J.C. Philpot

“As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby.” [1Peter 2:2]

The only real food of the soul must be of God’s own appointing, preparing, and communicating.

You can never deceive a hungry child. You may give it a plaything but still it cries. It may serve for a few minutes; but the pains of hunger are not to be removed by a doll. A toy horse will not allay the cravings after the mother’s breast.

So with babes in grace. A hungry soul cannot feed upon playthings. Altars, robes, ceremonies, candlesticks, bowings, mutterings, painted windows, intoning priests, and singing men and women; these dolls and wooden horses; these toys and playthings of the religious baby house, cannot feed the soul that, like David, cries out after the living God (Psalm 42:23).

Christ, the bread of life, the manna that came down from heaven, is the only food of the believing soul (John 6:51).

‘Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and Thy Word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart!” [Jer 15:16]


The History of an Idol, its Rise, Reign and Progress

The History of an Idol, its Rise, Reign and Progress

J. C. Philpot, October, 1855

“Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” 1 John 5:21

Idolatry is a sin very deeply rooted in the human heart. We need not go very far to find of this the most convincing proofs. Besides the experience of every age and every climate, we find it where we would least expect it—the prevailing sin of a people who had the greatest possible proofs of its wickedness and folly, and the strongest evidences of the being, greatness, and power of God.

It amazes us sometimes in reading the history of God’s ancient people, as recorded in the inspired page, that, after such wondrous and repeated displays of his presence, glory, and majesty, they should again and again bow down before stocks and stones. That those who had witnessed all the plagues of Egypt had passed through the Red Sea by an explicit miracle, were daily living on manna that fell from heaven and water that gushed out of the rock, who had but to look upward by day to behold the pillar of the cloud, and by night the pillar of fire to manifest the presence of Jehovah in their midst—that this people, because Moses delayed coming down from the Mount, should fall down before a golden calf, and say, “These are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up out of the land of Egypt,” does indeed strike our minds with astonishment.

And that this sin should break forth in them again and again through their whole history down to the period of the Babylonish captivity, in spite of all the warnings of their prophets, all the terrible judgments of God, all their repeated captivities, and, what would be far more likely to cure it, all their repeated deliverances, does indeed show, if other proof were lacking, that it is a disease deeply rooted in the very constitution of fallen man.

If this be the case, unless human nature has undergone a change, of which neither scripture nor experience affords any evidence, the disease must be in the heart of man now as much as ever; and if it exists it must manifest itself, for a constitutional malady can no more be in the soul and not show itself, than there can be a sickness in the body without evident symptoms of illness.

It is true that the disease does not break out exactly in the same form. It is true that golden calves are not now worshiped, at least the calf is not, if the gold be, nor do Protestants adore images of wood, brass, or stone. But that rank; property, fashion, honor, the opinion of the world, with everything which feeds the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, are as much idolized now as Baal and Moloch were once in Judea, and Juggernaut now is in the plains of Hindostan, is true beyond all contradiction.

But what is idolatry? To answer this question, let us ask another. What is an idol? Is not this the essence of the idea conveyed by the word, that an idol occupies that place in our esteem and affections, in our thoughts, words and ways, in our dependence and reliance, in our worship and devotedness, which is due to God only? Whatever is to us what the Lord alone should be, that is to us an idol. It is true that these idols differ almost as widely as the peculiar propensities of different individuals. But as both in ancient and modern times the grosser idols of wood and stone were and are beyond all calculation in number, variety, shape, and size, so is it in these inner idols of which the outer are mere symbols and representations.

Nothing has been too base or too brutal, too great or too little, too noble or too vile, from the sun walking in its brightness to a snake, a monkey, an onion, a bit of rag, which man has not worshiped. And these intended representations of Divinity were but the outward symbols of what man inwardly worshiped—for the inward idol preceded the outward, and the fingers merely carved what the imagination had previously devised. The gross material idol, then, whether an Apollo, “the statue which enchants the world,” or an Ethiopian fetish, is but a symbol of the inner mind of man.

In that inner mind there are certain feelings and affections, as well as traditional recollections, which sin has perverted and debased, but not extinguished. Such are, a sense of a divine Creator, a dread of his anger and justice, a dim belief in a state after death of happiness or misery, an accountability to him for our actions, and a duty of religious worship. From this natural religion in the mind of man, a relic of the fall, sprang the first idea of idolatry—for the original knowledge of God being lost, the mind of man sought a substitute, and that substitute is an idol—the word, like the similar term “image,” signifying a shape or figure, a representation or likeness of God.

Against this therefore, the second commandment in the Decalogue is directed. Now, this idea of representing God by some visible image being once established by the combined force of depraved intellect and conscience, the debased mind of man soon sought out channels for its lusts and passions to run in, which religion might consecrate; and thus the devilish idea was conceived and carried out, to make a god of SIN. Thus bloodshed, lust, theft, with every other crime, were virtually turned into gods named Mars, Venus, Mercury, and so on; and then came the horrible conclusion, that the more sin there was committed, the more these gods were honored. Need we wonder at the horrible debasement of the heathen world, and the utter prostration of moral principles produced by the worship of idols—or at the just abhorrence and wrath of God against idolatry?

But we need not dwell on this part of the subject. There is another form of idolatry much nearer home; the idolatry not of an ancient Pagan or a modern Hindu, but that of a Christian.

Idolatry is the very breath of the carnal mind. All that “the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,” desires, thirsts after, is gratified by, or occupied with, is its idol—and so far as a Christian is under the influence of this carnal mind, this old man, this evil heart of unbelief, this fallen Adam-nature, this body of sin and death—all which are Scripture terms to express one and the same thing—he bows down to the idol set up in the chambers of imagery.

There is an old Latin proverb, that “love and a cough are two things impossible to be concealed;” and thus, though an idol may be hidden in the heart as carefully as Laban’s teraphim in the camel’s saddle, or the ephod and molten image in the House of Micah, (Judges 18:14), yet it will be discovered by the love shown to it, as surely as the suppressed cough of the consumptive patient cannot escape the ear of the physician.

Nor need we go far, if we would but be honest with ourselves, to find out each our own idol—what it is, and how deep it lies, what worship it obtains, what honor it receives, and what affection it engrosses. Let me ask myself, “What do I most love?” If I hardly know how to answer that question, let me put to myself another, “What do I most think upon? In what channel do I usually find my thoughts flow when unrestrained?” for thoughts flow to the idol as water to the lowest spot in a field.

If, then, the thoughts flow continually to the farm, the shop, the business, the investment, to the husband, wife, or child; to that which feeds lust or pride, worldliness or covetousness, self-conceit or self-admiration—that is the idol which, as a magnet, attracts the thoughts of the mind towards it.

Your idol may not be mine, nor mine yours; and yet we may both be idolaters. You may despise or even hate my idol, and wonder how I can be such a fool or such a sinner as to hug it to my bosom; and I may wonder how a partaker of grace can be so inconsistent as to love such a silly idol as yours. You may condemn me, and I condemn you; and the word of God’s grace and the verdict of a living conscience condemn us both.

O how various and how innumerable those idols are! One man may possess a refined taste and educated mind. Books, learning, literature, languages, general information, shall be his idol. Music, vocal and instrumental, may be the idol of a second; so sweet to his ears, such inward feelings of delight are kindled by the melodious strains of voice or instrument, that music is in all his thoughts, and hours are spent in producing those harmonious sounds which perish in their utterance. Painting, statuary, architecture, the fine arts generally, may be the Baal, the dominating passion of a third. Poetry, with its glowing thoughts, burning words, passionate utterances, vivid pictures, melodious cadence, and sustained flow of all that is beautiful in language and expression, may be the delight of a fourth. Science, mathematical or mechanical, the eager pursuit of a fifth. These are the highest flights of the human mind; these are not the base idols of the drunken feast, the low jest, the mirthful supper, or even that less debasing but enervating idol—sleep and indolence, as if life’s highest enjoyments were those of the swine in the sty.

An idol is not to be admired for its beauty or loathed for its ugliness, but to be hated because it is an idol. You middle-class people, who despise art and science, language and learning, as you despise the ale-house, and ballfield, may still have an idol. Your garden, your beautiful roses, your verbenas, fuchsias, needing all the care and attention of a babe in arms, may be your idol. Or your pretty children, so admired as they walk in the street; or your new house and all the new furniture; or your son who is getting on so well in business; or your daughter so comfortably settled in life; or your dear husband so generally respected, and just now doing so nicely in the farm. Or your own still dearer SELF that needs so much feeding, and dressing and attending to—who shall count the thousands of idols which draw to themselves those thoughts, and engross those affections which are due to the Lord alone?

You may not be found out. Your idol may be so hidden, or so peculiar, that all our attempts to touch it, have left you and it unscathed. Will you therefore conclude that you have none? Search deeper, look closer; it is not too deep for the eye of God, nor too hidden for the eyes of a tender conscience anointed with divine eye-salve. Hidden love is the deepest of all love; hidden diseases the most incurable of all diseases. Search every fold of your heart until you find it. It may not be so big nor so ugly as your neighbor’s; but an idol is still an idol, and an image still an image, whether so small as to be carried in the coat pocket, or as large as a gigantic statue.

Every man has his idol; but it is not every man who sees it. Few groan under it.

“Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” 1 John 5:21

“The dearest idol I have known,
Whatever that idol be,
Help me to tear it from my heart,
And worship only Thee.”


The ‘Wilderness’ God brings His Elect into

The ‘Wilderness’ God brings His Elect into

by J. C. Philpot 1850

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her”. [Hosea 2:14]

What are we to understand by “the WILDERNESS“? I think we may understand by it two things. First, the world; secondly, the human heart. For, we shall find, if the Lord enable, that to a child of God both the world, and the human heart as dissected and laid bare by the Spirit of God, bear marks and characters of “a wilderness.”

But what is “a wilderness?” We must comprehend the word literally, before we can understand it spiritually.

1. A “wilderness,” then, is, first, a place where no food grows. That is the very character of the Arabian desert. No grain grows there fit for man.

2. But secondly, it is a place where no food can be made to grow. Now, you know, in this country there are commons and heaths that do not bear grain in their present state; but they might be brought under cultivation and made to produce it. But there are wild, waste districts in the Scottish Highlands, which could not by any cultivation be made to grow grain. So with the “wilderness.” You might plough, sow, harrow, and roll it, but you would never have a crop. The sun would dry it up; there is no soil in which the plant could grow. It might spring up for a time; but with all our attempts, it would soon utterly wither away.

3. And the third idea to make up a desert, and flowing out of the two former features, is, that it is a place of which the inhabitants are always rovers, without a settled habitation. They have no home, house, nor building, but live in tents; and are continually shifting the spot on which for a time they dwell.

Do not these three ideas very much make up the figure of a “wilderness?” See whether they are not applicable to two things in the experience of a child of God—the world, and his own heart.

1. The WORLD is not “a wilderness” to a worldling. To him it is a beautiful estate, enclosed in a ring fence, with land easily cultivable and soil of the best quality, producing the richest crops, laden with golden harvests. But to a child of God, as I shall show you by and by, (if led into it,) the world is but a “wilderness;” from which no crop grows to feed his soul; from which by no exertions of his own can food be made to grow; and in which he is, and ever must be, a wanderer, not a settled inhabitant.

2. And this, too, with the HUMAN HEART. We shall find, I think, these three ideas of “a wilderness” meeting also in the human heart, as laid bare by the keen dissecting knife of the Spirit to the spiritual eye of a child of God. Out of his heart no food can come, for “in him, that is, in his flesh, dwells no good thing;” there is no food in it for his new nature; nothing of which he can say, ‘This is what my soul can feed upon.’ And though he may seek to cultivate it, and is bidden and admonished to do so; and though he has tried often to put in the plough, to clean it with the hoe, to rake it with the harrow, to sow good seed, and to water it perhaps with the waterpot, yet, after all his attempts, the harvest is only a heap of sand in the day of desperate sorrow, the soil being absolutely barren, totally uncultivable and unproductive, with all his fairest exertions. He is tossed up and down, in consequence, finding nothing in his heart on which he can set his foot, on which he can build for eternity, or in which he can safely and happily dwell, as a fixed resting-place.

Now, bear these things in mind, and when I come to the “wilderness,” as the Spirit of the Lord has promised to bring his people there, you will then see whether you have an experimental knowledge of these two things for yourselves.

B. The Lord says, “Behold, I will ALLURE her.” Does this mean the first work of the Spirit upon the soul? I believe not. The first work of the Spirit, we read in Scripture, and we find confirmed by experience, is, to convince of sin, to pierce to the heart, to wound, to make the soul sensible of its state before God, and its utter alienation from him. Therefore, the word “allure,” cannot apply to the first work of the Spirit upon the soul. Men may talk of being drawn by love; but what is the religion of those who are thus drawn by love? What depth, what reality, what power, what life, what godliness is there in it? The word “allure” is not applicable, then, to the first beginning of a work. That first work usually commences with conviction, a sight and sense of sin, a cry for mercy, a feeling of wretchedness and ruin, and a despair of salvation in self. [Amen!]

But after the Lord has been pleased thus to pierce, to wound, to convince, and bring down, he often, perhaps usually, drops down some sweetness, blessedness, and consolation into the soul. He gives it to taste a few ‘dewdrops of his love’, some ‘honey-drops from the Rock of Ages’. This I call the “Spring of the soul”. You know what a beautiful season spring is; when the leaves are clothing the trees, when the birds are singing upon the branches, when the flowers are springing out of the ground, when the chilly winds of winter are gone, when the balmy breezes blow from the south, when the sun rises high in the sky, and sheds gladness over the face of the renewed earth. Thus the soul has, generally speaking, a Spring; and, as there is but one spring in nature, so for the most part there is but one spring in grace. As regards our natural life, it is only once that we are young; and it is so spiritually; we only once enjoy that sweet season of which Job speaks, “As I was in the days of my youth, when the secret of God was upon my tabernacle.” (Job 29:4.)

During, then, this youth of the soul, this Spring season, this “day of espousals,” there is an “alluring” of the heart unto God. Now this we need. And why? Perhaps we are bound up with carnal companions, or by snares we cannot break; hampered by worldly relations, and their persecutions we cannot face; tied down with lusts and sins, and the chain of these we cannot burst; in the world, and unable to come out of it. Notwithstanding all the frights, terrors, alarms, and convictions that the soul may experience, (though these for a time may operate, and that powerfully); yet when their effect has ceased, it slips back into the old spot; it is not fairly or fully brought out. We need something beyond law and terrors to do that; we need something besides thunder and lightning to bring the soul fully unto God. [Amen]

There is felt and seen, then, a beauty, a blessedness, a reality, a sweetness in the things of God, which the tongue cannot describe. By it the heart is drawn unto the Lord Jesus, to the truth as it is in Jesus, to the people of Jesus, and to the service of Jesus. The world, friends, foes, relations are all disregarded; neither frowns nor smiles have any effect. There is such a sweetness then felt in the things of God, such a blessedness and reality, that the soul is “allured” by them out of everything that before held it back from union with a living Head.

Under these blessed feelings, a soul will do anything for Christ; will make any sacrifice, give up anything, bear anything, endure anything for the Lord Jesus. The ‘Spring of nature’ is beautiful to see; but the ‘Spring of grace’ is more beautiful to feel. Early days, if not the most profitable, yet are often the best days in our feelings.

Now, by these “allurements,” sweetness, and blessedness, the Lord draws the soul into a profession of religion, into perhaps joining a church, taking up the cross, walking with the people of God, putting itself forward, and that in the utmost sincerity, to serve the Lord Jesus. And perhaps, we think, we shall enjoy this all our days. At this season, when we see old professors carnal and worldly-minded, and we feel full of life and zeal; some mourning and sighing, and we singing and dancing; others complaining of their bad hearts, when we scarcely know that we have a bad one; others cast down with temptations, and we not exposed to them; or groaning under trials, and we ignorant of them; we think that they must be deceived. We say, ‘That is not religion; the religion we have is a very different thing; there is a sweetness in ours; there is a comfort, a blessedness in it.’

Perhaps we write very hard things against these old professors; think they have been doing something very bad, and have sinned away their comforts; or that it is their own fault they are not so lively, so happy, and so comfortable as we. But we do not know what the Lord is doing by this “alluring,” nor what his purposes are; that all this is to bring us “into the wilderness.” And when he has got us there fairly and fully, then to show us what the “wilderness” really is.

C. But HOW does this take place? A “wilderness,” I endeavored to show represents generally two things—the world and the human heart.

Now, I dare say, when your soul was flourishing, the world in a measure flourished with you too. The Lord, generally speaking, calls his people young—being young, they have not many worldly trials—and therefore, very often natural youth and spiritual youth go hand in hand. There is a buoyancy, then, naturally, and spiritually, and the two are often closely united. But now comes the “wilderness.” Now comes the world, as opened up in its real character. Trial often begins with some heavy stroke of a worldly nature. This is sometimes the first stab that the soul gets when it comes into the “wilderness.” Perhaps some illness robs us of health for life; or some stroke in providence casts down all our airy Babels—or some disappointment, it may be of a very tender nature, lays all the youthful hopes of the heart prostrate in the dust.

1. Now, up to this time the world was not manifested as a “wilderness” world, nor was our heart altogether divorced from it. And though the Lord was sweet and precious, yet there were worldly things indulged in; worldly society perhaps not fully given up; worldly practices that the heart was not weaned from; worldly connections not fully broken through. John Newton speaks of his enjoying in early days the presence of the Lord sweetly in the woods, and yet spending the rest of the evening in carnal company. Now that seems very strange; yet perhaps you and I might have done something of the same kind. When I was a Fellow of my College at Oxford, soon after I felt the weight of eternal things, I have sat in the Common Room after dinner with the other Fellows, and amid all the drinking of wine, and the hum and buzz of conversation, in which I took no part, have been secretly lifting up my heart to the Lord. But I could not go among them after I got into the wilderness. The reason was, I was not fully brought out; though there was a blessedness felt in the things of God, yet the evils of the world were not clearly manifested; temptation was not powerfully presented; and therefore, the danger of it was not felt nor feared.

But now, the world begins to be opened up in its real character. Once it was your friend; now it has become your enemy—once it smiled upon you; now it frowns—once it did you good; now it slanders you, and does you all the evil it can—once you could enjoy it, but now it palls upon your appetite. Disappointment, vexation, and sorrow embitter all; and you find the world to be what God declares it, “a wilderness.” No food grows in it; nothing that your soul can really be satisfied with; “vanity and vexation of spirit,” are written upon all. Though you may try to get food out of it, all your attempts are blighted with disappointment; and you in consequence, finding no solid footing, become a wanderer, a pilgrim, and a stranger, tossed up and down in it, and having in it neither heart nor home.

2. But again. The human heart, as opened up to a child of God, is a “wilderness,” too. You did not know this formerly; you did not know you had so bad a heart. When the Lord was first “alluring” you into the “wilderness,” you could not see that you had no strength, no holiness, no wisdom in yourself; that your heart was a cage of unclean birds; that there was nothing spiritually good in it. In early days, we cannot discern between the Lord’s strength and our own; between natural and spiritual feelings; between the zeal of the flesh and the life of the Spirit. Nor do we understand these things until our senses are exercised to discern good and evil. A clear line is not drawn at first in our soul between nature and grace; and therefore, our hearts in early days are not to us a “wilderness.”

We think we can cultivate them; why could we not? Cannot we encourage a spirit of prayer? Cannot we read God’s word? Cannot we go to hear good men preach? Cannot we arrange certain seasons and hours in which to seek the Lord’s face? Cannot we watch against besetting sins? Cannot we keep the door of our lips? Cannot we keep our eyes and hearts fixed upon the Lord Jesus Christ? We are told to do these things; to cultivate grace; and we make the attempt. Are we successful? If we are, it is our ignorance that makes us think so. [Amen] Let us have light to see, life to feel, and spiritual discernment to know what is of God, and what is of man; what grace is, and what the work of the Spirit is; what divine feelings are, and how distinct these are from the work of the flesh; then we shall find that our heart not only does not bear food that we can feed upon to our soul’s satisfaction; but cannot be made to bear it. It is a “wilderness,” a wide waste, a barren sand, a desert—fiercely blown by the dreadful Sirocco, parched by the sun, dried up and desolate, absolutely sterile and uncultivable.

Now, here in the “wilderness,” we get stripped to the very bone; here we lose all our goodness, all our wisdom, all our strength, all our creature holiness, all our rags of fleshly righteousness. It is in the “wilderness” we get stripped—and until we come there, we do not know what stripping is. Then we feel poor creatures, ruined wretches—desolate, forsaken, abandoned, almost without hope or help—in self lost and undone. We look upon the world—all is vanity, vexation, and sorrow. We look within—all is dark, wild, and desolate—nothing but sin, and that continually—unbelief, infidelity, obscenity, filth, and blasphemy—everything hideous, everything vile—nothing but evil without and within. This is stripping work—this is “the wilderness”—this is bringing a man to his senses; this is laying the creature low; this is making him know the depth of the fall; this is plucking up his fleshly religion, tearing out by the roots all his carnal hopes, leaving him naked, empty, and bare. All his creature holiness gone, all his creature zeal withered, all his creature strength turned into weakness, all his creature loveliness into corruption—and he standing before God utterly unable to work one spiritual feeling in his own heart. [Amen and Amen]

Are you here? Have you ever been here? Is God bringing you here? Here we must come to learn what true religion is; here must we come to see the end of all perfection, and to feel that “the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.” But does the Lord leave his people here? No!
II. Which leads us to our second point. The Lord brings his people there to do them good—to give them blessings; to work grace in their hearts; and to extend to them favor and mercy in a measure and degree hitherto unfelt. But let us look at the catalogue of blessings provided for Israel when she comes into the “wilderness.”

A. “I will speak comfortably unto her.” It is in the margin, (and so it is in the Hebrew) “to her heart.” I shall take the two renderings—first, “to her heart;” secondly, “comfortably.”

1. “To her heart.” It is in the “wilderness,” then, that we learn “heart religion”. If you want God to speak to your heart, you must go into the “wilderness” for it. It is often only ‘headwork’ and ‘mere doctrines’ until we get there. Into the wilderness of human nature must we go, if God himself is to speak to our heart. And when you begin to feel what a heart you have, you will find the necessity of God speaking to it; for only so far as he speaks, have you any feeling, any life, any power in your religion. And O, when a man begins to find and feel what a “wilderness” heart he has—how anxious, how desirous he is that God would speak to his heart! How this shuts up his religion into a very narrow compass! How it cuts off the flesh of it, and brings him, and his religion too, into a nutshell! How it hacks to pieces all the ornaments that have been hung around it by self and the devil, and brings him to this point, (and a very trying point it is to be brought to)—”I have no religion of self; I cannot work a grain in mine own heart; I am dead, dark, stupid; God must speak to my soul—and if he does not speak, I am utterly destitute. I have no feeling, no life, no faith, no love, no strength, no holiness—I have nothing. I stand,” says the soul, “before God without a thread.”

“Lord,” (the poor man cries under these painful exercises, toiling and struggling in the wilderness), “speak to my soul; drop a word into my heart.” And how anxious he is for God to speak! But how many sleepless nights have you passed because God does not speak to your heart? How many times do you roll backwards and forwards upon your bed because you cannot get the Lord to speak a word into your soul? Do you ever go groaning and sighing along the street because the Lord does not speak to you? or, are you gazing with a fool’s eye into every picture-shop?

Now, if you are in the “wilderness,” you will want the Lord to speak to your soul; and you will feel all your religion to hang upon this—that you have no more true religion than springs out of God’s word and work in your heart. And here you will look and wait, long, beg, and pray, ‘Lord, in mercy speak to my poor soul.’ The Lord has promised to do this; but he will not speak until he brings you to the spot where he has promised to do so. When he has “allured” you along into the wilderness, and got you fastened there, he will now and then drop a word, give a promise, speak with soft melting whispers, make his word sweet and precious; and thus fulfill his promise, ‘I will speak to her heart.’

2. “Comfortably.” But the word also means “comfortably.” Now when the Lord was “alluring” your soul in the way I have described, you did not know much about comfort springing out of the Lord’s speaking to your soul. You could hardly tell whence your comfort came. It did not come direct from the mouth of God; the Lord did not mean it at that time to come so. Every sermon seemed at that time blessed; but now perhaps it is only one word out of it. At that time, when you went upon your knees, it seemed as though you had sweet access to the throne of grace; every hymn was full of beauty; and every child of God you could take in your arms, embrace, and feel sweet communion with. And yet, all the time, when you look back, you cannot say this sprung out of any special words or promises that God applied to your soul. There was a general sweetness, but not a particular one. It was more in the truth, in the people of God, in the blessedness of the things of God, in the doctrines of grace, than it was in special promises, or special applications of blood and love.

But when you get into the “wilderness,” you cannot do with what did very well in times of old. There are many children of God who love to hear a minister trace out evidences. ‘O,’ they say, ‘this just suits me; I love to hear evidences.’ But you get, after a time, beyond evidences. They will do for a babe; they will suit a child; but a man wants meat; a man can pick a bone. And so (I address myself now to those who know the “wilderness”) you want something stronger, more solid, more weighty, more real, more effectual; you want testimonies, words, manifestations, a sweet discovery of the Lord Jesus Christ. And it is by being stripped in the “wilderness,” that we are brought to look and long for the Lord’s own special comfort; for we are brought to stand in need of it; and as we cannot get a drop of comfort by cultivating our own graces, we are obliged to beg for a few grains of comfort from the Lord himself.

And what a mercy it is, that he has promised to speak “comfortably;” that when nobody else can speak comfort, when we cannot speak it to our own souls, and cannot get consolation from anything, the Lord can and does, according to his promise, speak “comfortably.” He whispers peace, and blesses the soul with some testimony of its saving interest in the precious blood and love of his dear Son. That is the first thing the Lord has promised to do.

B. “I will give her her vineyards from thence.” A strange place! We would not go to Bagshot Heath or Woking Common to find “a vineyard;” and I am sure we should not go to the great Sahara desert, or the Arabian desert, to find grapes growing. But we might as well expect clusters of grapes upon Bagshot Heath, as spiritual fruitfulness in the human heart. Here, then, is the wonder. “I will give her her vineyards from thence.” What! in the wilderness! when she has been trying to bring something out of her heart to please God and self with, and all her efforts are baffled! What! to give her vineyards there! Why, that is the mystery; that is the beauty; that is the blessedness; that is the sweetness—that the Lord can and does make the barren heart fruitful in the “wilderness.”

Now, perhaps you have been toiling, tugging, working very hard to produce some fruit. ‘Come,’ say you, ‘it will not do to go on like this. I must do something; I must pray more, read the word of God more, watch over my heart more, and seek the Lord more. I will do it too; nobody shall hinder me.’ So some Monday morning, you begin and set to work, and take the Bible down. ‘Yes,’ say you, ‘I will read two or three chapters this morning; I will go to prayer, and I will try if I cannot do something to be a real Christian.’ All very good. But what do you get from it? What power, sweetness, or blessedness can you put into the word of God? What life and feeling can you put into your soul? Well, you have tried it again and again; and when you have cast up the account, it is nil—nothing, a cipher. Zero is the full amount! And you wonder where the fault is, until at last you begin to despair, and feel and say, ‘I am a wretch, and ever shall be. God be merciful to such a wretch! Lord, look in tender compassion on such a monster, such a filthy creature that has done nothing, and can do nothing but sin.’

Now when the Lord is pleased to speak a word to the heart, and bless your soul with real comfort, what is the effect? It makes you fruitful. Then you can read the word of God—aye, and with blessedness too; then you can pray, and with sweet satisfaction too; then you can look up, and with eyes of affection too; and then you can be holy, and that by the real sanctifying operations of the Spirit too. This is the way whereby all fruitfulness is produced—not by roller, plough, and harrow; seed basket and hoe; turning up the desert, and casting good grain there—to be like Pharaoh’s corn—only blasted by the East wind. But to be in the “wilderness”—to feel a needy, naked wretch, without hope or help in self, and to wait upon the Lord for him to speak a word to the soul, by his own blessed breath breathing into us a fruitfulness that our heart never could produce in itself. Here is genuine spirituality and true holiness—here is real fruitfulness. These are the graces of the Spirit—not the perishing works of the flesh.

What is thus wrought in the soul by the power of God is to the glory of God. “I will give her her vineyards from thence.” Now, if you had never known the “wilderness,” what a barren heart and desperately wicked nature you have, you would not have wanted fruitfulness to come from God’s own mouth into your soul. The starved, withered crop that ‘nature’ produces would have been reaped and gathered into your garner, and you would have been pleased with the sheaves, though they were but straw and chaff.

As time is running on, I must just hastily skim over the other blessings which God has promised in the “wilderness.”

C. “The valley of Achor for a door of hope.” Now the “valley of ACHOR” signifies the ‘valley of trouble.’ It was the valley in which Achan was stoned. And why stoned? Because he had taken the accursed thing—because his eye had been captivated by the Babylonish garment and golden wedge, and he had buried them in the tent. This may throw a light on what “the valley of Achor” is spiritually. Perhaps you have been guilty of Achan’s sin—you have been taking the accursed thing—you have been too deeply connected with the world—you have done things that God’s displeasure is against. Let conscience speak in your bosom. The consequence has been, that you have gotten into the “valley of Achor!” Trouble, sorrow, and confusion are your lot; and you do not know whether the lot of Achan may not await you there.

Now it is in this “valley of Achor,” or sorrow, confusion, and fear, that the “door of HOPE” is opened. And what is “a door of hope?” What is a ‘door’ literally? Is not “a door” a place of exit and a place for entrance? By “a door” we go out, and by “a door” we come in. So “a door of hope” admits the visits of the Lord to the soul; and “a door of hope” admits the going out of the soul’s breathings after God. Thus, every glimpse of mercy, every beam of love, and every ray of comfort; every sweet promise that drops into the soul, every intimation from God, every testimony of interest in Christ; every dewdrop, every honey-drop that falls into a parched wilderness heart—this is opening up “a door of hope.”

But why “in the valley of Achor?” That we may cease to hope in self—that a sound and true gospel hope may enter within the veil as an anchor sure and steadfast, and there be no hope but in the precious blood of the Lamb, and in a sweet manifestation of that blood to the conscience. This is “the door of hope” through which the soul looks into the very presence of God—sees Jesus on the throne of grace, the sprinkled mercy-seat, and the great High Priest “able and willing to save to the uttermost.”

Through this “door of hope,” by which Christ is seen, the soul goes forth in desires, breathings, hungerings, and thirstings after him. And through this “door of hope” descend visits, smiles, tokens, testimonies, mercies, and favors. And thus, there is a “door of hope;” no longer barred, closed, and shut back—but thrown wide open in the bleeding side of an incarnate God! And this is opened “in the valley of Achor,” where we deserve to be stoned to death because we have touched the accursed thing—where we deserve nothing but damnation, the eternal vengeance of God, and to be made as Achan a monument of eternal wrath. Yet, in this “valley of Achor,” is opened up a blessed “door of hope.”

D. “She shall sing there as in the days of her youth, as in the day when the Lord brought her out of the land of Egypt.” Spring again! only a better spring. Youth again! “They shall renew their strength as the eagle.” Here is a renewing—of visits almost despaired of—of joys that seemed never to return—of hopes almost extinct—of consolations remembered, but remembered almost with fear, lest they should have been delusive. “She shall sing there as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came out of the land of Egypt.”

But what a place to go and get into, to learn religion. How much more pleasant it would be to the flesh to take our Bible down, get a notebook, have a new pen, put some fresh ink into the ink bottle, and then to draw out our religion from the Bible; to believe all we read, take down all we see, and transplant it into our heart. But that is not the way—that would only stand in the ‘letter’. It would not do for eternity, nor for a dying bed. It would exalt the creature, but would depress the Creator. It might do for an hour, but it would not do for the judgment-day. And therefore, we have to learn our religion, if we learn it at all, in a way totally opposite.

Have you learned your religion in the wilderness? If you have, it will stand. There is a reality in it—it bears marks of God’s grace and teaching. But if we have not learned it in this way—what reality, what power, what blessedness is there in it? None! We shall have to part with it when we need it most. When we lie upon a death-bed, all our false religion will make to itself wings, and fly away—and when we stretch forth our hands for a little true hope, it is all gone.

Thus, we want something solid, real, spiritual, abiding; something of God and godliness, divine, heavenly, and supernatural; wrought in the soul by the almighty power, and breathed into our heart by the very mouth of God himself. That will stand, and no other will.

If the Lord has led you in his path, you have an evidence in your soul that these things are so; and you will know that this is the way—not because I say, so, nor because the Bible always says it—but because you have felt, experienced, and known these things by divine teaching and by divine testimony!

[The above sermon by brother Philpot is a true saying and worthy of all acceptation. If I had read this sermon even ten years ago, I would not have understood it neither would it have meant anything to me. But now after twenty nine years since I was saved, and having personally gone through this howling wilderness spoken of above, I know that these things are so; and that Brother Philpot has spoken the truth as it in Jesus! – Michael Jeshurun ]



J.C. Philpot

A spiritual TASTE is analogous to the natural taste. “If so be you have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Pet. 2:3); “O taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm. 34:3); “How sweet are Thy Words to my taste,” yea, “sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.” (Psalm. 119:103; 19:10.) There is a tasting of the milk and honey of the gospel, and it is by tasting the SWEETNESS of this milk and honey that we know its preciousness.

What would even our natural food be if there were no taste? But how savory it becomes when taste comes in to share the feast as well as appetite for the food. Be hungry for the bread of life; be among those whom our Lord has pronounced blessed as hungering and thirsting after righteousness, then how sweet the bread; how precious the milk; how savory the meat spread on the Gospel table! Then we can respond to the Lord’s gracious invitation—”Eat, O friends; drink, yes, drink abundantly, O beloved.” (Song 5:1.)

Does not, then, a spiritual taste feed love both to the banquet, and to the Lord of the banquet? Be assured that the reason why the Word of God is often so tasteless, is because we have either no appetite or a depraved one.

Every nibble of grass or lock of hay which we can believe to be specially provided for us by the hand of that good Shepherd becomes thereby doubly sweet.

But O what pastures in GRACE has God provided for His hungry sheep! Look at the promises and declarations, the sacred truths and heavenly consolations scattered up and down the Scriptures of truth.

But of all spiritual pasture thus provided for the flock, the chief is the flesh and blood of the Lord Jesus. This is His own divine declaration–“For My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed” (John 6:55). And every communication of grace to the soul out of the fullness of Christ, every promise applied with a divine power to the heart, every truth which drops with heavenly savor, every season of encouragement; in a word, EVERY PART OF GOD’S WORD WHICH THE SOUL CAN EAT AND FEED UPON IS SPIRITUAL PASTURE!

Thus the prophet found it of old–“Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by Thy name, O LORD God of hosts!” [Jer 15:16]



J.C. Philpot

“That I may rejoice in the gladness of Thy nation!” [Psalm 106:5]

WHAT is the gladness of God’s people?

To be saved without money and without price; to be saved by grace – free, rich, sovereign, distinguishing grace, without one atom of works, without one grain of creature merit, without anything of the flesh. This is the gladness of God’s nation; to rejoice in free grace, grace super-abounding over the aboundings of sin, grace reigning triumphant over the dreadful evils of our heart. It is grace that gladdens a man’s heart.

Oh! sweet grace, blessed grace! when it meets our case and reaches our souls. Oh! what a help, what a strength, what a rest for a poor toiling, striving, laboring soul, to find that grace has done all the work, to feel that grace has triumphed in the cross of Christ, to find that nothing is required, nothing is needed, nothing is to be done. It is a full and perfect, complete and finished work. Oh! sweet sound, when it reaches the heart and touches the conscience, and is shed blessedly abroad in the soul.

THIS is the gladness of God’s nation; THIS makes their heart glad, that the work is finished, that the warfare is accomplished, that the Church of God has received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins; this is the comforting sound with which God comforts His people; this makes the nation glad, and their heart to leap and dance for joy.

Has YOUR heart never leaped at the sound? – only for a moment? Has grace never sounded sweetly in your soul, and made your very heart dance within you? If it has, you know what is the gladness of God’s nation. Amen!

THE CHRISTIAN FARING WELL [2 Corinthians 13:11]

THE CHRISTIAN FARING WELL  [2 Corinthians 13:11]

J.C. Philpot

To fare well, spiritually understood, is to have everything that God can make us happy in. All God’s people will eventually fare well. They all stand complete in Christ: nothing can touch their eternal safety; for they are all complete in him, “without spot, or blemish, or any such thing.” In this point of view, they must all in the end and forever fare well.

But when we come to the matter of experience, we often find that those very times when God’s people think they are faring ill, are the seasons when they are really faring well; and again, at other times, when they think they are faring well, then they are really faring ill. For instance, when their souls are bowed down with trouble, it often seems to them that they are faring ill. God’s hand appears to be gone out against them: he has hidden his face from them; they can find no access to a throne of grace; they have no sweet testimonies from the Lord that the path in which he is leading them is one of his choosing, and that all things will end well with them. This they think is indeed faring ill, and yet perhaps they never fare better than when under these circumstances of trouble, sorrow, and affliction. These things wean them from the world.

If their heart and affections were going out after idols, they instrumentally bring them back. If they were hewing out broken cisterns, they dash them all to pieces. If they were setting up, and bowing down to idols in the chambers of imagery, affliction and trouble smite them to pieces before their eyes, take away their gods, and leave them no refuge but the Lord God of hosts. If you can only look back, you will see that your greatest sweets have often sprung out of your greatest bitters, and the greatest blessings have flowed from the greatest miseries, and what at the time you thought your greatest sorrows: you will find that the brightest light has sprung up in the blackest darkness, and that the Lord never made himself so precious as at the time when you were sunk lowest, so as to be without human help, wisdom, or strength.

So that when a child of God thinks he is faring very ill, because burdened with sorrows, temptations, and afflictions, he is never faring so well. The darkest clouds in due time will break, the most puzzling enigmas will sooner or later be unriddled by the blessed Spirit interpreting them, and the darkest providences cleared up; and we shall see that God is in them all, leading and guiding us “by the right way, that we may go to a city of habitation” (Psalm 107:7).




The things he has passed through have brought the Christian into an acquaintance with God. He now knows the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent; and he has felt that God is a Spirit, and must be worshipped in spirit and in truth. He can no longer endure the vain inventions of men, the formalities of a carnal Establishment, the mummeries of priestcraft, the canting whine of hypocrites, the empty babble of chattering professors, the mock holiness of Arminian perfectionists, and the cloak of religion which masks thousands of rotten hearts.

He becomes a solitary character. He sets little store by loud prayers or long prayers, whether they come from the blind mill-horse in the pulpit, or his humble imitator in the pew. He finds that a secret groan is better than a long prayer, a tear of contrition sweeter than an extempore form, and a few words with God in his closet more precious than many words at a prayer-meeting, even though deacons pray.
A line of Hart’s hymns relieves his soul, when a noisy choir chanting Dr. Watts loads it with a burden; and half a verse of Scripture melts his heart, when a letter preacher with a long sermon hardens it into ice. He never leaves the company of empty professors without a load, or the sweet company of God without a blessing. He feels Christ to be his best Counsellor. His love most worth seeking, His friendship most enduring, His presence most cheering, and His smiles most to be desired.

Men, even the very best of them, often only wound him; the company of God’s children is often burdensome; and their advice usually an ineffectual help. His heavenly Friend never deceived him, never violated his confidence, disclosed his secrets, wounded his feelings, carnalised his mind, saddened his spirit, led him into error, or treated him with neglect. But on the contrary, ‘pardons his sins, forgives his ingratitude, pities his infirmities, heals his backslidings, and loves him freely.

The Christian thus learns that if he stands, God must hold him up; if he knows anything aright, God must teach him; if he walks in the way to heaven, God must first put, and afterwards keep him in it; if he has anything, God must give it to him; and that if he does anything, God must work it in him.

He now “through the law”-that is, through his experience of its killing sentence-“is become dead to the law, that he may live unto God”. He can no longer take a killing letter for a living rule, but is deeply conscious that it is only by being “married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that he can bring forth fruit unto God” Ro 7:4. Thus by the presence of God going with him, he becomes separated “from all the people that are upon the face of the earth” (Ex 33:16).

Whilst others boast of what they have done for God, he is glad to feel that God has done something for him; whilst others are handling the shell, he is eating the kernel; whilst others are talking of Christ, he is talking with Him; whilst others are looking through the park palings, he is enjoying the estate; and whilst others are haranguing about the treasure in the Bank of England, he is pleased to find a few coins in his own pocket, stamped with the king’s image and superscription. But he finds the truth of that text, “In much wisdom is much grief; and he that increaseth knowledge increases sorrow” Ec 1:18.

As his inward religion separates him from those who have only an outward one, he becomes a butt for empty professors to shoot at. Those whom he once would have disdained to set with the dogs of his flock, now spare not to spit in his face Job 30:1 Job 30:10. Every consequential Evangelical, who has not an idea about religion but what he has gleaned from Scott or Simeon, condemns him as “a rank Antinomian”. Every spruce Academic, hot from Hackney or Cheshunt, who knows no more about the operations of a living faith than of the Chinese language, has an arrow stored in his quiver, feathered with a text to strike him through the heart as “an awful character”.

Every high-faith professor rides over his head; every dry Calvinist outruns him in the race; every Pharisee outstrips him in zeal; every ranting Methodist thunders at him for sloth; and every doer of duty avoids him as a pestilence.

However various sects differ among themselves, they all unite in condemning him. All other religion is right, and his alone wrong; everyone else’s faith is genuine, and his only is spurious. Of him alone the charitable augur uncharitably; universal salvationists cut off him alone from salvation; those that pity the heathen have no pity for him; and those who compass sea and land to make one proselyte, pronounce his case alone as past recovery.

And what is his trespass and what is his sin, that they so hotly pursue after him? Gen 31:36. Does he live in sin? No. Is he buried in the world, head over ears in politics, heaping together dishonest gains, or eaten up with covetousness? None dare say so. Does he neglect prayer, reading the Word, hearing the truth, contributing to the necessities of saints, and living peaceably with all men? No. Why then this universal baying at him from every dog of the pack?

For the same reason that Joseph’s brethren hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him – THE FATHER LOVES HIM, AND HAS CLOTHED HIM IN A GARMENT OF MANY COLOURS, AND GIVEN HIM REVELATIONS WHICH HE HAS DENIED TO THEM.



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.” [2Chr 20:12]

Jehoshaphat did not know what to do; he was altogether at his wit’s 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 THEE.”

 “Thou must fight our battles; thou must take the matter into Thy own hands. Our eyes are upon Thee, waiting upon thee, looking up, and hoping in Thee; believing in Thy holy name, expecting help from Thee, from whom alone help can come.” But this is painful work to be brought to this point, “Our eyes are upon Thee,” 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.



J.C. Philpot

“The entrance of Thy words giveth light” [Psalm 119:130]

We often get into such dark paths, that we feel as if there were no more grace in our souls, than we are as one altogether dead in trespasses and sins. And whether we look back at the past, or view the present, or turn our eyes to the future, one dark cloud seems to rest upon the whole; nor can we, with all our searching, find to our satisfaction that we have one spark of true religion, or one atom of grace, or one grain of vital godliness, or any trace that the Spirit of God has touched our consciences with his finger.

Now, when we are in this dark, benighted state, we want LIGHT; we want the blessed Son of righteousness to arise; we want the south wind to blow a heavenly gale, and drive the mists away; we want the clouds to part, and the light of God s countenance to shine into our souls, so as to show us where we are, and what we are, and make it clear, that base and vile as we are, yet that we are interested in the love of the Father, the blood of the Son, and the teachings of the Holy Ghost.

Are you never there in soul-feeling? Do you not sometimes look into your hearts, and weigh up your evidences, and examine yourselves, and say, “I must honestly confess” and you sink fathoms in a moment “that I cannot find in my soul one mark of grace; I am as worldly, as stupid, as ignorant, and as carnal, as though the finger of God bad never touched me.”

In these seasons, then, you want the ENTRANCE OF LIGHT. You cannot run to a friend, and say, “Be so kind as to give me a little flattery. Do just take the whitewash brush, and brush me over; get out the mortar and trowel, and daub me over with a little plaster. Pray, put a little putty into these cracked evidences; shore up my sinking religion, that it may not be altogether” a tottering wall, and a bowed fence.” No; you would rather ask a man of God to take his trowel, and pick out with the pointed end all the putty, instead of putting fresh into the crack.

You would rather stand naked before God, that he himself might, in his own time and way, clothe you with the garments of salvation, than be wrapped up in the veils and mantles of profession, or borrow a robe from your neighbour. Thus in these seasons you cannot go to man. You cannot angle for praise. If you resemble me, you cannot go to a child of God with a head hanging like a bulrush, and with demure looks throw out some disparaging, condemnatory sentence against yourself, for the express purpose of your Christian friend taking it up in order to underprop with it your religion. But you will act as Jeremiah says he did Jer 15:17, “I sat alone, because of thy hand;” you will do as we read La 3:28 he does who bears the yoke, -“he sitteth alone, and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him.”

You will be crying unto the Lord in some secret corner, be tossing on your midnight couch, wrestling with the Saviour for a manifestation, and big scalding drops will be rolling down your cheeks, that the Lord would make himself known unto you, and sprinkle your conscience with his atoning blood. You will be sighing and mourning, away from every human eye and every human ear, that the Lord himself would lift up the light of his countenance upon you, and cause you experimentally to know the meaning of the words: The entrance of Thy words giveth light.” You can t be satisfied with the doctrine of Christ s blood, and the doctrine of Christ’s righteousness, and the doctrine of God s everlasting love, but you want the feeling application of it; the spiritual and supernatural entrance of it into your souls, so as to raise up that in your hearts which shall bring you out of prison to praise and bless his name.

And you want this entrance of light into your heart, that it may give you entrance into that which is within the veil, even a sweet and blessed entrance, by faith into the very heart and compassionate bosom of Jesus, so as to drink into his spirit, and to be melted into his likeness.

THIS IS THE RELIGION THAT I WANT; and as to any other, I would, in my right mind, tear every shred of it from me. As to any religion that does not stand in divine teachings, sweet applications, blessed manifestations, and heavenly testimonies, I would throw it aside from me as an unclean garment -I would bury all such rags and tatters in the first dunghill that I came to.




J.C. Philpot

“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” –Psalm 91:1

WHAT is “the secret place of the most High?” It is the same spot, of which Asaph speaks in the seventy-third Psalm–“Until I went into the sanctuary of God, then understood I their end.” It is the spot, of which the Lord speaks in Ezekiel–“I will be to them as a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come.” Then this “secret place” is the secret bosom of God. It is an entrance by faith into Jehovah, by a spiritual manifestation of him, leading us into a spiritual acquaintance with him.

“The secret place of the most High” is that solemn spot, where Jehovah meets with the sinner in Christ, and where he opens up to him the riches of his mercy, and leads him into his bosom, so as to read the secrets of his loving heart.

It is called a “secret” place, as only known to the those to whom it is especially communicated. It is called a “secret” place, because none can get into it–no, nor desire to get into it–except the Lord himself, with his own mysterious hand, opens up to them a part in it, sets them down in it, and sweetly blesses them in it.

Then to be in “the secret place of the most High” is to be brought into something like fellowship and acquaintance with God–something like communion, spiritual worship, divine communion; so as to know something of him experimentally, and “run into” him, as “a strong tower,” and there feel solemn safety!