Sunday, 30 October 2011

EVEN YOUR OWN RELATIVES WILL THINK YOU ARE ALMOST INSANE

"Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you."
(John 14:17)

The world — that is, the world dead in sin, and the world dead in profession — men destitute of the life and power of God — must have something that it can see. And, as heavenly things can only be seen by heavenly eyes, they cannot receive the things which are invisible.

Now this explains why a religion that presents itself with a degree of beauty and grandeur to the natural eye will always be received by the world — while a spiritual, internal, heartfelt and experimental religion will always be rejected.

The world can receive a religion that consists of forms, rites, and ceremonies. These are things seen. Beautiful buildings, painted windows, pealing organs, melodious choirs, the pomp and parade of an earthly priesthood, and a whole apparatus of 'religious ceremony,' carry with them something that the natural eye can see and admire. The world receives all this 'external religion' because it is suitable to the natural mind and intelligible to the reasoning faculties.

But the quiet — inward — experimental — divine religion — which presents no attractions to the outward eye, but is wrought in the heart by a divine operation — the world cannot receive this — because it presents nothing that the natural eye can rest upon with pleasure, or is adapted to gratify their general idea of what religion is or should be.

Do not marvel, then, that worldly professors despise a religion wrought in the soul by the power of God.

Do not be surprised if even your own relatives think you are almost insane, when you speak of the consolations of the Spirit, or of the teachings of God in your soul.

They cannot receive these things, for they have no experience of them — and being such as are altogether opposed to the carnal mind, they reject them with enmity and scorn.

By J.C. Philpot

Saturday, 22 October 2011

DEAD AND DARK SEASONS

All Christians, even the most eminent servants of God, have their dead and dark seasons—when the life of God seems sunk to so low an ebb as to be hardly visible—so hidden is the stream by the mud-banks of their fallen nature.

By these very dark and dead seasons, the people of God are instructed. They see and feel what 'the flesh' really is—how alienated from the life of God; they learn in whom all their strength and sufficiency lie; they are taught that in them, that is, in their flesh, dwells no good thing; that no exertions of their own can maintain in strength and vigor the life of God; and that all they are, and have—all they believe, know, feel, and enjoy—with all their ability, usefulness, gifts, and grace—flow from the pure, sovereign grace—the rich, free, undeserved, yet unceasing goodness and mercy of God!

They learn in this hard school of painful experience, their emptiness and nothingness—and that without Christ they can do nothing. They thus become clothed with humility, that rare, yet lovely garb; cease from their own strength and wisdom; and learn experimentally that Christ is, and ever must be, all in all to them, and all in all in them.

By J. C. Philpot

JOHN BERRIDGE

The middle and latter end of the last century was a remarkable period. A chain of ministers, commencing with Whitefield, and embracing in its links Toplady, Berridge, Newton, Romaine, Huntington, and Hawker, extends itself down to our degenerate days. However differing in gifts, all these men were evidently taught by the same Spirit, and preached the same gospel. Toplady, like a lamp fed with spirit, flamed forth, blazed, and died, from shortness of wick, not from lack of supply. Newton, snatched from Africa's burning shore, and from worse than African servitude, united to much sound wisdom great tenderness of spirit, and an experience of divine things which, if not very deep, was sound and varied. He knew much of his own heart, was singularly frank and sincere, had much sympathy with the tried and afflicted, and, being gifted with an easy, fluent style, has left behind him many useful and excellent letters. Romaine was a burning and shining light, who lived the faith which he preached, and in the midst of the metropolis for half a century had but one theme, one subject, one object—Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever.

In many points widely differing, but united by the same faith to the same glorious Head of influence, light, life, liberty, and love, was John Berridge. As all the lines of a circle radiate towards the center, all necessarily meet in one point. So, however the servants of Christ may differ in ability, gifts, time, place, and usefulness, yet all meet in one point the central Sun of the system—the crucified, risen, ascended, and glorified Son of God. We hear of "the music of the spheres." But without harmony, music there is none. If there be music in the revolving spheres, it is because each planet preserves its circuit, rolling round the sun at the appointed distance, and with the appointed velocity. And what are the servants of God but planets to the Sun of Righteousness, each having his appointed orbit, fixed as definitely by decree, as the orbit of the earth, and enjoying only light, warmth, and motion in proportion to his proximity to the glorified Immanuel? Shall they then jar and quarrel, and seek to mingle orbits, envying each other's grace, gifts, or usefulness? The light of each and all is but reflected light, the light of the Sun of Righteousness shining into their hearts; "for what have they which they have not received?"

Pride, cursed pride, is the root of that jealousy which is cruel as the grave. Did ministers but view themselves, and did others but view them, as mere instruments, they could and would no more quarrel on the ground of superiority and inferiority than the flute would quarrel with the violin, or the chisel with the saw. Romaine poring over Hebrew roots in his study at Lambeth, and Berridge preaching from a horse-block at Potton, mingling smiles and tears, and the quaintest humour with the deepest pathos, were as different in natural disposition and constitution as can well be imagined. But each sighed and groaned under a body of sin and death, each dearly loved, and each highly exalted the dying Friend of sinners, each was honored and blessed in his work, and each is now in the bosom of his Lord and God. Of Berridge we now propose a slight sketch.

John Berridge was the eldest son of a wealthy farmer and grazier, and was born at Kingston, Nottinghamshire, March 1st, 1716. His father's intention was to bring him up to his own business, but partly through some early religious impressions and partly through an innate love to study, the youthful farmer could never learn how to hold a plough or handle a bullock. He was sent therefore to the University of Cambridge, his father probably thinking that his first-born might have sufficient talent to read prayers and preach a sermon, if not to learn the mysteries of a four-shift course or sell a broken-mouthed ewe. To Cambridge, therefore, John went; and when his father was asked what had become of the youthful student, he is said to have jocularly replied that "he was gone to be a light to the Gentiles." At the University he studied hard, but lost much of his early religious impressions, so much so as to give up almost entirely secret prayer for ten years, and to have drunk deeply into Arian and Socinian views, which at that time were widely prevalent. These last sentiments, however, he abandoned, from seeing that they lowered God the Father, as well as God the Son, and were destructive of all vital religion.

The experience of Berridge is best seen in his hymns. In them his whole heart is open. They were written in the furnace of a long and trying illness, and the fruits of the furnace are seen in them.

1. What honesty and sincerity are stamped upon them! Berridge knew himself. The Holy Spirit had taken him into the chambers of imagery, and shown him "The creeping things portrayed upon the walls round about." The veil of self-righteousness and self-complacency had been taken from off his heart, and he had seen light in God's light. This made him honest. No disguise, he knew, could shroud him from the eyes of Omniscience. "You God see me" was engraved on his heart. And to this we owe the transparency of his character, his freedom from deceit and hypocrisy.

2. Though a man of learning, his language was simplicity itself. Simplicity is always beautiful. God's works in nature, how beautifully simple! From a blade of grass to an oak; from a fly to an elephant; from the sand under our feet to the stars in the sky! Wherever the fingers of God are there is simplicity. And his word how simple! The parables of Jesus, the sermon on the mount, the farewell chapters with his disciples in the Gospel of John, what beauty! what simplicity shine throughout! True religion, real experience, vital godliness, wants no rouge upon its cheek. It shines forth with the luster of God, as the face of Moses when he came down from the mount of communion. It is falsehood and hypocrisy that want disguise. Truth needs no adventitious ornaments to set off its intrinsic beauty. To adorn it is to spoil it—to array the virgin in the garb of a harlot. This beautiful simplicity was a marked feature in the character of Berridge, and is stamped on all his writings. He could afford to be sincere, as he alone can in whom the fear and grace of God dwell.

3. We admire, too, in Berridge the emptiness and self-destitution which form such prominent features in his character. He knew what Pharisaism was from a long experience of it in his own heart; and he abhorred the resident.

4. With this feature of destitution, poverty, and soul-emptiness which characterize Berridge, we see combined its inseparable companion, self-abhorrence. How feelingly he says,
"Self-condemned and abhorred,
How shall I approach the Lord."

And again,
"I drop my vile heart in the dust."

5. But Berridge knew also the gospel of the grace of God. Here he preeminently shines. The gospel flowed purely into his soul, and thence pure out of his mouth, not turbid and tainted like a ditch with the rotting leaves that Adam would gladly have covered himself with, but bright and sparkling as the river of life. Christ was indeed his all in all.

6. One point more we would call attention to lest we dwell too long upon this part of our subject. We mean the sweet and indescribable savor that rests upon Berridge's Hymns. They are "seasoned with salt," and are thus preserved from corruption. How many thousands of sermons, hymns, and tracts lave been written and published within this last century! And who reads them now? They lacked that which God commanded never to be lacking from the meat offering, (Lev. 2:13) "salt." Their sacrifice was not seasoned with salt, (Mark 9:46; Col. 4:6,) and therefore lacked both savor and preservation. Not so with Berridge. His hymns are seasoned with salt; have therefore savor and flavor; have been preserved to our time, and will go down to all generations.

By J.C. Philpot

Sunday, 9 October 2011

THE WORD MADE FLESH

"Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men."
(Philippians 2:6-7)

The humanity of our blessed Lord was actual flesh and blood from the moment of its conception, a perfect human body, to which was united a perfect human soul ~ both without sin, or else He could not be the Lamb without blemish; both without sin, or His pure humanity would not have been that "holy thing" born of the virgin, which should be called the Son of God.

Thus He came forth as the Lamb of God, without spot or blemish. Well indeed might the
apostle say, "Great is the mystery of godliness" (1 Timothy 3:6).

Here as in a glass we see the wonderful love of Jesus, that He who is the Son of God, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Ghost, a sharer of the Father's essence, of the Father's glory, should stoop so low to lift us up so high: that He should condescend to unite to His glorious Person our nature, flesh and blood: to wear a human body like our own; to feel as we do, to speak as we do, to walk as we do, to eat and drink and hunger and thirst and weep and sigh and mourn as we do; yet all the while be the Son of God, and should have a divine nature in as close union with human nature as our soul has with our bodily frame.

We cannot tell how our soul is in union with our body. We know it is so, but how we cannot tell. We only know the fact, but we cannot explain the mode. So we cannot tell how Christ's divine nature is in union with His human nature; we know it is so by the testimony of God, by the express revelation of His Word. That revelation to a believer answers all inquiry.

But if any man say to me, "Can you explain the mystery of the two natures in Christ?", I ask in my turn, "Can you explain the mystery of your own existence? Can you explain to me how you are able to lift up your own hand, see with your own eye, hear with your own ear, move with your own foot? No man has ever yet been able to explain this apparently simple thing; a feat which every child can perform, but a fact which no philosopher can understand. Can you tell me how mind can act upon matter? How you wish to do a thing with your mind, and can do it instantaneously with your body? When, then, you can explain your own existence and unravel the mystery of your soul acting in union with your body, then I will allow that you may unravel the mystery of the union of Deity and humanity in the Person of the Son of God, as He lived upon earth, and as He now lives in heaven."

Beautiful upon this mystery are the words of Hart:

"How it was done we can't discuss;
But this we know, 'twas done for us."


Happy are those who can use these words without a wavering tongue!

By J.C. Philpot

Saturday, 8 October 2011

GRACE - NOT WORKS

As it is eminently desirable to have clear views upon every subject which we attempt to consider in the momentous things of God, and this from the very outset, that we may make straight paths for our feet, let us first examine the Scriptural meaning of the word "grace".

I need not tell you how again and again it meets our eye in every page of the New Testament. By "grace," then, as a New Testament term, is meant the pure favour of God. This is its distinct and peculiar meaning. In whatever way then that grace may be manifested, through whatever channel it may flow, to whomsoever it may come, whatever effects it may produce, the pure favour of God is intended thereby.

It may be thus compared to the "pure river of water of life, clear as crystal," seen by John in vision as "proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb" (Revelation 22:1).

It is, therefore, opposed to human merit of every shape and shade, of every form, hue and colour. Thus it stands in contradistinction to works - in such contradistinction that the one, so to speak, would destroy and annihilate the other.

Is not this the apostle's argument: "And if by grace, then it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work"? (Romans 11:6)

Nothing can be more plain, according to the apostle's reasoning, than that these two things are so diametrically opposed to each other that if a man were to be saved by works, grace could have no part; and if saved by grace, then works could have no part. If this, at least, be not his meaning, words can have no clear or positive signification.

We lay this down, then, at the very outset as a foundation which cannot be moved, that grace signifies the pure favour of God, without any regard to human merit, without any intermixture of anything in the creature, be it little or much, be it good or bad according to human view or intention.

By J.C. Philpot