Sidelights on Bible Characters, by J C Philpot, published by Gospel Standard Trust Publications, paperback, 92 pages, £3.25, obtainable from the F P Bookroom.
This book brings together for the first time the introductions to a number of Philpot’s sermons. In them he comments on various Bible characters. The introduction is a good brief discussion of “the types in Scripture”. Here he also refers to what he calls “representative characters”. For instance, Abraham “is the representative character of a believer, for those who are blessed with faith are said to walk in the steps of faithful Abraham”. On the other hand, Saul is “an awful instance of gifts without grace” and of how “a man may be an instrument in the hands of God to accomplish His purposes, but lives and dies in his sins”.
Readers will find much profitable material in the following chapters. However, a few points call for comment. One is unhappy with the answer to the question: How did the Lord appear to Jacob at Peniel? Philpot says, “In human shape, not indeed by an actual assumption of real flesh and blood, as some have vainly imagined”. But Calvin, more scripturally, speaks of Christ as taking on a temporary body. One is also disturbed by the harshness of Philpot’s reference to Jeremiah, expressed more than once: “He was left to know and manifest more of the rebellion and peevishness of his depraved nature than any of the prophets, if perhaps we except Jonah”.
In conclusion, we may note the opening words of the chapter on David as “the sweet Psalmist of Israel”: “The Psalms are a blessed manual of Christian experience, and well may we call them so; but I think I may confidently say that there is not a single spiritual feeling in the bosom of a child of God which is not expressed, with greater or less distinctness, in that inspired record of the hidden life of the saints of God”. Appropriate words! Accordingly we could wish that Christians everywhere – including Philpot’s successors today – used the Psalms as their book of praise in public worship.