What is it that Saves a Soul? Publisher's Note & Preface
The following work by J. C. Philpot was not a sermon but was originally written at the request of the Publisher of another work who used it as an Appendix. It was subsequently re-published as a separate work and is here reproduced in response to many requests.
PREFACE BY J. C. PHILPOT
WHEN, at the request of the Publisher of another work, I undertook to furnish an Appendix, and to give in it an answer to that important question, "What is it that saves a soul?" which question was there left undecided, I intended merely to write a few pages, without affixing to them my name; but as I wrote, I found the subject to grow under my hand, and thoughts and ideas to flow into my soul.
I felt, especially when I came to the second part of my subject, namely, salvation as an inward possession, that it could not be despatched in a few common-place words, but that it demanded what I could not bestow-pages of life and feeling, unction and power-to set it forth so as to meet the wants of God s tried family. I saw on every side of me salvation as an internal reality, unknown, unprized, uncared for, unregarded. Some I saw who called themselves ministers of God zealous enough for salvation outwardly, sound in the letter of truth, and contending earnestly for the doctrines of grace, who either never spoke of salvation inwardly, or if they mentioned it at all, despatched it in a few meagre sentences, which were usually so mixed with error that they only puzzled simple souls and discovered to a discerning eye the ignorance and emptiness of the preacher.
Others I observed who, from their pomposity and conceit, seemed to think that "wisdom would die with them" Job 12:2, pulling down what God in His Word has built up, and building up what He has pulled down. These would-be teachers I saw setting up forms, ceremonies, ordinances, prayer-meetings, church membership, family prayer, and a thousand other external things, all good in their place, as if they were the sum and substance of vital godliness. Others, again, I perceived, who call themselves experimental ministers, either setting up sins as evidences of grace on the one hand, or holding up universal hatred of sin as an evidence on the other.
Thus the ins and outs, the ups and downs, the mysterious workings, the invisible track, the inward conflict, and all that peculiar, deep, ever-changing, fluctuating path which is trodden by the family of God. I saw to be either never touched upon or, if attempted to be entered into, so mystified, confounded, and misrepresented, that a living soul was more distressed and perplexed by all that he heard than comforted and encouraged. I saw, also, that even ministers who bore marks of their call by grace and of their call to the ministry, were either resting in a past experience, or so "established," as they call it, "in Christ," which I believe to be an establishment upon their lees, that they differed little, if at all, from the letter Calvinists of the day.
Thus, whilst some were calling good evil, and evil good, putting bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter, and others were setting up the shadow for the substance, and the form for the power, I saw that those who should stand in the gap had put up their swords into the scabbard, and never drew them against those enemies of Christ who came in the garb of friends. The question seemed to be. "Are you an Arminian or a Calvinist? If the former, you are a foe; if the latter, a friend." And thus the most dangerous and insidious enemies of vital godliness are received into the camp of Christ because they can repeat the watchword and wear the dress of His soldiers. Thus I saw truth to be fallen in the streets, vital godliness uncared for, external things highly regarded, Christ s sheep unfed, and the devil s goats unseparated. So that I felt myself led to insist on an internal salvation at greater length than I at first intended, though with the deepest consciousness of my ignorance and inexperience, and to affix my name, that it might not have the disadvantage and suspicion which are usually attached to an anonymous work.
Without, then, expressing any opinion in favour of or against the pamphlet to which this Appendix is affixed, I send forth this feeble attempt to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints, and to show the nature of that salvation which a man must know and possess for himself before be can enter into the kingdom of heaven.
J. C. PHILPOT
WHAT IS IT THAT SAVES A SOUL?
WELL may every sensible sinner desire a true and satisfactory answer to a question of such importance. Well may everyone who has tasted the wormwood and the gall, been pierced with the sting of sin, groaned beneath the curse of the law, and trembled at the judgment to come-well may every such guilty, self-condemned wretch "kiss his lips that giveth a right answer" to the all-important question, "How shall man be just with God?" Job 9:2