Monday, August 31, 2009

OBEDIENCE FROM THE HEART


Preached at Zoar Chapel, London, on Thursday Evening, July 18, 1844, by J. C. Philpot

"Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them."
(Romans 6:17)

The Holy Spirit foresaw the abuse which the depraved heart of man would make of the doctrines of grace. He foresaw that nature would argue, that because the elect are saved by grace without the works of the law, there was no obligation for them to perform good works at all; and that because they are accepted freely in the Beloved, "without money and without price," therefore they are discharged from all obedience to the revealed will and word of God. And not only did the Holy Spirit foresee the consequences that depraved nature would draw from the pure gospel of Jesus; but there were also characters in the apostolic days who were base enough to carry out these principles into practice. The apostle alludes to these when he says, "Shall we do evil that good may come? God forbid!" There were some then who said, we might do evil that good might come; but he adds of them, "whose damnation is just!"

If we look at the book of Jude, we shall find these base characters most accurately described as "wandering stars," "trees twice dead," "clouds without water," "spots in their feasts of charity;" in a word, 'practical Antinomians', living in sin under a mask of godliness; professing the truth, and disgracing it by their lives. The Holy Spirit, then, foreseeing the consequences that corrupt nature would draw from the doctrines of grace inspired the apostle to write Romans 6, which is almost entirely aimed at these perversions. He as it were, bursts out, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?" He had said in the preceding chapter, that "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." The carnal heart might thence naturally argue, "If this be the case that grace superabounds, just in proportion as sin abounds, then the more we sin, the more will the grace of God abound; and, therefore, the more sin we commit, the more will the grace of God be glorified." Such would be the reasonings of depraved nature, the arguments of man's perverse heart.

The apostle, therefore, meets these horrid consequences with "God forbid!" that any who fear the Lord should draw such a conclusion. "How shall we," he adds, "who are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" If "we have been buried with Christ in baptism," it is that, according to the power of his resurrection, we should "walk in newness of life." If we are delivered from the law, and brought under grace, it is that sin should not reign in our mortal body, or that we should obey it in the lust thereof. And then in a most beautiful, experimental, and convincing way, which I cannot now enter into, he goes through the whole argument, and shows that, so far from being discharged by grace from all obligations to obedience, or so far from grace setting us free to do the works of the flesh, it only binds us the more closely to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, and to live in conformity to his holy image who died for us.

The main bent of what the apostle sets forth on this point seems to be summed up in the verse before us, from which I hope, with God's blessing and help, to speak this evening. "But God be thanked, that you were the servants of sin—but you have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you."

The apostle commences by ascribing a solemn thanksgiving to God. "But God be thanked," he says. Now what was the object of this apostolic thanksgiving? What drew forth this expression of gratitude from his bosom? Not I believe, that they had been servants of sin. I do not think we can, for a moment, admit that the Apostle thanked God because the believers to whom he was writing had been the "servants of sin." I am sure my own experience could never bear that out to be the mind of the Holy Spirit. Nor do I believe that your experience, if God the Spirit has touched your conscience with his finger, would bear you out in such an interpretation, that Paul could thank God because they had been the "servants of sin." Did you ever on your knees bless God that you had gone to great lengths of wickedness before you were called by grace? Did you ever thank him because you once lived in uncleanness, drunkenness, or other open and base sins? You may have thanked God for having kept you from open sin in the days of unregeneracy, or for having mercifully pardoned and delivered you.

But I defy a living soul on his knees to thank God, because he had formerly been a servant of sin. So that we must understand the Apostle to mean here—"But God be thanked, that though you were the servants of sin," yet now the case is altered; you are so no longer; a mighty change has taken place; a blessed revolution has been affected in your hearts, lips, and lives. "God be thanked though you were the servants of sin," yet "now, through the grace of God, it is so no longer;" "you have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you."

In looking, then, at these words, I shall, with God's blessing, endeavor to show,

I. What it is, in our fallen and unregenerate state, to be "the servants of sin."

II. What is the "form of doctrine" delivered to us.

III. How by "obeying it from the heart," we are no longer the servants of sin, but become the servants of God.


I. What it is, in our fallen and unregenerate state, to be "the servants of sin." Let us look, then, at the words, "You were the servants of sin." What a picture does this draw of our sad state, while walking in the darkness and death of unregeneracy! The Holy Spirit here sets forth Sin as a hard master, exercising tyrannical dominion over his slaves; for the word "servants" means literally "slaves;" there being few domestic servants in ancient times, nearly all being slaves, and compelled implicitly to obey their masters' will. How this sets forth our state and condition in a state of unregeneracy—slaves to sin! Just as a master commands his slave to go here and there, imposes on him a certain task, and has entire and despotic authority over him; so sin had a complete mastery over us, used us at its arbitrary will and pleasure, and drove us here and there on its commands.

But in this point we differed from physical slaves—that we did not murmur under our yoke, but gladly and cheerfully obeyed all sin's commands, and were never tired of doing the most servile drudgery!

Now it is a most certain truth, that all men whose hearts have not been touched by God the Spirit, are the "servants of sin." Sin, the lord, may be a more refined master; and man, the servant, may wear a more fashionable clothing in some cases, than others. But still, however refined the master may be, or however well-dressed the servant, the master is still the master, and the servant is still the servant.

Thus some have had sin as a very vulgar and tyrannical master, who drove them into open acts of drunkenness, uncleanness, and profligacy; yes, everything base, vile, and evil. Others have been preserved through education, through the watchfulness and example of parents, or other moral restraints, from going into such open lengths of iniquity, and outward breakings forth of evil; but still sin secretly reigned in their hearts. Pride, worldliness, love of the things of time and sense, hatred to God and aversion to his holy will, selfishness and stubbornness, in all their various forms, had a complete mastery over them; and though sin ruled over them more as a gentleman, he kept them in a more refined, though not less real or absolute slavery! Whatever sin bade them do, that they did, as implicitly as the most abject slave ever obeyed a tyrannical master's command. What a picture does the Holy Spirit here draw of what a man is! Nothing but a slave! and sin, as his master, first driving him upon God's sword, and then giving him eternal death as his wages!


II. But the Apostle shows how the soul is brought out of this servitude—how it is delivered from this hard bondage, and brought to serve a better master, and that from better motives—"But God be thanked, that you were the servants of sin, but you have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you." It was by obeying "from the heart the form of doctrine which was delivered them," that they were rescued from the miserable servitude and hard bondage under which they lived in sin, and made to walk in newness of life.

Let us look, then, at the expression here used—"that form of doctrine which was delivered you." It is in the margin—and that is more agreeable to the original—that form of doctrine "whereto," or "into which, you were delivered." By the word "form," is meant 'mold;' and by "doctrine" is meant, not what we understand by the term as the article of a creed, but 'teaching'. This is a frequent meaning of the word "doctrine," in the New Testament. Thus Paul tells Timothy (1 Tim. 4:13) to give himself unto "doctrine"—that is to 'teaching'. And Titus 2:7, "in doctrine"—that is, teaching, "showing integrity." Thus we may consider the meaning of the text to be this—"God be thanked, that though you were the servants of sin, you have obeyed from the heart that mold of teaching into which you were cast, or delivered."

The figure is this—the impression which a coin takes from a die; or the effect produced upon melted metal run into a mold; the doctrine being the die, and the heart the coin; the teaching being the mold and the soul the cast. Thus, the "form of doctrine" signifies not so much a creed of sound doctrine, which the Apostle in a formal, systematic manner laid before his hearers—as the mold of heavenly teaching into which the Holy Spirit delivered their souls.

It is thus evident, that the Holy Spirit has a certain mold of teaching, into which he casts and delivers the soul, from which it comes out as a "coin from the mint", bearing the impression of the die upon it in every form and feature; or, which is perhaps the more exact interpretation of the figure, as a cast from a mold, bearing a perfect likeness to the original model. This "form" then, "of doctrine," or mold of teaching, into which they were delivered, was that which the Apostle, through divine instrumentality, had set before them.

Let us see, then, with God's blessing, WHAT was this "form of doctrine," or mold of divine teaching, into which, through grace, their souls had been cast—for it was by being delivered into this mold that they were delivered from being the "servants of sin," to be made "vessels of honor fit for the Master's use," as well as conformed to the Master's image.

WHAT this "form of doctrine" was, we may gather from what the Holy Spirit, by the Apostle Paul, has left on record.

1. He insisted, I believe, first, on the utter ruin and fall of man. He began from the beginning, and like a "wise master builder," raised up the structure by first digging a deep foundation. He knew as every rightly-taught man and minister knows, that unless a foundation be made by digging deep, the house will not be built upon the rock; that if a knowledge of our utter ruin by nature be not brought into the heart by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, all our religion will be like a house founded upon the sand. This therefore we find to run through all his Epistles. Thus, he tells the Ephesians, (2:1) But "you has he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins." How he insists there on man's death in sin! Again, Rom. 5:6, he shows our helplessness, "When we were without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." And more especially in Rom. 7 does the Apostle exhibit at large what we are by nature and practice, and describe from his own experience the desperate wickedness of the human heart. "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwells no good thing." "I am carnal, sold under sin." He there sets forth, from his own experience, the complete fall of man, the entire ruin of the creature, the thorough wickedness of "the carnal mind, which is enmity against God, and is not subject to his law, neither indeed can be."

This being a part of his ministry, and of the inspired Scriptures, into this mold of teaching does God the Spirit deliver the soul. And just in the same way as upon the piece of money you may read the exact lineaments of the original die, so when the heart is rightly taught by the Holy Spirit, and we are delivered into this "form of doctrine," it comes out of the mold bearing the exact impression. It is thus we are made to feel every line of what the Apostle says of our ruined, undone state, and to know by painful experience, that "in us, that is in our flesh, dwells no good thing;" that "when we would do good, evil is present with us;" that "the law in our members wars against the law of our mind."

And under these feelings, we sigh and groan, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" It is thus that Paul's experience becomes ours; and we find every line of Romans 7 engraved upon our hearts, and feel every expression to be as much ours as if it were drawn from the workings of our own mind. No coin bears a greater resemblance to the die, no cast is more the counterpart of the mold, than our experience corresponds to that of the Apostle, as the Holy Spirit delivers us into this mold of divine teaching.

2. But we find, that another part of the Apostle's ministry was to set forth the holy law of God in all its strictness and spirituality. He says (Rom. 7:14), "the law is spiritual;" "by the law is the knowledge of sin;" "what things soever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world become guilty before God." And describing his own experience, he says, "I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died." And therefore he adds, "the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, and just, and good."

He thus sets forth the law in all its purity, strictness, and spirituality, and shows how when it comes home with power to the conscience, it kills us to all hopes of justification by it. Into this "form of doctrine," or mold of heavenly teaching, is the soul delivered; and the law being brought into the conscience, as the 'die at the mint' is brought down upon a piece of gold to produce a coin, its spirituality is then and there revealed, stamped with all its lineaments and features, and thus a deep and lasting impression is made upon the heart to which it is supplied.

3. But the Apostle Paul, that workman who never needed to be ashamed of the tools or of his work, not merely sets forth man's utter ruin, and the spirituality of God's law, as slaughtering the sinner, and cutting up all his righteousness, root and branch; but his darling subject, his grand theme, was the mode by which god justifies the ungodly. What reason have we to bless God that he so instructed his Apostle to set forth how a sinner is justified! For how could we have attained to the knowledge of this mystery without divine revelation? How could we know in what way God could be just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly? How could we see all the perfections of God harmonizing in the Person and work of Jesus? His law maintained in all its rigid purity and strictest justice—and yet mercy, grace, and love to have full play in a sinner's salvation? But the Spirit of God led Paul deeply into this blessed subject; and especially in the Epistle to the Romans does he trace out this grand foundation truth with such clearness, weight, and power, that the church of God can never be sufficiently thankful for this portion of divine revelation.

His grand object is, to show how God justifies the ungodly by the blood and obedience of his dear Son; so that "as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous." He declares that "the righteousness of God is unto and upon all those who believe;" and that "through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood," he pardons the sinner, justifies the ungodly, and views him as righteous in the Son of his love.

In opening up this subject, the Apostle (Rom. 5) traces up this justification to the union of the church with her covenant head; shows us her standing in Christ as well as in Adam; and that all the miseries which she derives from her standing in the latter are overbalanced by the mercies that flow from her standing in the former—winding up with that heart-reviving truth, that "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound; that as sin has reigned unto death, even so might grace reign unto eternal life."

This then is a "form of doctrine," or mold of teaching, into which the soul is delivered when it is brought into a heart-felt reception of, and a feeling acquaintance with it; and by being led more or less into the experimental enjoyment of it, is favored with a solemn acquiescence in, and a filial submission to it, as all its salvation and all its desire. And as the mold impresses its image upon the moist plaster or melted metal poured into it—so the heart, softened and melted by the blessed Spirit's teaching, receives the impress of this glorious truth with filial confidence, feels its sweetness and power, and is filled with a holy admiration of it as the only way in which God can justify an ungodly wretch, not only without sacrificing any one attribute of his holy character, but rather magnifying thereby the purity of his nature, and the demands of his unbending justice.

4. But again. The Apostle not merely sets forth the way in which the sinner is justified, and becomes manifestly righteous, but he also strongly insists upon the kingdom of God being set up with power in the heart. He says (1 Cor. 2:4, 5), "My speech and my preaching were not with enticing words of man's wisdom"—these he discarded—"but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power; that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." He was afraid their faith might stand in human wisdom, and not in divine power. His anxious desire was that it might be a faith wrought in their hearts by the Spirit of God; that it might not be learned from man, nor stand in the wisdom of man, but stand wholly and solely "in the power of God."

And again, when he holds a rod over the rebellious church at Corinth, he says (1 Cor. 4:9) he was determined "to know not the speech of those who were puffed up"—those gossips and chatterers who could prate loudly about the doctrines, but knew nothing of them as experimentally revealed in the conscience; against such pretenders he would "come with a rod, and use sharpness." He would bring to bear upon their profession some of those "weapons of warfare, which were mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds;" and says, "if he came to Corinth, he would not spare." He was therefore determined to search them out, and find their real standing; "to know not their speech, but their power; for the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power."

Thus in setting forth the truth before them he powerfully contended that there must be a vital experience of divine realities in the heart; that truth could only be known by a spiritual revelation (1 Cor. 2:10-13); that "faith was the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8); that we are "to turn away from those that have the form of godliness but deny the power thereof" (2 Tim. 3:5); that "bodily exercise profits little" (1 Tim. 4:8); and that "the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Rom. 14:17.) Into this mold of divine teaching is the soul, born of God, cast—and thus learns and enters into the nature and blessedness of the internal kingdom of God.

5. But connected with this, he sets forth also the way in which believers should walk. This he specially insists upon in this chapter; and doubtless there was much reason for it then, as there is much reason for it now—for how lamentable are the cases of inconsistency which we sometimes hear of, even ministers professing truth falling under the power of open besetting sins! The Apostle, therefore, as every rightly taught servant of God must do, insisted upon a life and walk agreeable to the doctrine which is according to godliness. He would give them no warrant for a loose, careless, inconsistent walk—but insisted that grace bound the soul with the cords of love to the blessed precepts which God has set forth, to follow the footsteps of Jesus, and look to him as a pattern and example.

In this chapter, therefore, he insists strongly upon a godly life; he says, "When you were the servants of sin, you were free from righteousness. What fruit had you then in those days whereof you are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, you have your fruit unto holiness and the end, everlasting life." How strongly he here insists upon their "having their fruit unto holiness!" He shows that if we are dead with Christ, we shall also live with him; and being by grace delivered from the law, we are under greater obligations to walk as becomes the gospel; adding, as knowing our weakness and helplessness—that promise, "Sin shall not have dominion over you; for you are not under the law, but under grace."

So that "the form of doctrine" into which they were delivered was a conformity to Christ, and an obedience to his will; a holy desire to please God; a hatred to evil, and a cleaving to that which is good; a longing after more intimate communion with Jesus; and a more earnest wish that his holy example might be made manifest in their lives. For the more we are brought into communion with him, the more manifestly shall we walk as he walked, and abstain from those things which he hated.


III. How by "obeying it from the heart," we are no longer the servants of sin, but become the servants of God. The Apostle says, "you have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you." A "form of doctrine" was delivered them, or rather they were delivered into it; a mold of divine teaching was set up, into which their souls had been cast and they had come out of this mold new creatures, so that "old things were passed away, and all things had become new." The effect was, that they "obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine." There was an obedience wrought into their conscience, which flowed not from legal principles, not from self-righteous motives, not from the precepts of men, but "from the heart"—the root of this obedience, as flowing from the heart, was being delivered into this form of doctrine. Their hearts had been so molded by divine operation, and their conscience so effectually wrought upon by their being delivered and cast into the mold of teaching which the Holy Spirit had inwardly set up, that they "obeyed from the heart," because the impression had been made there.

Let us see then, with God's blessing, HOW a man "obeys from the heart" the "form of doctrine" delivered unto him. This will comprehend the whole of the Spirit's work upon the conscience—every lineament and feature of that heavenly mold, so far as the soul has been delivered into it. We will therefore revert to the distinguishing features I have already pointed out.

1. I mentioned first, the utter fall and ruin of man, and the complete helplessness of the creature, as a branch of divine teaching. A man obeys this form of doctrine when he is completely convinced in his conscience what a poor, helpless creature he is; and in obedience to it, desists from all self-righteous attempts to please God. He obeys it from his heart when really convinced of his own helplessness and ruin, he falls down before God, and beseeches he would work in him that which is well-pleasing in his sight. And as he is cast into this mold of teaching, he becomes day by day more and more spiritually convinced of his own helplessness and complete ruin, and will daily cry to the Lord to work in him to will and to do of his good pleasure.

Now, will a knowledge of his sinfulness, a conviction of his helplessness, an acquaintance with his own ruin, lead a man into sin? I say boldly, No! On the contrary, it will lead him from sin. He will no longer run recklessly and heedlessly forward; but he will go softly and tenderly, continually begging the Lord to keep him.

There are two professors, say, in this congregation—one, ignorant of his own sinfulness, unacquainted with his own helplessness; the other day by day, deeply and spiritually convinced of the one, and groaning under a sense of the other. Take these two men into the world; place them in the market; send them to traffic in the busy marts of commerce. In whom will you find most consistency of conduct, most tenderness of conscience, most abhorrence of evil? In the man ignorant of his own depravity and helplessness? Or in the man who carries about with him the deepest sense of his own sinfulness and wretchedness; and who feeling his helplessness, is perpetually crying to the Lord, "Keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me?"

As we pass through the streets of this metropolis, we are continually exposed to temptation; but who is the man most likely to fall into the snares spread for his feet? Not he who feels that he has a roving eye, and a wandering heart, and is crying to the Lord, "Hold me up—let me not fall," as fearing he shall fall every moment; but he who goes recklessly on, confident he can keep himself. So that to be spiritually cast into this "form of doctrine," so as to be deeply convinced of our sinfulness and helplessness, so far from leading to sin, leads us from it—so far from encouraging the vile depravity of our nature, makes the conscience tender in God's fear, and leads us to hate that which God abhors. There is no greater libel than to confound a knowledge of our sinfulness with "a gloating," as they call it, "over corruption." We are taught our sinfulness that we may hate it—and our helplessness that we may flee to him on whom God has laid help.

2. So again. A knowledge of the purity and spirituality of God's law, is another feature of divine teaching—another branch of the mold into which the soul is cast. A man who has never been made to see the purity of God's law, never felt its spirituality, never known its condemnation, never groaned under its bondage, will have very dim and indistinct views of sin. "Blessed is the man," we read, "whom you chasten, O Lord, and teach him out of your law." In that glass the strict justice of God, and all its holy unbending demands are clearly seen.

3. A spiritual reception of, and what the Apostle calls a submission to, the righteousness of God, (Rom. 10:3) is another branch of that form of doctrine which produces obedience from the heart. Let a man know what justification is through the imputed righteousness of Christ, and feel what it cost the Son of God to work out a meritorious obedience to the law for his guilty soul—it will not make him think lightly of sin. When delivered by the Spirit's operation into this mold of teaching, and thus brought into a spiritual acquaintance with it, it will make his conscience tender. He will then obey, not from natural convictions or hypocritical motives, but from the heart, as penetrated with a sense of mercy, and will desire to be brought into a spiritual acquaintance with it, that he may walk before God in all blamelessness.

But if a man, however sound in the doctrine of justification as a creed, has never been cast into the mold of it, so as to receive the impression upon his conscience, and feel it with power in his heart, he will probably be one of those who disgrace it by their lives; because, through lack of divine teaching, his conscience is unaffected by the power of the truth he professes.

Why is it that men, and, to their shame be it spoken, ministers who profess the doctrines of grace, often walk so inconsistently and unbecomingly? In doctrine none can be sounder than these men; but had they received by divine teaching the glorious truth of justification through the righteousness of the Son of God—and had their hearts been impressed by it, and their souls been cast into this mold, they would have adorned the doctrine by their life and conversation. But not being delivered into this heavenly mold, and the Spirit never having brought this truth down upon their conscience and stamped its features upon their heart, as the die is brought down upon the coin, they can "continue in sin, that grace may abound."

It is only, therefore, as we are delivered into the mold of this blessed doctrine of justification by Christ's glorious righteousness, that we obey it from the heart. In proportion as we feel our soul to acquiesce in it and enjoy it—so far from leading us into sin, it will lead its away from it, and enable us to walk in those things which suit the gospel.

4. So when, by divine teaching, the soul is delivered into another branch of "the form of doctrine," or mold of divine teaching, that is, that the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power, gospel obedience will flow from the heart. Just in proportion as this divine truth is stamped upon the conscience, do we find and feel that true religion does not consist in a few notions, doctrines, or names—but in the power of the Holy Spirit setting Christ up in the soul.

A kingdom in the heart implies that a king reigns there; and if so, the obedience paid to that king will be in and from the heart. This is true gospel obedience; and in proportion as the soul is cast into this mold, it will become a servant unto God. This so far from leading us to obey sin, will make us obey God; and so far from causing us "to yield our members servants to uncleanness unto iniquity, will rather make us yield them servants to righteousness unto holiness."

If we know anything, if we feel anything of the kingdom of God set up with power in the conscience, that knowledge, that feeling, so far as each is spiritual and experimental, will produce an effect. Vital godliness will be divinely worked into our conscience, and will leave, more or less, a deep and abiding impression upon our heart. Our religion will not consist in merely embracing a sound creed, in talking about ministers and books, attending a certain chapel, hearing certain ministers, or going through certain ordinances. If we have been delivered into this mold of divine teaching, that "the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power," there will be something higher and deeper, something more lasting and abiding, something more spiritual and supernatural than creeds and external performances.

It is the glory and beauty of vital godliness, that the soul possessed of it obeys from the heart; that the spring of its obedience is spiritual and internal; that a Christian does what he does from noble principles; that as far is he is rightly taught and guided, what he does, he does from his heart; what he says, he says from his heart; what he prays, he prays from the heart; and if he be a preacher, what he preaches, he preaches from the heart. His very soul is in the matter; and as his conscience lives under the dew and unction of the Spirit, what he does he does unto God, and not unto men. As the form of doctrine is more deeply impressed upon him, he day by day more obeys it from the heart—and is led more clearly into this truth, that what God looks to, and what he works in us, is an obedience that springs from the heart. So that, the more the soul is delivered into this mold of heavenly teaching, to believe with the heart unto righteousness, confession is more made with the mouth unto salvation.

Now, until a man is thus spiritually taught and wrought upon, he will be the servant of sin. He may indeed have a very shining profession; but it may only be a mask for the deepest and blackest hypocrisy. He may contend much for spirituality of mind; and yet hide under that profession the basest sins. He may plead much for the doctrines of grace; and yet use them as a cloak for the vilest licentiousness in practice. A man must, in one form or other, be "the servant of sin," until he "obeys from the heart the form of doctrine"—the mold of divine teaching, into which the soul is spiritually delivered.

But when the Holy Spirit takes him in hand, and casts him into the mold of divine teaching, so as to bring into his soul the word of God with power, he fixes the truth upon his conscience, and impresses it upon his heart; so that he comes forth with the truth of God stamped upon him, as the cast comes out of the mold, and the coin from the die. Then, and only then, is he delivered from the service of sin. Sin might indeed not have worn an outward or gross form. The life might have been circumspect, and sin worn in him a very subtle shape. But there is no real deliverance from bearing the yoke of sin until the mold of heavenly teaching is obeyed "from the heart." This is the fulfillment of that new covenant promise—"I will put my laws into their minds, and write them in their heart." Thus inward, spiritual, and vital obedience can alone be produced; and one truth written by the Spirit in the heart, will bring forth more fruit in the life, than a hundred doctrines floating in the head.

It is, then, in this way that "the form of doctrine" which we have received in the Spirit, is made to produce an impression upon our hearts and lives. And the more that "the form of doctrine" is brought into our heart, and the more we are molded by it, the more shall we obey it; and, as the Apostle says, "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." We grow in grace by growing in the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; and we only grow in the knowledge of him as we grow in the knowledge of ourselves. Thus to grow in grace is to grow in the knowledge of our own weakness and of Christ's strength; of our own sinfulness, and of Christ's atoning blood; of our own ignorance, and of Christ's teaching in that ignorance. A sense of daily depravity, and yet seeing God's grace superabounding over it all; a constant fear we shall fall every day and hour unless God keeps us, and yet mercifully feeling his fear springing up in our hearts, as "a fountain of life to depart from the snares of death"—to be cast into this mold of heavenly teaching will deliver us from being "the servants of sin."

Let us with God's blessing, by way of SUMMING up the whole, look a little into our own conscience. There is, then, a "form of doctrine," a mold of divine teaching. What evidence have we that we have been delivered into it? What have we felt, what have we known, of our own ruin by nature? Have we groaned and sighed because we have been and are so vile? Did sin ever lie as a heavy burden upon our conscience, and did we ever see what wretches we are by nature and practice? Have we ever desired deliverance from the bondage of servitude and sin? Have we become tired of our old master, of his ways, and of his wages? and have we longed for a better master and better wages? That is the beginning of the breaking off of the chain of servitude. The first link of the servile yoke is snapped, when we begin to be discontented with our slavery, and cry and sigh for a better master and a better service.

Again. What do we know, or what have we known of the spirituality of God's law? Now this we must know, in order to feel more keenly our servitude. Not that we can break off the chains of sin through the law, because "by the law is the knowledge of sin," and therefore the law never can deliver us from the power, guilt, and service of sin. But the heavier the yoke, as with the children of Israel in Egypt, the nearer is deliverance from it.

And what know we of being cast into the mold of the grand gospel truth of justification by Christ's imputed righteousness? Have our souls ever received this glorious truth with a measure of divine power? This is the first evidence of a deliverance from sin, the first striking off of its fetters and chains; this is the first raising up of liberty in the conscience, and of experiencing a measure of the sweetness and power of the way of salvation.

And have we felt the kingdom of God set up in the heart? Have we felt a cleaving to the teaching of the Holy Spirit? and been convinced in our consciences that the kingdom of God stands only in power? To come to this is to obey and cleave to the form of doctrine delivered unto us.

And then may I not justly ask, what effect this has on our lives? What deadness to the world does it produce in our soul? What cleaving to the things of God? What desiring in our conscience to be conformed to the image of Jesus? I am sure, that the more the blessed Spirit lets down into our conscience the power of truth, in all its branches; and leads us into an heartfelt reception of, and acquiescence in it, the more shall we get delivered from serving sin, and the more be led to obey from the heart the form of doctrine delivered unto us; the more we shall walk in the footsteps of the Lord of life and glory, and have the truth stamped with power on our conscience.

And then, feeling our own ruin, weakness, and helplessness, we shall learn to give glory to whom glory is due; and to ascribe salvation first and salvation last to the God of all grace and glory; and cast the crown before the throne of God and the Lamb, who, with the Holy Spirit, is alone worthy of praise and blessing, now and forever!

BLESSINGS IMPUTED, AND MERCIES IMPARTED

Preached at Eden Street Chapel, Hampstead Road, London, on Lord's Day Evening, August 17, 1845, by Joseph Philpot

"But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."

(1st Corinthians 1:30-31)

These words, or rather a portion of them, came to my mind this morning as I was sitting in the pulpit after I had done preaching. And as I have usually found it far better that a text should come to me, than that I should go to a text, I have been induced to take them, and endeavor to speak from them this evening.

Some of my enemies, and alas, some of my professed friends, have endeavored to make out that it was my natural ability, or my acquired learning, which enabled me to preach; though I must say that I have but slender pretensions to either. But I know, if either were the case, I would have the whole word of God, and especially this chapter and this epistle against me--and did I look to, or lean upon myself, I had better have remained where I was, in Babylon, than attempt to stand up in God's name. But, through mercy, I have a witness in my conscience, which contradicts such representations.

I believe I have the same perplexities and exercises with respect to texts, and also with respect to sermons to be preached from texts, as others of my brethren in the ministry. I know what it is to be in thick darkness, and what it is to have a measure of sensible light; I know what it is to be shut up, and what it is to enjoy a degree of liberty; I know what the absence of life and feeling is, and at times what is their presence; I know (to use an expression of Brainerd's) 'what it is to work with stumps, and what it is to work with fingers.' So that, with respect to both my texts and sermons, I stand precisely on a level with my other brethren. I have often to cry to the Lord to give me texts from which to preach; and when I have got the text, to cry to the Lord to give me matter out of it. For I know by experience that all wisdom which does not come down from "the Father of lights" is folly; that all strength not divinely wrought in the soul is weakness; and that all knowledge that does not spring from the Lord's own teaching in the conscience is the depth of ignorance. To him therefore do I desire to look that he would teach me this evening how and what to speak. And may he grant that a savor from his own most blessed Majesty may rest upon the words that may drop from my lips.

With respect to the text, we may observe in it three leading features–
I. The eternal purpose and counsel of God with respect to his peculiar people--"It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus."
II. The execution of that eternal purpose, in what Christ is made unto this peculiar people--"wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption."
III. The final purpose and grand result of God's counsel, and of its execution--"He that boasts, let him boast in the Lord."

I. The eternal purpose and counsel of God with respect to his peculiar people.

But it will be first desirable to point out WHO THE PEOPLE ARE, concerning whom the apostle makes this declaration, "It is because of him that YOU are in Christ Jesus."

The word "you," though it is but a monosyllable, though but three letters compose the whole of it, yet has a vast meaning connected with it. We must go to the beginning of the epistle to know who are intended by this little monosyllable. "Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours." These are the people to whom the apostle addresses this epistle; these are the people comprehended in that little monosyllable "you"--the church of God, sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints; with all who know what it is, by prayer and supplication, to call upon the name of Jesus Christ.

The "you" then, in the text, means quickened souls, believing characters; those who, by a work of grace upon their hearts, are sanctified, and enabled, by a spirit of grace and supplication, to call upon the name of Jesus Christ as their Lord and God.

Now, in the text, the apostle traces out what brought them into this state of saintship, "it is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus." The expression refers to two distinct things–

1. The original purpose of God

2. The execution of that purpose

Both are "of Him."--flowing out of him, arising from him, purposed by him in eternity, and executed by him in time. "Of Him"--not of yourselves--"not of him that wills, nor of him that runs," not by the exertion of creature intellect, not by the instrumentality of human operation, not by anything the creature has done, not by anything the creature can do. The apostle traces up the standing of Christ's people in him to its origin--the eternal purpose and counsel of God. All that takes place in time he represents as flowing out of the eternal mind, and happening according to the original purpose and covenant plan of Jehovah.

You will observe, then, that when the apostle speaks of these Corinthian believers as being "in Christ Jesus," he intends thereby to set forth their personal standing in the Son of God under two distinct points of view–

1. As originating in eternity.

2. As taking place in time.

In other words, every believer has a twofold union with Christ; one from all eternity, which we may call, an eternal, or election-union; the other in time, through the Spirit's operation in his heart, which we may call a time, or regeneration-union. Let us attempt to unfold these two kinds of union separately.

1. Every soul, then, that ever had, has now, or ever will have a standing in Christ, had this standing in Him from all eternity. Just in the same way as the vine, according to the Lord's own figure, puts forth the branches out of the stem; not a single branch comes out of the stock but what previously was in the stock--so, not a single soul comes manifestatively into spiritual existence which had not first an invisible and eternal union with the Son of God. This eternal, immanent, and invisible union with the Person of Christ, God blessed his people with before all worlds, by his eternal purpose, and according to his own eternal counsel.

2. Now, out of this eternal and immanent union springs the second union that we have spoken of, which is a time union--a union in grace--a vital union between a living soul and a living Head. Until the Lord quickens elect vessels of mercy they have eternal union, but they have not time union. Their eternal union never can be altered--that never can be dissolved--that accompanies them all through their unregenerate state--but their vital, spiritual, and experimental union takes place in time, through the teaching, and under the operations of the blessed Spirit.

But what a mercy it is for God's people that before they have a vital union with Christ, before they are grafted into him experimentally, they have an eternal, immanent union with him before all worlds. It is this eternal union that brings them into time existence. It is by virtue of this eternal union that they come into the world at such a time, at such a place, from such parents, under such circumstances, as God has appointed. It is by virtue of this eternal union that the circumstances of their time-state are ordained. By virtue of this eternal union they are preserved in Christ before they are called; they cannot die until God has brought about a vital union with Christ.

Whatever sickness they may pass through, whatever injuries they may be exposed to, whatever perils assault them on sea or land, die they will not, die they cannot, until God's purposes are executed in bringing them into a vital union with the Son of his love. Thus, this eternal union watched over every circumstance of their birth, watched over their childhood, watched over their manhood, watched over them until the appointed time and spot, when "the God of all grace," according to his eternal purpose, was pleased to quicken their souls, and thus bring about an experimental union with the Lord of life and glory.

But this time-union, this vital, experimental union, we may speak of also under two distinct points of view–

1. Directly that God the Spirit is pleased to quicken the soul, there commences a vital union with Christ. But this vital union is not then known to the soul. What says the scripture? "He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit" 1 Cor 6:17 One spirit! The Spirit that rests upon the soul to quicken it into spiritual life, by that very visitation, that very indwelling, gives a vital union to Jesus. But it is not at first known, it is not brought forth into the soul's enjoyment, it is not made manifest in our personal experience. It is, to use a figure that the scriptures have adopted, like the process of grafting.

Now we know that the process of grafting is this. A scion is cut off an old stock, and grafted into a new one. Before the scion can be grafted into the new stock, it must be cut off from the old--but when it is cut off from the old, and applied to the new, union does not immediately take place. The wounded scion and the wounded stock are brought into close approximation--they are joined together--and yet a time elapses before the sap flows forth out of the new stock, so as to give the scion a union to the tree. This may throw a little light upon spiritual grafting.

Though the soul is cut off from the old stock, and brought into close apposition with the Lord of life and glory, yet full union is not at once nor immediately enjoyed; though the scion is cut off from the old stock, and grafted into the new, joined together never to be separated, yet a certain time is needed that they may coalesce, that the cut stock and the cut scion may both grow together, that the sap out of the living stock may flow into the living scion.

2. When the Lord is pleased to bring the soul experimentally near to the Son of his love, and communicates a measure of that precious faith whereby Jesus is looked unto, leaned upon, believed in, trusted in, hoped in, and cleaved unto, and a taste of his love and blood is felt in the soul--that produces vital union. Then, if I may use the illustration I have before adopted, the scion and the stock are not merely in close apposition, as when first grafted; but the scion and the stock grow together--there is a coalescing between the two, a union never to be dissolved and the sap out of the stock flows out freely into the scion, so that it puts forth first its leaves of honest and tender profession, then its blossoms of faith, hope, and love, and finally those "fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God."

Now the grand struggle of a living soul before he feels this vital union is to have it made manifest in his conscience. How many of the Lord's people are in this state--cut off from the old stock, coming, as far as they are able, unto Jesus, crying to be saved by his blood and righteousness, desiring above all things to know him and the power of his resurrection; yet no divine power communicated, no inward testimony sensibly felt, no precious sap manifestatively brought into their heart, no enjoyment of the Lord of life and glory in their soul. Though there is an eye of faith to see, a hand of faith to touch, an ear of faith to hear his voice, a heart of faith to receive Jesus into its very secret chambers, yet there is not brought about a clear, manifest, experimental union with the Lord of life and glory.

But wherever this vital union is brought about, it is a union of that nature which never can be broken--"Of him are you in Christ Jesus." See how the Holy Spirit, by the pen of Paul, ascribes the whole to God; nothing is given to the creature to do; not the weight of a straw is laid upon the back of freewill. God does it altogether. In eternity, God ordained and gave the everlasting union; and in time, by a work of grace, he cut the scion off the old stock, brought it in close apposition to the new, bound them round together, that they may never more be separated, by the cords of faith and the cement of love; and in time brought about also that close coalescing, that vital junction between the two, which causes the sap to flow freely into their souls, and make them abundant in every good word and work.

II. The execution of that eternal purpose, in what Christ is made unto this peculiar people--"wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption."

We pass on to consider what flows out of this eternal, and this time-union. Observe again--we cannot observe it too often--how the whole of salvation is ascribed to the Lord; how completely the creature is set aside; how entirely man's wisdom, and man's exertions, and man's righteousness are put into the background; and how the Lord of grace and glory reigns triumphant. The apostle had ascribed the eternal and vital union, which the people of Christ have with their Head wholly to the purpose, and wholly to the execution of the Father; and now what Christ is to his people, he also ascribes wholly and solely to the same almighty and merciful God.

"Who of God"--observe, "of God"--that is first, by the eternal purpose and secret determination of Jehovah; and secondly, by the fulfillment of his eternal counsels, in the execution of his own almighty appointment--who thus of God "is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption." The "us" here are the same persons as the "you." There is no distinction between the two. The apostle sometimes addresses the church of God as distinct from himself, and he sometimes addresses the church of God as one with himself. But whether he uses we or you the persons meant are the same--the saints of God, the elect unto eternal life.

Now, to these, and to these only, Christ Jesus is of God made "wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption." The Lord knows the needs of his people. He knew in eternity what they would need in time. The fall did not take God unawares. It was not an interruption to his eternal purposes. It was not an unexpected hindrance, which God never foresaw, never provided for. God decreed it by his own permissive decree. There are active decrees, and there are permissive decrees. There are good things which God decrees, and which he himself performs--and there are evils which God decrees, that out of them good might come. But God does not put his hands to the execution of those evils. He decrees to permit them, not himself to do them; for God is not, and never can be the author of sin. We must make this distinction, or we shall impute to God that which he hates. At the same time, we must admit, that God decrees permissively, or the whole chain of events would be thrown into a mass of confusion. The distinction is beautifully set forth in what Peter said to those that crucified the Lord--"Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God"--there is the decree--"you have taken, and by wicked hands"--there is the agency of man--"have crucified and slain" Ac 2:23

The Lord, then, foresaw what his people would be, and foreseeing what his people would be--how completely ignorant, how deeply dyed in guilt, how awfully depraved, how entirely destroyed--he took care to provide a remedy beforehand. He set up, in his own eternal counsels, the God-man Mediator, that he might be, in his fullness, all that they should need in time, and enjoy in eternity. For instance–

1. He saw that they would be sunk into utter FOLLY--that all the WISDOM of man would be foolishness with God. "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" God saw that when man fell from original righteousness, he fell from all wisdom, and became a fool, mistaking good for evil and evil for good, sweet for bitter and bitter for sweet, light for darkness and darkness for light. God knew that he would stumble upon the dark mountains, far away from peace and righteousness. Therefore, knowing how folly would be bound up in the hearts of his elect children, he beforehand appointed Jesus to be their wisdom.

Now, I think, with respect to these four things which the Lord of life and glory is said to be to his people, we may view them, first, as imputed, and secondly, as imparted. Some who hold imputed righteousness, object to imputed wisdom, imputed sanctification, and imputed redemption. But why should we stand aghast, as though this would lead us into the depths of Antinomian licentiousness? If we take care to state that there is imparted wisdom, as well as imputed wisdom; imparted sanctification, as well as imputed sanctification--imparted redemption, as well as imputed redemption; if we do not by imputation destroy impartation--I do not see why we should shrink from imputed wisdom more than from imputed righteousness. Paul says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." Eph 1:3 Is not wisdom a spiritual blessing? and if this be "in heavenly places in Christ," is it not a blessing by imputation? For what am I by nature? A fool--all my wisdom, outside of Christ, is nothing but the height of foolishness, and all my knowledge nothing but the depth of ignorance. Can I then ever be considered as wise? I can, if Christ is made wisdom to me. If I have a standing in Christ, then I have a standing in all that Christ is to me. Is Christ wise? the only wise God? infinitely wise? unerringly wise? Is he Wisdom itself, Wisdom in the abstract, set forth by that title in the 8th of Proverbs?

Then if I have a standing in him, a living union with him, I am wise in him, because his wisdom is mine. Can you find anything in the stem that is not in the branches? Penetrate the branch--does not sap ooze and flow forth? Penetrate the stem--does not sap flow forth too? Take your microscope--examine both minutely. Is not the sap in the stem and the sap in the branch identical? Is it not so with respect to Christ and his people? Have they an eternal standing in him? Have they a vital union with him? Is he wise? Then they are wise. Not indeed wise as he is, originally, eternally, intrinsically, infinitely--but wise because he of God is made unto them wisdom.

But in what sense is Christ thus made "wisdom?" Not as the second Person in the glorious Godhead, the eternal "Son of the Father, in truth and love." As a Person in the Godhead, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the blessed Spirit, he could not be made. It is therefore by virtue of the eternal covenant whereby he became a glorious Mediator, the Bridegroom of the Bride, the Head of the church, and in due time by actual assumption of the flesh and blood of the children, Immanuel, God with us. In this way, the Lord Jesus Christ is made unto his people wisdom, and they are thus accounted wise before God, as having a covenant standing in Christ.

Now, how this sets all the Lord's people on a level! Some of them are educated, others uneducated--some can scarcely, perhaps, read the letters in the Bible; others have had instruction in the arts and sciences--some have had deep spiritual teachings, and the teachings of others have been more shallow. But do they not all stand on one level when we view them as wise in Christ? Are not all distinctions at once abrogated? Does not the wise man naturally come to be a fool? Does not the fool naturally come to be wise? Do not all the family of God who have a standing in Jesus, by having Christ's wisdom imputed to them, stand upon the same level--wise in Christ--because they are one in Christ?

But besides this wisdom by imputation, there is also wisdom by impartation. Without imparted wisdom, we have no manifested saving interest in imputed wisdom. Imparted wisdom is by the Holy Spirit making the soul wise unto salvation--and his first step in making the soul wise unto salvation is to convince it of its folly. The wisdom of the world is foolishness with God, and the wisdom of God is foolishness with the world. There must then be a complete reversal– a turning of things upside down--before we can be brought into a state to have wisdom divinely imparted. But when we are brought into that spot where, I am convinced, the Lord will bring all his people, that left to ourselves we are utter fools--that we have no wisdom whatever to direct our feet--that we are blind, ignorant, weak, helpless, and utterly unable to find our way to the city--when by painful experience we stumble upon the dark mountains, and grope for the wall like the blind, and grope as if we had no eyes, then we value the least spark of divine wisdom communicated and dropped into our souls from those lips into which grace was poured.

We must know the value of the gem before we can really prize it. When diamonds were first discovered in Brazil, nobody knew that they were diamonds. They were handed about as pretty, shining pebbles. But as soon it was discovered they were diamonds, they were eagerly sought, and their value rose a thousandfold. So spiritually--until we are brought in our souls to prize the teachings of God and the communications of divine wisdom--until we can distinguish between the pebble of man's teaching and the diamond of divine illumination--we shall neglect, we shall despise, we shall not value divine wisdom. But when we are brought to see and feel how, in every instance, we have erred when left to ourselves; what mistakes we have made; what backslidings we have been guilty of; what foolish things we have said, and what worse than foolish things we have done--when we see folly bound up in our hearts, and stamped upon every word and action, then how we prize any portion of that wisdom which makes wise unto salvation! and how at times we long for the droppings in of that dew and power into our souls, which shed abroad a sweet and unctuous light and lead the soul unto Jesus, to find peace in him!

2. But Jesus is also made unto us RIGHTEOUSNESS. Does not this imply that we are unrighteousness? For is not all that Jesus is, in exact proportion to our needs? So far as we are God's people, we find all our needs precisely met by him. Can we find a single spot into which a child of God can sink, to which some character of the Lord of life and glory is not adapted? Does he sink down as a fool before God? Does he feel such ignorance that he scarcely knows what he is, or where he is? Are the scriptures hidden from his understanding, his experience buried in darkness, and he himself in his own eyes, the worst of fools? How suitable, that Jesus, the Son of God, should be made unto him wisdom!

Is he made to feel himself a polluted wretch, and brought painfully to know that all his righteousnesses are but filthy rags? that his iniquities, like the wind have taken him away? that he has not by nature one grain of that which is pleasing in the sight of God? that all his motives, all his thoughts, all his desires all his actions, all his words, bear upon them, bear in them, the deep-grained dye of guilt? Does he shrink into self-abasement at the sight? Does he loathe himself in dust and ashes? Does he feel that he is only fit to be trampled into hell as a polluted worm? When brought here, how suitable, how precious, is it to see that Jesus is made unto him righteousness!

Observe the word. It does not say, that the obedience of Jesus is made righteousness; but it says, that Jesus himself is made righteousness. It is perfectly true that the obedience of Christ to the law is the justifying righteousness of those who believe in his name; "for by one offering he has perfected forever those who are sanctified," and "by one man's obedience many are made righteous." But besides that, the Lord himself is their righteousness. Is not this the sure declaration of holy writ? "In him shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory." "This is the name whereby he shall be called, the Lord our Righteousness." What a sweet view does this give of Jesus!

We look sometimes at Christ's righteousness as distinct from Christ. Shall I use a figure? We look at the garment as distinct from the Maker and Wearer of the garment. We look at the righteousness so much, that we scarcely look at him who wrought out that righteousness. Now, we must not separate Jesus from his righteousness. We must not look merely at the garment, the imputed robe, and forget him who wrought it out, who puts it on, and who keeps it to this day in firm possession. But when we can see, that not only the obedience of Christ, but Christ himself--all that Jesus is--all that Jesus has, as the head of his church, as the risen Mediator, as the great High Priest over the house of God--when we can see that this God-man, Immanuel, is made unto his people righteousness, how it expands the prospect! Then we look, not merely at the robe itself, beautiful, lovely, and glorious; we look farther--we look at him who made it. We do not look merely at the robe as distinct from him. We look at him who made that robe what it is– Jesus, who ever lives at the right hand of the Father to make intercession for us.

This, to my mind, is a sweet view. If I sink down into creature sinfulness, shame, and guilt, and see Jesus made of God unto me righteousness, what need I more? Has God made him so? Who can unmake him so? Has God made the Son of his love righteousness to my soul, that I may stand in him without spot, speck, or blemish? Who is to alter it? Can sin alter it? That is atoned for. Can the devil alter it? He is chained down unto the judgment of the great day. Can the world alter it? They cannot stretch forth their finger to touch one thread of that robe, to touch one lineament of the Redeemer's countenance. If he is made unto me righteousness, what more do I need? If I can find a shield, a shelter, and a refuge in him as my righteousness, what more can I need to preserve me from the charge of men or devils?

But there is the impartation of righteousness, as well as the imputation of it; and the impartation of it is the communication of a divine nature to the soul. Not merely the sheltering of the soul from the wrath to come by a robe cast around it, and by the interposition of the Redeemer's glorious Person, but also the breathing of God's image, the raising up of a new creature, and the stamping of Christ's likeness on the heart.

3. We pass on to another thing that Christ is made to his people- that is, SANCTIFICATION. What am I? What are you? Filthy, polluted, defiled; are we not? Do not some of us, more or less, daily feel altogether as an unclean thing? Is not every thought of our heart altogether vile? Does any holiness, any spirituality, any heavenly-mindedness, any purity, any resemblance to the divine image dwell in our hearts by nature? Not a grain, not an atom. How then can I, a polluted sinner, ever see the face of a holy God? How can I, a worm of earth, corrupted within and without by indwelling and committed sin, ever hope to see a holy God without shrinking into destruction?

I cannot see him, except so far as the Lord of life and glory is made sanctification to me. Why should men shrink so at imputed sanctification? Why should not Christ's holiness be imputed to his people as well as Christ's righteousness? Why should they not stand sanctified in him, as well as justified? Why not? Is there anything in Jesus, as God-man Mediator, which he has not for his people? Has he any perfection, any attribute, any gift, any blessing, which is not for their use? Did he not sanctify himself that they might be sanctified by the truth? Is he not the holy Lamb of God, that they might be "holy, and without blame before him in love?" What is my holiness, even such as God may be pleased to impart to me? Is it not, to say the least, scanty? Is it not, to say the least, but little in measure? But when we view the pure and spotless holiness of Jesus imputed to his people, and view them holy in him, pure in him, without spot in him, how it does away with all the wrinkles of the creature, and makes them stand holy and spotless before God.

But there is not only imputed sanctification, there is also imparted sanctification. Have I one grain of holiness in myself? Not one. Can all the men in the world, by all their united exertions, raise up a grain of spiritual holiness in their hearts? Not an atom, with all their efforts. If all the preachers in the world were to unite together for the purpose of working a grain of holiness in one man's soul, they might strive to all eternity--they could no more by their preaching create holiness, than by their preaching they could create a lump of gold. But because, by a gracious act of God the Father, Jesus is made unto his people sanctification, he imparts a measure of his own holiness to them. He works in them to will and to do of his own good pleasure; he sends the Holy Spirit, to raise up holy desires--in a word, he communicates a nature perfectly holy, which therefore loves holiness and has communion with a holy God--a heavenly, spiritual, and divine nature, which bathes in eternal things as its element, and enjoys spiritual things as sweet and precious. It may indeed be small in measure; and he that has it is often exercised and troubled because he has so little of it; yet he has enough just to know what it is.

Has not your soul, though you feel to be a defiled wretch, though every iniquity is at times working in your heart, though every worm of obscenity and corruption is too often trailing its filthy slime upon your carnal mind--has it not felt, does it not sometimes feel, a measure of holiness Godwards? Do you never feel a breathing forth of your soul into the bosom of a holy God? Heavenly desires--pure affections--singleness of eye--simplicity of purpose--a heart that longs to have the mind, image, and likeness of Jesus stamped upon it--this is a holiness such as the Lord of life and glory imparts out of his fullness to his poor and needy family.

4. But lastly, he is made of God unto them REDEMPTION. Now, whatever Jesus is to his people, he is to them precisely according to their needs. Are they fools? He is their wisdom. Are they condemned? He is their righteousness. Are they unholy? He is their sanctification. Are they captives and prisoners, who have sold themselves under sin, and become slaves to Satan? He is made unto them redemption. His redemption is imputed to them, is put to their account, is considered as theirs. When Jesus died upon the cross, he purchased a peculiar people. What he did then, and what he did there, is put to their account. The debt that he paid is crossed out of the books. The sum that he laid down is transferred to their account. Thus he is made unto them redemption.

But besides that, there is imparted redemption, as well as imputed redemption. What do I know of imputed redemption unless I know something of imparted redemption? But what can I know of imparted redemption, unless I have known what it is to be a captive, in bondage, in hard chains, oppressed by cruel slavery, unable to deliver myself, chained like a galley-slave to the galling oar, bound down with fetters, so that I cannot release myself? If I never have known that, how can I desire to know Jesus Christ as of God made unto me redemption? But if I catch a sight of Christ, as made unto me redemption, that communicates a gracious feeling of redemption by impartation. No sooner does the eye of faith catch what Jesus is made unto his people, than what he is to his people comes instantaneously into their heart.

What he is to them, he is by imputation; and when they see what he is by imputation, then they enjoy it by impartation. Do I see redemption? Do I feel it, count it my own, and enjoy it? Then what does it do for me? Does it not break, in a measure, the chain of slavery? Does it not bring me out of captivity? Does it not, so long as it lasts, subdue my lusts, and overcome my pride? Does it not shatter the galling fetters of bondage? Does not faith in Christ as my redemption, communicate a measure of that redemption to my spirit? It does! This is the connecting link between imputation and impartation.

God has made Christ all these to his people. He has set him up as their eternal Head, made him the Bridegroom of their souls, that out of his fullness they may all receive. Then, just in proportion as they learn these two lessons--what they are, and what he is--they receive him into their hearts and they see actually what he is to them in the purpose of God. Am I a fool? Do I feel it and know it? Have I had painful experience of it, so that all my creature wisdom is turned into one mass of foolishness? Do I catch by the eye of faith a view of the risen Mediator, "Immanuel, God with us," and see what he is made of God to us? The moment my eye sees him as "wisdom," that moment a measure of divine wisdom flows into my conscience.

Am I polluted and defiled throughout? Have I no righteousness of my own? Is all my obedience imperfect? Am I unable to fulfill the requirements of God's holy law? If once I catch by the eye of faith this glorious truth, through him who is the truth, that Jesus Christ is of God made unto me "righteousness"--the moment I see that by the eye of faith, that moment a measure of imparted righteousness flows into my heart?

Am I an unholy, depraved, filthy wretch? Does corruption work in my heart? The moment I catch by the eye of faith Jesus made unto me of God "sanctification," that moment a measure of sanctification comes into my heart, drawing up holy affections, casting out the love of the world, curbing my reigning lusts, and bringing my soul into submission at his footstool. Am I a poor captive, entangled by Satan, by the world, and my own evil heart?

The moment that I catch this glorious view, that Jesus Christ at the right hand of the Father is made unto me "redemption"--if I can believe that he is made such for me, that I have a standing in him, and a union with him, so that he is my redemption--that moment a measure of deliverance comes into my soul, and redemption imputed becomes redemption imparted; the soul receives then internally what Christ has done externally. In a word, when Christ is received as "wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption," he becomes all these in vital manifestation.

Now, do you see the steps? Just observe the connecting links. What do we learn first? We learn, first of all, what we are by nature. That is the first thing; there is no overstepping that. Then, just in proportion as we learn what we are by nature, and the Lord the Spirit unfolds the mysteries of the gospel to our understanding, and brings a sweet revelation of them into our conscience, do we see and feel what Jesus is made unto his people--and we see and feel that he has everything our souls need--that we have not a single necessity that there is not ample provision made for in the gospel--not a need unsupplied--not a malady without a remedy--not a sinking without a corresponding rising. But what is the effect of it? Why, no sooner is this seen, than a measure of it is communicated to the heart.

First, I must see what I am;

secondly, I must see what Christ is;

thirdly, I must feel that Christ is all this to me.

And when I see what I am, and see what Christ is, and then feel a measure of what Christ is for my soul, then Christ becomes to me inwardly what he is outwardly. He becomes in my heart what he is revealed in the word of truth; and this is the only way whereby we can have a vital and manifest union with him.

III. THE FINAL PURPOSE AND GRAND RESULT OF GOD'S COUNSEL, AND OF ITS EXECUTION. This leads me to the grand crowning point– "According as it is written, He that glories, let him glory in the Lord." Man may glory. Yes--God has determined that man shall glory. But in what, and in whom? In himself? No; God has forever trampled man's glory under foot. He shall glory, but he shall never glory in SELF; for if he glories in himself, he never will come where God is. God's purpose is to stain the pride of human glory.

"He that glories"--yes, we may glory; we may have a song of triumph; if the Lord does but tune our hearts to sweet melody, we may speak in accents of glory and thanksgiving--"he that glories, let him glory in the Lord." Look at the words--"Glory in the Lord." Not glory in himself, whatever he is--however deep his experience, however great his abilities, however consistent his conduct. No creature shall ever, in the sight of God, glory in itself; but we may glory in the Lord as of God made unto us all that he has determined he shall be.

O what a sweet losing of one's self there is in Christ! See how he has raised up Adam's fallen progeny! See how he has given the elect a standing in Christ which they never had in their fallen progenitor! Adam could glory. Adam had natural wisdom, creature righteousness, native strength, and created innocency. He might glory in these. Just as a horse can, without sin or shame, curve his proud neck, and glory in his strength when he paws in the valley, as Job speaks--so Adam, in his native innocency, could glory in what God had made him. But when Adam fell to the very depths of creature depravity, all his glory was forever lost--the pride of the creature was forever stained.

But God has determined that men may glory still--only he has changed the object of that glory, and put that glory upon, and centered that glory in his only-begotten Son. He turns the eyes of his poor needy family to look to him for salvation, and to glory in him--for "in him shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory."

I am sure, from the little I have felt (and it is but a little), there never can be any feeling so sweet as to glory in the Lord alone. Glory in my wisdom! Why, if I were to do so, there is a worm at the very bud of that glory. There is misery in the very feeling of self-esteem. Glory in anything I am! It is nothing but "vanity and vexation of spirit." But if I lose myself, trample myself under foot--cease from my own glory, strength, and wisdom--lose it all, put it all aside, despise it as worth nothing, and look unto him who "of God is made wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption" to his people--I may glory then, and my glory shall be this--may it be my glory in time, and may it be my and your glory in eternity--to glory in the Lord--to glory in his wisdom, in his righteousness, in his sanctification, in his redemption--to glory in him for what he is in himself, and glory in him for what he is to his people. This is a sweet absorption of the creature into the Lord of life and glory. This is indeed taking off the crown of human pride, and setting it upon the head of him who alone is worthy to wear it.

This is indeed a sweet loss; to lose our own wisdom and obtain divine wisdom; lose all that the flesh can boast of, and the flesh can rejoice in--and find it all again heightened, shall I say?--no, not heightened, for it is of a totally distinct nature--find it all of different and more glorious kind in the Lord Jesus, as of God made unto us "wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption."

THE BATTLE IS THE LORD's


Preached at Providence Chapel, London, on Tuesday, July 29, 1851, by J. C. Philpot

"O our God, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee."
(2 Chronicles 20:12)

It is one thing to read the Bible as a history, and another to read it as a mystery. The mere narration of facts in the Old Testament is interesting and instructive. How pathetic is the history of Joseph! How stirring is the combat of David with Goliath! How touching the lamentations of David over Absalom! How full of interest the whole life of Elijah! Read in the mere letter, there is in these ancient records everything to inform the mind and touch the heart; and many have wept over the pathetic narratives of the Bible who have never wept over their sins.

But when we penetrate through the shell into the kernel; when we read the Bible with a spiritual eye, and God is pleased to communicate a measure of faith which, as the Apostle says, is mixed with the word, and so profits the soul (Heb. 4:2); how different then are the Scriptures of truth! When we can appropriate the promises laid up in them, read our character depicted in them, feel their sweetness, and have the soul bedewed with the savor and unction that is diffused all through them, then the Scriptures are something far better than merely instructive or interesting. The sacred truth of God, as revealed in the Scriptures, reaches the heart, melts the soul, softens the spirit, touches the conscience, and brings, as a divine power accompanies it, blessed feelings and heavenly sensations into the bosom.

And in this way alone are the Scriptures profitably read. Thus read, the Bible becomes a new book, perused as it were with new eyes, and felt as with a new heart. Look, for instance, at the narrative of incidents contained in this chapter (2 Chron. 20). Read in the mere letter there is something very instructive in it; but when we penetrate beneath the surface of the letter, and read it spiritually, with a special eye to the church of God, it is invested with a new character, and upon it is shed a holy and blessed light.

Before, however, we enter upon the spiritual meaning of the text, let us look at a few of the incidents connected with it.

Jehoshaphat, the godly king of Judah, was, we read, attacked by a numerous company of enemies, and these of a race and from a quarter quite unexpected. They were not such as formerly had attacked them, Canaanites or Philistines, Egyptians or Ethiopians, nor the severed tribes of Israel. But they were those who had a kind of blood alliance with them. They were the children of Moab, and the children of Ammon, who, you will recollect were the illegitimate children of Lot by his incestuous connection with his two daughters. They had thus an illegitimate relationship, a spurious, half-blood alliance with the people of Judah. We shall, with God's blessing, see by and by how this bears upon the spiritual meaning.

Judah at this time was very weak. She had been brought low for her iniquities. And when this "great company" came against her, she had no strength, no army, no forces left to oppose them. Under these circumstances, what did the godly king of Judah as her head and leader? He "set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah." All human hopes, all creature help were utterly in vain; and therefore, as their only resource, they came to the Lord, who had rescued and delivered them again and again. The Lord heard their cry, and smote their enemies with confusion and destruction. I need not enter into further particulars, but will proceed at once to our text—"O our God, will You not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that comes against us; neither do we know what to do—but our eyes are upon You."

With God's blessing, in looking at these words, I shall consider–
First, What this "great company" spiritually represents.
Secondly, How the children of God have "no might against this great company, neither know they what to do."
Thirdly, How under these circumstances they cry to the Lord, "Will You not judge them?"
Lastly, The fixed posture of their souls—"Our eyes are upon You."


I. What this "great company" spiritually represents. This "great company" of hostile invaders was, as we before remarked, indirectly and illegitimately connected with them. They were not heathen idolaters, alien in race and language, but the same blood partly ran in their veins. An illegitimate flesh and blood alliance subsisted between the invaders and the invaded. View that circumstance spiritually. What foes chiefly invade our peace? Those that have a flesh and blood alliance with us. The enemies, then, that we have most reason to fear are those which claim relationship with our fallen nature. For instance,

1. There is a "great company" of TEMPTATIONS; for they come for the most part, not singly, but in troops. One temptation usually makes way for another. A single temptation resembles a burglar attempting to break into a house. The most bold, or the most dexterous comes first, cuts through the shutter, lifts up the window, enters the house, and then admits the rest; so one temptation opens a way for the entrance of more. Let a man only dally with temptation; let him only entertain one lust, and give it lodging in his bosom; let him only be allured by, and consent to, one powerful besetting sin, that one temptation will open a way for a whole troop of temptations to come and take possession of his heart.

But these temptations are, like the Moabites and Ammonites, our blood relatives. Illegitimate, indeed, and incestuous is their birth, for Satan is their father and sin their mother; but they have in us a nature akin to them. The same blood runs in their and our veins. It is this unhallowed, ungodly affinity which gives temptation such wondrous power. When temptation knocks at the door, there is a half-sister, a traitress to the very bone, waiting in the hall to open it and let him in. Temptation is fearful only as it is suitable. If there were nothing in our heart in alliance with evil; if we could reject it instantaneously, and say, "Get away from me!" if we could deal with temptation as the blessed Lord dealt with it, when Peter said, "Be it far from You!" if we could say to every temptation as the Lord then said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan!" temptation would lose its power, it would drop from us as the viper from the hand of Paul, when he shook it into the fire, and felt no harm. But, alas! there is that in our heart which has a blood alliance with it, which listens to it, parleys with it, and would, but for the grace of God, hug its neck and embrace it.

2. But there is also a "great company" of AFFLICTIONS. For as with temptation, so affliction rarely comes alone. Look at Job's case. How affliction came after affliction, as messenger after messenger came with evil tidings! You will find that afflictions of body often bring affliction of mind, and that affliction in circumstances often produces rebellion, peevishness, and discontent. Thus we have to bear the load, not merely of natural, but also of spiritual trouble; one, as it were, helping on and giving force, weight and power to the other. A concurrence of trials is so frequent, that it is a common saying, "afflictions seldom come single." And if this be the case with men generally, much more so is it with the people of God. "Woe is me now," cried Baruch, "for the Lord has added grief to my sorrow" (Jer. 45:3). "You have afflicted me with all Your waves," complained Heman (Psalm. 88:7). This 'combination of troubles' much increases their weight. If they came alone, it seems as though there would be strength to bear them; but to have affliction after affliction, and when one has struck, as it were, the soul down, then for another to strike the dying dead—this, this it is that gives such poignancy, weight and acuteness to the trials of the Lord's family.

3. But, again, what a company there is of LUSTS! If we look at the evils of our nature, we shall find that they too are not single. To examine our heart is something like examining by the microscope a drop of ditch-water; the more minutely it is looked into, the more hideous forms appear. All these strange monsters, too, are in constant motion, devouring or devoured; and, as more powerful lenses are put on the microscope, more and more loathsome creatures emerge into view until eye and heart sicken at the sight. Such is our heart. Superficially viewed, passably fair; but examined by the spiritual microscope, hideous forms of every shape and size appear; lusts and desires in unceasing movement, devouring each other, and yet undiminished; and each successive examination bringing new monsters to light. O what a company of lusts! how one seems to introduce and make way for the other! and how one, as among the insect tribe, is the father of a million!

4. And what a company at times there is of doubts, fears, and DISTRESSING APPREHENSIONS! What an alliance, too, not only with our carnal mind, but with one another! "The children of Moab, and the children of Ammon, and with them other beside the Ammonites." And all against Judah. Temptation comes first; with temptation comes the stirring up of lusts; and with the stirring up of lusts comes a whole troop of doubts and fears arising from guilt laid upon the conscience. Deer justly says, "Sin engenders doubt." It is the evil of the heart continually manifesting itself that gives such strength to unbelief, and adds such force to those doubts and fears which often come as a great armed company against the soul. A guilty conscience has a strong alliance with doubts and fears, and this indeed makes them so formidable.

5. What a company of PROFESSORS also are arrayed against a child of God! How they are all watching for his halting! How ready to magnify his infirmities! how eager to catch up any slip that he may make, or anything he may say or do inconsistent. One hounds on another. "Report it," say they, "and we will report it." Thus they hunt in packs; and many who have never tasted the bread of life, nor fed on the flesh of Christ, have had a sweet meal upon the mangled limbs of a child of God.

It was not the heathen that attacked Judah, but the Moabites and Ammonites; a spurious blood, but indirectly allied. So it is not the profane, but the professing world, a spurious race, who attack the living family. And surely they are "a great company," unmindful, like the children of Ammon, of all former benefits (ver. 10), and bent only on Judah's destruction.

Now all these "great companies" come against the children of God at some time or other of their spiritual life. It is true that all may not come at once; but at one time or other most of the children of God have to fight against them all; a "great company" of afflictions, of temptations, of lusts, of doubts and fears, or professors, who hate the truth of God which they see in them.


II. How the children of God have "no might against this great company, neither do they know what to do." And what can they do? They are in the same plight and spot spiritually in which Jehoshaphat and the children of Judah were literally and naturally.

1. Jehoshaphat speaks for himself and his people—"We have no might against this great company." We have no weapons, no power of resistance; we cannot meet them hand to hand, or foot to foot; they are too many and too mighty for us; we have no power whatever to withstand or resist them. This every true Christian is taught and brought more or less to feel. None but Christians really feel it, because others have their weapons. But what makes a living man powerless is this—he knows there is no use to fight flesh with flesh; that is, by weapons of our own contrivance, or our own forging. A pharisee can fight in his own strength and righteousness; he can make his vows and promises, form his resolutions, and combat hand to hand against this "great company." But a Christian is stripped of his carnal weapons. To afflictions—a natural man can oppose stoical endurance; to temptation—a hardened conscience; to doubts—impenitence, or self-righteousness; to attacks from men—blow for blow. But all these weapons have dropped from a Christian's hand; God must fight his battles, for he cannot. He has therefore no power, nor wisdom, nor strength, nor might against this "great company," for his weapons are not carnal, but spiritual; so that if he fights, it must be in the strength of the Lord, and the power of His might.

Now when the Lord denies His gracious presence; when He does not come into the soul in any measure of divine power and grace; when He leaves us, as He often leaves us, to prove our own strength by feeling utter weakness—then we come into this experience, "We have no might against this great company."

In what a wonderful way was the Lord pleased to teach Paul this great lesson! He was caught up to the third heaven; there he saw and heard things unspeakable; his soul was indulged with the greatest revelations perhaps ever given to any mortal. He comes down from heaven to earth. And then what takes place? He has a messenger of Satan, a thorn in the flesh to buffet him. Thus he falls, as it were, from the heights of heaven down to the very gates of hell. He leaves the company of God and angels, and the presence of the glorified spirits above, and comes down to be buffeted and plagued, harassed and beaten about by Satan. O how mysterious was this dealing of God! How the Apostle himself was unable to enter into this mystery, that one recently so highly favored should now be so deserted; that one upon whom the Lord had bestowed such blessings should now be left in the hands of Satan! But he learned afterwards why he had such an experience. The Lord said to him, "My grace is sufficient for you; for My strength is made perfect in weakness."

But how could the Apostle have learned this weakness but by soul experience? Was it not necessary for him to be buffeted by Satan, to be beaten and roughly handled by the Prince of darkness, and to have this thorn in the flesh continually puncturing and lacerating his soul in order to learn it in and for himself? And can you tell me any other way whereby we can learn the same lesson? Can we learn it from the Bible? from books? from ministers? or the experience of others? We may learn the 'theory'. The 'experience' must be learned in another school; and that is the school of painful and personal experience. The Lord, to convince us then of our weakness and to make His strength perfect in that weakness, allows in His providence this "great company" to come against us; and thus teaches us that we have no might, that we cannot lift up a finger, that we have no weapons to fight with.

Now look at your experience, you that have any, and see when this "great company" came against you, whether you had any strength of your own. What could you do with temptation when it came in a powerful way? Could you master it? Could you throw up a bank against it, and say, "Thus far shall you come, and no further; and here your proud waves shall be stayed"? Could you say to any one temptation, "Get behind my back; you shall not tempt me"? O when temptation creeps in like a serpent into the carnal mind, it winds its secret way, and coils round the heart. As the boa-constrictor is said to embrace its victim, twining his coil around it, and crushing every bone without any previous warning, so does temptation often seize us suddenly in its powerful embrace. Have we in ourselves any more power to extricate our flesh from its slimy folds than the poor animal has from the coils of the boa constrictor?

So with the corruptions and lusts of our fallen nature. Can you always master them? Can you seize these serpents by the neck and wring off their heads?

The doubts and fears and distressing apprehensions that come into your soul when guilt lies hard and heavy upon your conscience, can you say, "Begone, doubts and fears; I will have none of you; you shall not touch me"? You might as well, when the storm came down this morning, have said, "Storm, cease to fall;" as say, when doubt and fear and apprehensions of God's anger come down upon your soul, "Hailstones, beat upon me no more."

And what can you do against afflictions—afflictions in body, in family, or in circumstances? Can you bear them with a patient resignation, and say, "I can endure anything or everything"? Who can bear one affliction in his own strength? Can you bear your little finger to ache? Can you bear a sharp toothache, or a night's ear-ache? Can you bear to see your dear child suffer? Can you endure the frowning face of God in providence? Are you never chafed? Is not your mind cast down, and does not the rebellious wave sometimes flow over your bosom?

When professors speak against you, and cast out your name as evil, can you always bear it? Can you put your mouth in the dust? When one cheek is smitten, can you always turn the other? O you must be made of different material from Adam's fallen race; you cannot have the same heart that beats in the bosom of him that speaks to you, if you can always be patient and resigned; always believe, and hope, and love; always be calm and unruffled; are never tempted, never slip, and never backslide. Surely, surely, you are not yet perfect in the flesh, nor out of the reach of gunshot.

2. "Neither do we know what to do." That seems worse still. Know not what to do! To be in such perplexity as not to know how to act! If a man were to say, "I am very weak, but I have a plan in my head which I am sure will succeed; or, although I cannot do the thing myself, yet I have a friend that can;" such a person we should not consider without resource of some kind. He could not with truth say, "I know not what to do." To have no strength is to be very low; but to have no wisdom is to be lower still.

Now when a "great company" comes against you, do you always or often know "what to do"? Is there a 'treasury of wisdom' in your heart? Can you take inward counsel, and say, "I see how I can manage this; I can easily overcome that; I have a plan for this difficulty, and a contrivance for that annoying circumstance. It does not therefore much matter what trial comes, I know exactly how to meet it"? If you are there, you are not in the experience of Jehoshaphat, and the people for whom he was interceding with the Lord. He was compelled to confess for himself and them what many a poor child of God has said in substance, if not in word, "We know not what to do!" We are fairly brought to our wits' end, and are altogether baffled and confounded.

Apply this experimentally to your own case. When afflictions come, do you know what to do? You may have heavy losses in providence. Can you always meet the trial with calmness and resignation, and say, "Well, to be sure, it is rather a loss, but then it is not significant"? A man who can talk so, does not know much about the matter. Apathy is not submission, though one of that spurious brood that often walk abroad under Christian surnames. This is the trying point, not to "know what to do"; not to see what way to take, nor be able by any contrivances of our own skill or wisdom to meet the difficulty.

Again, when your lusts and passions are stirred up—and I suppose sometimes they move, they do not always lie calm and dead in your soul—you find now and then a little working of the old Adam nature; sin is not always taking its nap, nor torpid like a snake in winter. I suppose that now and then there is something not altogether spiritual or gracious, some sensual desire, some pride, some base imagination at work in your carnal mind. O be assured there is a veil of unbelief on your heart if you do not see, and your conscience is not very tender if you do not feel it. But when your old Adam nature is stirred up, do you know what to do? "O, yes," you say, "I do! I am at no loss or standstill whatever. Directly as I find sin begin to stir, I make a firm resolution that I will not be overcome by it. I never give way to pride, covetousness, worldly-mindedness, evil tempers, or any of the works of the flesh."

I really cannot believe you. You may make resolutions; but how long or how often do you keep them? Is it not as long as a little child keeps its resolutions to be good? When the parent is about to punish it, O what resolutions it makes! The tears run down its little cheeks; it will promise almost anything to avoid punishment—"I will never do it again, I will never do it again; I will be so good, so good." How long? how long? Perhaps not half-an-hour. And thus our resolutions, if we make them, are not much better than the promises of a child. I have long given over making any. But if we are so foolish as to make resolutions, how long will they last? Just as long as a feather lies quiet upon the roof of a house; it only waits for the first puff of wind, and then it is gone. And so our resolutions are like feathers; the first puff blows them to the winds.

And how can you manage your doubts and fears? Do you take them by the neck and strangle them? Can you put your hand down into your heart and cast them out like a nest of vipers? You will be stung in the attempt!

The real cry of the soul is, "We know not what to do!" In times past we thought we knew what to do; we were tolerably strong, we would pray, would read God's Word, would keep our eyes and ears and tongues, would set a guard over the movements of the heart, and perhaps to a certain extent we succeeded. But it was because we knew little of this "great company." It was a little company, perhaps; and when it was only a little company, we might know what to do; but when this "great company" came, it put the soul to its wits' end, and brought forth the exclamation, "We do not know what to do!"

Now, until the soul is more or less brought here, it knows very little of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. We must be brought into trying places to know anything of God. I have often thought of poor McKenzie's words, and striking words they were, in his last illness. When the blood was gushing from his mouth, he said, "It is here we need a God!" Aye, it is here we need a God; but very often, too often, we do not need a God. Am I going too far when I say that nine-tenths of our time, perhaps, we can do without a God? Take this day. You have been engaged in your business, in your lawful occupations. Have you not been doing the greater part of this day perhaps without God? Have you in many hours, many quarter-hours, many minutes this day, really felt your need of a God, really needed God; feeling in that state and case that you needed a present God, a God to help, a God to bless, a God to appear, a God to come down into your soul? I do not mean that there has been no aching void, no looking upward, no secret prayer or supplication; but not such extreme desires and earnest cries as if you needed Him in a special manner. Base creatures are we with all our profession, that we can do so much and so often without a present God; that we keep Him, so to speak at a distance; pay him compliments, and yet can do for the most part so much without Him.

But when brought into hopeless circumstances, then it is we begin to need a God, and such a God as is the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, such a God as alone can bless and comfort the soul.


III. How under these circumstances they cry to the Lord, "Will You not judge them?" Now under these circumstances does Jehoshaphat plead with God. And how tenderly and affectionately does he plead! If you will read what precedes our text, you will see how he pleads with God, and chiefly on three grounds. He pleads with Him first on the ground of His power and might—"Is there not all power with You?" He pleads with Him secondly on the ground of His covenant—"Are not You our God?" He pleads with Him thirdly on the ground of His dwelling with them in the sanctuary—"Your people settled here and built this Sanctuary for you. They said, 'Whenever we are faced with any calamity such as war, disease, or famine, we can come to stand in your presence before this Sanctuary where your name is honored. We can cry out to you to save us, and you will hear us and rescue us.'" 2 Chron. 20:8-9

By the "sanctuary" we may understand the human nature of the Lord Jesus Christ, that sanctuary and true tabernacle which the Lord pitched and not man. He comes therefore to God with these three powerful pleas—as a God of great strength, and therefore able; a God in covenant, and therefore willing; and a God in Christ, and therefore loving and merciful. These three powerful pleas he brings, and lays them at His sacred feet, interceding with Him to do that for them which they could not do for themselves—"Will You not judge them?"

There is something, to my mind, very striking and suitable in this expression—"Will You not judge them?" It is as though he put himself, so to speak, into close communication with God, and identified Judah's cause with the cause of God; so that God in delivering her was actually fighting His own battles; and as a judge upon His judgment seat, was passing a judgment upon His own enemies.

Now this is the most prevailing plea we can make with God; when we can look up to Him as our God in covenant, and take our enemies, our temptations, our afflictions, our doubts, our exercises, so to speak, into our hand, as so many enemies to God, and ask the Lord to pass a sentence upon them, not because they are our enemies, but because they are His. We may perhaps thus illustrate it. In war time there is in the garrison a traitor who is conspiring to betray the fortress. A soldier detects the wretch; he seizes him upon the spot, brings him to the general, and denounces his crime. Now when the soldier arrests the traitor, he does not arrest him as his personal enemy, but as the enemy of his sovereign. So, if we can arrest our lusts and base passions, seize them as traitors, bring them before God, and say, "These are Your enemies; You judge them and punish them, and for Your name's sake deliver us from their treachery;" this seems, as it were, to put God upon our side, and to call in His justice to execute judgment upon them as His enemies.

There is no use fighting the battle in our own strength. We have none. There is no use when sin has made a breach in the conscience to thrust into the gap a stout board of self-righteousness. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but spiritual. The strength of Christ, the blood of Christ, the grace of the gospel, the sword of the Spirit—these must be our weapons. "They overcame by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony." But how few fight with these weapons! How many take their self-righteousness as a weapon against their sins; and thus they only fight flesh with flesh; they only combat self in one form by self in another form. This is popery.

Poor weak creatures go into convents and monasteries. For what? To fight against sin. By what? By self-righteousness. They macerate their bodies, wear sackcloth, repeat their prayers, and attend to their ceremonies. For what purpose? To subdue their sins, arming flesh against flesh. And what is the consequence? If they have any conscience at all, they are crushed down in this ineffectual struggle, as Luther was in his cell at Erfurt. This is popery in full blossom—a gaudy flower, of which Protestant self-righteousness is a swelling bud. The essence of popery is creature righteousness, and to fight against sin by self-righteousness is next door to going into a monastery, wearing a hair shirt, or flagellating the shoulders with a scourge.

The gospel has brought to light a better, a more effectual way. "Will You not judge them?" "Here are my lusts, I cannot manage them; here are my temptations, I cannot overcome them; here are my doubts and fears, I cannot subdue them; here are my enemies, I cannot conquer them. Lord, I do not know what to do. But will You not judge them? Will not You manage for me? Will You not subdue my enemies and Yours?" This is, so to speak, taking these lusts and passions by the neck, and laying them down at the feet of God as God's enemies, and thus bringing the power of God against them, setting in array the omnipotence of Jehovah against what would otherwise destroy us. This is prevailing. To fight thus under the banner of the Lord is to make headway against sin; but to fight against it in our own resolution and strength is only to fall its victim. This is taking the weapons of God to fight against our spiritual foes; and these weapons are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. This is fighting against sin, not in the flesh, but in the Spirit; not by the law, but by the gospel; not by self, but by the grace of God. And if your soul has had many a tussle, and many a wrestle, and many a hand-to-hand conflict with sin, you will have found this out before now, that nothing but the grace, power, and Spirit of Christ ever gave you the victory, or the least hope of victory.


IV. The fixed posture of their souls—"Our eyes are upon You." Jehoshaphat did not know what to do; he was altogether at his wits' end; and yet he took the wisest course a man could take. This is the beauty of it, that when we are fools, then we are wise; when we are weak, then we are strong; when we know not what to do, then we do the only right thing. O had Jehoshaphat taken any other course; had he collected an army, sent through Judah, raised troops and forged swords and spears, he would certainly have been defeated. But not knowing what to do, he did the very thing he should do—"Our eyes are upon You! You must fight our battles; You must take the matter into Your own hands. Our eyes are upon You, waiting upon You, looking up, and hoping in You, believing in Your holy Name, expecting help from You, from whom alone help can come."

But this is painful work to be brought to this point, "our eyes are upon You," implying there is no use looking to any other quarter. It assumes that the soul has looked, and looked, and looked elsewhere in vain, and then fixed its eyes upon God as knowing that from Him alone all help must come. This I believe to be the distinctive mark of a Christian, that his eyes are upon God. On his bed by night, in his room by day, in business or at market, when his soul is in trouble, cast down, and perplexed, his eyes are upon God. From Him alone all help must come; none else can reach his case. All other but the help of God is ineffectual; it leaves him where it found him, it does him no good. We are never safe except our eyes are upon God. Let our eyes be upon Him, we can walk safely; let our eyes be upon the creature, we are pretty sure to slip and stumble.

"Our eyes are upon You." And O, how simple, suitable, complete, and blessed a remedy is this, when the Lord is pleased to open our eyes, and fix them on Himself. He must do it all. If the eyes are to be upon Him, He must first give us eyes; if lifted upon Him, He must raise them upwards; if kept upon Him, He must hold them waking.

It is good to be in this spot. There are times and seasons, perhaps, when we seem to have no religion whatever; when we look, and look, and look, and cannot find a grain. Where is our spirituality? Where our heavenly affections? Where our prayerfulness of spirit? Where our tenderness of conscience? Where our godly fear? Where our meditations upon God's Word? We look, and look, and look; they seem gone. Now perhaps, in the midst of this uncertainty we are brought into some painful exercise, some affliction, some temptation, some apprehension, something that lies with weight and power upon the soul. Now is the time we need our religion. But it is gone, it is gone, leaving us empty, needy, naked, and bare; religion, as regards its blessedness and comfort, we seem to have none. This is emptying work; this is stripping the soul, as it were, to the very bone.

But what a preparation to receive the religion which is from above! How the vessel must be emptied of the dirty water of 'creature religion', well rinsed, and washed out, to have the pure water of heavenly religion communicated from the divine fountain. God never mingles the pure stream of heavenly religion with the dirty, filthy water of our own creature religion. We must be emptied of every drop, so to speak, of our natural religion, to have the holy and spiritual religion, which is from above, poured into the soul. But to look, and look, and look, and find nothing but emptiness, nakedness, barrenness, and destitution; to have a "great company" of enemies all coming against us, and we as weak as water; what an emptying for divine filling, what a stripping for divine clothing, and what a bringing down of self for the raising up of Christ!

True religion consists mainly in two points—to be emptied, stripped, made naked and bare; and then to be clothed and filled out of Christ's fullness.

Thus, of all people the children of God are the weakest, and yet they are the only persons really strong; of all they are the most ignorant, yet they are the only wise; of all the most helpless, and yet they alone are effectually helped; of all the most hobbling, yet they alone have a good hope through God; of all perhaps in their feelings the most unbelieving, and yet are partakers, and they alone, of the grace of faith. "Great is the mystery of godliness." The life of a Christian is a paradox; he is called upon to tread a mysterious path; and he can rightly learn it in the school of experience alone. By a series of lessons in the school of Christ the people of God have their religion burnt into their souls; and what they thus learn becomes a part of themselves. It is not lost on the road from chapel, nor left behind in the pew, nor shut up in the hymnbook until the following Sunday, nor dropped at the street-door. It is not a passing notion, nor an empty name, nor towering smoke, nor earth-born vapor; but a divine reality lodged by the hand of God Himself in the heart, which will shine more and more to the perfect day.

Be not then discouraged, if the Lord is leading any of you in this path. Do not say that "a strange thing has happened unto you;" things you little thought of in times gone by. Does not the Lord lead the blind by a way they knew not? And in paths they have not seen? Does He not make crooked things straight before them, and rough places plain? Is not God in Christ alone to be our King, our Leader, our Help, our Hope, our All? It is a mercy to have something of the teaching of God in the soul, if it be only to empty it, to strip and lay low; to take away every false covering, to bring down into the dust of self-abasement, with the eyes upon the Lord, looking for and expecting a revelation of His mercy and love.

There are few who have got so far as this. There are few, comparatively speaking, who know they are nothing; few who are low enough for Christ to stoop down to; few who feel they are fallen among thieves, and need the good Samaritan to pass by and pour oil and wine into their wounds. There are very few who have got so far as to know their own sickness and their own sore. Yet would we hope there are those here whom the Lord is leading down into the valley; and though they are perhaps writing bitter things against themselves, their names are written in the Lamb's book of life. It is the poor and needy whom the Lord has respect unto, and those who humble themselves in God's own time and way shall be blessedly exalted!