J. C. Philpot (1802-1869)
II. We pass on, therefore, to consider that branch of our subject which stands in diametrical opposition to the point we have been thus far handling, the remaining of those things which cannot be shaken.
The foundation of this vital truth rests on an axiom as broad and as wide as the foregoing. There are things which can be shaken, and there are things which cannot be shaken; the things which can be shaken are to be removed, the things which cannot be shaken are to remain. It is true in nature as in grace. To be shaken implies inherent weakness, therefore decay, therefore removal; not to be shaken implies inherent strength, therefore firmness, therefore fixedness. But what are the things in divine matters which cannot be shaken? We will, with God’s blessing, look at a few of them.
i. “The everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure” is one of those things which cannot be shaken. The counsels of the eternal Three in One, with the fixed decrees before the world had a being or time an existence, cannot be moved to and fro by the restless waves of chance or change. As well might a mountain be moved by the mists round its head as the eternal purposes of God by the breath of man. “He is in one mind, and who can turn Him? “I am the Lord; I change not.”
ii. The finished work of Christ is another of those things which cannot be shaken. Did He not say with expiring lips, “It is finished”? Almost His last words were, “I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do.” Hence it was prophesied of Him that He should “bring in everlasting righteousness,” which He did when He obeyed the law and died under its curse. Of this finished work of the Son of God we may indeed say, “Whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever; nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it.” It is a perfect work, a finished salvation, a complete redemption. Nothing can shake, alter, or disannul it, and therefore it remaineth.
iii. The work of God upon the soul, the kingdom of grace set up in the heart, is one of those things which cannot be shaken. But you say, “I am very often shaken as to the reality of the work of grace on my soul.” That may be, but your being shaken as to the reality of it does not shake the thing itself, that is, assuming the work to be real. Your apprehensions do not alter divine realities. If there is a work of grace begun upon your soul, it is begun; if it is being carried on, it is being carried on; and if God the Holy Spirit has planted His fear in your soul, He has planted it. These may seem commonplace truisms, but they are not. I merely put them in this form to set the matter in a clearer light. What I want to show you is that the work of grace is for eternity, and therefore cannot be shaken by the storms of time. Doubts and fears, therefore, which spring out of an unbelieving heart, as mushrooms from a meadow or fogs from a fen, cannot destroy what God has wrought. “I will work,” He says, “and none shall let (or hinder) it.” “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible.”
iv. But not only does the work of grace, viewed as a whole, remain unshaken and unremoved, but its component parts also cannot be overthrown and taken away. “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance,” that is, on His part; in other words, He never repents of having bestowed a gift, and therefore never recalls it.
1. Take for instance faith. This is the gift of God, therefore never taken away. Nay, more, it is never really shaken–at least, never shaken as false faith is shaken, so as to be removed. Let me explain my meaning a little more clearly and fully by a figure. Here are two trees in a park; the one dead, root and branch; the other living, stem and bough. A storm comes–the one falls with a crash: the other is shaken, but not moved from its place. It bows for a moment before the wind, but leaps back uninjured when the storm has passed by. The dead tree is now chopped up and taken away; the living tree remains clothed with foliage and fruit. Or it may be that the fruit is shaken off, and only the tree remains firm. So the fruits of faith, as joy, peace, confidence, assurance, communion, may be shaken and seem to fall off their parent tree, and yet faith itself be unmoved. This is a nice point and requires delicate handling; but I believe my assertion is substantially true. Look at it a little more closely, and I think you will see it must be so.
Say a man has false faith. It is shaken. Who has shaken it? God. Why? That He may take it away. Say a man has true faith. It is shaken. Who shakes it? Not God, but unbelief. God tried Abraham’s faith, but did not take it away. If true faith could be shaken in the same way that false faith is shaken, how would they differ, and how would a living faith be superior to a dead one? We read of some that “they believe for a time and then fall away;” of others, that they “receive the end of their faith, even the salvation of their souls.” Saul and Judas had the faith of the former; David and Peter the faith of the latter. They all were shaken; but the two first, like the dead tree, fell to rise no more; the two latter, like the living tree, sprang back to their place.
2. So with a good hope through grace. It may be deeply tried, and the heart may be moved, like Israel’s of old, “as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind.” Nay, under fits of despondency and unbelief, a child of God may say with Jeremiah, “My hope is perished from the Lord;” or with Job, “My hope hath He removed like a tree.” But it is not really so. It is a fruit and grace of the Spirit, and therefore abideth; as Paul says, “Now abideth faith, hope, love, these three.”
3. Love, therefore, for the same reason cannot be shaken. It may be most sharply tried; nay, at times seem almost extinct, be covered up with ashes; but it never can perish out of a believer’s heart. The apostle therefore says, “Charity,” or, as the word means, love, “never faileth.”
4. So the testimonies which God bestows on the soul, the promises which He applies, the tokens that He gives for good, the smiles of His countenance, the visitations of His presence, are things which abide. They are not shaken by the earthquakes of the law. If they could be thus shaken, it would show they were “things which were made.” But they are not made, but given. Fleshly hands never wrought them; earthly fingers never wove them; the hammer of creature strength never forged them on the anvil of human merit.
Can you not see the line which thus divides the things that are shaken from the things which are not shaken? The things shaken are those which are made; the things not shaken are those which are given. To sum up the whole in one word, the religion of man is made, therefore shaken, therefore taken away; the religion of God is given, therefore unshaken, therefore abiding for evermore.
III. But we pass on to our third point–The way in which this unshaken kingdom is received.
I am always very unwilling to drop a word against our translation, it is so excellent; but I think if our translators had preserved the same word here, as is the case in the original, it would have been better.
Suppose we read it thus–”Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken;” what a sweet connexion there now is with the preceding verse! Now take the whole connexion–”And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken.” There is the connection at once–it is “the kingdom” which cannot be shaken. And what kingdom? The kingdom of grace here, the kingdom of glory hereafter; the kingdom which is “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost;” the kingdom of which the Lord Jesus Christ is Head and Sovereign. This is the kingdom which cannot be shaken.
Earthly crowns fall from the heads of monarchs; worldly comforts wither and die; temporal prospects are beclouded; all that the world calls happiness how rent it is to the very foundations, and how soon all we see will be removed like a shepherd’s tent! But there is a kingdom which cannot be moved, a kingdom of present grace in the heart established there by the hand of God, and a kingdom of future glory in which the kingdom of grace opens up and terminates.
But this kingdom is to be received. “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved.” It is not worked for, nor worked into, but received as God’s own gift. This throws a light upon what I have been endeavouring to establish–the difference between a made religion and a given religion, between works and grace. The people of God are, therefore, called by the Lord “the children of the kingdom,” and by James, “heirs of the kingdom.” This kingdom they receive by faith. How did our queen [Victoria] receive her kingdom? Her uncle died; she was the legal heir, and she succeeded to the kingdom by way of right. But when did she receive it? Tidings were brought her–”the king is dead;” she believed the message, and by believing it she received the kingdom which was now hers, into her heart. So in grace. God’s children are heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ. But though heirs they are often kept out of the kingdom by their unbelieving fears. They cannot rise up into the dignity and privilege of being kings and priests unto God. But a message from the Lord breaks in upon their hearts. There is some discovery and manifestation of the Lord Jesus. He is received into the soul as the Christ of God. In receiving Him there is a receiving of the kingdom.
Look at the prodigal. He returned to his father’s house barefooted and in rags. What did his father do? Did he turn his face away as justly incensed at his base conduct? No; but he fell on his neck and kissed him, and said to the servants, “Bring forth the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.” But how passive in all this was the prodigal! All he did was to receive what was given. His shoulders received the robe; his finger received the ring; his feet received the shoes; and when the fatted calf was dressed, his mouth received the meat. So a child of God receives the kingdom which cannot be shaken. But how? By faith. Faith embraces what God reveals, takes hold of what God applies, and receives what God gives.
But do you not see how needful it is for the things which are shaken to be removed that the kingdom which cannot be shaken may remain? There is no room in the heart for the kingdom of grace whilst Self sits on his lordly throne. Legality, self-righteousness, and fleshly holiness are as great barriers to receiving Christ into the heart as sin and profanity. But let proud pharisaic self be shaken to the very centre; let the sinner quake before God; let the condemning law come into the conscience burning up all his righteousness; let him tremble at the wrath to come; and under a sense of condemnation let his legal hopes flee away like smoke out of the chimney, or chaff from the summer threshing-floor; then let there be some discovery of the Lord Jesus, how he receives the Saviour!–receives Him, as Hart says, “in his best room.” Christ is King and Head in Zion; therefore, in receiving Christ, His precepts are received as well as His promises. A kingdom without laws is as great an absurdity as a king without subjects. There is an “obeying the gospel” as well as a believing it; receiving a Lord to rule as well as a Saviour to save. The dew and rain which water the earth make it bring forth and bud; and the same grace which pardons sin subdues it.
This, then, is the kingdom which cannot be shaken. We may be shaken, and are; but that is not the shaking of the kingdom. You may have all your money in a bank, and may have some apprehension whether the bank be secure. Do your fears make the bank insolvent? No more than your confidence makes it safe. So it is in grace. You may have fears, misgivings, and apprehensions; but the kingdom remains the same. Misgivings and suspicions do not alter facts. If God has wrought a work in your soul He has wrought it; and if He has given you faith, and hope, and love, He has given you these graces of the Spirit. These are decisive realities. What I may feel, or what I may fear, does not alter them. The soul may be in darkness, love cold, and the things of God out of sight. But they are there. I may stand upon Hampstead Heath and look towards St. Paul’s; but it is so covered with smoke and fog that I cannot see it. My not seeing the dome does not sweep it into the river. Let the sun break out, the dome stands forth in all its noble proportions. So if the Lord has ever done anything for your soul, be it much or little, if He has given you one grain of grace, raised up one ray of hope, or shed abroad one beam of love, the kingdom is there; your eye may be dim, mists and fogs may obscure your view; but when the Sun shines, as shine it will, it will stand forth in all its reality and beauty.