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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary
1 Peter 1

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 2

ELECTION

‘Elect … through sanctification of the Spirit’

1 Peter 1:2

The subject of Election is a difficult one, but as brought before us in our text it is one of great simplicity.

I. Election first shows itself in a man’s separation from the world which lieth in wickedness.—This is the first half of the meaning of the term ‘sanctification,’ if not the whole meaning, as used in the Old Testament, the phraseology of which has pervaded and tinctured every fibre of St. Peter’s mental constitution. The sanctification of the temple, its vessels, its priests, means their dedication to the service of God, and their withdrawal from secular purposes. And Christian believers are thus set apart by the Spirit, spiritually consecrated to Divine service. Bodily, we are not exhorted to come out and be separate, but spiritually a broad line of demarcation should distinguish us from men whose whole lot is in this life.

II. But more than separation from or nonconformity with the world is here intended—the moral purification of our nature. When Holy Writ speaks of Christ’s sanctification, obviously the meaning is His official consecration to the work appointed Him by the Father. But when it enjoins our sanctification, it incontrovertibly means the inward refinement and moral purification of body, soul, and spirit. Election then is indissolubly connected with holiness as the sphere in which it moves, the atmosphere in which it breathes. No holiness—no election in the past, no salvation in the future.

III. But the wording of the text leads us still further; this holiness is not a limited, circumscribed result of the inward operation of the Spirit, but an infusion into our nature of the very quality or attribute of holiness inherent in Himself. The holiness of the believer is not a created, finite thing, as that of the angel, but an active participation in the uncreated, infinite holiness of God, in virtue of the personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Illustration

‘A firm persuasion of the electing love of God, coupled with an experimental proof in our own consciousness of the sanctifying, elevating influence of the Divine Spirit, acts as a powerful incentive, not to indolence, but to strenuous striving after greater devotedness to God and wider usefulness to man. Antinomianism may be the result, logical or otherwise, of the doctrine of election as it has been sometimes taught; but it is not the result contemplated in Holy Writ, nor the result reached in the lives of those believers who accept the Gospel in the fulness and the correlation of all its doctrines. The end in view, even in this high and mysterious doctrine, is not controversy but obedience, the obedience of the whole man to the whole Gospel, in the totality of its demands in respect both of thinking and living.’


Verse 3

THE GOSPEL OF THE RESURRECTION

‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.’

1 Peter 1:3

It was St. Peter who preached the first sermon on the Resurrection, immediately after it had happened; and his audience was the multitude assembled on the Day of Pentecost, who could have refuted him, had he been impressing on them either a delusion or an invention. ‘Whom God hath raised up,’ he said, ‘having loosed the pains of death; because it was not possible that He should be holden of it.’ The result was decisive and significant: ‘Then they that gladly received His Word were baptized; and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.’ And here we have the same St. Peter nearly thirty years afterwards, in spite of all the unceasing persecution and opposition that he had undergone, basing his message to the Christian Churches on his abiding thankfulness to God, ‘which, according to His abundant mercy, hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the Resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead.’ His appreciation of what had happened had only increased in intensity as the years of preaching and conversion had rolled on.

I. Is man a personal individual capable of immortal life?—That is the immense question which the Voice of God answers in every return of Easter. It is impossible, even in imagination, to divest the progress of Christian civilisation from its faithful acceptance of that Voice of God. Upon that acceptance depends the real sanction of all that is valuable even in worldly knowledge; still more all that is valuable in the daily conduct and motives of us frail mortal creatures; more than anything else whatever is of value in those higher thoughts which we cannot help having about God, and destiny, and mystery! Unless we can answer this momentous question, we have to say good-bye to all that is most interesting to us in our common life together as members of one nation and people, and to all that is of most importance to us as having minds that can reason and argue. It was because the Greeks and Romans could not, and would not, answer that question that there was neither hope in their national life, nor force in their moral conduct; and they sank into selfishness, despair, and ruin. If we are indeed destined to an eternal, individual existence, then a glorious responsibility belongs to all our present affections, actions, and pursuits; but if our whole being is confined within the circle of a few fleeting years, then we are only a riddle, an appearance in the universe which can never have any explanation; human life becomes a puzzle without any value, the world appears a scene of mere confusion, virtue in woman as well as in man becomes a mere delusion, the Creator an unkind and capricious, if really a conscious, Being, and all His plans and arrangements nothing but a blind self-evolving maze, into which and out of which none can find their way. ‘If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain.’ ‘Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.’

II. Think of what we should be without this answer of God to our perplexities, and if we were robbed of this priceless inheritance of well-grounded belief!

(a) We should become perfectly reckless about the future. There would be nothing to check our passions and excesses. The blot on Christian civilisation are those who care for none of these things. We should be like them. A short life and a merry, would be our motto; and it would be without scruple. Knowing how easily and painlessly life can be taken away, we should be perfectly ready to commit suicide at the first serious disappointment.

(b) We should become indifferent to everything high, good, noble, elevating. Present contentment and ease would be all for which we should care.

(c) How terribly selfish we should be! Why should we trouble ourselves at the tale of distress? To please ourselves as much as we could during the short space of our existence would be the common and general aim. Why care for humanity, when it would be, like ourselves, on the same level as the beasts that perish?

(d) There would be no reason why we should obey the Commandments. People think they would go on just as they do now under the sanctions of Christian belief, while they withdraw that belief; nothing can be more certain than that they would not so continue. The policeman would be the only authority that we should fear. We could blame neither man nor woman for every one of those degrading acts which personal responsibility has forced us to recognise as sin. If there were no future life, why should they refrain? Possibly some persons would think less well of them, but they would be forgotten in less than twenty years after they were dead.

(e) Our whole existence, in short, would be an enigma that had no answer—blind, dark, hopeless. Science, instead of unfolding the laws of God for our good, would be a terrible occupation, for it would remind us how the great remorseless organism of the universe would go grinding on, countless ages after we had ceased to be. What would it matter if a man were a great discoverer or benefactor? He would die like everybody else, and be forgotten, and be as if he had never been. It would hardly be worth while for a man to believe in God; God would become a mere necessary presupposition; if it was still supposed that there was such a Being, His nature would be veiled in impenetrable and unbroken darkness, and nobody would trouble about Him. Everywhere, as it was in the days of the faithless Roman Empire, would be one grim, general gloom and despair. The death of our friends would be a loss which, if we loved them, would stun us. Certain that they had come to an abrupt end, and that by no possibility could we see them again, our despair would be in proportion to our affection.

III. The voice of God in the resurrection of His Son has given the lie to this horrible opinion. ‘Now is Christ risen from the dead.’ The belief in the life beyond the grave is the common inheritance of every race of mankind; and the resurrection of the Son of God, for which the apostles and martyrs died, is the hand of God setting His seal to this common inheritance. ‘He that hath ears to hear, let him hear!’ If you doubt that voice of God, if there is not a spiritual life for men pouring out ever fresh from the risen life of the Redeemer, how can you possibly account for the history of the Kingdom of Christ, and all its glorious and peaceful conquests, in spite of every possible hindrance and drawback? How can you account for the history of the world and civilisation during the past eighteen centuries, to which in all human experience there is no parallel? How can you account for the redeemed life, and the conquest of self, and the great unselfish human love, and the spiritual beauty, and the wonderful and beneficent graces, which you see in countless individual Christian men and women—your wife, your mother, your little child, your friend? How can you account for that most true and most desirable of all experiences, ‘the peace of God that passeth all understanding’? We have listened to that voice of God, and to us it is the most priceless and vital of all our convictions. It has been to us as life from the dead; we have it day by day, and not found it wanting. I do not ask you to be always thinking of these fundamental truths; that would be impossible and overwhelming. But I do ask you, as the voice of God speaks to you anew and afresh on each Easter Day, to listen to it reverently and thankfully, and from the most secret chambers of your heart to say, Amen! And then I ask you to live with this strong conviction deep down in your inmost being: that you have each a personal and individual existence, that there is an Almighty Father, that He has spoken to us by His Son, that this Son has brought life and immortality to light, and that we have been redeemed by Him to be His grateful and radiant sons and daughters!

—Archdeacon William Sinclair.

Illustration

‘The calm, cautious, broad-minded German critic Ewald writes: “Nothing stands more historically certain than that Jesus rose from the dead, and appeared again to His followers; or than that their seeing Him thus again was the beginning of a higher faith, and all their Christian work in the world. It is equally certain that they thus saw Him, not as a common man, or as a shade or ghost risen from the grave; but as the only Son of God, already more than man at once in nature and power; and that all who thus beheld Him recognised at once and instinctively His unique Divine dignity, and firmly believed in it thenceforth. The twelve and others had, indeed, learned to look on Him, even in life, as the true Messianic King and the Son of God; but from the moment of His reappearing they recognised more clearly and fully the Divine side of His nature, and saw in Him the Conqueror of death. Yet the two pictures of Him thus fixed in their minds were, in their essence, identical. That former familiar appearance of the earthly Christ, and this higher vision of Him, with its depth of emotion and ecstatic joy, were so interrelated that, even in the first days or weeks after His death, they could never have seen in Him the heavenly Messiah, if they had not first known Him so well as the earthly.”’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

THE FESTIVAL OF HOPE

The season of Easter is essentially the season of Hope. What the spring, with its returning life and promise of coming glory, is to the natural year and to the life of nature, that is the season of Easter to the ecclesiastical year and to the spiritual life of man. The very word ‘Easter’ is derived from the name of a Saxon goddess, whose festival was that of the returning spring. And the Fathers of our Church grafted the Christian festival of the resurrection of Christ upon the pagan festival of the resurrection of nature. The one spoke only of the sure and certain hope of animal and vegetable life; the other speaks to all Christians of the sure and certain hope of life everlasting. Both were festivals of Hope—the one of hope temporal, the other of hope eternal.

I. Hope belongs to the very nature of man’s moral being.—‘Hope,’ says the poet, ‘springs eternal in the human breast’ (Pope). ‘Those who have nothing else,’ says the ancient philosopher, ‘have hope’ (Thales). ‘O blessed hope,’ cries another, ‘sole boon of man: whereby, on his straight prison walls, are painted beautiful far-stretching landscapes; and into the night of very death is shed holiest dawn!’ Without hope life is not worth living. The statistics of suicide are the statistics of those who have lost hope. The miserable have no other medicine except hope; and when hope is gone all love of life is gone. But, with Hope, that ‘hovering angel girt with golden wings,’ infinite possibilities are before us. So long as a man has hope he is never defeated in the battle of life.

II. Hope is just as necessary in the spiritual and eternal life of man.—If in this life only we have hope we are wretched indeed. The instinct of immortality has been well-nigh universal. To this cause—the belief that the death of the body did not involve the extinction of the soul—may be assigned such ancient customs as the embalming of Egyptian mummies, and the placing in the graves of dead heroes their rude implements of the chase. But this belief in a life after death was but a faint and feeble hope. It was reserved for Christ to convert what was before He came but a ‘splendid guess, into an absolute certainty.’ He brought life and immortality to light. And He did so not merely by His statements about the reality of the life beyond the grave—by such consoling utterances as ‘In My Father’s house are many mansions’—not merely by His teaching on this the most important of all possible subjects, but also by the historic fact of His own resurrection from the dead. For if Christ had not risen, and so ‘overcome death, and opened for us the gates of everlasting life,’ then His words about the life beyond, and the immortality of man, would have had no greater authority than the words of the philosopher Plato. Immortality would still be only a beautiful probability, and heaven only a possible perhaps. We should have a hope indeed, but a hope how poor and feeble in comparison with that ‘lively hope’ which God, in His abundant mercy, has given us by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Illustration

‘At the early age of forty-four, our great Puritan poet, John Milton, became totally blind. But so far from giving way to querulous despair, he says:—

Yet I argue not

Against Heav’n’s hand or will, nor bate one jot

Of heart or hope; but still bear up, and steer

Right onward.

And it was after this appalling affliction had overtaken him that he gave to the world his immortal poems of “Paradise Lost” and “Paradise Regained.”’


Verse 5

IN HIS KEEPING

‘Kept by the power of God.’

1 Peter 1:5

In other words, heaven is kept for God’s people, and they are kept for heaven. To every true Christian such a thought is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable consolation.

I. What the text does not mean.

(a) It does not mean that God’s children are kept from sin. God is indeed ‘able to guard you from stumbling,’ as St. Jude tells us (24, R.V.). Yet, as a matter of fact, ‘if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.’

(b) It does not mean that God’s children are kept from sorrow. The shadows of life fall on the Christian’s pathway and the Christian’s home as they do on those of other men. God has indeed promised that He will wipe out every tear from the eyes of His people. But that time is not yet.

(c) It does not teach that God’s people are kept from danger. Sometimes they are killed by an earthquake or a railway accident, slain in battle or drowned in the cruel sea.

(d) Nor are God’s people kept from sickness. Some of His dearest saints have been grievously afflicted. Yet even here, as in all else, the Christian has the best of it; for God makes all his bed in his sickness, and surprises him with sweet visits of love.

(e) Nor are God’s people kept from temptation. He has never promised they shall be free from temptation in this world, though He has said that He ‘will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that they may be able to bear it’ (1 Corinthians 10:13).

II. What, then, does the text mean?—It means that their souls are safe. It does mean that ‘as the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about His people from henceforth even for ever’ (Psalms 125:2). It means that every soul that has been led by grace to flee to Christ alone will be kept by the power of God, and shall never perish.

III. Kept ‘through faith.’—God first puts faith into the hearts of His people, then He takes care of it. He tries it in the furnace, He lets it fall into the sea of sorrow or persecution, but all the time He keeps it alive. Faith is a tender flower which only God Himself can plant—a flower which never grows of itself in nature’s barren soil, a flower which even, if once planted, must be watered and tended by the same gracious Hand that planted it. Like a lovely fern, whose home is a warmer clime than ours, it needs constant care and skill to protect its life. This God promises in the text.

—Rev. F. Harper.

Illustrations

(1) ‘There is a grand sermon by one of the greatest of Welsh preachers, Christmas Evans, which beautifully illustrates the text. He describes the evil spirit spreading his wings and flying through the air, when on one of the wide Welsh moors he espied a young lad, in the bloom of his strength, sitting on the box of his cart driving to the quarries. “There he is,” said Satan; “his veins are full of blood, his bones are full of marrow; I will cast my sparks into his bosom, and set all his passions on fire. I will lead him on, and he shall rob his master, and lose his place, and find another, and rob again, and do worse, and he shall go on from worse to worse, and then his soul shall sink, never to rise again, into the pit of fire!” But just as the devil was about to dart a fiery temptation into the heart of the youth, the dismayed evil one heard him sing—

“My God, the spring of all my joys,

The life of my delights,

The glory of my brightest days,

And comfort of my nights.”

The fiery dragon fled away, because the youth was “kept by the power of God.”

(2) ‘“But I saw him pass on,” said the preacher, “hovering like a vulture in the air. There, beneath the eaves of a little cottage, he saw a girl of some eighteen years of age, a flower among the flowers. She was knitting or sewing at the cottage door. Said Satan, ‘She will do for me: I will whisper the evil thought into her heart, and she shall turn it over and over, again and again, until she learns to love it; and then the evil thought shall be an evil deed, and then she shall be obliged to leave her village, and go to the great town, and she shall live a life of evil, all astray from the paths of my Almighty enemy.’ So he hastened to approach to dart into the mind of the maiden; but while he was approaching all the hills and crags seemed to break out into singing, as her sweet voice rose high and clear, chanting out the words—

‘My God, I am Thine;

What a rapture divine!

What a blessing to know that my Saviour is mine!

In the heavenly Lamb

Thrice happy I am,

And my soul it doth dance at the sound of His name.’

Here, again, the dragon fled away, for the maiden was ‘kept by the power of God.’

(3) ‘“So he passed from the valley among the hills, hut with hot rage. ‘I will try the old, and all in good time for me.’ For he saw an old woman; she too was sitting at the door of her cot, and spinning there on her wheel. ‘Ah!’ said Satan, ‘it will be good to lay hold of her grey hairs, and make her to taste of the lake that burneth with fire.’ And he descended on the eaves of her cottage; but as he approached near he heard the trembling, quavering voice of the old woman murmuring to herself lowlily, ‘For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but My kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of My peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.’ And the words hurt the evil one as well as disappointed him. And he fled away, for the old saint was ‘kept by the power of God.’

(4) ‘“And now,” said the preacher, “it was night, and he passed through another Welsh village, the white cottages gleaming out in the pure moonlight on the sloping hillside. And there was a cottage, and in the upper room was a faint light trembling, and, said the devil, ‘There is old Williams, slowly, surely wasting away.’ The evil spirit enters the room; there was the old man lying on the poor bed; his hands and fingers were thin and wasted, his eyes closed, the long silvery hair falling over the pillow.… But as Satan himself moved before the bed, to dart into the mind of the old man, the patriarch rose, stretched forth his hands, and pinned his enemy to the wall, as he exclaimed, ‘Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.’ The old man sank back; it was all over, ‘kept’ to the last ‘by the power of God’; and those words beat Satan down to the bottom of his own bottomless pit.”’


Verse 8

THE LIFE OF FAITH

‘Whom having not seen, ye love; in Whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.’

1 Peter 1:8

We often think, if we had only lived in the days when Christ walked on earth, it would have been so much easier to believe. Many good people think that, but I believe they are wrong. We are too ready to improve on God’s methods of revealing Himself. The Light He gives is enough to guide. Jesus Christ has answered such reasonings as this (see St. Luke 16:31).

I. Every revelation of God to man has, what I may call, a sacramental character: that is, it has an outward and sensible form which is as real as its inward and spiritual truth; and the passage from the outward to the inward is commonly ascribed to Faith. We Christians are met by two facts which seem hard to reconcile: the fact that Christ has come into the world, is in the world, in a sense in which He was not in the world in patriarchal times; the other fact, that some behold Him, and some behold Him not. These facts are to be reconciled by remembering the principles on which God has always revealed Himself. He never compels belief. He leads, but does not drive. He does not put before us certain truths which cannot be misunderstood, but He gives that which will lead us to Him, if we receive it rightly. The Christian life, then, is a life of Faith, for Faith is the passage from the outward and visible to the inward and spiritual, which it is meant to show. To none but those who were living the life of Faith could the Apostle have written the words of the text.

II. The lesson of our text is Faith, the seeing, that is, not with the bodily sight, but with the eye of Faith, Christ invisibly present with us; the power of passing through the dark veil of sacraments to the Living Christ, Who is present in them.

(a) Look at the first and most rudimentary revelation of God, the vision of Himself which He gives in external nature. Most argue at once from this to the existence of a God, and a good God too. Yet we know this blessed truth has been denied, and that men have studied nature without seeing God in it. What is the difference between these and the Psalmist who cried, ‘The Heavens declare the glory of God’? The difference between Faith and no Faith. Where Faith lived and wrought, the eye could pierce the veil. Even such an elementary truth as that God made the world is not to be grasped by reason without Faith.

(b) The Advent of Christ at the Incarnation, and His invisible Presence in His Church now, is to be recognised only by Faith. Go back to the time when Jesus Christ lived upon earth in a form visible to human eyes. What did men see? A man like in all points to men. We should have seen mighty works of healing wrought, loving words spoken to the heavy laden and despised; but should we have seen God? Surely not. The disciples knew not at once that He was the Saviour of the world. Yet these men—who lived in alternate hope and despair before—after the Resurrection went forth in a power not their own, to preach Christ, to speak of a living Present Lord, the Head of His Body, the Church. They were persecuted and martyred, and suffered joyfully, for the truth that they had learned by Faith—the truth, that He Who lived in human form was Christ the Incarnate Son of God. They had passed within the veil, and seen the invisible in the visible. It was to such converts, men who believed as they in the real abiding Presence of Him Who died and rose again, that the Apostle dared to write the words of the text.

III. There is a large number of Christians who believe in Christ’s Divine Nature, in His earthly life and finished work, who never really understand His Advent, and what it meant.—If Christ only came and lived in human form for thirty years, and then departed whence He came, how are we better for the memory of that fact than the old-world saints, who saw it afar off? Surely the Advent must be a fact of infinitely wider meaning. The taking of humanity into God—not the mere wearing for a time a human form, and then flinging it aside—is the very ground of that blessed promise, ‘Lo! I am with you alway.’ Rest on that Divine promise, when you are tempted to wish that you had seen Christ in the flesh—‘Abide in Me, and I in you.’ Before our fallen nature had been taken unto God, could that prayer have been uttered, ‘As Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us’? Do we not lose half our glorious birthright because we will not believe that it is ours? or because, as when Christ revealed Himself in the Incarnation, we cannot pass through by Faith from the visible to the Invisible?

IV. Whether we will recognise Him or not, depends on the degree of our Faith.—He is with us in His Church, with its constitution and ordinances and divinely appointed ministry. To those who believe not in the Presence of Christ, these are mere human contrivances which may be exchanged for any other religious organisation which commends itself to our private judgment; while to those who understand what Christ’s Advent means, these are earthly vessels; but earthly vessels which, in God’s wisdom, are charged with a heavenly treasure. So it is pre-eminently in that means of grace, whereby the Presence of Christ is revealed to the eye of Faith—the Sacrament of His Body and Blood. Those who believe not in the Presence of the Lord see here but signs and memorials of One Who left the earth at the Ascension, only to come again to judge; while to others, the eternal Presence of the Son of God in His Body, the Church, is the starting point of their belief. They draw near to the Altar of God in the full assurance of Faith. Christ is revealed to them in power. They love Him Whom they cannot see, and they feel that He is present. Many, it is to be feared, draw near to Christ in the Sacrament of His love who never feel the virtue that goes out when the hand is stretched forth in Faith.

Rev. Canon Aubrey Moore.

(SECOND OUTLINE)

FAITH COMPELLING LOVE

Christ reigns over the hearts of men by love. A few years after death none will, none can, really care for us, but the love towards Jesus lasts on, undiminished by time.

I.This love is illimitable in extent as well as in time.—It pervades, more or less, in some cases very intensely, three hundred millions of human souls. Churches east and west, Established and Nonconformist, are scattered and divided, but wherever the name of Jesus is known there Jesus is loved. For Him all sacrifices are made. The love towards Him is indeed as strong as death. Martyrs die in endless succession, not only an Ignatius or a Polycarp in the first ages, but year after year the mission field, with its supposed ignoble population, gives these martyrs to ideal truth.

II. This is no abstract subject.—It brings us to the very centre and home of Christian life. No ear of ours has ever heard that voice with the majestic and magnetic sweetness of its attraction: ‘Draw me and I will run after Thee.’ No authentic likeness of the face of Him Who was crowned with thorns, with the pale and dying lips, has been preserved. There are those who love to look upon the crucifix, but remember this: in the catacombs, on mosaics, from pictures in galleries or on panes, from crucifixes—which, doubtless, as they are sculptured, did not exist in Christendom for, I suppose, six centuries—no face ever imaged or ever painted by sculptor or artist is the very likeness of the Son of Mary and the Son of God, ‘Whom yet, not having seen, we love.’

III. We have not seen Him, and yet we love Him. Why so?—He received us in infancy when we were baptized with the baptism of the uplifted brow, and grafted into His body. When we had erred and strayed from His ways, He called us back to the fold. When we returned He gave us pardon and peace—aye! it may be the fulness of pardon and the abundance of peace. He feeds us with His own body and blood. As we grow older He is able to make even the October of life a sort of Indian summer. He inspires not the academic, half-affected melancholy of a Milander or an Amiel, but the sweet hope that heals all the wounded places of each human life of ours, and He brings us, as it were, gently to that place where each one of us must lie until the daybreak and the shadows flee away.

IV. Here is the strange fact of the spiritual world—this intense personal love towards One Whom we have not seen. As St. Bernard says: ‘When I name Jesus I name a Man, strong, gentle, pure, holy, sympathising, Who is also the true and the Eternal God.’ And the image of the beauty is the best proof to the heart of the reality of the object which it represents, something in the same way as when we are walking along in meditation by a clear river that runs into the sea the reflection of the white seabird in the stream, even when we are not able to look up, is a proof to us that the bird is really sailing overhead. There is no fear of disappointment in that love toward Christ. As spiritual sight is given to us, as we start up in the light of the Resurrection morning, there will be no disappointment; when we wake up after His likeness we shall be satisfied with Him, with the likeness of Him, Whom, not having seen, we love.

—Archbishop Alexander.

Illustrations

(1) ‘There was a wife once who was all in all to a husband who had been blind from very early childhood, and when the question came about an operation being performed, she was troubled. She confessed she was troubled lest when sight was restored to her husband, whom she had loved and tended, he should be disappointed in the features of which he had thought so tenderly.’

(2) ‘A Chinese convert was asked by a missionary when he was dying whether he was sorry, and his answer was: “Sorry! I am not sorry, I am glad. I am sorry at least only for one thing, and that is that I have not done more for Jesus, Who has done all for me.” And that is the sacrifice of self-devotion in hospitals; of those who are working in the East End of London whose lives seem to be so dull, as they are.’

(THIRD OUTLINE)

A TEST OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

Two classes are here spoken of: those who had seen, and those who had not seen, Jesus Christ. St. Peter belonged to the first. The ‘strangers scattered abroad’ to the second. Here was a great difference. There was a time when Jesus was in the world. That passed. He ascended, and the heavens received Him. Still many remained who had seen Christ. Gradually their number diminished. At last but St. John left. With what mingled feelings of wonder and awe would it be said of him, ‘Behold a man who saw the Lord.’ Then, when he was taken, Christians everywhere would be placed on the same level.

I. Doubtless it was a high privilege to have seen Christ.—There is a power in the living voice. There is a subtle force in the glance of the eye, in the touch of the hand, and in the actual visible presence, which all must have felt. Sight individualises, and helps to intensify and sustain our feelings. We can sympathise with those who desired to see Jesus. Who but has felt this yearning? But we must take heed. We may err and deceive ourselves, as to the effects of seeing Jesus. Remember the Jews (John 15:24). If we do not believe on Jesus, with the evidence and motives we have, there can be little doubt, but though we had seen Him with our bodily eyes, we should have continued in unbelief. Besides, our Lord, Who knew what was in man, has declared that it is better for us as things are. ‘It is expedient,’ etc. Let us have patience. ‘Yet a little while,’ etc. (John 16:7; Isaiah 33:17).

II. The love of Jesus Christ is

(a) The true test of Christianity (1 Corinthians 16:22).

(b) The best inspiration for Christian work (2 Corinthians 5:14; John 21:25).

(c) The dearest bond of fellowship and the Divinest proof of the power and ultimate triumph of the Gospel (Ephesians 6:24; 2 Timothy 4:8; Philippians 2:9-10).

Illustration

‘Napoleon is reported to have said, at St. Helena, of Jesus Christ: “All who sincerely believe on Him taste this wonderful, supernatural, exalted Love. The more I think of this I admire it the more, and it convinces me absolutely of the Divinity of Christ. I have inspired many with such affection for me, that they would die for me. But afterwards my presence was necessary.… Now that I am alone, chained to this rock, who fights and wins empires for me?… What a wide abyss between my deep misery, and the eternal Kingdom of Christ, which is proclaimed, loved, and adored, and which is extended over all the earth.”’


Verse 12

LIGHT FROM DARKNESS

‘Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister.’

1 Peter 1:12

Those holy men of old, who spake as moved by the Holy Ghost, were sometimes in darkness as to the things they uttered. They understood them only in part, even when they spoke most freely of the grace that should come. So these inspired men walked in the darkness—with angels desiring, but not seeing, the glorious things of the kingdom yet to come. They were as yet in the wilderness, testifying of a heavenly Canaan into which they entered not. Through this darkness a light shone in upon them; it was ‘revealed’ to them that not to themselves did they minister, or to the people of their own time, but to those who should come after them—‘to us!’

I. The subject of this revelation.—It was this—that their ministry was not for themselves. Whatever gifts they had, whatever offices they held—functions discharged, faculties enjoyed—they must bear them all meekly, not for themselves, but for others—like that Son of man of Whom they prophesied, and Whose advent they darkly saw. The eternal law of the one kingdom in all its manifestations comes out clearly here. All the offices and estates of royalty are not for the king, but for his subjects; and the priest’s functions are to mediate, to intercede, to help.

II. ‘No man liveth to himself.’—Where it comes to a good man as a revelation, that not for himself, or for this time or age merely, is he living, but also for generations yet unborn, what a dignity it gives to life, what a sacred unity to the human family!—how it reconciles us to life’s brevity and seeming failures, linking us on to the past as well as the future, and leading us to the music of the grand old pathetic psalm, ‘Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling-place in all generations.’ Not to Himself did our Saviour Christ minister in those brief years of life on the earth, but for us, for all humanity, down to the last age of the world; not for themselves, but for us, apostles, prophets, martyrs lived and died. Verily, one soweth, and another reapeth—the seed-time theirs, the harvest ours, and so all down the generations—they all have ministered ‘to us.’ The debt we owe we can never pay to them, but let us transmit to the future the spirit they transmitted to us, and in the very light of life let it come to us as a revelation that not to ourselves do we minister, but have our share, and place, and work in that ‘one increasing purpose that through the ages runs.’

III. The method of the revelation.

(a) It came to them, these holy men, bysearching.’ Searching what, and what manner of time? etc. Revelations in nature, providence, and grace often thus come. ‘Seek, and ye shall find.’

(b) It came to them through sympathy. Sympathy with God—with men—with the future as well as the present. How can an unsympathetic nature be inspired!—or have made to it a revelation of unselfishness? They are holy men whom the Holy Ghost moves (Caiaphas and Balaam exceptions). The pure-hearted see God, and reveal Him to others.

(c) By prayer, as in the case of Daniel. ‘While I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel came, and he instructed me.’

(d) Chiefly by the Spirit of Christ that was in them. And this comprehends all.

Illustration

‘Sometimes in worldly things this thought of living for a future generation comes with startling effect upon a worldly man, even when heaping up riches he knows, or is tolerably sure, who will gather them. “What am I toiling and moiling for? I shall soon be dead and gone, and these houses, lands, estates, debentures, shares, what not, will be for others!” Even in this there may be some far-off touch of the Divine; for such men sometimes live in this respect unselfish lives—not for them the enjoyment of those soft luxuries they are gathering about them, not for them the rest and the ease—but for their children and children’s children. Not to themselves they minister—and so far we say there may be some soul of good even in this; only let us all remember that the best heritage we can ever leave to our children is that of a wise, pious, charitable example. “My wife and I,” said one, “have, by the good hand of our God upon us, been able from first to last to contribute to the cause of missions no less than £30,000—and yet I have children unprovided for!” No, not unprovided for—there was the provision of that life-pattern left for them to follow!’


Verse 13

COMING GRACE

‘Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end [perfectly marg.] for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.’

1 Peter 1:13

There is to be a revelation of Jesus Christ. He is to appear, to be unveiled, to manifest Himself. He appeared once at His Incarnation to seek and to save that which was lost, God manifest in the flesh; but He appeared only for a time. Finishing the work of redemption, He went back to where He was before, became unseen, and abides there and thus now, and till the time of the restitution of all things. When He shall be revealed we know not; nor would it do us good to know. Enough for us to know and believe that He is coming.

The revelation of Jesus Christ brings grace. This does not imply that there is little or no grace now. Salvation is not postponed to the second Advent. We have sonship, living hope, security, faith, joy, love, here on earth. The Lord keeps His best wine unto the last. But with all the grace given now to believers, they need more, and get more, at His revelation. There is brought to them—

I. The grace of perfect vision of Him Who is now unseen.—They shall see Him as He is. To what extent and in what way He is seen between their death and His coming we know not. Their souls depart to be with Him where He is. Yet such a vision cannot be perfect in comparison with that which takes place when He appears in glory and they appear with Him. St. John places the beatific vision in connection with the manifestations of the sons of God at the redemption of the body, i.e. at Christ’s reappearing. Now we see only the reflection, as in a mirror, of Him and His glory; then we shall see Him face to face, and know even as now we are known.

II. There is brought to them the grace of perfect likeness to Christ.—They shall be like Him, for they shall see Him as He is. While they gazed only at the image on the mirror, the assimilation was imperfect, slow, and gradual. When Christ is seen at death the likeness is complete as regards the soul. The revelation of Jesus Christ brings perfection of resemblance to the whole man, when He raises the body incorruptible, and spiritual, and glorious, changing it and fashioning it like unto the body of His own glory.

III. There is brought the grace of perfect acquittal.—Now they have the grace of justification freely and fully; are pardoned and accepted in the Beloved; are assured, more or less, of their righteous standing before God through Christ’s righteousness. But all this is done very much as a secret between God and them, out of sight of the world, and sometimes without an undoubted assurance of it on their part. Grace, however, in the day of the revelation of Jesus Christ, will openly and fully declare and manifest their past justification, putting their salvation beyond all doubt, and ratifying all former gracious judicial action with them.

IV. There is brought the grace of perfect avowal and recognition.—Christ then owns them as the ‘blessed of His Father, for whom the kingdom was prepared’: confesses them, without any shame, as worthy of Himself and their sonship and inheritance before the Father and the holy angels. Now He does acknowledge them, but not always openly, mostly in secret, by the witness of His spirit, by the works and sacrifices He enables them to do and make; not so, however, as that the world shall recognise this His testimony to them without fail, or account for it on other than natural and worldly principles. His name is not now visible on their foreheads, though written there; they carry no marks of their spiritual dignity on their persons here; the world knoweth them not, as it knew Him not. But then they shall appear with Him in His glory and sit with Him on His throne, claimed and manifested and treated as His own, whom He is not ashamed to call His brethren and to identify with His own eternal future.

V. There is brought the grace of perfect joy and glory for ever.—Then they actually enter upon the inheritance, which is now reserved for them as they are kept for it; beyond all heaviness or need of it, no longer in pupilage or minority, no longer receiving earnests and first-fruits; having all happiness unalloyed; having God Himself as their God and portion for ever, with all enemies subdued.

Illustration

‘While apostolic men looked for the coming of Christ, they looked for it with no idea of dread, but, on the contrary, with the utmost joy. In this chapter St. Peter sets forth the glorious advent of our Lord as an event to be hoped for with eagerness. It was to him not a day of terror and of thunders and of overwhelming confusion, but a day of the consummation of the work of grace—a period in which glory should crown the grace received through the first manifestation of the Lord. It was all joy to the early believers to think of the Lord’s appearing. The falling stars, the darkened sun, the blood-red moon, the quivering earth, the skies rolled up like an outworn vesture—all these things had no horror for them since Jesus was thus coming. Though all creation should be in a blaze, and the elements should melt with fervent heat, yet Jesus was coming, and that was enough for them; the Bridegroom of their souls was on His way, and this was rapture unspeakable.’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

THE HOPE OF THE ADVENT

A Christian man’s thoughts and energies should be concerned with the Lord’s reappearing, and not the day of death. The day of death is never held up to us as the object of preparation. It is not in itself attractive. Whatever grace it brings is little in comparison with that brought by ‘the revelation of Jesus Christ.’ The revelation demands—

I. Spiritual readiness, in the loins of the mind girded, the thoughts collected, braced, prepared, and on the alert, with nothing left till the last (cf. Luke 12:35-36).

II. Spiritual self-restraint, in sobriety; neither too elated nor too depressed; using the world as not abusing it; not thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to think, taking heed to ourselves lest at any time our hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness and cares of this life, and so that day come upon us unawares (St. Luke 21:34).

III. Perfect hope; desiring, picturing, expecting the revelation and what it brings; hoping perfectly, never letting go hope, though the day seems far off and the prospect grows dim; never saying, ‘My Lord delayeth His coming,’ but rather, ‘He that shall come will come, and will not tarry.’ Hope, perfect hope, sustains and stimulates, gladdens and purifies, and so prepares us for the grace that is to be brought unto us at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Illustration

‘How full of the Lord were the minds of the holy writers! St. Peter can scarcely write a verse without an allusion to the Lord Jesus Christ. Then, again, how ardently these men expected the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ! St. Peter was continually speaking of it, and so was his beloved brother St. Paul. They evidently looked upon His advent as very near. They were not mistaken in this belief. It is very near. A long time has passed, say you? I answer, By no manner of means; two thousand years is not a long time in the count of God, or in reference to so grand a business. We are dealing with eternal things, and what are ages? Let us patiently wait. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise as some men count slackness”; let us persevere in the same belief which filled the minds of the early believers, that Jesus will come, and that He will surely come quickly. Be ye as men that look for His coming at any moment.’


Verse 14

CHRISTIAN OBEDIENCE

‘As obedient children.’

1 Peter 1:14

There are three, and only three, motives for obedience: Interest; Fear; Love. There is the obedience of the hireling; of the slave; of the child.

I. The obedience of the hireling.—It has often been mistaken for Christian obedience. Here is a man whose life is a subject of wonder. Men say of him, ‘What holiness!’ But on closer inspection I perceive that there is not in that soul a spark of love. He has reasoned thus: ‘To gain heaven, I must suffer and live meritoriously.’ Is such a man fit for the kingdom of heaven? No. Heaven is to be purchased neither with money nor with merits. God will not accept an obedience of which the secret and supreme motive is interest. There may still be in your heart a tinge of the mercenary spirit. Have you not murmured when affliction has assailed you? These murmurs, whence did they proceed if not from miscalculation? If the Christian does not obey for the sake of a reward, it does not follow that Christian obedience is left unrewarded. The teaching of Christ may be resumed in these words: ‘Blessed are they that mourn.’ ‘They that mourn,’ that is the sacrifice. ‘Blessed,’ that is the reward.

II. The obedience of the slave.—It had been easy for God to obtain servile obedience. He could have bowed under His yoke every rebellious will. He has not done so. He has not wished to do so. An obedience inspired by terror has no value in His sight. The gospel is in reality but a solemn and touching appeal to our liberty. An ancient poet said that the tempests which agitate the depths of the ocean only serve to form the gems that are found beneath the waters. Can we not say likewise that all the designs of Providence, such as they appear to us in Scripture; that all the threatenings of God, His chastisements, the afflictions He sends, have no other purpose than to produce this masterpiece of creation, this triumph of Divine love—souls that consecrate themselves freely to God? In presence of the Cross servile obedience is derision.

III. The obedience of the child.—God will not be served by mercenaries nor by slaves. Who then will serve Him? The Apostle answers, children. This word resumes the whole subject: absolute dependence upon God, holy respect, tender love. It reminds us of the motives we have for obedience. It removes whatever of servility or interest might mingle with Christian obedience.

Illustration

‘Here is a man who flatters himself he will shake off the yoke. He will be his own master and do his own will. He has no sooner entered upon this course than a passion appears, saying, “Follow me,” and he follows it; “Disgrace thyself,” and he disgraces himself. And when it has led him whither he would not go, when it has crushed his energies and paralysed his will, the unhappy victim discovers that he has only exchanged a willing obedience for the most servile degradation. Man created to obey does not avoid this duty by separating himself from God; he only changes masters. There are those who yield obedience to necessity, to force; some to duty, others to charity. The Christian alone directly obeys Him Who is truth and love. What constitutes his greatness is that he freely responds to the design of his Creator. Not fatally, as do the worlds His mighty hand has scattered in space.’


Verse 16

PERSONAL HOLINESS

‘Be ye holy; for I am Holy.’

1 Peter 1:16

The question at once meets us, ‘What is holiness?’ The original word, which we have translated ‘holiness,’ means ‘without earthliness.’ We are ‘of the earth, earthy’; the contrast to holiness, so that, more practically, God only is holiness. He, and He only, is ‘Holy’; and everything else is ‘holy’ just as it connects itself with Him: that which is dedicated to Him, that which has Him in it, that which is like Him, that which serves Him—that is ‘holy.’ Heaven is the ‘holy of holies,’ because heaven combines all these; and nothing can enter there which is not ‘holy.’ Holiness is one of the signs of being a saint—a saint on earth, and a saint in heaven.

I address myself now to those who feel that they are not ‘holy,’ or, if holy at all, much more unholy, and who ask, ‘How shall I be “holy”? How shall I become one of the holy family?’

I. It is the province of the Holy Ghost to make you so.—There is no other way in the world. And if you do not recognise and use that well, looking to the Holy Ghost, every effort you can make will be a failure. It is His province, and He Himself must do it. It is His prerogative. It is His business. It is His work. He and He only makes ‘holiness.’

II. The next step to be ‘holy’ is to at once give up and conquer anything—however dear, however pleasant—which your conscience now tells you is incompatible with ‘holiness,’ and which makes you, if not hate God, yet certainly, in feelings, unholy!

III. Recognise your unholiness more—however good, or however small, in anything you allow. The very sense of your unholiness shows there is a token for good, which God has given you, and you must work it out: ‘Lord, Thou hast not quite left me. Thou hast, in Thy mercy, given me this feeling, that I am a sinner. Now give me more. Give me more. Do Thine own work, Lord, in my soul, and do Thou guide me.’

IV. Undertake some special means or step to holiness.—More prayer. Could not you go to your room, in the middle of the day, and have a little prayer? Could not you be in the ‘spirit of prayer’ everywhere?—those silent prayers, even in the midst of business! More earnest prayer, more personal prayer, in the closet and everywhere! More faithful dealings with your own soul! More real study of your Bible in secret communion with God? Could not you just fancy yourself sitting at the foot of the Cross, and looking up to that dear Lord, as bleeding there, till the very sight of Him brings ‘holiness’ from us?

V. Cultivate some religious companion.—Look around you, and see; and make, if you can, one, one real, religious friend. It will be a great help to you.

VI. Undertake some work at once.—Some work expressly for God—for His poor, for His children, for His Church—done with a purer and higher motive than before, for His sake.

VII. Pay more attention to your public and religious duties.—Take the Holy Communion more regularly, and with more faith and expectation of what you are going to find there.

VIII. Deal with your conscience.—Be scrupulous in the little things, the trifles, of life. Let your family, and your servants, and your whole household, have cause to see, and say that you are endeavouring to be a better Christian, and more like your Master. And you will find it a very good thing to take an interest in somebody’s soul, somebody’s soul!

Illustration

‘The nature of man makes resemblance to God possible. It is a sublime truth that there is such resemblance between God and our poor hearts that even in our fallen condition there is enough of the Divine image left upon us for us to hear this heavenly voice and to know that it has a triumphant message even for us. We are not so smitten but that these words appeal to our conscience and are verified by our experience. It is possible for us to yield ourselves unto God, because He is God, and we are made in His likeness.’


Verse 17

SOJOURNING IN FEAR

‘Pass the time of your sojourning here in fear.’

1 Peter 1:17

That seems to be a discouraging kind of exhortation to give, and it contrasts very remarkably at first hearing with the raptures of the previous part of this chapter. But it is not really so. Let us think for a moment of what the temper of mind which is enjoined upon us here really is. Do not let us be led away by words. The word fear means a great many different kinds of emotions. Its lowest form is that of a shadowy apprehension of personal mischief. But then it runs through all the gamut, or scale, of different kinds of emotions until it gets right up into a thing that the calm angels who stand before God’s throne, serene in their perfect blessedness, have in the loftiest measure. ‘For God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of His saints.’ And so fear, as inculcated upon a Christian, as the companion of his continual hope, and of his unspeakable joy, and of his deep and central love, means, first and foremost, that lowly, thrilling, and glad apprehension of the greatness and majesty of our God.

I. The grounds upon which this temper is urged upon us by the Apostle.—They are two, one of which precedes the exhortation, one which follows it. The commandment is thus, as it were, like a jewel in the setting, embedded in the reasons upon which it reposes.

(a) Here is the form of the first. ‘If ye call on the Father,’ or, as it may be rendered, ‘If ye call Him Father, Who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear.’ Now that has no reference to a future judgment. There is emphasis in the present tense. ‘He without respect of persons judgeth,’ not will judge. He does it each moment, and judges His children just because they are His children, for judgment begins at the house of God. And this is the Apostle’s thought, that the paternal and filial relation make it certain that a Christian man’s faults will all bring about, here and now, and all but contemporaneously with their doing—will all bring about consequences that He will not like.

(b) The second motive upon which the exhortation is based follows it: ‘Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation.’ The word ‘conversation’ is the noun, governing the verb in the text rendered ‘pass the time of your sojourning.’ ‘But with the precious blood of Christ, as a Lamb without blemish and without spot.’ That is to say, did God think it worth His while to lavish such expenditure of power, and to make that great sacrifice, and shall not we, knowing the expense at which our redemption from a vain conversation and conduct has been made possible, see to it that a holy conversation and conduct marks us? The fear is to be built upon gratitude, therefore there may be nothing in it of terror or of slavery. The remembrance of the price at which our redemption has been purchased should stimulate us to all diligence, ‘to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord.’

II. Note the duration of this duty.—‘Let your conduct be in fear,’ as the element in which it moves, as it were, ‘during the time of your sojourning.’ Travellers in a strange land do not lie down at night without setting a guard over the camp; if they have no sentries, ten chances to one at midnight the wolf will come down on the fold, and all will be sudden alarm and confusion. And so says St. Peter. All evil assaults us suddenly. So ‘pass the time of your sojourning here in fear.’

III. The brevity of the watch may help to keep us awake while we have to watch. It is only a temporary lodging, says St. Peter; you are not going to stop here always. A man gets into questionable quarters in the course of his travels; and he is not quite sure about the dispositions of the people downstairs, and he says to himself, ‘I will sit up all night rather than run any risks. It will be morning before long.’ And so says St. Peter, Do not mind if you have to sit up all night and keep a watch; it is only a night after all. It is a part of your sojourning here in fear. When there are no more temptations, when there are no more dangers, when there are no more sins, there need be no more fear.


Verse 24-25

THE ABIDING WORD

‘All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: but the Word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the Word which by the gospel is preached unto you.’

1 Peter 1:24-25

In order to enter into the spirit of the Apostle’s utterances, we need to mark carefully each term of the comparison, or rather the contrast, which he establishes here. One term expresses, in elegant and forcible language, the thought of decay, the other of vitality. He speaks first of things which fade and pass away, then of that which flourishes and abides for ever.

The Word of God abides:—

I. Through the different periods of human history.—In all ages, look in where you will, you will find that one part of the furniture of this world has been the Word of God. Jewish prophets referred to what went before, and explained it; they point forward to what is to come after. Returned captives from Babylon collect the sacred books. The evangelists and apostles add to and complete it. Amidst all kind of changes and destruction the Word of God has come down to our own time; and it is part of the lustre of the last hundred years that the Bible has been accessible to six hundred millions of the human race.

II. Through the manifold assaults of human opposition.—Virulent and vehement has that opposition been under various forms, and yet the truth revealed from heaven has held on its way. At one time the roll on which a part of the Word was inscribed by a persecuted prophet was cut in pieces with a penknife by an impious king, and the pieces thrown into the fire, burning on the hearth before him. At another the Apostle who proclaimed that Word stood in chains before a cruel tyrant, master of the legions that governed the world. And those two instances are types of innumerable others when the power and the violence were against the Word, and on the side of its advocates were weakness and suffering. At other times men of high-sounding pretensions assailed the Word of God with arguments drawn from the depths and the heights of human reasoning and human research, and refused even to examine the credentials of the Book which claims to be inspired of God; and was it not Voltaire who scoffingly said that he allowed fifty years for the existence of belief in the Word? A man of lower condition here in England, and full of malice against Christianity, said, ‘I have gone through the Bible as a man would go through a wood with an axe on his shoulder to fell trees; let them lie; other priests, if they can, may replant them; they may, perhaps, stick them in the ground, but they will never grow.’ Thus kings, emperors, and philosophers, and common people have, in various ways, assailed the Word of God; but ‘no weapon formed against it can prosper.’ It holds on its way.

III. Through the various stages of human progress.—This is very important to observe; for we not seldom hear the taunting words of reproach, ‘The Bible did very well for those who lived in our father’s days, and in the old time before them; but we want something more advanced in these days of progress.’ Those who speak thus forget that while there is much progress in outward things, the real deep sorrows and wants of the heart of man are the same they always were; and therefore the same consolation and mercy which were needed in old times are needed now. Does it alter the sorrow of bereavement, for instance, because the tidings which formerly took months to come from India are now conveyed by the electric flash? Are not the words which comforted the sorrowing sisters at Bethany just as appropriate now when mourners reach the churchyard gate in any part of England, ‘I am the Resurrection,’ etc.? And when a man is convinced of sin and in fear of God’s wrath and damnation, the swiftest appliances of modern travel have no power to help him, because they cannot take him away from himself; and he needs now, as men needed of old, to believe in the word, ‘The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin.’ As one in the foremost ranks of modern philosophers has said, ‘Science can triumph over the waves of the sea, but she has no secret for calming the disquietudes within.’ The Word is as much needed and as precious now as it ever was. ‘Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee.’ ‘Trust ye in the Lord for ever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.’

—Bishop Ryan.

Illustration

‘In some old Bibles of your grandfather, between the leaves which enclose some cherished passage that had often cheered the old man’s heart, there is, perhaps, a little relic of the past—“’Tis but a little faded flower”—the colour gone, but a good deal of the form still there. You must touch it very tenderly or it will crumble into dust and be all gone. It abides after a fashion, as human things abide; but it does not live and abide as Divine things live and abide. But the promise, over against which the little faded flower is lying, not only abides but lives—lives! It lives in ten thousand hearts as well as in yours, as rich in colour, as fresh in fragrance, as delightful to the soul as ever it was.’

ST.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 1 Peter 1:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/1-peter-1.html. 1876.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, December 12th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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