J. C. Philpot (1802-1869)
IV. We pass on to the fourth point–the way in which the kingdom is held fast. I adopt the marginal reading, which is often most correct, and certainly best here: “We receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us hold fast grace.” There is a holding fast grace, as the Lord speaks to the church of Philadelphia: “Hold fast that which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” “Hold fast,” says the apostle, “that which is good.” If we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope “firm unto the end.” So here–”let us hold fast grace.” Why? Because if we have grace, though we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, yet we shall find many, very many things, which will try that grace, and seem as though they would take it utterly away. The same grace, then, whereby the kingdom is received is needful to hold that kingdom fast. The same favour of God that bestowed the gift is needful to retain the gift; and the same blessed Spirit who brings the kingdom into the soul must maintain that kingdom which He has set up.
Here is the mystery; here comes the trial of faith. The soul says, “Have I not received Christ? Was there not a time, a blessed time in my experience, when He was manifested to me? Then I received Him as the Christ of God. I felt Him precious, and He was near and dear to my heart. But now He is gone; His presence is not enjoyed; the manifestations of His love are withheld.” Now, what need of faith to believe that the Lord did reveal Himself! Unbelief says, “It was all a delusion.” Infidelity whispers, “It was all mere excitement of the natural mind.” Doubts suggest themselves; fears begin to work; misgivings haunt the soul; Satan distresses the mind; and all well-nigh seems gone.
Now what do we need? Grace, and especially the grace of faith to hold fast what has been received. This is the fight, the conflict, the trial of faith. In receiving, faith is as it were passive; but in holding fast, it is active. There is no trial of faith in taking what God gives; the trial is to keep it when sin and Satan would snatch it out of the hand.
Some allow that grace is freely given, but that when given, it is, as it were, self-sustaining. When I see a stone suspend itself in the air, I shall credit the self-sustaining power of grace. Faith is said in Scripture to be “of the operation of God;” and those who are kept, are “kept by the power of God.” The same grace which gave faith must maintain faith. The same grace which inspired hope must maintain hope. The same grace which shed abroad love must keep that love warm in the heart. All is of grace from first to last. Did Satan never tempt you to give up all, to abandon your profession, desert your place of worship, resign your church membership, if you are a member of a church, and cast away your very hope? But why have you not done all this? You would have done so if God had not given you grace to withstand the temptation. Have you not been tempted to plunge into sin? Have you not been tempted a thousand times to believe that there was nothing done in your soul by the power of God? What has kept you so long to the word of the testimony, to the throne of mercy, to hearing the truth, to a profession of the holy name of Jesus? Grace. As Paul says: “By the grace of God I am what I am.” Now what is the main point? To believe in spite of unbelief; to hope in spite of despondency; to love in spite of coldness and even enmity; to pray though no answer come; to hear, though rarely blessed; to search the Scriptures, though you rarely find comfort in them. Here is the trial of faith, still to go on faint yet pursuing, and holding fast by grace that which grace has bestowed.
V. But see the fruits and effects which spring out of all this. The child of God cannot always, nor often, see his own grace; he can see it in others, and they may see it in him; but he seems more ready to believe in the reality of their religion than of his own. Why is this? Because there is so much in him opposed to grace; and looking at this, he says, “Can I have grace? Should I be what I am’? Should I act as I do’? Would my heart be so carnal and sensual? Would my lusts and passions be so strong? Would my temptations be so powerful, had I grace’?” Here then to help poor doubters we need some marks and evidences of the inward possession of grace. Two are specially mentioned here–”Reverence and godly fear.” Can you not find these sister graces in your heart? Have you no reverence towards God? When you come before Him in secret prayer is there no reverence of His Great Majesty? Here is a mark of grace. Does it never wound your heart to hear God’s name blasphemed? Is presumption a sin which you very much dread? Would you be anything sooner than be a hypocrite? Do you see and feel the infinite disparity between you, a vile and polluted sinner, and Him, a pure and holy Jehovah?
And have you no godly fear? Fear of offending the great God of heaven? Search and sound your heart to the bottom, and see if there be not godly fear working in your soul. If you have backslidden, is there no contrition, sorrow, repentance? These are the fruits of godly fear; and God is served acceptably when He is served reverently, and when godly fear is in exercise. If you have one grain of holy reverence, one spark of godly fear, you are a Christian, a child of God, an heir of glory, and have received a kingdom which cannot be moved.
But you say, and I say with you–”Would to God I were more spiritual, heavenly-minded, and that my heart was more set on things above where Jesus sits at the right hand of God.” Well, these things are very desirable. I can speak for myself and some of you, that we have enjoyed these things and felt their sweet reality. But we are not always nor often here. We have an earthly heart, a corrupt flesh which lusts against the Spirit, so that we cannot do the things that we would. Still with all this there may be in a child of God features and marks of grace. Now just trace out if you can the work of grace upon your soul, and see whether there be not a chain with these several links. First a shaking; then a removing; then a receiving; then a holding fast; then a serving God from whom all these come with reverence and godly fear–five precious links and all closely joined together.
Thus grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life, and all redounds to the praise, honour and glory of a triune Jehovah.