When I was first led to advocate the true, proper and eternal Sonship of our most blessed Lord in the pages of the ‘Gospel Standard,’ and thus, as far as ability was given me, to ‘contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints,’ I little anticipated two consequences which have mainly sprung out of my attempt to set forth truth and to beat down error:
- The long, angry, and widely-spread controversy to which it has given rise;
- That I should publish my papers on the subject in their present form.
On these two points, therefore, I wish to offer a few words of explanation, as my readers may be thus, perhaps, better prepared to enter upon the perusal of the following pages.
1. As regards, then, the first point — the controversy which has thence arisen in the churches—let us take, as far as we can, an impartial view of all the circumstances of the case, not a narrow, one-sided glance of a part, but a full and fair consideration of the whole. I know that there are some who are so for peace at any price, that they would sooner almost surrender truth itself than see the churches vexed with strife. How far such are ‘valiant for the truth upon earth’ I must leave others of keener sight and sounder judgment than I possess to determine; but, as far as regards peace principles, and that they are to be paramount to every other consideration, I read that the Lord Himself has said, ‘Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace on the earth, but a sword’ (Matt. x. 34). And I am sure that if the good soldiers of Jesus Christ wield aright that indispensable part of the whole armour of God, ‘the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God,’ it must needs cut, and that sharply too, both error and those who hold it; for ‘the word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb. iv. 12); and if it be all this, it may well pierce even to the dividing asunder of churches, and be a discerner of the thoughts and intents of both members and ministers. Of what use is a sword which will neither pierce nor cut? A blade that has neither point nor edge may as well be kept in the scabbard. If, then, we take but a partial, one-sided view of the question, and letting the sword fall out of our hands, rather weep over the miseries of war than fight with holy zeal for the honour and glory of God, we may grieve that this controversy has harassed churches, divided ministers, and separated chief friends. I can make full allowance for the feeling, for with all my ‘acerbity of temper’ and ‘bitter spirit,’ so freely and, I must say, so unjustly imputed to me, I frankly confess that when I saw the effects of the contention, and how it was disturbing the peace of a church in London to which I was much united, not to mention others, I did myself feel a measure of this grief. But that feeling has passed away, and I now rather rejoice that the controversy has arisen, for I fully believe that great and lasting good will come out of it. Before, then, we give way to what may prove to be mere fleshly feeling, should we not first ask ourselves as well as others, Has not a bold declaration of truth always produced contention and division? Has it not always caused confusion and strife? And can it ever be otherwise ? Must truth never speak because error takes offence? The lovers of peace at any cost may say, ‘O thou sword of the Lord, how long will it be ere thou be quiet? Put up thyself into thy scabbard, rest, and be still’ (Jer. xlvii. 6). But what must be the answer? ‘How can it be quiet, seeing the Lord hath given it a charge against Ashkelon, and against the sea-shore? There hath He appointed it’ (Jer. xlvii. 7). If the Lord, then, has given the sword a charge against error, how can it be quiet, or rest, and be still in the scabbard? Has there not been a cause for this controversy? I believe there has, and a strong one, too. This controversy has made it evident to me, and doubtless to many others besides myself, that a vast amount of error has been secretly covered up in the churches professing the doctrines of discriminating grace. ‘Baldness was come upon Gaza’ (Jer. xlvii. 5); ‘Gray hairs are here and there upon Ephraim, yet he knoweth it not ‘ (Hosea vii. 9); and this baldness, and these grey hairs, which before had escaped notice, have now been brought to light. I had been lone persuaded in my own mind from various indications which had come before my eyes, that there was much error in the churches professing the distinguishing doctrines of grace concealed from view; but I honestly confess, I was not prepared to find such an amount of it, that so many were tainted by it, or that it had taken such deep root in their minds. A storm is sometimes needed to clear the troubled sky, a hot furnace to separate the dross, and a sharp war to settle a lasting peace; and thus even a warm controversy may sometimes be beneficial to the church of God. In fact, the walls of our spiritual Zion have only been built as were in ancient days the walls of Jerusalem. ‘For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded. And he that sounded the trumpet was by me’ (Neh. iv. 18). Had all the Lord’s servants been ‘ fearful and afraid,’ like two-thirds of Gideon’s army (Judges vii. 3), truth would have long ago been surrendered, without even a show of battle, into the hands of the Midianites. But whoever ‘being armed and carrying bows turn back in the day of battle’ (Ps. lxxviii. 9), truth will suffer no defeat. Pure gold need fear no flame; thorough honesty need fear no detection, and heavenly truth need shrink from no examination. A doctrine which has stood more than 1,800 years, and withstood all the assaults of men and devils; a great and glorious truth which God has written as with a ray of light in the inspired Scriptures, and revealed by His Spirit and grace to thousands of believing hearts, is not likely to be overturned in these latter days by the tongue or pen of a few Baptist ministers, whatever natural ability they may possess, and however angrily they may preach or write. Neither their arguments nor their spirit will much move those who have received the love of the truth, and to whom Jesus has revealed Himself as God’s beloved Son, in whom He is ever well pleased. One of their leading men may call it ‘a figment’ and ‘a piece of twaddle,’ and may pronounce it effete and ready to vanish away’; but it will live when both he and they are in their graves, and be new and thriving when their very names are forgotten. What hosts of errors and heresies have passed away! but truth lives and flourishes in immortal youth. So will it be with this present controversy. When we shall all have passed away from this present scene; when the places where we have lived our little span of life, where we have preached, and written, and argued, and contended, shall know us no more, Jesus will still be what He ever was, the Son of the Father in truth and love, and will still have a people on earth who will believe in, and love Him as the only-begotten Son of God. But should a time ever come, which God in His infinite mercy forbid, when the churches of truth in this land shall abandon their faith in the eternal Sonship of Jesus, it needs no prophet to foretell their doom. Judgment will soon be at the door, for the salt will have lost its savour, and will be cast out to be trodden under foot of men, and the candlestick having ceased to shine will be removed out of its place.
2. And now for a few words why I send forth this little work. It is because I wish to leave on record my living and dying testimony to the true and real Sonship of Jesus, and that in a more convenient and permanent form than could be the case were it confined to the pages in which it first appeared. It is a truth which has for many years been very precious to my soul, and one which I trust I can say the Lord Himself on one occasion sealed very powerfully on my heart. From the very first moment that I received the love of the truth into my heart, and cast anchor within the veil, I believed that Jesus was the true and real Son of God; but rather more than sixteen years ago God’s own testimony to His Sonship was made a special blessing to me. It pleased the Lord in November, 1844, to lay me for three weeks on a bed of sickness. During the latter portion of this time I was much favoured in my soul. My heart was made soft, and my conscience tender. I read the Word with great sweetness, had much of a spirit of prayer, and was enabled to confess my sins with a measure of real penitence and contrition of spirit. One morning, about 10 o’clock, after reading, if I remember right, some of Dr. Owen’s ‘Meditations on the Glory of Christ,’ which had been much blessed to me during that illness, I had a gracious manifestation of the Lord Jesus to my soul. I saw nothing by the bodily eye, but it was as if I could see the blessed Lord by the eye of faith just over the foot of my bed; and I saw in the vision of faith three things in Him which filled me with admiration and adoration: 1, His eternal Godhead; 2, His pure and holy Manhood; and 3, His glorious Person as God-Man. What I felt at the sight I leave those to judge who have ever had a view, by faith, of the Lord of life and glory, and they will know best what holy desires and tender love flowed forth, and how I begged of Him to come and take full possession of my heart. It did not last very long, but it left a blessed influence upon my soul; and if ever I felt that sweet spirituality of mind which is life and peace, it was as the fruit of that view by faith of the glorious Person of Christ, and as the effect of that manifestation. And now came that which makes me so firm a believer in the true and real Sonship of Jesus; for either on the same morning, or on the next—for I cannot now distinctly recollect which it was, but it was when my soul was under the same heavenly influence—I was reading the account of the transfiguration of Jesus (Matt. xvii.), and when I came to the words, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him,’ they were sealed with such power on my heart, and I had such a view of His being the true and real Son of God as I shall never forget. The last clause, ‘Hear ye Him,’ was especially sealed upon my soul, and faith and obedience sprang up in sweet response to the command. I did indeed want to ‘hear Him ‘ as the Son of God, and that as such He might ever speak to my soul. Need anyone, therefore, who knows and loves the truth, and who has felt the power of God’s Word upon his heart, wonder why I hold so firmly the true and real Sonship of the blessed Lord? and if God indeed bade me on that memorable morning ‘hear Him,’ what better authority can I want than God’s own testimony, ‘This is My beloved Son’? For, ‘If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God, which He hath testified of His Son.’ ‘He that thus believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself ‘ (1 John v. 9, 10). But if he has not this inward witness, and for the want of it listens to carnal reason, need we wonder if he make God a liar? Truly did the blessed Lord say in the days of His, flesh, ‘All things are delivered unto Me of My Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son., and He to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him’ (Matt. xi. 27). It has long been a settled point in my soul, ‘That a man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven’ (John iii. 27), and therefore, if the Son of God has never been revealed with power to their heart, how can they receive Him as such? Happy are they who can say by a sweet revelation of Him to their soul, ‘And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true, and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life’ (1 John v. 20). May I ever hear Him and Him only, and may He speak not only to me, but through me, to the hearts of His dear family; and as He has enabled me thus far to defend His dearest title and worthiest Name, may He now smile upon the attempt to give it a more enduring form; and to Him with the Father and the Holy Ghost, Israel’s Triune God, shall be all the glory.
J. C. PHILPOT.
Stamford, Dec. 21st, 1860.