Thursday, 19 May 2011

OUR MERCIFUL AND FAITHFUL HIGH PRIEST

"Therefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people."
(Hebrews 2:17)

God gave the persons of the elect into the hands of his dear Son, as Jacob committed Benjamin into the hands of Judah; and as Judah accepted Benjamin, so Christ accepted the Church and undertook to bring it unto God, or he himself would bear the blame forever.

But how this faithfulness was tried!

Men tried it; devils tried it; God tried it; but it came gloriously through all.

Yet what loads were laid upon it!

How the very knees of Jesus, so to speak, staggered beneath it!

How, as Deer says, he had – "Strength enough, and none to spare!"

How he had to sustain the curse of the law and the load of imputed sin!

How he had to drink up a very hell of inward torment!

How he had to be agonized in body, and more than agonized in soul!

What bloody sweat in the garden, what tears, what sore amazement, what heaviness of spirit, what sorrowfulness even unto death; what pangs of body upon the cross, what grief of mind, what distress of soul, did the Holy Lamb endure in being faithful unto God!

How he might have prayed, and his Father would have sent him twelve legions of angels!

He had but to speak, and he might have soared to heaven and left the cross and all its shame and suffering behind.

But he was faithful to God and to the work which he had undertaken. Six weary hours he hung upon the cross. Six weary hours he endured the wrath of God, and that most cutting stroke of all, reserved to the last as the bitterest drop in the whole cup, the hiding of his Father's countenance, which wrung from his bosom that cry, such as neither earth nor heaven had heard before - "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

And yet not until he had finished the work did he give up his spirit. So he was faithful "in all things pertaining to God."

And he is faithful, also, in all things pertaining to man. He could say to the Father, "Of all whom you have given me" – except the son of perdition, Judas; he had no charge to save him from death and hell; but of all the others whom he had received as his Father's gift, he could say, "I have lost none." Thus he was faithful while he was on earth. And how faithful he is now!

The high priest under the law had two offices to execute; he had to OFFER SACRIFICE for the people, and to offer prayer and INTERCESSION for them. Upon earth Jesus fulfilled the first; in heaven he fulfils the second, as there making by virtue of his presence continual intercession for us.

By J.C. Philpot

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

SANCTIFICATION

As from the cross flows all salvation, so from the cross flows all sanctification. What have not men done, to make themselves holy; and by this means render themselves, as they have thought, acceptable to God!

What tortures of body, what fastings, scourgings, self-imposed penances to sanctify their sinful nature, and conform their rebellious flesh to the holiness demanded by the law!

And with what success?

They have landed either in self-righteousness or despair—though at opposite points of the compass.

The flesh cannot be sanctified. It is essentially and incurably corrupt; and therefore, if we are to possess that inward holiness, "without which no man shall see the Lord," it must be by Christ being "of God, made unto us sanctification," as well as righteousness — sanctifying us not only "with his own blood," (Hebrews 13:13,) but by his Spirit and grace.

If we believe in Him, we shall love him ("unto you which believe, he is precious;") if we love him, we shall seek to please, and fear to displease him; if we believe in Him, by the gift and work of God, this divine and living faith will purify our heart, overcome the world, produce that spiritual mindedness which is life and peace, give union and communion with the Lord of life and glory; and every believing view of him, every act of faith upon him, and every visit from him, will conform us to his likeness, as the Apostle speaks: "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Corinthians 3:18.)

If, then, we are to feel an inward power sanctifying our hearts, drawing up our minds to heavenly things, subduing our sins, meekening and softening our spirit, separating us from the world, filling us with holy thoughts, gracious desires, and pure affections, and thus making us "meet for the inheritance of the saints in light," this inward sanctification must flow wholly and solely from the Blessed Spirit, as the gift of a risen Jesus: as he himself said, "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you." (John 16:7). "He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you" (John 16:14).

It is not, then, the hair-shirt, the monk's cell, the midnight vigil, the protracted fast; no, nor the soothing strains of the swelling organ, the melodious chant of surpliced choristers, the "dim religious light" of the stained Gothic window; no, nor the terrors of the Law, the accusations of conscience, the tears, cries and resolutions of a heart that still loves sin, though professing to repent of it; no, nor gloomy looks, neglected apparel, softly uttered words, slow walk, holiness of face, manner, and gesture, hollow voice, demure countenance, a choice assortment of Scripture words and phrases on every occasion, or no occasion; no, nor all the array of piety and sanctity which Satan, transformed into an angel of light, has devised to deceive thousands, that can purge the conscience from the guilt, filth, love, power and practice of sin, or raise up that new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

Like the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean, they may, and even that very imperfectly, sanctify to the purifying of the flesh; but it is the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot to God, which can alone purge the conscience from filth, guilt, and dead works, to serve the living God; and it is the work of the blessed Spirit alone which, by revealing Christ, and forming him in the heart, "the hope of glory," can create and bring forth that new man of grace which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him who created him.

By J.C. Philpot

THE TWO NATURES IN A BELIEVER

Among those branches of divine truth which, without special teaching, we cannot enter into, is, that of the two natures in a believer. And yet, though every child of God must in all ages have been experimentally acquainted with the inward conflict between flesh and spirit, nature and grace; and though authors innumerable have written on such subjects as sanctification, the trial of faith, the strength of grace, the power of sin, the deceitfulness of the heart, the commencement and progress, decline and restoration, of the life of God in the soul, yet how few even of these really spiritual and experimental writers have laid out the truth of the case as made known in the Scriptures, and felt in the experience of the saints!

How blind have many writers, as, for instance, Dr. Owen, and most of the Puritan authors, been to the distinctness of flesh and spirit!

In fact, as it seems to us, many good men have been afraid of the real, actual truth. Our Puritan ancestors especially, living in a day when profanity and ungodliness ran down the streets like water, and holiness, therefore, of heart and life was powerfully urged as the distinctive feature of the children of God, intuitively shrank from anything that seemed in its faintest coloring opposed to their view of gospel sanctification.

They feared to believe, and dreaded to proclaim, that "the carnal mind is enmity against God; that it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed could be."

They seemed to think, if they once admitted that the flesh, the carnal mind, underwent no spiritual change; in other words, could not be sanctified; it was opening a wide and open door to the worst Antinomianism.

There is a distinction between "the flesh" and "the carnal mind." The flesh is the corrupt principle itself: the carnal mind is the breathing, moving, and acting of the corrupt principle. The flesh is, as it were, the body, the carnal mind the soul of sin; the flesh is the still atmosphere, pregnant with disease and death; the carnal mind is the same air in motion, carrying with it the noisome pestilence; the flesh is a giant, but lying down or asleep; the carnal mind is the giant awake and hurling his weapons of defiance against heaven and earth.

On no one point, it may be remarked, are the minds of men professing some measure of truth so sensitive as upon that of the believer's personal sanctification.

You may be three parts an Arminian, and four-fifths of a Pharisee, and men will speak well of you and of your religion. But be in their eyes one-tenth of an Antinomian, and they will unchristianise you in a moment, if you had the experience of Hart, the gifts of Huntington, the godly life of Romaine, and the blessed death of Toplady.

Now, nothing so much exposes a man to the suspicion of secret Antinomianism as his denying the sanctification of the flesh. The cry is at once raised, "You are an enemy to holiness; you turn the grace of God into licentiousness; you allow people to live as they list; you encourage men under a profession of religion to continue in sin."

Who does not know the charges which they ring on this peal of bells against all who assert that the flesh is incurably corrupt, and cannot be molded afresh, or new modeled, or sanctified, or conformed to the image of Christ, but remains to the last what it was at the first, "the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts"?

We may oppose to these clamorous reproaches a godly life, a gospel walk, a spiritual mindedness, a heavenly conversation, a filial fear, a tender conscience, a separation from evil, a liberality to the poor and needy, and a deadness to the world of which our opponents profess little and manifest less; but all in vain. The very suspicion that we deny the holiness of the flesh, present or possible, makes us viewed by most of the "very religious" people of our day much as the Protestant heretic is looked upon by the staunch Papist—a kind of horrid being, who may, perhaps, by a death-bed conversion to their views, and a full recantation of his own, escape hell, but who, at present, is in a very awful and dangerous condition.

But leaving these poor ignorant creatures who speak evil of things that they know not, and who are actuated by much the same principle and spirit as those of old who said of the Lord himself, "He has a devil, and is mad; why hear you him?" let us look for a few moments at a very different class of people to whom the mystery of the two natures is but little known. These are the honest and sincere, the tender in conscience and broken in heart of the children of God, who, for want of divine light on this point, are often deeply tried and perplexed, and sometimes almost at their wit's end from what they feel of the inward workings and strength of sin. They are told, and their naturally religious mind, their traditionary creed, and their unenlightened understanding, all fully fall in with what they hear enforced on their conscience, that the sanctification of the soul, without which there is no salvation, is a gradual progress from one degree of holiness to another, until, with the exception of a few insignificant "remains" of sin, which, from some unknown cause, obstinately resist the sanctifying process, the believer becomes thoroughly holy, in body, soul, and spirit. Sin, they are told, may occasionally stir up a bad thought or two, or now and then a carnal desire may most unaccountably start up; but its power is destroyed, the rebellious movement is immediately subdued, the hasty spark, which straight is cool again, is put out at once without further damage, and the process of sanctification keeps going on as harmoniously and uninterruptedly as before, until the soul is almost as fit for heaven as if it were already there.

Beautiful theory! but as deceptive and as unsubstantial as the mirage of the desert, or the summer evening cloud bathed in the golden glow of the sinking sun. And so those sincere, honest-hearted children of God find and feel when "the motions of sin which are by the law," stirred and roused from their torpid inactivity by its application, work in their members to bring forth fruit unto death.

The doctrine of progressive sanctification, implying, as it does, in the mouth of its strenuous advocates, the gradual extirpation of sin and the molding of the carnal mind into the image of Christ, is to the honest and tender conscience a torturing doctrine, pregnant with guilt, bondage, and despair.

To a man who merely plays with religion, all doctrines are pretty much alike. None cause him trouble, and none cause him joy. The holiness of God, the spirituality and curse of the law, the evil of sin, the helplessness of the creature, the sinfulness of the flesh, the deceitfulness and desperate wickedness of the heart, as long as they are mere doctrines, have no more effect upon the conscience than a narrative of the battle of Alma or an account of the fight at Inkermann. To a professor of religion dead in his unregeneracy, the fall of man is nothing like so stirring as the fall of Sebastopol; and the recovery by Christ does not give him half so much pleasure as the recovery from a bad cold. These are the men to preach progressive sanctification; and none urge it so continually, and press it so forcibly, except, perhaps, those that are living in sin, who are usually the greatest advocates for holiness, either as a mask of their practice, or on the principle of a set off, that, having none of their own, they may get as much as they can of other people's. "In for a penny, in for a pound," is the maxim of a man who runs into debt without meaning to pay.

And so, if a man means to pay God nothing of the obedience and holiness which he urges upon others, he thinks he cannot do better than get into debt as deep as he can. None set the ladder so high as the master who stops at the foot, and urges his man on to the topmost round. None lay such heavy burdens on men's shoulders as those who themselves never touch them with one of their fingers; and none wield so unmercifully the whip as those who have never felt the end of the lash. To all such miserable taskmasters the tried and distressed in soul may well say, "What is play to you is death to us; you are in jest, but we are in earnest; you are at your ease, we are laboring to attain unto what you only talk about. The holiness that you are preaching we are striving to practice. Your flashes of exhortation are but summer lightning, and your denunciations but stage thunder; while we are at the foot of the mount that burned with fire, and where there was blackness and darkness and tempest.

The sanctification of the flesh that you urge may do for you who have learned your lesson at the academy, and preach what you neither know, nor understand, nor feel—blind leaders of the blind, as you and your tutors are. Such a doctrine lies with no more weight on your conscience than the preacher's gown upon your back, or the gold ring upon your little finger; but it is not so with us, who are daily and hourly groaning beneath a body of sin and death. It is the load of sin that so deeply tries us, and our utter inability to bring forth the holiness that you urge upon our sore and bleeding consciences. It is our base backslidings, our sins against love and blood, our barrenness and deadness; the dreadful depravity of our hearts; our getting every day worse instead of getting every day better, that so deeply tries us: and your doctrine rubs salt into our bleeding, gaping wounds."


To such tried and distressed souls as these, who have been harassed almost to death by the doctrine of progressive sanctification, how reviving and encouraging it is when the mystery of the two natures is opened up to their spiritual understanding, and sealed upon their conscience by the Blessed Spirit!

By J.C. Philpot

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

WHEN THE HOLY SPIRIT PREACHES THE GOSPEL

We often know the theory of the gospel, before we know the experience of the gospel.

We often receive the doctrines of grace into our judgment, before we receive the grace of the doctrines into our soul.

We therefore need to be brought down, humbled, tried, stripped of every prop — that the gospel may be to us more than a sound, more than a name, more than a theory, more than a doctrine, more than a system, more than a creed—that it may be soul enjoyment — soul blessing — and soul salvation.

When the Holy Spirit preaches the gospel to the poor in spirit, the humbled, stripped, and tried — it is a gospel of glad tidings indeed to the sinner's broken heart.

By J.C. Philpot

THE LORD'S SECRET POWER IN OUR SOULS

"He giveth power to the faint; and to [them that have] no might he increaseth strength."
(Isaiah 40:29)

The Lord's people are often in the state that they have no might. All their power seems exhausted, and their strength completely drained away — sin appears to have gotten the mastery over them — and they feel as if they had neither will nor ability to run the race set before them, or persevere in the way of the Lord.

Now what has kept us to this day?

Some of you have made a profession ten, twenty, thirty, or forty years.

What has kept us?

When powerful temptations were spread for our feet, what preserved us from falling headlong into them?

When we felt the workings of strong lusts, what kept us from being altogether carried captive by them?

When we look at the difficulties of the way, the perplexities which our souls have had to grapple with, the persecutions and hard blows from sinners and saints that we have had to encounter — what has still kept in us a desire to fear God, and a heart in some measure tender before Him?

When we view the infidelity, unbelief, carnality, worldly-mindedness, hypocrisy, pride, and presumption of our fallen nature — what has kept us still believing, hoping, loving, longing, and looking to the Lord?

When we think of our deadness, coldness, torpidity, rebelliousness, perverseness, love to evil, aversion to good, and all the abounding corruptions of our nature — what has kept us from giving up the very profession of religion, and swimming down the powerful current that has so long and so often threatened to sweep us utterly from the Lord?

Is it not the putting forth of the Lord's secret power in our souls?

Can we not look back, and recall to mind our first religious companions — those with whom we started in the race — those whom we perhaps envied for their greater piety, zeal, holiness, and earnestness — and with which we painfully contrasted our own sluggishness and carnality — admiring them, and condemning ourselves?

Where are they all, or the greater part of them?

Some have embraced soul-destroying errors — others are buried in a worldly religious system — and others are wrapped up in delusion and fleshly confidence.

Thus, while most have fallen into the snares of the devil, God, by putting forth His secret power in the hearts of His fainting ones, keeps His fear alive in their souls — holds up their goings in His paths that their footsteps slip not — brings them out of all their temptations and troubles — delivers them from every evil work — and preserves them unto His heavenly kingdom. He thus secures the salvation of His people by His own free grace.

How sweet and precious it is to have our strength renewed — to have fresh grace brought into the heart — to feel the mysterious sensations of renovated life — to feel the everlasting arms supporting the soul — fighting our battles for us, subduing our enemies, overcoming our lusts, breaking our snares, and delivering us out of our temptations!

By J.C. Philpot

THE MONSTROUS CREATURE WITHIN

"I abhor the pride of Jacob."
(Amos 6:8)

O cursed pride, that is ever lifting up its head in our hearts!

Pride would even pull down God that it might sit upon His throne.

Pride would trample under foot the holiest things to exalt itself!

Pride is that monstrous creature within us, of such ravenous and indiscriminate gluttony, that the more it devours, the more it craves!

Pride is that chameleon which assumes every colour — that actor which can play every part — and yet which is faithful to no one object or purpose — but to exalt and glorify self!

"I will make the pride of the strong to cease."
(Ezekiel 7:24)

"He shall bring down their pride."
(Isaiah 25:11)

God means to kill man's pride!

And oh, what cutting weapons the Lord will sometimes make use of to kill a man's pride!

How He will bring him sometimes into the depths of temporal poverty, that He may make a stab at his worldly pride!

How He will bring to light the iniquities of his youth, that He may mortify his self-righteous pride!

How He will allow sin to break forth, if not openly, yet so powerfully within, that piercing convictions shall kill his spiritual pride!

And what deep discoveries of internal corruption will the Lord sometimes employ, to dig down to the root, and cut off the core of that poisonous tree, pride!

The Searcher of hearts dissects and anatomizes this inbred evil, cuts down to it through the quivering and bleeding flesh, and pursues with His keen knife its multiplied windings and ramifications.

"The lofty looks of man will be brought low, the haughtiness of men will be bowed down, and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day."
(Isaiah 2:11)

"And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day."
(Isaiah 2:17)

"The LORD of hosts has purposed it, to stain the pride of all glory, and to bring into contempt all the honorable of the earth."
(Isaiah 23:9)

By J.C. Philpot

THE BEST TEACHER

"Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ."
(John 1:17)

The way to learn truth is to be much in prayer to the Lord Jesus Christ. Beg of Him to teach you Himself — for He is the best teacher. The words which He speaks, they are spirit and life. What He writes upon our hearts is written in characters which will stand every storm and live at last. We forget what we learn from 'man' — but we never forget what we learn from Jesus. 'Men' may deceive—Christ cannot.

Though you may receive truth from a minister's lips, it is always mixed with human infirmity. But what you get from the lips of Jesus, you get in all its purity and power. It comes warm from Him — it comes cold from 'men.' It drops like the rain and distills like the dew from His mouth—it comes only second-hand from men. If I preach to you the truth, I preach indeed as the Lord enables me to speak. But it is He who must speak with power to your souls to do you any real good. Look then away from me — look beyond me — to Him who alone can teach us both. By looking to Jesus in the inmost feelings of your soul, you will draw living truth from out of His bosom into your own—from His heart into your heart—and thus will come feelingly and experimentally to know the blessedness of His own declaration — 'I am the truth.'

By J.C. Philpot

Sunday, 8 May 2011

FAMILIARITY OF SACRED THINGS

"Take heed unto yourselves!"
(Acts 20:28)

This was Paul's public warning to the elders of the church at Ephesus. It was Paul's private warning to his friend and disciple, his beloved son, Timothy.

And do not all who write or speak in the name of the Lord need the same warning?

Familiarity with sacred things has a natural tendency to harden the conscience, where grace does not soften and make it tender.

Men may preach and pray until both become a mere mechanical habit; and they may talk about Christ and His sufferings until they feel as little touched by them as a 'tragic actor' on the stage, of the sorrows which he impersonates.

Well, then, may the Holy Spirit sound this note of warning, as with trumpet voice, in the ears of the servants of Christ. "Take heed unto yourselves!"

By J.C. Philpot

OUR CHIEF AIM AS MINISTERS OF CHRIST

If we can throw any light on the word of truth, if we can enable our readers more clearly to understand, more firmly to believe, and more experimentally to feel the power of what God has revealed in the Scriptures for their instruction, edification, and consolation, that will be our chief reward, as, we hope, it is our chief aim.

By J. C. Philpot

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

EXHORTATIONS TO HOLINESS

It is a very significant circumstance, and no less sad than significant, that the very words "holy" and "holiness" seem almost lost out of the churches of truth.

If the correctness of this assertion be doubted, let us appeal to our readers' own experience, and ask them how often in the course of a year do they hear the words in the mouth of the ministers of truth under whom they usually sit.

Or if such a word as "holiness" is ever sounded in their ears, is it not more as a term of reproach, and an arrow aimed against what is termed "progressive sanctification," than brought before them and insisted on as a part of the gospel of the grace of God, and in harmony with the Scriptures of truth and the work of grace upon the heart?

The cause, however, of this omission is not far to seek. One extreme often leads to another; and thus, as in other cases, because ignorant men have erred in one direction, the advocates of truth have been tempted to err in another, and to overlook or ignore the express language of Scripture, lest it should seem to countenance views to which they are opposed.

And what has been the necessary consequence?

That it has come to pass, lest they should be thought to favour a fleshly holiness, men of truth have almost dropped the word altogether.

But because men ignorant of the depths of the Fall, and of the distinction of the two natures in those born of God, advocate what every child of God knows from his own experience to be false as to the gradual sanctification of what in itself is and ever will be deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, is it right, is it consistent with faithful stewardship of the mysteries of God, and the solemn trusteeship of the gospel, that not only the Scriptural language "holy" and "holiness" should be tacitly dropped, but what is worse, the thing itself should be neglected and passed by?

We need not be surprised that, as the neglect of any important part of God's truth must always bear evil fruit, such has been the actual consequence of this omission.

Thus as regards hearers as well as preachers, it has come to pass that all such exhortations to holiness in heart, lip and life, as we meet with in the Scriptures, were they found in the mouth of ministers, would be viewed by many of their people as legal and bondaging, and inconsistent with the purity of gospel truth in its doctrine, if they dare not altogether say with its experience and power.

But if we are brought to this pass, that plain and positive Scripture precepts and exhortations are to be set aside, or thrust out of pulpit and pew, because they do not suit our views and feelings, may we not justly suspect that there is
something wrong somewhere?

And should we not search and examine to see whether such an omission may not be founded on some misconception of the truth, even in those cases where there would not be a willing or wilful neglect of the revealed will and Word of God?

According to our view, the exhortations in the Scriptures to holiness are in perfect harmony with the doctrines of grace and the teaching of the blessed Spirit in the soul; indeed so much so that they grow upon the gospel tree as necessarily as good grapes upon the vine of the Lord's right-hand planting.

In these exhortations, rightly understood, spiritually received and interpreted, there is nothing legal, nothing that genders to bondage, nothing inconsistent with the liberty of the gospel, the freedom of truth, and the blessedness of the love which casteth out fear which hath torment: for they are all fully impregnated with the dew, the unction, and the power of the Spirit of Life, and are full of sweetness and blessedness to those who can receive them in the power of that grace out of which they spring, and of which they form the crowning fruits.

By J. C. Philpot