“And he is the head of the body, the church.” Colossians 1:18
That the Lord Jesus Christ should have a people, in whom he should be eternally glorified, was the original promise made by the Father to the Son. “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Psalm 2:8). This was “the joy that was set before him, for which he endured the cross, despising the shame.” This was “the purchased possession,” “the travail of his soul,” and the reward of his humiliation and sufferings (Phil. 2:9, 10). This people form the members of his mystical body, all of which were written in his book, the book of life, when as yet, as regards their actual existence, there was none of them (Psalm 139:16). All these were given to him in eternity, when he was constituted their covenant Head in the everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure. They thus became, in prospect of his incarnation, “members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.” How touchingly did the blessed Redeemer remind his Father of those covenant transactions, when he said in his memorable prayer, “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.” Being thus given to Christ, and constituted members of his mystical body, they can no more perish than Christ himself. He is their Head; and as he is possessed of all power, full of all love, filled with all wisdom, and replete with all mercy, grace, and truth, how can he, how will he, suffer any of his members to fall out of his body, and be lost to him as well as to themselves? Will any man willingly suffer his eye, or his hand, or his foot, or even the tip of his little finger, to be taken out or cut off? If any member of our body perish, if we lose an arm or a leg, it is because we have not power to prevent it. But all power belongs to Christ, in heaven and in earth; and therefore no one member of his mystical body can perish for want of power in him to save it. But however truly blessed this doctrine is, it is only when we are quickened and made alive unto God by a spiritual birth that we savingly and experimentally know and realise it; and we are, for the most part, led into it thus. We are first made to feel our need of Christ as a Saviour from the wrath to come, from the fear of death, the curse of the law, and the accusations of a guilty conscience. When enabled, by the blessed Spirit’s operations, to receive him into our heart, by faith, as the Christ of God, and to realise in some measure an interest in him, we are then taught to feel our need of continual supplies of grace and strength out of his fulness. For we have to learn something of the depths of the fall, of the evils of our heart, of the temptations of Satan, of the strength of sin, of our own weakness and worthlessness; and as every fresh discovery of our helplessness and wretchedness makes a way for looking to and hanging upon him, we become more and more dependent on him as of God made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten.” Jeremiah 1:5
“Come, let us join ourselves to the Lord.” Does this imply any power in the creature to join himself to the Lord i? No; but it implies this—that when the Lord unites us to himself, then we unite ourselves to him; when the Lord brings the believer into a manifested union with himself, then there is a leaping forth of the soul, a going forth of the affections, a cleaving to him with purpose of heart, a believing in him with all the powers of the mind, and a solemn renunciation, a casting aside, a trampling under foot, a rejection of everything but that which stands in the power of God, as made known to the soul by the Holy Spirit.
It is not spoken in a presumptuous way: “Come, let us join ourselves to the Lord.” It does not indicate any bold presumptuous claim upon the Lord, as if being now on the road to Zion, and being possessed of certain evidences, they could claim the inheritance, and, as it were, rush in, and lay hold of gospel blessings; but it points out the actings of living faith in the soul, which goes forth, when raised up and drawn out by the blessed Spirit. The vain confidence and rash forwardness of those who are at ease in Zion is a very different thing from the meek faith of those who are going and weeping, asking the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, whose hearts are melted by the Spirit into contrition, who renounce everything but Christ and him crucified, and desire to feel and taste the sweet manifestation of the love of a dying Lord. These, without presumption or bold familiarity, can say, “Come, let us join ourselves to the Lord,” as feeling in their souls the actings of that living faith, whereby they cleave to and lean upon him, as the only prop between them and hell.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“O send out thy light and thy truth.” Psalm 43:3
“O send out thy light.” The Psalmist desired that light might be sent out, that is, that there might be a communication of it. The soul walking in darkness, and enabled under that darkness to pant and cry after light, is not satisfied with the conviction, however deep, that with God is light. The thirsty man is not satisfied with knowing that there is water in the well; nor the man who has lost his way in a mine, with knowing that there is light in the sun. One faint ray gleaming through a chink were worth to him a thousand suns, blazing, unseen by him, in the sky. And thus the benighted saint cannot rest in the bare knowledge that “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all,” but his sigh and cry is that this light may be sent out of the fulness of the Godhead into his soul, so as to shed abroad an inward light in his heart, whereby he may see the truth of God; whereby he may see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ; whereby he may see his name written in the book of life, and clearly discern his interest in the “everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure;” whereby he may see Jesus, and in seeing Jesus see his own eternal union with Jesus, and in seeing his own eternal union with Jesus may enjoy sweet communion with him, so as to feel his presence in his soul, and have his glory revealed, and manifested to his heart.
David wanted something more than light. He says, “O send out thy light and thy truth.” What was “the truth” which he sought to know, and realise its inward power by its being sent out of the fulness of the Godhead? Doubtless, the very same truth that saints are crying to be sent out now; and this can be nothing less than “the truth as it is in Jesus;” the truth of his blood as atoning for sin, the truth of his righteousness as justifying us from all things from which we could not be justified by the law of Moses; the truth of personal and everlasting deliverance from all curse and condemnation, that truth whereby the soul is made free, according to those words, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free;” the truth whereby the affections are separated from the things of time and sense, and fixed on the realities of eternity; in a word, to know Jesus himself, by his own sweet revelation, for he is “the way, the truth, and the life,” and that he may be himself enjoyed in our soul as the sum and substance of truth.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.” Matthew 12:20
The gracious Man of Sorrows will never ever “break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax.” It is true that “he sends forth judgment,” for he means to bring the soul down into the dust; but whilst this judgment is going on, he secretly supports; for he kills that he may make alive; he brings down to the grave that he may bring up. But in sending forth this “judgment,” it is “unto victory.” Conquest is at the end; victory is sure. There may be a long conflict; a hard and fearful battle, with the garments rolled in sweat and blood; but victory is sure at last; for he will never rest till he fully gains the day. Oh, how Satan would triumph if any saint ever fell out of the embraces of the good Shepherd; if he could point his derisive finger up to heaven’s gate and to its risen King, and say, “Thy blood was shed in vain for this wretch, he is mine, he is mine!” Such a boast would fill hell with a yell of triumph. But no, no; it never will be so; the “blood that cleanseth from all sin” never was, never can be shed in vain. Though the reed is “bruised,” it will never be broken; though the flax “smokes,” it will never be extinguished; for he that “sends forth judgment” sends it “unto victory.” Long indeed may the battle fluctuate; again and again may the enemy charge; again and again may the event seem doubtful. Victory may be delayed even unto a late hour, till evening is drawing on and the shades of night are about to fall; but it is sure at last. And it is the Lord that does the whole. We have no power to turn the battle to the gate. Is there one temptation that you can master? Is there any one sin that you can, without divine help, crucify; one lust that you can, without special grace, subdue? We are perfect weakness in this matter. But the blessed Lord makes his strength perfect in this weakness. We may and indeed must be bruised, and under painful feelings may think no one was so hardly dealt with, and that our case is singular. But without this we should not judge ourselves; and “if we judge ourselves, we shall not be judged of the Lord.” If you justify yourself, the Lord will condemn you; if you condemn yourself, the Lord will justify you. Exalt yourself, and the Lord will humble you; humble yourself, and the Lord will exalt you.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:10, 11
I believe many of God’s people, if not most, have much ado to “make their calling and election sure.” They are not a people to take things for granted; they cannot sit at ease and say, “I have no doubt that I am a child of God;” they want something powerful, something applied, something spoken by the mouth of God himself; and short of that, they must be exercised with doubts and fears as to their state before him. Now let conscience speak; let us turn over the leaves of conscience. What says that faithful witness? Has God spoken with power to your soul? Has he pardoned your sins? Has he given you a sweet testimony of your interest in the Son of his love? Say you, “Why, I do not know that I can say all that, I do not know that God has pardoned my sins.” Well, we will come a little lower then; if you cannot say that, we will take a little lower ground; can you say that you are sighing and groaning and crying at times, not always, but as the Lord works in you, for the sweet manifestations of Jesus’ love to your souls? Here is a door open for you, the door of hope in the valley of Achor. Can you come in here? Well, these are marks of being one of God’s peculiar people. But you cannot be satisfied, short of God himself making it known to you; you want an immediate testimony from his blessed mouth, and nothing but that can satisfy you, and when he sheds abroad his love in your soul, it will give you peace and comfort, and nothing short of that can.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8
The saint of God is “troubled on every side,” because he has on every side on which he may be troubled, a spiritual side as well as a temporal side, a side in his soul as well as a side in his body, a side in his supernatural as well as in his natural life, a side in his new man of grace as well as a side in his old man of sin. And as it is necessary for him to be conformed to the suffering image of Christ, trouble comes upon him on every side and from every quarter, to make him like his blessed Lord. Nay, his troubles are multiplied in proportion to his grace, for the more the afflictions abound the more abundant are the consolations; and an abundance of consolation is but an abundance of grace. Thus, the more grace he has the greater will be his sufferings; and the more he walks in a path agreeable to the Lord, and in conformity to his will and word, the more will he be baptized with the baptism of sorrow and tribulation wherewith his great Head was baptized before him.
“Yet not distressed.” The words “not distressed” literally signify that we are not shut up in a narrow spot from which there is no outlet whatever. It corresponds to an expression of the Apostle’s in another place where he says, “God will, with the temptation, also make a way to escape that ye may be able to bear it;” and tallies well with the words of David: “Thou hast known my soul in adversities.” There is the trouble on every side. But he adds, “And hast not shut me up into the hand of the enemy; thou hast set my feet in a large room.” “Not being shut up into the hand of the enemy” is not being abandoned of God to the foeman’s death-stroke; and having “the feet set in a large room” is to have a place to move about in, one which affords an escape from death and destruction. Thus, the dying Christian has a God to go to; a Saviour into whose arms he may cast his weary soul; a blessed Spirit who from time to time relieves his doubts and fears, applies a sweet promise to his burdened spirit, gives him resignation and submission to the afflicting hand of God, and illuminates the dark valley of the shadow of death, which he has to tread, with a blessed ray of gospel light.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
” But let patience have her perfect work.” James 1:4
Patience then has its work; and what is that? Twofold, according to my explanation of the word. 1. To endure all trials, live through all temptations, bear all crosses, carry all loads, fight all battles, toil through all difficulties, and overcome all enemies. 2. To submit to the will of God, to own that he is Lord and King, to have no will or way of its own, no scheme or plan to please the flesh, avoid the cross, or escape the rod; but to submit simply to God’s righteous dealings, both in providence and grace, believing that he doeth all things well, that he is a Sovereign, “and worketh all things according to the counsel of his own will.” Now until the soul is brought to this point, the work of patience is not perfect; it may be going on, but it is not consummated. You may be in the furnace of temptation now, passing through the fiery trial. Are you rebellious or submissive? If still rebellious, you must abide in the furnace until you are brought to submission; and not only so, but it must be thorough submission, or else patience has not its perfect work. The dross and slag of rebellion must be scummed off, and the pure metal flow down. It is all of God’s grace to feel this for a single moment. But are there not, and have there not been, times and seasons, in your soul, when you could be still and know that he is God? when you could submit to his will, believing that he is too wise to err, too good to be unkind? When this submission is felt, patience has its perfect work. Look at Jesus, our great example: see him in the gloomy garden, with the cross in prospect before him on the coming morn. How he could say, “Not my will, but thine be done!” There was the perfect work of patience in the perfect soul of the Redeemer. Now you and I must have a work in our soul corresponding to this, or else we are not conformed to the suffering image of our crucified Lord. Patience in us must have its perfect work; and God will take care that it shall be so. As in a beautiful piece of machinery, if the engineer see a cog loose or a wheel out of gear, he must adjust the defective part, that it may work easily and properly, and in harmony with the whole machine; so if the God of all our salvation see a particular grace not in operation or not properly performing its appointed work, he by his Spirit so influences the heart that it is again brought to work as he designed it should do. Measure your faith and patience by this standard; but do not take in conjunction, or confound with them the workings of your carnal mind. Here we often mistake: we may be submissive as regards our spirit, meek and patient, quiet and resigned, in the inward man, yet feel many uprisings and rebellings of the flesh; and thus patience may not seem to have her perfect work. But to look for perfect submission in the flesh is to look for perfection in the flesh, which was never promised and is never given. Look to what the Spirit is working in you—not to the carnal mind, which is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be, and therefore knows neither subjection nor submission. Look at that inward principality of which the Prince of peace is Lord and Ruler, and see whether in the still depths of your soul, and where he lives and reigns, there is submission to the will of God.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“But now, O Lord, thou art our Father; we are the clay, and thou our Potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.” Isaiah 64:8
Until free-will, self-righteousness, creature exertions, and human merit are dried up and withered away, till they all give up the ghost, we can never come into that spot where we are the clay, and God is the Potter. Can the clay make itself into a vessel? Can it mould itself into shape and form? Can it start from its bed, and work itself up into a vessel for use or ornament? No more can we make ourselves fit for glory, or mould ourselves into vessels of honour. If the Lord do but give us the feeling in our souls, our sweetest privilege, our dearest enjoyment, is to be the clay. Free-will, selfrighteousness, human wisdom, and creature strength—we give them all to the pharisees; let them make the most of them. But when the Lord indulges our souls with some measure of access to himself, and brings us in all humility and brokenness to lie low before his throne, we feel that we are nothing but what he makes us, have nothing but what he gives us, experience nothing but what he works in us, and do nothing but what he does in and for us. To be here, and to lie here, is to be the clay; and to find the Lord working in us holy desires, fervent breathings, secret cries, and the actings of faith, hope, and love; and to feel these things freely given, graciously communicated, and divinely wrought, and to know the Lord is doing all this for us and in us, is to find him the Potter, and is to be brought to the sweetest, lowliest, and happiest spot that a soul can come into.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32
The truths of the gospel, though to an enlightened eye they shine as with a ray of light all through the word, yet are they, for the most part, laid up as in veins: “Surely there is a vein for the silver, and a place for gold where they fine it.” “As for the earth, out of it cometh bread, and under it is turned up as it were fire. The stones of it are the place of sapphires, and it hath dust of gold” (Job 28:5, 6). But where is “the place of sapphires?” and where this “dust of gold?” “In the path which no fowl,” no unclean professor, “knoweth, and which the vulture’s eye,” keen though it be after this world’s carrion, “hath not seen.” But to a spiritual mind sweet and self-rewarding is the task, if task it can be called, of searching the word as for hid treasure. No sweeter, no better employment can engage heart and hands than, in the spirit of prayer and meditation, of separation from the world, of holy fear, of a desire to know the will of God and do it, of humility, simplicity, and godly sincerity, to seek to enter into those heavenly mysteries which are stored up in the Scriptures; and this, not to furnish the head with notions, but to feed the soul with the bread of life. Truth, received in the love and power of it, informs and establishes the judgment, softens and melts the heart, warms and draws upward the affections, makes and keeps the conscience alive and tender, is the food of faith, the strength of hope, and the mainspring of love. To know the truth is to be “a disciple indeed,” and to be made blessedly free; free from error, and the vile heresies which everywhere abound; free from presumption and self-righteousness; free from the curse and bondage of the law and the condemnation of a guilty conscience; free from a slavish fear of the opinion of men and the contempt and scorn of the world and worldly professors; free from following a multitude to do evil; free from companionship with those who have a name to live but are dead. But free to love the Lord and his dear people; free to speak well of his name; free to glorify him with our body and soul, which are his; free to a throne of grace and to a blood-besprinkled mercy-seat; free to every good word and work; free to “whatsoever things are good, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report.”
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God.” Galatians 2:20
There is no way except by being spiritually baptized into Christ’s death and life, that we can ever get a victory over our besetting sins. If, on the one hand, we have a view of a suffering Christ, and thus become baptized into his sufferings and death, the feeling, while it lasts, will subdue the power of sin. Or, on the other hand, if we get a believing view of a risen Christ, and receive supplies of grace out of his fulness, that will lift us above its dominion. If sin be powerfully working in us, we want one of these two things to subdue it; either we must have something come down to us to give us a victory over our sin in our strugglings against it, or we must have something to lift us up out of sin into a purer and better element. When there is a view of the sufferings and sorrows, agonies and death of the Son of God, power comes down to the soul in its struggles against sin, and gives it a measure of holy resistance and subduing strength against it. So, when there is a coming in of the grace and love of Christ, it lifts up the soul from the love and power of sin into a purer and holier atmosphere. Sin cannot be subdued in any other way. You must either be baptized into Christ’s sufferings and death, or you must be baptized (and these follow each other) into Christ’s resurrection and life. A sight of him as a suffering God, or a view of him as a risen Jesus, must be connected with every successful attempt to get the victory over sin, death, hell, and the grave. You may strive, vow, and repent; and what does it all amount to? You sink deeper and deeper into sin than before. Pride, lust, and covetousness come in like a flood, and you are swamped and carried away almost before you are aware. But if you get a view of a suffering Christ, or of a risen Christ; if you get a taste of his dying love, a drop of his atoning blood, or any manifestation of his beauty and blessedness, there comes from this spiritual baptism into his death or his life a subduing power; and this gives a victory over temptation and sin which nothing else can or will give. Yet I believe we are often many years learning this divine secret, striving to repent and reform, and cannot; till at last by divine teaching we come to learn a little of what the Apostle meant when he said, “The life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God.” And when we can get into this life of faith, this hidden life, then our affections are set on things above. There is no use setting people to work by legal strivings; they only plunge themselves deeper in the ditch. You must get Christ into your soul by the power of God; and then he will subdue, by his smiles, blood, love, and presence, every internal foe.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869