by J. C. Philpot
But we now approach a part of our subject which is of the deepest importance as personally affecting the case and state of every one who professes to believe that Jesus reigns as King in Zion—the experimental and practical influence which a knowledge of this truth has or should have on believing hearts. If we have no experience of the reign of Christ in our own bosom, and his royal power and authority have no practical effect on our lives, there is little evidence that we know him or the power of his resurrection by the teaching and testimony of the Holy Spirit. We know his royal power only as far as we experience it; we experience it only as far as we act upon it. Thus the evidence of knowledge is experience--the evidence of experience is practice. See then the golden chain which binds truth, knowledge, experience, and practice together, and all to the throne of the King of Zion. He is himself "the truth;" a revelation of him gives a knowledge of it; a knowledge of the truth works an experience of it; an experience of the truth produces the practice of it. Thus truth is in Jesus; knowledge from Jesus; experience out of Jesus; and practice after Jesus. Is not the chain complete? What shall we add to or take from it?
But do not all the links, so closely bound together, derive alike their union and their power from his kingly sway? And over whom does he wave his royal scepter? Over believing hearts; for his reign is a reign of grace, and therefore demands gracious subjects; a spiritual kingdom, and is therefore set up and maintained by the power of the Spirit; a rule of love, and is therefore received by faith and embraced by affection. It is impossible, therefore, to dissociate his kingly authority from a gracious experience of its power, or the scepter of his grace from a practical obedience to its rule. To separate truth from experience--and experience from practice--is to put asunder what God has joined together; and woe be to the man who proclaims such a divorce by his lips or by his life.
Let us, then, with the Lord's help and blessing, attempt to trace out this connection, and to do so with greater clearness we will view them separately, directing our attention first to the experimental influence which a knowledge of Christ's kingly authority has upon a believing heart.
i. Few words have been more misunderstood, and, as a necessary consequence misrepresented, than the term experience. It has actually been stigmatized as almost synonymous with corruption; and many a proud lip has angrily curled at the word, and many a libelous tongue hurled at it an arrow of contempt. But by the term is meant, at least by those who use it aright, a gracious knowledge of the truth. It thus comprehends the whole work of God upon the heart—every branch of the divine life in the soul. Without it, therefore, there is neither faith nor repentance, neither regeneration nor conversion; and to be without it is to be destitute of the Spirit of Christ and so to be none of his, to be dead in sins, without God and without hope in the world.
By an experience, then, of the authority of Jesus as King in Zion we understand a spiritual, gracious, and saving acquaintance with his kingdom as set up in the heart by the power of God. This kingdom is an internal kingdom. "The kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:21.) "The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power." (1 Cor. 4:20.) "The kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit." If, then, it be within us, there must be an internal perception of its presence; if it be in power, it must do something for and in us; if it be "righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit," there must be some spiritual tasting of these heavenly fruits. But before this kingdom can be set up in the heart there must be a breaking to pieces of every other kingdom there. This is beautifully shown in Daniel's vision of the image. "You saw until that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and broke them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing-floors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them—and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth." (2:34, 35.) The "stone cut out without hands" represents the Lord Jesus, a reference being intended to his human nature as not formed by ordinary generation; and the breaking to pieces of the feet, of the image mystically foreshadows the wreck and ruin of everything which stands in the way of the setting up and full development of his kingdom.(We do not say there is not a prophetical sense of the passage besides the spiritual meaning here given.)
That Christ, then, may reign and rule in the heart, there must be a previous breaking to pieces of all other authority and power. The reign of sin must give way to the reign of grace; idols must be dethroned; rivals banished; lusts subdued; the flesh mortified and crucified; the old man put off, the new man put on. But who is sufficient for these things? Who will pluck out his own right eye, or cut off his own right hand? Who will drive the nails of crucifixion into his own quivering flesh? No one! The Lord, then, must do it all for and in us by his Spirit and grace. The means which he uses is his word, for "where the word of a king is, there is power;" and he himself says, "Is not my word like a fire? says the Lord; and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?" (Jer. 23:29.) To revert, then, to our figure, upon the toes of sin and self, on which the image stands, the stone falls and breaks them to pieces. This fracture brings down the image, and, with the same crash, the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold become like the chaff of the summer threshing floors, so that no place is found for them. In this way pride and self-righteousness, unbelief and infidelity, hypocrisy and vain confidence, carnality and worldly mindedness, sin and self in all their various shapes and forms, whether strong as iron, base as clay, bright as brass, precious as silver, or glittering as gold, become smitten as with a deadly blow, and scattered to the winds of heaven, so as to form a compact and standing image no more. Now this fall and ruin of self makes way for the setting up of the kingdom of Christ in the heart. Jesus reveals himself to the soul, thus broken and humbled, as its Lord and King. He thus becomes known, believed in, and loved; and these three things, knowledge, faith, and love, lie at the foundation, and form the root of all gracious living experience.
Let us view them separately.
1. KNOWLEDGE. Unless we know the Lord, how can we trust him? for it is those, and those only, "who know his name," who can or will "put their trust in him." (Psalm 9:10.) Indeed, without a spiritual, experimental knowledge of the Son of God, there is no eternal life, for "this is life eternal, that they might know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." (John 17:1.) But how can we thus spiritually and savingly know him unless he manifests himself unto us as he does not manifest himself to the world? (John 14:22.) As, then, he manifests himself, his divine Person and finished work, his surpassing grace, and heavenly glory, his matchless beauty and supreme blessedness, his complete suitability and all-satisfying sufficiency are clearly seen. This is to see light in God's light; (Psalm 36:9;) to be enlightened with the light of the living; (Psalm 56:13;) and to enjoy the blessing described by the Apostle—"For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (2 Cor. 4:6.)
2. FAITH. This revelation of Christ gives a spiritual knowledge of him, and out of this knowledge of him springs faith in him; "I know," says the Apostle, "whom I have believed." (2 Tim. 1:12.) Of this faith Jesus is the author, and Jesus the finisher, for it stands "not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." (Heb. 12:2; 1 Cor. 2:5.) But view this grace of faith chiefly as raised up and drawn forth upon the Person of Jesus as King of Zion. What is its first work? To give him a place in the heart. When Jesus reveals himself with power, faith immediately stretches forth its arms, and embraces him, and thus brings him into the soul. This is beautifully expressed by the Bride—"It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loves; I held him, and would not let him go, until I had brought him into my mother's house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me." (Song 3:4.) It is by faith that Christ dwells in the heart, (Eph. 3:17,) for faith first gives him admission, and afterwards maintains him there.
3. LOVE. And as faith works by love, love next flows forth to delight itself in him who is altogether lovely, and thus to enshrine him in the warmest, tenderest affections of the soul. This is the crowning grace of the Spirit, the richest, ripest fruit of the whole heavenly cluster. As, then, Jesus is thus known, believed in, and loved, by this threefold cord the heart is bound to his throne, and to him who sits thereon in the fullness of his Mediatorial grace and ascended glory.
4. From this knowledge of him, faith in him, and love to him, springs UNION with him as the Church's living Head; for the same holy and blessed Spirit, through whose heavenly teaching and unction these graces are communicated, gives and cements by them a spiritual union with thus Son of God. (1 Cor. 6:17.)
5. From this spiritual union with the Lord flows COMMUNION or fellowship with him—"God is faithful, by whom you were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord." This made holy John say, "And truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ." (1 John 1:3.)
6. From this communion flows FRUITFULNESS, as the Lord so beautifully opens up in the parable of the vine and the branches.* How plainly he there declares that "without him," that is, without union and communion with him, we can "do nothing," that is, bring forth no fruit to his praise; but that, if we "abide in him" by faith and love, and he "abides in us" by his Spirit and grace, fruit will be abundantly brought forth to the glory of God. (John 15:4-8.)
The whole of this beautiful chain of vital godliness may be found by a spiritual eye, in those wondrous chapters wherein the Lord comforted his sorrowing disciples—John 14, 15, 16, 17.
1. The glory of Christ with his Father—17:5, 11, 24.
2. The manifestation of Christ to the soul—14:21, 22; 16:16, 22.
3. A saving knowledge of Christ—14:19 16:14, 15.
4. Faith in him—14:1, 10, 11, 29; 16:27; 17:8.
5. Union with him—14:20; 15:5; 17:21, 23.
6. Communion—15:4, 7, 10, 11.
7. Fruitfulness—15:2, 5, 16.
ii. We thus see the necessary connection between an experience of the kingly power of Jesus, and all real PRACTICAL OBEDIENCE to his will and word, all inward and outward submission to his sovereign sway and divine authority. Of this obedience love is the main-spring—"The love of Christ constrains us." (2 Cor. 5:14.) For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous." (1 John 5:3.) Does not our blessed Lord himself say,"If you love me, keep my commandments?" No, so closely is obedience connected with love, that, not only is it made the test of it, but the very manifestations of Christ are closely connected with it. "He who has my commandments, and keeps them--he it is that loves me; and he who loves me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." (John 14:21.)
Practical obedience; a godly, consistent conduct and conversation; a daily walking in the fear and love of God; a fruitfulness in every good word and work; a living not unto ourselves but unto the Lord; a seeking of God's glory and not our own; a desire to do good to the bodies and souls of our fellow men; and a cleansing ourselves of all filthiness of the flesh and spirit--by the word of God's grace. All such and similar fruits of faith are generally left out of the Calvinistic profession of the present day. 'Good works' are left to the Arminians. The very word would desecrate, it is thought, a Calvinistic pulpit, and to enforce them would seem to smack too strongly of free-will and self-righteousness to please the pew.
But though left out of the ministry of the day, and left out of the practice of the people, they are not left out of the book of God, nor out of the consciences of those who truly fear and love him; and it will be seen in the great day how far they have been safely left out of the profession and practice of many who are considered by themselves and others champions of truth. But whatever such men may think or say, the word of God bears a sure, an unerring testimony that "holiness becomes the house of the Lord forever," and that "without holiness no man shall see the Lord." (Psalm 93:5; Heb. 12:14.)
Thus far, then, have we seen what a holy, sanctifying influence a true experimental knowledge of Christ as Lord and King has over a believer's heart and life. His throne, though to our unspeakable comfort a throne of grace, is at the same time "a throne of holiness." (Psalm 47:8.) The hill of Zion on which the Father has set his Son is a "holy hill." (Psalm 2:6.) To that holy throne, to that holy hill, sinners are welcome, but not sin. If we serve the Lord it must be with fear; if we rejoice in him it must be with trembling. (Psalm 2:11.)
But it is time for us to bring our Meditations to a close. Our desire and aim in them have been to bring before our readers the Mediatorial grace and glory of the exalted Son of God--as Priest, Prophet, and King, to his redeemed and regenerated people; and in pursuance of this object, we have sought to make our Meditations edifying and profitable, by not handling these sacred topics as mere matters of doctrinal speculation, but as blessed experimental themes of heavenly meditation and practical efficacy and influence.
We cannot but feel how weakly, how imperfectly, we have treated these heavenly mysteries; but they have not been handled by us without some thought and care, as well as prayer for divine instruction for ourselves, and a spiritual blessing upon them for our readers. We have not written carelessly for careless readers; but while we have endeavored "to hold fast the faithful word as we have been taught, so as to be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers," we have also aimed so to blend experience with doctrine, and practice with experience, as to edify the living family of God. They will be both our best and most lenient judges, for as they, and they only, know the value and blessedness of the subjects which we have brought before them, so they, and they only, will throw a mantle of love over our imperfections.
And now what remains but to beg of the Lord that, as these Meditations on his Office Characters were written to magnify the exceeding riches of his grace, so he would make them redound to the praise of his glory! Amen.