And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:…
1. Here is an enlargement of personal conversion, to fraternal or brotherly confirmation. He that is converted himself, he must strengthen his brethren. And that in divers respects —
(1) In a way of faithfulness, as closing with that end for which they are converted themselves. The reason why God does bestow such a measure of grace or comfort upon this or that particular Christian, it is not for himself only, but for others, that so they may be so much the better, or comfortabler for his sake.
(2) In away of thankfulness, "When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren"; upon this account likewise, we cannot better testify our acknowledgments of God's goodness, in the bestowing of grace or comfort upon our own souls, than by imparting and communicating it to others. True thankfulness, it hath, for the most part, joy with it.
(3) Out of zeal to the glory of God. We should endeavour others' conversion, that so God may have more glory by it. The more that sinners are converted, the more is God honoured.
(4) Out of love to ourselves and our own good. The more we strengthen others, the more indeed do we confirm ourselves, whether in grace or comfort. This oil, it increases in the spending; and this bread in the breaking of it. And to him that thus hath, it shall be given. This is done divers ways, as —
(a) By discovering and laying open the flights of sin, and the subtilties of the spiritual enemy.
(b) By quickening and exciting and stirring up one another to good, we do hereby strengthen our brethren. There is nothing does more strengthen men in goodness, than the practice of goodness.
(c) By imparting and communicating of our own experiences, we do hereby likewise strengthen our brethren; when we shall show them what good we ourselves have found by such and such good courses. This is a means not only to draw on, but to confirm others with us.To help us, and enable us hereunto, we must labour especially for such graces as are conducing to the practice of it, as —
(1) A spirit of discerning, whereby to judge aright of the case and condition which our brethren are in. It is a great part of skill in a physician, to be able to find out the disease, and to know the just temper and constitution of his patient's body; and so is it also for a healer of souls.
(2) A spirit of love and tenderness and condescension. There is a great deal of meekness required in a spiritual strengthener and restorer (Galatians 6:2).
(3) A spirit of faith, whereby we do believe ourselves those things which we commend to others.
2. The confinement of brotherly confirmation to personal conversion. He that will strengthen his brethren, he must himself be first of all converted. Peter, till himself be converted, he cannot confirm or strengthen his brethren, whether in comfort or grace. When we say, he cannot do it, this holds good according to the notion of a threefold impossibility which is in it.
(1) In regard of the performance; he cannot strengthen his brethren in this respect, who is himself unconverted. The reason of it is this: because persons in such a condition, they are devoid of those graces which are requisite to such a performance.
(2) Cannot do it, in regard of acceptance; God will not take it so well from him, in his making and pretending to do it; neither is it altogether so satisfactory to men.
(3) Cannot, in regard of success. He that is himself unconverted and unexperienced in his own heart, he cannot speak so profitable to others, and to the good of their souls. Nothing goes to the heart so much as that which comes from it.
(J. Horton, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: