaven here, or heaven hereafter; resting upon the world, or resting upon the Lord; panting after the things of time, or panting after the things of eternity; satisfied in self, or satisfied only in Christ. One of the two must be our state and case. The Lord decide it clearly in the hearts of his people that they are on his side; and give us to know and feel that our very restlessness and inability to find food and shelter in the things of time and sense, are leading us more earnestly and believingly to seek after the things that have reality in them; that finding no city to dwell in here below, we may press forward to be manifestly enjoying testimonies of being citizens of that city which is above, “which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God!”
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them.
Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them out of their distresses.”
Psalm 107:5, 6
Until they wandered in the wilderness—until they felt it to be a solitary way, until they found no city to dwell in, until hungry and thirsty their soul fainted in them—there was no cry. There might have been prayer, a desire, a feeble wish, and now and then a sigh or a groan. But this was not enough. Something more was wanted to draw forth lovingkindness out of the bosom of the compassionate Head of the Church. A cry was wanted,—a cry of distress, a cry of soul trouble, a cry forced out of their hearts by heavy burdens. And a cry implies necessity, urgent want, a perishing without an answer to the cry. It is the breath of a soul bent upon having eternal realities brought into the conscience, or perishing without them. It is this solemn feeling in the heart that there is no other refuge but God.
The Lord brings all his people here—to have no other refuge but himself. Friends, counsellors, acquaintance—these may sympathise, but they cannot afford relief. There is no refuge, nor shelter, nor harbour, nor home into which they can fly, except the Lord. Thus troubles bring us to deal with God in a personal manner. They chase away that halfhearted religion of which we have so much; and they drive out that notional experience and dry profession that we are so often satisfied with. They chase them away as a strong north wind chases away the mists; and they bring a man to this solemn spot that he must have communications from God to support him under, and bring him out of his trouble; and if a man is not brought to this point by his troubles, they have done him no good. But what a mercy it is when there is a cry! and when the Lord sends a cry in the trouble, he is sure in his own time and way to send deliverance out of it.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869