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The Mighty Watcher, and His Twofold Work

J.C. Philpot

Preached at Providence Chapel, London,
July 11, 1847

"And it shall come to pass, that like as I have watched over them, to pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict—so I will watch over them, to build, and to plant," says the Lord. Jeremiah 31:28

True religion—vital godliness, (the words with me are synonymous), has two sides to it. And by this mark it is distinguished from all pretension, without actual possession.

If, for instance, we cast a glance at the profession of some, it is all upon the bright side of things. Constant, unwavering assurance, continually triumphing in Christ, complete victory over doubt, fear, sin, and Satan—is the staple of their religion. And they would gladly have you believe, that they are actually and experimentally before God what they profess to be before men. But when we come with close and searching eye to watch the fruits, internal and external, that spring from this 'splendid profession', how little do they correspond with the profession itself! Pride, covetousness, worldly-mindedness, levity, frivolity, a hard, contentious spirit, irreverence in divine things, bitter and contemptuous speeches against God's tried and tempted family, intermingling with politics, and, in many cases, love of strong drink, running heedlessly into debt, and general looseness of conduct—how often are these dark marks stamped upon this bright profession of 'always triumphing in Christ!'

But again. We may cast a glance at others who are always upon the dark side; who never seem to rise beyond a knowledge of the evils of their heart, and the power of temptation; who are continually falling into open sin, and seem to know nothing of faith in Christ, of hope in his mercy, of love to his name, nor any deliverance from time to time by the hand of God from besetting lusts; nor again, anything of sighs, cries, groans, holy mourning, godly sorrow, or self-loathing for their vileness and baseness. The staple of their religion, as well as the warp and weft in the web of their conversation, is man's fallen condition by nature, and his helplessness and weakness; and yet this seems more expressed than felt, as sin never appears their grief and burden. Thus of these two classes in the religious world, one is all upon the malady, the other all upon the remedy; both hold truth doctrinally, but each only a part of truth; and the work of the Spirit upon the heart seems to both alike unknown.

From these two extremes, true religion, vital godliness, is distinguished by having two sides, and these as intimately and closely connected as the mortice and the tenon. It is not all light, it is not all darkness—it is not all faith, it is not all unbelief—it is not all joy, it is not all sorrow—it is not all life and holiness, it is not all death and devilism. And I think, if God enables us to see the mind of the Spirit in the words before us, we shall discover something of these two sides in our text; and then it will be found not a dream of the brain, not a fiction of mine or of any other man's imagination, not a crafty substitution of mere natural feelings and nervous impressions for the work of the Holy Spirit upon the heart—in a word, not "a cunningly devised fable," but a spiritual reality, and one which God himself has stamped with his own divine testimony.

Two things we may observe, then, in the words before us. First, the watching of God to pull down; and secondly, the watching of God to build up. And these two things, corresponding to the two clauses of our text, I shall, as the Lord may give strength, wisdom, and utterance, endeavor to set before you this evening.

I. The watching of God to PULL DOWN. "And it shall come to pass, that like as I have WATCHED over them, to pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict." Every expression here demands a separate examination. Gods word cannot be lightly passed over. Every syllable dictated by the Holy Spirit is pregnant with instruction—and if we cannot dig deep into this mine of spiritual and experimental truth, the fault is not in the mine, but i