“In those days, and in that time, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve.” Jeremiah 50:20
Some have feared lest in the great day their sins should be brought to light, and they put to shame by the exposure of their crimes to open view. But that will not be the case with the dear family of God. We read indeed that “many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake;” and whilst some awake “to everlasting life,” others will awake “to shame and everlasting contempt,” because their sins will be remembered and brought against them as evidences of their just condemnation. But the wise, who “shall shine as the brightness of the firmament,” will rise to glory and honour and immortality, and not one of their sins will be remembered, charged, or brought against them. They will stand arrayed in Christ’s perfect righteousness and washed in his blood, and will appear before the throne of God without spot or blemish. We can scarcely bear the recollection of our sins now. But what would become of us if the ghost of one unburied sin could flit before our eyes in the day when the Lord maketh up his jewels? If any one sin of the Lamb’s wife could be remembered or brought against her, where would be the voice which John heard in Revelation, as “the voice of a great multitude, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia; for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth?” Now what was this voice? “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints” (Rev. 19:7, 8). But suppose that any of the past transgressions of the Lamb’s wife could be brought against her on that marriage day, any one instance of unfaithfulness to her plighted troth, would it not be sufficient to prevent the marriage, mar the wedding supper, and drive the bride away for very shame? No, there is no truth in God’s word more certain than the complete forgiveness of sins, and the presentation of the Church to Christ at the great day faultless before the presence of his glory, with exceeding joy.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“A time to kill, and a time to heal.” Ecclesiastes 3:3
All through the Christian’s life there will be “a time to kill, and a time to heal.” We sometimes read in books, and hear in conversation, an experience of this kind—a work of grace commencing with very powerful convictions of sin, and the soul brought almost to the very brink of hell, and then a wonderful revelation of Jesus Christ, a powerful application of his atoning blood to the conscience, and a blessed manifestation of God’s love to the soul. And then what follows? If we can credit their account, and they are not deceiving us, or not deceiving themselves, or if we do not misunderstand their statements, they possess an unwavering assurance during the remainder of their sojourn upon earth. Sin and Satan never distress nor wound them; the flesh lies calm and tranquil, like the summer sea, never lashed up by angry gusts into a storm of fretfulness and rebellion; the sea birds of doubt and fear never flit with screams around them, as harbingers of a tempest, but the gale of divine favour gently fills their sail, and wafts them along till they reach the harbour of endless rest. Is this consistent with the Scriptures of truth? Does not the word of God set forth the path of a Christian as one of trial and temptation? Can a living soul pass through many scenes without ever being killed experimentally in his feelings as one of “the flock of slaughter?” Does not a chequered experience run through the whole of a Christian’s life? Does the Scripture ever afford us the least warrant to believe that a man can be walking in the footsteps of a tempted, suffering Lord, who continues for months and years together at ease in Zion, without any trouble, exercise, grief, or distress in his soul? David never was there. Jeremiah never was there. Paul never was there. Heman never was there. Asaph never was there. You will find that no saints of God, whose experience is left on record in the Bible, ever were there; but their path was one of change and vicissitude; sometimes down, sometimes up, sometimes mourning, sometimes rejoicing, but never long together in one unvaried spot. The Spirit of the Lord, in carrying on this grand work in the hearts of God’s people, will be continually operating in two distinct ways upon their souls. Jeremiah was a prophet of the Lord, and he was “set over the nations and over the kingdoms to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down”—thus ran one part of his commission “to build and to plant “—that was the second part of his office. These two distinct operations were to run through the whole of his mission; they were “the burden of the Lord,” laid upon him at his first call to the prophetical office, and they continued during the whole of his ministry, a space of more than forty years. Did he, then, merely on one occasion pull down, and on one occasion build up? Was not the whole of his ministration, as evidenced in the prophecies that are contained in the book that bears his name, a continual pulling down with one hand, and building up with the other? So is it then with the ministration of the Spirit of the Lord in a vessel of mercy. He is continually killing, continually healing, continually casting down, continually raising up, now laying the soul low in the dust of selfabasement, and now building it up sweetly in Christ.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“Again, they are minished and brought low through oppression, affliction, and sorrow.” Psalm 107:39
Oppression is the exercise of strength against weakness, the triumph of power over helplessness; so that poverty literally opens the door for oppression. It was so with Hezekiah. When Hezekiah was laid on his bed of sickness, death stared him in the face, and he expected he should be cut off, and cast into perdition. This opened the door for oppression; says he, “Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me.” The cold damps of death stood upon his forehead, and despair pressed upon his soul. All his fleshly religion vanished in a moment; and he had but just faith and strength enough to cry out under the gripe of the oppressor’s hand at his throat, “Undertake for me” (Isaiah 38:14).
Oppression then is a weight and a burden superadded to poverty. It is not the same thing as poverty, but it is an additional infliction to poverty. A man may be poor without being oppressed; but when he is poor and oppressed too, it makes the poverty tenfold greater than before. Thus the Lord, in his dealings with his people in order to bring them down, first strips them and makes them poor; and when he has made them poor, and brought them into the depths of soul-destitution, then he causes burdens to lie on them as heavy loads, as though they would sink them into a never-ending hell. But here is the mark of life; the groaning, panting, sighing, and crying of the soul under the burden. The dead in sin feel nothing; the hypocrites in Zion feel nothing; and those that are at ease in a fleshly religion feel nothing. They may have powerful temptations; they may have alarming fears of going to hell; but as to any heavings up of a quickened conscience under the weight of oppression, as to any pouring out of the heart before God, or any giving vent to the distresses of the soul in sighs and cries unto the Lord to have mercy, to speak peace, and bring in a sweet manifestation of pardon and love, and to keep at this day after day, and night after night till the Lord appears; these are exercises unknown to the dead, and peculiar to the living family. A man may “cry for sorrow of heart, and howl for vexation of spirit” (Isaiah 65:14), but as the prophet speaks, “they do not cry unto God with their heart, when they howl upon their beds” (Hosea 7:14). But to breathe and pant after the Lord, to groan and sigh because of oppression, to wrestle with the Saviour and give him no rest until he appears in the soul—this inward work is known only to the elect, and is out of the reach of all who have a name to live while they are dead. It is the fruit of the pouring out of the spirit of grace and supplications into their soul; it is the work of the Holy Ghost in the heart, helping its infirmities, and making intercession in it with groanings which cannot be uttered.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.” Ephesians 3:17
God bade Moses receive from the people oil for the light, and to set up a candlestick with seven lamps, ever burning with this oil, to illuminate the holy place. This light was typical, no doubt, of the Holy Spirit, but as it is only by his own gracious light that the Lord Jesus is made known, we may still say, that as Christ dwells in the heart by faith, faith giving him a place in the bosom, he dwells in the enlightened understanding of his saints, in the gracious light of his own manifestations. Have you not seen at times wondrous beauty in the gospel? Has not a sacred light shone, from time to time, upon the holy page, when it testified of Christ? Have you not seen wondrous glory in a free gospel, a gospel that saves the sinner, and yet magnifies and glorifies the justice of God; a gospel that reconciles every apparently jarring attribute, brings justice and mercy to kiss each other, and makes God to be just, and yet the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus? Now that light whereby you saw the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, was gospel light; and as Christ came into the heart in the glory of that light, he may be said to dwell in the shining light of his own grace.
You may complain, and often bitterly complain, of the darkness of your mind, and it may seem at times as if you never had any true light to shine into your soul. But I would have you carefully observe these two things; first, that the very cause of the darkness which you feel is the presence of light. The Apostle, therefore, says, “But all things that are reproved, (margin, ‘discovered,’) are made manifest by the light, for whatsoever doth make manifest is light” (Eph. 5:13). Apply these words to your case. Is there not something in you that discovers to you your darkness, and not only discovers, but reproves it, and makes it manifest as a thing to be condemned? This secret something is light, for “whatsoever doth make manifest is light.” And as you not only see it, but feel and mourn under it, it is “the light of life” which the Lord promised those should have who follow him. But observe, secondly, that whenever a little light dawns in again upon your soul, in that light you again see the same grace and glory in Christ which you saw in him before. Now, what a proof this is that Christ dwells in the heart by faith, and that the light in which we see him, is the light wherewith he hath enlightened our understanding, and himself dwells in it.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“I will satisfy her poor with bread.” Psalm 132:15
What a sweetness there is in the word “satisfy!” The world cannot satisfy you and me. Have we not tried, some of us perhaps for many years, to get some satisfaction from it? But can wife or husband “satisfy” us? Can children or relatives “satisfy” us? Can all the world calls good or great “satisfy” us? Can the pleasures of sin “satisfy” us? Is there not in all an aching void? Do we not reap dissatisfaction and disappointment from everything that is of the creature, and of the flesh? Do we not find that there is little else but sorrow to be reaped from everything in this world? I am sure I find, and have found for some years, that there is little else to be gathered from the world but disappointment, dissatisfaction, “vanity and vexation of spirit.” The poor soul looks round upon the world and the creature, upon all the occupations, amusements and relations of life, and finds all one melancholy harvest, so that all it reaps is sorrow, perplexity, and dissatisfaction. Now when a man is brought here, to want satisfaction, something to make him happy, something to fill up the aching void, something to bind up broken bones, bleeding wounds, and leprous sores, and after he has looked at everything, at doctrines, opinions, notions, speculations, forms, rites and ceremonies in religion, at the world with all its charms, and at self with all its varied workings, and found nothing but bitterness of spirit, vexation and trouble in them all, and thus sinks down a miserable wretch, why, then when the Lord opens up to him something of the bread of life, he finds a satisfaction in that which he never could gain from any other quarter. And that is the reason why the Lord so afflicts his people; why some carry about with them such weak, suffering tabernacles, why some have so many family troubles, why others are so deeply steeped in poverty, why others have such rebellious children, and why others are so exercised with spiritual sorrows that they scarcely know what will be the end. It is all for one purpose, to make them miserable out of Christ, dissatisfied except with gospel food; to render them so wretched and uncomfortable that God alone can make them happy, and alone can speak consolation to their troubled minds.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.” Isaiah 40:31
How different the religion of a living soul is from the religion of a dead professor! The religion of a dead professor begins in self, and ends in self; begins in his own wisdom, and ends in his own folly; begins in his own strength, and ends in his own weakness; begins in his own righteousness, and ends in his own damnation. There is in him never any going out of soul after God, no secret dealings with the Lord, no actings of faith upon the divine perfections. But the child of God, though he is often faint, weary, and exhausted with many difficulties, burdens and sorrows; yet when the Lord does shew himself, and renews his strength, he soars aloft, and never ceases to mount up on the wings of faith and love till he penetrates into the very sanctuary of the most High. A living soul never can be satisfied except in living union and communion with the Lord of life and glory. Everything short of that leaves it empty. All the things of time and sense leave a child of God unsatisfied. Nothing but vital union and communion with the Lord of life, to feel his presence, taste his love, enjoy his favour, see his glory— nothing but this will ever satisfy the wants of ransomed and regenerated souls. This the Lord indulges his people with. “They shall renew their strength.” They shall not be always lying groaning on the ground, not always swooning away through the wounds made by sin, not always chained down by the fetters of the world, not always hunted in their souls like a partridge upon the mountains. There shall be a renewal of their strength; and in their renewal, “they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“The fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” 1 Corinthians 3:13
The fire which is to prove every man’s work of what sort it is, is not merely God’s wrath as manifested at the last day; but his fire as significative of the fiery trial which takes place in this life, and which God mercifully brings upon his people to burn up their wood, hay, and stubble. Now it is an inestimable mercy to have all this combustible material burnt up before we come to a death-bed. Fiery trials, such as God sends through afflictions, temptations, distressing feelings, and painful soul exercises, will burn up the wood, hay, and stubble which any of his saints may have gathered up as a superstructure. Guilt pressing upon a man’s conscience, the terrors of the Almighty in a fiery law, his arrows deeply fixed in the breast and drying up the spirit, fears of death, hell, and judgment, and the terrible consequences of dying under the wrath of God, all these are a part of the fiery trial which burns up the wood, hay, and stubble heaped by Babel builders on the foundation. All sink into black ashes before this fire, which proves what they are, and what a vain refuge they afford in the day of trouble.
What then stands the fiery trial? God’s work upon the soul, the faith that he implants by his own Spirit. It may be weak; it may be, it must be tried; it may seem at times scarcely to exist; and yet being of God, it stands every storm, and lives at last. A good hope through grace, a hope of God’s own communicating and maintaining,—like a well-tried anchor, this will stand the storm; like gold and silver, this will bear the hottest furnace; lose its dross, but not lose the pure material, but be refined, purified, and manifested all the more as genuine metal. So, too, these “precious stones” (1 Cor. 3:12), these heavenly visits, sweet manifestations, blessed promises, comforting discoveries, and gracious revelations of the Son of God, with the whispers of his dying, bleeding love,—these heavenly jewels can never be lost and never be burnt up. They may be tried, and that keenly and sharply, but being of God’s gift and operation, they are essentially indestructible.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“For we which have believed do enter into rest.” Hebrews 4:3
To rest is to lean upon something. Is it not? So spiritually. We want to lean upon something. The Lord himself has given us this figure. “Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her Beloved?” The figure of “a rock” on which the Church is built, “the foundation” which God has laid in Zion, points to the same idea, that of leaning or dependence. Now when the soul comes to lean upon Jesus, and depend wholly and solely on him, it enters into the sweetness of the invitation. Have we not leant upon a thousand things? And what have they proved? Broken reeds that have run into our hands, and pierced us. Our own strength and resolutions, the world and the church, sinners and saints, friends and enemies, have they not all proved, more or less, broken reeds? The more we have leant upon them, like a man leaning upon a sword, the more have they pierced our souls. The Lord himself has to wean us from the world, from friends, from enemies, from self, in order to bring us to lean upon himself; and every prop he will remove, sooner or later, that we may lean wholly and solely upon his Person, love, blood, and righteousness.
But there is another idea in the word “rest”—termination. When we are walking, running, or in any way moving, we are still going onwards; we have not got to the termination of our journey. But when we come to the termination of that we have been doing, we rest. So spiritually. As long as we are engaged in setting up our own righteousness, in labouring under the law, there is no termination of our labours. But when we come to the glorious Person of the Son of God, when we hang upon his atoning blood, dying love, and glorious righteousness, and feel them sweet, precious, and suitable, then there is rest. “We which have believed do enter into rest,” says the Apostle. His legal labours are all terminated. His hopes and expectations flow unto, and centre in Jesus—there they end, there they terminate; such a termination as a river finds in the boundless ocean.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“I am God, and not man.” Hosea 11:9
We speak sometimes of the attributes of God, and we use the words to help our conception. But God, strictly speaking, has no attributes. His attributes are himself. We speak, for instance, of the love of God, but God is love; of the justice of God, but God is just; of the holiness of God, but God is holy; of the purity of God, but God is pure. As he is all love, so he is all justice, all purity, all holiness. Love, then, is infinite, because God is infinite; his very name, his very character, his very nature, his very essence is infinite love. He would cease to be God if he did not love, and if that love were not as large as himself, as infinite as his own self-existent, incomprehensible essence. The love of the Son of God, as God the Son, is co-equal and co-eternal with the love of the Father; for the holy Trinity has not three distinct loves, either in date or degree. The Father loves from all eternity; the Holy Ghost loves from all eternity. The love of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, as one, equal, indivisible, infinite Jehovah cannot be otherwise but One. We therefore read of “the love of God,” that is the Father (2 Cor. 13:14); of “the love of the Son” (Gal. 2:20); and of “the love of the Spirit” (Rom. 15:30). This love being infinite, can bear with all our infirmities, with all those grievous sins that would, unless that love were boundless, have long ago broken it utterly through. This is beautifully expressed by the prophet: “How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together. I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man.”
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee:
for they are men wondered at.” Zechariah 3:8
A sinner saved is a spectacle for angels to contemplate. As the Apostle says,
“We are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels and to men.” The
ancients used to say that “a good man struggling with difficulties was a sight
for the gods to look at.” We may say, with all Christian truth, that the
mysteries of redemption are “things the angels desire to look into;” and
among the mysteries of redemption, what greater than a redeemed sinner?
That a man who deserves, by sin original and sin actual, nothing but the
eternal wrath of God, should be lifted out of perdition justly merited into
salvation to which he can have no claim, must indeed ever be a holy wonder.
And that you or I should ever have been fixed on in the electing love of God,
ever have been given to Jesus to redeem, ever quickened by the Spirit to feel
our lost, ruined state, ever blessed with any discovery of the Lord Jesus
Christ and of his saving grace,—this is and ever must be a matter of holy
astonishment here, and will be a theme for endless praise hereafter. To see a
man altogether so different from what he once was; once so careless, carnal,
ignorant, unconcerned; to see that man now upon his knees begging for
mercy, the tears streaming down his face, his bosom heaving with convulsive
sighs, his eyes looking upward that pardon may reach him in his desperate
state,—is not that a man to be looked at with wonder and admiration? To see
a man preferring one smile from the face of Jesus, and one word from his
peace-speaking lips to all the titles, honours, pleasures, and power that the
world can bestow; why, surely if there be a wonder upon earth, that man is
one. Was not this the very feeling of the disciples when Saul first “preached
Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God?” “All that heard him
were amazed, and said, Is not this he that persecuted the Church of God?”
So we look and wonder, and feel at times a holy joy that he who reigns at
God’s right hand is ever adding trophies to his immortal crown. And
whenever we see any of those near and dear to us in the flesh; be it husband,
wife, sister, brother, child, relative, or friend, touched by the finger of this
all-conquering Lord, subdued by his grace, and wrought upon by his Spirit,
then not only do we look upon such with holy wonder, but with the tenderest
affection, mingled with the tears of thankful praise to the God of all our
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869