But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean has at any time entered into my mouth.
How mental and moral characteristics cling to a man even after he has received grace! It is a false theory of conversion which represents human nature as changed. Grace is a principle working a slow and gradual change — "First the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear." The leaven was hid in three measures of meal, until the whole was leavened. Peter is the same before and after conversion — strong-willed, vehement, and impatient of contradiction. He is here seen meeting the Divine directions with outspoken resistance. Here is —
I. PRESUMPTUOUS RESISTANCE OF DIVINE WISDOM AND GRACE. The most perilous endowment of a mortal is free will. All possibilities of evil and good are contained in this great endowment. How near the true use of will stands to its abuse! Will changes into wilfulness. "I will" becomes self-assertion, denies the rights of others, sets man in array against the rights and claims of God. This was Peter's moral weakness, the source of errors and sins. Strong-willed, he had firmness. It had grown into self-assertion and presumption. There was a clear openness about him in his sinning; he was not a sneaking, backdoor sinner, and not a polished, sniveling hypocrite. It is better so. There is more hope for such a man than he who sins secretly; but it does not lessen his guilt. On several occasions Peter thought he knew better than the Lord. He said, "The Son of Man shall be rejected," etc. Peter answered Him, "Be it far from Thee, Lord. This shall not be." Jesus said, "I have prayed for thee." Peter's reply was, "I am ready to go with Thee, even to prison and death." Jesus said, "Whither I go thou canst not follow Me now, but thou shalt afterwards." Peter says, "Lord, why? I am ready." And then the Lord warned him: "Verily the cock shall not crow," etc. The Master bade His disciples tarry in Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Father. Peter, instead of waiting, set about electing an apostle. Here the Lord was disciplining him, that he might open the door of the kingdom to the Gentiles. "Arise, Peter; kill and eat." He refuses point blank, and begins to justify refusal. There is a good deal of Peter in most men. They generally act as though they knew better than God what ought to happen and what they ought to do. This spirit gets into men —
1. When they object to the provisions of Divine wisdom and grace. Some sinners want to show God the conditions on which sin ought to be pardoned and heaven secured. Some are not content with unbelief and rebellion; they find fault with the scheme of mercy. Why should not God let the guilty go free?
2. The same spirit is manifested in all murmurings against Providence. How strange are the vagaries of the restless will! Men say God is all-wise in the ordinations of life, and sing, "Thy will be done!" But let a sickness come, a project miscarry, one dearer than life be smitten, and what rebellion there is! Often what we call resignation is only the exhaustion of nature after a useless fight with the inevitable.
3. All refusal to follow the leadings of Providence grows out of this resistance to the all-wise will. God is a guide. He has a way of life for each. Men miss the providential way; they will not simply trust and follow. They want certainty. "The bird in the hand is worth two in the bush," and when God says, "Forward," they say, "Let us alone," or "Let us choose a new leader and go back to Egypt," or they shut all up with a "Not so, Lord." Christ says to a young Christian, "Come out and be separate." The reply is. "Not so, Lord. I can use the world without abusing it." The Lord says, "Honest poverty is better than dishonest riches." "Not so Lord; I mean to be generous to the poor, to help Thy cause."
II. THE CONSEQUENCES OF THIS PRESUMPTUOUS REBELLION. "Not so, Lord," takes a man out of the circle of Divine and helpful benedictions and cooperations. He who will not have God for a friend when he may shall not find Him when he would. Men resent presumptuous opposition and folly. They think it a wonder God does not. But here are all the irregularities created by sin, and they work out a punitive discipline. Under the Divine government presumptuous and rebellious men come into contact with the negative action of the Divine laws, and cannot avoid their chastisement. But God's harsh ways are kindnesses. Thorns in the hedge, which tear us as we attempt to get out of the right way, are admonitions to us to go back. Things go awry; troubles, worry. What is it all but the reaping what we have sown? Sensitive nerves suffer pain to warn us against what causes pain. If God be resisted, pain must follow, for we are out of the way of peace. Our wisdom is to submit to God, accept His plan of mercy, look unto Jesus, walk in His way. "Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom, lead Thou me on."
(W. H. Davison.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth.