“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18
Has the gospel ever come to you in power? If it has, it has done something for you. Has it ever, then, dispelled your many doubts and fears? Has it ever made Jesus precious to your soul; ever brought with it light, life, liberty, and love; ever given you access to the bosom of God; ever communicated that spirit of holy boldness and filial confidence, whereby, as a successful wrestler, you were enabled to prevail with God, and get a blessing out of his hands and heart? But it is useless to talk of power when nothing is done. A manufacturer says to an engineer, “I want you to construct me an engine of a hundred horse power.” But if the engineer make the engine, and upon trial it be found only of ninety, and the work require a hundred horse power, the engine is so far useless. Now, what would his employer say to him but, “What a mistake you have made! I ordered an engine of a hundred horse power, and this is only ninety. It will not do the work I want. Take it away.” So in grace. We want a power that can move certain weights; the weight of sin, for instance, from off a guilty conscience; killing fears of death and hell; the burden of unbelief; the heavy load of carnality; many grievous temptations that make the soul cry, “Lord, I am oppressed, undertake for me.” What heavy weights are there to be lifted off; what huge stones to be rolled away from the sepulchre; the world to be overcome; lusts and passions to be crucified; the old man of sin mortified; Satan to be defeated and put to flight! But besides all these weights to be removed, and enemies to be overcome, there is the soul to be saved, heaven to be brought near, hell put out of sight, the law to be for ever silenced, death to be robbed of its sting, and the grave of its victory, and an eternal course of glory to be won. Oh, what a mighty work has to be done in us and for us—a work which no man ever has done or can do for himself!
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.” Acts 20:32
Not only did Paul “commend” the church at Ephesus “to God,” but he commended them also in an especial manner “to the word of his grace.” There is a difference between “grace” and “the word of his grace.” Nothing but grace can save the soul; nothing but superabounding grace can blot out and hide from the view of justice our aggravated iniquities. But “the word of his grace” is that word which brings this grace into the heart, which communicates life and power to the soul, which the Spirit by his inward teaching and testimony seals on the conscience, and by which he reveals and sheds abroad that favour of which he testifies. This is what the Lord’s people want. It is “the word of grace” that reaches their soul. It is not reading of grace in God’s word that brings peace into their hearts; it is “the word of his grace,” when he is pleased to speak that word with a divine power to their souls, that brings salvation with it.
Now, the Lord’s people are continually in those trying states and circumstances, out of which nothing can deliver them but “the word of God’s grace.” If the soul have to pass through severe trials, it is not hearing of grace that can deliver it out of them. If it be beset with powerful temptations, it is not reading about grace that can break them to pieces. But “the word of his grace,” when the Lord himself is pleased to speak with his own blessed lips, and apply some promise with his own divine power, supports under trial, delivers from temptation, breaks snares to pieces, makes crooked things straight and rough places plain, brings the prisoner out of the prison-house, and takes off the yoke by reason of the anointing.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“They shall mount up with wings as eagles.” Isaiah 40:31
It is said of the eagle, that he mounts up towards the sun; and that of all birds, he is the only one which can gaze upon the sun with unshrinking eye. So with faith in the soul. The Lord’s people alone can look by faith upon the “Sun of righteousness,” gaze upon a glorious Immanuel at the right hand of the Father, and see a precious Jesus ever interceding for them, and drawing them near to his bosom. And when this blessed Jesus communicates a measure of his love and blood to their consciences, and raises up and draws forth faith in his name, then the soul begins to mount up with these wings like eagles, soaring higher and higher, till it comes into the presence of God; mounting up in higher and higher circles of spiritual flight, till it penetrates into the very sanctuary of Jehovah.
Now, has not your soul thus soared sometimes as upon eagle’s wings? Have there not been those communications of divine life and light, those mountains of faith, those anchorings of hope, those goings forth of love, whereby your soul was enabled to mount up and find delight in Jesus, and felt his name, love, and blood precious? Have you not mounted up too, not only in the exercise of living faith and hope, but also of heavenly affection? Sometimes we are so fastened down to this earth, this vale of tears, this waste-howling wilderness; so chained down to it, that we are like a bird with a broken wing, and cannot mount. We are swallowed up in the world, forgetting God and godliness. But are there not times and seasons when the soul is delivered from these chains and fetters, when earthly cares drop off from the mind, when our wings are new moulted, and fresh pinions as it were given, when the world and its temptations, sin and its snares are left behind, and there is a sweet mounting up in the feelings of heavenly affection? This is to “mount up with wings as eagles,” and the soaring soul never ceases to mount till it comes into the very presence of the Three-One God of Israel.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
What an eminent grace is the grace of faith! I call it, sometimes, the Queen of graces; for faith seems to lead the van, though hope and love follow almost side by side. But still, faith, as the Queen, seems to go in the foremost rank, and to claim the most eminent place. Now, what is faith? That is a question of questions, for on it hangs heaven or hell. God himself has given us a clear definition of it, where he says, “faith is the substance of things hoped for.” In other words, faith in the soul gives a realisation to the things in which we are brought to hope, takes what to most men are airy shadows, mere words and names, and gives them a substantial existence, a firm abiding place in the heart and conscience. The Apostle calls it also “the evidence of things not seen.” That is, faith, by believing the testimony of God, is to us an internal eye, whereby we see those things, which to the natural eye are invisible. Thus adopting the Apostle’s definition, we may call faith the eye of the soul, as we read, “By faith he endured, seeing him who is invisible.” For it is only by faith that we see either God, or the precious things of God. It is only by faith that we feel their power. It is only by faith that we know they have a real subsistence, or that we ourselves have a substantial interest in them. But this faith is the special gift of God. It is not the exercise of any intellectual faculty. It is not the result of reasoning or argument. Nor does it spring from any historical proof. It is a special gift of God, a grace of the Spirit raised up by the power of God in the soul, and acting upon the truth of God as the blessed Spirit draws it forth. Jesus is the Author; Jesus is the finisher of it; and we have no more, and I believe no less faith, than he himself, by his almighty power, is pleased to grant and to sustain.
But, looking at faith and some of its properties, we may branch out a little in describing how faith acts. There is an expression of the Apostle’s that casts a sweet light upon the work of faith, where he says, “Unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them; but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” Here he brings forward a special operation of faith, in that it mixes with the word of truth. And it does it thus. God the Holy Ghost applies God’s word to the conscience. He thus raises up the grace of faith; this grace of faith embraces God’s testimony, and so intermingles itself with this testimony that it enters into it, appropriates it, and gives it a substantial realisation and personal indwelling. See how this was done in the instance of Abram. God comes to him in the night visions, and says to him, “Fear not, I am thy shield and exceeding great reward.” But Abram, in a fit of unbelief, says, “What wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?” The Lord then takes him abroad into the air, shews him the stars of the sky, and tells him, “So shall thy seed be.” Now here was the testimony of God in a certain promise to Abram’s conscience; upon this, faith immediately sprang up in his soul; for we read, “Abram believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” When God spake to his soul, Abram believed it by the operation of God’s Spirit on his heart. So it is with every child of God. He believes what God speaks to him, he inwardly, spiritually credits it, because he feels what God the Spirit, applies to his soul with power; for the same Spirit that applies God’s word to his heart raises up the faith in his soul that mixes with the word applied, and thus gives the word a substantial realisation, a firm abiding place in his conscience.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” Philippians 2:6, 7
The humanity of our blessed Lord was actual flesh and blood from the moment of its conception, a perfect human body, to which was united a perfect human soul; both without sin, or else he could not be the Lamb without blemish; both without sin, or his pure humanity would not have been that “holy thing” born of the Virgin, which should be called the Son of God. Thus he came forth as the Lamb of God, without spot or blemish. Well indeed might the Apostle say, “Great is the mystery of godliness.” Here as in a glass we see the wonderful love of Jesus, that he who is the Sort of God, coequal and co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Ghost, a sharer of the Father’s essence, of the Father’s glory, should stoop so low to lift us up so high; that he should condescend to unite to his glorious Person our nature, flesh and blood; to wear a human body like our own; to feel as we do, to speak as we do, to walk as we do, to eat and drink and hunger and thirst and weep and sigh and mourn as we do; yet all the while be the Son of God, and should have a divine nature in as close union with human nature as our soul has with our bodily frame. We cannot tell how our soul is in union with our body. We know it is so, but how we cannot tell. We only know the fact, but we cannot explain the mode. So we cannot tell how Christ’s divine nature is in union with his human nature; we know it is so by the testimony of God, by the express revelation of his word. That revelation to a believer answers all inquiry. But if any man say to me, “Can you explain the mystery of the two natures in Christ?” I ask in my turn, “Can you explain the mystery of your own existence? Can you explain to me how you are able to lift up your own hand, see with your own eye, hear with your own ear, move with your own foot? No man has ever yet been able to explain this apparently simple thing; a feat which every child can perform, but a fact which no philosopher can understand. Can you tell me how mind can act upon matter? how you wish to do a thing with your mind, and can do it instantaneously with your body? When, then, you can explain your own existence and unravel the mystery of your soul acting in union with your body, then I will allow that you may unravel the mystery of the union of Deity and humanity in the Person of the Son of God, as he lived upon earth, and as he now lives in heaven.” Beautiful upon this mystery are the words of Hart:
“How it was done we can’t discuss;
But this we know, ’twas done for us.”
Happy those who can use these words without a wavering tongue!
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us.” Titus 3:5
To view mercy in its real character, we must go to Calvary. It is not sufficient to contrast the purity of God with the impurity of man. That indeed affords us some view of what mercy must be to reach the depths of the fall; a sideface of that precious attribute. But to see its full face shining upon the redeemed, we must go by faith, under the secret teachings and leadings of the Holy Ghost, to see “Immanuel, God with us,” grovelling in Gethsemane’s garden. We must view him naked upon the cross, groaning, bleeding, agonizing, dying. We must view Godhead and manhood united together in the Person of a suffering Jesus; and the power of the Godhead bearing up the suffering manhood. We must view that wondrous spectacle of love and blood, and feel our eyes flowing down in streams of sorrow, humility, and contrition at the sight, in order to enter a little into the depths of the tender mercy of God. Nothing but this can really break the sinner’s heart.
“Law and terrors do but harden,
All the while they work alone;
But a sense of blood-bought pardon
Soon dissolves a heart of stone.”
Law terrors, death and judgment, infinite purity, and eternal vengeance will not soften or break a sinner’s heart. But if he is led to view a suffering Immanuel, and a sweet testimony is raised up in his conscience that those sufferings were for him—this, and this only will break his heart all to pieces. Thus, only by bringing a sweet sense of love and blood into his heart does the blessed Spirit shew a sinner some of the depths of the tender mercy of God.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.” Psalm 90:17
What is this beauty? “The beauty of the Lord our God.” It is, therefore, the beauty of the God-man; the comeliness, the holiness, the perfection, and glory that ever dwell in the Son of God. Now “days of affliction, and years of evil” have marred all creature comeliness. There was a time, perhaps, when we could take some pleasure and delight in what we were, or what we vainly fancied we should be. Our own righteousness had a beauty and comeliness to us; and our religion was amiable and pleasing in our own sight. But what has become of it? Marred, marred; effectually marred. By what? “Days of affliction, and years of evil.” These have effectually ruined, defaced, and polluted all creature comeliness. In a word, we were once deeply in love with self; but self has been shewn to us such a hideous monster, in so vile and despicable a light, that we have fallen out of love with him altogether; and we have seen, at times, such beauty, glory, loveliness, and suitability in the Son of God, that as we have fallen out of love with self, we have fallen in love with him. Thus as all our own beauty and our own comeliness have been marred and defaced, the beauty and comeliness of the Lord have risen in due proportion. So that this has become the desire of our soul, “‘Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us.’ Let us stand accepted in it; let it be put upon us by the imputation of God himself; let us be clothed with it manifestly before the eyes of a heart-searching Jehovah. Let the beauty of Jesus’ atoning blood, the beauty of his perfect righteousness, the beauty of his dying love, the beauty and holiness of his glorious Person be upon us, covering all our filth, guilt and shame, spreading itself over all our nakedness, sin and pollution, that when God looks upon us, he may not see us as we are, marred, defaced, and full of wounds and bruises and putrifying sores; but may see us standing accepted in the Beloved, with ‘the beauty of the Lord our God’ upon us.” Oh, what a matchless robe is this! It outshines angels’: for it is the righteousness of God’s only-begotten Son! And if we stand with “the beauty of the Lord our God” upon us, we can bid defiance to all law-charges, to all the accusations of a guilty conscience, and to all the darts from hell.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“That ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” James 1:4
The word “perfect” in the Scripture does not mean, as applied to a saint of God, anything approaching to the usual idea of perfection, as implying spotless, sinless holiness, but one who is matured and ripened in the life of God, no longer a child but a grown man. As a tree grown to its full stature is said to have attained perfection; so when the Lord the Spirit has brought forth the work of patience in your soul, as far as regards that work you are perfect, for it is God’s work in you; and so far you are “entire,” that is, possessing all which that grace gives, and “wanting nothing” which that grace can communicate. To submit wholly to the will of God, and be lost and swallowed up in conformity to it, is the height of Christian perfection here below; and he that has that wants nothing, for he has all things in Christ. What, then, is the greatest height of grace to which the soul can arrive? Where did grace shine forth so conspicuously as in the Lord Jesus Christ? and where did grace manifest itself more than in the gloomy garden and on the suffering cross? Was not the human nature of Jesus more manifestly filled with the Spirit, and did not every grace shine forth in him more conspicuously in Gethsemane and on Calvary than when enraptured upon the Mount of Transfiguration? So there is more manifested grace in the heart of a saint of God who, under trial and temptation, can say, “Thy will be done,” and submit himself to the chastening rod of his heavenly Father, than when he is basking in the full beams of the Sun of righteousness. How often we are mistaken in this matter; longing for enjoyment, instead of seeing that true grace makes us submit to the will of God, whether in the valley or upon the mount!
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4
Death, the gaunt king of terrors; Death, who with his scythe in his resistless hand, mows down whole millions of the human race; Death, who awaits his victims at every corner; Death, that must soon lay you and me low in the grave, casts a shadow wherever he comes. He visits the sick room, and casts a shadow there; he hangs over the cradle, and his shadow falls on the infant’s face; he comes in the Indian letter from abroad, or with the black seal and mourning envelope put into our hand at home; and these tidings or these tokens cast a deep shadow over our hearts. Indeed, where is the place where death does not cast his shadow? where the house where this shade has never fallen? In fact, he never comes without it. He is “the last enemy;” he is the final fulfilment of the original curse. And though death, to a saint of God, is stripped of its terrors, robbed of its sting, and disarmed of its victory; though, to the expiring believer it is but a portal of life into the mansions of eternal bliss, yet, say what we may, the portal casts a shadow. Even David, though full of sweet confidence that “the Lord was his shepherd,” at the very time when “his cup ran over” with the Lord’s goodness and love, calls it “the valley of the shadow of death.” “The rod and the staff” comforted him, and he “feared no evil,” but it was still “a valley,” overhung by frowning mountains and dark, overarching woods, and “the shadow of death” was spread upon it from the entrance to the end. And yet it is but a “shadow.” To the graceless, the Christless, the impenitent, the unbelieving, it is a substance, for the wrath of God, which burns to the lowest hell, awaits them at the end of the valley, to plunge them into the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone. But to those who die in the Lord, in the sweet enjoyment of peace through his blood, it is but a passing shadow. For them the substance died when Jesus died. It was buried in his tomb, but did not rise with him, for he destroyed it when he “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light.”
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“The love of Christ, which passeth knowledge.” Ephesians 3:19
That eminent saint, the Apostle Paul, who had been in the third heaven, and there saw glorious sights, and heard unspeakable words, though he exhausted human language to set forth the surpassing excellency of the love of Christ, comes at last to this point: “It passeth knowledge.” Indeed it must pass knowledge. Is it not infinite? What measure, then, can be assigned to the love of Christ? If Christ be God, and as such the equal of the Father, his love is as infinite as Deity. Our love is the love of the creature; the love of God is as great as Deity, as infinite as the self-existent I Am; it must needs therefore pass knowledge. You may wonder sometimes—and it is a wonder that will fill heaven itself with anthems of eternal praise—how such a glorious Jesus as this can ever look down from heaven upon such crawling reptiles, on such worms of earth,—what is more, upon such sinners who have provoked him over and over again by their misdeeds. Yes, that this exalted Christ, in the height of his glory, can look down from heaven his dwelling-place on such poor, miserable, wretched creatures as we, this is the mystery that fills angels with astonishment. But it is the glory of Christ thus to love; it is his special glory to take his saints to heaven, that they might be witnesses of his glory and partakers of it. Therefore, it is not because we are such crawling reptiles, that we are such undeserving creatures, that we are so utterly unworthy of the least notice from him, we are to put away all this matchless love from us, and say, “Can Christ love one like me? Can the glorious Son of God from heaven his dwelling-place cast an eye of pity and compassion, love and tenderness upon one like me, who can scarcely at times bear with myself; who see and feel myself one of the vilest of the vile, and the worst of the worst? Oh, what must I be in the sight of the glorious Son of God?” And yet, he says, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love.” This love has breadths, and lengths, and depths, and heights unknown. Its breadth exceeds all human span; its length outvies all creature line; its depth surpasses all finite measurement; and its height excels even angelic computation.
Now this is the very reason why this love is so adapted to us. We want a love like this; a love to spread itself over us, to come down to our lowest depths; a love that can land us safe in heaven. A love short of this would be no love at all. We should exhaust it by our sins if this love were not what it is here represented. Long ago we should have out-sinned this love, and drained it dry by our ingratitude, rebellion, and misdoing. But because it is what it is, love so wondrous, so deep, so long, so broad, so high; it is because it is what it is that it is so suitable to every want and woe.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869