Therefore, I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are established in the truth you now have.
I. THE SUPREME IMPORTANCE OF BEING ESTABLISHED IN DIVINE TRUTH. There are certain fundamental facts which are essential to salvation, and essential to the understanding of the rest; certain great doors, so to speak, without passing through which it is not possible to thread the winding corridors within, and gaze upon the glory of the inner shrine. I understand it to be these whose constant remembrance is here enforced. Earnest research after truth is part of the honour due to the God of truth. It were an error to confine ourselves to one set of truths, and still more to any one aspect of them; yet there are some which are the key-note to the others, and the main channels through which life flows to the believer, and we must be established in them, and we must endeavour to "have these things always in remembrance." "These things are written that we may know;" and not to know them intelligently were fatal, if not to salvation, at least to spiritual peace and strength and hope.
II. THE SAINT'S RESPONSIBILITY FOR THIS WITH REGARD TO THOSE HE LOVES.
1. The apostle recognizes that human teaching is a Divine agency. God can dispense with human teaching. His Spirit accompanies his Word; though there may be no instrumentality, that Word may be "the power of God unto salvation." But none the less has he made it incumbent on those who know the truth to teach it. Think of this in connection with parental teaching. On parents the primary obligation of teaching their children rests; let them do it day by day, patiently, systematically, prayerfully instructing them in those things which it most concerns them to know.
2. The apostle recognizes that this must be continued so long as opportunity lasts. "Ye know these things, and are established in the truth," he says, and yet he will not be negligent to put them always in remembrance; he knows that it is not so much the knowledge as the recollection of truth that is operative. We think that because we know the truth we can dispense with the study of it. That is a great error, and full of evil. It is not the truths that are stored away in the memory which serve us in the battle of life, but those which can be grasped in a moment; they are they which operate on our spirituality and become ceaseless means of grace. That is why we need to study Scripture day by day, if not that we may know it, at least that we may remember it. And if this be true of us, how much more is it true of those we teach - the children! We must sow the same ground again and again if we would reap a harvest.
3. The apostle recognizes that the teaching may abide when the teacher has gone. For the Word is "incorruptible;" the seed we sow has life in itself; and, so far from being dismayed when it springs not up at once, we should remember it is said, "That which thou sowest is not quickened except it die;" that "the harvest is the end of the world;" and that, though when we pass hence there is still no life in the hard soil, there is time for us to witness, from another shore, first the blade, then the car, and then the full corn in the car. Life's work continues after life, to many generations; we never know for whom or for what we work. Temptations are resisted today, and crises passed, and sorrows borne, through the power of principles enforced long years before by those who arc now employed in higher spheres. "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them." Many of us can say, "Amen." May those who come when we are gone, as they hear these words, think of us, and say, "Amen." And that they may, let us say with Peter - We will endeavour that they may be able after our decease to have these things always in remembrance. "We will endeavour;" yes, we can only endeavour. Paul plants, and Apollos waters, but God must give the increase.
III. THIS RESPONSIBILITY INTENSIFIED BY THE SHORTNESS OF ITS OPPORTUNITY. I will not be negligent... knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me.
1. We cannot look calmly at death unless we have a sense of fidelity with regard to this. Calmness in the prospect of death can only be enjoyed by those who (like Peter, faithful to the end) are conscious that to their utmost they have been faithful to the opportunities of life. The evening of our days will be distressing (Christians though we be) unless we can look up and say (though the work seems poor indeed, and perhaps a failure), "O Father, I have glorified thee on the earth, I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." But we may not even reckon on an evening to our days; our sun may go down while it is yet noon.
2. Immediate fidelity is demanded, in that death-bed exhortations may be impossible. "Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle," should rather read, "knowing that swiftly - by a sharp, quick stroke." Then what he does he will do quickly. If some of us knew what Christ might tell us, we should find that we also are to die thus swiftly. Have we done our work? Have we pleaded with those we love? Have we taught the children the great things of God's Word? Have we lived remembering that "there is no work, nor device, in the grave whither" we arc going? - C.N.
To put you always in remembrance.I. THE PASTOR'S INFORMING.
1. His piety; desirous to bring them to the forementioned kingdom.
2. His vigilance; admitting no neglect of their souls, what discouragements soever affront him.
3. His modesty; professing that he doth rather remind than teach them.
4. His fidelity; he will do it "always," without weariness of that which may tend to their edification and comfort.
5. His sincerity; he doth not incite them to vain and unnecessary things, but "these things" that build them up to salvation.
II. THE PEOPLE'S PROFICIENCY.
1. Their illumination.
2. Their confirmation. No man runs so fast but he may need some spurring. There is still something that he would teach and they should learn. The horse that would run well of his own mettle doth yet mend his pace by the rider's encouragement.
(Thos. Adams.)I. THE WRITER'S DILIGENCE.
1. "Wherefore." Because the foundation of eternal life is to be laid here, and in this life an entrance must be made to that everlasting kingdom, or there will be no fruition hereafter; therefore I will take all possible pains to prepare your souls for it. The state future follows the former, as the upper building follows the foundation.
2. "I will not be negligent." His diligence is well furthered by his sedulity.
3. "To put you in remembrance." We must often be stirred up, line upon line, etc.
4. "Always." This duty of assiduity cannot be performed by any minister of the gospel without a constant abiding among his people.
5. "Of these things" — i.e., such as may save your souls. The minister must labour neither for praise nor for purse, but for conscience; he must fish for souls, not for riches. There are too many that seek the Church goods rather than the Church's good.
II. THE PEOPLE'S OBEDIENCE.
1. The apostle takes for granted that they understood these things already, and were constant in the assurance of the truth of them. A happy progress! If your mind be established in understanding, your heart in affecting, your life in obeying, blessed are you; your minister shall praise you, the Church will praise you, the angels praise you, yea, you shall be praised of Christ Himself.
2. This concession makes way for a further imposition. Though you know these things, and be established, yet you must admit a further confirming (Romans 15:14, 15). The cessation of remembrancing may easily lapse us to forgetfulness.
Homilist.I. A SATISFACTORY POSITION. They are commended —
1. For proper knowledge. "Ye know them," i.e., the practical bearings of the Christian religion.
2. For genuine faith. "Established — settled — in the truth."
II. A HAZARDOUS CONDITION. The higher a man rises, the more Satan desires to sift him.
1. The natural tendency of fallen nature.
2. The many and urgent temptations to leave even what we know.
III. A JUDICIOUS PRECAUTION. "I will... put you always in remembrance."
1. The necessity for this course ought to reconcile us to the constant repetition of even the most elementary truths of religion.
2. Christianity consists of two parts — faith and practice. Both are easily forgotten or neglected. Other things absorb the mind.
(T. Griffith, M. A.)
Established in the present truthI. THE GOSPEL SPEAKS OF A PRESENT RECONCILIATION OF GOD TO MAN.
II. CHRISTIANS HAVE A PRESENT LIFE IN CHRIST.
III. PRESENT RECONCILIATION IN THE PRESENT LIFE MEANS PRESENT CONFESSION.
IV. WE HAVE A PRESENT HEAVEN.
(A. J. Gordon, D. D.)
Shortly I must put off this my tabernacleI. From this notion of putting off our bodies it will appear that — WE DO IN REALITY CONSIST OF BODY AND SOUL, which is the foundation of all religion. If we were all body, the pleasures and interests of the body would be our supreme happiness; but since we have a soul to govern the motions of the body, it must be our wisdom and our interest to take diligent heed of that soul, and not suffer the body to engross all our care. A creature that is made of two distinct parts cannot be completely happy by providing for one part only. Our care of the life of the soul will oblige us to take care of any hurt or mischief that may befall it, as we see it does in our bodies. Again, do we bestow much time and labour upon adorning our bodies, it is abundantly more for our interest that we spare a portion of them to the soul, in exalting that with wisdom and holiness.
II. This observation that we are to put off our bodies will instruct us in THE DIGNITY AND SUPERIORITY OF THE SOUL ABOVE THE BODY. The soul herself suffers nothing by this separation, but is made more glorious by it. The soul is the seat of knowledge and sensation, and the body is very insignificant without it. The soul, therefore, is the best part of us. The body has no life without the soul, but the soul has life though it be stripped of body. How, then, can we justify our neglect of the soul and our unmeasurable, our most unreasonable affection for the body?
III. Are we constantly apprehensive that we must leave our bodies? THIS SHOULD TEACH US NOT TO VALUE OURSELVES UPON ANY BODILY ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND QUALIFICATIONS, NOR TO ALLOW TOO LARGE A SNARE OF OUR PAINS AND TIME IN SEARCHING AFTER THEM, BUT TO PURIFY BOTH SOUL AND BODY, AND TO PREPARE THEM FOR A HAPPY RECEPTION INTO THE OTHER WORLD. It is absurd to boast or grow proud of things which we are soon to part with, or be very eager to obtain what we are sure we cannot hold for a long time. The ornaments of sobriety and temperance, humility and meekness, charity, wisdom, and holiness, will stand us in greatest stead when our bodies have left us. And nothing but they will do us service.
(R. Warren, D. D.)1. "I know" — not perhaps precisely the day, or the place, or the manner. But death is not a stranger to my thoughts; my account is cast up, I am ready.
2. "That I must put off," or lay down; willingly, not on compulsion; not pulled down, but laid down. It is a metaphor drawn from a wager; the faithful man doth wager, and pawn his soul to God.
3. "This my tabernacle" — not my castle, or strong tower, or standing house; but a tent, a movable, a tabernacle.
4. "Shortly." The time is not so far off that I dream not of it; not likely to happen in another age, and creeping on by slow degrees. The sun is not descending, but ready to set; the messenger knocks at the door; the clock runs upon the last minute; the epilogue is on the stage; the taper at the last glimpse; the oak falling under the latest blow of the axe.
5. "As the Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me." It is a shame for me to be unprepared when such a Prophet hath certified me, both in prediction and example showing the way.
I. A RESOLUTION. "Knowing." The assurance of unavoidable death is a doctrine well known. Make a virtue of necessity; offer God that for a gift, which you are bound to pay as a debt.
II. A DISSOLUTION.
1. Personal. "I" — though a preacher, an apostle, etc. These singular deductions out of universal propositions, are profitable to men, and acceptable to God.(1) Seeing we must die, do you pray for us, that we may do your souls good while we live (Ephesians 6:18, 19).(2) Seeing our life is so short, do you apprehend the means while it lasteth (Hebrews 3:45).
2. Necessary. "I must." If heaven were to be had upon earth, saints should not dwell in tabernacles.
3. Voluntary. "Put off." The apostle calls himself a depository, that hath a jewel committed to him on trust, which he is willing to surrender.
4. Instant. "Shortly."(1) The less space a man hath allowed for his business, the more he should ply it. The fewer days, the fruitfuller lessons.(2) The words of dying men have been most emphatical, most effectual. The last words of good men are best, as the last glare of the sun going down most clear. An admonition uttered by such a teacher, at such a time, to such an auditory, challenges good attention, great devotion.
III. A REVELATION. "Even as our Lord," etc.
1. Those who refer it to the manner, conceive this revelation to be given him (John 21:18, 19).
2. They that refer it to the time of his dying, understand it thus: That Peter should die, he knew in general; that he should die a martyr, he knew in particular; but that he should die shortly he could not know, except by some later revelation, in special. It is probable that where Peter wrote this Epistle, even there he received this revelation.
3. Now howsoever an apostle had some special premonstrance of the nearness of his end, yet this is not common, though old age and consumptions be certain forewarners of approaching death. We, too, have the more preparation, by how much we have the less revelation concerning the time and circumstances of our death.
(Thos. Adams.)1. His exemplary industry and diligence in his ministerial work.(1) The quality of his work, which was "to stir them up by putting them in remembrance," to keep the heavenly flame of love and zeal lively upon the altar of their hearts. He well knew what a sleepy disease the best Christians are troubled with, and therefore he had need to be stirring them up, and awaking them to their duty.(2) The constancy of his work, "As long as I am in this tabernacle." The body is called a tabernacle, in respect of its moveableness and frailty, and in opposition to that house, "eternal in the heavens." And it is observable how he limits his serviceableness to them. Death puts an end to all our ministerial usefulness; but till that time he judged it meet to be aiding their faith; our life and labour must end together.
2. The motive stimulating him to this diligence; "knowing that I must shortly put off this tabernacle, even as the Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me,"(1) He reflects upon the speediness or near approach of his death. "I must (shortly) put off this my tabernacle "(2 Timothy 4:6).(2) The necessity of his death: It is not I may, but I must put off this my tabernacle.(3) The voluntariness of his death; for voluntariness is consistent enough with the necessity of the event. He saith not, "I must be torn, or rent, by violence from it"; but "I must depose, or lay it down." The law of mortality binds all, good and bad, young and old, the most useful and desirable saints whom the world can worst spare, as well as useless and undesirable sinners (Romans 8:10).The continuance of these our tabernacles, or bodies, is short, whether we consider them absolutely or comparatively.
1. Absolutely. If they should stand seventy or eighty years, which is the longest duration (Psalm 90:10), how soon will that time run out!
2. Comparatively. Let us compare our time in these tabernacles.(1) Either with eternity, or with Him who inhabits it, and it shrinks up into nothing (Psalm 39:5). Or(2) with the duration of the bodies of men in the first ages of the world, when they lived many hundred years.The reasons of putting off the earthly tabernacle so soon, are —
1. The law of God, or His appointment.
2. The providence of God ordering it suitably to this appointment. And both these in pursuance of a double design.(1) By dissolving the tabernacles of wicked men, God pays that debt of justice owing to the first Adam's sinful posterity (Romans 6:23).(2) By cutting off the lives of good men, God pays to Christ the reward of His sufferings, the end of His death which was to bring many sons to glory (Hebrews 2:10).
Inference 1. Must we put off these tabernacles? Is death necessary and inevitable? Then it is our wisdom to sweeten to ourselves that cup which we must drink; and make that as pleasant to us as we can which we know cannot be avoided.
Inference 2. Must we put off these tabernacles of flesh? How necessary is it that every soul look in season, and make provision for another habitation?
Inference 3. Must we put off our tabernacles, and that shortly? What a spur is this to a diligent redemption and improvement of time? You have but a little time in these tabernacles; what pity is it to waste much out of a little!
Inference 4. Must we shortly put off these our tabernacles? Then slack your pace and cool yourselves; be not too eager in the prosecution of earthly designs.
Inference 5. If we must shortly put off these tabernacles, then the groaning and mourning time of all believers is but short; how heavy soever their burden be, yet they shall carry it but a little way.
Inference 6. Must you shortly put off those tabernacles? Then spare them not whilst you have them, but employ them for God with all diligence.
Inference 7.I. HERE IS A FELT DUTY CONNECTED WITH THIS MODE OF BEING. "I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up," etc. The spiritual excitation of the Christian soul. He sought to put Christians in mind of five things which he refers to in the context: That spiritual excellence is the great end of Christianity (vers. 3, 4); that spiritual excellence is progressive in its nature (vers. 5, 7); that it requires very diligent cultivation (vers. 5, 10); that it is the only guarantee of salvation (ver. 9); and that it will ultimately meet with a glorious reward (ver. 11). Now there are three important things implied in the apostle's aim —
1. A paramount necessity for the Christian ever to feel these things. His own progress and the conversion of the world depend upon this.
2. A sad tendency in the Christian to forget these things.
3. An obligation which one Christian has to endeavour spiritually to excite others by these things.
II. A DESTINED CHANGE THAT AWAITS THIS MODE OF BEING. "Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle."
1. The nature of the change. It is a putting off the tabernacle.
2. The nearness of the change. "Shortly."
3. The assurance of the change. "Knowing." It is not a subject of doubt.
III. A GLORIOUS CAUSE THAT MUST OUTLIVE THIS MODE OF BEING. "More over I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance." Three things implied:
1. The necessity of Christianity to posterity. All generations require it; therefore it must be handed down.
2. The felt interest of the good in posterity. They are far more anxious to bequeath truth and godliness than estates or empires.
3. The capacity of men to help posterity. Through a holy life, and instructions oral or written. Properly estimate thy mortal mode of life. Thou art dwelling in a tabernacle. I would not have thee ascetically to despise thy body, for it is the workmanship of God; an exquisite instrument of the soul; the inlet of the material, and the outlet of the spiritual. But I would have thee to remember that it is not thyself, but a temporary habitation of that soul of thine, which is identified with a gospel in which the universe is interested, and upon which the salvation of thy race depends, Realise the vastness of the work thou hast to do while in thy frail tabernacle, and do it.
That ye may be able, after my decease. —I. THE APOSTLE'S ENDEAVOUR.
1. The first thing required to this endeavour is learning.(1) They are dangerous teachers, that never were learners. While they will not be scholars of truth, they become masters of error. They must know their winds, ebbings and flowings, creeks and sea-marks, that will be fishers. Wherein consists this learning? Not in a theory of divers arts, but in the sober use and discreet application of divinity.(2) Some think a minister hath no great need of learning, because he is to speak to the unlearned (Hebrews 5:11, 12).
2. The next thing required to this endeavour is an honest and religious life. If this have been bad before thy calling, redeem it now. The minister that spends himself like a taper to light others, must not himself go out with an ill savour. An innocent life is a silent testimony of a good minister.
3. The last thing required to perfect this endeavour is constant labour. Pray the Lord to send forth labourers, not loiterers, into His harvest.
II. THE APOSTLE'S PURPOSE.
1. "That ye may be able." All is for your sakes, this preaching, this remembering, this writing, all for you.
2. "After my decease," etc. The apostles did not only preach to us vocally while they lived, but even now also exemplarily by their former conversation, and still doctrinally by their holy rules. The words of a preacher die not with him, but live in the hearers' hearts, and shall either convert them here, or convince them hereafter.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)Genesis 11:4; Job 19:23, 24, etc.).
1. Here observe the desire is not that after Peter's decease people should remember him as much as "the things "he had taught them. To the true minister the message is of infinitely more importance than himself.
2. The ambition of Peter is that he should aid the memories of his brethren in the best direction and for the highest purpose.
3. There is another law which Peter recognises, namely, that by which the utterances of a teacher are not unfrequently best remembered when he is gone — "after my decease." Peter himself had remembered his Lord's words best at such a time (Matthew 26:75; Luke 22:61; see also John 2:22; John 12:16, etc.). Now what are those things which Peter considers of such importance for men to remember? (See vers. 8, 9, 10, 12.)(1) The largeness of the Divine provision — "All things that pertain unto life and godliness."(2) The promise of its bestowal — "Exceeding great and precious promises."(3) The ultimate end of all — "That ye may become," etc. Now we come to the bearing of all this upon human consecration — "Add to your faith virtue," etc. Here is a summary of Divine grace and human duty. These are the things which he wishes them to remember. "These things" are the conditions of "fruitfulness," vision, and steadfastness, and these are the things that make human life great. Now, he would not have them think that this progressiveness in the Divine life was an easy task. Again, observe that he who asks diligence of them pledges himself also in our text, "Yea, I will give diligence," etc. Now, these are the words of an aged man — a man who during life has undergone much discipline, and, consequently, who has been matured and ennobled. How closely such lives are knitted with the lives of others, and how far-reaching their influence! This is one of the great redeeming features of the brevity of human life: that it projects its force into the ages, yea, into eternity. Death can do nothing to such a man except to transfigure him.
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