Solemn words by J. C. Philpot in 1853 – based upon Joel 1
Where in our day, with all this material prosperity, is real religion and vital godliness, which are the evidence of grace? Does it flourish? Is the church, the Lamb’s wife, growing in grace and in knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ? Do ministers preach with power and savour? Is God deeply feared, are His promises firmly believed, are His precepts carefully obeyed and His ordinances highly prized. Is His Word dearly loved, His honour and glory earnestly sought? Are those who profess the truth humble, prayerful, watchful and spiritually minded? Are they walking as living witnesses for God and testifying to an ungodly world that they are children and servants of the Most High? Is the line of separation between the church and the world clear and distinct? And does she shine forth, “fair as the moon, clear as the sun and terrible as an army with banners”(S of S 6:10)?
Who can say it is so? Who can say of the church that she is flourishing and that her prosperity runs parallel with that of the world? We may rather take up Joel’s lament in verses 10 – 12 of the chapter we read, “The field is wasted, the land mourneth; for the corn is wasted; the new wine is dried up, the oil languisheth. Be ye ashamed, O ye husbandmen; howl O ye vine dressers, for the wheat and for the barley; because the harvest of the field is perished. The vine is dried up, and the fig tree languisheth; the pomegranate tree, the palm tree also, and the apple tree even all the trees of the field are withered”.
No one who knows what grace is and what grace does, can help seeing that Zion’s sky is much beclouded at the present time, that the life of God is at a low ebb and that the blessings and consolations of the Holy Spirit are much restrained. Go where you will, the same complaints reach our ears. Churches are much rent and divided, a party spirit widely prevails, spiritual coldness and deadness benumb those who once seemed full of life and feeling. When the children of God meet there is little real spiritual conversation. Worldly subjects, the mere trifles of the day, be it the weather, the markets, the crops, politics and gossip, all thrust out the things God. When religion is talked of it is often at a distance; spiritual experience is lost in a cloud of generalities.
Where is love and union amidst the strife of tongues? What are the feelings of the tender hearted, the meek and quiet ones, those newly called by grace, the young members of our churches, the exercised part of the flock, the doubting and fearing ones, I say, what are their feelings when they see those, who by their age and experience, should be fathers and mothers in Israel, spiritually cold and dead in conversation and buried in carnality. When Churches are made up of discordant materials, strife and disunion will usually exist. How can the stormy petrel and the timid dove dwell in the same nest? The dove cannot scream on the crest of the boiling wave, as does the petrel, and gather up its fishy prey from between the heaving billows, revelling in wind and storm. Nor can the petrel lodge in the calm nest of the dove, cooing out its lamentations, because of the absence of its beloved. Let us examine ourselves. Amen.