“Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old.” Lamentations 5:21
If we do not wish to deceive ourselves, if God has made us honest, if he has planted his fear in our hearts, if he has begun and is carrying on a good work in us, there will be evidences of the existence of the life of God within. Life is the commencement of salvation as an inward reality; for whatever the eternal purposes of God are, or whatever standing the vessel of mercy has in Christ previous to effectual calling, there is no more movement in the soul Godward till life is imparted, than there is natural life and motion in a breathless corpse that lies interred in the churchyard. But wherever divine life is implanted there will be certain fruits and feelings that spring out of this life. One fruit will be complaint, and this will arise sometimes from a feeling of the burden of sin, and at others from a sense of merited chastisement from God on account of it. But wherever this complaining is spiritual, there will be accompanying it “an accepting the punishment of our iniquity,” and “a putting of our mouth in the dust.” Thus where there is spiritual life there will be complaint, confession, and submission; the effect being meekness, brokenness, and humility. This breaks to pieces self-conceit and selfjustification, and the result is a searching and trying our ways whether they are of God. The fruit of this search will be, for the most part, a solemn and painful conviction that the greater part have been in the flesh; or, at least, there will be many anxious suspicions which cannot be relieved except by an express testimony from the Lord himself. This produces a going out of soul unto him, the cry now being, “Let us turn again to the Lord;” and towards him the heart turns as to the only Source and Author of every good and perfect gift. As the quickened soul knows that he is a heart-searching God, this appeal will purge away much hypocrisy and insincerity, and deepen uprightness, sincerity, and godly integrity. And the blessed fruit and end of all this sifting work will be a coming down of gracious answers, divine testimonies, smiles of the Saviour’s loving countenance, soft whispers of God’s eternal favour, and the blessed witness of the Spirit within.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” Hebrews 12:11
It may be said of spiritual exercises as the Apostle speaks of chastening generally, of which indeed they form a component part, that “for the present they are not joyous, but grievous; but afterward they yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them that are exercised thereby.” Why the Lord suffers so many of his people to be so long and deeply tried about their interest in Christ, why he does not more speedily and fully manifest his pardoning love to their souls, is a mystery which we cannot fathom. But I have observed that, where the first work was not attended with deep and powerful convictions of sin, it is usually the case, as if what was wanting in depth has to be made up in length, and a slow, continuous work compensates, as it were, for a shorter and more intense one.
I consider it, however, a great mercy where there are these exercises, for I am well convinced that exercise is as much needed for the health of the soul as of the body. Without movement the air becomes pestilential, and water putrescent. Motion is the life of the natural, and equally so of the supernatural, creation; and what are exercises, doubts, and fears, accompanied as they always are by desires and prayers, but means by which the soul is kept alive and healthy? As Hezekiah said, “O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit.” But if you cannot see what good exercises have done you, can you not see what evil they have kept you from? They mainly kept you from being entangled in a worldly system; they have preserved you from resting in the form without the power, and kept you from that notional dead-letter faith which has ruined so many thousands. (This extract was taken from a letter to a friend.) Without exercises you could do without a revealed Christ, without manifested pardon of sin, without the love of God being shed abroad in your heart by the Holy Ghost.
And here most are who are not exercised—resting in “a name to live,” and in the doctrine without the experience. But, being sick, you need a physician; being guilty, you need mercy; and being a sinner, you need salvation; and all this, not in word and name, but in reality, and divine revelation and application. Your exercises give you errands to the throne of mercy, and make you see in Christ and his precious gospel what otherwise would neither be seen nor cared for. At the same time, it would be wrong to rest in exercises as marks and evidences of grace. Thirst is good as preparatory for water; hunger is good as antecedent to food; but who can rest in thirst or hunger? Without them, water and food are not desired; so, without exercises, Christ, the Water and Bread of life, is not desired nor longed for. But these exercises are meant to quicken longing desires after Christ, and eventually make him very precious.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” Romans 9:16
He that is not interested in the eternal election of God the Father, in the atoning blood and justifying righteousness of God the Son, in the work and witness of God the Holy Ghost, whatever be his name, sect, denomination or profession; whatever be his outward conduct, the doctrines he professes, or the creed to which he signs his name, he will die as Esau died, as Balaam died, as Saul died, as Judas and Ahithophel died. He will never see the King in his beauty; never see the land afar off; never see the new Jerusalem, nor the blood of sprinkling, “that speaketh better things than the blood of Abel.” But every living soul that has been feelingly taught his lost condition, that has known something of a resting-place in Christ, that has turned his back upon the world and the professing church, and gone weeping Zionward, in whose heart God the Holy Ghost has implanted those solemn desires, and (if I may use the expression) those solemn determinations under the divine teaching, not a determination of free will, but the inward determination of grace strengthened to it by the Spirit of God, “to join himself to the Lord in a perpetual covenant never to be forgotten”—that he may live in Jesus and die in Jesus, live out of Jesus and unto Jesus, that he may feel his power, taste his love, know his blood, rejoice in his grace; every such soul shall, like Israel of old, be borne safely through this waste-howling wilderness, shall be carried through this vale of tears, and taken to enjoy eternal bliss and glory in the presence of Him whom to see as he is, constitutes the blessedness of the redeemed. Every such poor, exercised, tempted soul shall be brought into a personal enjoyment of Christ below and of Christ above, so as to enjoy a foretaste of heaven here, and hereafter to bathe in the ocean of endless bliss.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“Deal bountifully with thy servant, that I may live, and keep thy word.” Psalm 119:17
Can the Lord deal any way but bountifully with his servants? Why has he made you his servants? Why did he strike the chains of former servitude off your hands? Why did he bring you out of the service of sin, the world, Satan, and self? Why did he ever make himself precious to your heart, win your affections, and enable you to give yourselves wholly unto him? That he might cast you off? that he might mock your calamity? that he might trample you one day into hell? that he might leave you to yourself, that he might suffer Satan to overcome you, permit your lusts to destroy you; or allow your sins to be tied one day, like a mill-stone, round your neck to sink you into hell? Oh, can our heart ever indulge thoughts so derogatory to sovereign grace? Was it not because the Lord had bounty in his heart towards you, that he first turned your heart towards himself? Was it not because the Lord had purposes of love towards you, that he first led your feet into his paths? Was it not because God first loved you, that he gave his Son to die for you? Now if he has taught you, led you, upheld you, kept you, all this time, is it to cast you off now—to let you sink at last? He cannot do so, will not do so. Those whom he loves, he loves to the end; the good work which he has begun, he will accomplish, and bring to final perfection; and therefore all the Lord’s acts are acts of bounty.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God.” Psalm 55:19
True religion is certainly the most weighty, and yet the most mysterious matter that we ever have had or can have to do with in this world. And I will tell you this, that it will either comfort you, or it will distress you. It will either exercise your mind, trouble your soul, cast down your spirit, and make you truly miserable, or else be the source of your choicest comfort and your greatest happiness. From religion come our deepest sorrows and highest joys, the greatest uneasiness and the sweetest peace. There is this peculiar feature about true religion, that in the greatest prosperity it may be the cause to us of the chiefest trouble, or in the greatest adversity be to us the cause of the purest joy. What are wealth or health, rank or titles, and every comfort the world can afford to a wounded spirit? What are poverty, sickness, persecution, contempt, a garret or a prison to a soul basking in the smiles of eternal love? Religion will surely make itself felt wherever it exists, and will testify by its power to its presence. If, then, you are a partaker of true religion, be you who, where, or what you may, you cannot be at ease in Zion, for there will be ever something working up out of your own heart or arising from some other quarter to make you uneasy. Job was once at ease, but he was not suffered to die in his nest. He therefore says, “I was at ease, but he hath broken me asunder: he hath also taken me by my neck, and shaken me to pieces, and set me up for his mark.” And yet with all this unexpected and apparently cruel treatment, he could still say, “Behold, my witness is in heaven, and my record is on high.” And though so exercised and distressed that he had to cry out, “My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth. Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends; for the hand of God hath touched me;” yet he could add, in all the confidence of faith, as desirous that his words might stand for ever upon record: “Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book! that they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever! For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.”
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” Romans 8:26
“We know not what we should pray for as we ought.” How often do we find and feel this to be our case. Darkness covers our mind; ignorance pervades our soul; unbelief vexes our spirit; guilt troubles our conscience; a crowd of evil imaginations, or foolish or worse than foolish wanderings distract our thoughts; Satan hurls in thick and fast his fiery darts; a dense cloud is spread over the mercy-seat; infidelity whispers its vile suggestions, till, amidst all this rabble rout, such confusion and bondage prevail that words seem idle breath, and prayer to the God of heaven but empty mockery. In this scene of confusion and distraction, when all seems going to the wreck, how kind, how gracious is it in the blessed Spirit to come, as it were, to the rescue of the poor bewildered saint, and to teach him how to pray and what to pray for. He is therefore said “to help our infirmities,” for these evils of which we have been speaking are not wilful, deliberate sins, but wretched infirmities of the flesh. He helps, then, our infirmities by subduing the power and prevalence of unbelief; by commanding in the mind a solemn calm; by rebuking and chasing away Satan and his fiery darts; by awing the soul with a reverential sense of the power and presence of God; by presenting Jesus before our eyes as the Mediator at the right hand of the Father; by raising up and drawing forth faith upon his Person and work, blood and righteousness; and, above all, by himself interceding for us and in us “with groanings which cannot be uttered.” When the soul is favoured thus to pray, its petitions are a spiritual sacrifice, and its cries enter the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, for “He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Rom. 8:27; James 5:4; 1 Peter 2:5).
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“Then what prayer or what supplication soever shall be made of any man, or of all thy people Israel, when every one shall know his own sore and his own grief, and shall spread forth his hands in this house.” 2 Chronicles 6:29
Solomon comes to experience; he puts his hand upon the right spot. It is knowing his “own sore” and his “own grief.” You may know another man’s; that will not profit you. You may read of experience in books, love to hear experimental ministers, and will hear no others; and yet not know your “own sore,” your “own grief.” Like a physician who may know the symptoms of every malady, and yet not have one malady of his own; so you may hear described every symptom of every disease, and yet be untouched by one. But the man for whom Solomon’s prayer is, he that knows and feels, painfully feels, his “own sore” and his “own grief,” whose heart is indeed a grief to him, whose sins do indeed trouble him. How painful this sore often is! how it runs night and day! how full of ulcerous matter, and how it shrinks from the probe! Most of the Lord’s family have a “sore,” each some tender spot, something perhaps known to himself and to God alone, the cause of his greatest grief. It may be some secret slip he has made, some sin he has committed, some word he has spoken, or some evil thing he has done. He has been entangled, and entrapped, and cast down; and this is his grief and his sore which he feels, and that at times deeply before God. For such Solomon prays: he casts his net upon the right side of the ship; and says, “Then hear thou from heaven thy dwelling-place, and forgive, and render unto every man according unto all his ways, whose heart thou knowest; for thou only knowest the hearts of the children of men.” Yes; God alone knows the heart; he knows it completely, and sees to its very bottom.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23, 24
The people of God cannot take their religion upon credit; they cannot be satisfied with the endorsement of this or that good man. They must have it wrought by God himself. They are often exercised as to whence their religion came. Do you not find it so, and that it costs you many exercises? If, for instance, you are cast down, you are exercised whether it spring from godly sorrow for sin. If you are comforted, you cannot take the comfort for granted; you must have it weighed up in the gospel balance. If you meet with providential deliverances, you cannot take them as so many certain evidences that all is right with your soul. So that every step you take you have to examine, and weigh it whether it be of God. The dead professors, the hypocrites in Zion never have their religion tried and weighed up in this way. They know nothing of these inward exercises. They take things for granted; they nestle under some good man’s wing, or get their religion endorsed by some minister, and are satisfied. But the people of God must have testimonies from the Lord himself; and they will often be sharply exercised whether they have that work in their souls which will stand in the trying hour. And if in answer to their cries the Lord is pleased to shine into their souls, and raise up clear tokens that it is from heaven, it fills their hearts with gratitude, sinks the things of time and sense, and lifts up their affections to that blessed fountain whence these testimonies came down. Thus those very things which seem against them are for them, and they derive their sweetest consolations out of their heaviest afflictions. They would not change their trying path, with all its bitter things, for the smooth flowery path in which they see thousands walk, knowing that a religion without trials and temptations will only lead the soul down into a never-ending hell. Thus at times they can feel good spring out of their exercises, and would rather be all their days a tempted, tried people, and bear those things which God inflicts, than walk in a path which seemeth right in the eyes of a man, and at the end find eternal destruction. They would rather have those chastisements which prove they are children and not bastards, than walk in a flesh-pleasing way of which the end is eternal damnation.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“Keep yourselves in the love of God.” Jude 21
When Christ is made known to our soul by the power of God, we have views of truth in him, of happiness in him, and of deliverance. “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him.” We receive him as the Son of the Father in truth and love; we receive him as suitable to our wants and woes; we receive him as putting away sin by the sacrifice of himself, and endearing himself to our heart in the sweet manifestation of his Person, goodness, and love. Now as long as Christ and the soul are together, there is no place for error, and no place for evil. He makes the soul tender, the heart upright, the spirit broken and contrite, truth precious, error hateful, and sin loathsome and detestable. And whilst he and the soul are engaged together, error cannot approach nor evil find an entrance, so as to get any standing-ground in the heart. But error is very subtle; it addresses itself to our reasoning powers; and when we lose sight of Christ, then error very easily creeps in; or if not error, some special lust, or something ungodly, seems by degrees to obtain power and influence, and we gradually decline from the strength of faith, the confidence of hope, and the sweet affections of love, and drop, it may be, into a cold, carnal, careless, lifeless state, where we lie open to the invasion of error and the temptations of Satan as an angel of light or an angel of darkness. But now Jude comes and says, “Keep yourselves in the love of God; and I will tell you, if you will listen to me, how you shall do it. You must build up yourselves on your most holy faith.” God has laid a foundation for your faith in his holy word; he has laid Christ as a foundation in your own soul. That is a very strong foundation; it is of God’s own laying. It is very solid; it will bear any weight laid upon it. And therefore you must build up yourselves upon that most holy faith if you would have a religion which stands; because if your religion, or any part of your religion, be built upon another foundation, it will not stand. But if you build up yourselves on your most holy faith, then everything you build upon it will stand, because it rests upon the foundation, and is in harmony with it.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost.” Jude 20
By the words “most holy faith,” we may understand chiefly the grand truths of the everlasting gospel which are revealed unto and embraced by faith. And they are called “our most holy faith,” because they are imbued with all the holiness of God; and not only so, but as they are received into believing hearts, communicate sanctification, because they have a liberating, sanctifying efficacy. The words “build up” assume that there is a foundation laid. Christ is that foundation which God hath laid in Zion, a chief cornerstone, elect, precious; and where Christ is revealed to the soul by a divine power, a foundation is laid in the heart on which every subsequent truth is to be built up. The grand thing to be clear of in our own experience is, whether Christ has been laid as a foundation in our souls or not, and if he has, we have been driven from every other as finding no rest or peace but in him. If ever he has been revealed to our souls by the mighty power of God, then we have seen and felt that in him there is a foundation on which we can stand, and that for eternity. As the Son of the Father in truth and love; having come to finish the work which the Father gave him to do; having put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, and brought in an everlasting righteousness in which we may stand justified, there is a foundation on which a poor, guilty soul may rest. When this foundation is brought nigh, and we, by the power of God’s grace, are lifted up to rest upon it, we can say,
“How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, Is laid for your faith in his excellent word.”
“Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11).
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869