My dear Friend, Mrs. Peake. . . In all who truly fear God and believe in His dear Son; in all in whose hearts the blessed Spirit is graciously at work, both to bring down and raise up, lay low in their own eyes and make Christ precious, show the evil of sin, give them repentance for it, creating a love for true holiness and spirituality of mind, with meekness, simplicity, sincerity, tenderness, brokenness of heart, and contrition of spirit—I say, where the blessed Spirit is thus at work, there and there only will there be true union in the solemn things of God. True union lies deep, and its foundations are out of sight. There is nothing in it earthly or carnal; and as what is earthly and carnal in us ever floats, so to speak, at the top, everything truly spiritual, holy, and gracious, being weighty and solid, lies at the bottom.
If you will examine your heart, as seeing light in God’s light, you will see that the best part of your religion lies the deepest. No man therefore can know anything of the mysteries of true religion and the secrets of vital godliness, who is not well brought down in his own soul. And thus a Christian, to his wonder and surprise, finds that the lower he sinks in himself, the more that he is abased, humbled, and brought down in his soul before the Lord, the nearer he is able to approach Him. In this way a sight and sense of our dreadful sins, the evils of our heart, the iniquities which are more in number than the hairs of our head, when attended with a feeling of the infinite forbearance of God, His tender mercy in Christ, the riches of His superabounding grace, the depths of His wondrous love, are made most profitable.
Until we are really humbled and brought down before God, with a view of His mercy and grace in Christ Jesus, we cannot bear to deal honestly with ourselves, or for others to deal honestly with us. It is our pride, our self-righteousness, our presumption, and our hypocrisy, our double dealing with God and our own consciences, which make us shrink from being searched by His Word and the light of His Spirit. As long as a man stands in his own strength or goodness, all the curses of God’s law strike at him as a sinner; but when he falls flat, as it were, on his face, confessing his iniquity, loathing himself in his own eyes for his baseness, and looking up in faith, hope, and love to the Lord of life and glory, as putting away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, then all the storm is ceased, and the blessings, promises, and mercies of the Gospel fall upon his soul like the still small rain and the refreshing dew.
And as these mercies enter into his heart, they bring forth in him every Gospel fruit. Prayer, and sometimes praise, spirituality of mind, love to the Lord and His truth, earnest desires to walk in His fear and live to His praise, separation in heart and spirit from an ungodly world, an understanding of the heavenly meaning of the Scriptures, and a stretching forth of the cords of love and affection toward the dear family of God—these and other fruits spring up and grow in the heart which is truly brought down by grace.
On the contrary, where the evil of sin is little seen or felt, where there is no abasement of spirit or humility of mind before the Lord, as being so utterly vile, and no corresponding sense of the infinite mercy and goodness of God, there religion for the most part is only in name. In that soil pride, self-righteousness, presumption, hypocrisy, worldliness, carnality, and covetousness, a spirit of strife and contention, a name to live when dead, a trifling with God and conscience, an indulgence of secret idols, and walking in many things which are highly displeasing to the Lord, will be found rife and strong.
Be not afraid therefore, dear friend, of seeing the worst of yourself. You have not seen half or a tenth part, I may say a hundredth part, yet. With all your experience of many years, and all the sight and sense which you have had of the evil that is in you, you have really seen and known but little of what a fallen sinner is in the sight of God. Indeed none of us could bear to see it. The sight would sink us into despair, unless specially held up by the power of God.
But I would say to you and to all my friends in the Lord, be not afraid of sinking too low in your own eyes. Dread presumption, pride, self-righteousness, vain security, a dead assurance, and empty formality; but covet sweet humility, brokenness of heart, contrition of spirit, tenderness of conscience, spirituality of mind, meekness, and quietness; and above all things covet earnestly precious manifestations of the Lord to your soul, sweet glimpses of His Person and work, and breakings in of the light of His countenance, and of what He is in Himself as the Son of God, and as the Mediator between God and men, the risen and glorified Intercessor, who is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by Him.
The Lord means to teach us that grace is grace, and that we can be saved in no other way. It is a lesson easy to learn in word, but to know it in its blessed reality and truth is no such easy matter; for it can only be known by knowing experimentally the depths of sin and guilt out of which it saves. When then we are being led down into these depths, there seems to be little before the soul but ruin and despair. It does not see that this sight and sense of sin is a needful preparation, to know what grace is and what grace can do; but when grace is manifested in its fullness and its super-aboundings, then the wonder is that grace so rich and free should ever be extended unto, or should ever reach, a soul so vile. . . .
Yours very affectionately in the truth,
J. C. P.
“These men have set up their idols in their hearts!” Ezekiel 14:3
“Their heart went after their idols!” Ezekiel 20:16
“We are all born idolaters!” Thomas Watson
“An idol is an idol–whether worshiped inwardly in heart, or adorned outwardly by the knee.” J.C. Philpot
“Every one of us is, from his mother’s womb, expert in inventing idols. Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual idol factory!” John Calvin
“An idol of the mind is as offensive to God as an idol of the hand.” A.W. Tozer
“O wretched idol, MYSELF!” Samuel Rutherford
“If we are indeed Christians–we have broken a great many idols. We have still some more to break–and we must keep the hammer going until they are all broken!” Charles Spurgeon
“This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices!” Ezekiel 14:6
“Dear children, keep yourselves from idols!” 1 John 5:21
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You may want to read J.C. Philpot’s powerful and insightful 2 page article, “The History of an Idol!“