“Having promise of the life that now is,
and of that which is to come.”
1 Timothy 4:8
True religion lies deep; it is not a balloon hovering over us miles up in the air. It is like truth—it lies at the bottom of the well. We must go down, then, into religion, if we are to have it really in our hearts. The Lord Jesus Christ was “a Man of Sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” He took the lowest, last, and least place. He was always down; so that if we are to be companions with the Lord Jesus Christ, we must go down with him—down into the valley, down into suffering, down into humiliation, down into trial, down into sorrow. When we get puffed up by worldly joy, or elated by carnal excitement, we do not sympathise with the Lord Jesus Christ in his suffering manhood; we do not go with him then into the garden of Gethsemane, nor behold him as “the Lamb of God” on the accursed tree. We can do without Jesus very well when the world smiles, and carnal things are uppermost in our heart. But let affliction come, a heavy cross, a burden to weigh us down, then we drop into the place where the Lord Jesus is only to be found. We find, then, if the Lord is pleased to bring a little godliness into the soul, and to draw forth this godliness into vital exercise, that it has “the promise of the life that now is.”
There are promises connected with it of support and strength, comfort, consolation, and peace, that the world knows nothing of; there is a truth in it, a power, a reality, a blessedness in it, that tongue can never express. And when the soul gets pressed down into the vale of affliction, and the Lord is pleased to meet with it there, and visit it then, and draw forth godliness in its actings and exercises, then it is found to have “the promise of the life that now is.” Faith, hope, love, repentance, prayerfulness, humility, contrition, long-suffering, and peace—all these gifts and graces of the Spirit are exercised chiefly when the soul is down in affliction. Here is. “the promise of the life that now is” in the drawing forth of these heavenly graces in the heart.
And godliness hath the promise also of “the life which is to come.” It supports in life and in death; and takes the soul into a happy and blessed eternity. Grace will end in glory; faith in sight; hope in fruition. The soul taught of God will see Jesus as he is. Thus godliness has “the promise of the life which is to come,” when eternal peace shall abound, tears be wiped from off all faces, and grace consummated in endless bliss.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“Godliness is profitable unto all things.”
1 Timothy 4:8
What is “profitable?” I may define it in one short sentence—that which does the soul good. Now “godliness” is profitable unto all things, as doing the soul good in all circumstances. Here it stands apart and separate from everything of a worldly nature. Here it is distinguished from the “bodily exercise that profiteth little.” It is “profitable unto all things.” In sickness, in health; in sunshine, in storm; upon the mount, in the valley; under whatever circumstances the child of God may be, “godliness” or rather the “exercise” of godliness is profitable. And it is drawn out by these circumstances. It lives in the face of trials; it is strengthened by opposition; it becomes victorious through defeat; it gains the day in spite of every foe: “Stands every storm, and lives at last.”
It does not die away like “bodily exercise;” it does not bloom and fade away in an hour; it is not like Jonah’s gourd that grew and withered in a night; it does not leave the soul in the horrors of despair when it most needs comfort; it is not a fickle, false friend that turns its back in the dark and cloudy days of adversity. It is “a friend that loveth at all times,” for the Author of it “sticketh closer than a brother.” It can come to a bed of sickness when the body is racked with pain; it can enter a dungeon, as with Paul and Silas when their feet were in the stocks; it can go, and has gone with martyrs to the stake; it soothes the pillow of death; it takes the soul into eternity; and therefore it is “profitable unto all things.” It is a firm friend; a blessed companion; the life of the soul; the health of the heart; yea, “Christ himself in you, the hope of glory.” It is God’s own work, God’s own grace, God’s own Spirit, God’s own life, God’s own power, God’s own dealings, which end in God’s own happiness; and therefore it is “profitable unto all things.”
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“Have mercy upon me, O God,
according to thy lovingkindness;
according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies
blot out my transgressions.”
This psalm is very suitable to the wants and feelings of every sensible sinner, for it is not necessary to have committed David’s sin to have a measure of David’s repentance and confessions, and of David’s desires, breathings, and supplications. “Have mercy upon me, O God,” he says, “according to thy lovingkindness.” To ask God to have mercy upon us is one of the first cries that a convinced sinner puts up to God. It was so with the publican in the temple; and where it is sincere, God will certainly hear it “according to his lovingkindness,” for he is full of love and kindness to poor, mourning sinners.
How the psalmist also begs of the Lord to “blot out his transgressions according unto the multitude of his tender mercies.” As our sins in thought, word, and deed are a countless multitude, of which every one deserves hell, we need “the multitude of his most tender mercies” to blot them out. We may see the stars in the sky, the sands on the sea-shore, the drops of dew on the grass, the waves rolling in upon the beach; but both our sins and God’s tender mercies exceed them all. How he shewed these tender mercies in giving his dear Son to suffer, bleed, and die for miserable sinners; and how we need all these tender mercies to pity and pardon us and our transgressions.
And how earnestly David begged, “Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” It is only the washing of God himself that can wash us throughly. If we could shed an ocean of tears it would not wash away one sin; but the blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin. In order to make us know this, the Lord shews us and makes us feel the guilt and burden of sin, and that we can do nothing to put it away. Pardon must be his own free gift, and that every sensible sinner is made to feel.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe,
according to the working of his mighty power,
Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead,
and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,”
Ephesians 1:19, 20
It is no great mystery that the Son of God should be exalted to the throne of power. It is but a step from the bosom of the Father to his right hand. But that one in our nature should be exalted to that seat of pre-eminence and power; that the Mediator between God and man should be the man Christ Jesus; that the hands which once were nailed to the cross should now hold the scepter, and that the feet which once walked on Lake Gennesaret, which were weary and dust-soiled at Jacob’s well, which were washed with a sinful woman’s tears and kissed in penitential grief and love with polluted lips–that these very feet should now have all things put under them both in heaven and earth–there is the mystery.
And yet what food for faith. The living family of God need a living Saviour, one who can hear and answer prayer, deliver out of soul-trouble, speak a word with power to the heart when bowed down with grief and sorrow, sympathize with them under powerful temptations, support them under the trials and afflictions of the way, maintain under a thousand discouragements his own life in their soul, sustain under bereavements the mourning widow, and be a father to her fatherless children; appear again and again in providence as a friend that loves at all times and a brother born for adversity, smile upon them in death, and comforting them with his rod and staff as they walk through the valley of its dark shadow, land them at last safely in a happy eternity.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“For there are three that bear record in heaven,
the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost:
and these three are one.”
1 John 5:7
A spiritual knowledge of the Trinity lies at the foundation of all vital godliness. To know Father, Son, and Holy Spirit by special teaching and divine revelation, is the sum and substance of spiritual religion, and is eternal life; according to the Lord’s own testimony, John 17:3, “And this is life eternal, that they might know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” Thus, sooner or later, the Lord leads all his people into a feeling acquaintance with, and divine reception of this glorious mystery; and thus they come to know the Father’s electing love, the Son’s redeeming work, and the Spirit’s inward testimony; and that these Three are One.
But how opposed to nature, sense, and reason is this glorious mystery; and how they all rise up in rebellion against it! How can Three be One or One be Three? nature asks and reason argues. And yet the babes receive and believe it. For take away the doctrine of the Trinity, and all their hope is gone in a moment. How can we rest upon Christ’s atoning blood, if it is not the blood of the Son of God? or upon his justifying righteousness, if not the righteousness of God? Or how could we be kept, led, taught, and guided by the Holy Spirit, if he too was not a divine Person in the Godhead?
Thus we come to know the mystery of Three Persons in the Godhead, by feelingly receiving into our hearts the work of each with power; and yet we know that these Three are but one God. It is this inward reception of the truth in the love of it which holds up the soul in a storm. We are often tossed about, and ready to say, “How can these things be?” But we are brought up by this deep-rooted feeling, as the anchor brings up the ship in the gale, that we are undone without it. If this mystery be removed, our hope must be removed with it; for there is no pardon, peace, nor salvation, but what stands in, and flows out of, an experimental knowledge of the Three-One God.
“He shall send from heaven, and save me
from the reproach of him that would swallow me up.
God shall send forth his mercy and his truth.”
And where is God’s mercy revealed? Outwardly in the word of God; inwardly in the heart. And it is by sending his mercy into the conscience, shedding abroad his love in the soul, manifesting his pardoning favour within, that God “saves from the reproach of him that would swallow us up.” Man may say, ‘I do not doubt your religion; surely you have marks and testimonies of being a child of God!’ Ministers may come and endeavor to soothe you, and often by their soothing make more mischief than they mend–‘O, no doubt, if you are exercised with these things you are a child of God;’ as though a man could be satisfied with exercises, and because he is hungering and thirsting after the Lord, could be contented with his famine and his drought. No; these things do not touch the secret malady, do not go far enough, nor deep enough, nor come with divine power as from the mouth of the Lord himself. All short of this leaves the poor patient afflicted, desolate, and dejected; and does not remove that under which his soul labours.
But mercy, sweet mercy, sent from heaven, and dropped from above into his spirit, applied to his conscience, revealed to his heart, and brought warm into his very soul by the Spirit of God–that saves him from the reproach of every enemy that would swallow him up. For if he can lean, confidently lean upon the arms of mercy, what can man do, what can Satan do, what can sin do, what can death do, what can hell itself do to hurt him? If the mercy of God is upon his side, revealed to his heart, and sent from heaven into his soul, who or what shall swallow him up?
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee:
for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.”
There is a knowing of God’s name. By the “name of God” are to be understood the revealed perfections of the Almighty–all that he has revealed concerning himself in the Scriptures of truth. Every attribute, every perfection, everything that God has said of himself, is summed up in the “name of God.”
But especially does the “name of God” signify the Son of his love, who is “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his Person;” as he said to Moses, “Behold, I send an Angel before you, to keep you in the way, and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions–for my name is in him;” that is, all my revealed perfections, all my glorious character, all my divine attributes are in him; for “in him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.”
Now, there is a knowing this name of God; that is, there is such a thing as an experimental acquaintance in the soul with the perfections of God as revealed in the Scriptures. His name is therefore known when the perfections of God are revealed in the heart and conscience by the power of the Spirit. And this is by virtue of living faith in the soul. By faith we see God. By faith we know God. When we receive into our hearts the truth as it is in Jesus, and when we believe by living faith what God has said of himself in the word, then we know the name of God; and every manifestation of God’s mercy, every token of God’s favor, and every shining in of God’s perfections, is a discovery in our hearts, a raising up in our souls of the knowledge of God’s name.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“One shall say, I am the Lord’s –
and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob;
and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord,
and surname himself by the name of Israel.”
“Another shall call himself by the name of Jacob.” Jacob was a wrestler, for he wrestled all night with the angel; and by wrestling he obtained the blessing. So at present you may be a wrestling Jacob, but have not yet come off a prevailing Israel. You may not be without a sense of guilt and bondage at times in your conscience, and may often doubt and fear whether the root of the matter be in you, because you cannot use the language of assurance and say, “I am the Lord’s.” Still you may be a wrestling Jacob. The Lord may have put his Spirit in you to enable you to wrestle with him for the blessing, and yet he may not have given you that appropriating faith whereby you can believe that he is yours, and can call him such.
How full was the patriarch Jacob of doubt and fear when his own life, and that of his wife and children, lay in the very hands of the injured Esau! But it was this very fear which made him wrestle all the harder, and more fervently cry out, “I will not let you go except you bless me.” Can you not say, “I am seeking for a blessing of this kind with all my heart; I am wrestling with God for it by prayer and supplication, and nothing less can satisfy me?” If this be your experience, you certainly may “call yourself by the name of Jacob.”
“And shall surname himself by the name of Israel.” As Jacob represents a wrestler in the court of grace, so Israel is the emblem of one who has obtained the blessing. When, therefore, any wrestling Jacob has prevailed with God by strength of arm, he may surname himself by the name of Israel. He can then say, “I have wrestled with God for the promised blessing, and have obtained it. I have cried unto the Lord, and he has heard my cry. I have spread my petition before him, and he has at last granted it.” So wrestled and so prevailed Hannah, David, Hezekiah, and many a saint both dead and living.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“Fight the good fight of faith,
lay hold on eternal life.”
1 Timothy 6:12
It is through faith that the power whereby God keeps his people, acts and is made known, and it is very instructive and encouraging to be able to trace in our own hearts the connection between the power of God and the actings of faith. We are not carried to heaven as passengers are carried by the express train, so that if once in the carriage they may go to sleep, look out of the window, or read the newspaper without fear of losing their way, or not reaching their destination. Though kept by the power of God, we have to fight every step of the way.
It is this living, fighting, struggling, and yet eventually conquering faith, which sets the tried and exercised child of God at such a distance from the loose and careless doctrinal professor, who is hardened and emboldened to presume, and even walk in ways of sin and death by holding the doctrine of being kept by the power of God, without knowing anything of the secret way by which this power works and keeps. To such we may adapt the language of James. You believe that the elect of God are kept by his Almighty power unto salvation. “You do well; the devils also believe and tremble”–which you do not if you be one of these loose professors. But does God keep you? Does he keep you from evil, that it may not grieve you? Does he keep your eye single, your conscience tender, your heart prayerful, your life and walk circumspect, your eye from adultery, your tongue from folly, your hands from covetousness, and your feet from the ways of pride and worldliness? You have no evidence that you are an heir of God and are being kept by his power unto salvation, unless you have some experience how he keeps, and that as it is by power on his part, so it is through faith on yours. Whenever we slip, stumble, or go astray, it is through the power of unbelief; and whenever we stand, fight, or prevail, it is by faith.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
” For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus
hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”
We by nature and practice are slaves to sin and Satan. We are the sport of the prince of the power of the air, who takes us captive at his will. We are held down also by many hurtful lusts; or, if free from gross sin, are slaves to pride, covetousness, or self-righteousness. Perhaps some idol is set up in the chambers of imagery which defiles all the inner man; or some snare of Satan entangles our feet, and we are slaves, without power to liberate ourselves from this cruel slavery. We groan under it, as the children of Israel under their burdens, but, like them, cannot deliver ourselves.
But sooner or later the truth comes to our aid; the truth as it is in Jesus flies to the rescue of God’s oppressed family; the blessed Spirit opens it up and seals it upon the heart with a divine power. As, then, under his gracious influences they believe the truth, and feel its power and savor in their heart, a liberating influence is communicated; their fetters and shackles are loosened; the bondage of sin and Satan, and the power and strength of evil are sensibly broken, and a measure of holy freedom is enjoyed. There is no other way of getting from under the bondage of the law but by the application of the gospel, and by believing what the gospel reveals. As the truth, then, comes to the heart as the very word of the living God, power comes with it to believe; faith is raised up to credit the testimony; and as faith begins to credit the truth of God and receive it in hope and love, there is a sensible loosening of the bonds; and then the chains and fetters drop off of themselves. It is with the soul as it was with Peter in prison–when the angel came, and a light shined in the prison, and the angel’s words fell upon his ears, “the chains fell from off his hands.” There remained nothing then to bar his exit; for “the iron gate that leads unto the city opened to them of its own accord.” So whatever chains or fetters may hold the soul, let the angel of mercy come; let the message of salvation be revealed, the chains of unbelief drop off, the iron gate of hardness gives way, and the truth makes the soul blessedly free (John 8:32).
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869