Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
John 7:35; James 1:1). "Strangers" means temporary residents in a foreign country. But the question whether this letter is really addressed to Jewish Christians is not necessarily answered in the affirmative by this superscription. For it is quite possible that the Gentile Christians in the countries named may be intended by "the sojourners of the dispersion," the description properly belonging to the Jews being transferred to them as in a profounder sense true of them, just as many other terms applicable to them are transferred in other parts of the letter. This possibility seems to be raised to a very high probability, at least by many expressions in it which appear to imply that the persons addressed were Gentiles. Such, for instance, as 1 Peter 1:14, "the former lusts in your ignorance;" 1 Peter 2:10, "in time past were not a people;" 1 Peter 4:3, "The time past may suffice to have wrought the desire of the Gentiles." If, then, we may fairly take these words as addressed to all Christians, they bring before us the familiar but ever-neglected truth that, if Christians are faithful, to their calling and to their true affinities, they will cherish a sense of belonging to another order of things than that with which they are outwardly connected. The word here rendered "stranger," or, as in the Revised Version, "sojourner," implies both residence in a foreign land, and temporary residence; and if we add to it the remaining word, we have a threefold view of the condition of a Christian, as an alien, a passing visitant, an isolated man.
I. HE IS AN ALIEN. He does not belong to the polity, the order of things in which he lives. No people on earth should understand that metaphor better than Jews and Englishmen; both belonging to nations scattered over the whole world, and accustomed to cherish a keen, proud sense of belonging to another nationality than that under whose flag they may be living. These Jews of the dispersion wandered all over the Roman world; but wherever they went, among the cold storm-swept uplands of Cappadocia and Galatia, in the rude villages of Pontus, or the luxurious cities and busy seaports of Asia Minor, they felt the mystic tie which bound them to Jerusalem on her hills, and the temple gleaming on its rock. So Christians are here members of another nationality, and foreigners in time. St. Paul gives us the same idea under a slightly different metaphor when he bids the Philippians live as citizens of heaven. Philippi was a Roman "colony," that is, it was regarded a piece of Rome itself in Macedonia, governed by Roman law, not by provincial codes, having the names of its citizens enrolled among the Roman tribes. So we, if we are Christians, are colonists here; our mother country is beyond the stars. This is an honor and a privilege. Peter does not utter these words with a melancholy face and a sigh, as so many of us do whose hearts hanker after the world, and would fain have it for our own. The Jew, the Philippian colonist, the roving Englishman were and are proud of their nationality, and knew that it was a descent to be naturalized in their places of residence. Let us glory in our belonging to the city which hath the foundations, and not sorrow that we are strangers. We have ceased to belong to the present material order, because we have been taken up into the higher. We rise to be aliens to earth and the race of men whose hopes and views are limited by it, just as some peasant's son may be educated out of the narrow surroundings and torpid life of his native village, and come to feel that he has little in common with relatives and friends, because a wider horizon expands before his mental vision. So then a prime duty is to keep separate from the order of things in which we dwell, and to keep vivid the consciousness that we do not belong to it. Think of the tenacious individuality of the Jewish people, eagerly mingling in the commercial life of every nation, and often having a large share in its intellectual life, and yet keeping apart, as oil from water. If Christians would learn the lesson, it would be well for them and for the world! Think of Abraham pitching his tent outside the cities of Canaan, mingling on friendly terms with the people, compelling their respect, but yet refusing to enter, and "dwelling in tabernacles, because he looked for the city." Nowadays Christians seem to be trying how far into the city of the Canaanites they can go, and how handsome a house they can build themselves there. It is never well with the Church unless the world describes it, as Haman did the Jews, "a certain people, scattered abroad, and their lives are diverse from all people." It is never well with a Christian soul which does not hear ever sounding in conscience the voice which says, "Come ye out and be separate." The world has got into the Church, and the Church has struck up a friendship with the world; and never was there more need to press upon every Christian that, in the measure in which he belongs to Christ, he is an alien here, and that if he feels quite at home among material things, that is because he has lost his nationality, and has stooped to the degradation of being naturalized in his place of abode.
II. EVERY TRUE CHRISTIAN BELONGS TO THE DISPERSION. Each human heart, even in the closest human love, has to live alone. But those who love Jesus Christ will often have to bear a peculiar solitude which comes from their necessary association with those who do not love him. The loneliness of outward solitude does not pain in comparison with the loneliness of enforced and uncongenial companionship. A Christian is least alone when alone, for then God comes to keep him company. He is most alone when pushed close against those who do not share his faith, for then all the holy thoughts which come to his soul in quiet, as birds will light on the grass, take flight and hide in the trees at the noise of tongues. The isolation is for high purposes. Leaven has to be diffused among the inert mass. Seed stored on a barn floor in heaps is of little use, and likely to rot. It is scattered that it may grow. Salt is rubbed into the meat which is to be preserved. Christians are spread abroad, as brands are carried from a fire, to carry light into dark corners. The same Providence which sent the Jews of the dispersion as missionaries throughout the Roman world, sends us to bear abroad the Name of Jesus. The more we are surrounded with uncongenial associates, the more imperative the duty, and the more hopeful the opportunity, of our witnessing for our King. We have to represent our country among strangers. Its honor is in our hands. We carry its flag. Wandering Englishmen of doubtful character make the name of England abominable, and men like Gordon and many an unknown missionary hero make it fragrant, in lands where they are the only known specimens of the race. Men judge of Christianity very largely by the specimens of it which they see. We are each sent among a circle of associates that they may learn what the gospel can do for men by what it has done for us. Are we such specimens as to inspire onlookers with a respect for the religion which has made us what we are?
III. CHRISTIANS ARE BUT PASSING VISITANTS. The colonists will be called to the mother-city. Native-born Australians think of coming to England as going home, though they have never touched our shores. The outlying posts which have been held for the king amid swarms of alien enemies will be relieved, and the garrisons welcomed to their true country. We too often speak and think of the transiency of this present and the coming of death, with sadness, or at the best with resignation. But if we rightly understood that our deepest affinities connect us with that other order into which death introduces us, and that repose from weary effort, congenial companionship instead of isolation, and all the sweet satisfaction and freedom of home, are death's gifts to the Christian son], we should think of our departure hence with hope. "Were the happiness of the next world as closely apprehended as the felicities of this, it were a martyrdom to live." It becomes us to be "glad" when they say unto us, "Let us go into the house of the Lord." Two men may embark in one ship - the one full of good cheer as the ropes are loosened and the first turn of the screw begins to move her from the pier; the other sad because he leaves all that is familiar and dear. The one is going home from exile; the other is being borne into banishment in a strange land, whose speech he does not know, whose king he does not serve. Which shall I be when death comes? - A.M.
I. THE GREETER. "Peter." The allusions to incidents in his life, and the checkered light thrown upon his character, which are found in this Epistle, are in harmony with what we gather from the Gospels and the Acts concerning him. For instance:
1. Jigs name. The Rock-man. What a reminiscence of the giving of that name! What it tells
(1) of his former character;
(2) of Christ's knowledge of him;
(3) of the ideal at which he is to aim!
2. His vocation. "An apostle." Here is a hint of
(1) his dignity;
(2) his brotherliness, not the, but "an apostle;"
(3) his allegiance, "Jesus Christ." As Keble sings -
"Friend thrice denied and thrice beloved - II. THE DESCRIPTION OF THOSE HE GREETS, Who were these? Here at once we open the vein of sadness which runs through this Epistle, and again and again rises to the surface. "Sojourners of the Dispersion." Homeless through persecution. Jewish and Gentile Christians, carried, as seed on the wings of the storm, to many lands where they would fertilize and multiply. Where were they? Widely scattered, from under the shadows of the mountains of Galilee to the shores of the Black Sea. This fisherman is casting his net in a deep and wide ocean. What are they? Divinely chosen to perfection of character. 1. They are being made holy. 2. They are being made holy by the Spirit. 3. They are being made holy by the Spirit in the fruits of obedience. 4. And this by self-sacrificing consecration. 5. And all this through the power of the sacrifice of Christ. III. THE SUBSTANCE OF THE GREETING. "Grace and peace." The highest ideal of both Greek and Hebrew as to tree blessedness. "Grace" - the thought in Greek sculpture, architecture, and oratory, the very name and charm of Greek divinities, and signifying the beauty of gentleness in strength, the favor of the high to the lowly, and all its effects in the lowly. "Peace" - the salutation of Hebrew prophet and patriarch, the wish for the city in the midst of enemies, for the soul in its relations to God and man. And both these combined, and both these multiplied tenfold, a thousandfold, on and on indefinitely and infinitely, for of such blessing a soul cannot have too much. - U.R.T.
II. THE DESCRIPTION OF THOSE HE GREETS, Who were these? Here at once we open the vein of sadness which runs through this Epistle, and again and again rises to the surface. "Sojourners of the Dispersion." Homeless through persecution. Jewish and Gentile Christians, carried, as seed on the wings of the storm, to many lands where they would fertilize and multiply. Where were they? Widely scattered, from under the shadows of the mountains of Galilee to the shores of the Black Sea. This fisherman is casting his net in a deep and wide ocean. What are they? Divinely chosen to perfection of character.
1. They are being made holy.
2. They are being made holy by the Spirit.
3. They are being made holy by the Spirit in the fruits of obedience.
4. And this by self-sacrificing consecration.
5. And all this through the power of the sacrifice of Christ.
III. THE SUBSTANCE OF THE GREETING. "Grace and peace." The highest ideal of both Greek and Hebrew as to tree blessedness. "Grace" - the thought in Greek sculpture, architecture, and oratory, the very name and charm of Greek divinities, and signifying the beauty of gentleness in strength, the favor of the high to the lowly, and all its effects in the lowly. "Peace" - the salutation of Hebrew prophet and patriarch, the wish for the city in the midst of enemies, for the soul in its relations to God and man. And both these combined, and both these multiplied tenfold, a thousandfold, on and on indefinitely and infinitely, for of such blessing a soul cannot have too much. - U.R.T.
1. Writer. "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ." The name is chosen which was most familiar to the readers. It is also the name which belonged to him as an apostle. He was commissioned by Jesus Christ to do important work for the Church, including the composition of this letter.
(1) The elect circumstantially. "To the elect who are sojourners of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia." It is in a Jewish mould that the apostle's thought is cast. "Elect," "sojourners," "Dispersion," derive their meaning from their application to the Jewish nation. There was a national election to the occupation of the land of Canaan. Latterly many Jews were resident on foreign soil, while regarding Canaan as their fatherland. In their sojourning condition they were not in close neighborhood, but were scattered among the nations. Christians have inherited the title of the "elect people." They are in the condition of dwelling on earth and not in the heavenly Canaan. As away from home they are often far separated from each other, and not, as they will be, brought together and gathered round Christ above. The Christians addressed by Peter belonged to Asia Minor. In this region there were many Christian communities, in which the preponderating element was Gentile. In Galatia there were Churches founded by Paul, to which he addressed one of his Epistles. In Proconsular Asia were Iconium, Derbe, Lystra, Antioch (Pisidian), Miletus, Laodicea, Hierapolis, Colossae, Philadelphia, Sardis, Thyatira, Ephesus (the capital), Smyrna, Pergamos, Trees, where (probably) Churches were formed under Paul's influence, and to three of which he addressed letters. Neither in Pontus, nor in Cappadocia, nor in Bithynia do we read of Christian work (showing how much there is of unrecorded Christian work). We may think of Peter writing to Pauline Churches in Asia Minor when Paul is dead.
(2) The elect fundamentally. Thought connected with the -Father. "According to the foreknowledge of God the Father." Our election is conformed to the foreknowledge of God, i.e. to his thinking of us beforehand for himself. What led him thus to think of us beforehand was his being the Father, i.e. his being essentially love. Execution connected with the Spirit. "In sanctification of the Spirit." Sanctification points to our being fit for fellowship with the Holy One. This the Father had in his mind when he thought of us beforehand for himself. The Spirit (often called the Holy Spirit) carries out the Father's thought in commencing, advancing, preserving, the holy life in our souls. End connected with Jesus Christ. "Unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ." The Spirit works in us, on the one hand, not that our wills should be crushed, annihilated, but that they should be brought into a state of obedience (which is their true freedom). He works in us, on the other hand, that there should be applied to us the blood of Jesus Christ, without which he cannot sanctify those whose starting-point is a state of sin.
II. SALUTATION. "Grace to you and peace be multiplied." The introduction is constructed so as to throw the description of the readers into prominence as foreshadowing the thought of the Epistle. Like his description of himself, his salutation is brief. Let them be graciously dealt with by God, and, as the blessed fruit of gracious dealing, let them have peace, even under fiery persecutions. They had grace and peace already; let there be not only continuance, but increase. - R.F.
1 Peter 1:18; 1 Peter 2:10; 1 Peter 4:3, 4). It is the title of the universal Church and the individual believer. The verse is a summary of the most important and difficult points of Christian doctrine; hardly a word in it but is inexhaustible.
I. THE FACT OF DIVINE ELECTION STATED. Perhaps no greater mystery in Scripture, and none more perverted; but if it is revealed from heaven we need not be afraid of it; if it comes from God who would draw all men unto him, only by misunderstanding it can it repel them from him; if it be in this book, we cannot withhold it from ourselves without spiritual loss. What is the Divine election? It is used in Scripture in different connections - of election to an office (John 15:16); of election to certain privileges, as the Jews (Psalm 135:4); but in a large class of passages it clearly refers to the blessings of salvation (Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:4, 5, 11; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2). This is not election of a community, for it refers to matters necessarily personal; e.g. "As many as were ordained to eternal life believed;" "All that the Father giveth me must come to me, and him that," etc.; "sanctification of the Spirit;" "belief of the truth;" "sprinkling of the blood;" "conformed to his Son." It must be the Divine election of individuals to eternal salvation. There are certain serious prejudices to this doctrine - such as that it is opposed to the goodness and justice of God. But that prejudice is unwarranted if the doctrine be really here, for God cannot break the bounds of his nature, and these must harmonize in some way, though as yet we see not how. At the same time, notice that it is election to salvation, not to perdition; we are saved by the sovereign grace of God, we are lost because of our own sin ("Come, ye blessed of my Father! but it is only, Depart, ye cursed!"). Why does not grace save all? All we know is that it does not, and that "the Lord is righteous in all his ways," and what we know not now we shall know. "What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee." Another prejudice: It seems opposed to the freedom and responsibility of man. Certainly man is free; he is commanded-to repent and believe, and held responsible for not obeying, and is reasoned and pleaded with by God; and "How often would I, but ye would not!" We cannot harmonize that with election, yet they may both be true. If we make an objection in this to seeking salvation, it is not as we act in other matters; we know that our recovery from sickness is amongst what God has determined, yet we use means for recovery, and are hopeless otherwise; so, as though there were no foreordination to eternal life, we are responsible for employing the means to secure it. If we are lost, it will not be because of foreordination, but because in our freedom we failed to use the necessary means. Another prejudice is that the doctrine seems opposed to the universal offer of salvation. Salvation is offered to all; "God willeth not the death of a sinner;" all are commanded to believe, and are condemned for not believing. Then election is not out of harmony with that, and closes the door to the salvation of none. We may not see the harmony, but God's secret purposes cannot contradict his declared purposes.
II. CERTAIN PARTICULARS RESPECTING THIS DIVINE ELECTION. Father, Son, and Spirit - the whole Godhead, so to speak, combine to the redemption of a single soul.
1. The source of election . "The foreknowledge of God the Father." The word "to know" in Scripture is often used for "to know with favor" (Matthew 7:23; Romans 11:2; Romans 8:29). God knows, foreknows all, so that the idea of foreknowledge with favor is involved in the expression in these passages. So here; the same word as is translated "foreordained" in ver. 20 - the foreknowledge of purpose, favor, as in Ephesians 1:5, 9, 11. Our salvation is entirely on a Divine basis; we are not elect because of anything in ourselves; we choose him because he first chose us (Ephesians 1:4).
2. The working out of election: "The sanctification of the Spirit." Sanctification in the sense of separation, something that comes before "the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ;" separation to God, equivalent to the new birth; for only thus are we called out from the world, from its joys, and sorrows, and principles, and attitude towards God. This is the seal of election - the elect are the separated; the Spirit separates for God those whom God chooses for himself. And this separation is carried on to faith and every Christian grace, and final perfection in heaven.
3. The end of election: "Obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ." "Obedience" here can hardly mean "submission to law;" it probably stands for the full expression, "the obedience of faith," as in Romans 1:8 (comp. with Romans 16:19; 10:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17). The passage, then, is a striking parallel to 2 Thessalonians 2:13. The end of election is faith, and the consequent application of the atoning blood. Because of what the sprinkling of that blood does for us: justifies (Romans 3:9); cleanses (1 John 1:7); seals to us the blessings of the covenant (1 Corinthians 11:25); heaven (Hebrews 10:19).
III. THE BENEFITS OF THE DIVINE ELECTION. "Grace and peace multiplied." The fact of election can only be stated because there is untold good in it. It is essentially the believer's doctrine. For such it is full of encouragement and support.
1. It assures us of the certainty of multiplied grace. If God chose us to all the blessings of perfect salvation, it is certain we shall have them. Nothing can be more sure than God's eternal purpose.
2. And this assurance produces perfect peace. None can be afraid who have (in the separation of the Spirit) the seal that they are divinely elected to grace multiplied without end. - C.N.
I. THE CERTAINTY OF THE DELIVERANCE OF GOD'S PEOPLE.
1. The preceding plagues had terrified for a moment; this will crush resistance. The stroke long delayed was now at length to fall. The last awful pause had come, during which Egypt waited in dread, and Israel in hope mingled with awe.
2. The like moment will come in God's contest with sin. There will be a last awful pause, and then the trump of God shall sound.
3. The last hour of this earthly life of ours will also come, and the soul be freed from the grasp of sorrow, and pass up through the pearly gates into the father's home.
II. ITS COMPLETENESS. "He shall surely thrust you out hence altogether." Every bond will be broken.
1. The churches of God shall no more feel the world's afflicting hand.
2. Sin shall have no more dominion over God's redeemed. God's deliverance comes slowly, but when it does come it is full and lasting.
III. IT WILL BE ATTENDED WITH GREAT ENRICHMENT. It will not be an escape with mere life. To their own shall be added the wealth of their foes.
1. The riches of the nations will yet be the possession of the people of God.
2. This will be only the type of the true riches with which the redeemed shall be endowed.
IV. AND WITH GREAT HONOUR. The despised bondsmen were girt with reverence and awe, such as had never encircled the throne of the Pharaohs. The true kings of the earth for whose manifestation the world waits are the sons of God. They will be, too, the princes of heaven, co-heirs with Christ, sharers of the throne of the Son of God. - U.
I. THE CHRISTIAN'S HOPE. "The lively hope... of an inheritance."
1. It is that of the inheritance of sonship. "God hath begotten us" unto it; that is, God hath made us children a second time - by regeneration. "And if children, then heirs;" the inheritance is ours because we are God's sons. That brings its glory before us prominently. Fatherhood does its very best for the children ("Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children " - we'll do the work, if they see the glory). Apply that to the heavenly Father and the heritage he prepares for us. Prepares. "I go to prepare a place for you;" that will be God's best! What must that be which is proportionate to his resources and love?
2. This inheritance is permanent. "Incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away" (three almost synonymous words, characteristic of Peter's energy). They all include the idea of permanence, but they treat it in different aspects. "Incorruptible;" that is, spiritual, not material. The blessedness of that state will not depend on anything that can decay. The blessedness of heaven will be in the development of our spiritual nature. "Undefiled;" that is, untainted, unblemished. Here our spiritual blessings have some taint; there will be activity without weariness, love without coldness, hope without fear, purity without doubt, songs without sighs, light without shade. "That fadeth not away;" that is, all this to be everlasting; the beauties of that state will never diminish, its tasks never be monotonous, nor its tastes insipid, nor its fellowship ended.
"There the eye grows never dim, 3. This inheritance is certain. "Reserved in heaven for you who are kept" for it. It is kept where waste or diminution cannot be known, and we are kept for its enjoyment. No earthly heritage is sure, but this is. "Reserved in heaven for you." Then that is safe. "You who are kept by the power of God for it." Then you are safe; the child of God is as sure of heaven as if he were there. We should be surprised if it were not so; for "as for God, his way is perfect." The word "kept" literally means "garrisoned." There is a picture in the word: "The angel of the Lord encampeth," etc. Garrisoned by the power of God, not by his weakness. Left to ourselves, we should lose it; but we cannot lose it thus. 4. This inheritance is the object of lively hope to God's children. Equivalent to "life-giving." This hope is life. What can animate us to fight like the assurance of victory, what make us steadfast in pilgrimage like the certainty of reaching the goal? what destroy the fascination of the present like the conscious possession of better things? what solace us in grief like the knowledge that we are on the way to the eternal home of tearless eyes? This hope brings with it a new being. II. THIS HOPE IS JUSTIFIED BY THE RESURRECTION OF OUR LORD. 1. Christ's resurrection is the Proof of immortality. Man asks, "If a man die, shall he live again?" The natural heart thinks so, but cannot prove it. The Old Testament rather dimly hints it, Christ's resurrection is the assurance of it. He died - his enemies admitted that; he lay for three days in the grave; but then he rose, and that with undiminished powers and unchanged affection. The risen Savior was the proof that death was but like the plunging of the swimmer into the wave, from which he emerges on the other side essentially unchanged. 2. Christ's resurrection is, further, the assurance of the believer's justification. It settled the question with his foes as to who he was. He said he was the Son of God; they said he made himself equal with God, and they asked for some sign by which they could know it, and he replied that they should have the sign of the Prophet Jonas. He was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead. The Resurrection was the Divine endorsement of the claims of Jesus, another voice from heaven: "This is my beloved Son; hear him!" Thus Christ's teaching was endorsed (John 3:16), and the sufficiency of his atoning work. "God raised him from the dead and gave him glory, that our faith and hope might be in him." 3. And Christ's resurrection is the pledge of the believer's preservation. For he has risen into the inheritance, and that as our Representative. Before he rose he said, "Because I live ye shall live also;" "Where I am there shall also," etc.; "Father, I will that they whom," etc. But not only so. What is he doing there? He is there still as Savior, to keep by his intercession those for whom by his cross he atoned. "Who is he that condemneth? It is," etc.; "Wherefore he is able to save to," etc. How surely, then, we are "begotten to lively hope by the resurrection," etc.! III. THE CERTAINTY OF THIS HOPE CONSTRAINS THE CHRISTIAN TO BLESS GOD. AS the apostle thinks of all this, he exclaims with fervor, "Blessed be the God," etc.! 1. The mote of joy is here. Grasp the hope revealed in the resurrection of Christ, and life loses its gloom, and songs rise in the desert. 2. And this is also consecration. For to bless God is to glorify him. When we realize what thus he gives to us, we shall already begin the heavenly life where from love and gratitude they praise him night and day. - C.N.
3. This inheritance is certain. "Reserved in heaven for you who are kept" for it. It is kept where waste or diminution cannot be known, and we are kept for its enjoyment. No earthly heritage is sure, but this is. "Reserved in heaven for you." Then that is safe. "You who are kept by the power of God for it." Then you are safe; the child of God is as sure of heaven as if he were there. We should be surprised if it were not so; for "as for God, his way is perfect." The word "kept" literally means "garrisoned." There is a picture in the word: "The angel of the Lord encampeth," etc. Garrisoned by the power of God, not by his weakness. Left to ourselves, we should lose it; but we cannot lose it thus.
4. This inheritance is the object of lively hope to God's children. Equivalent to "life-giving." This hope is life. What can animate us to fight like the assurance of victory, what make us steadfast in pilgrimage like the certainty of reaching the goal? what destroy the fascination of the present like the conscious possession of better things? what solace us in grief like the knowledge that we are on the way to the eternal home of tearless eyes? This hope brings with it a new being.
II. THIS HOPE IS JUSTIFIED BY THE RESURRECTION OF OUR LORD.
1. Christ's resurrection is the Proof of immortality. Man asks, "If a man die, shall he live again?" The natural heart thinks so, but cannot prove it. The Old Testament rather dimly hints it, Christ's resurrection is the assurance of it. He died - his enemies admitted that; he lay for three days in the grave; but then he rose, and that with undiminished powers and unchanged affection. The risen Savior was the proof that death was but like the plunging of the swimmer into the wave, from which he emerges on the other side essentially unchanged.
2. Christ's resurrection is, further, the assurance of the believer's justification. It settled the question with his foes as to who he was. He said he was the Son of God; they said he made himself equal with God, and they asked for some sign by which they could know it, and he replied that they should have the sign of the Prophet Jonas. He was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead. The Resurrection was the Divine endorsement of the claims of Jesus, another voice from heaven: "This is my beloved Son; hear him!" Thus Christ's teaching was endorsed (John 3:16), and the sufficiency of his atoning work. "God raised him from the dead and gave him glory, that our faith and hope might be in him."
3. And Christ's resurrection is the pledge of the believer's preservation. For he has risen into the inheritance, and that as our Representative. Before he rose he said, "Because I live ye shall live also;" "Where I am there shall also," etc.; "Father, I will that they whom," etc. But not only so. What is he doing there? He is there still as Savior, to keep by his intercession those for whom by his cross he atoned. "Who is he that condemneth? It is," etc.; "Wherefore he is able to save to," etc. How surely, then, we are "begotten to lively hope by the resurrection," etc.!
III. THE CERTAINTY OF THIS HOPE CONSTRAINS THE CHRISTIAN TO BLESS GOD. AS the apostle thinks of all this, he exclaims with fervor, "Blessed be the God," etc.!
1. The mote of joy is here. Grasp the hope revealed in the resurrection of Christ, and life loses its gloom, and songs rise in the desert.
2. And this is also consecration. For to bless God is to glorify him. When we realize what thus he gives to us, we shall already begin the heavenly life where from love and gratitude they praise him night and day. - C.N.
I. PRAISE TO GOD. He traces the great joy he is describing up to its Fountain - God; he sees the gift of which he almost seems to be singing, in the open hand of the Giver - God. "Blessed be," etc.
1. Here is reverent praise. "Blessed." The word is consecrated to God alone, and is completely different to the word in the Beatitudes. The Hebrew meaning is "speaking him well."
2. Here is loving praise. It is not alone to God as God, the infinitely Good One of transcendent perfection, but the insertion of this conception of Father, and Father of Jesus, makes him nearer and dearer to the heart than the old description," God of Israel."
3. Here is intelligent praise. "Father of our Lord Jesus." How vividly Peter could recall the form and voice and countenance of Jesus! It was his Father he would have men praise. No vague, dim, unrelated, infinite essence and origin of all things do we worship, but the Father of Jesus, revealed to us in the face of Jesus Christ.
4. Here is grateful praise. It is praise for great mercy. Pity is love to the weak; mercy is love to the undeserving - is therefore the climax and crown of love. This is God's love to man. St. Bernard had a familiar saying to the effect that "great sins and great miseries need great mercy, and many sins and many miseries need many mercies." Hence we have revelations of God's mercy, as great mercy, abundant mercy, plenteous mercy, tender mercies, multitude of mercies, mercy that "endureth for ever." The heart of man may well glow with gratitude as he vows, "I will sing of mercy," etc.
II. PRAISE TO GOD FOR A BRIGHT HOPE OF A GLORIOUS FUTURE.
1. Here is praise to God for a hope. This is, indeed, part of the praise of every heart which thanks God for Christianity. For Christianity does not profess to satisfy all the aspirations of the heart here. Much yearning for knowledge, for pardon, for grace, is met now, but much remains as unfulfilled hope, and for that hope we praise God. What hope?
(1) Hope is expectant desire. What we wish for and what we count on having are the two ingredients of hope.
(2) Living hope.
(a) This, in contrast to the dead-alive surmises, vague guesses at the future, the pagans had, and above which Jews scarcely rose.
(b) This in contrast, as Leighton says, to lying hopes and dying hopes about things in the world - hopes that die before us or die when we die.
(c) This is a hope that makes life a life of hope, an anchored life that does not drift, a brightened life that does not darken into despair; eager, expectant vision; who, though "sojourners of the Dispersion," with a vast sense of weariness enfolding all things, were truly pilgrims whose faces and whose feet were set towards the land of sunrise, not of sunset.
2. Here is praise to God for a future. What future? St. Peter describes to them a plan that is
(1) a contrast to their present lot as "sojourners of the Dispersion," who had lost inheritance in Palestine; and
(2) a completion of what inheritance Palestine might have been and what their Christian character already was. "Inheritance." It can only be known negatively, and there is no actual description of what is beyond apprehension and understanding. But we can know what it has not - that which 'mars and spoils best things here. A possession secured, surely awaiting them. A state and a condition of the soul and its surroundings.
(a) "Incorruptible." No tendency in it to decay and to destruction. Substance imperishable. The tenure not to expire as in Palestine.
(b) "Undefiled." Not to be spoiled by defilement or pollution, as their old inheritance in Palestine, by idolatries and tyrannies.
(c) "Fadeth not away." Its beauty immortal. No winter to wither it.
III. PRAISE TO GOD FOR HIS WONDERFUL METHODS OF INSPIRING THE HOPE AND ENSURING THE FUTURE. The future. Peter is here praising God both as Trustee of such a future, and Guardian of those who inherit it by hope.
1. God has that future reserved. "In heaven" - in safe keeping.
2. God will in due time let it be revealed. "Salvation."
3. God has that future for his bestowal as an inheritance. He gives heaven to man as a gift of love - free love. Righteously, and according to their fitness for it; but graciously, and not as measured by their merits. A heaven we merited would be a poor, meager heaven in contrast with what is here described; and so might it not be a hell? The heir does not buy, does not win, does not by battle secure inheritance; he simply grows up to the age that claims it. So with heaven. When John at Runnymede asked the barons assembled about him there, by what right they held their lands, hundreds of swords flashed like lightning from their sheaths, and defiant tones pealed like a thunder-clap on the king's ears, "By these we won them, and by these we hold them." But let any inquiring lips ask multitudes above, in blessed possession of the inheritance of heaven, by what right they hold those high and priceless possessions; and, taking crowns of dignity and glory from their brows, and casting them before the Lamb that was slain, their adoring exclamation, is, "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his blood," etc. Nay, not only when the redeemed are in heaven do they realize that it is an unbought, unmerited inheritance, but even when good men tread the frontier of that kingdom, and step on the threshold of that home, they feel the same. When Bossuet, perhaps the most illustrious of French preachers and prelates, lay dying in great suffering and prostration, one who was present thanked him for all his kindness, and, using the court language of the day, begged him when in another world to think of the friends that were so devoted to his person and reputation. At this last word ("reputation"), Bossuet, who had almost lost the power of speech, raised himself from the bed, and gathered strength to say, not without indignation, "Don't talk like that! Ask God to forgive a sinner his sins." Yes; that is the Christian's attitude, that the Christian's spirit, even entering heaven. "When I draw this fleeting breath, When my eyelids close in death... Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in thee."
IV. HOW DOES GOD INSPIRE AND PRESERVE THE HOPE?
1. It is a hope that is born with man's new birth. A man is an heir, by birth, of his father's patrimony; a Christian is an heir, by regeneration, of heaven.
(1) The godly man is born again.
(2) The godly man is born again by the power of God. "He begat us again."
(3) The godly man is born again by the power of God through the resurrection of Christ. Christ's resurrection is not only a parable of the higher life you live, but it is the power of it.
2. It is a hope that is continued by God in connection with a man's character. God, as we saw, is Trustee of the future; so is he Guardian of the heirs. They are:
(1) Guarded by the power of God. Kept as with a garrison.
(2) Guarded by the power of God through faith - fidelity on man's part. Peter had at length learned implicitly to trust Jesus Christ, and to be brave infidelity to him. This is the twofold thought of the word "faith" here, namely, trust and fidelity. God, who is reserving heaven for the redeemed, is by their faith training them for heaven. So that the old saying is wise and good, "Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people." "It a good land: let us go up and possess it." - U.R.T.
I. THE SUBJECT OF A DOXOLOGY.
1. God praised. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Peter may have seen the same form of words in Paul's opening doxologies in 2 Corinthians and Ephesians. Having called up his readers before his mind and saluted them, he here bursts forth in an ascription of praise to God. To praise God is with becoming feelings to acknowledge what he is or has done. As this is pleasing to God (Psalm 1:23), so also, if we are much exercised on what God is or has done, it is a relief and delight to us. It is not the God of Christ (as the language might seem to imply) that is here praised, but God generally. It is the exalted Name that is fitted to call forth all sacred feelings. But there is added the Christian interpretation. We praise "the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." We praise Jesus Christ, who, according to Divine appointment, did saving work for us. We praise him as our Lord who receives our service for God and dispenses to us the Divine blessings of salvation. We praise not only him, but his Father, who, in the incarnation of the Son and atonement made by him in his death, has shown us Fatherly love.
2. God praised for his mercy. "Who according to his great mercy." The Pauline expression is "God who is rich in mercy" (Ephesians 2:4). Mercy has been called the internal impulsive cause of salvation. It was mercy which moved God to come to our help in our misery. Mercy up to the measure of the human would have been insufficient as a cause. For we rose up before his mind as those who had rebelled against his authority and brought on our own misery. But "let us fall now into the hand of the Lord; for his mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hand of man." It was mercy up to the measure of the Divine - great beyond all measurement - that led to our being rescued.
3. God praised for his mercy in begetting us again unto a life of hope. "Begat us again unto a living hope." Peter appears here as the apostle of hope, as Paul is the apostle of faith and John the apostle of love. Regeneration has been called the formal cause of salvation. The mercy of God moved him to put forth creative power upon us so as to bring us into a new relation to himself, and give us the commencement of a new life (Ephesians 2:5). This life is meantime a life of hope. What we were born out of was a state of hopelessness (Ephesians 2:12); what we are born into is a state of hope, and a state in which hope is "living," i.e. instinct with life, full of energy, able to bear up the spirit, able to resist decay.
4. God praised for his thus begetting us by means of the resurrection of Christ. "By the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." Peter goes beyond the meritorious cause of our salvation in Christ's death, and sees the power which can regenerate in his resurrection (efficient cause). Because he rose again after being dead, therefore God can put forth power upon dead hearts, and upon dead bodies too, to raise them to newness of life. It is not only in the power of Christ's resurrection that we live, but also that our life is a life of hope. We see, in the fact that our Head lives with a full and glorious life, what can make our life full and glorious too.
5. God praised for his thus begetting us with a view to an inheritance.
(1) The inheritance in its peculiar nature. "Unto an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away." The inheritance is the final cause of salvation. It is the objective appointment corresponding to the subjective hope. "As long as we journey we have the living hope; when the journey is finished the living hope becomes the promised inheritance." Here again the Jewish coloring of Peter's thought appears. As the elect people, we have an inheritance (an apportioned possession), such as the land of Canaan was to look forward to. The Canaan condition represented rest, satisfaction, in comparison with the wilderness condition. In describing the antitype of the land of Canaan, Peter proceeds not positively, but by negation. It is an inheritance not subject to corruption. The fruits of the earthly Canaan, however good, perished with the using; not so the fruits of the heavenly Canaan. It is an inheritance not susceptible of defilement. The earthly Canaan, though sacred, could be defiled (Jeremiah 2:7); not so the heavenly Canaan. It is an inheritance that fadeth not away. The flowers of the earthly Canaan soon faded away; not so the beauty of the heavenly Canaan. Thus by three negatives does be magnify the inheritance.
(2) The inheritance in its present relation to us. The inheritance reserved for the heirs. "Reserved in heaven for you." Far separated from us, it is beyond the perils of earth, and is inalienable from us. The heirs guarded for the inheritance. "Who by the power of God are guarded through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." We are safe guarded as in a citadel. That which guards us is the power of God, so that it is active toward us. That by means of which the power of God guards us is our faith, so that we are not to be inactive toward God. That toward which the power of God guards us is our salvation in its completion, which is not the inheritance, but rather the condition of the inheritance (to be interpreted by reference to the Israelites, who, when their salvation was completed, enjoyed the possession of the land of Canaan). This salvation is viewed as hidden, but already in existence, only waiting God's time for its revelation, which is not to be till the last time (also hidden).
II. THE SOURCE OF JOY IN ITS COMPLETION.
1. The last time is associated with joy. "Wherein ye greatly rejoice." Peter has a way of moving from one section to another by catching up the last word. The preceding section concluded with the words "in the last time;" this section commences with the words "in which," i.e. in which last time. If" in" retains the same force (which is only natural), then the present tense following comes to have (as it sometimes has) the force of a future. This view greatly helps to clear up the thought in this section. The use of the present in this way has the effect of "emphasizing the certainty of the future joy." In the last time we are greatly to rejoice (originally, "dance for joy"). We are to have a joy which cannot be repressed, but must find expression in outward signs of triumph.
2. The present time may be associated with being put to grief. "Though now for a little while, if need be, ye have been put to grief in manifold temptations." Instead of rejoicing (as we shall do in the future), we may now be put to grief. The being put to grief is regarded as from without. The grief arises within us from temptations, which we may think of as events of an adverse nature. Those make an assault on us, and, from our imperfect spiritual life, would lead us into sin. It is said in 2 Timothy 3:12, "Yea, and all that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." There are events in the lives of us all that, instead of making us sad, make us glad. But none of us are exempted from the coming on us of sorrowful events. If they do come, there is a "need be" for them. As our needs are manifold, so the temptations appointed for us as suited to them are manifold too. The view that the apostle has reference to future joy is confirmed by the language here. For first, the being put to grief in manifold temptations is regarded retrospectively. Looking back from the time of rejoicing, it is said, "Ye have been put to grief." Again, the "little while" has its due force only when compared with the length of the future joy.
3. The end sought in our now being put to grief is the joy of future recognition. "That the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold that perisheth though it is proved by fire, might be found unto praise and glory and honor." We are not to think here of the putting to proof, nor of the means of proof (untoward events), but of the approving that comes out in the result. What comes out in faith, when brought into contact with temptations, is its sincerity and its strengthening. Faith thus sincere and strengthened is more precious than perishable gold: are we to wonder at the treatment being similar? Gold is subjected to fire for the purpose of being tested and purified: shall not imperishable faith be similarly tested and purified? "Gold is committed to the fire, not for its destruction, but for glory;" so our faith, after having passed through "fiery trial," as the result of judicial investigation, is to be "found unto praise and glory and honor." There is an accumulation of words to bring out what there will be, in contrast with the present needful fire, to make us glad.
4. Our joy will be completed at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
(1) What there is in the revelation of Jesus Christ to give us joy. "At the revelation of Jesus Christ." In 2 Timothy 1:12 there is reference to the first "appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus;" the reference here is to his second appearing, for which Peter uses what Trench calls the grander word (grand as "appearing" is). There was revelation in his first appearing. There was a bringing out into accomplished fact of the hidden counsel of God. It was made clear how God was to proceed in laying the foundation of human salvation. In the Incarnation we have the essential revelation. But even in revealing Jesus Christ was hidden. It was not known what depth of love there was in his heart, and what glory properly belonged to him. His revelation will be a joyful event, because it will be the full disclosure of his grace, with such glorious accompaniment as is fitted to exalt him as Savior.
(2) The foregoing conditions of joy at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
(a) Love. "Whom not having seen ye love." Peter was not among those who had not seen Christ; he therefore does not include himself. We are told of one who had three wishes - that he had seen our Lord in the flesh, that he had heard Paul preach, and that he had seen Rome in its glory. There is a certain advantage to our loving in our standing at a distance from our Lord's day. We stand clear of prejudices connected with our having seen him; and we have all the facts before us, so that we can form an accurate conception of what he was and did. If we get at the meaning of these facts, and have our hearts touched with love to him, then the first condition is fulfilled of our having joy at his revelation.
(b) Faith. "On whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing." A point has been raised regarding love coming here before belief. "Why is the natural order of things reversed? How can we love before we believe? Must we not first feel convinced of the reality of Christ and the genuineness of his claims? Must we not on this conviction trust him, and so have love generated in our souls?" The answer given is that "in the history of a soul's coming to Christ we are touched by the narrative of his sufferings, or stirred by an appeal, or moved by the grandeur of some utterance," and thus are led on to the more difficult exercise of trust. It may be said that love is mentioned first as lying near to our rejoicing as it ever will do. It would be an advantage if (prejudice aside and an imperfect conception aside) we saw the Object of our love. The present substitute for seeing is believing. We are to have living intercourse with an unseen Savior until, to the great advantage of our love and also of our joy, our faith becomes sight.
(3) Stow our joy at the revelation of Jesus Christ is characterized.
(a) As transcendently excellent. "Ye rejoice greatly with joy unspeakable and full of glory." The present tense is again used with the force of a future. When at the revelation of Jesus Christ, with hearts full of love to him, we see, our joy will be unspeakable. "For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another." What a joy to look upon him, then, in the human nature which he took upon him! to look upon him with the marks testifying to the mysterious sufferings through which he came! to look upon him finally triumphing over sin and death! It will be unspeakable experience of joy added to experience of joy beyond all power of expression. It will be as if the joy of a lifetime were concentrated into a moment. It will also be full of glory, the joy of a glorified spirit in a glorified body in presence of the glory of the Redeemer.
(b) As faith's reward in the soul's experience. "Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls." The revelation of Jesus Christ is to be the time for distributing rewards. What we are to receive as our reward is not apart from our foregoing faith; it is its goat. Faith is the principle of life: the soul is the subject of the life, which is to be saved or lost. When Christ makes our faith issue in our emancipation from all sin and imperfection and in the vigorous exercise of all our powers, our joy will be complete.
III. THE SUSPECT OF INQUIRY BY PROPHETS AND ANGELS.
(1) Their private desire and public function. "Concerning which salvation the prophets sought and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you." Salvation, carried forward from the preceding section, must continue to have the sense of completed salvation. It is a magnifying of this salvation that prophets had to do with privately and publicly. They are mentioned here as a great order. They had their private exercises. Concerning the salvation they "sought and searched diligently." There is the idea of intensified search in both verbs. If there is a distinction, the one may refer more to the end, and the other to the means. They eagerly tried to grasp what the full salvation was to be. The remarkable thing is that their private desire was in connection with their public function, which is here defined as a telling beforehand of the grace that was to come to men in Christian times. What they were eager to find out was the Christian elements contained in the salvation. This is pointed to in grace, which is to be referred to that on which salvation depends, and by which also it is charactered. There was a display commencing with the incarnation of the Son of God on our behalf, which certainly was not due to our merit, but only to grace. There is additional grace in our living in Christian times.
(2) To what their inquiry was subjected. "Searching what time or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did point unto, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that should follow them." The latter of the verbs is here continued (not in the intensive form). Their search was directed to two connected points - time and manner of time. This must be referred to Messianic time and circumstance as giving a gracious character to the salvation. How were they led to think of a salvation connected with Christian facts? In a very direct way - the Spirit of Christ was in them. It was this that made the prophets a great order; and yet in this respect they were not entirely removed from us, for in Romans 8:9 it is said of us that we have the Spirit of Christ. The Spirit of Christ was in them to fit them for their prophetic function. The language is remarkable as pointing to the pre-existence of Christ, and also to the Spirit in the prophets as proceeding, not directly from the Father, but from the Son, and the Son that was to be incarnate. The language is also to be noted as explaining the private desire of the prophets. If they had been uttering their own thoughts, they would have understood them; but as they were uttering the thoughts of the Spirit of Christ, they had, as well as other men, to set themselves to understand them. The matter of revelation was closely related to the Revealer. It was a testifying beforehand to the sufferings of Christ (destined for Christ), and the glories that should follow them. There was a time when Peter did not see what he here sets down. His mind was full of the triumphs of the Messiah, but not of the triumphs as founded on sufferings. "Be it far from thee, Lord; this shall not be unto thee." Since that time he had read prophecy in another light. "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures, the things concerning himself." The sufferings of Christ reached their climax in his death; the glories of Christ began with his resurrection, and cannot be said to have yet reached their climax. The plural indicates that, as there was a plenitude of suffering, so there will also be a plenitude of glory. Our salvation cannot be apprehended aright apart from both Christ's sufferings and glories. Both enter into it to give it character. We are saved not only in virtue of Christ's death, but also in virtue of Christ's triumph.
(3) Favored position of men in Christian times. As ministered to by prophets. "To whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto you, did they minister these things." It was revealed to prophets that the things which they announced beforehand would not be fulfilled in their day. They had application not to themselves, but to others. This was not altogether regressing so far as they were concerned. It set their mind at rest for their own day; and for the future they could still closely examine their own words, and try to form some conception of what gospel realities were to be. Picturing the gospel day as well as they could, they would look forward to it with longing desire. It was honoring so far as Christian believers were concerned. Prophets, in what they said of the gospel day, had been ministering unto them. As ministered to by apostles. "Which now have been announced unto you through them that preached the gospel unto you by the Holy Ghost sent forth from heaven." The same things which had been announced beforehand had then been announced as fulfilled. The announcers were the apostles. They also are a great order having to do with salvation - " the glorious company of the apostles." Their function was to preach the gospel, i.e. the message of salvation, but connected with the facts of Christ having come into the world, having suffered, and thereafter passing into heaven. They were fitted for their work not other wise than were the prophets. It is not said that the Spirit of Christ was in them; but the Holy Spirit by whose influence they were moved in their preaching is represented as sent forth from heaven, i.e. as following on Christ's going into heaven. As thus endowed, they could preach the gospel with proper unction, and unerringly. We have net the presence of the apostles; but we have many of those statements of truth which, under the guidance of the Spirit, they omitted.
2. Angels. "Which things angels desire to look into." This is a third great order connected with salvation. The things announced by apostles which before had been predicted, i.e. gospel facts which give meaning to salvation, angels desire to look into. "God manifest in the flesh ' was "seen of angels." While the mystery was being evolved they were held in rapt wonder. What is here said has reference to an after-period. After Christ has undergone "the suffering of death," and passed into glory, they are still occupied with inquiring into the meaning of the facts. The language is remarkable. Angels desire to bend aside, i.e. from matters properly belonging to them to examine into, i.e., matters belonging properly to men. Whatever happens under the government of God cannot but be interesting to them. They are profoundly interested in the facts pertaining to human salvation as throwing a new and powerful light on the character of God, and opening up to them therewith a new and higher life. For although they cannot undergo the saving change, yet they can take the great facts of the gospel into them for their spiritual nourishment and growth. - R. F.
I. THE SUBSTANCE OF THE INHERITANCE. There is, no doubt, a reference to Canaan as the promised possession of the wandering Israelites. The true meaning of the word is that of a portion obtained by lot. There is no reference to bequest or succession. No doubt the inheritance is here represented as future, but not exclusively so. The next verse obviously takes "salvation" as equivalent to the "inheritance "of this verse. The two words represent the same reality in two different aspects - the one mainly under the negative idea of deliverance from evil, healing from sickness, safety from peril, though it does not altogether exclude the positive element; the other, under the positive idea of a possession which enriches spirit, heart, mind, and all tastes and faculties of a perfected humanity. The underlying reality which brings about both is God. He himself is become our Salvation. He is our Portion, the only Heritage which enriches the soul. We are "heirs of God." Possibly that deepest thought is not to be pressed here, but certainly it is not to be omitted. To keep it ever clearly before us saves us from murmuring at the darkness in which the glories of heaven are wrapped, and from degrading them by taking the emblems - such as pearly gates and golden streets, harps, and crowns - as more than symbols. Both the inheritance and the salvation belong alike to the present and the future. The one is represented here and now by an earnest; the other is begun to-day, though perfected in heaven. The earnest is of' the same nature as the inheritance. The partial salvation of to-day is essentially the same as the complete salvation of eternity. The faintest streak of morning twilight is the same light from the same sun which at noon floods the sky.
II. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE INHERITANCE. Our means of forming conceptions of what it is are analogy and contrast with the things of earthly experience. If a chrysalis could think of its butterfly state, it could only picture it as like or unlike its present. So we can only paint the future with colors supplied by the present. And to paint it as the negation of all imperfection, transiency, and limitation, makes it brightest to eyes which smart with weeping, and ache with looking for a good which comes not, or after a vanished joy. It is" incorruptible." All outward possessions have the seeds of dissolution and decay in themselves, or can be decomposed and destroyed by external forces. Perhaps Peter remembered "where moth and rust do not corrupt." Our true treasure, which is truth, righteousness, a full influx of God himself into our hearts, cannot decay. It is" undefiled." Some spot of evil is on all beauty, some flaw in every precious thing, some taint of imperfection or at best some limitation which is a blemish on all that we have or love here. But this is whiter than the driven snow, and purer than the sunlight which flashes on it. It "fadeth not away." The sad stern law that it must droop and shed the glory of its petals rules each fair flower which we gather, and some of them fade all the faster because of the grasp of our hot hands. "But this is a flower which cannot wither." What of God we possess is not parted from its source, but lives his life still, though it dwells in us. Therefore it is woven into an amaranthine garland (Ver. 4), which makes the brow on which it is twined immortal as itself.
III. THE RESERVATION OF THE INHERITANCE. It is - or rather it has been from of old - laid up in the heavens. A remarkable expression, evidently implying that future blessedness is more than "a state," and that it has objective elements which are already in existence in the heavens, even while we who are one day to possess them are toiling and moiling here. We cannot think without incongruity of our "salvation" as being thus stored with God, but we can naturally regard the objective constituents of our future blessedness as being so. The metaphor would be too violent unless the inheritance is a real something which is now in existence, and which is in so far separate from ourselves that we shall one day have it as well as be it. The main idea is that of the security of the inheritance. The Divine hand is working on that side of the veil to keep the inheritance for the heirs, and on this, as the next verse tells us, to keep the heirs for the inheritance. Guarded by his hand, it is safe. "Being in heaven, that calm abode of peace, where changes never come, nor foes climb, nor thieves break through and steal," it is safe. The heirs of earthly inheritances have not seldom found their patrimony wasted when they came to claim it, and their treasure-chests empty when opened. But kept by God, and lodged in heaven, our riches cannot perish. He himself is our Portion. So if we have him for our Treasure, and count his knowledge, his love, his likeness, our heaven on earth and our heaven in heaven, we shall not be without a sufficient allowance to live on as the earnest, nor fail to be "satisfied," when we pass into the higher life, with the wealth which will pour into our souls in the full possession of God. - A.M.
I. WHAT THE HEIRS ARE KEPT BY. The military metaphor in the word "kept" is not to be passed by. We have the same word in its literal use in 2 Corinthians 11:32 ("kept with a garrison"), and employed figuratively as here in Philippians 4:7 ("the peace of God shall keep your hearts and minds'). Our weak natures are garrisoned as it were by reinforcements of Divine strength. Not by providences acting on our outward lives only, or by any forces upholding us as with external help, but by pouring power to resist and to overcome into our souls does God keep us in our conflicts with evil. His grace within us is yet more blessed than his hand around us. "I can do all things," said Paul, "through Christ strengthening me within." An indwelling Lord is our security. The hard-pressed fort is relieved by fresh troops joining the feeble defenders. We have the right to expect an actual communication of Divine strength breathed into our weakness. As the prophet laid his hands on the king's hands ere he drew the bow, in token of strength infused, so the touch of Christ's tender and strong hand will teach our "hands to war," so that a "bow of steel will be bent by our arms." We are "kept by [literally, 'in'] the power of God." It may not be fanciful to keep the local meaning of the preposition here, and to think of that power as lying around us like some fortress, whose massive walls keep the feeblest in safety. If we keep within our castle, no harm shall befall. The enemy may prowl round the base of the fortress reared high on the cliff, but they cannot climb to it, and their fire cannot shake a stone in its walls. If we dwell in God, we dwell in safety, and whatever storms of war rage without, deep peace abides within.
II. WHAT WE ARE KEPT THROUGH. Faith is the condition, the necessary condition, on which God's power works in and on us. The garrison which God sends to hold our hearts cannot enter unless we open the gate and let down the drawbridge to receive them. Our faith has no power in itself, but as our receptivity for Divine influences it is omnipotent. It is only a channel - the pipe which conveys the water, the hand which grasps God's hand, the open door through which angels can enter and encamp in our poor hearts. They cannot come to our help without it. They will certainly enter if we exercise this faith. Its elements are conscious need, lowly sense of our own weakness, and self distrust, absolute dependence on God in Christ, and a calm confidence and expectation of victory, which, when based on God, is reasonable and self-fulfilling. The measure of our faith will be the measure of our possession of the Divine power. If we open the gate but partially, we hinder the marching in of the celestial warriors whom God sends to our help. "Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it."
III. WHAT WE ARE KEPT FOR. The "salvation ready to be revealed" is equivalent to the "inheritance" spoken of in ver. 4. "Salvation" here is of course used in its fullest meaning - complete and eternal deliverance from all the ills that flesh is heir to, and all the sins that mar the spirit, and complete and eternal possession of all the perfection and blessedness possible to glorified humanity. That complete flooding out of evil by the inrushing tide of glory is the goal alike of regeneration (Ver. 3) and of the sedulous guardianship of God's grace. It is but the completion of the begun salvation of earth, as the full corn in the ear which gladdens the golden harvest-time is of the tiny shoot peeping above the furrows in bleak, windy March. It is "ready to be revealed," says Peter. Possibly the meaning may be that this "salvation" is conceived of as lying hidden beneath much sin and imperfection in the hearts of Christians, as the full-spread beech-life lies wrapped up in the brown cone that braves the winter. The ultimate completed form of any germ may be said to lie ready to be revealed in its earliest form, and so may the remotest glories of the perfect salvation of the future be said to lie hid in the present, waiting for "the revelation of the sons of God." But perhaps, with more probability, we may regard this expression as in a general way parallel to the reservation of the inheritance, and. as being a strong metaphor intended to convey the certainty of our possession of it, if we on our parts are faithful. Nor must we forget that Christ has gone "to prepare a place" for us; his entrance into the heavens making heaven ready for us in mysterious manner, and his abiding there making our entrance there possible. That other order of things is close around us, enfolding this visible, touching it at every point. The separation is thin and filmy, nothing solid, only a veil. A touch of God's hand on the curtain, and it runs back rattling on its rings, and all the glory blazes out. All is ready - ready from all eternity in the Divine counsels, made ready once for all in time by Christ's death and ascension, being made ready in our hearts day by day by his gracious discipline and indwelling life. At last the veil wilt be done away and the salvation revealed. What an apocalypse that will be! If we open our hearts wide for the entrance of Christ's healing and upholding power, we shall be made ready to go in with him to the feast prepared for believing hearts from of old. Trusting to his death and sharing his life, the heirs will be kept for the inheritance, and the inheritance for the heirs. - A.M.
I. THE JOY OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. We have first the source of the joy. "Wherein ye greatly rejoice." The complex whole of the blessings spoken of - the lively hope, the reserved inheritance, the guarding power, the prepared salvation, its future apocalypse - these are the golden threads from which the bright tissue is woven. So this is the first distinction between the majestic Christian joy and the lighter-winged fluttering mirths and pleasures. It flows from no surface-pools, but from deep fountains, and is fed from everlasting fields of pure snow high on the mountains of God. Then we have the depth and calm rapture of the joy in the strong word of the original, which expresses a high degree of exultation. Peter was possibly quoting our Lord's words to his persecuted people, "Rejoice and be exceeding glad." At all events, Christian joy should be no pale and feeble thing, but full-blooded and fall-voiced. It is far unlike boisterous mirth, which is noisy like the thorn-bushes which crackle and flare in flame for a moment. "The gods approve the depth and not the tumult of the soul." A present salvation, fellowship with a present Christ, the large and. sure hope of his appearing, the exercise of faith and love and obedience, the immunity from fear, and the escape from the miseries of self-will, should all combine, like so many streams pouring down the hillsides, in this one deep and smooth-flowing stream of calm and equable gladness. Religion does us good. only as it makes us glad. Any firm and. adequate grasp of the facts and relations which the gospel brings will certainly make a man joyful. The average religion of this day does not believe in its own creed heartily enough to find in it support against temptations or joy in sorrow. If our Christianity has not the power to bless us with gladness in our hearts, there is something wrong either in the completeness of our surrender to it or in the articles of our belief. If our religion is largely self-inspection, or if it dwells on the sterner side of truth, or is mainly a prohibitory law keeping us from doing what we would like, or if it is a languid emotion not half so powerful as common appetites, we cannot expect to get sweet juice of gladness from such shrunken fruit. The coexistence of this joy with sorrow is, further, brought into prominence here. This paradox of Christian experience has seemed so startling that the future tense has been proposed as the true rendering; but a much deeper and grander sense results from adhering to the present tense. It is possible that joy should live side by side in the same heart with sorrow, and neither converting the other wholly into its own substance, and each made more noble by the presence of its opposite. "Central peace" may "subsist at the heart or' endless agitation." Greek fire will burn under water. Flowers bloom on the glacier's edge. The depths of the sea are still, while winds rave and waves heave and currents race above. In the darkest night of sorrow and loss, starry and immortal hopes wilt brighten in our sky, and the heart that is united to Christ will have an inward solemn blessedness which no tempest of sorrow can extinguish.
II. THE SORROW OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. There is much unreality and consequent powerlessness in the one-sided pictures of the religious life so often drawn. To listen to some people, one would fancy that religion was meant to abolish all trial and sorrow. A picture without shadows is unlike anything on earth. The true Christian view neither portrays an impossible paradise nor preaches a hardening stoicism. Here we have in half a dozen words a theory of the meaning and uses of pain and grief, sufficient to live by and to alleviate many a pang.
1. Nonce the insight rote the true nature and purpose of all sorrow. It is temptation, or, more properly, trial. It is intended as a test, a proof, to reveal us to ourselves and so to better us. We do not get to the bottom of our sorrows till we look at the moral purpose which they serve, and regard them as discipline rather than pain. They take a shallow view who contemplate only the smart of the wound and leave out of sight the surgeon's purpose. They take as shallow a view who dispute or deny the benefit of sorrow, and assert that happiness tends to a sweeter virtue than it does. There is a lowly self-distrust quickly passing into calm faith which only sorrow can produce. The will is never bowed into submission without being softened in the furnace, and there is no real goodness but from a submissive will. The props round which the heart twines its tendrils have to be cut down, that it may fasten itself on the only true support. Only when we have nothing else to lean on do we lean all our weight on him.
2. Observe, too, the recognition of the wise adaptation of our sorrows to our need. They are not sent unless "need be." They are sent as need is. In the great Surgeon's instrument-ease are many shining blades, all for cutting and paining. He chooses the right knife, and cuts where wanted, and close beside the sharp instrument lie bandage and balm. It is hard to believe that a sorrow which strikes many is at the same time proportioned in its force to each. But faith knows that Providence neither forgets the general mass in care for the individual, nor loses sight of the wants of the individual in the crowd, but is at once special and general.
3. Finally, observe the transiency of sorrow. It is for a season. That is the highest attainment of faith, to see how short are the long slow hours which pain and grief lengthen. They seem to creep, as if the sun and the moon stood still as of old, that the storm may have time to break on us. But we have to take Heaven's chronology in our sorrows, and, though their duration seems interminable, to feel that after all it is but a little while. The long hours as they appear of a dream are but moments in reality, and seem so when the sleeper awakes. His anger is but a moment; his favor lasts all the life. Weeping may come to lodge with us - a somber guest - for a night; but when the bright morning dawns Joy comes with a shout, radiant as the morning, and at his coming the black-robed visitant steals out of sight. Then the joy that coexisted with sorrow shall survive alone, and "sorrow and sighing shall flee away." - A.M.
now] the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls;" i.e. salvation is not a future matter only. We can receive the end of our faith now; heaven is only fully revealed hereafter, but it is already possessed. And here the apostle tells them how. Heaviness may minister to it; out of heaviness may grow such joys as shall be the salvation which is the goal of their hopes. Heaviness - joy - salvation; that's the order here. Sometimes when the sun is setting behind the hills, making the peaks glow like burnished gold, the beauty is repeated on the peaks opposite, eastern and western both aglow; but the valleys between are already in twilight or darkened with mist. That is an emblem of many a Christian life; the beginning and the end are radiant, but the years between are filled with shadows. Now, that need not be. The Light of the world is a sun which no more goes down, and when he has risen on our hearts henceforth east and west horizons, the summits of our history, but no less the broad plain, and every little glen and lowly place that comes between, may lie in the soft full glow of perpetual noon. The hindrance to this, we say, is the "heaviness through manifold trials," which will come; but, says Peter, there is a secret by which out of these may grow "joy unspeakable and full of glory." Not only notwithstanding these, but because of these, the believer's life may be a continuous chastened joy; and to have that is to anticipate heaven.
I. THE SAINTS' HEAVINESS THROUGH MANIFOLD TRIALS. The trials must be; they are part of the necessary discipline of sonship. If "man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward," more still is the new man. But for our help, then, consider:
1. The necessity for the heaviness. "If need be." Only "if need be;" that is assured by the paternal love of God. It is a witness to his love that, when trial cannot be avoided consistent with our good, he is willing to bear the pain of inflicting it. It does not follow that we can see the "need be;" it may be the needs be of preparation for some exceptional blessedness rather than that of chastisement. Perhaps the "need be" is implied in the text: "Ye are kept... through faith unto salvation;" but "ye are in heaviness... that the trial of your faith might be found," etc., equivalent to "we are kept in the state of salvation only through faith, and affliction is one of the means by which alone faith is maintained." The love of God, however, assures us that there is a needs be for the affliction which would satisfy even us could we see it.
2. The manner of the heaviness. "Manifold trials," and these like the "fire" of the refiner. God's trials are not all of one pattern, but are "afflictions sorted, anguish of all sizes." Loneliness, weakness, a nervous temperament, discordance in the home, responsibility, or duty, may be as real a trial to us, though no one detects it, as the more manifest sorrows of others. Does it burn? - that's the question; is it to the soul what fire is to the body - deep, searching, consuming pain? If so, it is the "heaviness" of the text, and may issue in joy unspeakable' And if it be fire, we know who presides at the crucible, who regulates the heat, and blows aside the blue flame to see if the dross be gone, and waits to see his face mirrored in the clear ]iqui0 metal. "He shall sit as a refiner," etc.
3. The duration of the heaviness. "Now for season." Only "for a season." If a continuous line from here to the sun, and beyond the sun as far again, and beyond that as far again, represent only a part of our immortal history, the season of suffering would be represented by the smallest point you can make on that line. "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is not worthy," etc. Presently we shall say -
"Now the crucible is breaking, "Sighs and tears at last are over. II. THE SAINTS' JOY GROWING OUT OF THIS HEAVINESS. Sorrow and joy at the same time! The believer ought to be "always rejoicing," and that is a puzzle to many. But there is great difference between always rejoicing and only rejoicing. The idea that the believer ought only to rejoice is as foolish as it is false. But it is possible always to rejoice - " as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing." Here we have some of the grounds of this joy. They concern faith, hope, love. 1. Heaviness is said to be the proving of our faith. "Trial," equivalent to "trying, testing, proving." Is it not? Is it not just in darkness that our faith is tested? That gives a new aspect to heaviness. Heaviness is the time when we show what we are. Then we are being watched. Heaven and earth are gathered around us then, God and Satan looking on, and the Divine honor and joy are at stake. What a solemn, sublime moment that! 2. It is also said to be the enlargement of our hope. "That the trial of your faith might be found," etc. That carries our thought forward. Our present life is often unbearable because we live as though it were all In almost every other department we are cheered on through difficulty by hope. So in this. See what the angel of hope did for Paul on the wrecking ship, when all hope that they should be saved had been taken away: "Be of good cheer, fear not, thou must be brought before Caesar." Hope ever points to the blessed end, and whispers, "Be of good cheer." Moreover, the heaviness is going to minister to our enrichment then. We shall not only escape the storm, but be stronger because of it. 3. Heaviness is said to be the quickener of our love. "Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though," etc. A kind of tender pity in the words, as though Peter said, "Oh that you had but seen him, and how you would have loved him!" The sentence is equivalent to "love to Christ imparts to heaviness an unspeakable joy." Does it not? This for the Lord's sake. By this, too, I get nearer to the Lord! III. THE SAINTS' SALVATION IN THIS JOY. "Ye rejoice with joy... receiving the," etc. 1. Salvation is a mystery to be revealed in heaven. He has said that. "'Salvation ready to be revealed at the last time." However much is revealed of it here, "eye hath not seen, nor ear," etc. 2. But the unfolding of this mystery begins in Divine joys on earth. It is possible to anticipate heaven, to receive now the salvation of our souls, and heaviness may be the means to this. Then blessed heaviness! the storm may bring us to the very shore of eternal bliss, and though as yet we cannot land, its sacred chimes may be our music even now. - C.N.
"Sighs and tears at last are over.
II. THE SAINTS' JOY GROWING OUT OF THIS HEAVINESS. Sorrow and joy at the same time! The believer ought to be "always rejoicing," and that is a puzzle to many. But there is great difference between always rejoicing and only rejoicing. The idea that the believer ought only to rejoice is as foolish as it is false. But it is possible always to rejoice - " as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing." Here we have some of the grounds of this joy. They concern faith, hope, love.
1. Heaviness is said to be the proving of our faith. "Trial," equivalent to "trying, testing, proving." Is it not? Is it not just in darkness that our faith is tested? That gives a new aspect to heaviness. Heaviness is the time when we show what we are. Then we are being watched. Heaven and earth are gathered around us then, God and Satan looking on, and the Divine honor and joy are at stake. What a solemn, sublime moment that!
2. It is also said to be the enlargement of our hope. "That the trial of your faith might be found," etc. That carries our thought forward. Our present life is often unbearable because we live as though it were all In almost every other department we are cheered on through difficulty by hope. So in this. See what the angel of hope did for Paul on the wrecking ship, when all hope that they should be saved had been taken away: "Be of good cheer, fear not, thou must be brought before Caesar." Hope ever points to the blessed end, and whispers, "Be of good cheer." Moreover, the heaviness is going to minister to our enrichment then. We shall not only escape the storm, but be stronger because of it.
3. Heaviness is said to be the quickener of our love. "Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though," etc. A kind of tender pity in the words, as though Peter said, "Oh that you had but seen him, and how you would have loved him!" The sentence is equivalent to "love to Christ imparts to heaviness an unspeakable joy." Does it not? This for the Lord's sake. By this, too, I get nearer to the Lord!
III. THE SAINTS' SALVATION IN THIS JOY. "Ye rejoice with joy... receiving the," etc.
1. Salvation is a mystery to be revealed in heaven. He has said that. "'Salvation ready to be revealed at the last time." However much is revealed of it here, "eye hath not seen, nor ear," etc.
2. But the unfolding of this mystery begins in Divine joys on earth. It is possible to anticipate heaven, to receive now the salvation of our souls, and heaviness may be the means to this. Then blessed heaviness! the storm may bring us to the very shore of eternal bliss, and though as yet we cannot land, its sacred chimes may be our music even now. - C.N.
i.e. trust in Christ and fidelity to Christ, is a pledge of and preparation for the heavenly inheritance. It is a pledge. The example of Columbus sailing westward in search of unknown America is often and rightly quoted as an instance of faith. The Christian man is a spiritual Columbus, whose faith alone leads him across mysterious seas of time to shores of eternity. Moreover, faith is a preparation for that inheritance; for it has been well said that Faith and Hope and Love are so related that if Faith dies - as, indeed, it does often die first - Hope and Love are very prone to say, "Let us also die with her." Indeed, the three often perish hand-in-hand. Therefore a man's faith is of profound importance to him - "precious faith;" hence Peter touches here with a strong hand the question of the testing of religious faith.
I. THAT THE PROCESS OF TESTING A MAN'S FAITH INVOLVES MUCH PAIN. Peter sees souls rejoicing in the hope of heaven - "wherein ye greatly rejoice" - and yet, by this very process of testing their faith, meanwhile, in much pain. How much pain we gather:
1. From the use of the word that describes the process; i.e. "temptations" - "trials." A word that really means" testing," but that, because of the usual nature of testing, is a synonym for "affliction." Does not the word "trial" contain in itself tears, battles, persecutions, martyrdom, even death?
2. From the spirit in which Peter says the tried are. In heaviness, in grief, sorrowful, dejected, heavy-hearted.
3. The nature of the element employed in the process. Compared to fire. No material element causes so much pain as fire.
II. THE PROCESS OF TESTING A MAN'S FAITH IS OF SUCH UNTOLD WORTH AS TO COMPENSATE FOR ALL SUCH PAIN.
1. The testing is only temporary. "For a season" even if lifelong, the days dwindle to hours, etc. Already Peter uses words of retrospect: "ye have been," etc.
2. The worth of the soul for which testing is designed. Though not grammatical, this is application. "Much more precious than gold." This is implied that gold loses luster and becomes worn out with hourly use. The soul is imperishable!
3. The purposes of the process. "If need be;" deep, inevitable, necessary,
(1) Try the genuineness of faith. God knows whether it is genuine. Men may not; we do not frequently. Chaff looks like wheat; hence the threshing-floor - the tribulum. Gilt locks like gold; hence the crucible. Devoutness of ceremonial, orthodoxy of creed, decorum of conduct, look like faith; and yet it may be absent.
(2) Tend to purification. That is even more merciful. Remove alloy and dross. Not only detect, but refine. As Elizabeth Browning says, "purification being the joy of pain." This is the Christian woman's echo of the conviction of the old patriarch of Uz, "When I am tried, I shall come forth as gold."
(3) Train for highest uses. Higher purposes for which metal is designed - keener furnace, etc. The most durable and precious metal in ancient art was Corinthian bronze, which was said to have been first obtained, at least discovered, by the fusing of all precious metals when the city of Corinth was burned, Joseph, David, Peter, our blessed Lord, were most blessed products of the experience reached by the fires of suffering.
(4) Lead to highest destiny. Praise; honor; glory. - U.R.T.
I. WE HAVE HERE BROUGHT INTO PROMINENCE A UNIQUE FACT, namely, love to an unseen Christ. Thousands in every age since have cherished a passionate attachment to Jesus, wholly unlike what is evoked by any one else. Time and distance seem to be powerless to diminish it. It is no tepid affection; it is no idle sentiment. Those who cherish it aver that it lies at the foundation of their lives. It rules, guides, stimulates. It is the mother of heroisms and of patience. It sheds light on all dark places. It mates and masters the fear of death. The stake and the gibbet, the dungeon and the rack, are powerless to repel those whom it attracts. It brings peace and hope, holiness and wisdom. It conquers the soul, and makes it conqueror of sin, time, and the universe. And all this passionate ardor of love which transforms the heart it enters is called out by and lavished on a Man who died nineteen centuries ago! There is no other fact the least like that.
II. WHAT IS THE EXPLANATION OF THIS UNEXAMPLED PHENOMENON? If Jesus is but one among the great names of the past, however high and pure; if whilst he lived he had no thoughts of us, and now sleeps in the dust and does nothing in the world but by the record of his past, - admiration rising to reverence may be his due, but anything worth calling love is impossible. It was not such a Christ who kindled the hearts of these Asiatics, who had never seen Peter's Master. But if I can believe that Jesus Christ died for me, that I had a place in his Divine-human love when he bore our sins, and that he lives today to love me and to succor and to save, and that he knows when I love him, and delights to accept and to return my love, - then I do not need the ordinary helps to love. All other benefactors and mighty names in the past stand in different relation to us. Praise and admiration are their guerdon. But One alone is loved though unseen, because, and only because, One alone died for each of us and lives to bless us. There are some mutilated forms of Christianity which present a Christ without a cross. They result in a Church without love enough to keep it warm. The Christ whom Peter preached was the Christ to whose transcendent love, as manifest in his death, the uttermost fervor of human love was the fitting and yet all-inadequate return. Is there any other conception of him and of his work which really has power to kindle through all the ages and in all hearts the flame of all-conquering love?
III. THERE IS NO REAL CHRISTIAN LIFE WITHOUT THIS LOVE. At bottom there is only one bond which unites spirits to spirits, men to men, or men to God. Love is the one uniting force. "Cords of love" must fasten us to Christ, or we are not fastened to him; and that love must flow from the faith which recognizes him for Savior by his cross, and trusts him. Love is second, not first; but so second that wherever and as soon as faith is exercised, love comes to life. Imperfect conceptions of Christ's work as Teacher, Example, and the like, do not really unite us to him. They may lead on to loftier and truer thoughts of him, but till we are united to him there will he no real love, and therefore no real union. Faint and feeble our love may be, unworthy of him it ever is; but if we have none we are not Christians. We shall have none unless our faith grasps him as our Savior by his incarnation, cross, and resurrection. The question for us all is - Do we trust to Christ who died for us? Do we therefore love him because he loved us, and gave himself for us? Confidence and love have always been the bonds of union between men, which alone have made human society better than a den of hyenas. They are the bonds which unite us to God. Christ asks no more of us than that we should transfer to him the emotions and affections which we have lavished on one another, and let the tendrils which we have twined round rotten boughs and dead stumps clasp his cross, that there we may cling and climb, and grow and bear fruit. From his cross, from his throne, he asks of each, "Lovest thou me?" Though our eyes have not seen him, our hearts need not falter in the answer, "Thou knowest that I love thee." - A.M.
I. THE DEPTH AND HEIGHT OF CHRISTIAN JOY. It is a melancholy testimony to the meager and shallow nature of the ordinary type of Christian life, that, in defiance of plain grammar, the words here have been often taken to refer to the future. They have been felt to be a world too wide for the experience of most of us. They speak of an exuberant joy which might be called a jubilant leaping up of the heart, of a joy far to(, great to be shut up in the bounds of speech and which has been glorified, transfigured, as if already clothed upon with the light of heaven. No wonder that men whose highest experience of Christian gladness fell far below this, should escape from the questions which the contrast suggests by throwing this joy into the future. But it is clearly meant to be realized in the present. Such joy is possible, and, if it be not actual in us, we should be wiser to look for the reason than to wrap ourselves in the comfortable excuse that it was never meant to be ours here.
1. The true joy is silent. It is but a shallow heart that can tell its treasures. "He is a poor man who can count his flock," says a proverb. All deep emotions pass beyond speech. The deepest love can but "love and be silent." The great river slides along with equable and noiseless motion, while the brook chatters among its pebbles. The Christian joy is not in need of laughter, nor of words, nor of any outward signs. Mirth is noisy; deep joy is calm, gave, still. It sits at the Master's feet, and moves not in its deep restfulness; only the light in the eyes and the holy glow on the still face tell the depth of the blessedness. Earth's joys are the crackling of thorns; Christian joy burns steadily.
2. It is "glorified." It already partakes of the glory which is to be revealed, and thereby is elevated and transfigured. Joy may easily become frivolous. Most of our earthly joys are but light-winged and painted butterflies in summer skies. But the emotion may be heightened and ennobled and changed from the short-lived flutterer among flowers to a strong-pinioned son of light, gazing on and rising to God. Instead of the iridescent bubble that bursts at a touch, it may become solid and permanent. Touched by the glory of that on which it is nourished, joy is glorified, even as, infected by the foulness of that on which it gorges, it may be debased. As is its object, so is it - varying from dignity to degradation. A man may have his face flushed with wine, or may turn to gaze on the sun, and be irradiated by the light to which he looks, as Stephen's face glowed like an angel's from the reflected light of the open heavens. Is our joy lofty and touched with Heaven's own light, the common emotion being transfigured into likeness to the lofty hopes and visions on which it is nourished?
II. THE UNFALLING FOUNTAINS OF THE CHRISTIAN JOY. Two conditions are set forth in the two participial clauses on which our true joy depends. Of the two the former brings about the latter. Believing in, or rather trusting to, the unseen Christ, we receive the consequence of that trust - the salvation of our souls. And the exercise of faith and the possession of the resulting salvation pour a flood of joy into the heart, even though it dwell in a waterless land.
1. The exercise of faith in the unseen Christ brings joy. The very attitude of trust breathes calm gladness over the heart. It is always blessed to lean on one whom we love. There is rest in casting the burden on another. Anxiety and care darken the face and sadden the soul, when we have none but ourselves to rely on. But trust, even in human helpers whom we can trust, makes us glad, as a child safe on its mother's breast, or a wife guarded by her husband's arms. The more permanent and sufficient the object of our trust, the more joyful we shall be. If Christ be our Trust, we rely on absolute perfection and permanence and power; so our joy may be full, and may abide. To occupy mind and heart with him is joy. A warm thrill of gladness fills loving souls parted from one another, as they think of each other. And a bright light of joy should be kindled at every remembrance of Christ, and will be if we are trusting to him. Faith is self-distrust, and that is joy. Faith is self-surrender, and that is joy. Faith is the yielding of the will, and that is joy. Faith is the consciousness of union with Divine love and power, and that is joy. Faith turns its back on earth's fever and falseness, and that is joy. Faith rises to walk in heavenly places, and that is joy. Faith unites the soul with Jesus, and that is joy. The Christian joy is cotemporaneous with active exercise of our faith. If that falls asleep, it fades away. It is like the note of a piano, which ceases to sound as soon as the finger is lifted from the key. Therefore is Christian joy so seldom up to the ideal set forth here, because faith is so spasmodic, so intermittent, and so feeble. If we would "rejoice evermore," we must "trust in the Lord forever."
2. The salvation which is the consequence of faith brings joy. The language clearly co-ordinates "believing" and "receiving" as cotemporaneous. Both are regarded as continuous, not single acts, done and done with, but as the standing characteristics of the Christian life. If continuous, they will be progressive; faith will become stronger, and, as it grows, salvation will be more fully possessed. For faith is receptivity, the opening of the door, and its degree, the width of the opening, settles how much "salvation" will enter. Salvation is past, present, and future - and in all epochs one in essence, however various in degree and form. Here and now we may possess the beginning "of the end of our faith," even the salvation of our souls, though the full salvation of body, soul, and spirit has to be waited for till the coming of the Lord. Surely that present salvation may well put into our hands a full cup of gladness. The consciousness of forgiveness; the sense of friendship with Christ; the assurance that all the sky is clear, and nowhere in the universe of things present or to come any cloud that can ever break in storm on our heads; the growing possession of holy desires, pure thoughts, and Christ-like character; the refining of the nature; and the hopes full of immortality which spring from present communion with him, and conquer death, and pour a great light of peacefulness into the grave; - surely these precious pearls, melted in the draught which the hand of faith receives from Christ, may well make sad hearts forget their misery, and rejoice as they drink, "with joy unspeakable and full of glory." - A.M.
I. IT IS DISTINCTIVE OF THE CHRISTIAN THAT HE HAS FAITH IN THE UNSEEN SAVIOR. This faith has a human side - it is prompted and justified by the witness of those who beheld Christ's glory, and who wrote the things which they had seen and heard in order that others might, by their evidence, be led to believe on Jesus. This faith has a Divine side; for Christ is his own witness to the heart, which finds in him the realization of its loftiest and its purest aspirations. It is the Divine provision and appointment that the life of the Christian should be a life of faith. And this is a wise and merciful arrangement, evidently calling forth the best feelings of our nature, supplying us with the highest motive and aim to a new and better life, and calling us away from absorbing interest in self and in earth.
II. THE CHRISTIAN'S FAITH IN CHRIST PRODUCES LOVE TOWARDS CHRIST. Faith in an unseen Being seems more natural than love towards him. The earthly friends whom we love we have seen and known; Christ we have not listened to or looked upon. Yet what surpassing and all-sufficient motives we have to love him!
1. Because he first loved us.
2. Because of our gratitude for his interest in us and his willing sacrifice on our behalf.
3. Because we admire his peerless character, his blameless and benevolent life.
4. Because our fellowship with him develops sympathy and congeniality.
III. JOY IS THE PROPER RESULT OF THE CHRISTIAN'S FAITH AND LOVE. This assertion doubtless appears to some minds enthusiastic and ridiculous. Yet it is a reasonable assertion in itself, and it is justified by Christian experience.
1. This joy is altogether different from the pleasures sought and prized by the unspiritual and worldly. These rejoice in the gratification of sense, in the excitement attending the quest of pleasure, in the attainment of favorite objects of desire. But Christians rejoice in quite other delights.
2. This joy is awakened by the Spirit of God in the heart. It is a fountain springing up within, when the rock is smitten by Divine grace and power. For this cause it is largely independent of circumstances.
3. This joy is characterized as unutterable, because it is deep and calm, and not by any means noisy and demonstrative. Its infinite side - that towards eternity and heaven and God - is inexpressible in human language.
4. This joy is, "full of glory," or glorified, both because of the transcendent character of the Christian's pure delights even in the present, and because of his justifiable anticipations of future and imperishable bliss, Oh that Christian people could appreciate their privileges, shake off the melancholy characteristic of the age in which we live, and enter into the possession of this primeval joy! - J.R.T.
I. LOVE FOR THE UNSEEN.
1. This appears difficult. Many say," If we could only hear, see, touch Christ, we could love him; but it is now beyond our power." Nevertheless, this is:
2. Very common. What is all love for the absent but love for the unseen?
3. This is possible to all the highest forms of love. We have historic heroes whom we love (such as Melancthon, Howard, Henry Martyn, Frederick Robertson) with a much higher form of love than the self-seeking thing that often goes by that name among men.
4. This is a most blessed reality when, as with Christ, there can be communications with the Beloved, even though he be unseen. The unseen stands calm amid all our rush of life, changeless amidst all our transition and decay. To love him in his bodily presence must ever be to have a love that is limited, partial, accidental, temporary. Not so if we love "Christ in us the Hope of glory."
II. TRUST IN THE BELOVED. It is certain there must be some faith before there is any love, but it is equally certain that where there is much love there will be increasing faith. Love is the basis of a new and stronger faith. The vision of the soul rises from its affections. The anchor of faith has the firmest hold on the shores of love; the roots of faith draw their richest nutriment from the soil of love. Love Christ more, and you will believe him more.
III. JOY IN THE BELIEVED AND THE BELOVED. The joy that Paul as well as Peter knew, and that multitudes have possessed as they trusted in Christ and cleaved to Christ with their affections, is
(1) the joy of rest;
(2) the joy of intercourse. And it is:
1. A joy that is "unspeakable." Even song cannot utter it.
2. A joy noble now, and destined to perpetual nobleness. "Full of glory." There is no mean, or base, or decaying element in it. The casket, the human heart, is indestructible; and the jewel, this Christly joy, is imperishable. - U.R.T.
I. THE GREAT WORTH OF SOUL-SALVATION. This is seen:
1. From the illustrious beings interested in it.
(4) The Holy Spirit.
From this it follows, first, that soul-salvation is no modern invention, it was known to ancient prophets; no mean conception, it was the theme of exalted angels; no obscure dream, it was proclaimed by well-known apostles; no earth-born scheme, it was a revelation of the Holy Spirit. But the worth of soul-salvation is seen:
2. By our knowledge of the Savior by whom salvation came. Christ is Christianity. The Savior is the revelation of the worth of salvation.
(1) In his sufferings (Ver. 11).
(2) In his following glories (Ver. 11):
his conquest of temptation; his resurrection; his ascension; his triumphs by his Church; the restitution of all things.
II. THE GRADUAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE REVELATION OF SOUL-SALVATION. It has dawned upon us who now have its noontide brightness, just as every day brightens to noon - gradually. In this passage we are reminded how it was:
1. Predicted. By prophets who were taught
(1) gradually and separately;
(2) often unconsciously; but
(3) divinely. We have it as:
2. Fully declared. It was plainly "announced" and is widely "preached."
III. THE SIMPLE MEANS OF ATTAINING SOUL-SALVATION. "Faith" (Ver. 9). Salvation is the thing we trust for, and to which trust tends. It is not only assent of the mind, though it is that. Nor only consent of the heart, though it is also that. But it is response of the will. "Believe, and be saved." - U.R.T.
secures it, are the center-point of the creation. "They that go before and they who follow after cry, Hosanna! blessed be he that cometh!" The calendar of civilized nations proclaims that he is the Lord of the ages - which are to be reckoned as "before Christ" or as "years of the Lord "-preparatory to or the development of his work. As for all time, so for all orders of being, the cradle and the cross are the center. There were angels in the heavens when there where shepherds in the fields, and not only Wise Men from the East but "bright, harnessed" seraphs came as pilgrims to Bethlehem. There were angels in the tomb while weeping women stood without. Prophets heralded his coming; evangelists told that he had come; and both were taught by the Spirit, whose chiefest office in the past and in the present is to take of the things of Christ, and to show them to us. Thus round him move all ages; to him turn all eyes; of him speaks all revelation; for man's salvation is the crowning work of God, and Christ effects man's salvation. Note, then, in this grand utterance four sets of persons, all concerned in that great work.
I. THE PROPHET-HERALDS. It has become fashionable now to speak doubtfully of Messianic prophecy. But any one who believes that Christ is what Peter knew him to be, the Son of God who died for all men, will feel it fitting that he should be heralded by the long series of predictions, and that before the King's chariot should be many outriders. The view of Old Testament prophecy given here is remarkable. Its main theme is declared to be the sufferings which were destined for the Messiah, and his subsequent glories. Precisely that suffering Messiah which had been such a difficulty to Peter himself and has ever been so to his nation, and which so many scholars now cannot see in the Old Testament, is here regarded as the center of prophecy; not that the whole body of Jewish prophecy is concerned with him, but that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." The stratum crops out at many points, but is continuous, even where not exposed. The whole system has a forward look. Institutions and persons, ritual and kings, the very nation itself in its high vocation and its many sorrows, witnessed of One to come, whose personality should be all and more than all which these shadowed. And all this light of prophecy is gathered into certain bright points, such as Isaiah 53. and Psalm 22., in which that mystery finds speech, of the Messiah who suffers and then conquers and reigns. That thought is the center of the Old Testament, The criticism which does not group it all round the suffering Messiah has missed the shaping principle which moulds it all, and in its perplexity has turned order into chaos. Again, the relation of the prophets to their message is taught here in a remarkable fashion. It is an axiom with some critics that prophecy must be interpreted in the sense in which the speaker and his hearers understood it. But Peter thinks that the prophetic inspiration sometimes left the speaker ignorant of the full meaning of his own predictions, so distinctly was it the utterance of a higher power. The period of fulfillment, in its date ("what") and characteristics ("what manner of time"), were not necessarily known by the prophet. Another axiom of modern philosophizers upon prophecy is that predictions must have had a bearing, consolatory or menacing, upon their first hearers. But Peter thinks that a prophecy may have been spoken which was only to be fulfilled long centuries after, and could only have gladdened the hearers with a far-off hope. Yet the prophet was not a mere machine or pipe through which the breath of inspiration blew. His heart throbbed in sympathy with his message, and he pondered it with all his force of thought. Peter's theory of prophetic inspiration is equally far from the naturalistic and from the mechanical theories.
II. THE ANSWERING CHOIR OF EVANGELISTS. The same truths were the theme of prophet and of preacher. The word "reported" and that rendered "preached the gospel" are both compounds of one root. To tell that message which prophets foretold is to preach the glad tidings to the world; and the whole business of the Christian teacher is to proclaim the joyful facts. So we have here:
1. The full identity of the message of the prophet and the preacher. The main difference is in the tense of their verbs. The one speaks in the future; the other, in the present; but the verbs are the same and the nominative is the same. The bud and the flower are one. Prophecy is condensed, outlined gospel. Gospel is expanded, specialized prophecy. Rays which were parted in the prophet's utterance are united in the evangelist's message. Anticipations are ever less definite than realities. But the theme is one, though prophecy touched with but a light hand the mysterious nature of the Messiah whom it proclaimed.
2. The essential substance of the gospel is the proclamation of historical facts. It is not a philosophy, nor directly a theology, still less is it a system of morality. It is the record of what has happened on this solid earth. Philosophy and theology and morality will all be evolved from these facts, but the first form of the gospel is history. Only it is to be remembered that the fact that Jesus has lived and died is not the gospel; but the fact that Christ has died for our sins is. The more plainly Christian teachers deliver their message, not as the product of their own thoughts, but as the message given to them, and the more they center their energy on setting forth the fact of Christ's sufferings in the past and glories in the present, the better for their success and for the world.
III. THE LISTENING, GAZING ANGELS. "To look into" is literally" to bend the body so as to gaze upon an object," as the apostles did at the sepulcher. This graphic figure may, perhaps, be a reminiscence of the quiet forms which sat the one at the head and the other at the foot where the body of Jesus had lain, as gazing upon a mystery and guarding a holy place, or it may even recall the cherubim bending with outstretched and meeting wings above the mercy-seat. At all events, it speaks of the remoter and yet earnest interest which other orders of beings in other worlds take in the story of redemption. Men have the honor of proclaiming it, whether as prophets or evangelists. To them it belongs. He helped not angels, but he helped the "seed of Abraham? Therefore they do not speak of it, but stand around, like spectators in some great arena, all silent and all eyes. Three great truths concerning angelic natures are here. They are capable of learning. They too know God by his work which excites in them wonder and interest as it unfolds. The life and death of Christ, with the resulting salvation, are a revelation of God to angels no less than to men, and, though they have no share in the redemption, they have a share in the knowledge which the cross brings to them as to us. From it far-darting beams of light shoot earthwards and upwards. It is the crowning manifestation of the Divine nature for all worlds and orders of being, as for all ages.
IV. THE ONE SPIRIT DWELLING IN PROPHETS AND EVANGELISTS. Not only is the theme the same, but the animating impulse also. The power by which the prophet saw all the wonder that should be is the same as the power which sat in cloven tongues of fire on the heads of all the Church on Pentecost, and has ever since been the strength of every evangelist and of every Christian. Inspiration is not a past phenomenon, but the permanent possession of the Church. Nay, the Spirit which of old came for special purposes on selected men and. tarried not with them, is now, as it were, a denizen of earth, for it is "sent down from heaven" once for all, to abide among us, touching all lips which humbly and prayerfully speak Christ's Name among men. And it was the "Spirit of Christ" which dwelt in the prophets, and which they ever called "the Spirit of the Lord." From the beginning the Word was God; the manifested Jehovah of the old covenant is the Jesus Christ of the new. He is the Lord and Sender of that Spirit which spoke through all the prophets; he is the Medium of all revelation, the Self-manifestation of God from eternity. It is Christ who binds all the ages into one, filling the past, the present, and the future. It is Christ who binds all worlds and beings into one, revealing and ruling for angels and men. It is Christ who is the Theme and the Inspiration of all prophets and all teachers. To him cherubim and seraphim turn with eager gaze. The goodly fellowship of prophets speak of him; of him speak the great company who publish the Word. Let us, too, yield to the attraction of the cross, which binds all things in heaven and earth in golden unity. Let us gaze on those wonders of Divine pity and righteousness and love which have given to heaven a new conception of God. Let us open our spirits to that Spirit of Christ whose dwelling in our hearts shall set us free from sin and death. Let us cleave to that message which, in the history of his incarnation, death, and royal glories, brings to our hearts the good news that sheds light over all the darkest places of our human experience, and endows us with full salvation. - A.M.
I. SALVATION WAS MATTER OF PROPHETIC STUDY. The prophets were not so occupied with the repetition and enforcement of the Law which had been given by Moses as to the uninterested in a future dispensation. The grace that was to come engaged their thoughts. The Spirit of Christ led them to anticipate the sufferings and the glory of the Messiah. The very time of the coming dispensation and age, was of the deepest interest to these inspired men, who looked forward to the further manifestation of the purposes of God.
II. SALVATION WAS MATTER OF APOSTOLIC REPORT. What the prophets had looked forward to, the apostles looked back upon. Peter and his colleagues had a gospel - good tidings to proclaim. To benevolent minds no employment could be more congenial than to convey, upon Divine authority, declarations of God's favor, promises of Divine mercy, to the sinful and pitiable sons of men.
III. SALVATION IS MATTER OF ANGELIC INQUIRY. The present is not the only passage in which it is intimated that the unfallen intelligences who, not having sinned, need for themselves no salvation, are nevertheless students of the Divine plan for the recovery of sinful men. It is through the Church that principalities and powers learn additional lessons concerning the wisdom and the love of God.
IV. SALVATION IS FOR THE APPROPRIATION AND REJOICING OF INDIVIDUAL RELIEVERS. The grace, says the apostle, comes unto you; unto us these things were ministered. It is instructive to know how prophets, apostles, and angels have been affected by the gospel of God's grace. Yet that gospel is for the hearers of the Word - for men of every rank and every character. And surely it deserves and demands that those who may most benefit by it should give it their most reverent and grateful attention. If the gifted and the holy find a sacred joy in pondering the provisions of God's love and mercy, how urgently does it become the sinful and the helpless to give heed to tidings which offer to them a gracious pardon, a spiritual cleansing, and a deathless life! - J.R.T.
1 Peter 2:19-23 3:13-18; 4:12-14; 5:10), and one object of the writer was to sustain and encourage them. Now, what is his method? what is the Divine way of consolation? How well should we be able to minister to the tried if we knew how God would minister to them! His method is to bring before them the wonderful blessings of that salvation of which, in Christ, they partake. That is what we have here. As we read from the third verse, we seem to hear the apostle saying the blessings of salvation are the true solace for the distressed believer. He begins with an outburst of praise for their great hope; but he goes on to say their joy is not in the future only; then comes this paragraph on the substance of their salvation in Christ.
I. SALVATION THROUGH CHRIST THE SUBJECT OF OLD TESTAMENT PREPARATION. The work of the prophets was not so much for their own day and dispensation as for this; they knew there was a deeper meaning in what they were impelled to say than they were conscious of intending; it was clear to them that they, centuries beforehand, were really working for New Testament times. That is, Christianity is no modern invention; it is not a step in the upward movement of the race dating back to Jesus of Nazareth, and now to he left behind as the race advances beyond it; to say nothing of appearances being against such a theory, for there are no traces that Christianity is not still infinitely above what any of the race has reached, its fundamental idea is false; Christianity dates from the beginning, its basis is a Divine work of preparation carried on through all the ages that were before it, and "when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son." Our text, however, does not take us further than this - that salvation was the subject of Old Testament preparation. It is no heresy of the modern Church; it did not originate with Paul; it is not an idea of Jesus; it dates back through all the Old Testament that the world's redemption should spring from a Savior suffering and then glorified.
1. Old Testament events were but steps leading up to it. Promised in Eden, again to Noah, again with additions to Abraham and to Isaac and to Jacob, etc. Prepared for in the work of Moses, in the calling out and training of Israel, to the choice of their land, in their being made the depositary of Divine truth, in the lives of David, Solomon, and the prophets, in the scattering of the Jews, in their connection with Roman power and Greek literature; all these were but, like the Baptist, preparing the way of the Lord.
2. Old Testament prophecies were but the heralds of salvation through Christ. Whatever the origin of sacrifice by blood, it goes back to the first family; and since they were accepted by God - and it would be strange indeed for man to anticipate this great method of salvation - we regard them as prefigurings of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. Later on they were developed in the elaborate Jewish ritual - atonement, high priest; mediation, entrance into the holiest, sprinkling of blood, etc. In the psalmists and prophets there is a yet further development of this - the nature, the date, the birthplace, the character, the work, the death, the resurrection, the universal reign of the Messiah, are drawn in outline, so that "beginning at Moses and all the prophets," etc. Salvation in Christ, therefore, is the termination of a wondrous system promoted from the beginning, and was, after being worked out, "the mystery which from the beginning hath been hid in God according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord."
II. SALVATION THROUGH CHRIST THE SUBJECT OF DIVINE REVELATION, The prophets taught through "the Spirit of Christ which was in them." So much for the Old Testament. The apostles - "them that have preached the gospel unto you" - have done this "with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven." So much for the New Testament.
1. The Spirit of Christ, therefore, is the author of Sacred Writ. Inspiration was the operation of the Divine Spirit on the minds of men so that they were led to utter infallible truth. It sometimes consisted simply in power to narrate facts and discourses accurately; but sometimes it included the suggestion of the very thoughts they should express, and of the very words they should use. So in listening to prophets and apostles we listen to God himself.
2. Consider the evidence of the Divine inspiration of Scripture. The great central witness to this is Christ. The Old Testament of his time and ours is identical; he always regarded it as the authoritative voice of God; we accept its Divine inspiration because we accept him. As to the New Testament, the apostles claim an inspiration equal to that of the Old, e.g. 1 Corinthians 2:12, 13. And unless that claim be true, how can Christ's words be fulfilled? as e.g. to Peter as the representative of the twelve, "I will give unto thee the keys," etc., or after his resurrection, "As the Father hath sent me, so send I you;... receive ye the Holy Ghost: whosesoever sins ye remit," etc. Thus "the Church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ," etc.
3. Then in Scripture we have the infallible declaration of the most high God. In all Scripture. We must take the whole, or we have no Divine warrant for any part. There is no power which can be trusted to discriminate between what therein is Divine and what not; those who affirm such discrimination to be needful differ among themselves as to the test. Here God has deigned to speak; what is here is certain truth; here God has declared salvation; then that salvation is real.
III. SALVATION THROUGH CHRIST THE SUBJECT OF ANGELIC RESEARCH. "Which things the angels," etc. Another evidence of the sublimity of the salvation offered in this book. The word is a graphic one, descriptive of the idea of bending down and fixing an intense, searching gaze on something, as when John stooped down and looked into the sepulcher; Peter may have been thinking of that.
1. The angels have vast privileges, yet they seem to envy the knowledge granted to us. They have all the blessings of a sinless state in God's presence, but they look down on the mysteries of grace revealed to us, as though coveting the revelation.
2. The angels have great acquaintance with God, yet apparently they discern the greatest revelation of him here. They are familiar with nature and heaven, but
"God in the person of his Son 3. The angels have wonderful faculties of insight, yet there is more here than they can fathom. Such is the fullness of the gospel that they are still far from comprehending it. - C.N.
3. The angels have wonderful faculties of insight, yet there is more here than they can fathom. Such is the fullness of the gospel that they are still far from comprehending it. - C.N.
I. THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST. It was involved in Christ's taking our nature that he should suffer; as Son of man he accepted the human lot. But there were pains and griefs peculiar to himself; he was the "Man of sorrows."
1. His mental sufferings. These were many and sore, and only partially comprehensible by us. They arose from the contact of the Holy One with sin and sinners; the misunderstanding of his character and mission even by his own beloved and trained disciples; his rejection by his countrymen, who should have been foremost in welcoming him. They arose from the unique burden which he bore for us, the unique sacrifice which with tears and blood he presented as our High Priest.
2. His bodily sufferings. Jesus shared throughout his humiliation the sinless infirmities of those whose lot he accepted with the view of securing their salvation. But the reference in this and similar passages is unquestionably to those pathetic and awful experiences which our Savior deigned to undergo during the last hours of his life, when his form was bruised and pierced, when his blood was shed for us.
3. The moral aspects of Christ's sufferings. He endured them, in expression and proof of his obedience to the Father; in the maintenance of his hostile attitude towards sin; in compassion to the human race he came to save; in achieving the redemption which it was his aim and mission to effect. The humiliation, the cross of our Savior, were endured for the highest purpose; they give no countenance to the ascetic notion that pain is in itself a good; but they show us how it may he the means, under the moral government of God, of good of the very highest order.
II. THE GLORY OF CHRIST FOLLOWING UPON HIS SUFFERINGS.
1. This glory was partly personal to our Lord himself. So viewed, the reference is to his resurrection and ascension. The glory which he had before the world was, by the events which swiftly followed the Crucifixion was enhanced.
2. Glory accrued to Jesus in the establishment of his Church. The Holy Spirit descended, and the signs which accompanied the Word were the incidents of a triumphal progress. The Conqueror, the King, appeared, and a kingdom was set up excelling in majesty and splendor all the powers of the world, and even the empire itself.
3. The world itself became the scene of the Savior's glory. A new moral principle was introduced into our humanity; it was seen that weakness and suffering might lead to moral dominion. The very conception of glory itself was glorified through the cross. Spiritual glory was shown to excel all beside.
III. THE CONNECTION BETWEEN CHRIST'S SUFFERINGS AND GLORY.
1. It was a connection predicted in Old Testament Scripture, e.g. in passages in Isaiah and in Daniel.
2. It was a connection foreseen and expected by Christ himself. It is noticeable that, in announcing beforehand the events about to happen to himself, Jesus associated his crucifixion and resurrection as parts of one purposed whole.
3. Though the sufferings and the glory were in striking contrast, the i0rmer were the means to which the latter was the end. The one made the other possible, and indeed brought it about. The crown of thorns blossomed into a crown of empire and of majesty - J.R.T.
I. We have to consider THE PERFECT OBJECT OF CHRISTIAN HOPE. There are three striking ideas suggested by the remarkable language here.
1. We have a very unusual designation for that object, namely, "grace." Usually the future blessings are called glory, and in common religious language, "grace and "glory" are contrasted, as belonging to earth and heaven. Here clearly "grace" means the whole sum of the blessings to be bestowed in another life, and is equivalent to the" salvation ready to be revealed" spoken of in an earlier verse. The unusual expression teaches us that the glories of our ultimate exaltation in all their splendor are purely gratuitous and the product of the undeserved love and liberality of our God. The whole Christian career from first to last owes all it enjoys, possesses, or hopes to "grace." The substantial identity of the Christian character here and there is also implied. Glory is but grace perfected; grace is incipient glory. The gift is one here and there, only the measure varies. What is a spark now, almost smothered sometimes under green wood, flames out ruddy and triumphant then.
2. That ultimate grace is on its way to us. It is "being brought," or, as Leighton puts it, "a-bringing." The same word is used to describe the onward-moving rush of the mighty wind of Pentecost. It is as if some strong angel-choir had already begun their flight with this great gift in their hands, and were hasting with all the power of their majestic pinions to this small island in the deep. The light from fixed stars may take centuries to reach us, but is speeding through space all the while. So that "great far-off Divine event" is coming steadily nearer, as if some star, at first a point in the distance, should take motion towards us and at last pour all its splendor on our eyes. A solemn but invigorating thought, fitted to brighten hope and kindle desire that "now is our salvation nearer than when we believed."
3. This approaching grace is wrapped up in the revelation of Jesus Christ. We may render "at," as the Revised Version does, and yet give full force to the preposition in the original. The grace is included in the revelation of Jesus Christ, as a jewel in a case. The manifestation of Christ in his glory shall be the participation in that glory of all who love him. It overflows, as it were, into us, partly because the sight of him in his glory shall work transformation into his likeness, as a light falling on a mirror makes a brightness; but chiefly because he and we shall be so truly one in deep mystic union that all this is ours, and the glory which streams from him shall brighten us. All which he shows to a wondering world we shall share. This is the perfect object of Christian hope. How different from paltry, perishable earthly hopes! Why let this great faculty trail along the ground, when it might climb to heaven by the trelliswork of God's promises? Why limit it to days and years, when it might expand to lay hold on eternity? Let hearts and hopes mount to fix on Christ, and they shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.
II. THE PERFECT HOPE WHICH GRASPS THE PERFECT OBJECT. There is no doubt that "hope perfectly" is the injunction here. It is more needful to exhort to perfection in degree than to permanence in duration, which will follow naturally. Hope may exist in all degrees from a tremulous "perhaps" up to "I am sure." Usually it is less than certainty. "Hopes and fears that kindle hope" are "an inextinguishable hope. A leek of doubt slumbers in her fair eyes. How can that be firm which is built on a quagmire?" But it is possible for a Christian to have this perfect hope. God's fixed and faithful Word gives us certainty of future. Nor need our own sin or, weakness dash our confidence, for his promises are made to the sinful and weak. We have rock on which to build. Why should our hope cast its anchor on some floating island which may drift and melt away, when it may be fastened within the veil? It is a duty to hope perfectly, because only such hope corresponds to facts. Not to hope is unbelief. Some good people say "I hope" in such tremulous melancholy tones that it sounds liker "I fear." Joyous confidence becomes those who have God to lean on. "I am persuaded," "we know," are the words with which Paul and John heralded their hopes; and we should be bold to use the same. It is blessedness to hope perfectly. So we escape the alternations which, like the hot and the shivering fits of ague, rack others, and the bitterness of disappointment when some gleaming vision collapses, and, instead of the rainbow-hued bubble, we are left with a drop of dirty water. He who lives by earthly hopes is in danger of dying by earthly disappointments, A fulfilled hope is often a disappointed one. We may have a pillar of fire to guide us in all the darkness, which will glow brighter as we draw near the end. It is strength to hope perfectly. Hope is often a trifler, robbing us of energy, making the present flat, and withdrawing us from working in order to dream. But Christian hope is an armed warrior, grave and calm, ready for conflict because assured of victory. It will be as wings to lift us above care and sorrows, and as cords to bind us to duty and toil.
III. THE SELF-DISCIPLINE WHICH KEEPS THE PERFECT HOPE. It has two parts - "girding up the loins," and "being sober." These two are somewhat difficult to distinguish. But the former enjoins determined effort, the bracing up of all one's powers, or, as we say, "pulling one's self together." Travelers, servants, soldiers, have to tighten their belts and confine loose robes. A slackly braced mind has not force enough to cherish a perfect hope. There are many difficulties in its way, and vigorous effort is needed to concentrate the mind and heart on the truth which warrants it. All Christian virtue needs determined effort. Earthly hopes will not be vigorous unless the intrusive present is shut out by resolute effort, and the attention kept fixed on the future. How can a strong Christian hope be preserved on easier terms? Again, for the completeness of Christian hope, rigid self control and repression are needed. "Be sober" means "keep a tight hand on all desires and tastes, especially on animal passions and appetites." There is no possibility of clear vision of the future if the mists that steam up from these undrained marshes bide it, nor can the soul whose desires turn earthwards go out in keen expectation to the more ethereal joys above. If the plant is allowed to throw out side shoots, it will not run high. Our hopes are regulated by our desires. We have a limited amount to expend, and if we bestow it on things of time and sense, we shall have none to spare for the unseen. If we pour the precious ointment on the heads of earthly loves, there will be none with which to anoint our true Lover and King. A great possibility is set before us weary sons of men, whose hearts have been so often turn by disappointment that we know not whether it is sadder to hope or to despair. We may have the future made as certain as the past, and be made conquerors over sorrow and the dread of to-morrow and the apathy which does not look forward, by a calm hope which knows that it will be fulfilled. We need not build on peradventures, but on "Verily, verily, I say unto you." Do not build on saint when you may build on rock, even on "Christ, who is our Hope" - and you will not be confounded. - A.M.
I. SOBER AS TO LIFE'S PLEASURES, As a reasonable man and a wise teacher, he does not take the attitude of the ascetic, He does not say, "Denounce pleasures! despise pleasures! abstain from and abjure pleasures I" but, "Be sober!" Not only in food and drink, but in the various enjoyments and pursuits of life, it behooves the follower of Jesus to practice moderation, self-restraint, and prudence, He should not lie down, stretching himself by the stream, and taking his fill of the waters of enjoyment; he should be satisfied to quaff the refreshing draught as from the hollow of his hand.
II. DILIGENT AS TO LIFE'S DUTIES. Flowing garments are all very well for times of ease and festivity; but they must be girded when a journey is to be undertaken, when a work is to be performed, when a warfare is to be waged. If this precaution be not taken, the raiment may he trodden upon, soiled, and torn, and the wearer may stumble and be hindered. So the Christian is bidden to look upon his life as something serious and earnest, He must gird up the loins of his mind, and set about the business to which his Lord has called him. What his hand findeth to do, he is required to do with his might.
III. HOPEFUL AS TO LIFE'S AIM. Peter has been called the apostle of hope, so great is the stress he lays upon this Christian virtue.
1. The object of hope is grace, i.e. a free gift of God. He who comes for streams of refreshment and blessing brings with him nothing but his thirst.
2. The occasion of the satisfaction and fulfillment of this hope. This is the expected and promised revelation of Jesus Christ.
3. The quality of this hope. The expression is a remarkable one, "Set your hope perfectly." The hope recommended is sure, enduring, joyful, purifying. And as the hope is well grounded, it may fairly be expected to possess this quality, and to exercise accordingly an elevating and purifying power. Such a hope lends cheerfulness to toil. Work without hope draws water in a sieve, And hope without an object cannot live." J.R.T.
I. SPIRITUAL REDEMPTION IS HERE SPOKEN OF AS "THE GRACE THAT IS BEING BROUGHT TO US IN THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST." Revised Version margin, "Greek, Is being brought." "At" is the ordinary preposition signifying "in." We, therefore, take the expression as covering all that the apostle has spoken of from the third verse. The nature, certainty, sublimity of redemption; redemption beginning here, perfected in heaven;-that has been his theme, and he now sums it up in the beautiful and comprehensive phrase, "The grace that is being brought unto you in the revelation of Jesus Christ." Think of salvation under this title.
1. It is God's free gift. "The grace." It is gratuitous. One of its marvelous features is that it is for "whosoever will." A salvation we had wrought for ourselves could not have rectified our relation to God; it would have freed us from condemnation, but not have opened to us the Father's heart, nor constrained us to his service. There is a priceless power in God himself discharging our liabilities by the atonement of his own blood, and thus saving the unthankful and evil, the outcast and lost, for nothing.
2. It is possessed by us in an extraordinary degree. There is evident stress on the words," to you." The expression seems to look back to vers. 10-12. Divine truths were in their dawning in the Old Testament, but they are brought to light in the New. Compared with what has to be revealed, it is darkness; for that which is the expression of God's boundless love, and the full reward of the atonement, will need enlarged capacities for its perception, and all eternity for its reception; but compared with what was revealed before New Testament times, it is brightness. Very touching is it, for instance, to think of Isaiah sitting down and pondering the prophecies he was given to utter, and vainly trying to understand their mysteries. "The Spirit was not yet;" but he has come now, and in his light we see light, Now we may "comprehend with all saints what," etc.; now "the eyes of our understanding being," etc.; now "eye hath not seen, nor ear... but God hath," etc.; "Verily I say unto you, many prophets," etc.
3. It is continuous and increasing with the revelation of Jesus Christ. "That is being" - it is a prolonged, unceasing, ever-enlarging bestowment. What we received when we first knew Christ as Savior was far surpassed by what came with glowing knowledge of him; and this, in turn, shall be immeasurably surpassed when we shall see him as he is. What is the joy on the face of the young disciple; what the calm of the saintly heart as it comes forth from the closet; what the growing likeness to the Savior in the good man's character; what the holy peace of the aged believer; what the glory of the redeemed in heaven, - but "the grace that is being brought to us in the revelation of Jesus Christ?"
II. THE POSSESSION OF THIS GRACE CLAIMS THAT WE CLEARLY APPREHEND ITS FULNESS. "Gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for this grace;" equivalent to "God would have us see how great salvation is; if it is to work in us its proper work, we must have adequate views, and a firm, personal, intelligent grip of it."
1. There must be activity of thought concerning it. To gird up the loins is the preparation for activity. In Scripture we have the thoughts of God, but they are not revealed to the careless reader; they only yield to patient study under the illumination of the Divine Spirit. The absolutely needful truths of Scripture, like the corn on the surface of the earth, are easily gathered, but for the gold and gems we must dig. Some Christians know so little of God's grace because they have no systematic, leisurely, deliberate, prayerful study of Scripture. "Search the Scriptures;" "Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord."
2. There must be freedom from what would dim our vision of it. "Be sober." Sobriety is self-restraint from what intoxicates. The intoxicated man has no clear perception of anything; he sees nothing as it is. There is an intoxication of soul which operates thus on spiritual perceptions. We may be intoxicated with business, worldly pleasure, pride of intellect, etc. To understand God's grace, a restraining hand must be put on this.
3. There must be confident anticipation of it. "Hope perfectly [Revised Version] for," etc. Hope is beyond faith. Faith reveals somewhat, then hope anticipates it. Hope expects, ponders, yearns for. "Perfectly;" equivalent to "without any admixture of doubt." To make the blessings promised in Christ a subject of hope would make them grow before our vision, and intensify the consciousness that they are ours. It does not impress us to know that a vast multitude of stars fill the sky, but to go into the observatory and single out one star for observation, and fix our mind on that, ensures one new beauty after another gleaming out of the darkness, and where we thought was but a star, a galaxy is discerned.
III. THE APPREHENSION OF THE FULNESS OF DIVINE GRACE WILL LEAD TO HOLINESS. Man says, "Be holy, then you will have hope; do your duty, then you will find rest." God says, "Salvation free through Christ first; then holiness as the result." Vers. 14-16 are the sequel to ver. 13. A table tells of a stream which made those that drank of it new beings; so to drink of the blessings which flow from Calvary is to find ourselves new creatures. None can know what redemption is, and that it is his, and fashion himself according to his former lusts in his ignorance; it rather creates a desire to be "holy in all manner of living."
1. It is so because of the filial love redemption evokes. Without redemption we have no sufficient motive to holiness; that comes with love to God in Christ.
2. And it is so because of the high purpose of God redemption reveals. As we apprehend what redemption is, we see it includes God's purpose of likeness to him. Then this likeness can be reached, for what God wills can be. - C.N.
holy." Holiness is salvation. Just as there is no salvation for a sick man but to give him health, so there is no salvation for a sinful man but to ensure him holiness. Holiness is the supreme purpose of religion. So now, in his own direct, glowing, practical manner the apostle voices the call of God" Be holy." And in doing this he sets forth -
I. THE ONE MODEL AND MOTIVE OF TRUE HOLINESS. Does he not, however, in passing, show what is not a standard of true holiness? For he guards his readers against shaping their character by their own past habits of life. He gently recalls the sad fact to them that they had led lives of vice and of ignorance. He warns them that such living is altogether bad; it was a life according to lusts, coarse and dark, of men, not laws of God. And he suggests to them by the very use of the word "fashioning," which denotes what is fleeting and on the surface (as when he says, "the fashion of this world," the scenery of it, "passeth away"), that a life molded according to the vicious and ignorant lusts of men is transient, decaying, perishing. Do not so degrade and so destroy human nature. Then again, in passing, he shows what the manifestation of true holiness will be. The body of holiness is described by Moses in the Decalogue - the breath of it is breathed by Jesus in the sermon on the mount. But where will this holiness, this breathing body of Christian holiness, show itself? Peter answers, "Holy in all manner of living." The word "conversation" means a "turning about," and the thought is, wherever that life turns in the revolutions of daily history it will be holy. Holy not in its moods, sentiments, religious rites alone; but in its "behavior." The holy man is a revolving light - a light, not with six sides darkened and the seventh flashing some special luster, but wherever he turns translucent with the virtues of the indwelling Christ. Of such holiness the passage before us gives the one model and motive - namely, God. God is the Model of true holiness. "He which called." God is the great "Caller." He cares to call, and is ever calling. And he is holy. And we are called to be holy like as he is holy. Moreover, God is the Motive of true holiness. Not only like as he is holy, but because he is holy, we are to be holy. We notice:
1. Because of God's nature it is right that man should resemble him.
2. Because of man's nature it is possible for him to resemble God. And the fact that we are God's offspring may indicate some hope of our having the capacity of resembling him. But the incarnation of the Son of God declares that man is like God; and that incarnate life of Jesus, where the life of God was lived in a human frame, its thoughts scintillating in a man's brain, its emotions vibrating in a man's heart, its character revealed in a man's conduct, is the one great warrant for the appeal made from the nature of God to the duty of man. The almighty God says, "Be ye holy; for I am holy." All the forces of the universe, all the energies of God, are in battle against sin and in league with holiness. The all-wise God says, "Be ye holy; for I am holy." He who knows what man is and what man can be, and what are all the possibilities of woe or of blessedness throughout creation - the heart-searching, man-knowing, hell-knowing, heaven-knowing God calls us to holiness. The all-loving God says, "Be ye holy; for I am holy." There is no true love without holiness, and he who is the Holy One, who is Love, yearns for us to be like him. Yes, it is written, "Be ye holy." Peter was quoting Leviticus or Exodus, or both, for there it was written. In that the music of the Old and New Testaments is in unison, and not merely in harmony. But it is written in the stones of Sinai, and in the fires of Sodom, and with the blood of Calvary. It is still echoing in messages of prophets and apostles and in the deathless words of Christ. It is written in all the laws of nature which give pain; and in the moral realm, where is violence of remorse; it is written as with pen of iron in man's reason, and point of diamond on his conscience, "Ye shall be holy, as I am holy."
II. SOME OF THE ESSENTIALS IN THE PURSUIT OF TRUE HOLINESS. We say" some," because it is not the habit of Peter to deal exhaustively, and we should not expect all to be set out; and because clearly all essentials are not here, though certainly those, such as the working of the Holy Spirit, are implied. But those that are distinctly enumerated are:
1. Vigorous intelligence. "Gird up the loins of your mind."
2. Firm self-control. "Be sober."
3. Thorough hope. "To the end;" reserved perfectly to the limit of hope.
(1) Thorough in itself. To the bound of hope; no anxious doubt, no fitfulness.
(2) In its object. The "grace." The gift of grace which is being brought to us at the revelation of Christ. Every unveiling of Christ brings grace; the last apocalypse perfects the gift.
4. Filial obedience. - U.R.T.
1. Unity of the energies. "Wherefore girding up the loins of your mind." The apostle has been dwelling on the bright future before the people of God. We are pilgrims on our way to our inheritance. It becomes us therefore to gird up the loins of our mind. It belongs to the richness of our endowment that there are strong forces in our nature. But these are naturally in a state of dispersion. We are like travelers with loose flowing robes which form an impediment in walking. We need to gird up the loins of our mind - to gather up our scattered energies, to unite them in a common bond for the accomplishment of a common end. For this there is needed a vigor of will which is by no means common. There is a Chinese proverb which says, "Most men have passions, strong men have wills." We are not to allow ourselves to be swayed by alternate passions, which counteract one another and involve loss of force. We need all the vigor we can command for sustaining us in the accomplishment of our arduous journey, in the execution of our difficult plan. It has been pointed out that even for success in an evil undertaking there is needed a harmonious character, or agreement of the powers. And men have sometimes failed in their evil schemes just because they have not been bad enough; there has been some better feeling of their nature drawing them back (Macbeth). For all success we must be able to say with Paul, "This one thing I do." It is to be observed that the language here comes with a special appropriateness from Peter, to whom were spoken the words of destiny, "When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not."
2. Sobriety. "Be sober." "Peter commands," says Calvin, "not merely moderation in eating and drinking, but spiritual sobriety rather, when we shut in all our senses, that they do not intoxicate themselves with the unlawful things of this world." The sobriety here enjoined has a natural association with wakefulness, being a condition of wakefulness. Hence Paul says, "Let us watch and be sober." As thus associated with wakefulness, it naturally follows on girding up the loins. Hence the Master says, "Let your loins be girded about, and your lamps burning." We are not to allow the pleasures of the world to bring us into a state of unnatural excitement or of stupor; but we are so to sober ourselves with all sobering thought (such as the vanity of worldly pleasure, the shortness of time) as that with a clear head we can discern the way we are taking, and the end to which it leads.
3. Hope. "And set your hope perfectly on the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." Stress is laid in tiffs verse on the exercise of hope. There are various degrees in which it may exist. We are to aim at exercising it perfectly. One aspect of the perfectness is brought out in the old translation, "Hope to the end." To be thus enduring it must be vigorous, conquering. The ground of hope on our part is grace on the part of God. Grace has already been brought unto us in our election (Ver. 1); it is to be signally brought unto us at the revelation of Jesus Christ. What we hope for from grace is our inheritance. When Christ is to be glorified then are we also to be enriched from grace. In order that our hope may be perfect or abundant (Romans 15:13), we must not only realize the inheritance as well merited for us, but must form some distinct conception of its nature. This is what Paul teaches when he thus prays for his Ephesian converts, "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints." When gathering up our energies, and sobered against the blandishments of the world, we are also sustained by hope, we are prepared for the journey of life.
1. Not after self. "As children of obedience, not fashioning yourselves according to your former lusts in the time of your ignorance." The apostle proceeds on our being children of obedience (Ver. 2). We are naturalized in obedience, so that we have it as our father. The dignity of our nature lies in this, that we are character-making. We have the power of fashioning ourselves, leaving our own mark on our nature - a power not possessed by the lower creatures. We have not the power of adding any new principle or eradicating any that there is; for we do not stand to our nature as creators; but we can lead to such a change in ourselves as amounts to a second nature. As children of obedience, we are not to fashion ourselves as we please. There is a negativing here of lusts, which are just self in some form or other. If, like many of those addressed in this Epistle (Gentile converts), lusts once had the fashioning of us, that belonged to our former life when we were in ignorance of Divine things. Now that we are enlightened, let them not have the fashioning of us any more. Let there not be the slightest impress on us from sensuality; from avarice, from falseness, from pride, from worldliness, from ambition, from injustice, from hatred.
2. After God. "But like as he which called you is holy, be ye yourselves also holy in all manner of living; because it is written, Ye shall be holy; for I am holy." We are to have the Divine impress on us. We are to fashion ourselves according to the character of him who called us to be his people. This held under the old covenant. The command laid repeatedly on the people of God then was, "Ye shall be holy; for I am holy." As belonging to God and enjoying many tokens of the Divine favor, it was their duty to take the fashion of their life, not from the heathen around them and their pollutions, but from God and his absolute holiness. We have come into their privileges, and also their obligations. As called by God to a rich inheritance in the future, there is for us a shall be, a must be holy in the holiness of God. We are bound to approve what he approves, to condemn what he condemns. This obligation extends to every part of our life. We are to be holy in all manner of living. Whatever holy form there is (purity, generosity, sincerity, humility, spirituality, earnestness, honorableness, gentleness), we are to impress it on all we think, and feel, and say, and do.
III. FEAR ACCOMPANYING THE PILGRIM-STATE.
1. Fear of judgment. "And if ye call on him as Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to each man's work, pass the time of your sojourning in fear." The fear enjoined here is not the feeling of reverence which we are forever to cherish toward God as infinitely exalted above us. It is the fear connected with our state of sojourning - our being away for a time from the Father's house, the fear of sin endangering the happiness, if not the certainty, of our home-going. "It is not fear alone, or fear supreme, or fear thwarting or limiting love and hope and joy that the Word of God enjoins, but fear surrounded, intertwined, and subservient. Fear must be like the sentinel - always awake, always on the alert, always faithful, but always aware that he is neither general nor leader of any kind. Although fear in itself and by itself cannot produce truly good or spiritually right action, it yet performs a vital function in keeping the soul awake. Fear rings the alarm-bell and rouses the conscience. It blows the trumpet of warning. Where the sense of right is growing numb the smart blows of fear bring it back to consciousness again. It creates pause and opportunity for all better and nobler things to make themselves heard. To be regardless of dangers is to cut the sinews of effort" (Leckie). Fear is represented as springing out of our view of God as judging. His essential relation to each man (believer or not believer) is that of Judge. He judges without respect of persons, i.e. not by appearances, but by the actual realities of the case. He judges according to each man's work, i.e. all in which character is displayed. His judgment is ever going forward along with our work; it is to culminate in a pronounced judgment on our work as completed. It is fitted to inspire us with fear, that the Divine judgment accompanies every deed. It is fitted by itself to overwhelm us with fear, that the Divine judgment is to be pronounced on our deeds as a whole. But then as believers we call on (in our prayers acknowledge) this Judge as our Father. That does not make his judgment free from fear. "The judgment of a King does not feel half so searching and painful as that of a Father. It is dreadful to feel that even love, that even a Father's love, condemns me. But still Father is Father, and the heart that clings to the word will find enough in that to keep the fear from paralyzing or even depressing" (Leckie). Let us, then, pass the time of our sojourning in the fear of judgment. Let us not lull ourselves into a feeling of security. Let us realize that there are perils by the way, and that we must never for a moment relax our efforts until we actually possess the inheritance.
2. Fear of redemption. Two points in analogy founded on. "Knowing that ye were redeemed, not with corruptible things, with silver or gold." The first point in the analogy is suggested in words which follow ("vain manner of life"). The life of a captive is a vain manner of life, i.e. empty of the activities and therefore the pleasures which belong to a life of freedom. The second point in the analogy is brought out. The usual way of redeeming a captive is by silver or gold being paid for him. The captive who has thus been redeemed has reason to fear first when he thinks of the life he has escaped, and also when he thinks of the cost of his redemption.
(1) The fear of the life escaped. "From your vain manner of life handed down from your fathers." The life of sin is a vain manner of life, i.e. empty of the holy activities and pleasures which are the contents of a true life. The life of sin is here viewed as inherited. When, as in heathenism, wrong ideas and customs are handed down from generation to generation, deliverance presents appalling difficulty. The redeemed to whom Peter wrote had reason to fear, when they saw in the heathen around them what they once had been. When the man rescued sees the bridge or ledge on which he lately stood toppling into the abyss, his first feeling is that of fear. So have we not reason to fear when we think of the life of sin in which we were once involved, or when we see in the sinful lives of men around us what we might have been?
(2) The fear of the manner in which redemption has been effected. The cost of redemption. "But with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, even the blood of Christ." We were redeemed not with corruptible things, but with precious blood (which therefore is to be ranked with incorruptible things and marks incorruptibility as a chief element of the preciousness). "Precious blood" is a description of the blood of Christ, i.e. of him who was the Anointed of God for his redeeming work. He is here represented as offering himself a sacrifice in the way of redeeming. The main point in which his sacrifice differed from all previous sacrifices was that it was no mere prefigurement, but was the real transaction with God on behalf of man. It was no unconscious victim, but conscious, free, morally characterized life in the nature identified with the sin. There is also the representation of the innocent being offered for the guilty and vile. There are two words used to express innocence. Bengel is probably right in the distinction - has not blemish in itself, nor has contracted spot from without. As applied to Christ as a sacrifice, the meaning is, that he had no pollution in himself, neither did he take pollution from without. In his sacrifice we see the required physical immaculateness of the animal sacrificed rising into moral immaculateness. "That he who sought to give himself as a sacrifice to free the world from sin should have been conscious of being himself a sinner, or felt himself to be in any one respect unclean before God, would have been not merely a contradiction, it would have been a gross impiety" (Ullmann). The two epithets used are negatives; but we must for a full conception think of there being on the positive side absolute excellence. He yielded complete obedience to the Law of God under which he was placed, and, in the result, carried our nature forward into a state of perfection. It was only by his offering life on which God could look with the highest satisfaction that our redemption could be effected. Have we not, then, reason to fear when we think of the precious blood, the incorruptible reality, that has obtained redemption for us? "You have felt, when some blessing came to you, a sort of pain at the thought of your own unworthiness. The kindness of God has made you ashamed. It did not make you glad, as you expected. It rather made you sad and afraid lest you should prove unworthy of it all. So it is with redemption. It shows so grandly and tenderly the love of God; it shows so powerfully God's desire to have you, his determination to win you by love, his resolution that no barriers shall be allowed to stand between you and him. It shows a God so intensely in earnest, both for happiness and holiness, that you feel afraid. He is so much in earnest, and I so careless; he so intent on my salvation, and I so dull and indifferent. He so anxious for me, he the Infinite One so intent on having me, and I, poor worm, so cold about him who is in himself all wealth and glory and blessedness. Such love, such intensity, such sacrifice for me. I am ashamed and I fear - I fear lest I should not respond to all this. What a devotedness and thoroughness, what a living existence it would take to be at all in harmony with such love! And I shall I be able to come even near to such a course?" (Leckie). The sphere of its operation. Redeemer provided from eternity. "Who was foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world." There is similar language in Revelation 13:8, "The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." The purpose was formed, and the fact taken into account from eternity, that the Second Person of the Godhead was to be sent forth as Redeemer. And therefore, when the world was founded, it was not without respect to redemption. God planned and acted beforehand, as though redemption had taken place - throwing a splendor over material creation, giving a day of grace to men, sending forth redeeming power upon men's souls and, in some instances, upon men's bodies. In redemption reaching in its operation through preceding times far back into the eternal counsels of God, is there not reason for fear - the fear that we do not sufficiently endeavor to appreciate what has entered so long and so deeply into the thought of God? Manifested in time. "But was manifested at the end of the times." The Redeemer was provided from eternity; he was also the subject of prophecy from a very early time (Genesis 3:15) - he was manifested, we are told here, "at the end of the times." Time, according to the idea, is divided into various times. At the beginning of the last of the times Christ was manifested. It was then made clear what the thought of God was. The Incarnation burst forth (not to the carnal eye) in all its wonderfulness. And when we think of the "strong Son of God, immortal Love," dwelling in our nature and in it redeeming, have we not reason to fear - to fear lest by our sin we dishonor the nature upon which so much love and honor have been bestowed? Persons benefiting by the manifestation. "For your sake, who through him are believers in God, which raised him from the dead, and gave him glory; so that your faith and hope might be in God." Peter's readers were many of them benefited to a very great extent in relation to the time of the manifestation. From being idolaters, by one bound they had got into the position of Christian believers. We are also greatly benefited, as having our lifetime on earth connected with the last of the times. Now that Christ has been manifested, we have presented to us what in its essential elements is the highest conception of God. This conception embraces not only God providing the precious blood of Christ for redemption, but, beyond that, showing Christ triumphant in raising him from the dead and giving him glory. Thereby God compels, not only our faith, but our hope - our faith in the proof that is given of the redeeming virtue of the blood, and our hope in the pledge that is given of our full redemption, which is a being raised and glorified with our Head. When we think of our having been brought into a position in which our prospects are so great, have we not reason for fear - fear lest we should prove unworthy of what redeeming love has in store for us?
IV. RULE BETWEEN FELLOW-PILGRIMS.
1. Prerequisite to brotherly love. "Seeing ye have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth unto unfeigned love of the brethren." What we are to aim at is love of the brethren, i.e. Christian brethren; and, since love is so often and so easily feigned, we are to see to it that it is love not in appearance, but in reality (1 John 3:18). With a view to this, we are to purify our souls, i.e. ourselves in our individual life. We cannot do this from ourselves; it is only the truth that has the power to sanctify (John 17:17). The way in which we are to bring ourselves within the sanctifying influence of the truth is by our living in the element of obedience to the truth, i.e. believing what the truth proclaims, and realizing what the truth requires. We are to think especially of the truth of the gospel. When we grasp what God is in redemption, and allow ourselves to be swayed by the love of redemption, we are prepared for loving the brethren.
2. Statement of the duty of brotherly love. "Love one another from the heart fervently." Cremer remarks on the expression, "loving from the heart," that it denotes "the love of conscious resolve." It is love which is here viewed as depending on ourselves. We are to see to it that it comes from the depths of our being. "Fervently," which should be translated "intently," points to the energetic way in which we are to give our heart's affections free play. We are to allow nothing to come between them and their object. We are to allow nothing to stop them in the steadiness of their course. We must not think that we only require to be passive to love; to love rightly, our energies, as we are here taught, must be on the stretch.
3. Ground of brotherly love in regeneration.
(1) Connection of the Word with regeneration. "Having been begotten again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the Word of God, which liveth and abideth." As regenerated, we are capable of attending to the duty of loving one another. Stress is laid on the way in which we have been regenerated. We have been begotten again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible. By the seed we are to understand the Word which, lodged in the soul ("implanted Word," James 1:21), is the beginning of a new and incorruptible life. This Word is also viewed as the outward means by which regeneration is effected. And, as the seed which is the beginning of the new life is said to be incorruptible, so the Word of the Lord by which the new life is effected is said to live and abide, Though its earthly form is not to remain, it has a living, active power in it which can never fail. The bearing of this is that, being alike in having been born into the new abiding life, we are plainly intended for loving one another. As on the way to the same inheritance, we are to keep up good brotherhood.
(2) Confirmation of the abiding power of the Word. "For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory thereof as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower falleth: but the Word of the Lord abideth forever." That with which grass is compared is all flesh, i.e. man on the earthly side of his life. That with which the flower of grass is compared is all the glory of flesh - beauty of form, strength of muscle, greatness of intellect, riches, honors. The image sets forth the transitoriness of human life and glory. Grass has only a certain amount of vitality, and, when a certain stage is reached, it withers; it is not otherwise with the flower - it falleth. The language is graphic - the grass we looked upon withered and the flower fell. So the life of man on its earthly side has only a certain amount of endurance, which is soon exhausted, and its greatness soon comes to its decadence. It is otherwise with the Word of the Lord - it abideth forever. The language in this verse, which is from Isaiah 40:6-8, is not formally introduced as a quotation, and is quoted freely. It gives us an exalted conception of the Word as that by which we are introduced into a life that is never to end.
(3) Means of recognizing the Word. "And this is the Word of good tidings which was preached unto you." The Word, in this as in the preceding verse, is appropriately the spoken Word. It is thought of as the Word of glad contents. It is the Word which had been preached to Peter's readers by Paul and others, so that they could have no difficulty in understanding what was meant by it. "This, therefore, als0 instructs us where we must seek for the Word of God, viz. in the authentic originals of the apostolic preaching" (Stager). - R.F.
obedience to its behests is the very life-element of the believing soul. This obedience is to express itself in the ordering of the outward life. There was a time when self-will shaped their lives. They molded themselves according to their own desires, but all that must be at an end now. A new pattern is set before them. They are now to fashion themselves, not after the ideal framed by their own tastes or inclinations, but, as we might read the words, "according to the Holy One who hath called you." So we have here -
I. THE MOULD OR PATTERN FOR THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. Can that infinitely perfect Divine nature be proposed as a pattern for men with any good results? Is imitation possible? Will not the snowy whiteness of the far-off peak dazzle rather than attract, and its steep height seem to counsel rest in the valleys below rather than the toilsome climb to the summit? How can human virtue in its highest form be analogous to the holiness of a Being who has no weakness, no passions, no temptations, no changes, no limitations? But love, gentleness, goodness, righteousness, must be so far identical in God and man that we know what they are in him by what they are in ourselves. A dewdrop is rounded by the same law which moulds a planet, and its tiny rainbow is the same as the arch which spans the heavens. Power, wisdom, cannot be limited, but righteousness may. To be like God morally is the sum of all religion. Worship presupposes that the character of the being worshipped is regarded with admiration and aspiration. The worshippers make their gods as embodiments of their ideals, and then the gods make the worshippers. "They that make them are like unto them" is the law for heathenism, and explains many strange perversions of conscience. In Christianity the end of all the grand manifestations of Divine love and power is just this - to make men like God. What is all revelation for? Not, surely, that men may know about God nor that they may feel devout emotion towards him. We know that we may feel, and we know and feel that we may be and love like God and do his will. A holy Godlike character is the crown of all religion and the highest purpose of all revelation. That model is comprehensive, so as to include the whole round of conduct. "All manner of conversation" is included within its great sweep. And it is homely, so as to fit tight to and regulate the smallest duties. The commonest things may be done in imitation of the holy God. The plan of the poorest kitchen garden cannot be made without celestial observations. In our pettiest affairs we can bring the mightiest principles to hear. Indeed, the only way to make life great is to apply great principles to small duties; and every deed of the humblest career may be glorified by not only being done as unto God, but in being done like his own acts, of which love is the motive and righteousness the characteristic.
II. THE PROCESS OF COPYING THE PATTERN. The language of the text suggests very clearly these points.
1. We ourselves are to be the artificers of our own holy characters. God gives his grace, and implants his Spirit, which transforms; but all these Divine powers, how numerous and strong soever they may be, do not reach their end without our own strenuous effort. They are the tools put into our hands to fashion the fabric of a holy life; but we must use them, and put our strength into the use of them, or the fabric will not be built. God makes no man holy by magic, without the man's own hard work.
2. The process is slow. We fashion ourselves by repeated efforts and gradually build up a character like his. Emotion may be quickly excited, but making character is always slow work. It cannot be struck out at a blow as sovereigns are struck, but has to be patiently elaborated like some delicately chased golden cup. Actions often repeated make habits, and habits make character. It is formed slowly, as the sedimentary rocks are laid down at the bottom of the sea, by an unseen process lasting for long eons. More than "forty and six years is this temple in building."
3. It is accompanied by a painful destructive process. The character already formed after another model has to be recast. Formerly they had been molded according to their own "lusts." Each man's own desires had shaped him. He did as he liked best. That is sin. That is human nature - not in absolute exclusion of sense of law and duty. Yet still, on the whole, self-will moulds men's lives. Negatively, then, the false tendency of pleasing self must be thwarted. The character already formed must be fought against and subdued. The old man has to be put off. The old metal has to be thrown into the melting-pot, and to be run into a new mould. And that cannot be done without self-denial and pain, to which the bodily tortures of crucifixion are compared by St. Paul. Tears and blood are shed with less pain than accompanies tearing off this worser self. It is like tearing the very skin from the quivering flesh. But, hard as it is, it has to be done, if we are ever to be holy as he is holy.
4. The command is made blessed by the motive which enforces it. "He has called us." Then, if he has called us to holiness, we may be quite sure that we shall not aim at it in vain. The thought that we are working in the line of the Divine purposes, and obeying a Divine call, inspires a hope which mightily strengthens us for the task, and goes far to fulfill itself. God's commands are promises. If he has called us to be holy, certainly, if we try to obey him, we shall be so. He never summons to tasks which he does not give power to perform. He has called, and that makes it certain that he will perfect that which concerneth us. Therefore we may set ourselves with good heart to the glorious task of copying the Divine holiness, assured that to do so is not presumption, but simple obedience, and that, however slow may appear our progress upwards to the shining, snowy summit, it is verily his will that we shall one day stand there, and be satisfied, when we awake, in his likeness. - A.M.
I. THE TWOFOLD REVELATION OF GOD AS FATHER AND JUDGE. If we adopt the translation, "call on him as Father," we shall catch here an echo of the Lord's Prayer, and recognize a testimony to its early and general use, independent and confirmatory of the Gospels. We need not dwell upon the thought that God is our Father. There is little fear of its being lost sight of in the Christian teaching of this day. But there is much danger of its being so held as to obscure the other relation here associated with it. Men have often been so penetrated with the conviction that God is Judge as to forget that he is Father. The danger now is that they should be so occupied with the thought that he is Father as to forget that he is Judge. What do we mean by "judgment"? We mean, first, an accurate knowledge and estimate of the moral quality of an action; next, a solemn approval or condemnation; and next, the pronouncing of sentence which entails punishment or reward. Now, can it be that he who loves righteousness ant1 hates evil should ever fail to discern, to estimate, to condemn, and to chastise evil, whoever does it? The eternal necessity of his own great holiness, and not less of his own almighty love, binds him to this. Our text distinctly speaks of a present judgment. It is God who judgeth, not who will judge; and that judgment is of each man's work as a whole, not of his works, but of his work. There is a perpetual present judgment going on. God has an estimate of each man's course, solemnly approves or disapproves, and shapes his dealings with each accordingly. The very fact of this Fatherhood, so far from being inconsistent with this continual judgment, makes it the more certain. He is not so indifferent to his children as to let their deeds pass unnoticed, and, if need be, unchastised. "We have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence." They would have deserved little of it while we were children, and would have almost deserved our malediction when we became men, if they had not. Our Father in heaven knows and loves us better than they. Therefore he judges from a loftier point of view. Standing higher, he looks deeper, and corrects for a nobler purpose - "that we should be partakers of his holiness." To the Christian God's judgments are a sign of his love. So we should rejoice in and long for them. Do we wish to be separated from our sin, to be drawn nearer to him? Then let us be glad that "the Lord will judge his people," and while in penitent consciousness of our sins we pray with the psalmist, "Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord!" let us also cry with him, "Judge me, O Lord; try my reins and my heart!" Abundance of Scripture teaching insists on the fact that there is a future judgment for Christians as for others. "We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ." True, "in the course of justice none of us should see salvation." But though we are saved, not according to works of righteousness which we have done, it is also true that our place in heaven, though not our entrance into heaven, is determined by the law of recompense, and that, in a very real sense, "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." A saved man's whole position will be affected by his past. His place will be in proportion to his Christian character, though not deserved nor won by it. Let us ponder, then, the solemn words, almost the last which come to us from the enthroned Christ, "Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be."
II. THE FEAR WHICH CONSEQUENTLY IS AN ELEMENT IN THE CHILD'S LOVE. Perfect love casts out the fear which has torment, but it deepens a fear which is blessed. By fear we oftenest mean an apprehension of and a shrinking from dangers or evils, or a painful recoil from a person who may inflict them. Such fear is wholly inconsistent with the filial relation and the child's heart. But the fear of God, which the Old Testament so exalts, and which is here enjoined as a necessary part of Christian experience, is not dread. It has no trembling apprehension of evil disturbing its serenity. To fear God is not to be afraid of God. It is full of reverential awe and joy, and, so far from being inconsistent with love, is impossible without it, increases it and is increased by it. It is a reverent, awe-stricken prostration before the majesty of holy love. Its opposite is irreverence. It is, further, a lowly consciousness of the heinousness of sin, and consequently a dread of offending that Divine holiness. He who thus fears, fears to sin more than anything else, and fears God so much that he fears nothing besides. The opposite of that is presumptuous self-confidence, like Peter's own earlier disposition, which led him into so many painful and humbling situations. "A wise man feareth and departeth from evil." The fear enjoined here is, primarily, then, a reverential regard to the holy Father who is our Judge, and, secondarily and consequently, a quick sensitiveness of conscience, which knows our own weakness, and, above all else, dreads falling into sin. Such sensitive scrupulousness may seem to be over-anxiety, but it is wisdom; and, though it brings some pains, it is blessedness. This is no world for unwary walking. There are too many enemies seeking admission to the citadel for it to be safe to dispense with rigid watchfulness at the gates. Our Father is our Judge, therefore let us fear to sin, and fear our own weakness. Our Judge is our Father, therefore let us not be afraid of him, but court his pure eyes and perfect judgment. Such fear which has in it no torment, and is the ally of love, is not the ultimate form of our emotions towards God. It is appropriate only to "the time of our sojourning here." The Christian soul in this world is as a foreigner in a strange land. Its true affinities are in heaven; and its present surroundings are ever seeking to make it "forget the imperial palace" which is its home. So constant vigilance is needed. But when we reach our own land we can dwell safely, having neither locks nor bars. The walls may be pulled down, and flower-gardens laid out where they stood. Here and now is the place for loins girt and lamps burning. There and then we can walk with flowing robes, for no stain will come on them from the golden pavements, and need not carefully tend a flickering light, for eternal day is there. - A.M.
I. THE CHARACTER OF CHRISTIAN FEAR.
1. It is quite different from the fear of the unbelieving and irreligious. Such persons fear to lose their worldly possessions, and to lose life itself. They may have a certain fear of God, for even the devils believe and tremble.
2. It is inculcated in Scripture. ]Not only does the Old Testament bid us "serve the Lord with fear," "fear God, and keep his commandments;" the New Testament records Christ's admonition, "Fear him who is able to destroy," and the apostolic injunction to "perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord," and, "Be not high-minded, but fear."
3. The grounds for the Christian's fear are evident. He fears less he should yield to temptation, lest he should be defeated by his spiritual adversary. He fears God, not with the abject terror of the slave, but with the reverence and awe due to the All-holy, the infinitely Just.
4. Fear is not the all-absorbing emotion in the Christian's breast. Its presence is not incompatible with love and hope and a measure of joy. Fear mingles as an element in Christian experience.
II. THE MOTIVES TO CHRISTIAN FEAR.
1. Our state as one of sojourning and pilgrimage. We are not yet "at home;" we are in the wilderness. The season of desert-wandering is appointed by Divine wisdom; yet it is a probation not to be avoided. How can we do other than fear, when we think of our weakness, and of he might of our foe? Indeed, had we not the assurance of our Captain's spiritual presence and aid, fear might well become the predominant emotion in our mental life.
2. The anticipation of judgment will not suffer fear to be quelled. Is our "work" fit for the Master's inspection? However our fellow-men may regard us, we know that we must appear before him who is "no respecter of persons," and who wilt estimate us and our service with justice and impartiality. That we may not fear then it is well for us to fear not.
3. The recognition of God's Fatherhood gives the true character to the Christian's fear. This is a paradox. Men would say, "If God be a Father, and not merely a Judge, then he need not be feared." This is not the apostle's view. On the contrary, the holy fear which becomes us is made gracious and purifying by our knowledge that a Father's eye is upon us, that a Father's heart ceases not to cherish us. - J.R.T.
I. THE FACT OF REDEMPTION NECESSITATES HOLINESS. The seventeenth verse is based on the eighteenth and following verses.
1. Redemption is from the vain manner of life received from our fathers. "Conversation;" equivalent to" manner of life." Christ died to deliver us from the sinful manner of life received from our fathers. From hell; yes, that is clear. "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all; He bore our sins in his own body on the tree;" "There is therefore now no condemnation," etc. But that is not the end for which he died, only a means to an end. Holiness in us was the purpose of the atonement, so much so that if we can imagine one getting no further than the canceling of his sins, we should have to say that Christ died for him in vain (see 2 Corinthians 5:15; Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 5:25-27; Titus 2:14). Redemption by Christ is from the life of the natural man: "If any man be in Christ Jesus, it is a new creation."
2. Redemption is only effected at unspeakable cost. "Not with corruptible," etc. An emphatic testimony that redemption is through our Lord's death - not through his life, or example, or holiness, or mediation, but, as Scripture invariably says with unwavering consistency, by "his blood." God himself bore the penalty of human guilt that he might righteously extend his mercy to the guilty. Nor can we imagine any method which so glorifies his grace and reveals himself. Think of the worth of our Lord's offering. The universe were as nothing compared with the Son of God. What unfathomable meaning is in the words, "the precious blood of Christ"! Now, this stupendous price was paid for nothing less than that we might be holy. In that we see how imperative, how indispensable, holiness is.
3. Redemption is to faith and hope in God. (Vers. 20, 21.) Characteristic of Peter to emphasize the foreordination of Christ. It occurs here naturally when we see that it is a point in perhaps all his recorded sermons. What a redemption this is which is based on God's eternal purpose! and what a hope which goes back through all time, and finds its foundation in the everlasting thought of God! But the point is that Christ was appointed to this work by the Father, manifested by the Father, raised up by the Father, given glory by the Father - Redemption is the working out by the Father of his own plan, quite contrary to the idea that Calvary was to appease him. The text says that God did all this that we might be believers in him, not stop short at Jesus, but go on to rest in the Father. Alienated man drawn to act in faith and hope. Then as the stream flows from the fountain, so by the constraint of conscious obligation and loving petition, consecration to God will flow from this faith and hope, and thus, if redemption is to faith and hope, it necessitates holiness.
II. THIS NECESSITY CALLS THE PROFESSING CHRISTIAN TO FEAR. (Ver. 17.) The more Christian life we have, the more we find that fear is one of its characteristics. Not that which hath torment, and repels; but that which is the opposite of carelessness, presumption, self-confidence, disobedience.
1. For a filial spirit toward God leads to the fear of his disfavor. Perfect love produces fear - fear of distressing him we love. The word "father" tells of tender relationship, mutual happiness, reciprocated affection; that either would shrink from paining the other; and that any barrier coming between them is unbearable. He on whom we call as Father must have holiness. Then we cannot help going through life with this element of fear; he who does not fear does not love.
2. Then, a remembrance of his impartiality leads to a fear of his judgments. "The Father, who without respect of persons judgeth," etc. The kind Father is also the impartial Judge, and he will judge us by our works. We are saved by faith; we are judged by holiness; we are redeemed to holiness. Then if we are amongst the redeemed, we are holy. What should we like to be tested by - experiences, profession, creed, charity, opinions of others? God will judge us impartially by our works. "Show me thy faith by thy works." Is not that something to make us fear?
3. A consideration of the brevity of life leads to the fear of losing eternal blessing. "Pass the time of your sojourning here in fear." We are here but for a short time; the perfected blessings of redemption are yonder, and what they are no tongue can tell. But redemption is holiness, and therefore apart from holiness we have no right to anticipate these. Without holiness there is no redemption, that is, no heaven. Is not this calculated to create fear, to destroy spiritual indifference, carelessness about conformity to Christ, lightheartedness respecting inconsistency? Does it not compel us to examine heart and life with anxiety, and press forward to better things with something of the feeling of the racer lest he lose the prize?
III. THIS FEAR IS CONSISTENT WITH JOY UNSPEAKABLE AND FULL OF GLORY. This must be remembered to avoid misapprehension. The fear the apostle urges is not that which clouds life, but that which harmonizes with the joy he has spoken of. Yes; this fear contributes to the joy.
1. It leads to a correct knowledge of our Christian position. Making us search to the foundations of our hope, it enables us to say, "I know."
2. It compels us to a simpler dependence on the Savior. For looking for holiness as an evidence of redemption, we discover how little we have, and are compelled to fall back on Christ the more entirely - than which what is more blessed? Blessed fear, which makes us know better how perfect a Savior Jesus is!
3. It glorifies even our trials as a means of keeping us holy. For if holiness be essential, we can welcome that as a friend which tends to deepen it, and makes us thank God for our very sorrows. - C.N.
I. THE AWE OF THE REDEEMED TOWARDS THE REDEEMING GOD. "If ye call on him as Father;" the call being, not simply an appeal, but a claim of kindred, an acknowledgment of close, tender, and withal solemnly responsible relationship. The relationship is:
1. To the supremely impartial Father. (Ver. 17.)
2. To the supremely omniscient Judge. (Ver. 17.) The twofold thought is gathered up in Christ's cry, "O righteous Father!"
II. THE AWE OF THE REDEEMED IN RECOLLECTION OF THE EVIL FROM WHICH THEY HAVE BEEN DELIVERED. Out of what have they been bought and brought?
1. Course of conduct. "Conversation;" not only the circle of behaviour, but center of motive.
2. A course of conduct that was evil. "Vain." Frivolous, empty, unworthy.
3. A course of conduct that was inherited. "Handed down." The legacy of evil is with some unchastity, with some insobriety, with all sin. We are the sons of a slave race, and tendency and imitation continue us in bondage.
III. THE AWE OF THE REDEEMED BECAUSE OF THE COST AT WHICH THEY HAVE BEES EMANCIPATED. Not silver and gold, that may redeem from the brigands, that may be the ransom of the Crusader king. But see the cost:
1. As revealed in Christ Jesus. "But with precious blood." The pouring forth of a priceless life. "As of a lamb," etc. And that priceless life the life of a Spotless One. That mystic blood detaches us from the dominion of sin.
2. As felt by the heart of the infinite God. "Foreknown." Raised by God, who with unspeakable care felt that part of himself was there.
IV. THE AWE OF THE REDEEMED BECAUSE OF THE BLESSEDNESS TO WHICH THEY ARE DESTINED. Faith and hope. Faith now in the invisible; hope of perpetual glory in the Eternal. - U.R.T.
I. WHAT WE ARE REDEEMED FROM. The original idea of "redemption" is, of course, purchase from slavery. Here we have no reference to what is prominent in other places of Scripture - the deliverance by Christ's blood from guilt and condemnation. That aspect of redemption is involved in more than one place in this Epistle, and underlies it all. It must first be experienced before we can be redeemed from the love and practice of evil. But the purpose which the apostle has here in view leads him to dwell on the other side of the complex idea of redemption - the deliverance from the bondage of sin, holding will and affections in thraldom. "Ye are redeemed," says he, "from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers." Now, that expression is a pregnant description of the whole course of godless life. "Conversation," we perhaps need not observe, is equivalent to "conduct."
1. The implication that all godless life is slavery lies in the very word "redemption." If we consider how sin masters a man, ratters his will, and binds him with iron chains of habit, which hold him in spite of conscience, and in mockery of resolutions and efforts, we can understand the deep truth in our Lord's paradoxical words, "He that committeth sin is the slave of sin." Do a wrong thing, and it is your master, as you will soon discover if you try to efface its consequences and to break away from its dominion. But besides this implication that all sin is slavery, which lies in the idea of redemption, we have here, secondly, the thought that all sin is empty and profitless.
2. There is a whole world of meaning in that epithet "vain." It is the condensation into one little monosyllable of the experience of all the generations. All sin is empty. As one of the Hebrew words for it literally means, it is a missing of the mark. It is always a blunder - no man gets the good which he expected by his sin, or, if he does, he gets something else which spoils it. "It is as when a hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and is faint." Sin is vain, for it yields no results correspondent to the nature of man, and so does not satisfy him. It produces none corresponding to his obligations, and so in the eyes of God, or what is the same thing, in reality, a godless life is a wasted and barren life, however full of fruit it may appear. It produces none that abides. All are annihilated by the judgment of God, and survive only in remorse and pain. The devil always plays with loaded dice. A godless life is a vain life. "The man who lives it sows much and brings home little," and "the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow."
3. This vain life is the fatal gift from generation to generation. A twofold application of the fact that it is transmitted from father to son may be made. This godless course of life has no higher source and sanction than men's notions. It is a poor miserable account for a responsible being to give of his moral conduct and judgments to say, "My father did so and thought so before me." In that view this clause exposes the hollowness and weakness of the foundation on which many a godless life is unthinkingly and almost mechanically built. Or the apostle's purpose may rather be to signalize the strength of evil derived from that solemn fact of its transmission from parent to child. "Heredity" is a new word to express an old truth. A man's ancestors live again in him. Moral qualities descend as plainly as physical peculiarities. And besides the strain in the blood which affects the moral nature, example and habit tell in the same direction. Thus the evil becomes generic and wraps the whole race in its folds. Hence, too, the need for a new power acting from without if men are to be redeemed from it. There must be a new beginning from an untainted source if the bitter waters are to be healed. He who is to redeem the race must come from outside the race, and yet must work within it.
II. So we have here, WHAT WE ARE REDEEMED BY. The apostle employs his favorite epithet in speaking of the blood of Christ. It is "precious." What a profound sense of the worth of that wondrous sacrifice lies in that one simple word, more eloquent and full of feeling than a crowd of superlatives! Our Lord's death is evidently regarded here as sacrificial. The "lamb without blemish and without spot" distinctly refers to the requirement of the Mosaic Law in reference to the sacrifice. It is not merely the sinless purity of our Savior's life, but that purity as fitting Him to be the Sacrifice for the world's sin, which comes into view here. We cannot do justice to the thought unless we recognize the sacrificial character of Christ's death as the teaching of this passage. At the same time, we have to remember that redemption here is regarded as deliverance from the love and practice of evil rather than from its guilt and punishment. But while this is true, these two aspects of redemption are inseparable. Christ redeems us from the former by redeeming us from the latter. The sense of guilt and the fearful looking for of judgment bind men to sin, and the only way to wean them from it begins with the assurance of pardon and the removal of the burden of guilt. Unless we have a gospel of atonement to preach, we have no gospel of deliverance from the bondage of sin. Christ makes us free because he dies for us, and in one shedding of his blood at once annihilates guilt and brings pardon and destroys the dominion of sin. That death, too, is the one means for so influencing men's hearts that they shall no longer love evil, but delight to do his will, and by love and fellowship grow like their Lord. Sin's reign has its fortress in our will and affections, and Christ's death believed and trusted changes the set and current of these, casts out the usurper, and enthrones Jesus as our rightful Lord. Again, Christ's death procures for us the Divine Spirit who dwells in our hearts, and by his presence "makes us free from the law of sin and death." So by setting us in new relations to the Divine Law, by taking away the sense of guilt, by bringing to bear a new motive, by procuring a Spirit to give a new life, the sacrificial death of the sinless Christ redeems us from the power of sin.
III. WHAT WE ARE REDEEMED FOR. The text is a motive urged by the apostle to enforce his previous exhortation: "Pass the time of your sojourning here in fear." The consciousness of our redemption and the fact of our redemption should lead, not to easy confidence or indifference, but to reverential awe and dread of" receiving the grace of God in vain." The more clearly the purpose of our redemption to be our complete emancipation from all sin be seen, and the more profoundly we value the tremendous price at which God has thought it worth while to buy us hack for his own, the more we shall dread every sin. Surely no motive can so powerfully commend the solemn comprehensive command, "Be ye holy as I am holy," or so strongly impel to that wholesome fear without which it can never be obeyed, as the contemplation of the precious blood shed for our sakes. That awful sacrifice is in vain so far as we are concerned, the blood of Jesus has poured out for naught, unless it has not only availed to stilt our fears and bring us pardon, but also to "cleanse us from all sin," and make us love and do righteousness. We are redeemed from sin by the blood of Christ, that we may be the lambs of his flock without blemish and without spot, like the Shepherd-Lamb. - A.M.
I. MAN'S NEED OF FAITH AND HOPE IS IMPLIED. If man have a higher than a merely animal life, he requires higher principles by which the higher life may be sustained. He must be related to the unseen in the present and in the future. Faith must have an object, and hope a ground and aim. If we were without these we should be left sinful, ignorant, and helpless; without a Divine law for life, without a Divine assurance of pardon, without a Divine prospect of immortality. The unseen present and the eternal future being alike unknown, self-indulgence or brutal apathy would take the place of a spiritual life. But in fact we have a nature capable of infinite aspiration, and the Creator has not set us narrow limits or appointed for us inevitable poverty of spirit.
II. GOD'S RAISING OF CHRIST FROM THE DEAD IS DECLARED. There is in this statement of Peter, that God raised his Son from the dead, nothing opposed to Christ's declaration, "I take it [i.e. 'my life'] again;" and nothing inconsistent with the assertion that Christ was "quickened by the Spirit." The New Testament is one continuous witness to our Lord's resurrection. The Gospels circumstantially record it; the Book of the Acts represents it as the chief theme of apostolic preaching; the Epistles base upon it the whole of Christian doctrine and life. If Christ was not raised, the New Testament is full of misstatements, our Lord's own predictions were unfulfilled, the apostles' witness was deceptive, the Lord's Day and Easter-tide had no historical origin, and Christianity itself remains unaccounted for. Further, God, who raised Jesus from the dead, gave him glory. It was in obedience to the Father that Christ endured pain, humiliation, and death. But it was also by the will of the Father that Christ partook of glory. This glory was partly external and palpable, yet chiefly spiritual.
III. THE MEANS OF FAITH AND HOPE ARE BY THIS RISEN SAVIOR THUS ASSURED TO MEN. It is not asserted that, before and apart from Christianity, faith and hope were unknown on earth; but that Christianity imparts to humanity a firmer confidence in God and a livelier anticipation of heaven.
1. More especially, a risen Christ encourages and justifies faith in a personal God, a righteous Ruler, a gracious and forgiving Father. They who believe that God raised Jesus from the dead have faith in the supreme Lord as interested in us, as caring for us, as sending and commissioning his own Son to make himself known and to bring himself near to us. They have faith in the just moral government of the world, and they do not doubt this even when they see the good oppressed and in some cases persecuted and slain. They have faith in the fatherly affection of the Eternal, and are assured that "all things are theirs."
2. A risen Christ awakens and sustains hope. For themselves, Christians have hope of individual salvation; for the world, they have hope of the victory of the good; for the Church, of final, reciprocal, and immortal communion. - J.R.T.
John 13:34; 1 Corinthians 13:1-3; 1 John 3:14). Peter might have chosen some other test. Possibly he had reason for anxiety on this particular ground, for the Epistle contains several hints on the proper mutual relation of these Christians; e.g. 1 Peter 1:22; 1 Peter 2:17; 1 Peter 3:8-10 4:8; 5:5.
I. SALVATION IS HERE SPOKEN OF AS THE PURIFICATION OF THE SOUL IN OBEYING THE TRUTH. "Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth;" only another way of saying, "Seeing you have received this salvation of which I speak, which issues in holiness." For:
1. This is a suitable and comprehensive expression of the fact of salvation. "Obeying the truth" is a synonym for" believing the gospel;" e.g. 2 Thessalonians 1:8; Romans 6:17; Hebrews 5:9; Romans 10:16, in all of which "obey" is evidently equivalent to "believe." The word is used by Peter in that sense in this Epistle (1 Peter 3:1 and 1 Peter 4:17). Link that with the other word, "purifying the soul;" and whether that refers to the cleansing by the atonement or by the work of the Spirit, we have the essential elements of redemption.
2. This expression with this meaning harmonizes well with what has gone before. The last two paragraphs from ver. 13 dealt largely with purification resulting from faith.
3. This particular way of speaking of salvation bears closely on the subject in hand. In each of the epistles to the seven Churches, our Lord gives himself a different title, according to the special condition of each Church. So here the apostle speaks of their redemption under this aspect of it, because this aspect of it bears on the duty of Christian love he is about to enforce.
III. SALVATION NATURALLY ISSUES IN CHRISTIAN LOVE. "Ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth unto unfeigned love of the brethren."
1. Love a necessity where salvation is. That is shown as follows: "See that ye love one another,... being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God."
(1) Love a necessity because the Christian has a new nature. We are to love every man; but the love we are here called to is love of the brethren. But no power can make us love as a brother one who is not a brother; for that there must be a common fatherhood, and where that is it must be felt. Children of the same father, animated by the same principles, influenced by the same Divine Spirit, sharing the same hopes, joys, sorrows, conflicts, - these cannot help being drawn together.
(2) But this is also spoken of as a Divine nature. "Incorruptible." The relation between Christ's people is not a union after the flesh, such as connects Abraham's children. They are born, not of man, but of God; God's nature inspires them. Think of the love God has to his children! Then where God's nature is, love of the brethren must be.
(3) This is also an ever-living nature. The human nature fades, its strongest principles and closest bonds may last but a little while; even the mother may forget the child. But, said Isaiah, "the word of the Lord endureth for ever;" and Peter adds, "This is the word which has been preached to you." That is, this new life of ours does not die out; that which has produced it liveth and abideth for ever, and is a living, operative power in us. What God has thus implanted, he does not suffer to die. "He will perform it till the day of Jesus Christ;" he will develop its hidden possibilities. Then is it not certain that the redeemed man will love? God cannot impart and train a nature of love which does not love.
2. This love is of a very high order.
(1) "Unfeigned." Peter, Paul, and John all speak of this feature of Christian love. "Let love be without dissimulation;" "Let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth " - as though an assumed affection were common. But that is not Christian love.
(2) "Love out of a pure heart." That is holy. Christian love is holy love. Holiness is its basis. Contrary to loving all men, bad and good, as brethren. There must be charity to all, but true brotherly love towards those who turn from Christ there cannot be. Or does" pure" mean "unmixed"? - a love that rises from purely spiritual causes, and not because others are good to us, or give us pleasure, or belong to our Church. The publicans and sinners have that love. Christian love is due to love of God, and loves others because God does.
(3) "Fervent." The opposite of coldness. A love that lights up the features and makes the hand-grasp warm and kindles happiness. It consumes selfishness, and sets our thoughts to work for others' good. Fed from a heavenly source, "many waters cannot quench it" (waters of infirmity, neglect, jealousy, injury, yea, even wrong); that is Christian love - very different from bare courtesy. How can one feel coldly where the father loves divinely?
III. SALVATION IS THEREFORE TESTED BY THE POSSESSION OF THIS LOVE. Where the life is, the love is; where the life is low, so is the love.
1. Have we sympathy with the people of God - true fellow-feeling that helps? "Whoso hath this world's good," etc. We should if we loved.
2. Do we delight in fellowship with them? Love must be with its beloved. Is it so with us? do we love the house of God, the brotherhood, etc.? We should if we loved.
3. Are our judgments concerning them tender and charitable? "Love covers a multitude of sins;" "Love thinketh no evil," etc. Is it so with us? Do we find ourselves trying to put a favorable construction on evil reports, hushing them up, sorrowing over them, talking to God about them? We should if we loved.
4. Are we ashamed to call them brethren? - C.N.
I. MUTUAL LOVE A DUTY OF THE PURE AND THE OBEDIENT. "Seeing ye have purified your souls, in your obedience... unto unfeigned love." The very end and purpose of becoming pure, which is only by obedience, is not to be safe or happy, but to be able in the highest sense and forever to love, and to live a life of love when it is the life of God. This love is to be unfeigned. Dissemble anywhere rather than in the region of love. It is counterfeiting the coin of the Divine mint. This love is to be deep - "from the heart;" not of hand only, or of purse only. or of life only, but of the fontal source whence all activities and gifts will flow. This love is to be intense - "fervently." The powers are to be on stretch. The harp only yields music when its strings are tightened to their fullest tension.
II. THIS LOVE AND PURITY AND OBEDIENCE ARE THE SIGNS OF A NEW LIFE WHICH EVERY CHRISTIAN IS LIVING.
1. The life is indeed new, for it has a wondrous origin. "Begotten again." No stronger figure could tell of loftier thought and nobler affection of the Christly man in contrast with the meaner views and selfish aims of his old life.
2. The life has a wondrous Originator. The quickening is from God.
III. THE FORCES OUT OF WHICH THIS NEW LIFE ARE DEVELOPED. The life of holiness is developed from seed. It has its origin in forces that
(1) appear insignificant;
(2) are often hidden;
(3) are vital.
IV. THE WORD OF GOD IS THE MEANS BY WHICH THESE FORCES OPERATE ON THE HEART OF MAN. "Through the Word of God." The Word of God is not the seed, but the vehicle by which the seed is communicated to man. The seeds are the thoughts of God, the truth of God; and they are seeds out of which the life of holiness must burst and grow. But even the Word of God that conveys these is imperishable. "It liveth and abideth." It lives and continues to live, though men, like the grass, perish and pass away. This word of" good tidings" is preached to men. Amongst those to whom it is preached, the penitent who receives its pardon, the mourner who receives its consolation, the dying who is strengthened by its hope, all witness to us with clear, convincing tone, "The Word of the Lord endureth forever." - U.R.T.