“For the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” Romans 10:11
A child of God may be often deeply exercised whether he has any faith at all; for when he reads what faith has done and can do, and sees and feels how little it has done for him, he is seized with doubts and fears whether he has ever been blessed with the faith of God’s elect. This makes him often say, “Oh, do I indeed possess one grain of saving faith?” But he does possess it: nay, it is his very faith which makes him so anxiously ask himself the question, as well as see and feel the nature and amount of his unbelief. It is the very light of God shining into his soul that shews him his sins, their nature and number; convinces him of their guilt and enormity; lays the burden of them upon his conscience; and discovers to him the workings of an unbelieving heart. But besides this, if he had no faith at all he could not hear the voice of God speaking in the gospel, nor receive it as a message of mercy; so that he has faith, though he has not its witnessing evidence, or its abounding comfort. This faith will save his soul; for “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance;” that is, God never repents of any gift that he bestows or of any calling which he has granted. If, then, he has ever blessed you with faith, however small that faith may be in itself or in your own view of it, he will never take it away out of your heart, but rather fan the smoking flax until it burst forth into a flame. He will never forsake the work of his own hands, for he which “hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” If ever, then, if but once in your life, you have felt the gospel to be the power of God unto salvation; if you have ever had one view of Christ by living faith; if but once only, under the influence of his blessed Spirit on your heart, you have laid hold of him and felt even for a few minutes that he was yours, your soul is as safe as though it were continually bathing in the river which maketh glad the city of God, continually drinking of the honey and milk of the, gospel, and walking all day long in the full light of his most gracious countenance. Not that a man should be satisfied with living at a poor, cold, dying rate; I mean not that, but merely to lay it down as a part of God’s truth that as regards salvation, it is not the amount, but the reality of faith that saves the soul.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Galatians 6:14
An experimental knowledge of crucifixion with his crucified Lord made Paul preach the cross, not only in its power to save, but in its power to sanctify. But as then, so now, this preaching of the cross, not only as the meritorious cause of all salvation, but as the instrumental cause of all sanctification, is “to them that perish foolishness.” As men have found out some other way of salvation than by the blood of the cross, so have they discovered some other way of holiness than by the power of the cross; or rather have altogether set aside obedience, fruitfulness, self-denial, mortification of the deeds of the body, crucifixion of the flesh and of the world. Extremes are said to meet; and certainly men of most opposite sentiments may unite in despising the cross and counting it foolishness. The Arminian despises it for justification, and the Antinomian for sanctification. “Believe and be holy,” is as strange a sound to the latter as “Believe and be saved” to the former. But, “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord,” is as much written on the portal of life as, “By grace are ye saved through faith.” Through the cross, that is, through union and communion with him who suffered upon it, not only is there a fountain opened for all sin, but for all uncleanness. Blood and water gushed from the side of Jesus when pierced by the Roman spear.
“This fountain so dear, he’ll freely impart;
Unlock’d by the spear, it gushed from the heart,
With blood and with water; the first to atone,
To cleanse us the latter; the fountain’s but one.”
“All my springs are in thee,” said the man after God’s own heart; and well may we re-echo his words. All our springs, not only of pardon and peace, acceptance and justification, but of happiness and holiness, of wisdom and strength, of victory over the world, of mortification of a body of sin and death, of every fresh revival and renewal of hope and confidence; of all prayer and praise; of every new budding forth of the soul, as of Aaron’s rod, in blossom and fruit; of every gracious feeling, spiritual desire, warm supplication, honest confession, melting contrition, and godly sorrow for sin—all these springs of that life which is hid with Christ in God are in a crucified Lord. Thus Christ crucified is, “to them who are saved, the power of God.” And as he “of God is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption,” at the cross alone can we be made wise unto salvation, become righteous by a free justification, receive of his Spirit to make us holy, and be redeemed and delivered by blood and power from sin, Satan, death, and hell.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness.” 1 Corinthians 1:22, 23
The mystery of the cross can be received only by faith. To the Jews it was a stumblingblock, and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, it is the power of God and the wisdom of God. When, then, we can believe that the Son of God took part of our flesh and blood out of love and compassion for our souls; that there being no other way which even heaven itself could devise, no other means that the wisdom of God could contrive whereby sinners could be saved, but by the death of the cross, then the mystery shines forth with unspeakable lustre and glory. The shame, the ignominy, what the Apostle calls the “weakness” and “foolishness” of the cross disappear, swallowed up in a flood of surpassing grace; and faith views it as a glorious scheme of God’s own devising, and of the Son of God’s approving and accomplishing. Viewed in this light how glorious it appears, that by suffering in our nature all the penalties of our sin, Jesus should redeem us from the lowest hell and raise us up to the highest heaven. How full of unspeakable wisdom was that plan whereby he united God and man by himself becoming God-man; empowering poor worms of earth to soar above the skies and live for ever in the presence of him who is a consuming fire. How glorious is that scheme whereby reconciling aliens and enemies unto his heavenly Father, he summons them, when death cuts their mortal thread, to mount up into an eternity of bliss, there to view face to face the great and glorious I AM; to be for ever enwrapped in the blaze of Deity, and ever folded in the arms of a Triune God. It is this blessed end, this reward of the Redeemer’s sufferings, bloodshedding and death, which lifts our view beyond the depths of the fall and the misery of sin, as we see and feel it in this miserable world. It is this view by faith of the glory which shall be revealed which enables us to see what wisdom and mercy were in the heart of God when he permitted the Adam fall to take place. It is as if we could see the glory of God breaking forth through it in all the splendour of atoning blood and dying love, securing to guilty man the joys of salvation, and bringing to God an eternal revenue of praise.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.” Psalm 42:1
What a striking figure has David made use of in these words. Conceive a wounded stag, with the arrow in his flank or pursued by a crowd of hunters and hounds, all eager to pull him down; conceive him to have run for some space of time under a burning sun and over heaps of sand; and conceive that at a distance this poor wounded or hunted animal sees water gently flowing along. Oh, how it pants! How its heaving sides gasp, and how it longs for the cooling stream, not only that it may drink large draughts of the fresh waters and lave its panting flanks and weary, parched limbs, but, by swimming across, may haply escape the dogs and hunters at its heels. How strong, how striking the figure. And yet strong as it is, how earnestly does David employ it to set forth the panting of his soul after God. We cannot, perhaps, rise up into the fulness of this figure; we cannot, we dare not lay our feelings stretched fully out side by side with his, or use the same burning, vehement, ardent expressions. But we may at least see from them what the saints of God have experienced in times of temptation and trial in days of old; and we may in some measure compare the feelings of our soul with theirs—sometimes to fill us with shame and confusion at our short-comings, sometimes to stimulate and encourage us so far as we experience a degree of similar teachings; for these things are written for our instruction, “upon whom the ends of the world are come.” Thus in various ways and to various ends we may, with God’s help and blessing, look at and into such expressions as we find in the words of David, and in the fear of God search our hearts to see if we can find anything there corresponding to the work of grace that the Holy Ghost describes as existing in his soul. Nor be utterly cast down nor wholly discouraged if you cannot find a full or close similarity. Can you find any? If so, take encouragement, for the Lord despises not the day of small things. It is his own work upon the heart and his own work alone to which he has regard, as David felt when he said, “The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever; forsake not the works of thine own hands” (Psalm 138:8). And that work will ever be a copy in full or in miniature, a complete or reduced photograph, of the work of grace described in the Scripture as carried on by the Spirit in the hearts of God’s saints of old.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“Perplexed, but not in despair.” 2 Corinthians 4:8
Oh! what a mercy, amidst every degree of inward or outward perplexity, to be out of the reach of Giant Despair; not to be shut up in the iron cage; not to be abandoned, as Judas or Ahithophel, to utter desperation and suicide, and, after a long life of profession, concerning faith to make awful shipwreck! Now the child of God, with all his doubts, fears, sinkings, misgivings, and trying perplexities is never really and truly in despair. He may tread so near the borders of that black country that it may almost be debateable land whether he is walking in despair or upon the borders of it; for I believe many children of God have at times come to the solemn conclusion that there is no hope for them, for they cannot see how they can be saved or have their aggravated sins pardoned. And though this be not black despair, nor such utter, irremediable desperation as seized Saul and Judas, for there still is a “Who can tell?” yet it certainly is walking very near the borders of that dark and terrible land. I cannot tell, nor do I believe any can, how low a child of God may sink, or how long he may continue under the terrors of the Almighty; but we have the warrant of God’s word to believe that he is never given up to utter despair, for the Lord holds up his feet from falling into that terrible pit, and being cast into that sea to which there is neither bottom nor shore.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” Ephesians 2:20
The meaning of this expression, which frequently occurs in the New Testament, is, we think, often misunderstood. It is taken in the first instance from the declaration concerning our Lord in the Psalms, which he in the gospels (Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17) specially claimed and appropriated to himself: “The stone which the builders refused is become the head-stone of the corner” (Psalm 118:22). “The head of the corner,” or “the chief corner stone,” the meaning of both expressions being one and the same, signifies not the stone which stands at the top of the building, uniting the corners of the two walls just under the roof, but the broad foundation stone, which is firmly fixed at the very bottom; and it is called the “corner stone” or the “head” or “chief of the corner,” because being laid as a huge and broad stone for a foundation of the whole building, each wall meets upon it at the corners, it equally supporting and upholding them all. The two walls which thus meet together represent Jew and Gentile; but each of these walls equally rests upon the broad foundation stone which is common to both, and not only supports them separately, but unites them together at the corner, where each meets and rests upon it. It is the expression “head” which has caused the misapprehension of the word “corner stone” to which we have alluded; but the word “head” in Hebrew properly signifies the first or chief; and thus as the foundation is not only the chief stone as supporting the whole, but the first which is laid, so our gracious Lord is not only chief in dignity, but was laid first in place, for the Church was chosen in him. In all things he must have the pre-eminence. Thus he is first in dignity, as the Son of the Father in truth and love; first in choice, God choosing the elect in him; first in suffering, for what sorrows were like his sorrows? first in resurrection, for he is “the first-fruits of them that slept;” first in power, for “all power is given unto him in heaven and in earth;” first in glory, for he is gone before to prepare a place for his people; and we may well add, he is first in their hearts and affections, for he that loveth father or mother, son or daughter, more than him is not worthy of him.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“And he is the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 2:2
What is “propitiation?” By propitiation we are to understand, a sacrifice acceptable to Jehovah; by which God, or rather the attributes of God are propitiated; whereby God can be favourable; whereby mercy, grace, and pardon can freely flow forth. Now sin, and the law condemning sin, barred out, barred back, the favour of God. They were the opposing obstacle to the love of God. For God cannot, as God, love sin and sinners; therefore, the sin of man, and the holy law of God, the transcript of his infinite and eternal purity barred back, so to speak, the favour of God. It was needful, then, that this barrier should be removed, that a channel might be provided, through which the grace, favour, and mercy of God might flow: in a word, that sin might be blotted out, and that the law might be accomplished and fulfilled in all its strict requirements, that God “might be just,” retaining every righteous attribute, not sacrificing one of his holy perfections—and yet, though just, perfectly just, “the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” But how was this to be effected? No seraph, no bright angel could ever have devised a way. It lay locked up in the bosom of the Three-One God from everlasting; and that was, that the only-begotten Son of God, who lay in the bosom of the Father from all eternity, “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his Person,” should become a bleeding Lamb, “the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world;” that he should take into union with his own divine Person a human nature, “the flesh and blood of the children,” pure, spotless, and holy, and offer up that nature, that body which God prepared for him, a holy sacrifice. When he came into the world, the sacrifice began; and every holy thought, every holy word, and every holy action, in suffering and performing, that passed through the heart, dropped from the lips, or was performed by the hands of the only-begotten Son of God, when he was upon earth, was part of that sacrifice. But the grand consummation of it (the offering up of that body especially) was, when it was nailed to the accursed tree, and blood was shed to put away sin. Now, this is the propitiation, the redemption, the sacrifice, the way, the only way, whereby sin is expiated; the way, the only way, whereby sin is pardoned.
But in order that this blessed sacrifice and atoning propitiation may pass over to us; that its value, validity, efficacy, and blessedness may be felt in our consciences, there must be that wrought in our souls whereby it is embraced. The only salvation for our souls is the propitiation made by Jesus upon Calvary’s tree. There is no other sacrifice for sin but that. But how is that to pass into our hearts? How is the efficacy of this atoning sacrifice to be made personally ours? It is by faith. Does not the Holy Ghost declare this by the mouth of the Apostle? He says, “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.” Now, this is the turning point in the soul’s salvation. This is the grand point to have decided in a man’s conscience before God. This is the Cape to be doubled by every one that sets forth upon the sea of salvation. Before he can double this Cape, he is driven back by the storms, and tossed by the winds; and he often fears lest he should be engulphed in the billows. But when, by living faith, he is enabled to double this Cape, to see the propitiation through the blood of the Lamb, to feel his very heart and soul going out after, and leaning upon, and feeling a measure of solid rest and peace in the blood of the sacrifice offered upon Calvary—then he has doubled the Cape of Good Hope, then he has passed into the Pacific Ocean from the stormy Atlantic, and then he begins to receive into his conscience a measure of the favour and grace of the Lord God Almighty.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“And patience of hope.” 1 Thessalonians 1:3
What is meant by the expression “patience?” It means endurance; as though hope had to endure, faith to work, and love to labour. It is the “patience of hope” that proves its reality and genuineness. Hope does not go forward fighting and cutting its way. Hope is like a quiet sufferer, patiently bearing what comes upon it. Hope is manifested in enduring, as faith is manifested in acting. For instance: when the Lord hides his face, when testimonies sink out of sight, when signs are not seen, when Satan tempts, when the work of grace upon the soul seems to be all obscured, and in consequence a feeling of despondency begins to set in, then the “patience of hope” is needed to endure all things—not to give way, but to maintain its hold. It acts in the same way, according to the beautiful figure of Paul, as the anchor holds the ship. What is the main value, the chief requisite in the cable that holds the anchor? Is it not endurance? The cable does nothing; it simply endures. It does not make a great ado in the water; its only good quality, the only quality wanted in it, is strength to endure, not to break. When the waves rise, the billows beat, the storm blows, and the tide runs strongly, then the work of the cable is not to part from the anchor, not to break, but firmly to maintain the hold it has once taken. And thus with the anchor too. It does nothing, and is wanted to do nothing. To hold fast is all its work and all its excellence. Thus it is with a hope in a sinner’s breast. Has the Lord ever shewn himself gracious unto him? Has the Lord ever made himself precious to his soul? ever dropped a testimony into his conscience? ever spoken with power to his heart? Has his soul ever felt the Spirit inwardly testifying that he is one of God’s people? Then his hope is manifested by enduring patiently everything that is brought against it to crush it, and if God did not keep, utterly to destroy it.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Matthew 5:5
Spiritual poverty is a miserable feeling of soul-emptiness before God, an inward sinking sensation that there is nothing in our hearts spiritually good, nothing which can deliver us from the justly merited wrath of God, or save us from the lowest hell. And intimately blended with the poignant feelings of guilt and condemnation, there is a spiritual consciousness that there is such a thing enjoyed by the elect as the Spirit of adoption, that there are such sweet realities as divine manifestations, that the blood of Jesus Christ is sprinkled by the Holy Ghost upon the consciences of the redeemed to cleanse them from all guilt and filth. And thus by comparing its own wants with their blessings, and having an inward light wherein the truth of God’s word is seen, and an inward life whereby it is felt, a soul wading in the depths of spiritual poverty, is brought to feel that it must be the manifestation of the light of God’s countenance which can alone deliver; that it must be the testimony of God spoken by his own lips to the heart that alone can save; and that the want of this is the want of everything that can manifest it to be a vessel of mercy here, and fit it for, as well as carry it into, eternal glory and bliss hereafter.
To be poor, then, is to have this wretched emptiness of spirit, this nakedness and destitution of soul before God. Nor is it, perhaps, ever more deeply felt than in the lonely watches of the night, when no eye can see, nor ear hear, but the eye and ear of Jehovah; in these solemn moments of deep recollection, when the stillness and darkness around us are but the counterpart of the stillness and darkness of the soul, he that is spiritually poor often feels how empty he is of everything heavenly and divine, a sinking wretch without a grain of godliness; and without drawing too rigid a line of exclusion, we may unhesitatingly say that he who has never thus known what it is to groan before the Lord with breakings-forth of heart as a needy, naked wretch, he that has never felt his miserable destitution and emptiness before the eyes of a heart-searching God, has not yet experienced what it is to be spiritually poor.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“Every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.” Psalm 84:7
As the Lord is true, no spiritual pilgrim will ever fall and die in the valley of Baca. Some may fear that through temptation their strong passions or boiling lusts will one day break out and destroy them. No, not if they are pilgrims. “Every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.” Others may think they never shall have a testimony; they never shall read their name clearly in the Book of Life; the Lord will never appear in their heart or bless their soul; they never shall be able to say, “Abba, Father.” If Jesus is theirs, they shall. But are they spiritual pilgrims? Do they find it a vale of tears? Are their faces Zionward? Have they come out of the world? Do they sometimes make the valley of Baca a well? And does the rain fill the pools? And have they ever had strength made perfect in weakness? Then every one of them will appear before God in Zion. Blessed end! Sweet accomplishment of the pilgrim’s hopes, desires, and expectations! The crowning blessing of all that God has to bestow! “Every one of them appeareth before God,” washed in the Saviour’s blood, clothed in the Redeemer’s righteousness, adorned with all the graces of the Spirit, and made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light. No weeping then! The valley of Baca is passed, and tears wiped from off all faces. No thorns to lacerate the weary feet there; no prowling wild beasts to seize the unwary traveller there; no roving banditti to surprise stragglers there; no doubts and fears and cutting sorrows to grieve, perplex, and burden them there. Safe in Zion, safe in the Redeemer’s bosom, safe in their Husband’s arms, safe before the throne, every one of them appeareth before God in glory.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869