“To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.” Psalm 63:2
Every place is “a sanctuary” where God manifests himself in power and glory to the soul. Moses, doubtless, had often passed by the bush which grew in Horeb; it was but a common hawthorn bush, in no way distinguished from the other bushes of the copse; but on one solemn occasion it was all “in a flame of fire,” for “the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire” out of the midst; and though it burnt with fire, it was not consumed. God being in the bush, the ground round about was holy, and Moses was bidden to put off his shoes from off his feet. Was not this a sanctuary to Moses? It was, for a holy God was there. Thus wherever God manifests himself, that becomes a sanctuary to a believing soul. We want not places made holy by the ceremonies of man, but places made holy by the presence of God. Then a stable, a hovel, a hedge, any homely corner may be, and is a sanctuary, when God fills your heart with his sacred presence, and causes every holy feeling and gracious affection to spring up in your soul. If ever you have seen this in times past, you have seen God in the sanctuary; for then your heart becomes the sanctuary of God, according to his own words, “Ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them and walk in them.” Are not your very bodies the temples of the Holy Ghost? (1 Cor. 6:19.) Does not Christ dwell in the heart by faith? And is he not formed there, the hope of glory? It is, then, not only in Christ without, but in Christ within that we see the power and glory of God. It is in this way that we become consecrated to the service and glory of God, set our affections upon heavenly things, and obtain a foretaste of eternal joy.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:3
What poor, blind fools are we by nature! How insufficient is all our earthly wisdom and all our natural knowledge, to guide us into the truth! When the soul really is under divine teaching, how ignorant it feels as to every single thing it desires to know! What clouds of darkness perpetually hang over the mind! What a veil of ignorance seems continually spread over the heart! The simplest truths of God’s word seem hid in the deepest obscurity, and the soul can neither see the truth, nor see nor feel its personal interest in it. Now, when a man is here, he does not go to the Lord with lying lips and a mocking tongue, and ask him to give him wisdom, merely because he has heard that other persons have asked it of God, or because he reads in the Bible that Christ is made of God “wisdom” to his people; but he goes as a poor, blind fool, as one completely ignorant, as one totally unable to understand a single spiritual truth of himself, as one thoroughly helpless to get into the marrow of vital godliness, into the mysteries of true religion, or into the very heart of Christ. For it is not a few doctrines received into the head, nor a sound creed, that can satisfy a soul convinced of its ignorance. No; nothing can satisfy him, but to have that divine illumination, whereby he “sees light in God’s light;” that spiritual wisdom communicated, whereby he feels himself “made wise unto salvation;” that unctuous light shed abroad in the heart, which is the only key to gospel truth, and is its own blessed evidence, that he knows the truth by a divine application of it to his soul.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” 1 John 4:16
Love is communicative. This is a part of its very nature and essence. Its delight is to give, and especially to give itself; and all it wants or asks is a return. To love and to be beloved, to enjoy and to express that ardent and mutual affection by words and deeds,—this is love’s delight, love’s heaven. To love, and not be loved,—this is love’s misery, love’s hell. God is love. This is his very nature, an essential attribute of his glorious being; and as he, the infinite and eternal Jehovah, exists in a Trinity of distinct Persons, though undivided Unity of Essence, there is a mutual, ineffable love between Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. To this mutual, ineffable love of the three Persons in the sacred Godhead the Scripture abundantly testifies: “The Father loveth the Son;” “And hast loved them as thou hast loved me;” “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” And as the Father loves the Son, so does the Son love the Father: “But that the world may know that I love the Father,” are his own blessed words. And that the Holy Ghost loves the Father and the Son is evident not only from his divine personality in the Godhead, but because he is essentially the very “Spirit of love” (Romans 15:30), and as such “sheds the love of God abroad in the heart” of the election of grace.
Thus man was not needed by the holy and ever-blessed Trinity as an object of divine love. Sufficient, eternally and amply sufficient, to all the bliss and blessedness, perfection and glory of Jehovah was and ever would have been the mutual love and intercommunion of the three Persons in the sacred Godhead. But love—the equal and undivided love of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—flowed out beyond its original and essential being to man; and not merely to man as man, that is to human nature as the body prepared for the Son of God to assume, but to thousands and millions of the human race, who are all loved personally and individually with all the infinite love of God as much as if that love were fixed on only one, and he were loved as God loves his dear Son. “I have loved thee with an everlasting love,” is spoken to each individual of the elect as much as to the whole Church, viewed as the mystical Bride and Spouse of the Lamb. Thus the love of a Triune God is not only to the nature which in due time the Son of God should assume, the flesh and blood of the children, the seed of Abraham which he should take on him (Hebrews 2:14-16), and for this reason viewed by the Triune Jehovah with eyes of intense delight, but to that innumerable multitude of human beings who were to form the mystical body of Christ. Were Scripture less express, we might still believe that the nature which one of the sacred Trinity was to assume would be delighted in and loved by the holy Three-in-One. But we have the testimony of the Holy Ghost to the point, that puts it beyond all doubt or question. When, in the first creation of that nature the Holy Trinity said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness,” and when, in pursuance of that divine council, “the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living, soul,” God thereby uniting an immortal soul to an earthly body, this human nature was created not only in the moral image of God, but after the pattern of that body which was prepared for the Son of God by the Father.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:9
Nothing distinguishes the divine religion of the saint of God, not only from the dead profanity of the openly ungodly, but from the formal lip-service of the lifeless professor, so much as communion with God.
How clearly do we see this exemplified in the saints of old. Abel sought after fellowship with God when “he brought of the firstlings of his flock, and of the fat thereof,” for he looked to the atoning blood of the Lamb of God. God accepted the offering, and “testified of his gifts” by manifesting his divine approbation. Here was fellowship between Abel and God. Enoch “walked with God;” but how can two walk together except they be agreed? And if agreed, they are in fellowship and communion. Abraham was “the friend of God;” “The Lord spake to Moses face to face;” David was “the man after God’s own heart;”—all which testimonies of the Holy Ghost concerning them implied that they were reconciled, brought near, and walked in holy communion with the Lord God Almighty. So all the saints of old, whose sufferings and exploits are recorded in Hebrews 11, lived a life of faith and prayer, a life of fellowship and communion with their Father and their Friend; and though “they were stoned, sawn asunder, and slain with the sword;” though “they wandered about in sheep-skins and goat-skins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented;” though “they wandered in deserts and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth,” yet they all were sustained in their sufferings and sorrows by the Spirit and grace, the presence and power of the living God, with whom they held sweet communion; and, though tortured, would “accept no deliverance,” by denying their Lord, “that they might obtain a better resurrection,” and see him as he is in glory, by whose grace they were brought into fellowship with him on earth.
This same communion with himself is that which God now calls his saints unto, as we read, “God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord,” for to have fellowship with his Son is to have fellowship with him. As then he called Abraham out of the land of the Chaldees, so he calls elect souls out of the world, out of darkness, sin, and death, out of formality and self-righteousness, out of a deceptive profession, to have fellowship with himself, to be blessed with manifestations of his love and mercy. To this point all his dealings with their souls tend; to bring them near to himself, all their afflictions, trials, and sorrows are sent; and in giving them tastes of holy fellowship here, he grants them foretastes and prelibations of that eternity of bliss which will be theirs when time shall be no more, in being for ever swallowed up with his presence and love.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“Unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings.” Malachi 4:2
Oh, what a mercy for the Church of Christ that the God and Father of the Lord Jesus has not left her as he might justly have left her, to perish in her sins, but has provided for her a Saviour, and a great one, and does from time to time encourage every poor, self-condemned sinner to hope in his mercy! The very things, poor, exercised soul, that most try your mind are the very things that make such a Saviour suitable to you. You are dark; this makes the Sun of righteousness exactly suitable to enlighten you. You are cold; this makes you want the Sun to warm you. You are cheerless and cast down; this makes you want the Sun to gladden you. You are barren and unfruitful, and lament that you cannot bring forth fruit to God’s glory; you want the Sun to fertilize you. You are, at times, very dead in your feelings, and can scarcely find any inclination to pray, meditate, or read the Scriptures; you want the Sun to enliven and revive you. Are not, then, these very trials and temptations necessary to make you feel that the Lord Jesus is the Sun you need, the very Sun that David (Psalm 84:11) felt him to be? What value do those put upon the Lord Jesus who make a fire for themselves, and walk in the sparks of their own kindling? What is Jesus to those who know no trouble of soul? What real and earnest prayer or fervent desire have they after him? what ardent longing for his appearing? what breathings to see and feel his blood and righteousness? Oh! it is sharp exercises, manifold trials, and powerful temptations that make the soul really value the Lord Jesus.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“But now we see not yet all things put under him.” Hebrews 2:8
It is God’s special prerogative to bring good out of evil, and order out of confusion. If you were to watch carefully from an astronomical observatory the movements of the planets, you would see them all in the greatest apparent disorder. Sometimes they would seem to move forward, sometimes backward, and sometimes not to move at all. These confused and contradictory movements sadly puzzled astronomers, till Sir Isaac Newton rose and explained the whole; then all was seen to be the most beautiful harmony and order, where before there was the most puzzling confusion. But take a scriptural instance, the highest and greatest that we can give, to shew that where, to outward appearance, all is disorder, there the greatest wisdom and most determinate will reign. Look at the crucifixion of our blessed Lord. Can you not almost see the scene as painted in the word of truth? See those scheming priests, that wild mob, those rough soldiers, that faltering Roman governor, the pale and terrified disciples, the weeping women, and, above all, the innocent Sufferer with the crown of thorns, and enduring that last scene of surpassing woe, which made the earth quake, and the sun withdraw his light. What confusion! What disorder! What triumphant guilt! What oppressed and vanquished innocence! But was it really so? Was there no wisdom or power of God here accomplishing, even by the instrumentality of human wickedness, his own eternal purposes? Hear his own testimony to this point: “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Acts 2:23). The “determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God,” in the great and glorious work of redemption, was accomplished by the wicked hands of man; and if so, in this the worst and wickedest of all possible cases, is not the same eternal will also now executed in instances of a similar nature, though to us at present less visible?
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“He giveth power to the faint.” Isaiah 40:29
The Lord often gives his people power to take a longing, languishing look at the blood and righteousness of Jesus; to come to the Lord, as “mighty to save,” with the same feelings with which Esther went into the presence of the king: “I will go in, and if I perish, I perish.” It is with them sometimes as with the four lepers who sat at the entering in of the gate of Samaria: “And they said one to another, Why sit we here until we die? If we say, We will enter into the city, then the famine is in the city, and we shall die there: and if we sit still here, we die also. Now therefore come, and let us fall unto the host of the Syrians: if they save us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die” (2 Kings 7:3, 4). And so the Lord’s people are sometimes brought to this state—”If I perish, I will perish at his footstool.” If he give no answer of mercy, they will still cling to his feet, and beseech him to look upon, and save them. Now this is “power,” real power. Despair would have laid hold upon their soul, if this secret power had not been given to them. Sometimes we learn this by painful experience. Our trials sometimes stun us, and then there is no power to seek or pray. But when power is given, there is a pleading with the Lord, a going out of the heart’s desires after him, and a fulfilment in the soul of the experience described by the prophet, “I will wait upon the Lord, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him.”
God gives power also to believe; for it is the work of the blessed Spirit to raise up living faith in the heart. He gives power to hope; for it is only so far as he communicates power, that we can cast forth this anchor of the soul. He gives power to love; for it is only as he gives power, that we feel any measure of affection either to the Lord or to his people. In a word, every spiritual desire, every breath of fervent prayer, every movement of the soul heavenward, every trusting in God’s name, relying on his word, and hanging upon his promises, spring out of power communicated by the Lord to the faint and feeble.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony.” Revelation 12:11
It is not “the blood of the Lamb” as revealed in the word of God, but as applied to and sprinkled on the conscience, which answers the accusations of Satan. But we may observe that there is our coming unto “the blood of sprinkling,” and there is “the blood of sprinkling” coming unto us. The Apostle speaks, Hebrews 12:22-24: “Ye are come to the blood of sprinkling, which speaketh better things than that of Abel.” This coming to the blood is the first step in gaining the victory. But in Christian warfare defeat generally, if not always, precedes conquest. It is not, therefore, so easy to overcome sin, death, and hell, which are all striving against us; and usually we never look to the right quarter for help until well-nigh all hope is gone. The first gleam generally comes from a view of “the blood of the Lamb,” as it were, in the distance. The lighthouse casts its glimmering rays far over the wide waste of waters, to guide into harbour the storm-tossed mariner; so, when there is a view in the soul of “the blood of the Lamb,” even at a distance, it is a beacon light, which draws towards it the eyes and heart of those who are doing business “in deep waters.” The light may not at first seem very bright or clear; but it is a day-star, heralding the rising of the sun. The Spirit shines on the word, and raises up faith in the soul to believe that the Lamb has been slain, that blood has been shed, that a sacrifice has been offered, and that “a new and living way” has been opened and consecrated “through the veil,” the rent “flesh” of the Lord Jesus. This affords the accused soul some foothold on which it can stand and answer Satan’s accusations. “True,” he says, “I am a guilty wretch, a sinner, and the chief of sinners, for I have sinned against light, against convictions, against conscience, and the fear of God; my heart is altogether evil, my mind wholly corrupt, and my nature utterly depraved; I have never done any good thing; I am a wretch, and the worst of wretches, and I can never say anything too bad of myself, nor others of me; but, with all that, the Lamb of God hath shed his precious blood, and that blood ‘cleanseth from all sin.'” “When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord,” we read, “shall lift up a standard against him”—the blood-stained flag of the crucified Redeemer; and to come for refuge under this banner dipped in blood is to make head against Satan. Still, the victory is not fully gained. It is only when there is a coming of the blood into the heart, a sprinkling of it on the conscience, a manifestation and application of it to the soul, that Satan is effectually put to flight.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10
Good works, properly so called, spring out of the inward operation of God’s grace. By making the tree good he makes the fruit good (Matt. 12:33). He works in us first the will to do that which is good, and then he gives us the power. He thus works in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure (Phil. 2:13). Under the operations of his grace we are transformed by the renewing of our mind to prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2); and as this will is sought after to be known and done, good works follow as the necessary fruit. All those acts of love and affection, of kindness, sympathy, and liberality towards the Lord’s people; all those instances of self-denial and willingness rather to suffer than to do wrong; all those proofs of disinterested desire to do all the good we can according to our means, position, and circumstances of life; all that striving after and maintaining integrity and uprightness of conduct in all matters of business and trust; all that strict and scrupulous adherence to our word, even to our own injury; all that Christian fulfilment of our relative duties, and the social relationships of husband and father, wife and mother, which the Scripture has enjoined—in a word, all those works which by almost unanimous consent are called “good” by men, are only really and truly good as wrought in the heart, lip, and life by the power of God.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869
“The full soul loatheth an honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.” Proverbs 27:7
Afflictions, trials, and sorrows are very bitter things. And they must needs be bitter, for God never meant that they should be otherwise. When he takes the rod, it is to make it felt; and when he brings trouble on his children, it is that they may smart under it. Our text therefore does not, I believe, mean that the “bitter thing” is sweet when it is taken, for then it would cease to be bitter; but it is sweet on account of the blessed nourishment that is brought to the soul out of it. I remember reading, many years ago, the travels of Franklin to the North Pole; and a very interesting book it is naturally. But there is one incident mentioned in it which just strikes my mind. In wandering over the snows of the circumpolar regions there was no food to be got for days and, I think, weeks, except a lichen or kind of moss that grew upon the rocks, and that was so exceedingly bitter, (something like “Iceland moss,”) that it could only be taken with the greatest disgust; and yet upon that Franklin and his companions lived. They had no alternative; they must either eat that or die. But that bitter moss became sweet after it had passed their palates; for it had a nutriment in it which kept their bodies alive. And thus many of God’s people, who have endured the most dreadful trials, have afterwards found nutriment to spring out of them. What bitter things are God’s reproofs and rebukes in the conscience! And yet who would be without them? I appeal to you who fear God, whether you would deliberately choose never to experience marks of divine disapprobation, and never feel the frowns of God’s anger at any time when you go wrong? I believe in my conscience that you whose hearts are tender in God’s fear would say, “Lord, let me have thy frowns; for if I have not thy frowns and a conscience to feel them, what sins should I not recklessly plunge into? Where would not my wicked nature carry me, if I had not thy solemn reproofs!” These very rebukes then become sweet, not in themselves, nor at the time, but because of the solid profit that comes out of them.
J. C. Philpot 1802-1869