June 25, 2009

Not Great Things, but Real Things

"And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not– for, behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh, says the Lord. But your life will I give unto you for a prey in all places where you go." Jeremiah 45:5

Does the Lord say, "Seek not great things?" What then? "Seek real things." Mark the difference. Great things may suit the carnal mind, but real things will alone suit the spiritual mind. " O that Thou wouldst bless me indeed!" cried one whose inmost soul was panting for realities; and with his prayer do I, in my right mind, join heart and soul.

Realities are what my soul, when the Lord is pleased to bedew me with His Spirit, is breathing after; not great things, but real things. By real things I mean those spiritual blessings that are dropped into the soul by the mouth of God-the solemn verities of the kingdom of God made known by the Holy Ghost-such as the smiles of God’s countenance, the testimonies of His mercy, atoning blood sprinkled upon the conscience, Christ’s righteousness imputed and revealed to the soul, visits from Jesus, soft whispers of His love, blessed intimations of His favour, communion with Him, a broken heart, a tender conscience, a contrite spirit, godly fear in exercise.

Now these are real things. They are not what dead professors desire. Such never want power, unction, savour, dew, to be felt in their souls. There is in them no sighing after the smiles of God’s countenance, or the manifestations of His covenant love. The great bulk of what is called "the religious world" despise these things; they are not in their book, their Sunday school does not teach them; the gown and bands of their pulpits does not preach them. They would rather hunt after that will-o’-the-wisp called "decided piety," or self-righteousness new christened "holiness," or missionary zeal, or tract dispersing.

Having no faith to realize unseen things, they want something visible to sense, something intelligible to reason, something tangible, something within the grasp of the natural mind. But to be poor and needy, tempted and tried, with no hope but that which God gives, no faith but that which God communicates, no love but that which God sheds abroad, no peace but what He speaks, no religion but what He breathes into the soul, is as much beyond their understanding as their desire. Nor until a man has come to the end of all the religion of the creature, and been divinely initiated into the spiritual knowledge of the only true God, has he any understanding of, or appetite for, those real things in which the very sum and substance of vital godliness, the very marrow and essence of true religion consists.

There is a desire in many to be religious, but they utterly mistake what true religion is. To live a good life, to abstain from sin, "to cultivate," as it is called, grace, to be holy, to do good to their fellow-creatures, to exert themselves for the conversion of others-in these and similar things do most consider religion to consist. But a man may do, and be all this in the flesh, "which profiteth nothing" Joh 6:63 and thus come short of eternal life.

I solemnly assure you that these things will never speak peace to your souls-I mean "the peace of God which passeth all understanding"-in a dying hour. These things have been possessed by hundreds who have perished in their sins. They were, perhaps, highly esteemed professors in their day; were pointed out as examples to others, died in a false peace, and in funeral sermons were sent triumphantly to heaven; when, could their souls’ miserable flight have been followed, they would have been seen to sink into the lowest hell.

These things, if God has touched your conscience with His finger, you know from experience are delusive and vain; and, therefore, what your soul is panting after in those secret moments when God’s eye is looking into your heart, is to feel the savour, the power, the unction of heavenly things, and to have the blessed visitations of God’s love, and the manifestations of His grace and mercy.

Preached on Lord’s Day Evening, August 22nd, 1841, at Salem Chapel, Landport, Portsmouth
J.C. Philpot

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