J.C. Philpot on the "spirit of hardness"

Laodicean Christendom 2010 abounds with hardened professors. They are unbroken, i.e. self-willed, and self-assured. Their understanding is darkened, but they know it not. They are completely blind to their condition, fitting exactly the description given in the third chapter of the Revelation 17th verse: "...thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked".
Be not named among them...
1John 4:1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

One mark of the spirit which is not of God, is a spirit of hardness. I use the word "spirit," because the Scriptures speak in the same way of "the spirit of error," (1 John iv. 6), "of antichrist," (1 John iv. 3), "of whoredoms," (Hos. iv. 12), and so on. We read that "the Lord hardened Pharoah's heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go." (Ex. x. 20.) And we read, "God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear." (Rom. xi. 8.) A spirit of hardness, then, is an infallible mark of the spirit not being of God. By hardness, I mean the opposite of tenderness. Opposition to God's truth, an unwillingness, an inability to fall under the power of it; setting up our prejudice, our pride, our preconceived opinions against the solemn authority of God, and maintaining a rugged, unbending, unyielding temper.

Now this is a very different thing from firmness. Gospel firmness and judicial hardness are two very different things. A man cannot be too firm when God the Spirit has meekened his heart, and made the truth precious to him; but he will not have hardness of spirit; he will fall in a moment before truth. Let God only bring one of His people upon His heart; let Him only touch his conscience with His finger, and he is broken to pieces. But it is not so with the heart that is hard; neither law nor gospel has an effect there, but even a profession of religion is carried out in an unyielding spirit, a hard, self-opinionated perverseness.

Now we are called upon to "try the spirits." But wherever there is a spirit in man it will communicate itself to others. Spirit is of a diffusive nature. It is so naturally. The wind that blows in our face, and impels ships on the broad seas, spreads itself from place to place, and fills every corner; there is a certain impulse connected with the wind that makes it universally felt. So spirit is diffusive, whether the Spirit of God for good, or the spirit of evil for evil. Now, do you try the spirits of men this way. Try the spirits of the companions with whom you associate, that make a profession of religion; see whether there be any hardness in them, an unbending temper; see whether what is said to them on divine things make any impression; whether there be any softness, brokenness, tenderness, or any yielding of themselves to the truth of God. And if you sit under a sound ministry, watch whether the minister has a hard spirit. You will soon discover it, if God has made your conscience soft and tender, as Job said, "For God maketh my heart soft." (Job. xxiii. 16.) Watch whether his words fall as if they came from a hard heart. If so, they will communicate a similar measure of hardness to you. You will find, instead of that tenderness, softness, and contrition that you felt in times past, there will be a creeping over you by gradual steps a numbness, a hardness, a searedness, whereby truth seems to have lost its power; it does not sink into the conscience, nor carry with it that humbling impression it formerly did. How much the beginnings of this fearful evil are like the letting out of water! When once a man's heart begins to be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, or whenever a hard spirit is communicated from the pulpit to the people, it is the beginning of a fearful evil; and, if God prevent not, it will lead to awful backsliding.
Excerpted from Trying the Spirits by J.C. Philpot (1802-1869)

see also: spirit of delusion JCP
Hebrews 4:7 '...as it is said, Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts'

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