“But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.” Romans 6:17
What reason have we to bless God that he so instructed his Apostle to set forth how a sinner is justified! For how could we have attained to the knowledge of this mystery without divine revelation? How could we know in what way God could be just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly? How could we see all the perfections of God harmonizing in the Person and work of Jesus? his law maintained in all its rigid purity and strictest justice, and yet mercy, grace, and love to have full play in a sinner’s salvation? But the Spirit of God led Paul deeply into this blessed subject; and especially in the Epistle to the Romans does he trace out this grand foundation truth with such clearness, weight, and power, that the Church of God can never be sufficiently thankful for this portion of divine revelation. His grand object is, to shew how God justifies the ungodly by the blood and obedience of his dear Son; so that “as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” He declares that “the righteousness of God is unto and upon all them that believe;” and that “through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood,” he pardons the sinner, justifies the ungodly, and views him as righteous in the Son of his love. In opening up this subject, the Apostle (Romans 5) traces up this justification to the union of the Church with her covenant Head; shews us her standing in Christ as well as in Adam; and that all the miseries which she derives from her standing in the latter are overbalanced by the mercies that flow from her standing in the former; winding up with that heart-reviving truth, that “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound; that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life.” This then is a “form of doctrine,” or mould of teaching, into which the soul is delivered when it is brought into a heart-felt reception of, and a feeling acquaintance with it; and by being led more or less into the experimental enjoyment of it, is favoured with a solemn acquiescence in, and a filial submission to it, as all its salvation and all its desire. And as the mould impresses its image upon the moist plaster or melted metal poured into it, so the heart, softened and melted by the blessed Spirit’s teaching, receives the impress of this glorious truth with filial confidence, feels its sweetness and power, and is filled with a holy admiration of it as the only way in which God can justify an ungodly wretch, not only without sacrificing any one attribute of his holy character, but rather magnifying thereby the purity of his nature, and the demands of his unbending justice.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“O Lord, be gracious unto us; we have waited for thee: be thou their arm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble.” Isaiah 33:2
Israel has often to pass through times of sorrow and trouble. Deep temporal and deep spiritual trouble is the allotted portion of many, if not of most of the people of God. But having found that the Lord is a Saviour, and the only Saviour who can support in trouble and deliver out of trouble, there is this conviction deeply implanted and firmly written upon their heart, that he is a Saviour in the time of trouble. It is the purpose of God to hunt us out of all lying refuges, that we may believe in Jesus to the saving of our soul; that we may prove that he is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by him; that we may learn what salvation is, and that we may know it for ourselves as a divine and blessed reality. Thus though he is always a Saviour, yet he is not experimentally a Saviour in times of worldly ease, carnal prosperity, and seasons of carelessness. But in times of trouble, when none can do us any good or stretch forth a healing hand but the Lord alone, then to come to his gracious Majesty and find there and then how he can and does save in trouble and out of trouble, this is that which endears such a Saviour to believing hearts. And observe the expression, “time of trouble,” and how it includes not only every trouble which may befall us temporally or spiritually, but clearly intimates that there is not a single season or time when trouble comes that the Lord is not able and willing to save us out of it. How well this corresponds with those gracious words and that sweet promise, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.”
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.” Psalm 48:2
We have sometimes thought that the reason why Zion typically represents the royal throne of Jesus is by many not well understood. Mount Zion literally was a steep hill of Jerusalem, so steep and inaccessible that for generations after the children of Israel had gained possession of the land, it still remained, like a little Gibraltar, in the hands of the Jebusites, the original inhabitants of the place. “As for the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Judah could not drive them out; but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Judah at Jerusalem unto this day” (Jos. 15:63). But when David was anointed king over Israel, and had reigned at Hebron seven years and six months, he cast his eyes toward Jerusalem, as a preferable metropolis, and a more suitable seat of his extended empire. But as long as the hill of Zion was occupied by the warlike Jebusites, they would retain their command of the lower city. His first step, therefore, was, with the help of God, to dispossess the Jebusites of this their stronghold. But so strong was this hill-fort by nature and art, that the Jebusites ridiculed all his attempts to capture it, putting on the ramparts “the blind and the lame” soldiers of the garrison, what we should call the worn-out invalids of the army, as if these Chelsea pensioners, who could neither see nor walk, were amply sufficient to baffle all David’s attempts at its capture (2 Sam. 5: 6-8). Joab, however, as a prize set before him, for which he was to be David’s chief captain, mounted the hill, smote the lame and the blind on the wall, and the Jebusites behind the wall, and won possession of the coveted spot (1 Chron. 11:6). There David henceforward dwelt, as its conqueror, as in a castle; there he fixed his royal abode, and thence he swayed his sceptre over the whole land of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba. Its very name was typical, for it signifies literally, “sunny,” or “shine upon,” as facing the south, and ever basking in the rays of the warm sun. Thus the sunny hill of Zion, as a hill of conquest, and as the royal seat of David, became a suitable type of the throne of Jesus in the courts above, won by lawful conquest (Rev. 3:21), where is now his royal palace, and where he rules and reigns as the anointed King of heaven and earth. Thus mount Zion typically represents not the cross, but the crown; not the law, but the gospel; not the battle, but the victory.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace.” Romans 4:16
Of faith we read expressly that “it is the gift of God.” This is the grand master-grace of the soul; it is the grand wheel which moves every other wheel in the heart; it is the eye, the ear, the hand of the new man of grace. Only so far as we have faith, and the Lord draws out this faith in exercise, have we any true spiritual feeling. But what makes me prize the gift of faith? It is knowing so much and so painfully the inbeing and inworking of unbelief. Is not this the case naturally? What makes me prize health? It is having a poor, weakly tabernacle. What makes me prize rest? Fatigue. What makes me prize ease? It is pain. What makes me prize food? It is hunger. What makes me prize the cup of cold water? It is thirst. By these feelings, I not only know the reality by the want of it, but also enjoy the blessing when communicated. It is just so spiritually, as naturally. What can I know of faith, except I am exercised (and exercised I am more or less daily) by the workings of unbelief, infidelity, questionings of the reasoning mind, and all the spawn of an unbelieving heart? As the soul is tossed up and down, (and often, it is tossed up and down on this sea of unbelief,) it learns to prize the harbour of faith. And when the Lord mercifully communicates a little faith to the soul, and faith begins to realise, feel, experience, and feed upon the truth as it is in Jesus, then we know what faith is by the possession of it.
What a mercy it is that the Lord has the gift of faith to bestow! Here are poor souls toiling, troubling, labouring, groaning, sighing, oppressed with unbelief, that great giant in the heart, who has slain his thousands and tens of thousands. How our souls sometimes sink down under this wretched unbelief! But how we prize the faith all the more when it comes! How all the sinkings make the risings higher, and all the sadness makes the change more blessed! As the tossings to and fro of the sailor upon the sea, with all the perils and sufferings of the voyage, make the calm harbour so pleasant; so all the tossing up and down of unbelief endears the holy calm of living faith to the soul.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead.” Ephesians 1:19, 20
Man needs to be roused by a mighty and effectual power out of his state of sleep and death. It is not a little pull, a gentle snatch at his coat, a slight tug of his sleeve, which will pull him out of his sins. He must be snatched from them as a person would be snatched out of bed when the house is on fire, or pulled out of a river when sinking for the last time. Let us never think that the work of grace upon the heart is a slight or superficial one. Indeed, there needs a mighty work of grace upon a sinner’s heart to deliver him from his destructions. We always, therefore, find the work of grace to begin by a spiritual sight and sense of our ruined condition before God. But this alone will not suffice to make us true-hearted disciples of Jesus. It is a preparation, a most needful preparation for a sight of the King in his beauty, but it is not the same thing as to see and believe in the Son of God unto eternal life. We must have something far beyond any convictions of sin or any sense of our lost and ruined condition. We must have by faith a view of the blessed Lord more or less manifested to our souls by that Holy Spirit whose office it is to take of the things of Christ and to reveal them to the heart so as to see his suitability, his grace, his glory, his work, his blood, his obedience; and to so see these divine and blessed realities by the eye of faith, as to know and feel for ourselves that they are exactly adapted to our case and state; that they are the very things we require to save us from the wrath to come; and that so far as we have an interest in them we are saved from the floods of destruction. Wherever this believing sight of Christ is given to the soul, it creates and maintains a faith that works by love. Thus wherever there is a view of Jesus by the eye of faith, wherever he manifests and makes himself in any measure precious to the soul, love is the certain fruit of it; for we love him because he first loved us, and, when we begin to love the Lord, love gives us a binding tie which creates union and communion with him. As, then, he unveils his lovely face, and discovers more and more of his beauty and blessedness, it gives him a firm place in the heart’s warmest, tenderest affections, and then he comes and takes up his abode in the soul and rules there as its rightful Lord. The following things therefore are indispensably necessary to true discipleship; first, a spiritual sense of our lost, ruined condition; then a knowledge of Christ by a gracious discovery of his suitability, beauty, and blessedness; and thirdly, a faith in him that works by love and purifies the heart, overcomes the world, and delivers from death and hell.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“Bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.” Psalm 118:27
Are you a poor broken-hearted child of the living God? Is there any measure of the Spirit of Christ in you? Is there any faint resemblance of his meekness and holy image stamped upon you? Then you feel yourself bound with cords to the horns of the altar. You feel the strong ties of necessity, and you feel the strong ties of affection binding you there. But with this, you feel also that you are a struggling victim; that you would gladly escape the troubles and trials that being bound to the horns of the altar brings upon you; you would gladly get into an easier path if you could; or if you dared, would willingly set up some altar yourself, made after the pattern of Damascus (2 Kings 16:10); and would gladly, like the Roman Catholic, worship with your body a material cross, instead of worshipping in your soul the adorable God-man who hung and bled there. You would gladly, if you could, step out of a self-loathing, exercised, tried, harassed, and tempted path, to get into the flowery meadow of doctrine and speculation, and there walk at ease without one pang in your conscience, or one trial in your soul. But the Lord has said, “Bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.” You are bound to the horns of the altar. From those horns you cannot escape. You may fume, fret, and rebel against all or any of these cords, but you cannot break them. Aye, you may, in your strugglings, stretch to their utmost extent these cords; but they are too firmly fastened round your tender conscience, and too strongly wreathed round your broken heart, for you to burst them. They would sooner cut your heart in two, than you should break them, or escape from them. And in your right mind, you would not be otherwise than bound with cords to the horns of the altar. In your right mind, you want the cords tightened, and so to be drawn nearer and nearer unto it; and to have the blood that was shed upon it sprinkled upon your conscience. In your right mind, you want to see with the eye of faith the Victim that once lay bleeding and writhing there; and as you look upon him, to drink into his image, and to feel the melting power and softening efficacy of that sight. But, then, connected with it, there are such trials, such temptations, and such sacrifices, that you, in your fits of rebellion or flesh-pleasing ease, would at times as gladly get away, as at others you would gladly get near. Vile wretches that we are, who would often prefer to serve the flesh and the world, and take our chance, as men speak, for eternity, than suffer trials and temptations as the followers of Christ! But it is our mercy that we can neither make nor unmake, do nor undo, bind nor break any one cord of eternal love, but that, in spite of the creature, God will “fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power.”
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.” 2 Corinthians 4:11
What is meant by the expression, “our mortal flesh?” It does not mean the carnal mind, but our earthly tabernacle; and the expression is similar to another in this chapter, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” It is, then, in this poor body, compassed with infirmities, that the life of Jesus is made manifest. This divine life will often spring up in fervent breathings after God, in the actings of living faith, in the sweet intercourse the people of God have with one another, in reading the Scriptures, in the application of precious promises, and under the preached word. From time to time it bubbles up like a spring from its source. Sometimes indeed it runs underground, buried as it were under the load of “our mortal flesh;” but again and again it reappears, drawn up by the Sun of righteousness. “Spring up, O well.” But its risings are ever proportionate to its sinkings. Thus in proportion as we cease to pray naturally, do we pray spiritually; as we cease to hope in the flesh, do we hope in the Lord; as we cease to believe with the head, do we believe with the heart; when we see an end of all perfection in self, then we begin to find perfection in Christ; and when we see nothing in our hearts but sin, misery, and wretchedness, then we begin to taste spiritual consolation. Thus in proportion as nature sinks, the life of Jesus rises, and is made manifest in our mortal flesh.
Is the soul, then, longing to have sweet manifestations of the life of Jesus? Where must it go to get them? What does the word of God say? “Whence cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding? Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air. Destruction and death say, ‘We have heard the fame thereof with our ears” (Job 28:20-22). Till, then, we get to “destruction and death,” the destruction of fleshly hopes and the death of creature religion, we do not so much as ever hear the fame of true wisdom with our ears. Thus, when we get into darkness, then light springs up; when we get into despondency, hope arises; when we are tempted with unbelief and infidelity, faith appears. Thus those are the wisest in whom creature wisdom has most ceased; those are the strongest who have learned most experimentally their own weakness; those are the holiest who have known most of their own filthiness; those are the most religious in a true sense who have least religion of their own. So that just in proportion as we are delivered unto death, and execution takes place on what the creature loves, so does the life of Jesus begin to rise and make itself blessedly manifest.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord,
that shall stand.” Proverbs 19:21
A man in his fleshly mind is generally devising some method or other whereby he may escape a practical subjection to the gospel; some way or other whereby he may escape walking in the path of self-denial and mortification of the flesh, and the crucifixion of “the old man with the affections and lusts.” He is generally seeking some way or other to indulge the flesh, and yet, at the same time, to stand in gospel liberty, to have everything that can gratify his carnal mind, and, at the same time, have a well-grounded hope of eternal life. But the Lord says, “No, these two things are not compatible; he that shall live with Christ must die with Christ; he that shall reign with Christ must suffer with Christ; he that shall wear the crown must carry the cross.” So, that whatever devices there be in a man’s heart, or whatever ways and plans he shall undertake to bring his devices to pass, “the counsel of the Lord still shall stand.” Divine sovereignty shall fulfil that which divine sovereignty has appointed, and the purposes of God shall stand upon the ruins of the purposes of the creature. And it is our mercy (so far as we are children of the living God), it is our mercy, that it should be so. Where should we have been this moment, if the devices in our hearts had succeeded? We should have been in hell. Where should we have been, since the Lord has been pleased, as we trust, to quicken our souls into spiritual life, if all our devices had succeeded? Our “eyes would have stood out with fatness,” and we should have “had more than heart could wish.” We should have been now, if the Lord had left us to our own devices, indulging in some awful temptation, or already have disgraced our name before the Church of God; or, if we had escaped that, we should have a name to live, whilst our hearts were secretly dead before God; have had “a form of godliness, whilst we inwardly or outwardly denied the power thereof.” And therefore it is our mercy that the devices of our hearts should not stand, but that “the counsel of the Lord” should prevail over all the purposes of our base nature. When a man is brought to the right spot, and is in a right mind to trace out the Lord’s dealings with him from the first, he sees it was a kind hand which “blasted his gourds and laid them low;” it was a kind hand that swept away his worldly prospects, which reduced him to natural as well as to spiritual poverty, which led him into exercises, trials, sorrows, griefs, and tribulations; because, in those trials he has found the Lord, more or less, experimentally precious. Jacob found it so; he blessed the Lord for the path he had led him in. Though his days had been few and evil, he could see how the Lord had “fed him all his life long unto that day,” amid all the changing vicissitudes through which he had passed in body and soul; and he blessed that hand which had guided him through that difficult way, and yet brought him to a “city of habitation.”
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
Through Baca’s Vale Daily devotional from J C Philpot
“The church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” Acts 20:28
Atonement for sin stands or falls with the Deity of Christ. If we deny his Deity, we must deny the atonement, for what value or merit can there be in the blood of a mere man that God, for its sake, should pardon millions of sins? This the Socinians clearly see, and therefore deny the atonement altogether. But if there be no atonement, no sacrifice, no propitiation for sin, where can we look for pardon and peace? Whichever way we turn our eyes there is despair, and we might well take up the language of the fallen angel:
“Me miserable! which way shall I fly
Infinite wrath, and infinite despair?
Which way I fly is hell; myself am hell;
And, in the lowest deep,a lower deep
Still threatening to devour me opens wide,
To which the hell I suffer seems a heaven.”
But when by the eye of faith we see the Son of God obeying the law, rendering, by doing and dying, acting and suffering, a satisfaction to the violated justice of the Most High and offering a sacrifice for sin, then we see such a glory and such a value breathing through every thought, word, and action of his suffering humanity, that we embrace him and all that he is and has, with every desire and affection of our regenerated soul. All our religion lies here; all our faith, hope, and love flow unto, and are, as it were, fixed and concentrated in Jesus Christ, and him crucified; and without a measure of this in our heart and conscience, we have no religion worth the name, nothing that either saves or sanctifies, nothing that delivers from the guilt, filth, love, power, and practice of sin, nothing that supports in life, comforts in death, or fits for eternity. The way, then, whereby we come to a knowledge of, and a faith in, the Deity of Christ is first by feeling a need of all that he is as a Saviour, and a great one, and then having a manifestation of him by the blessed Spirit to our soul. When he is thus revealed and brought near, we see, by the eye of faith, his pure and perfect humanity and his eternal Deity; and these two distinct natures we see combined, but not intermingled, in one glorious Person, Immanuel, God with us. Till thus favoured we may see the Deity of Christ in the Scriptures, and have so far a belief in it, but we have not that personal appropriating faith whereby, with Thomas, we can say, “My Lord and my God.”
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“And has put all things under his feet.”
How vast, how numerous, how complicated are the various events and circumstances which attend the Church of God here below, as she travels onward to her heavenly home! But if all things as well as all persons are put under Jesus’ feet, there cannot be a single circumstance over which he has not supreme control. Everything in providence and everything in grace are alike subject to his disposal. There is not a trial or temptation, an affliction of body or soul, a loss, a cross, a painful bereavement, a vexation, grief or disappointment, a case, state or condition, which is not put under Jesus’ feet.
He has sovereign, supreme disposal over all events and circumstances. As possessed of infinite knowledge he sees them, as possessed of infinite wisdom he can manage them, and as possessed of infinite power he can dispose and direct them for our good and his own glory. How much trouble and anxiety should we save ourselves, could we firmly believe, realize, and act on this! If we could see by the eye of faith that every foe and every fear, every difficulty and perplexity, every trying or painful circumstance, every looked-for or unlooked-for event, every source of care, whether at present or in prospect, are all, as put under his feet, at his sovereign disposal, what a load of anxiety and care would be often taken off our shoulders!