Sunday, October 25, 2009
In these days of boasted liberality, it may appear critical and contentious to oppose with zeal the errors of men who have acquired a name in the Christian world. The mantle of charity, it will be said, ought to be thrown over mistakes that have resulted from a free and impartial investigation of truth, and if not wholly overlooked, they should be noticed only with a slight expression of disapproval. Such, however, was not the conduct of the Apostle Paul.
He spared neither churches nor individuals, when the doctrines they maintained tended to the subversion of the Gospel; and the zeal with which he resisted their errors was not inferior to that with which he encountered the open enemies of Christianity. He affirms that the doctrine introduced into the Galatian churches was "another gospel," and twice pronounced a curse against all by whom it was preached.
Instead of complimenting the authors of this corruption of the Gospel as only abusing in a slight degree the liberty of free examination, he decides that they should be cut off as troublers of the churches. Let not believers be more courteous in expressing their views of the guilt and danger of corrupting the Gospel, than faithful and compassionate to the people of Christ who may be injured by false doctrine. It is highly sinful to exchange compliments at the expense of truth.
The awful responsibility of being accessory to the promotion of error is strongly expressed by the Apostle John also. "If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God-speed; for he that biddeth him God-speed is partaker of his evil deeds."
By Robert Haldane
Monday, October 19, 2009
"And I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ."
The "fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ" is the fullness of salvation in Him and by Him as the crucified, resurrected Redeemer, the one Mediator between God and men.
This "fullness" is a comfort to God's people. It binds us together in the simplicity of Christ. God the Holy Spirit will never take any truth of Scripture and use it to divide or confuse brethren in the church. He is the Comforter who continually convicts us of sin and continually drives us to the crucified, risen Christ for all comfort, peace, and unity. The plain and simple preaching of the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit will always inspire unity, peace, and growth in the church. Divisions and confusion are the workings of sinful, proud men, not God. Men will constantly raise issues to add on to the simplicity that is in Christ. They will confuse and complicate matters, but the simple Gospel remains the same. It never changes. It is the revelation of the glorious Person and finished work of Christ on the cross to save His people from their sins. It is the revelation of the "righteousness of God" which is Christ's obedience unto death, the shedding of His precious blood to satisfy God's justice and fully pay our sin-debt. It is the truth that God is just to justify the ungodly based solely upon the righteousness of Christ imputed (charged) to the accounts of His people. God the Holy Spirit proceeds forth from the Father and the Son to impart the resurrected, spiritual life of Christ to His people in the new birth. He teaches us of our utter depravity and impotence to save ourselves by our best works. He slays us by the law of God as He shows us that the law can only condemn us based on our best efforts to obey. He drives us to Christ and Him alone, to plead His righteousness alone, for our whole eternal salvation. We see by His invincible power that if we are to be saved it is totally of God's free and sovereign grace and mercy in Christ.
What a simple but glorious message this is!
By Bill Parker
For He hath made Him to be Sin for us; who knew no Sin: That we might be made the Righteousness of God in Him.
(2 Corinthians 5:21)
1. His miraculous Conception in the Womb of the Blessed Virgin. Christ not being conceived in a natural, but supernatural Manner, he did not partake of our natural Corruption. It was impossible he should, because he was the supernatural Production of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the Power of the Highest shall over-shadow thee: Therefore also, that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee (Luke 1:35). This was an absolutely new Thing, the like was never before, nor ever will be. Behold a new Thing do I create, a woman shall compass a Man, i.e. a male Child by Conception, through the Agency of the divine Spirit. To us a Child is born, to us a Son is given. This was plainly a new Creation. The human Nature of our Lord being produced by the Exertion of the Power of the Spirit of God, no moral Taint or Impunity could attend it. For, the Holy Spirit could not give Subsistence unto an unholy Nature.
2. The human Nature of Christ was replete with all the Gifts and Graces of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of the Lord God was upon him (Isaiah 61:1). And the Father gave not the Spirit by measure unto him. The Superaddition of the Gifts and Graces of the Spirit unto the Purity of Christ's Nature, rendered it impossible that he should know sin. He having all the Gifts and Graces of the holy Spirit in their utmost Plenitude and Perfection, superadded unto the Purity of his Nature, nothing of Evil could possibly take Place in him: Such as the holy Spirit formed him, in the Virgin's Womb, such he infallibly preferred him, by his continual Presence with him, in the fullness of all his Gifts and Graces.
3. The human nature of Christ hath its Subsistence in his Divine Person. That Nature which was miraculously produced by the Power of the Holy Ghost, the Son of God took into a personal Union with himself. He assumed it to be his own in a peculiar manner that it might be at his disposal, and always under the direction of his divine Will. The human Will, and the divine Will of our Saviour are, and eternally will be distinct; but his Will as Man is in absolute Subjection to, and in all Instances, acts under the Direction of his divine Will. And, therefore, it is not possible that he should ever know Sin. Moral evil can never take place in a Nature which is ineffably united with the Person of the Son of God.
By John Brine - 1756
"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels."
(2 Corinthians 4:7)
Do not be surprised if you feel that in yourself you are but an earthen vessel-if you are made deeply and daily sensible of your frail body. Do not be surprised if your clay house is often tottering-if sickness sometimes assails your mortal tabernacle-if in your flesh there dwells no good thing; if your soul often cleaves to the dust-and if you are unable to retain a sweet sense of God's goodness and love. Do not be surprised nor startled at the corruptions of your depraved nature-at the depth of sin in your carnal mind-at the vile abominations which lurk and work in your deceitful and desperately wicked heart.
Bear in mind that it is the will of God that this heavenly treasure which makes you rich for eternity, should be lodged in an earthen vessel. We have ever to feel our native weakness-and that without Christ we can do nothing-that we may be clothed with humility, and feel ourselves the chief of sinners, and less than the least of all saints.
We thus learn to prize the heights, breadths, lengths, and depths of the love of Christ, who stooped so low to raise us up so high!
By J.C. Philpot
Friday, October 16, 2009
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
It is certainly not unreasonable to expect a sinner, who has been freely and unconditionally pardoned, redeemed, forgiven, justified, sanctified, who has been given the fulness of righteousness, the whole inheritance of grace, the complete privilege of fellowship with God, (and all through the substitutionary obedience and death of the Lord Jesus Christ), to love, serve, and worship the God who granted all this out of His sovereign will.
By Bill Parker
Monday, October 12, 2009
Preached at North Street Chapel, Stamford, Jan. 9, 1850, by J. C. Philpot
"My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."
A singular race of men lived in the middle ages called Alchemists--a name still retained in the words "chemist" and "chemistry"--who spent their money, broke their spirits, and wasted their lives in a most unwearied search after three things--First, a medicine that would cure all diseases, which they termed a "panacea;" secondly, a tincture, or, to use their language, an "elixir vitac," that would prolong life to an indefinite period; and thirdly, a powder, styled the "philosopher's stone," which would transmute lead and other base metals into gold. I need not tell you that all their laborious researches, which they pursued for several centuries, were utterly fruitless, and that as far as any satisfactory result was obtained, they might as well have tried to spin ropes out of sand, weave stockings out of gossamer threads, or twist clouds into ladders to reach the moon. Had they even succeeded, the results would have been full of vexation and disappointment. If they could have found a medicine to cure all diseases, would that have staved off old age and its attendant infirmities? If they could have prolonged life to an indefinite period, would not the grave sooner or later have closed over its victim? And if they could have changed tons of lead into gold, either the expense of the process would have swallowed up all the profits, or the abundance obtained by a cheap manufacture would of itself have destroyed its value when made.
But what they could not find in chemistry, is to be found in the gospel. Nature, however tortured in the furnace, could work no such miracle as they sought to wrest from her bosom; but grace freely and without constraint has worked and still daily works them. There is a medicine which in the hands of Jehovah-rophi, the great Physician Ex 15:26, cures all diseases and dispels all complaints. As David speaks--"Who heals all your diseases," Ps 103:3 And what is this "panacea?" The precious blood of Christ, which "cleanses from all sin." Is not sin a disease? And if this precious blood cleanse from all sin, must it not be a universal medicine, and all the more valuable as curing soul disease, which must be infinitely more deadly and destructive than any bodily malady? Disease struck down the alchemist amid his extracts and essences, and with all the more deadly stroke from his sacrificing his own health in the vain attempt to cure other's sickness. But our blessed Physician has not only revealed and brought to light an infallible medicine, but himself applies it with his own hands and makes it effectual to a perfect cure. And is there not in the same blessed Jesus the true miraculous panacea of life? What did he say to the woman of Samaria? "Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water, springing up into everlasting life." Joh 4:14.
The alchemist only sought to add a few more years to human life; but Jesus gives life for evermore. And is not his grace the true "philosopher's stone," transmuting by miraculous agency leaden afflictions into golden consolations, earthly miseries into heavenly mercies, legal curses into gospel blessings, and vile sinners into precious saints? Thus the delusive dreams of the alchemists have become solid realities, and as far exceeding what they toiled and toiled in vain to find, as eternity excels time, and heaven surpasses earth.
One of these miracles of grace we find in our text--"My brethren," says James, "count it all joy when you fall into temptations." What a miracle must that be when a man can take into his hands a load of temptations and trials, and, by an act of faith, transmute them into joy! If you could take up a piece of lead, and by putting a powder upon it and holding it for a few minutes in a furnace, change it into a solid lump of gold, would that be a greater miracle than turning light afflictions into an eternal weight of glory? How this is done we shall, I hope, with God's blessing, see from the words of our text, in opening up which I shall direct your minds to four leading features which seem to me stamped upon them:
I. First, the "diverse temptations" into which the people of God "fall."
II. Secondly, the effect of falling into diverse temptations--that it tries faith, and that "the trying of faith works patience."
III. Thirdly, the apostolic counsel, "Let patience have her perfect work," that the saint of God "may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing."
IV. Fourthly, the transmuting effect of grace enabling the tried and tempted family of God to "count it all joy" when they fall into diverse temptations.
I. The "diverse trials and temptations" into which the people of God "fall."
I must, however, with God's blessings, before I plunge into my subject, attempt to explain as plainly and as concisely as I can the precise meaning of several words in our text, that we may have a clearer view of the mind and meaning of the Holy Spirit in the passage before us.
The word translated "temptations," embraces in the original a wider field of experience than the English term conveys. We must, therefore, enlarge the idea so as to embrace "trials" also; for the original word means not merely "temptations," but includes also what we understand by the term "trials." We must also further enlarge the meaning of the word "diverse;" for the term in the original means not only diversified, various, of different kinds, but also many in number. So that we may thus enlarge our text, in perfect consistency with the mind of the Holy Spirit--"Count it all joy when you fall into many and various trials and temptations." Thus we see that the words in this enlarged sense comprehend all the trials and all the temptations, however numerous, however diversified, that the saints of God may fall into. Were it otherwise, were the text at all restricted, it would not apply to all the living family of God. Unless, for instance, it comprehended every trial, it might not comprehend your trial; unless it included every kind of temptation, it might not include your peculiar temptation; and thus you as well as many who are deeply tried and peculiarly tempted, might be shut out of all the benefit and blessing contained in it.
I must also drop a word of explanation on the expression "fall into," for there is something very significant in the idea conveyed by it. The idea is of a sudden fall into an unexpected danger, as, for instance, of a traveler falling into an ambush of robbers; for the Lord uses exactly the same word when he speaks in the parable of the man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho and "fell among thieves." Lu 10:30. He was journeying onward, as he thought, safely; but all of a sudden, he fell into an ambush of thieves, who surrounded him, stripped him, wounded him, and left him half dead. Or the expression may refer to the idea of a ship steering its onward course with apparent safety, and suddenly striking on a reef of rocks, or caught in a whirlpool, for we have the same exact word used of the ship which conveyed Paul to Italy; "And falling into a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground." Ac 27:41. Thus the word "fall into" diverse temptations has a peculiar significance, as expressing to the very life the way in which the saints of God often most suddenly and unexpectedly fall into the numerous and various temptation and trials which lie as if in the ambush as so many robbers, or lurk unseen as rocks and quicksands in the voyage of life. For you will bear in mind that the saint of God is both a traveler and a voyager. He has a way to tread, a road to travel in--the strait and narrow way, that leads to eternal life; and he has a voyage to make, for--"The Christian navigates a sea, Where various forms of death appear;" and it is "those that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in deep waters, who see the works of the Lord and his wonders in the deep." Ps 107:23-24. The road in itself is rough and rugged, and the sea stormy and boisterous; but it is the perils of the way--"The rocks and quicksands deep. That through the passage lie"--in other words, the trials and temptations spread through the course, which make the journey and the voyage so difficult and so dangerous.
But let us look at some of these dangers and perils, these "diverse TRIALS" into which the family of God fall. Well may they be called "diverse," or many and various, as we have explained the word, for they spring from such numerous and different sources; but I shall only name four.
1. From above;
2. from beneath;
3. from without;
4. from within.
1. Some are from ABOVE. "The Lord," we are expressly told, "tries the righteous." "Search me, O God, and know my heart," says the Psalmist; "try me, and know my thoughts." The trials with which God himself tries his people are not only numerous and various, but for the most part of a very painful and perplexing nature, yet all precisely adapted to the nature of the case and exactly suited to the state of the person tried, as being planned by unerring wisdom, and weighed, measured, and timed by infinite love. Thus, as the God of providence, as the Maker of our bodies as well as the Creator of our souls, as the God of our families who gives and takes at will the fruit of the womb, some of his children he tries with poverty, others with sickness, others with taking away the desire of their eyes at a stroke, or cutting off the tender olive plants which have sprung up round about their table and twined round every fiber of their heart.
How sudden also, how unexpected the trials! Heavy losses in business, deprivation of a situation, a sweeping away of the little all--the savings of a life--by some fraud or failure, trick or treachery, riches making themselves wings and flying away, and poverty and need coming in as an armed man to plunder the wreck; how suddenly do such strokes come! Sickness, also, and disease, how swift their attack! We are at present in a very sickly season. Illness surrounds us on every side. New complaints, such as the fearful disease diphtheria, or revived maladies as small pox, are spreading far and wide, and making all tremble for themselves or their families; Both these diseases were then very prevalent, and as the saints of God are not exempt from their share in these afflictions, many who fear his great name are either themselves stretched on beds of languishing and pain, or are watching by the side of afflicted relatives and dying children. How suddenly, also, trials of various kind come! In one day Job, "the greatest of all the men of east," lost all the substance which God had given; and the father in the morning of ten living children sat in the evening in his lonely house childless and desolate. How labor pangs fell suddenly on Rachel, and the impatient mother who had cried out "Give me children or else I die," expired under the load of her coveted burden!
But these and all other temporal trials, though at times very severe to the flesh--though they need much grace to endure them with patience and submission--though often aggravated by our own fretfulness, and used as weapons by unbelief and Satan acutely to distress the mind; yet are they of little real significance when compared with SPIRITUAL TRIALS which sink deep into a man's very soul. These, then, are the sharpest trials among those which come from above. And among them we may place as the keenest of all the hidings of God's face, as a mark of his displeasure. How David, Heman, Jeremiah, Jonah, and other Bible saints mourned and lamented under these hidings of the Lord's countenance--"You hid your face and I was troubled." Ps 30:7. "Lord, why do you cast off my soul? why do you hide your face from me?" Ps 88:14. To a saint of God, who has ever experienced the lifting up of the light of the Lord's countenance, nothing is more painful and trying than the Lord hiding his face; for then all his comfort withers--his very evidence appear gone--the former tokens for good are surrounded with a dark cloud, and the felt displeasure of the Lord seems more than he can bear. But the blessed Lord himself drank of this bitter cup when he cried out--"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" And we must suffer with him if we are to be glorified together.
But the Lord also "tries the righteous" by laying bare, and thus discovering to them the secret iniquities of the heart. It was so with Hezekiah, of whom we read--"Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, God left him to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart." 2Ch 32:31. So the Lord, to strip us of our own pride--to crush our vain confidence--to show us that all our strength is weakness, and that grace must freely sanctify as well as fully save, subdue sin as well as pardon it--often leaves us to the discovery of what we are in the Adam-fall. This is "searching Jerusalem with candles" Zep 2:12; for "the spirit of man," that is the new man of grace, "is the candle or lamp of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the heart." Pr 20:27. "I the Lord search the heart; I try the reins." Jer 17:10.
As, then, "in his light we see light," and "all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light" Ps 36:9 Eph 5:13, sin after sin becomes discovered; and the teaching of the Spirit making the heart soft and the conscience tender, the soul is painfully and acutely tried by seeing and feeling these inward abominations. How markedly we see this in Job! "When he has tried me," said he, "I shall come forth as gold" Job 23:10; but in the furnace what a discovery was made of the corruptions of his heart, which before were to himself unsuspected and unknown! They had not escaped the searching eye of Omniscience; but they had much escaped the eye of the most perfect and upright man, according to God's own testimony, who then dwelt upon the earth. When, however this eminent saint of God was tried by afflictions and desertions, pain of body and agony of mind, then the deep and foul corruptions of his heart become manifest, and the most rebellious and unbecoming expressions found vent through his lips. You may think harshly of Job; but the greatest saint, the most highly favored Christian put into the same furnace, would behave no better than he. If the Lord lay "his left hand under the head," the sharpest temporal trials can be patiently, even gladly borne. All afflictions become light if "his right hand embrace" the soul. So 2:6. But if he withdraw his presence, shut out prayer, withhold the light of his countenance, and leave us to the workings of our corrupt heart, what can be the outcome but fretfulness and rebellion, murmuring thoughts, unbelief, and self-pity?
2. Other trials of God's saints are from BENEATH. We cannot explain the deep mystery why the Lord should allow Satan to retain such power after Jesus bruised his head so effectually upon the cross, after he led captivity captive, and spoiled principalities and powers, casting them down from their seat of eminence, and making a show of them openly. That Satan should still be allowed to exercise such sway in this lower world, and even exercise his power against the saints who are dear to Christ as the apple of his eye--surely, this is a mystery we cannot now fathom. But we know the fact from the authority of Scripture, the testimony of the saints, and our own personal experience, that the Lord does, for his own wise purposes, permit Satan very much to harass and distress the soul's of God's people. There is also this peculiarity in the temptations of Satan, that as he works by them on our carnal mind, we cannot often distinguish them from the sins of our own heart. We see this in Satan's tempting David to number the people, and as strikingly in the passionate exclamations of Job. These good men did not see the tempter, though his hot breath inflamed their mind. As in a forge or foundry, the blazing coals or molten iron are seen, but not the hidden tube through whose sustained blast "the melting fire burns;" so many a vile thought, infidel suggestion, or horrible idea blaze up in the heart, blown into a flame through the black tube of the Prince of darkness.
3. Other trials, again, arise from WITHOUT. There are few saints of God who in their passage through life have not had to suffer much from outward foes. Open persecution assails some; secret slander and misrepresentation attack the character and wound the mind of others. Their best friends, as they once thought them, have sometimes proved the most cruel enemies. Where they expected nothing but sympathy and kindness, they have met with little but harshness and neglect. How acutely Job felt this when he complained, "To him that is afflicted pity should be showed from his friend." But instead of pity, his "brethren dealt deceitfully as a brook" dried up by the summer sun, to which "the troops of Tema looked" for supply, but it had "vanished what time it had waxed warm" Job 6:14-20. David had a Saul, a Doeg, and an Ahithophel; and a greater than David a Judas who kissed but to betray. Micah warns us against our fellow men; "The best of them is as a briar; the most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge." "Trust not in a friend; put not confidence in a guide." Mic 7:4-5. And Jeremiah says--"Cursed be the man that trusts in man and makes flesh his arm." Jer 17:5. In the face of such testimonies need we wonder that false friends are often greater trials than open foes? "Save me from my friends!" has been the bitter cry from many a heart.
4. But after all, our acutest trials are from WITHIN. Many who in the providence of God are comparatively exempt from severe outward trials, suffer an internal martyrdom. A heavy storm may be raging in the air; sleet, and snow, and hail, driven by a keen east wind, may darken the sky; and you in your warm room may see some poor traveler pelted by the pitiless storm. But you, though under shelter, may be racked with bodily pain, or be dying of slow disease, or be inwardly crushed by mental grief and sorrow. What is his trial compared with yours? What are fingers chilled with cold, compared to hands burning with fever?
What is a sprinkling of snow on the clothes to a load of ice on the heart; or floods of rain without to a flood of passionate grief within? Thus outward trials are severe to the eye, but inward trials are severe to the heart. Poverty, sickness, bereavements, persecutions, do not crush and break the heart like guilt and remorse, the terrors of the Almighty, and the pangs of hell.
But let us now take a glance at the "diverse TEMPTATIONS" into which the people of God fall, as distinct from the trials which lie in their path. There are many saints of God whose life is a series of outward trials; and there are others who know less of external trial, but more of internal temptation. The Lord arranges every lot, for though it seems casually "cast into the lap, yet the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord." Pr 15:33. He appoints to every one of his children the peculiar path which he has to tread, and the number and weight of the burdens which he has to carry. Whatever trial, therefore, or temptation comes, it is of the Lord--either indirectly by permission, or directly by visitation. Many appear to pass through life without any deep acquaintance with temptations. Job's friends, though good men, seem to have had little or no experience of them; while Job, Heman, Asaph, Jeremiah, and Jonah were distracted by them. The same difference exists now.
Viewing, then, "temptations" as distinct from "trials" we may divide them into two leading branches--temptations which distress, and temptations which allure. The former are the more painful, but the later are the more perilous.
1. Temptations which DISTRESS.
You might have walked for some time in the ways of the Lord without any deep experience of the infidelity, blasphemy, rebelliousness, enmity, and horrid wickedness of your fallen nature. This being the case, you were secretly lifted up with pride and self-righteousness. You had not yet had that deep discovery of yourself which was needful to humble you in the dust. You did, it is true, look in some measure to the Lord Jesus Christ, for salvation, but not knowing your utter ruin and the desperate wickedness of your heart, you looked with but half a glance; though you took hold of him, it was but with one hand; and though you walked with him, it was but with a limping foot. The reason was that temptation had not yet shorn your locks, bound you with fetters of brass, and put you to grind in the prison house.
But you suddenly fell into one of these "diverse temptations." I will merely name two as specimens of their nature. Infidelity assailed your mind all in a moment as with a cloud of the thickest, densest darkness. A veil was at once cast over the Scriptures, for you could not even believe them to be true. Objection after objection started up, and you shuddered with horror lest you should live and die a confirmed infidel. O what a trial was this! I have been here, and know what work it makes. "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" We reject the thought with horror, fly back to past experiences, muster up all our evidences, think of the faith and hope of departed saints, cry to God for help to believe; but still the poisoned arrow is rankling in the heart.
Or you may have been tempted to open blasphemy--even to that dreadful crime of blaspheming God. Job and Jeremiah were thus tempted, and many a child of God has been pursued night and day with the same horrible temptation. But what an evidence it is of the deep corruption of the human mind and the power of Satan that people, say tender females, who hedged in by the restraints of society, education, and morality, have never dropped an unbecoming expression from their lips, or scarcely heard one uttered by others, may yet be assailed, when called by grace, by the most horrid temptations to blasphemy, from the very thought of which their natural feelings revolt, and of which they would have deemed themselves utterly incapable. I have known such cases, and therefore name them, that if any here present are passing through this "fiery trail," they may not be utterly cast down as though some strange thing has happened to them. 1Pe 4:12. Many object to such things being even spoken of; but their very mention as experienced by those who fear God has sometimes put the temptation to flight, or abated its power.
But what a proof of the corruption of man--what an evidence of the power of Satan! I have stood by the sea shore and seen it spread out as calm as a mirror; and I have sailed on its bosom when not a breeze ruffled its face. But I have seen it in a storm when its billows rolled in full of foam and fury; and I have sailed over it when wave after wave dashed over the deck. But it was the same sea both in calm and storm. So the mind of man may be as calm as a slumbering sea, or raging as the stormy wave; but it is the same heart still. The breath of temptation, like the ocean wind, makes all the difference between calm, and storm.
But let me ask, do you not fear, reverence, and adore that great and glorious name which Satan has been tempting you to blaspheme? Is not this, then, a proof that from him these suggestions come? Of all Satan's temptations this seems to be the most infernal; of all his threats, this the most deadly. If Satan could but prevail upon you to speak the word, he would triumph over you as a lost soul. Therefore he does all he can to drive you into the very pitfalls of hell. But he shall not succeed, for the "the weapons formed against you shall not prosper." His is the sin and his shall be the punishment.
2. Temptations which ALLURE.
But there are temptations not so distressing and yet more perilous. These I have just been hinting at are seen; but there are those which are unseen. The enemy can hardly disguise his plotting hand in the former; he spreads the snare, but does not show himself in the latter. In the one he is a lion from the swelling of Jordan, in the other a trailing serpent hidden in the grass. There are temptations so thoroughly adapted to our fallen nature--snares so suited to our lusts, and Satan has such a way of seducing his victim little by little into the trap until it falls down upon him, that none can escape but by the power of God. I am well convinced that none can deliver the soul from these snares of the fowler, except that the mighty hand which brings up out of the horrible pit and out of the miry clay! Time, however, will not permit me to enter into all the diversified trials and temptations with which the Lord exercises his saints.
II. I therefore pass on to show what is the EFFECT of falling into these diverse temptations; for that is the source of the joy which we are bidden to count them. There is no profit or pleasure in temptations and trials viewed by themselves, for "no chastening for the present seems to be joyous but grievous." Heb 12:11. It is the effect they produce by which we are to calculate our gains. And this effect is two-fold as here pointed out by the pen of the Holy Spirit. One is that it tries faith; the other that it works patience.
1. The trial of faith. Whenever God communicates faith, he tries it. Why? That it may be proved to be genuine. Look at this in the case of Abraham. Abraham is a pattern to believers; he is therefore called "the father of all those who believe" Ro 4:11--his faith being so eminent, and of a character so spiritual and gracious. But see how it was tried. For twenty-five years did the Lord try the faith he had planted in Abraham's bosom. Year after year, month after month, week after week, day after day, was the Lord trying Abraham's faith. Sarah's petulance, eager craving for a child, jealousy of Hagar and then oppressing her until she fled out of the house, and their increasing years and delayed prospects, must all have deeply tried the patriarch's faith. But against hope he believed in hope, was "strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully persuaded that what he had promised he was able to perform." Ro 4:18-21. Look, too, at David's case. How he was hunted like a partridge on the mountains, and was in continual apprehension of losing his life by the hand of Saul, so that he said, "There is but a step between me and death." View those two eminent saints of God; where their faith was tried to the uttermost!
In fact, the stronger your faith is, the greater trials it will have to endure. The reality, the genuineness, as well as the strength of your faith are only to be evidenced by the amount of trial which it will stand. When for instance, you have been walking for some months in a smooth and easy path, and have scarcely experienced any trials from without or within, you have hardly known the strength, or indeed even the reality, of your own faith. You have been induced to take things very much for granted. You have not looked to the Lord as you should look to him; nor trusted to his strength as you should trust to it. You have been secretly leaning upon your own wisdom, resting upon a consistent profession, and mistaking ease in Zion for assurance of faith. But a trial comes. Where is your faith now? It sinks out of sight; you seem to have none; at least, none that you can make use of, or that does you any good. "O," you say, "I thought I could trust the Lord; but how can I trust him now that he does not appear? He hides his face; the heavens are as brass; he shuts out my cry. Why is this trial come upon me? O that I could believe! What shall I do if God does not appear? I am a lost man without him. O that he would manifest himself in mercy to my soul!"
The Lord is now trying your faith--whether you can trust to him in the dark as well as in the light--whether you can look to Jesus at the right hand of the Father with a single eye--whether you can rest the whole weight of your soul upon his blood and righteousness; or whether you lack something in yourself to win the favor of God and recommend you to his notice. Thus the Lord tries your faith by putting a strain upon it. It is like the mode in which the strength of cannon is tested; the guns are doubly or trebly charged, and if they do not then burst, they are considered equal to anything that may be afterwards required of them. Or as cables are tried in the Queen's service; they are subjected to a strain very much greater than any they will be called upon to endure in actual use, and if they stand that heavy strain they are deemed fit for sea. In fact, not a sword or musket is entrusted to the soldier which has not been submitted to the most severe trial; or what would be the consequence? They might fail in the day of battle. Thus when the Lord calls a man to be a soldier and puts faith into his hand, he gives him a faith which he himself has tried, according to his own word--"I counsel you to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich." He will not put into the hand of his soldier a sword that will break to pieces when he meets the enemy, or a weapon that shatters in the hand at the first onset, but one with which he shall be able to fight, and with which he shall come off more than conqueror; and that is, tried faith, his own gift and work.
I extend the word to all your temptations as well as your trials. You will one day see, if not now, how every one has worked to this end; to try your faith, of what sort it is--whether your heart is right with God--whether you are sincere before the heart-searching Jehovah--whether you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ with a faith of a divine operation, or whether your faith and hope are merely of nature's manufacture, put into your hand by self and Satan, to ruin you under a guise of religion.
2. The working of patience. Another effect of trial is pointed out by the Holy Spirit--it "works patience." By "patience" we are not altogether to understand the word in its usual signification. The word "patience" in Scripture means rather endurance. It does not so much signify that quietness of soul--that calm and silent, that uncomplaining, unrepining submission to God's will which we understand by the word "patience"--as that firm and lasting endurance of all that God may see fit to lay upon us. It is a solder's virtue rather than a hermit's; a stout man's fortitude under pain rather than a quiet woman's passive submission under suffering. "You have heard," says James, "of the patience of Job." Look at the context. "Behold we count them happy who endure." What follows? "You have heard of the patience of Job." Now it is just the same word in both expressions in the original, and should therefore have been rendered the "endurance" of Job; for not all his trials and temptations made him give up faith and hope.
Faith, then, viewed as the gift of God, and as proved by all the trials and temptations that he sends to exercise it, "works" the soldier-like endurance of which our text speaks. For how is a soldier made? Send him to the Crimea or to India; that will make him a soldier. He does not learn the stern duties of his calling by being paraded upon Aldershot heath or by going through his drill upon Southsea common. He must go into actual war; he must hear the cannon roar and see the sabers flash in his face; give and take cut and thrust; lie all night upon the battlefield; rush up the steep breach amid the groans of the wounded, and press on determined to conquer or die. The battle alone makes the soldier--the experience, not the theory of war.
How is the Christian soldier made? By going to chapel--by reading the Bible--by singing hymns--by talking about religion? Just as much as the veteran warrior is made at Aldershot or Southsea. He must go into the battle and fight hand to hand with Satan and the flesh; he must endure cruel wounds given by both outward and inward foes; he must lie upon the cold ground of desolation and desertion; he must rush up the breach when called to storm the castles of sin and evil, and never "yield or leave the field," but press on determined to win the day or die. In these battles of the Lord, in due time he learns how to handle his weapons--how to call upon God in supplication and prayer, to trust in Jesus Christ with all his heart, to beat back Satan, to crucify self, and live a life of faith in the Son of God. Religion is not a matter of theory or of doctrine; it is to be in the thick of the battle, fighting with the enemy hand to hand, foot to foot, shoulder to shoulder. This actual--not sham warfare--makes the Christian soldier hardy--strengthens the muscles of his arm--gives him skill to wield his weapons, and power sometimes to put his enemies to flight. Thus it "works endurance,"--makes him a veteran, so that he is no longer a raw recruit, but one able to fight the Lord's battles and "to endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ."
What then have been your best friends? Your trials. Where have you learned your best lessons? In the school of temptation. What has made you look to Jesus? A sense of your sin and misery. Why have you hung upon the word of promise? Because you had nothing else to hang upon. Thus, could you look at the results, you would see this--that trials and temptations produced upon your spirit the two effects of which the text speaks; that they tried your faith, and that sometimes to the uttermost, so that in the trial it seemed as if all your faith were gone; and yet they have wrought patience--they have made you endure.
Why have you not long ago given up all religion? Have your trials made you disposed to give it up? They have made you hold all the faster by it. Have your temptations induced you to let it go as a matter of little consequence? Why, you never had more real religion than when you were tried whether you had any; and never held faith with a tighter grasp than when Satan was pulling it all away. The strongest believers are not the men of doctrine, but the men of experience; not the boasters but the fighters; not the 'parade officers' in all the millinery of spotless regimentals, but the tattered, soiled, wounded, half-dead soldiers that give and take no quarter from sin or Satan.
But the word has another meaning, one in more strict accordance with the word "patience;" that is submission to God's will. When the Lord puts us in the furnace, we go in kicking and rebelling. Our coward flesh shrinks from the flame. But when we have been some time in the furnace and find that we cannot kick ourselves out, and that our very struggling only makes the coals burn more fiercely--at last, by the grace of God working in us, we begin to lie still. It was so with Job. How he fought against God! How his carnal mind was stirred up in self-justification and rebellion until the Lord himself appeared and spoke to his heart from heaven. Then he came to this point--"I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear; but now my eyes sees you. Therefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes." Then the Lord accepted him and delivered him; turned his captivity, pardoned, and blessed him. So with Abraham, when he submitted to sacrifice Isaac, God appeared to deliver him. So with David, when he submitted to the Lord's chastening hand, he brought him back to Jerusalem. But this will be more evident in our next point, to which I now hasten.
III. The apostolic counsel, "Let patience have her perfect work," that the saint of God "may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing."
There is a work for patience to perform. Every grace of the Spirit has a certain work to do. As in a large factory, every hand knows his place and the work he has to do, so in the wonderful piece of divine machinery--the work of God upon the soul, every grace of the Spirit has its separate work to perform. Faith does not do the work of love, nor hope that of faith, nor love that of patience. Each different grace, like separate wheels in some beautiful machine, has its own place and its own work. 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 does all things well, that he is a sovereign "and works all things according to the counsel of his own will." Eph 1:11.
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 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 yours 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 sees 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 sees 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.
But it adds, "that you may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing." The word "perfect" in the Scripture does not mean, as applied to a saint of God, anything approaching to the usual idea of perfection, as implying spotless, sinless holiness--but one who is matured and ripened in the life of God--no longer a child but a grown man. As a tree grown to its full stature is said to have attained perfection; so when the Lord the Spirit has brought forth the work of patience in your soul, as far as regards that work you are perfect, for it is God's work in you; and so far you are "entire," that is, possessing all which that grace gives, and "lacking nothing" which that grace can communicate.
To submit wholly to the will of God, and be lost and swallowed up in conformity to it, is the height of Christian maturity here below; and he that has that, lacks nothing, for he has all things in Christ. What, then, is the greatest height of grace to which the soul can arrive? Where did grace shine forth so conspicuously as in the Lord Jesus Christ? and where did grace manifest itself more than in the gloomy garden and on the suffering cross? Was not the human nature of Jesus more manifestly filled with the Spirit, and did not every grace shine forth in him more conspicuously in Gethsemane and on Calvary than when enraptured upon the Mount of Transfiguration? So there is more manifested grace in the heart of a saint of God who, under trial and temptation, can say, "Your will be done," and submit himself to the chastening rod of his Heavenly Father, than when he is basking in the full beams of the Sun of Righteousness. How often we are mistaken in this matter--longing for enjoyment, instead of seeing the true grace makes us submit to the will of God, whether in the valley or upon the mount!
IV. The transmuting effect of grace enabling the tried and tempted family of God to "count it all joy" when they fall into diverse temptations.
This is the grand key of the whole, and on which I need not tarry long, as I have already anticipated it. We are to "count it all joy" when we fall into diverse temptations. I have been setting before you a problem in arithmetic--a sum in compound addition; add it up or down, and look at the sum total--"Joy." Take all your trials and mark them down; next add all the temptations with which your mind has been exercised; now add them up, and what is the full amount? A word of three letters--a sum more valuable than if it were three figures, and each figure a nine--"Joy." That is the sum total, according to the calculation of the Holy Spirit, of all your trials and all your temptations. You are to "count it all joy."
What mysterious arithmetic! How unlike the addition taught in schools! How different from the sums and problems set on slates and copybooks! How different, also, a result does the Lord the Spirit bring out from your own calculations when you looked at them one by one, without adding up the whole sum! Then "count it all joy" when you fall into diverse temptations, knowing that their effect is to wean you from the world--to endear Christ--to render his truth precious, and to make you fit for the inheritance of the saints in light.
Are you satisfied with the solution of the problem? Can you write down your own name at the bottom of the sum and say, "it is proved; I carry the proof in my own bosom?"
Philpot's letter of resignation from the Church of England, March 28, 1835.
I beg leave to resign the Fellowship of Worcester College, to which I was elected in the year 1826. This step I am compelled to take because I can no longer with a good conscience continue a Minister or a Member of the Established Church.
After great and numerous trials of mind, I am, as I trust, led by the hand of God thus to separate myself from that corrupt and worldly system, called the Church of England. Her errors and corruptions, as well as her utter contrariety to a Gospel Church as revealed in the New Testament, have been for two or three years gradually opening upon my mind. But though I have thus slowly and by degrees obtained light from above to see the Established Church somewhat in her true colors, it is, I confess, only but very lately that the sin of remaining in her has been forcibly laid upon my conscience. I have felt of late that, by continuing one of her ministers, I was upholding what in the sight of the holy Jehovah is hateful and loathsome.
I have felt that, by standing up in her pulpit, I was sanctioning a system in principle and practice, in root and branches, corrupt before God. I have felt that I was keeping those children of God who sat under my ministry in total darkness as to the nature of a true Gospel Church. I have felt that both I myself, and the spiritual people that attended my ministry, were, in principle and system, mixed up with--the ungodly, the Pharisee, the formalist, the worldling, and the hypocrite. And thus, while I remained in the Church of England, my principles and my practice, my profession and my conduct, my preaching and my acting, were inconsistent with each other. I was building up with the right hand what I was pulling down with the left.
I was contending for the 'power'--while the Church of England was maintaining the 'form'. I was, by my preaching, separating the people of God from 'the world lying in wickedness'--and the Church of England, in her Liturgy and Offices, was huddling together the spiritual and the carnal, the regenerate and the unregenerate, the sheep and the goats. I was contending for regeneration as a supernatural act wrought upon the souls of the elect alone by the Eternal Spirit--and the Church of England was thanking God for regenerating every child that was sprinkled with a little water. True prayer I was representing as the Spirit's work upon the soul, as the groanings of a burdened heart, as the pouring out of a broken spirit, as the cry of a child to his heavenly Father, as the hungering and thirsting of a soul that panted after God. The Church of England tied me down to cold, hackneyed, wearisome forms, in which I prayed for the Royal Family, the Parliament, the Bishops, and all sorts and conditions of men, with scarcely one petition that the Spirit would rule in a regenerate heart.
My soul was pained and burdened within me at hearing the wicked and the careless take into their lips the sweet petitions of David in the Psalms. I heard around me those who I knew from their life and conversation had never for a moment spiritually felt the pangs of a wounded conscience, say, 'I stick fast in the deep mire where no ground is; I am come into deep waters, so that the floods run over me'. I heard those who never desired or longed after anything but the gratification of their own lusts and covetousness, repeat aloud, 'Like as the deer desires the water-brooks, so longs my soul after you, O God'. Those that were dressed up in all the colors of the rainbow, I heard saying, 'As for me, I am poor and needy'. Graceless men who had never felt a drop of the Spirit's teachings, and who outside of the Church swore, jeered, and scoffed, would cry in my hearing, 'Take not your Holy Spirit from me'. Adulterers and adulteresses repeated aloud, 'I will wash my hands in innocency, and so will I go to Your altar'. While the self-righteous Pharisee would sound in my ears, 'I will go forth in the strength of the Lord God, and will make mention of Your righteousness only'.
Thus the gracious and blessed experience of God's saints was mocked and trampled upon, and the fervent prayers and breathings of the Spirit in contrite souls were profaned by the ungodly taking them into their unhallowed lips. And all this I was conscious was not a casual occurrence, or such as arose from the unsuggested will of individuals, but was the deliberate principle and system of the Church of England. I saw it was so by her teaching every child to say he was made in his baptism 'a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of Heaven'. I saw it was so by that system of responses which she enjoins upon all the congregation to make, and again and again has my soul been burdened at hearing the wicked little children around me mock God by shouting out the responses, as they had been systematically trained to do by ignorant ministers, parents, school-masters and school mistresses.
Being for the last three years a hearer and not a reader of the Liturgy, I have been compelled at times to close my ears with both my hands, that I might not hear the mechanical cries of the children, one of whose responses they always thus worded, 'We have left undone those things which we ought not to have done'. I have groaned within me at hearing the ungodly around me thus mock God, and so far was I from joining in the dead and spiritless forms of the Prayer Book, that I could only secretly pray, 'Lord, deliver me from this worldly and unholy system'.
Every dull and dry prayer seemed to lay a fresh lump of ice on my heart, and when I got into the pulpit, nothing but the hand of God, to whom I cried for help, could take off that deadness and barrenness which these wearisome forms had, in a great measure, laid upon me. At times, too, when I viewed the gettings up and sittings down, the bowings, the turnings to the East, the kneeling in this place and standing in that, and the whole routine of that 'bodily service' with which the blessed Jehovah was mocked, I could not but look on the whole as a few degrees only removed from the mummery of a Popish mass-house.
But though I felt, and at times could groan beneath the wretched formality of the Church of England, I was from two motives chiefly kept within her. One was, that I desired to be useful to the children of God in a dark neighborhood, with whom I had been connected for nearly seven years, and of whom some professed to derive profit from my ministry. The other was altogether carnal, and, though hiding itself in the secret recesses of my heart and therefore unperceived, was doubtless of much weight with me. This was the desire of retaining that comfortable competence which my Fellowship secured. My heart, I freely confess, has often sunk within me at the prospect of my already weak health terminating in confirmed illness, with poverty and need staring me in the face. I was also praying for an opening from the Lord to show me my path clearly, as, though I was determined neither to accept preferment, nor take another curacy, I was unwilling to throw up my ministry until the 'death of the very aged incumbent.' Lately, however, I have been brought to see 'that I must not do evil that good may come', and that if my conscience was fully convinced of the sin of remaining in the Church of England, no clearer or more direct intimation of the will of God was needed.
Thus have I laid open the inward workings of my heart, and the experience through which I have been led, in order to show that the resignation of my Fellowship and Curacy, and secession from the Church of England, is no sudden and hasty step, but the gradual and deliberate conviction of my soul.
But besides these particular evils under which I especially 'groaned, being burdened', as being brought into continual contact with them, I have felt that by continuing in the Establishment I sanction and uphold every other corruption that is mixed up with so worldly a system.
Thus I must sanction--the union of Church and State; the putting of the King in the place of Christ as Head of the Church; the luxury and pomp of the bishops; the giving away of livings for electioneering purposes; the heaping of office by ungodly parents on ungodly children; the system of tithes (I cannot but wonder how men who profess spiritual religion, and call themselves Evangelical ministers, can take tithes from carnal and ungodly farmers; no, as I have known some do, screw them up to the highest pitch, and even employ legal means to enforce their payment; while others of the same name and pretension exact tithes from gardens watered by the sweat of the laborer, and enforce burial and similar fees from the poor, when they themselves ride about in their carriages and phaetons. Of this I am confident, that they are not taught thus to act by the Blessed Spirit, who guides the regenerate into all truth, makes the conscience tender, and gives compassion towards the poor and needy. The New Testament authorizes no other payment to ministers but free and voluntary offerings; and thus all tithes, fees, and dues are part of that 'mystery of iniquity' of which Babylon, the mother of harlots, is the head); the principle and practice of Ecclesiastical Courts; the manufacturing of ministers by the gross at the Bishops' ordinations, and all that mass of evil which has sprung out of a worldly and wealthy Establishment. When Christ has bidden me 'call no man Father on earth', and not to be called myself 'Rabbi', and 'Master', and consequently by no title distinctive of priesthood or ministerial office, I must sanction the decking out of His professed ministers with the trappings of Antichrist, such proud titles, I mean, as Reverend, Very Reverend, Right Reverend, Most Reverend, Father in God, My Lord, Your Grace, and the like.
As a minister of the Establishment I must also sanction that abominable traffic in livings whereby 'the souls of men' are bought and 'sold' (an especial mark of Babylon, Rev. 18:13), and knocked down to the highest bidder by the auctioneer's hammer. Thus the whole system, in its root, stem, and branches, manifests itself to a renewed and spiritual mind as part and parcel of that Antichrist and Babylon which the Lord foreshowed His servants should arise, and from which He calls them to come out and be separate.
As a member, too, of the University, and Fellow of the College, I am unavoidably and necessarily mixed up with many evils, which I am convinced are equally hateful to God. Thus, in this capacity, I must sanction the whole principle of a University, as needful to qualify men to become ministers of Jesus Christ. But who that knows experimentally the sovereignty of Jehovah in choosing His ministers will not feel it to be dreadful presumption thus to train up unregenerate men to stand forth in His holy name?
The call to the ministry is as sovereign as the call by grace. And Jehovah will take the tinker from his barrow, and the cobbler from his stall, and send them to preach His Word, as he took Elisha from the plough, and Amos from 'gathering sycamore fruit'. By continuing, therefore, a member of the University I tacitly set aside the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, which can alone qualify a man for the ministry, and substitute a knowledge of Latin and Greek, and such mere 'letter-learning' as is called Divinity. But by doing this I necessarily reject as ministers some of God's most eminent and deeply-taught servants, as Bunyan, Deer, and Huntington; and exalt in their room unregenerate men, who were never taught a single truth by the Eternal Spirit.
And as, by continuing a member of the University, I sanction its principle, so in some measure do I sanction its practice. What that practice is, let those testify who have passed through the various stages of Undergraduate, Bachelor, and Master of Arts. But where in all that practice do I see the marks of Christ, or 'the footsteps of His flock'? Can they be traced in the drawing rooms and dining rooms of the Heads of Houses? in the Common-rooms of the Fellows? in the breakfasts, wine-parties, and suppers of the Undergraduates? What, I would ask, is usually heard in the latter but shouting, and singing of unclean songs, or conversation on the boat-race, the steeple-chase, or the fox-hunt? And what is commonly heard in the former but the news and politics of the day, and all such trifling, and sometimes even unseemly conversation, as is the mark of the soul that is 'dead in sins'? Where among all these, either professed ministers of Jesus Christ or such as are training to be so, is the name of the Savior, or the voice of prayer heard? If anywhere, it is among a few despised undergraduates, who have enough religion to see the open evils around them, but not enough grace or faith to separate from the system altogether.
And who that knows the University will not allow the following to be a faint sketch of the course run by most of her children? Initiated in boyhood in wickedness at one of the public schools, those dens of iniquity, or at a private school, in some cases but a shade better and in others worse, the youthful aspirant to the ministry removes to College, where, having run a career of vanity and sin for three years, he obtains his degree. Fortified with this, and his College testimonials, procured without difficulty except by the very notoriously immoral, and those who have shown some symptoms of spiritual religion, he presents himself to the Bishop for ordination. Examined by the Bishop's Chaplain on a few commonplace topics of divinity, and approved, he is ordained amid a heap of other candidates, without one question of a spiritual nature, one inquiry as to his own conversion to God, or one serious admonition as to his motives and qualifications for so dreadful a work. The cold heartlessness and technical formality usually displayed by Bishop, Chaplain, Archdeacon, and Registrar, with the carelessness and levity of most of the candidates, can never be forgotten by one whose heart God has touched, and who has witnessed the solemn mockery of a semi-annual ordination.
But further, as a Fellow of a College, I am connected with a body of men, who, however amiable and learned they may be (and if I forget the kindness of some of them I would be ungrateful indeed), are yet ignorant of Jesus Christ. Their acts as a body I am a party to, and indirectly, if not directly, sanction. Thus I help to give away college livings to unregenerate men, though I may know in my own conscience that they are not even called by grace, much less to the work of the ministry. I am a party also to giving testimonials indiscriminately of good life and conduct to be presented to the Bishop by the candidates for ordination (the document requiring the college seal), as well as to the electing of Fellows and Scholars for their classical attainments, and thus thrusting them into the ministry, and, in a word, to the whole system of education pursued, which, as a means of qualifying men to be ministers, I believe to be hateful to God.
In short, I am mixed up with a society of men whose life and conduct, however amiable, moral, and honorable, are not those of 'the poor and afflicted' family of God. No other way, then, have I to escape these evils, to 'keep myself pure, and not to be partaker of other men's sins,' than by fleeing out of Babylon.
Lastly, I secede from the Church of England because I can find in her scarcely one mark of a true church. She tramples upon one ordinance of Christ by sprinkling infants, and calling it regeneration (the Word of God allowing no other than the baptism of believers, and that by immersion); and profanes the Lord's Table by permitting the ungodly to participate. The true Church is despised; but she is honored. The true Church is persecuted; but she is a persecutor. The true Church is chosen out of the world; but she is part and parcel of it. The true Church consists only of the regenerate; but she embraces in her universal arms all the drunkards, liars, thieves, and immoral characters of the land. She christens them, she confirms them, she marries them, she buries them. And she pronounces of all for whom she executes these offices, that they are regenerate, that 'all their sins are forgiven them', that they are 'the servants of God'.
If perhaps on a dying bed any doubts and convictions should arise that all is not right for eternity, she sends her minister to visit them, and 'to absolve them from all their sins'. And having thus lulled their fears, and deluded them to die in peace, she quiets the rising doubts of their friends at the mouth of the grave, by assuring those who 'this our brother is delivered out of the miseries of this sinful world', and is 'committed to the dust in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life'
Oh! could the dreadful veil that hides eternity be for a moment lifted up, we would see that thousands, whom the Church of England is blessing, God is cursing; and that tens of thousands whom she is asserting to be 'in joy and felicity', are at that moment 'lifting up their eyes in hell, being in torment'. And while she thus speaks peace and comfort to all that will call her 'Mother', although unregenerate and dead in sins, she in her canons excommunicates and pronounces 'guilty of wicked error' all that are enlightened of the Spirit to declare she is not a true church, and separate from her communion. What is this but to remove the ancient landmarks of truth and error; 'to call evil good, and good evil; to put darkness for light, and light for darkness, bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter'?
At the same time, she shuts up and seals the mouth of all her ministers, and ties them down to say what she says, and to deny what she denies, by compelling them to 'give their sincere assent and consent to all and everything contained and prescribed in and by the Common Prayer Book, and to promise that they will 'conform to the Liturgy as by law established'. And if any of them are haply taught of God the things of Christ in their own souls, and having grace and faithfulness to preach what they have tasted, felt, and handled; contradict in the pulpit what they assert in the desk, they are frowned on by Bishops, despised by the clergy around them, and hated by all the worldly part of their parish, until at length the powerful convictions of an enlightened conscience force them to deliver their souls by fleeing out of Babylon.
But I am told that the Church of England is the only true church; that she derives her sacraments and ministers in a direct, uninterrupted line from the apostles, and that to secede from her is to be guilty of schism. But where are the outward marks of this only true church? Where are the 'signs' of these successors of the apostles, as 'wrought among us in all patience, in signs and wonders, and mighty deeds'? (2 Cor. 12:12). Are they to be found in lordly Bishops, proud and pampered dignitaries, fox-hunting, shooting, dancing, and card-playing clergy? Or are they to be discovered in those mere moral and outwardly decent ministers, who, after their solemn vow 'to lay aside the study of the world and the flesh', busy themselves in classics, mathematics, history, modern languages, natural philosophy, divinity, and everything and anything but to know Christ in their own souls?
Where are the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit visible in men, who, not being able to utter a word but what is written down, either copy their sermons from books, or forge out of their own heads a weekly lecture on stale morality? Where are the seals of their commission, whereby they 'approve themselves as ministers of God, by pureness, by knowledge, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left'? (2 Cor. 6 : 6, 7).
But, perhaps, these outward marks of the successors of the apostles may be discovered in the Evangelical clergy, by some esteemed so highly. What are these, however, as a body, now generally doing but making common cause with the worldly clergy, whom in their hearts they consider to be neither Christians nor ministers, to uphold an unholy system? They are for the most part compounding their sermons out of Simeon's dry and marrowless 'Outlines', looking out for preferment, buying and selling livings, training up their unregenerate sons for the ministry, and 'putting them into the priest's office that they may eat a piece of bread'.
Who among them can give a clear and decisive account of his call by grace, or of his call to the ministry? What description can they give of the entrance of the law into their conscience, bringing with it guilt, condemnation, and death, and of a deliverance by the inward revelation of Christ and the application of the 'blood of sprinkling'? The greater part are violently opposed to the fundamental doctrines of unconditional election, particular redemption, imputed righteousness, and man's helplessness. And those who do set forth the doctrines of free and sovereign grace preach them with such dryness and deadness as clearly show that they were never wrought into their experience by the blessed Spirit. Under their ministry the 'spiritual children' of God will not sit; for knowing little or nothing of the work of regeneration, and the trials, temptations, or consolations of the people of Christ, they cannot approve themselves to the consciences of the spiritual, either as called by grace or as sent to preach the gospel.
Thus, with perhaps a few and rare exceptions, the Clergy of the Church of England, whether Orthodox or Evangelical, correspond to that description given by the Holy Spirit, Micah 3: 11: "Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money. Yet they lean upon the Lord and say--Is not the Lord among us? No disaster will come upon us."
And need we wonder if, as is the priest, so is the people? The congregation of the High church, or Orthodox clergy, as they proudly call themselves, consists, with possibly a few exceptions, of none but open sinners, self-righteous pharisees, and dead formalists. In this 'congregation of the dead' the blind lead the blind, and all their weekly confessions, absolutions, prayers, praises, services, and sacraments are, as they will one day find, but one continual mockery of the blessed God, who requires of His worshipers that they 'should worship Him in spirit and in truth'.
Of those who sit under the ministry of the Evangelical clergy, the greater part in no wise differ from 'the congregation of the dead' described above, being attracted there by the superstitious charm of the Parish Church. Of the remaining part, there may be a few seeking souls who range over these barren heaths, until fairly driven from them by starvation, or brought off by tasting the green pastures and still waters of gospel grace under an experimental minister. The rest are mere formalists, with an evangelical creed in their heads, but without any grace in their hearts; or, if the minister be a high Calvinist, such 'twice dead' doctrinal professors as never felt the plague of their own hearts, never had their consciences ploughed up by the law, never loathed themselves in their own sight, and were never 'plunged in the ditch until their own clothes abhorred them'.
Humble, lowly, contrite souls, who are deeply acquainted with the workings of grace and of corruption, whose consciences have been made tender, and who have landmarks of the dealings of God with them, cannot long continue where they have fellowship with neither minister nor people. And, indeed, so opposed is the whole principle and practice of the Church of England to the work of grace upon the souls of the elect, and 'to simplicity and godly sincerity', that a minister, who is not a hypocrite or a formalist, must, when he has reached a certain point in Christian experience, either flee out of her or awfully sin against the convictions of his own conscience. He may remain in her as a presumptuous dead Calvinist; he may take the highest tone of doctrine, and preach Sunday after Sunday about assurance of personal salvation; but if once he describes the work of the Spirit on the soul he must, at a certain point, either come out of her or, by remaining contentedly within her pale, manifest himself a hypocrite in experience, of all hypocrites and of all hypocrisies the most deceiving and the most dreadful.
Can a man, for instance, who has known the work of regeneration in his own soul, and whose conscience is made tender by the blessed Spirit, go on long to lie unto God by thanking Him for regenerating infants? Can he who has been sprinkled with the blood of Christ, and been fed with His flesh, continue long to give the elements of His body and blood to the unbeliever, the self righteous, and the ungodly? Can he who has tasted the covenant of grace, and experimentally entered into the everlasting distinction between the sheep and the goats, go on long to mock God by declaring at the grave's mouth of every departed unbeliever, swearer, and drunkard, that he is a 'brother', and is 'taken to be with God'?
Notions in the head, however correct, doctrines, however high, a presumptuous confidence of salvation, however loud and lofty, may allow a man thus to trifle with the living JEHOVAH. But a tender conscience, a godly fear, and a trembling sense of God's holiness and majesty, such as the blessed Spirit works in the soul, must sooner or later bring a man out of this dreadful mockery.
From this worldly and unholy system I now SECEDE; and blessed be the name of God Most High, who has poured light on my eyes to see these abominations, and given me, I trust, a small portion of that faith of Moses whereby 'he was willing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season'. For sooner far would I die in a workhouse, under the sweet shinings-in of the eternal Comforter, and His testimony to my conscience that I am born of God, than live and die in ease and independence, without following Jesus in that path of trial and suffering which alone leads to eternal life.
But my long relationship with yourself, as Head of Worcester College, and with my brother Fellows, will not allow me thus to dissolve my connection with you without faithfully WARNING both you and them of your present state before God. What marks, then, are there in you, or them, of that new birth, without which none can enter the kingdom of heaven? What signs have you, or they, of a broken and contrite spirit? What marks of 'the faith of God's elect'? What inward discoveries have you, or they, had of the blood and righteousness of Christ? What testimony of the blessed Spirit to the pardon of your sins, and to your adoption into the family of God? 'If any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His', though a sound classic, an acute mathematician, or a learned divine. And to have been professed ministers of Jesus Christ will only add to your condemnation, if you and they live and die in your present state of unbelief and unregeneracy.
I am weak and ignorant, full of sin and compassed with infirmity, but I bless God that He has in some measure shown me the power of eternal things, and by free and sovereign grace stopped me in that career of vanity and sin in which, to all outward appearance, I was fast hurrying down to the chambers of death.
With all due respect to you as Provost of Worcester College,
J. C. Philpot
Imagine that you are ignorant of the gospel and of God's way of preventing evil and of bringing about good– and were called upon to design some plan whereby a man might be most effectually restrained from the commission of sin, and made obedient to the law of God. Now, what plan would you adopt? Most probably you would lay down strict rules of life; you would appoint certain seasons of prayer and meditation; you would call upon a man to withdraw himself from all worldly society, and prescribe to him a certain path of religious exercise in which he is to walk all the days of his life, that by fasting, self-denial, and continual mortification of the flesh, he may tame and subdue his rebellious lusts and attain unto perfection and holiness.
Well, in laying down all these plans and schemes, you would be doing what Popery has ever done, and what is the main foundation of all the monasteries and nunneries that are now everywhere springing up in this country.
So you see, that you have been already envisioned in your plans and projects; and that hundreds of years before you were born, only what the 'wisdom of man', such as it is, had labored hard to restrain men from evil, and to bring forth in them that which is good. And how have all these attempts succeeded? Is there less crime in the country? Do severe laws deter men from the commission of theft, violence, and even murder? Has not sin always proved too strong for every restraint which human laws have put upon it?
And the very law of God itself, which threatens a solemn curse against all who are found guilty under it, revealing the wrath of God against all transgression and all transgressors– has it ever restrained men from evil? Has it ever subdued and tamed the carnal mind? Has it ever produced obedience acceptable to God, or brought forth any one good word or work? No! on the contrary, has it not rather, as the Apostle speaks, put fresh life into sin, "for without the law sin was dead," and thus sin, taking occasion by the commandment, works in us all manner of evil? We thus find that no law, whether the law of the land, or the law of MOSES, can restrain or subdue sin, or bring forth the peaceable fruits of righteousness.
But now, I will assume that you know something, spiritually and experimentally, of the gospel; that you have been led to see, that what is called the moral law never has been able to subdue sin, for the carnal mind is not subject to it, neither indeed can be; that though holy in itself, for the law is "holy, just, and good," it has never produced any inward sanctification of soul and spirit; that all its works are dead works, and that though the soul is naturally wedded to it, it has never yielded thereby a living offspring, or brought forth fruit acceptable to God. You may have tried to keep it– have set it daily before your eyes as your guiding rule– have endeavored to obey it and conform your life to it; and yet after all your labors you have never been able to satisfy the breadth of its demands, or render to it an obedience which could pacify your own guilty conscience.
All that you reaped from it was hard bondage, guilt, doubt and fear. You never obtained by it one gleam of mercy, one answer to prayer, one breaking in of the light of God's countenance, one visitation of the presence of Jesus, one testimony that you were in the right way, or one evidence that the Lord was at work upon your soul. If ever, amid all your hard bondage, any beam of light and life, any ray of hope, any prospect of mercy, any intimation that you should not perish, came into your soul, it was from a different quarter; it was through some beams of the gospel which broke in through the mist and fog of your legal bondage.
I will assume, then, that you have tasted, felt, and handled something of the sweetness and power of the gospel. Now you set another way to work, and you are able to show, from your own experience of its power, the effect which it has had both upon your heart and upon your life; and this has wrought a change not only in your views of what the gospel is as the power of God unto salvation, and what the Gospel can do, as influencing both heart and life, but has also put a new speech into your lips and turned you to speak the pure language of Canaan.
You do not now urge the law as a binding rule upon those who have believed through grace, and make Moses their husband instead of Christ. You know from your own experience that the law never made you fruitful in any one good word or work, and that nothing ever attended it but darkness, bondage, guilt, barrenness, and death. You cannot, therefore, urge that as a guiding rule upon others, which in your own case you found so ineffectual either to guide or rule you; and therefore when you would endeavor to persuade those who fear God to live to his glory, you would set before them not the law with its curses, but the gospel with its blessings. You would set before them the exceeding love of God in the gift of his dear Son, the surpassing grace, mercy, and condescension of Jesus in dying for a guilty race. You would point to his sufferings in the garden, and to his agonies on the cross, and show that there is no other sacrifice for sin but his precious blood shedding and death; and that every poor, guilty, self-condemned wretch who comes unto him, casts himself upon his free mercy and grace, and looks to him and to him alone as his all-sufficient Savior and complete salvation, will not be cast out, but sooner or later will obtain pardon and peace.
You would further tell him, that when he feels the bleeding, dying love of the Lord Jesus Christ in his soul, it will constrain him by every sweet constraint henceforth not to live unto himself, but unto him who died for him and rose again. And as you set these things before his eyes and speak of the influence which they have produced upon your own heart and life, you bind him, as it were, by every gospel motive to live to God's praise and to walk in his fear.
Now such a mode of persuading to obedience would be right, would be consistent with the promises and precepts of the gospel, would be in harmony with the preaching and teaching of the apostles and prophets of the New Testament, would be more or less accompanied with the testimony of the blessed Spirit and the approbation of God, and so far as owned and blessed of him, would make itself manifest in the hearts and lives of those among whom it was preached.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Preached at Zoar Chapel, London, on Thursday Evening, August 10, 1843, by J. C. Philpot
(2 Corinthians 13:11)
I cannot say that 'Anniversary', 'Funeral', or 'Farewell' Sermons are much to my taste; and whenever I have attempted to preach with a view to such occasions, it is but rarely that I have had any liberty of soul or of speech. I learned a lesson on this subject not very long before I left the Establishment, which has much prevented me from even making the attempt. The circumstance I allude to was this. What men call Easter Sunday was drawing near; which is, as you know, in the Church of England, the Anniversary of the resurrection of Christ. On the Saturday evening immediately preceding it, I took a walk, as I was accustomed to do; and was led to meditate on the coming Lord's Day, when these words fell with some weight upon my mind– "The power of his resurrection." I thought the words were very suitable for the occasion, and I seemed led into a train of sweet and comfortable meditation upon them; so that I fully expected I had a text for the following day, from which I could speak with some liberty and feeling. But when the morrow came, the text was entirely taken away; in fact, scarcely a single idea upon it remained, so that I was obliged to speak from some other words. A few Lord's days afterwards the text returned to my mind, and I was then enabled to speak from it with some sweetness. From this occurrence I gathered that it was not the will of the Lord that I should preach sermons suited to 'particular occasions'; and from that time to this, I have very rarely attempted it. But after the great attraction with which you have heard me, and the full assemblies which have gathered together, during my visit in this place, I think I should be lacking in right feeling, if I left you without expressing in some way or other my wishes and desires in bidding you "farewell."
My text is a very short one, as it contains only two words; but in speaking from it, I mean to make it shorter still, and take only one word; but in so doing, I feel if the Lord shall lead me into the experimental meaning of that one word, "Farewell," we shall have enough to occupy us during the time we are assembled together this evening.
Though it is but one word to which I have restricted myself, yet in fact, it is composed of two, "fare" and "well." To fare well, spiritually understood, is to have everything that God can make us happy in. The simple, or I should rather say, the compound word "fare-well," if indeed it is a spiritual faring well, comprehends all that we can desire for time or for eternity.
But while there is a faring well, there is such a thing also as faring ill. And as oftentimes we see truth better by contrast, we will, with God's blessing, speak first a little of what it is to fare ill; and then of what it is to fare well.
I. What is it, then, to fare ILL? In examining what it is to fare ill, we shall look at it in two points of view.
First. At the characters who fare ill throughout; and secondly, at the children of God, who at certain times and seasons are in the same predicament, and appear to fare ill.
A. We will look at the characters who fare ill THROUGHOUT. Who are they? We may describe them in one word, as the enemies of God. For whatever worldly prosperity may attend them; whatever their carnal hearts may enjoy of pleasure, and so-called amusement; whatever riches they may heap up to themselves, or whatever they may gain of this world's applause, being the enemies of God, they must fare ill. But let us come to particulars. Who are these enemies of God?
1. They are all those who are "dead in trespasses and sins;" that is, all who live and die in that state, and who will ultimately descend into the gulf of eternal perdition. They are all those whose hearts are altogether buried in the world, whose whole mind, soul, and affections are occupied with the things of time and sense. These universally may be said to fare ill, for they have not a single thing in them of which God approves, nothing whatever that can take them safely out of time into eternity; but, on the contrary, they have everything in them against which God has proclaimed his eternal displeasure, and everything which will one day hang like a millstone round their necks, to sink them into a dreadful eternity.
2. Again; All who are attempting to establish their own righteousness; all who are looking to anything in self to recommend them to the favor of God; all who are despising the blood of the Redeemer, and scorning Christ's imputed righteousness– all of these, however high they may stand in a profession of religion, will surely fare ill; for they mock the only true God, reject the only way of salvation, and have not fled to the only refuge and hiding-place set forth in the gospel.
3. Again; All professors of doctrinal truth, who have never spiritually felt the power of truth upon their hearts, fare ill; and they will fare ill to all eternity, unless God is pleased to work a change in them. There is nothing so deceitful as having "a form of godliness," while the "power" of it is denied; nothing so delusive as having a name to live, while the soul is dead before God. If there is one hypocritical character more than another, whom the man of God should point out, it is he who, with a profession, is destitute of vital godliness; that has the form of doctrinal truth in the judgment, but who never has experienced the power of that truth in his soul, humbling him in the dust, and raising him up to a spiritual knowledge of Jesus Christ.
4. Again; All who profess the truth, but live ungodly; all that with a seared conscience walk in fleshly lusts, and through their misconduct bring a reproach upon the name and cause of Jesus Christ, fare ill, for they clearly manifest that they know nothing of "the grace of God," which teaches us, that "denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world." (Titus 2:12.)
B. But secondly. The children of God, though they cannot fare ill as to their eternal safety; though they are secure in Christ Jesus, and bound up in "the bundle of life" with the Lord the Lamb, yet may and frequently do in this time-state fare ill. And when do they fare ill?
1. Sometimes they fare ill thus. Their hearts get buried in the things of time and sense; the world comes in with its charms or its business, and draws away their thoughts and affections from better things. Instead of their souls going after the Lord, in unutterable pantings, to enjoy a sense of his love and blood, their carnal mind goes after created things, madly seeking to derive some pleasure or profit from them.
My friends, many a tree outwardly flourishing has rot and touchwood inside; and so, many a child of God, though he may not have deviated from the outward observance of things that he once knew in power, and may seem to occupy his original position; yet he has lost the sweetness, unction, and savor of them in his heart. His affections are not now in heaven; the world has laid a secret hold on him; and instead of the life and power of God's word being felt in his soul, the dust of carnality, idolatry, and earthliness occupy his heart.
But directly we lose the power and savor of divine things in the soul, we fare ill– nothing can make up for the unction and savor of divine truth in the heart. The clearest experience, the soundest creed, the most consistent conduct, the most regular attendance on the means, will never make up for the life, feeling, power, and presence of God in the soul. So, however a man (a child of God I am speaking of) may not appear outwardly to have backslidden from God, yet if his heart is secretly going out after idols; if he has lost the unction and power of the blessed Spirit on him, he fares ill, though none but God and his own conscience, or a discerning soul here and there, may perceive the difference.
2. Again. The people of God fare ill, when they substitute a sound doctrinal creed for the experimental teachings of the Spirit in their hearts. And this is a very possible case– it is not confined to those who are dead in a profession, but it is an evil that even God's people may be drawn into. They have had sufficient experience to separate themselves from those who are dead in a doctrinal profession; but having lost the savor and sweetness of that experience out of their heart, and not being able to go back into the world, or herd with dead professors, they have been led to substitute the doctrine of truth for the power of truth, and walk in the outward light of the word instead of coming to the inward light of God's countenance, to live under his smiles, or breathe their souls out after his manifested favor.
In a word, God's people fare ill whenever they do not experience the power or presence of the Lord in their hearts. They fare ill, when anything religious or irreligious, inward or outward, in the church or in the world, affords pleasure or satisfaction short of and independent of the Lord. Directly they sit down or take rest anywhere, or in anything but at the feet of Jesus, and in his blood and love, they evidence a loss of spiritual health, and fall sick of that lethargy or paralysis which is the disease of those that are at "ease in Zion."
II. But we pass on to consider the other branch of the subject, and to show what it is to "fare WELL." All God's people will eventually fare well. They all stand complete in Christ– nothing can touch their eternal safety; for they are all complete in him, "without spot, or blemish, or any such thing." In this point of view, they must all in the end and forever fare well.
But when we come to the matter of experience, we often find that those very times when God's people think they are faring ill, are the seasons when they are really faring well; and again, at other times, when they think they are faring well, then they are really faring ill.
1. For instance, when their souls are bowed down with trouble, it often seems to them that they are faring ill. God's hand appears gone out against them– he has hidden his face from them; they can find no access to a throne of grace; they have no sweet testimonies from the Lord that the path in which he is leading them is one of his choosing, and that all things will end well with them. This they think is indeed faring ill; and yet perhaps they never fare better than when under these circumstances of trouble, sorrow, and affliction. These things wean them from the world. If their heart and affections were going out after idols, they instrumentally bring them back. If they were hewing out broken cisterns, they dash them all to pieces. If they were setting up, and bowing down to idols in the chambers of imagery, affliction and trouble smite them to pieces before their eyes, take away their gods, and leave them no refuge but the Lord God almighty.
If you can only look back, you will often see that your greatest sweets have sprung out of your greatest bitters, and the greatest blessings have flowed from the greatest miseries, and what at the time you thought your greatest sorrows you will find that the brightest light has sprung up in the blackest darkness, and that the Lord never made himself so precious as at the time when you were sunk lowest, so as to be without human help, wisdom, or strength. So that when a child of God thinks he is faring very ill, because burdened with sorrows, temptations, and afflictions, he is never faring so well.
2. Again. A child of God fares well when he is enabled, in whatever circumstances and under whatever trials of mind he may be, to carry his case to the Lord, and spread it out at his footstool. We know, from painful experience, that the spring of prayer seems at times well near dried up in our hearts. We feel at times as though we never knew what it was to possess "a spirit of grace and of supplications," or to have access to God; as though we never knew what it was to pour out our hearts before him, or tell him our trouble. Whenever, therefore, we are enabled to take our case to the Lord, and spread it out (whatever it may be) at his footstool; not to resort to any unlawful means; not to go down to Egypt, or lean upon Assyria; not to trust to an arm of flesh; but under all circumstances, to lay our case simply and perseveringly before the Lord, looking to him alone to appear, we fare well. The darkest clouds in due time will break, the most puzzling enigmas will sooner or later be unriddled by the blessed Spirit interpreting them, and the darkest providences cleared up; and we shall see that God is in them all, leading and guiding us "by the right way, that we may go to a city of habitation." (Ps. 107:7.)
3. The children of God fare well when they have a SPIRITUAL APPETITE AND RELISH FOR DIVINE TRUTH, when they are really in earnest for divine things, and "As the deer pants after the waterbrooks," so their souls pant after the Lord. When they experience these hungerings and thirstings after the Lord's presence and manifested favor to their souls, they fare well. But we know that many times it is otherwise with us. We have often no more appetite or relish for the truths of the gospel than if we had never tasted anything of their sweetness, nor felt anything of their power. How often the Bible is to us a sealed book, and the truths of the gospel veiled in the thickest darkness! How often the testimony of the word concerning Jesus and the way of salvation are as completely hidden from our view as though there were no God, no Jesus, no heaven to desire, no hell to fear!
So that when eternal things are really present to the mind, and we feel their solemn weight and power in the conscience; when the world is under our feet; the presence of God earnestly sought; the Bible opened up with some sweetness and power, and the blessed truths of the gospel relished with a keen appetite, we may then indeed be said to fare well. And thus the Lord's family, who have traveled long in the wilderness, and know by painful experience what a parched desert it is, when they come to some stream, bubbling unexpectedly forth, find that their long and wearisome journey only makes the water dearer and sweeter to their taste.
4. We fare well when in all things we can RESIGN OURSELVES INTO THE HANDS OF GOD. There are many times when we cannot so resign ourselves; when we have a will of our own, some darling idol to grasp, some beloved plan to accomplish, some object in view which is contrary to God's will and word. But when we are enabled to yield ourselves up into the hands of the Lord that he may work his will in us, when we are brought solemnly to say, "Not my will, but yours be done;" and resign ourselves as clay into the hands of the Potter, desiring to feel his heavenly fingers molding us, so that we may be vessels of honor fit for the Master's use, we then fare well; for this is to walk in the footsteps of Christ, and follow his blessed example, when he said, "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me," yet bowed his head to the will of his Father, and said, "Nevertheless not as I will, but as you will." (Matt. 26:39.)
5. We fare well when we are DEAD TO THE WORLD, and the world is dead to us; when it loses its hold upon our affections; when the perishing objects of time and sense do not interweave and intertwine themselves around every thread of our heart; when we can look on the world, and say in the expressive language of the apostle, "By whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." (Gal. 6:14.) What a picture is this! That the world had no more charms for him than it would have for a person on the cross, expiring in agony; and as we would naturally turn away our eyes with loathing from a malefactor writhing on a cross, so he spiritually turned away his eyes from a perishing world. But who of us can come up to this experience? How rarely are we even in this state, to find our hearts really separated from the world, and drawn away not merely from its company, but also from its wretched spirit. But when we feel ourselves in some measure drawn away from it, and our heart and affections fixed where Jesus sits at the right hand of God, we may then be said to fare well.
6. When we are enabled in any degree to WALK IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF CHRIST; when, instead of returning railing for railing, we contrariwise return blessing; when one cheek is smitten, to turn the other; when we can bear injuries and insults, and instead of resenting them, we feel our hearts drawn out to forgive them; then indeed we may be said to fare well. But, alas! we find, on the contrary, so much of that other spirit in us, "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth;" blow for blow, word for word, look for look; as though we could not bear the slightest measure of reproach, or anything approaching to contempt. Yet how sweet it is, when instead of this miserable spirit, we have the least measure of the mind of Christ; when instead of envy, jealousy, wrath, and every cursed and devilish working, even against the people of God, our hearts are so melted down into love and affection to them, that we can bear with those things that most cut our flesh, and are most contrary to our natural feelings.
7. We fare well when FAITH is in exercise; and this we learn by knowing the power of unbelief. When unbelief is powerfully at work, then indeed we fare ill; we can overcome no temptation, resist no sin, forgive no injury, bear not a straw to lie across our path, nor the weight of a thread upon our mind. But when the soul is favored with a living faith, and the Author of that faith is pleased to draw it out into blessed exercise, that indeed is a faring well. This blessed faith overcomes the world, purifies the heart, brings a sweet sense of heavenly realities into the soul, and draws upwards, all the affections of the soul.
8. We fare well also, when HOPE, that sister grace with faith and love, is in spiritual exercise; when gloom and despondency do not possess the mind; when the clouds of darkness and doubt, which hovered over the soul are dissipated, and some blessed gleams of life, light and love shine out of the Mediator's fullness into the heart. The mariner would fare ill did he go out to sea without his anchor; for when the storm came, and blew on a lee-shore, he would have nothing to hold his ship from running aground. But if he had cast anchor, as long as that held fast in the ground, he would fare well, whatever storms might rise, or winds blow. So, with the soul that is enabled to cast anchor on Christ, to rest on his covenant engagements, love, blood, and glorious righteousness, as long as the anchor holds, it will ride out every storm.
9. Again. When LOVE is spiritually felt; when it flows out toward the blessed Lord, and is fixed upon him, then indeed the soul may be said to fare well. When instead of having the heart divided, and so found faulty; instead of having a thousand roving imaginations, and oftentimes base lusts, hovering over us like birds of prey, and snatching off in their talons every spiritual feeling, these vultures are driven away.
10. And when, too, in spite of all the darkness that may have abounded in the mind, all the difficulties of the narrow path, all the backslidings committed, and all the snares in which the feet have been entangled, the soul feels all right for eternity, then indeed it may be said to fare well; for it is bound for a blessed eternity, for a land where tears shall be forever wiped away from all faces.
The Apostle's short and simple prayer to God for those to whom he was writing was, that they might "fare well." It was the desire of his heart, that they might enjoy those rich spiritual blessings that God alone could communicate; and in uttering this parting word, he breathed out with it the genuine wish of his soul. And its being couched in the form of a petition and not an exhortation, shows that there is not anything in us that can cause us to fare well; that it is not to be produced by any good deeds or good words of ours, not to be brought about by our own prayers, not merited by our own exertions; but that it is wholly and solely the gift of God, for he only can make us, under every circumstance, and in every time and place, really to fare well.
The living family, then, will not be attempting to cause themselves to fare well; but will be continually looking up to the Lord to make it fare well with them; they will be seeking his blessed face, and casting themselves from time to time at his footstool, that he would cause all things to work together for their spiritual good, that it may fare well here and hereafter with their souls.
But what different views people have of faring ill and faring well! If I were to go into the street, and ask the first man I met with what it was to fare well, he would tell me, no doubt, that to enjoy health of body, to have riches and respectability, and be surrounded with worldly comforts, would be to fare well; while at the same time he is, in the sight of a holy God, only filling up the measure of his iniquity, and will at last, if grace prevent not, sink into an awful eternity.
But were I to go to some poor child of God, who is depressed by poverty, suffering under ill health, afflicted with grievous trials, exercised with sore temptations, harassed by the devil, and continually plagued and perplexed by his own corrupt heart; and ask him, "What it is to fare well?" he, I believe, would answer, "To fare well would be to enjoy the life, light and love of God in my soul; to have testimonies from the Lord that I am his; to find Satan put under my feet; to experience the blood of sprinkling on my conscience; to taste a sense of pardoning love; to walk in the light of God's countenance; to find the Lord with me in all my sufferings; to feel that I am safe in his hand, and that at last he will land me safe in a blessed eternity."
Now these two people would give a very different answer to the question; and yet perhaps to the eye of sense, one of them might be enjoying the height of prosperity, while the other might be in the depths of adversity; the one possessing health, and all that the world could offer, yes, as the Psalmist says, "His eyes standing out with fatness, and having more than heart could wish;" while the other might be pitied as the most miserable wretch alive; and yet really be the man whom princes might envy, and kings delight to honor, and a jewel that shall one day shine brightly in the kingdom of God.
But suppose the Lord himself were to put the question to your hearts (instead of my putting it) in some solemn manifestation, as he came to Solomon by night, and ask you, "What you most desired?" if he were to come to us spiritually in that manner, and say, "I will answer your petition and your request, what is it your soul most desires? Your body perhaps is afflicted with disease; shall it be health? You are distressed with poverty; shall it be riches? You are despised and scorned; shall it be honor? If ignorant and uneducated; shall it be learning? Is everything in providence against you; shall it be everything in providence for you? Shall all these things be given to you, and all summed up and concentrated as an answer to your petition?"
If God has touched your heart with his finger, you would answer, "No, Lord; I cannot be satisfied with these. Rather give me poverty and affliction with your blessing– only give me a sufficiency to carry my poor body through life, and I am contented, whatever else you deny me. But do not deny me spiritual blessings; give me a manifestation of your presence; deny me not the guidance and leading of your hand; deny me not a sense of your love and of your power; deny me not a testimony that you are leading me safely through the waste howling wilderness, and will present me faultless before your face forever."
You may say, when I thus put the question, "These are my desires, these are the objects which my heart is really fixed upon, and the things which I sincerely feel I want to have." But let me now put another question, and that is, "If so, are these things what you breathe out from time to time into the bosom of God?" It is very well, when the question is put, to answer, "These are my desires:" but you know we read, "The sluggard desires, and has not." Whenever God implants them in the soul, you will not be content with merely expressing a few desires; but there will be solemn pantings and breathings of your heart into the bosom of God that he would lead you effectually into the experience of the truth; there will be in your conscience from time to time "a spirit of grace and supplication;" and you will be restless, discontented, and dissatisfied with everything short of God's manifested presence. There will be a turning from the creature, and all that the creature can present, and a cry and a sigh rising up into the ears of the Lord, telling him that nothing but himself will content your soul; that his favor in providence will not content you; that you must have Himself, and that nothing but himself can really satisfy your heart. If a man is here, he is faring well, whatever may be his exercises, temptations, or distresses, for the Lord is guiding him in the footsteps of the flock, and opening his heart to receive the truth in the love and power of it.
But when the Lord is really leading our souls in this path, everything seems to be against us. True religion is such a mystery. When we think we are faring well, we are often faring ill; when we think we are faring ill, we are often faring well; when we think that now we have got into an easy, smooth, and comfortable path, it is then leading us wrong; and when we say, 'The path is so rugged and intricate; we are so perplexed, and so little able to see the way that we fear we are out of the track altogether,' that is the very time when the Lord is leading us in the right way.
Sometimes when we say, 'Now the Lord will appear,' the Lord does not appear at all; and when we are saying, 'The path is so dark that we can scarcely hope the Lord can appear;' in a moment he will take away the cloud, and make his appearance. When we are ready to say, 'The case is so desperate, we can hardly expect a remedy,' that is the very time for the remedy to come. When we may say, 'This is just the eve of a deliverance,' the deliverance is put farther back, and the soul sinks deeper into a sense of guilt and misery; and when we may say, 'We are so black and polluted, such awful sinners, such horrible creatures, that the Lord cannot look on us,' that is the very moment when he may smile into the heart. When we may think we are getting on at a rapid pace in spirituality and holiness, making wonderful advances in the divine life, and getting almost to the pinnacle of creature perfection, we discover through some terrible inward slip, that we are on the wrong path, and have been drawn aside by self-righteousness and pharisaical pride.
So that at last we seem brought to this point, to have no wisdom of our own to see the way, and to have no strength to walk in the way when seen, but that we must be guided every step by the Lord himself; and thus we sink down into creature nothingness and creature emptiness, and feel no more merit in our heart, lip, or life, why God should save us, than there is in Satan himself; and thus we sink so low that none but God himself can lift us up. And this is the very time when God usually appears, and most singularly displays his mercy, love, and grace.
Now, it is by walking in this trying path that we learn our utter ruin, and learn to prize God's salvation. The power of saving truth is only prized by those whom God is thus teaching. Others are satisfied with shadows, but those that are deeply exercised in their mind, must have the substance. Those who have had their false refuges destroyed, their lying hopes broken, and a thousand difficulties and perplexities surrounding them, as the Lord opens the eyes, and brings his truth before them, want the power and application of this truth to their heart. Nothing suits or satisfies them but the unction of the Spirit, and the dew of God's power and presence resting on and felt in their souls. They can no longer be satisfied with the mere form, no longer rest for salvation on a few notions, no longer hang their eternal all upon the good opinion of the creature.
And thus, by this painful work in their souls, they learn that they have no more religion than God works in them; that they can only know what God teaches them; that they can only have what he communicates to them; and that they are wholly and solely dependent upon him to guide and keep them every moment of their lives. Worldly men indeed despise them, mere professors hate them, the devil harasses them, their names are generally cast out as evil, and universal charity, which has a good opinion of all, has not a single, good word for them. That they are such a mystery to others is no wonder, when they are such a mystery to themselves. How they hold on they cannot tell; but they find they cannot move unless God moves them. How they pray is a mystery, yet at times they feel the spirit of prayer alive in their bosoms. How their souls are kept pleading and waiting for the Lord at the footstool of his mercy is a mystery, yet they cannot deny that this is the experience of their hearts. So that when they come to look at the way in which the Lord has led them, from first to last, it is all an unfathomable mystery.
Why God should have chosen them in Christ is a mystery; why he should have quickened their souls when "dead in trespasses and sins," is a mystery; why he should have wrought a sense of contrition in their hearts is a mystery; why he should have given a sense of his love to them is a mystery; why he should have preserved them from error, while thousands have been entangled in it, is a mystery; and why he should keep them day by day, and hour by hour, without suffering them to disgrace his cause, deny his truth, turn their back on God, or go into the world, is a mystery. And yet they find that they have and are all these things; so that the greatest mystery of all is, that they are what they are.
Thus, do they fare well, because God takes care they shall fare well; he manages all their concerns, he watches over them by night and by day– he waters them continually, and he guides and leads them until he brings them to his heavenly kingdom.
But, in the full sense of the word, they will never entirely fare well, until they drop their mortal bodies into the dust, until the "old man" is completely annihilated, the root of sin forever perished, and their immortal souls united with their glorified bodies before the throne of the Lamb, shall sing to all eternity the high praises of their God. Then they will fare well, because they will have nothing then to make them fare ill; sin, which is now their burden, will be known no more; all their sorrows and pains will be turned into joy; and the tears, which now often run down their cheeks, will then be all wiped away. They will then fare well, because they will see him as he is in whom their hearts are fixed, and will be swallowed up in the eternal enjoyment of his bliss and glory.
With what better word, then, can I conclude than "Farewell!" And in uttering that word, I desire to breathe it from my heart, "Brethren, fare well!" May your hearts be kept alive to divine things; may you never wander from the truth; never seek for happiness from the things of time and sense; never lean on an arm of flesh; never trust to your own righteousness; never get into an openly backsliding state, and go after idols; never be entangled by secret lusts and besetting sins; and never bring a disgrace upon the cause of God and truth.
May you, then, fare well; I will not add the word "finally," in the words of the text, "finally, brethren, fare well." I will not then say "finally," though the Lord only knows whether we shall ever see each other again in the flesh. But I simply breathe forth the desires of my heart for your temporal and spiritual welfare; and conclude with the words of the Apostle, "Brethren, farewell."