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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary
1 Peter 5

 

 

Verse 2

THE OVERSIGHT OF THE FLOCK

‘Feed [tend, R.V.] the flock of God which is among you, taking [exercising, R.V.] the oversight.’

1 Peter 5:2

‘Feed,’ writes the Apostle, ‘tend the flock of God which is among you.’ In the words ‘feed’ or ‘tend,’ the old and new versions of the Epistle are alike trying to give a suitable equivalent for St. Peter’s Greek word, whose full meaning is, ‘do the work of a shepherd,’ ‘shepherd,’ ‘pasture’ the flock. I do not know that the old word ‘feed’ is not at least as good as the new one ‘tend.’ ‘Do the office of a shepherd’—the phrase sends us back in thought, if not to the Old Testament, Moses and the Prophets, at least to some earlier verses of the New.

There is, e.g., the shepherd of St. Luke 15, whose sheep—one of a hundred—strays from the fold, and is followed by the careful owner till he has found the wanderer and carries her home. There is, again, the Good Shepherd of St. John 10, Who provides for the folding and feeding of His own sheep, in all His many flocks; knows them, and calls them each by name, leading (not driving) them as they ‘go in and out and find pasture,’ and Who not only follows the strayed sheep on the mountains like the shepherd of St. Luke and St. Matthew, but, in their defence, ‘giveth His life for the sheep.’ Again, in Hebrews 13 there is the specific identification of the Shepherd in the words, ‘The God of peace, Who brought again from the dead that great Shepherd of the sheep, our Lord Jesus Christ.’ And lastly, in our present Epistle (1 Peter 2:25) the Apostle styles our Lord the ‘Shepherd and Bishop’ of His people’s souls.

I. Here, then, is the Christian pastor’s model, however far he may come short of its full symmetry.—Pastors of the flock of God, we may set ourselves no lower standard for study or for imitation than that of our Lord. Entering upon our charge, not only according to His institution, but, through Him as the actual ‘Door’ of the fold, we must copy His holy love for the flock, His indefatigable industry in providing for their spiritual sustenance and health, in seeking and bringing them into communion in His life and grace, and His self-sacrifice on their behalf; like Him and His great followers, ‘spending and being spent’ in their cause, ‘counting not even life dear,’ with a view to accomplishing the ministry received at His hands, for the sake of the Church He bought with His life. There is one word which may perhaps sum up all the characteristics of the true pastor; and that is ‘leading.’ In Hebrews 13 the clergy of the Church are twice referred to by a Greek word which, in both versions, is rendered ‘they that rule’: ‘Obey them that have the rule over you,’ that are now your pastors; and ‘Remember them that had to rule,’ your former clergy now deceased. The translation is no doubt correct. Nevertheless, according to the genius of the Greek language and civilisation, the ruler theoretically was none other than the leader, and not, as in some other regions, the coercer or driver of the people under his rule. And to myself the word has always suggested the great Master’s description of Himself in relation to the flock: ‘He goeth before them, and they follow, for they know His voice.’

II. If we are to be of service to you—whilst you, no less than we, are to follow Christ and ‘press toward the mark’ set before us all alike—we, nevertheless, if we do our duty, must set the pace; never out of sympathy with you, yet never allowing that sympathy to chill our ardour or retard us in following Him Who leads both you and us. St. Paul bade his fellow-Christians follow him, as He followed Christ. But when some of them, yielding to the seductions of worldliness and sensuality, fell hopelessly behind, he for his part dared not loiter, but remembering that his country, his home, was heaven, pressed forward towards it, rejecting every encumbrance lest he should after all miss the crown.

‘Pasture’ the flock and ‘take the oversight of it.’ This phrase, as you are perhaps aware, is the equivalent of a word from which our word ‘bishop’ is derived, and implies a commission to exercise the episcopal office, in the primitive sense at least, in which it was nearly universal when the Epistle was written. What, then, was that primitive sense?

III. The term employed necessarily implies, not only the pastoral offices, but such a general superintendence and leadership as shall render the whole organisation more effective, by strengthening the weaker parts and connections of the system, by adding to the system when necessary, by correcting defects and errors with wholesome word and example, and, whenever occasion requires, by standing between the flock and the wolf, between the Church and its foes, no matter at what personal risk to the bishop himself. Authority is implied of course, a regulated authority, so to speak a constitutional authority. The bishop, to rule well, must obey well; not as lording it over the flock, but as their example. His example must illustrate his injunctions, which are sanctioned alike by the Word of Christ and by such Church laws as have that Word for their authentic principle. The ‘rulers’ or leaders of Hebrew 13 are said to ‘watch for the souls’ of those they rule, as themselves liable to be called to ‘account’ by the common Lord of all, that one true Bishop of bishops as He is also Lord of lords. And all this combined responsibility and authority surely oblige the bishop, even more than his fellow-Christians, clerical or lay, not only, as St. Paul bade Timothy, to ‘give heed to reading, exhortation, and teaching,’ but to prayer also: prayer for the supply of such manifold necessities as his own, intercession for his clerical brethren and for his fellow-Christians, especially those of his own charge and diocese. Look at the example as well as the precept of the great apostolic bishops. ‘I bow my knees for you’; ‘I would ye knew what conflict I have for you,’ conflict carried on upon the knees, for you and the Churches in your region. So wrote Paul to Ephesus and to Colossæ. The omission to watch and pray led to St. Peter’s disastrous fall. The practice of prayer, in the exercise of ‘faith,’ is St. Peter’s prescription in time of danger as the one secret of a successful resistance to the Arch-enemy of the Church, the prowling lion in its fiercest mood. Greatest of all, the Shepherd and Bishop Who saved us by His passion and death, saved and saves us no less by His incessant prayer, the prayers of sleepless nights and days of retirement on earth, and, as we believe, the prayers of His ‘ever-living intercession’ for His people in heaven.

Bishop G. E. Moule.


Verse 4

A MESSAGE FOR WORKERS

‘And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.’

1 Peter 5:4

‘When the Chief Shepherd shall appear.’ As I hear that message it tells me three things.

I. There is a Chief Shepherd.—As we think of our great cities and of the millions of souls living in them, some of them so sad, so lonely, so tempted, it should be everything to us to know that there is a Chief Shepherd Who knows and cares for every one of them; that even those whom we cannot reach ourselves, He knows and tries to protect and care for. When, again, we think of the 800,000,000 of heathen and 180,000,000 of Mohammedans, it is everything to know that this world is not left to itself. There is a Chief Shepherd, and the claim which He makes is ringing unto the ends of the earth. ‘All souls are Mine,’ saith the Lord of Hosts, ‘all souls are Mine.’

II. The Chief Shepherd is near.—When you read your New Testament in the Revised Version you will find that all those passages which speak of His appearing are translated when He is ‘manifested,’ and the old idea, founded, I suppose, on the parable of the man who went into a far country, that Jesus is a long way off somewhere is shown by those passages to be entirely erroneous. He is in the midst of us. There is one standing in our midst Whom we see not but Who is close by, and the word ‘manifested’ means that at the Second Advent the veil will be taken from our eyes at a flash and we shall see Him Who is in the midst of us all the time. It is as if we came into this Church blindfolded, and suddenly, in a flash, the bandage is taken from our eyes and we see the Chief Shepherd Who was there all the time. The Chief Shepherd is not only alive, but near.

III. We shall see the Chief Shepherd.—The one certain thing about our lives, be they long or short, be they sad or merry, is that we shall see the Chief Shepherd. Our eyes shall see Him. The one certain truth is that the Chief Shepherd will see us and that we shall see Him, and the only question that will matter in life will be not ‘What do I think of Jesus Christ,’ but ‘What does He think of me?’

IV. A message for workers.—I need hardly point out what a message that is for all who are working for God. If we forget that our sole task in life is to gather in the thousands of souls, not only here but throughout the whole world, we shall incur the displeasure of the Chief Shepherd, because we only live to gather in souls for whom He died and whom He loves. ‘All souls are Mine,’ saith the Lord of Hosts. Then every day, every night, with every power we have, before He comes again and before we see Him, let us seek to gather that great flock in all parts of the world. What does He say about you? He says two things.

(a) Can the Chief Shepherd rely upon you? He says, ‘Upon this rock I will build My Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ He is building on you. The one hope of having a really missionary, loyal-hearted, honourable, God-fearing Church is on the laity who believe, and I want to ask you whether you are failing the Chief Shepherd in that place where He has placed you? In that warehouse or office, are you a man He can depend upon, a man of God, the one who witnesses, who is perfectly certain to be firm and will not have bad language used in the presence of boys or in his own presence, who stands up for truth and honesty in all dealings. Remember that Jesus Christ, the Chief Shepherd, Whom you have to see one day, and Who sees you now, looks to you as a rock man.

(b) Are you gathering? Then again, ‘He that is not with Me is against Me, and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth.” If that does not mean that a man is not a Christian who takes no part in missionary work, I do not know what it means. Whom have you gathered? I ask myself the same question. Whom have I gathered? What a useless clergyman I am if I have gathered no one, what a useless layman you are if you have not gathered any one?

—Bishop A. F. Winnington-Ingram.

Illustration

‘What are the facts? There are 800,000,000 of heathen still who do not believe in Jesus Christ, and 180,000,000 of Mohammedans, and the Church exists to convert the world. There are secondary objects in the Church, but the first object is to convert the world, and in the light of that first fact I ask you what are you going to do about it. The Holy Spirit is only promised to a missionary Church. “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” The secret of the deadness of the Church at home in some parishes is due to the dying of the missionary spirit. The promise of the presence of Jesus Christ is to a missionary parish and missionary circle. A wonderful blessing is vouchsafed to the missions of the Church when they are carried on in the right spirit. The only thing that can stop that is the want of faithful Christians. Jesus could do no mighty work in a certain place because of their unbelief, and it is an awful thought that we may be stopping Christ’s missionary work throughout the world by our want of zeal. Jesus Christ said of the world, “All souls are Mine.” He says of you, “He that is not with Me is against Me; and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth.” When the Chief Shepherd shall appear, we shall find what He expected us to do. You dare not meet Him empty-handed. If in the spirit of pastoral work and pastoral service you live your life, when the Chief Shepherd shall appear you shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.’


Verse 5

THE VIRTUE OF HUMILITY

‘Be clothed with humility.’

1 Peter 5:5

As we consider the great virtue of humility, we must remember whence it springs. It is just one of those virtues which seem to have a special date, and that special date belongs to Christ. There were such very different opinions in the world in the period b.c. and in the period a.d. Christianity has been a great leavener of the world; yet to-day oftentimes humility is rather despised than lifted up. It is not always that we are inclined to preach humility; and why is this? I think oftentimes it is because we misunderstand what true Christian humility really is. Let us therefore consider humility in some of its aspects.

I. Before God.—It is impossible to enter into His Presence and to realise Him in any sense without feeling humility. Yet there is a difficulty with some people, and perhaps with those who are blessed with great intellect. The gift and power of a great intellect has its great temptations and its great troubles. But if those who have the great intellect will remember that whatever they have is the gift and power from God, there should be little difficulty for the most high in intellect to be humble in the Presence of God. But, as a rule, it is those who think themselves gifted and who are in themselves very conceited who find it difficult to be humble before God or before their superiors. With them it is littleness of knowledge, not greatness of knowledge, which makes the difficulty in their humility. But what trust and confidence true humility before God gives us, how it helps us to wait upon our God, just because we enter humbly into His Presence and know that we are not worthy of the least of His favours! Oh, how it teaches us to wait humbly and patiently for all that He will do for us, having little ourselves, and yet knowing that we possess all in Him and through Him!

II. In our estimate of self.—Sometimes when we talk of humility we are rather inclined to confuse self-depreciation with self-knowledge, which are two entirely different things. Humility is not self-depreciation, but humility does come from self-knowledge. If we see our many failings and our many feeblenesses in life, that in itself brings about humility of character. Yes, we need to be clothed with humility as regards ourselves. We do not want to depreciate ourselves, but we want to know ourselves, and I am quite sure when we do know ourselves an honest knowledge of self must bring a sense of humility. Sometimes people are inclined to depreciate themselves and call themselves humble, and be humble, in a sense, to avoid responsibilities and to avoid difficulties; but this is not Christian humility. We all know how we may be clothed with humility and with what spirit of humility to be clothed. Let us pray for such humility in our estimate, and not depreciation, of ourselves.

III. In our relationship towards others.—What is meant by humility here? I think that, again, is often misunderstood. I do not think it is putting one’s self in a false position and trying to occupy a place not ours, neither calling one’s self by another name and renouncing one’s natural calling and place in life. All this may be exceptional, and may be sometimes demanded of us, but not generally. But how are we to be clothed with humility as regards others? Is it not by accepting positions rather than by seeking positions, not assuming higher or lower positions for ourselves? Is it not by humbly forwarding the interests and claims of others and therein and thereby showing true humility, especially if the last or worst position is left to us by what we have done in the interests of our neighbours? Is it not in being ready to do the humblest action to help another, remembering the action and words of Christ when He took a towel and girded Himself and washed His disciples’ feet? The beauty of true humility is surely seen in the grace with which it is worn and the meaning with which it is used.

IV. The chief danger is in the motive of the wearer.—A man may so desire to be clothed with humility as to deceive his friends and gain some low end; a man may seek to be clothed with humility in order that he may shirk responsibility and avoid some of the highest duties of life; a man may seek to be clothed with humility because the sort of humility he professes he thinks will bring him admiration and therefore advance his self-conceit, which he travesties by the name of humility. Nay, it seems to me all such humility is vain. The only true humility is the humility which has for its end, at all events, the good of others and the accepting or the occupying of the position in which we can advance that cause by any action of our own, however lowly that action may be. Such humility leads us to follow Christ, to minister to the wants of others. Such humility leads us to do actions, however humble, for the benefit of our fellow-men. Such humility teaches us our own littleness, and makes us trust more in our God and in His help. Such humility encourages us to gentle submission and patient waiting on the Will of our God.

Rev. Prebendary De Salis.

(SECOND OUTLINE)

THE CHRISTIAN GARMENT

I. What is humility?—Let us first be clear as to what it is not.

(a) It is not a morbid contemplation of our own corruptions. It is possible to deplore our sins and yet to be very unwilling to part with them.

(b) It is not a feigned depreciation of ourselves and our work, in the secret hope that those to whom we speak may contradict us.

(c) It does not consist in underrating the powers with which God may have endowed us, and perhaps declining work to which He is plainly calling us, upon the pretence that we are not equal to undertaking it.

II. True humility is the opposite of self-consciousness.—There are men who are for ever thinking of themselves and the estimate which others form of them, but the truly humble man is not concerned with himself or with what others think of him; he forgets himself, and goes straight forward to do his duty. Humility is essentially a product of the gospel. The Romans had no word in all their literature to express what we mean by it. With them ‘humilitas’ was, with the rarest exceptions, understood in an unworthy sense. It meant baseness, meanness, servility; and as they had not the word, so they were strangers to the thing. The graces which Christianity has made admirable—meekness, humbleness of mind, forbearance, and the like—were unknown to or despised by the ancient world.

II. How humility is shown.

(a) By resignation to the will of God.

(b) Again, humility is shown by submission one to another. This is especially referred to in the passage before us. I am not sure that a truer evidence of the humble spirit is not given by submission one to another than by submission to God. All men will acknowledge that we should submit to God, but to give way to our neighbour does not appear so obvious a duty. Certainly, at times when we may think the demands of others unreasonable and unfair, it requires no little grace to be willing to give way to them. This grace of submission runs counter to the very bent and bias of our nature.

III. Why is humility so needfui?—It is needful for protection. Clothing is worn to shield us from the inclemency of the weather, from biting cold, and from scorching heat. But we may say, with truth, that humility is needful to avert far greater dangers.

(a) It is needed, first, to shield us from the judgment of God. We read here, ‘God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.’ There is no sin so offensive to God as pride, for in Him there is no pride.

(b) Humility is needful also to protect us from the foes that threaten our inward peace. Some men never get the respect paid to them which they think is their due; consequently their days are consumed with jealousy and wounded pride; like Haman, who so long as Mordecai refused to stand up and do him reverence was unable to enjoy all the honour that had been heaped upon him by his sovereign. How different is this spirit from that of the Master.

(c) Humility is needful for the service of man. This, perhaps, is the chief thought in the passage before us, where we read literally, ‘Gird yourselves with humility.’ The word ‘clothe’ here is a technical word relating to the white scarf or apron of slaves, which was fastened to the girdle to distinguish slaves from freemen. And so the Apostle says, ‘Put on the dress of the servant, that you may be willing to wait upon others, and show kindness to those who are in need.’ The great hindrance to service is a reluctance to stoop.

—Rev. E. W. Moore.

Illustration

‘That was a touching story of Bishop Burnet, who “had often meditated on the text, ‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth’ (Matthew 5:5), without satisfying himself as to its true meaning, until one day, in his morning walk, he observed a dwelling more wretched than any he had passed, and, drawing near to it, was surprised to hear from it a voice of joyous praise. He looked in at the window and saw a poor woman, the sole inmate of the cottage, with a piece of black bread and a cup of cold water on a little stool before her. Her eyes and hands were lifted up to heaven as in a rapture of praise, while she repeated, again and again, these words, ‘What, all this, and Jesus Christ too!’” The Bishop returned home, impressed as never before with the power of Christ, not only to reconcile the truly humble soul to the most trying circumstances, but to give a joy in them to which the heirs of earthly inheritances were often strangers.’

(THIRD OUTLINE)

HUMILITY FALSE AND TRUE

I. There is a false ‘humility than which none can be more unlike His, or destructive to the character. It is of three kinds.

(a) There is ‘humility’ of external things: in a mortification of the body—a thing which nature likes to do, and which men generally admire, and call it saintly. But it is a cloke, not a robe. A look—a posture—a ceremony. There is a great deal of self-applause, self-righteousness, conscious goodness. Self is denied on one side to break out gratifying itself on the other side. The body is more vile, but the Spirit is full of self-consequence.

(b) There is another counterfeit which Satan makes and calls ‘humility.’ (For there is never a work of God’s but Satan is ready to counterfeit it.) It is what St. Paul calls, in his Epistle to the Colossians—a ‘voluntary humility’—people thinking themselves unworthy to come to God. They put in other matters that God hath not required, and therefore ‘worship angels.’

(c) And there are those who do not know it, but who, like Peter, are, under an appearance of ‘humility,’ indulging contemptuous pride. ‘Thou shalt never wash my feet.’ ‘I am not good enough to be saved. I am not worthy to come to the Lord’s Supper. I cannot believe God loves me.’ What is that but the worst form of pride—giving God the lie, and setting up worthiness as a condition to receive the free gift of God?

II. True humility is to cast yourself so low, that you just take, as a poor, helpless sinner, without a question, all that God is, and all that God gives, and all that God undertakes for you, as all your life, and all your peace, and all your salvation. For remember that this is the grace to which God has promised everything else. If you have been feeling lately more of a miserable nothingness, it is a great token for good. God is preparing you for some great thing. David, who knew very well—always connects a believer’s happiness with a believer’s holiness; the peace always grows in the low places. ‘The humble shall hear, and be glad.’ God ‘gives grace’—not to the proud—but always ‘to the lowly.’ ‘To this man will I look, saith the Lord, even to him that is of an humble and contrite spirit, and that trembleth at My word.’ I earnestly warn you that there is no protection against errors in doctrine, however gross—or evil in practice, however vile, excepting to live very near to God in your own heart, and be down low in the dust, ‘clothed with humility.’ It would not be too much for me to say that, at this moment, the only reason why you have not any good thing you like to name, is, that you are not low enough yet to get it.

III. Christ is coming! Christ is coming! And it is high time to be dressed for His arrival. And in what other robe does it become a forgiven sinner to come in, but to be ‘clothed with humility’?

Rev. James Vaughan.


Verse 7

THE REMEDY FOR CARE

‘Casting all your care [anxiety] upon Him; for he careth for you.’

1 Peter 5:7

In just a few simple words, not as appealing to the intellect, but to the heart, let me seek to enforce the duty and the encouragement which these words of St. Peter set before us.

I. A preliminary inquiry of importance is this: on whom does the duty fall, and who are those that may claim the encouragement? None surely can or will cast their anxieties upon God who have not first cast their sins upon Him. We must feel Him bearing that burden from our consciences before we shall come with confidence to commit our anxieties to Him. It is to the tried friend alone that we entrust the secrets of our soul. It is to the warm, loving, parental heart and to the strong parental arm that the child turns with confidence when any cloud, be it never so trivial or transient, passes over the brightness of its young life. So with ourselves. I can never cast my anxiety upon God till I see Him, in Christ, blotting out my transgressions and casting all my sins behind His back. I cannot approach Him as a child till I know Him as a Father. He may be quite willing to bear my troubles, and to guide and comfort me under them; but I do not know it or feel it till I know and feel Him to be a reconciled and loving Father in Christ Jesus. Not till then shall I even care to cast my care upon Him.

II. Observe how personal it is.—‘Your anxiety’; yours, each one of you. And what does St. Peter mean by ‘anxiety’? He does not mean anxiety as to the soul, but anxiety in matters relating to this life that now is: things which in their endless variety are connected with the Christian’s present experience in the various relations and duties to which he is called; matters, moreover, which, when allowed to press upon him as cares, interrupt his communion with God, and hinder his growth in Divine things. And who does not know what such care is? Who has not some anxiety to cast away? For, remember, God has never told His children that they shall be without anxieties. They are inseparable from our condition in this world. It is in human nature to feel them, and God wishes us to feel them; they are essential in God’s spiritual government. But when rightly received, and rightly used, and rightly passed through, they will be found to be blessings, even though they appear in disguise. Now these, whatever they are, whatever their nature, their number, their magnitude, with all their causes and anticipated consequences, with all their disquietudes, and fears, and connected circumstances, you are permitted—nay invited—to cast upon God. And mark, ‘all’ of them, ‘casting all your anxiety.’ Your heavenly Father would have you keep no part back from Him; there are no cares so little that you may not take them to Him; and none so little that He will not be willing to take them from you. Nothing is too trifling or too insignificant for His regard. Everything which vexes or perplexes may be laid before the Father’s mercy-seat. This is your privilege. You may take your anxieties to God, and cast them—all of them—upon Him. He encourages you, nay, He expects you, to do so. And remember you are to leave them there with Him. Some of us are willing enough to take them, but we bring them away again. We no sooner throw the load off but we pick it up again, and carry it with all its discomfort, as if we had not a heavenly Father to take it from us. Oh! for more faith, more simple obedience, more trustful reliance, in His power, His promises, and His love.

III. But turn to the encouragement.—‘He careth for you.’ What stronger assurance do you require than this, ‘He careth for you’? How many a heart is broken in this unkind world by feeling that one does not care for us who ought to do so? It is not only that a misplaced confidence leads to disappointment; unreturned love wastes the strength and breaks the heart. But the conviction that one cares for us, a father for a child, or a friend for a friend, guarantees goodwill and any interposition which our case may demand. If you care for a person you will go through fire and water to serve him, and the conviction that you care for him will inspire comfort and reliance in his heart. Are there few such friendships in this selfish world? We place little confidence in one another, because we have each of us an end to serve for ourselves, and because so few of us really care for one another. But God brings Himself very near to His people. See Him stooping down, with His great loving heart, from His throne in the heavens. Hear the voice which once said, ‘Let there be light,’ now gently saying to the poor vexed disciple before Him, ‘Thou shalt call Me Abba, Father.’ This is the secret of it all: it is not God’s Providence; it is God’s paternal love; it is the care which is implied in that relationship. ‘I will be a Father unto them, and they shall be My people.’ There may be some who do not care for Him, but ‘He careth for you.’ In spite of all your indifference and sins, He careth for you. He has opened His heart to you. He has made known the way of life to you. He has given His only-begotten Son to die for you. He protects you, and feeds you, and bears with you though you care not for Him.

IV. God has a special care for His true people, for those who have felt their need of a Saviour, and have cast themselves upon Christ, as one suitable, sufficient, and perfect. ‘Can a woman,’ He says, ‘forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion upon the son of her womb?’ No earthly love can exceed a mother’s. How she watches her babe, and lays it to sleep in her bosom, and fondles it, and laughs with it, and weeps with it; nay, sacrifices her own life for it. But, says God, ‘they may forget’—there are mothers who do forget—‘yet will I not forget thee’; and what can you need more? May I not appeal to some of you and ask whether you have not experienced this—whether, looking back to-day upon your past life, you can have any doubt in this particular, or in that, that God’s hand ordered it for you, when there was no power or wisdom in you to order it for yourself? Has He not shown you in repeated instances that He was thinking of you, when perhaps you were too little thinking of Him? Yes; the Lord careth for His people, and His care for them is, like Himself, unchangeable, never failing. How wretched is the condition of those who do not know what it is to be able to cast their anxieties upon God! No wonder you see such persons fretful and anxious and distracted, full of complaints of life, dissatisfied often in the midst of plenty, regarding trifles as grievous calamities, unhappy, fearful, and desponding. No wonder you see some stooping wearily under their anxieties, and well-nigh crushed by their weight. Is this your case; is it so that you know nothing of the power and solace of true religion? Begin, I say, to-day, and make real heart-work of it; you will never be happy till you rise above these cares. Whatever care oppresses you now, cast it upon your God. Is it difficult to do it? So the word implies. Just then as he stoops low, and looks far, and aims high, who throws a stone at a mark, so must you do; it must be done by earnest, humble, persevering faith. And, depend upon it, for your comfort, there are no heartbreakings and disappointments here. God never said to any, ‘Seek ye My face’ in vain. He will exceed His word of promise rather than come short of it. ‘Be careful for nothing,’ He says, ‘but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God, and then the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall guard your heart and mind, through Christ Jesus.’ Let us take Him at His word.

—Rev. Prebendary Eardley-Wilmot.

Illustration

‘A strange thing is taking place in this church to-day. Here is an assembly of persons, of whom there is not one who has not some kind of anxiety upon his mind; and here is the minister to stand up and say, “There is One Who is as willing as He is able, and Who is as able as He is willing, to take all those ‘cares’ upon Him.” And one would have thought, that the first instant that such a thing as that was proclaimed, there would be a thousand hearts start up, each one anxious to come and “cast” his burden and his grief upon Him. Will it be so? Here is the minister, with all his “care” towards you, and his fearful and unhappy hearers, urging them and beseeching them, perhaps for the hundredth time, only that they would let God ease them of all their troubles; and if, out of this crowd—this crowd of angry, unquiet souls—one, only one, should receive the grace of God and be happy, the minister would think it a most honoured sermon—a day greatly to be remembered. You ask, Why is this? You do not believe it. If you did believe it—that you might come and “cast” every “care” you have “upon God Who careth for you,” you would come. You do not believe it.’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

GOD’S INDIVIDUAL CARE

If there should be at this moment in this congregation one who should say to himself, ‘No; not for me. I am alone. God cannot mean it for me,’ I would, with emphasis, say to that one, ‘The Lord careth for you.’

I. None of us have a right idea of the individual feeling God has to us.—We are apt, in this matter, to measure God by ourselves; and because to us it would be an impossible effort to hold deep sympathy with a great many persons at the same moment, because at the best we only feel a general interest for the benefit of the many with whom we have to do, therefore we are in the habit of supposing that God lays down a certain general rule of kindness towards us, that He does not interpose in any particular manner for each one of His children’s welfare. But that which is a pleasure to infinite benevolence can never be a difficulty to infinite omnipotence. Is it a principle in my mind that I can only take an interest in anything just in proportion as it is dear to me? And may I not argue from that feeling in my own breast up to the infinite Creator of all things, and see in the fact that He created every atom, that He has an individual interest in every atom? And if an earthly father can have a tender affection for each one of his children—so that his love is not less for each individual because it extends to them all—how shall I doubt that the great Parent of all has an individual affection for each one of His great family?

II. And Scripture confirms the thought.—It tells us of One Who ‘counts the hairs’ and ‘telleth all our wanderings.’ It speaks of Him as a Brother ‘touched with every feeling of our infirmities,’ and that ‘in all our affliction He was afflicted’; and that ‘the Angel of His presence saveth us.’ He writes ‘sighs’ in ‘a book’; He puts ‘tears’ in a ‘bottle.’ He ‘calls every man by his own name.’ He ‘keeps us as the apple of the eye.’ ‘Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you.’

III. Or, if all other arguments fail, have not we experienced it?—Have not there been certain prayers which you have offered and which have come back in most singular precision? Have not there been strange interpositions of the Divine Providence in years past on your behalf? Can those years tell no tales of individual love? Has not He sometimes spoken to you so distinctly that it is like a voice, and you have known it? Has not the Word preached sometimes come home to you with an irresistible power—as if it were God, at that moment, dealing with you Himself? When you have gone wrong have you not had some singular checks and things to bring you back from those wanderings? And every moment of your life have not you been fed and guided? Have you not been guarded, delivered, and blessed every hour? Oh, why should any of us doubt that God has a personal affection and ‘care’ for these bodies and these souls?

IV. If, at this moment, that little thin veil which separates the two worlds could be drawn aside, we should see such a look on God’s face that we should never doubt it again. And I believe this, that though there be those on earth that love you, and of whose sympathy you feel quite sure, yet that far more tenderly does Jesus love you; and all that love of father, mother, brother, sister, husband, wife, is nothing compared to the tenderness and devotedness of your heavenly Father’s love. So it is no unreal thing when we read, ‘The Lord careth for you.’

Illustration

‘I fear too little prayerful consideration is felt by the Church in behalf of her Christian men of business. Sustaining responsibilities, burdened with cares, depressed by anxieties well-nigh crushing—earnestly desirous, and that very desire intensifying their feelings that integrity and uprightness should preserve them, that by no faltering, no receding, no departure from the strictest line of Christian consistency should the cause of Christ be dishonoured and their Christian character be compromised—are they sufficiently borne upon our sympathies and prayers? Do we, in measure, make their burdens, their dangers, their anxieties our own? Do we ask for them of God the grace that will keep them in prosperity, and for the strength and comfort that will sustain and soothe them under the pressure and perils of anxious care? Does the Church of God sufficiently sympathise with her Christian merchants?’

(THIRD OUTLINE)

THE BURDEN AND THE BURDEN-BEARER

We are dealing not with what may be called the normal care, which in some form or other must be the lot of every man and woman, without which, indeed, life would be a useless, lotus-eating, existence—care, which is the necessary accompaniment of all work honestly done, whether with the hands or the head, even to our first parents before the Fall; but anxiety, restless, carking care, which saps the mind rather than disciplines it, which comes in some guise to most of us, which we are bidden not to hug, not to crouch under, as trembling captives in the hand of a stronger, but to cast it from us.

I. St. Peter’s direction amounts to a command to throw off from us our anxieties, the cares that distract the mind, and cast them upon God. But some will say, Are we not to bring our normal cares and duties to God, and commit them to Him for His help and His blessing? Surely we are, and at all times, if we are to discharge these duties, be they what they may, in a right spirit, and with hope of true success; but we are here dealing with a precept of a different kind. Our normal cares and duties we must bear, and not seek to evade or cast aside. Duties, however toilsome and wearying, are things to be done, or, at any rate, to be honestly essayed, not things to be mourned over and evaded if possible. But the anxiety, the worry if you will so call it, from whatsoever cause arising, is a thing which St. Peter bids us to cast on God; and the Saviour Himself tells us that we are not to distract ourselves with anxious cares as to the morrow—that morrow will have its own crop of cares when it comes. The tense of the word ‘casting,’ combined with the manner in which ‘all’ is expressed, shows that the precept does not mean simply, ‘As each fresh cause for anxiety arises, cast it from you on God; get rid of each as it arises.’ It is more than that: sum up in one effort all the efforts of your life, and cast in that one effort all life’s anxiety on Him. With life’s efforts thus gathered up into one, with life’s whole anxiety as it were anticipated, no cause can arise which should distract the Christian’s heart. True it is that this is an ideal to which few can rise, but what Christian grace is there to which believers here on earth can do more than struggle towards, and the further they advance in the course the more does the ideal move on before them, nobler, and fairer, and purer, as they struggle on towards it. The greatest of the Apostles hesitated not to speak of himself as ‘chief of sinners’; and tells us that he had not attained, but followed after, pressing on to the mark.

II. The Burden-Bearer.—But there is one point specially to notice in this injunction of the Apostle. We are not merely to cast away from us our cares and anxieties; we are to cast them upon God. It is not a mere stoical fatalism which we are bidden to cultivate, a physical and mental hardness, trained into such a self-reliance that it submits, grimly and silently, when resistance is impossible. If this were all, no nobler type could be found than the North American Indians of a past generation, whose endurance of sufferings without a groan, when they fell into the hands of their foes, seems to go beyond the bounds of human belief. This is stoicism indeed, but what is enjoined upon the Christian is very different from this. The burden of anxiety is not to be got rid of, as when we fling something from us vaguely, not knowing where it will fall, regardless perhaps whether others will be somehow affected by this action of ours. Sometimes a man’s flinging off of his anxieties amounts to their being laid on the backs of others, less strong perhaps to endure than himself. ‘Casting all your care upon God’: it is the last two words which differentiate the precept from the stoical endurance of the heathen, from the selfish indifference of the merely nominal Christian. Cast it upon God: His Infinite Love will receive all the manifold cares and anxieties of our finite humanity; and as we seek to obey the command, He will furnish the remedy that best suits the individual care. The man who brings the anxiety to God, struggling, however feebly, to the steps of the Throne, the steps which reach from earth to heaven, is not actuated by the thought not looking beyond the centre of self—I must get rid of my burden, fall it where it may. He takes it, as he is bidden, to his Father. His obedience therein to that Father’s command is itself a training for a fuller knowledge of that Father, is a help which shall fit him more for that Father’s home.

III. One thought more.—There is, indeed, something inexpressibly soothing in the thought of bringing our anxieties to our Heavenly Father, and leaving them with Him; but, one will ask, May I? Surely, yes. St. Peter does not leave his message half told. God, Who bade the Apostle to pen the injunction, bade him also to add the assurance, the promise, ‘for He careth for you.’ This word care moves on totally different lines from the other; it has to do with attention and regard, which may in its higher form amount to affectionate interest. Great truth of truths, ‘God careth for us.’ It is not merely a hope, a dream, a beautiful ideal fancy. It is a solid fact, unmovable like the solid rock; it is His own definite declaration and promise. In full reliance on Him Whose bounty in His promises and His gifts exceeds our readiness to avail ourselves of them, let us cast the burden of our anxiety before Him, and leave it with Him, that thus having ‘laid aside every weight’ we may serve Him with lightened hearts and minds ‘till this world’s twilight breaks in fullest day.’

Rev. Dr. Sinker.

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‘Hard it is often to tear the anxiety from our hearts, where else it takes root and spreads like a cancer, and cast it upon God as He Himself has bidden us. Yet in this, as in other Christian duties, some noble examples stand before us. Think of that Valiant-for-Truth, Bishop Nicholas Ridley, who could sleep with the calm slumber of a child on his last night on earth, though he knew that on the morrow the awful death at the stake awaited him. Think of holy Rowland Taylor, one of the first victims of the Marian Reign of Terror, who on his way to his fiery martyrdom could cheerfully tell the sheriff, “I have only two stiles to go over, and I am even at my Father’s house.” Or take one more instance where God’s Providence ended the matter differently. Take the saintly Bernard Gilpin, “the Apostle of the North,” whose comment in every trouble was, “It is all for the best,” and who, when being led up to London for trial before Bonner in the last year of Mary’s reign, happened to fall and break his leg; and to the taunt, “Is this, too, all for the best, Master Gilpin?” could answer, “I doubt it not, since it is God’s will.” Happily before his leg was healed the persecutor died, and Gilpin’s life was saved for future usefulness. Very few of us can rise to such heights as this, but we can set it as an ideal before us to aim at. It is a thing, indeed, to be aimed at and struggled for, and, above all, prayed for.’


Verse 8-9

THE PERSONALITY OF EVIL

‘Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist stedfast in the faith.’

1 Peter 5:8-9

‘Your adversary the devil’—is he a figure of speech, or a real person? I venture to ask you to consider that question to-day. It is a venture, because it requires some courage in these days to ask men to bring the belief in the personality of evil out of the dim and obscure regions in which they leave it and to face it as a practical fact. But if there be a personal power of evil using all the defects of body, or of mind, or imagination to attract or impel what is wrong, if that belief is involved in the very authority which gives us the hope and strength of Christianity, then it has a very real being upon our practical struggle. To ignore it is to wage our warfare for nothing, and to involve the issue from the first in a great mistake. If we believe, as I do from the bottom of my heart, that the recognition of the personal power of evil gives enormous strength and decisiveness to the moral conflict, then to ignore it, or to leave it to some dim, undetermined region, must bring corresponding feebleness and uncertainty. The question, indeed, which I have put to you goes to the very root of the most practical issue which every life must face.

I. How am I to explain, to deal with, and it may be to overcome, this evil which I know is within and around me?—For sooner or later every man must face for himself the problem of the origin of evil. A man may be settling down to the assumption that evil, after all, comes from circumstances. It is involved in them, and cannot be dealt with until they are removed. This is a truth, but a half-truth. The reformer passionately seizes it, and struggles rightly to remove and change the conditions which he thinks are the sources of evil. But if this is the only explanation, then while, on the one hand, he is building a country on improved conditions, on the other he is sapping the only foundation upon which this can securely rest—the foundation of individual responsibility. For let a man really believe that the evil which he knows comes from circumstances, and the power of personal resistance will be blunted, and the sense of personal responsibility will be quenched. He will blame everything and everybody rather than himself. Thus he stands still or falls backwards. Or again, the mind drifts into the tendency of regarding evil as due to some inherent corruption of our human nature. It is, alas! true; but, once again, it is only a half-truth, and if it is regarded as a whole truth it results sooner or later in that resentment against human nature, that distrust of its capacity and desires, which we see in the gloom and the exaggeration of the ascetic.

II. Whence, in the last resource, comes the attractiveness of evil—whence comes this tendency to violate the true order, and pass into the wrongness which certainly was not in the purpose of God? Was it due to some inherent spontaneous malignity? Then, if it was, you are back again in the old belief that evil is inherent in human nature, which is the cause of all the hopelessness and feebleness of moral struggle. And thus, amid all this natural and inevitable groping of the human mind, there comes the declaration which has been made from the very first by that historic religion through which the Spirit of God has been training the spirit and the thought of men. It declares that man was made good, meant to be good, is capable of goodness, yea, is capable of being a partaker of the Divine Nature. It declares that the first impulse to an abuse of freewill came from an external power, and that mankind has passed under its sway, but that that sway has been met and broken by the entry into our human nature of the Redeemer, the Son of Man.

III. This truth is presented by our Christian faith in two striking ways: first of all, in the Divine allegory in which the Spirit of God, making use of the Eastern imagery, reveals to man all that he can know or needs to know about the nature and purpose of his creation. Evil is revealed as this intruding power coming upon and thwarting the will of man. ‘The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.’ Next, and more impressive, from the bewilderment and confusion of man’s mistake of his own true nature, there shone forth in the clear light of an historic person God’s ideal of human life—human nature as God meant it to be, in the Person of Jesus Christ. He is represented to us as sharing the fulness of our human nature, as absolutely free from sin, and yet as tempted. Whence came the power of that temptation of God’s own manhood? ‘Then was Jesus led up of the spirit in the wilderness’—shall we say to be tempted by some subtle attractiveness in His own nature towards disobedience? It is impossible. We cannot understand the Christian faith unless we believe the words which follow—‘to be tempted of the devil.’ And thus the truth of the personality of evil is involved in the Christian faith. It is impossible to read its records without seeing that it was of the spirit of that faith presented to the first Christians.

IV. Do not put behind you this fact of a personal evil, but carry it out into the details of your daily conflict.—It must make an enormous difference. It means that, instead of thinking that there is some natural law which is stronger than I am overwhelming me, or some inherent vice of my nature which I cannot resist, which confronts me in my temptation—instead of this, there is a personal will against whom I can pit myself. And upon the side of man there is the everlasting will of strength and the power of goodness. If I believe that, I can go into the struggle with decisiveness and courage and hope. ‘Be sober,’ says St. Peter, remembering your adversary the devil. Be sober—the sobriety of men who recollect the gravity of the issue of the things they do.

V. And lastly, ‘resist stedfast in the faith.’—St. John describes the vision of the unseen which he saw. It was the vision of the kingdom of the world become the kingdom of our God and of His Christ, ‘for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.’ ‘And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.’ They overcame by their testimony. This is wonderfully described in the words of St. Paul when he speaks of Christ blotting out the handwriting of ordinances (Colossians 2:14). ‘And having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.’ It is the picture of the strong man entering our human nature, and casting off the bonds as Samson cast off the cords of the Philistines, and implanting and restoring there the prevailing power of the righteousness of God. And it is in that faith that we can make headway, steadfast and sure. In our own nature, in the world that lies around us, it seems almost impossible to resist the stream of evil. But we who have this faith know that somehow, somewhere, good will win—that evil has been by a supreme struggle wrecked and vanquished by the Lord of life.

—Archbishop Lang.

Illustration

‘I do not say that we could of ourselves perhaps have imagined or thought out this personal will of evil, but at least it can be said that when it is given to us on the authority of the Christian faith, we find that it violates no point of reason, that it does interpret the experience of human life. There are mysteries around us on every side as great, as puzzling to the mind, day by day. We see that mystery of unseen human wills moving out upon and changing and modifying the natural forces of things. If we believe in God at all, we come across a personal will lying behind the whole system of natural laws, moving through them, controlling them; and to believe that there are superhuman agencies at work, some of them embodiments of evil influence, adds no fundamental difficulties to those which already exist. And certainly the belief does interpret for us the facts of human experience. I know not how to explain the nature God has given me; I know not how to escape from the very bitterness of His contempt, unless I believe that at such a moment the personal presence of the will of evil is revealed to my conscience. There are overwhelming difficulties; we cannot speculate what may be the relationship between the different forms in which this power of evil works. We cannot understand the life of man as it is dimly seen in our own experience; we certainly cannot understand the character of man as it is perfectly revealed in the Son of Man, unless we believe with St. Paul that our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

THE NEED OF WATCHFULNESS

Beware of that drowsy slumber which destroys the very springs of the spirit’s life. To your soberness add vigilance. Watch against that slothful indifference which would leave your days and hours to flow as they please or as they may chance, not as you, in the strength of God, determine that they shall.

I. But why is this watchfulness needed?—Why is every moment so full of danger? Why do the fairest fruits and flowers of life so often turn to poison; the most sinless joys and duties of life so often lead to sin? ‘Your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.’ It is ‘from the deceits of the world, the flesh, and the devil’ that you pray to be delivered. The world would be no world at all, it would be the glorious kingdom of your Father; the flesh would be no flesh, it would be the sinless body of the Resurrection; if there were not that ‘murderer from the beginning’ who brought the curse upon both. We are weak, but weakness need not be sin. We might love the world—God loves it, and it is beautiful—but the father of lies is here to persuade us in our weakness to become prodigal sons, to teach us so to gaze upon this world as to forget our Father’s love. He watches, though you may not. He is ever wakeful and vigilant, though your eyes may be closed and your slumbers deep. He waits to lead your blindness to a false step, to turn your false step into a stumble, your stumble into a fall, your fall into death.

II. Have you ever thought that in your light, unguarded moments there is actually an evil spirit watching for your destruction, that ‘your adversary, the devil, walketh about seeking whom he may devour?’ ‘Seeking whom,’ and who is it that the devil may most easily destroy? Who is it that is most open to the attacks of Satan? Who is it that dares to venture among the dangers and temptations of the day without first solemnly committing his soul to God? Who is it that is passing through life with a confident and careless step, and because he will not think of his peril fancies that there is none? Who is it that is content to be swayed by the impulse of the moment, the chance company of the hour, the light and trifling talk which may happen to meet his ear? Who is it that hears it said that the way to life is narrow, and few can find it, and yet makes no hearty effort to enter there? Who is it that knows he is beset by the fiery darts of the evil one, and is content to know it and to sleep? Who is the slothful, the indifferent, the lukewarm? Your adversary the devil is seeking whom he may devour.

III. You are compassed about with a cloud of witnesses.—There is joy in heaven when you manfully resist temptation. There is a triumph in hell when you believe the lie that bids you forget your heavenly home. The more you try to cast your care upon God, the more deeply will you feel the awfulness of life; the more you feel your own utter helplessness in the presence of your enemy, the more hopefully will you fly to the ‘strong Son of God’ that you may hide under the shadow of His wings; the more you learn of the power of evil, the more earnest will be your gaze upon the Cross of your salvation. And so does the awful warning of the text return to the heavenly promise, and the heavenly promise brings you back to the awful warning. The promise is so strengthening because the warning is so stern. And St. Peter presses both together upon your mind, and both together issue in this one command, the watchword of your life, ‘Whom resist, stedfast in the faith.’ Resist your enemy, because your Friend is near and strong. Resist, because you have your Father’s Name written upon your forehead—steadfast in the faith that the Lamb shall overcome, for He is King of Kings, and Lord of Lords; the faith that He Who placed you in this world of trial will certainly keep you from evil; the faith that His strength shall be made perfect in your weakness; and in all these things you are more than conqueror through Him that loved you.

Illustration

‘“I went last Tuesday on a hunting party,” wrote Luther to a friend, “and spent two days in learning this bitter-sweet amusement of heroes. We caught two hares and some partridges—certainly a most fitting employment for idle men! but I occupied myself with theological contemplations even among the nets and dogs; and amid the amusement which the spectacle afforded me, there arose a mysterious feeling of pity and pain: for what does the same represent, but a vivid portraiture of how the devil, by his impious huntsmen and hounds, pursues and hunts after poor simple souls, as those here after the innocent beasts! and thereupon followed a still more frightful image and sign, for at my entreaty, a leveret having been caught alive, I wrapped it in my sleeve, and went away with it, when behold! the dogs sprang upon it, bit it through my coat, and then strangled it. And so likewise does Satan rage against rescued souls.”’

(THIRD OUTLINE)

DANGER AND SAFETY

St. Peter had himself been tempted, had himself conspicuously and signally fallen beneath the tempter’s assault. His denial of his Master was doubtless well known among the early Christians. And his repentance and forgiveness were equally well known, both as a matter of tradition, and as evidenced by his newness of life. It was most appropriate that, in the fulfilment of his apostleship, he should fulfil the command of the Lord: ‘When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.’

I. The Christian’s danger.—This is from an unseen and spiritual adversary, the devil. Such teaching is in accordance with Scripture generally, which represents both our temptations and our succours as proceeding from the invisible world. This enemy is—

(a) Malicious, bent upon the harm, especially of those who are seeking to live a holy life.

(b) Active, ‘walking about,’ putting forth strenuous efforts, leaving no means unemployed to lead God’s people astray.

(c) Destructive, having a purpose to devour, to injure, and to ruin those whom he besets. It is not wise to ignore danger: forewarned is forearmed.

II. The Christian’s safety.—This lies in—

(a) Our control of self. Sobriety becomes the soldier on guard, the sentry at his post. So with the Christian warrior, who needs beware, lest he be carried away by his own desires for earthly good. Watchfulness is an incessant duty. He who is not vigilant will be surprised; for Satan sleeps not. Did Peter remember the reproach of the Master: ‘Could ye not watch with Me one hour?’

(b) Our resistance of the adversary. The Christian warrior is forbidden to retire; his safety lies, not in flight, but in an uncompromising resistance. Faith is the principle of steadfastness; he who relies upon an unseen helper alone can discomfort an unseen foe.

(c) Our fellowship with the saints. St. Peter reminds the tempted that their brethren throughout the world suffer the same assaults. None is free from the attacks of the foe. A united resistance must be offered. The Church of Christ is an army, and each soldier is strengthened by the fidelity and steadfastness of his comrades. Whilst our chief dependence is upon the invisible Captain of our salvation, we shall be strong whilst we stand shoulder to shoulder in the ranks of the consecrated host.


Verse 10

STEPS TOWARDS PERFECTION

‘But the God of all grace, Who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.’

1 Peter 5:10

If the Christian danger is that of drifting, there can be no doubt that the Christian’s need is that of perfection. You and I can be satisfied with nothing short of trying for this perfection, ‘Be ye perfect, even as your Father Which is in heaven is perfect.’ How, then, are we to try for this perfection? How can we gain it? By man’s effort and by God’s grace, the former hopeless without the latter; the latter only given on condition of the former. In order to gain, or try our best to gain this perfection, we must first of all cultivate a sense of need, and, I think, that may be best done by considering for what God has made us, and what He means us to be, contrasted with what we are, and what even now we might be, if we really tried our utmost. This comparison, carefully and honestly worked out, will result in our attaining to another essential of perfection, another great means whereby we may advance towards perfection, and that is a deep conviction of sin.

I. Conviction of sin.—It is one of the most difficult things in the world to get this deep conviction of sin. It is an intellectual difficulty, for we hardly know what sin is; and it is a moral difficulty, for when we know that certain things are contrary to the law of God, and sin, as we know, is the transgression of the law, we are so blind that we are not able to understand the exceeding sinfulness of sin. This difficulty is accounted for by a variety of circumstances. There is our great familiarity with sin which is around us, about us, within and without us, wherever we go. But, after all, this conviction of sin should not be so hard to attain if we really are anxious to know what sin is, and God has in nature and in revelation made it pretty clear to any one who has eyes to see and ears to hear what a terrible thing this transgression of the law of God really is. Look into the world around, and see the misery and the devastation which is caused by sin. The various plans for the amelioration of the human race need to be followed up and to be carefully watched and continued; but, after all, sin, with its terrible consequences, will never be altogether eradicated, and some trouble will never altogether cease. Or if you turn from the world to revelation, what do we see as to God’s judgment with regard to sin? Take but two examples: take the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, acknowledged by all as He is to be the best and holiest of men, absolutely sinless, and yet He Who knew no sin became sin for us. What does it all mean? It means nothing else than this: the horror of God at the smallest sin. Or, once again, look at another revelation which we have in Scripture—I mean the revelation of hell. There can be no question in our mind, whether we look at the world as we know it, or think of the Cross, or think of hell, as to the awfulness of sin in the sight of God; and this thought should lead us to a deeper conviction of the exceeding sinfulness of sin. And if it does, if there is this sense of need and this conviction of sin, then there must follow, cannot but follow, a determination to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, to leave no stone unturned in order that we may work out that repentance whereby we forsake sin.

II. Repentance of sin.—Repentance is another step towards perfection. It clears the way for the full working of that which alone can make us perfect, the indwelling presence of Christ. For this repentance, for this clearing of the way for the incoming and the indwelling of Christ, there must be first sorrow for sin. One of the chief works of the Holy Ghost is to convince the world of sin, and one of the chief duties of the Church, working by the Holy Spirit, is to help us in attaining this contrition of sorrow. Repentance, of course, is even more than this godly sorrow; repentance is a change of life towards God, a change of heart and mind towards God and towards sin; but this godly sorrow is a step towards repentance—repentance which leads us to Christ, and it is of this repentance that this godly sorrow is an integral part; it is this godly sorrow which is so hard to get; it is this godly sorrow for which you and I must for ever be beseeching the throne of grace, and we may be sure that if we do really ask for it God will not withhold it from us.

III. Acknowledgment of sin.—And if there is this godly sorrow—a sorrow which is by far the most important part of repentance because it includes everything else—there will then be, I will not say a desire, but a necessity to acknowledge our sins. The detailing to our doctor the sicknesses of our body is but a very shadowy type of the necessity of detailing our sins before God. Of course, we have often to make confession one to another for things we have done wrong to each other. If we have done any harm to any one we are bound—are we not?—to acknowledge that harm. We all acknowledge that if wrong has been done, until such confession has been made, no restoration to entire love and confidence between parent and child, husband and wife, is in any way possible. A guilty secret between those who are in close companionship is the most terrible thing that there can be. But it is not of this sort of confession that I am thinking, rather is it that of which St. John speaks. And this confession of sin, of course, can only be to God. We confess to each other when we have done each other harm; we must confess to God when we have done Him the greatest of harm by transgressing His law, by trampling on His precious Blood, by grieving His Holy Spirit. You and I, whether we like it or not, ought to realise—for we are constantly sinning—that we have to make our confession to God—night after night in our private prayers, day by day, or at any rate Sunday by Sunday, in the public offices of the Church.

IV. Amendment of life.—But with this sorrow for sin and confession of sin there must also go, of course, a full purpose of amendment of life, ‘repentance whereby we forsake sin.’ This, of course, involves two things. It involves turning away from sin, determining that, God being our Helper, we will try our very utmost not to sin again. It does not mean that we shall never sin again; but, of course, it would be the worst possible hypocrisy, and so the worst possible sin, to say one is sorry for one’s sins and then to go and commit them again. It must be repentance whereby we forsake sin. But it must be more than that—it must be restitution, it must be giving up that in which, maybe, we have profited by our sin—paying our debts, restoring things falsely gotten. There must be restitution if we are really anxious to arrive at this perfection. We must be prepared to make apologies for harm done, to make up any quarrels we may have. We must not stand upon our rights. Even after all this is done it is not perfection, but it is on the way to perfection, and I expect that you and I will not get much further than that on the way. If only we can get on the way and trudge along to the end of our lives, we shall in the next world attain our desire; we shall be like Christ, for we shall see Him as He is.

Rev. Canon C. E. Brooke.

(SECOND OUTLINE)

SUFFERING AND ITS RESULTS

Through suffering, and by reason of the suffering, and after the suffering will come four things as they stand in this well-ordered text. ‘Make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.’

I. By the first, I understand that God will knit you together; one part with another.—So that, as we say of anything which is entire and unbroken, ‘It is perfect,’ so it will be with you. Your mind, your affections, and your soul, and your body one, living for the same end, living the same life, by the same Christ. Yourself—what can never be said of anybody but a Christian—yourself one man, a whole, ‘perfect.’ Some may not see the power of this promise. But those who have known the trouble of being—even within the little compass of their own little selves—not one man, but many—such oppositions in themselves, such strange contradictions, such clashings of one part with another, such rushings of counter-tides of feelings—they will treat it as a blessed thing. God will unite you. He will tune every string of life to one pitch. It shall be all harmony. He will make you ‘perfect’ and true—true to your higher nature, and true to yourself; He will ‘perfect’ you.

II. Then, made one with yourself, His one Spirit pervading and animating the whole being, He will ‘stablish’ you, give you firmness and stability. Like a house upon a rock. Now is not it exactly what you want? Not feelings, principles, ‘stability.’ You shall feel your foundation under you faster and deeper than the everlasting hills! Then you will exchange vacillation for unchangeableness, inconstancy for continuance; and you will stand. Oh, what a peace there is in that thought: ‘I shall stand!’ ‘And having done all things, I shall stand.’ No longer fluctuating, with every change of people and things about you, and doing just according to the atmosphere you happen to breathe; but fixed, ‘My heart is fixed.’ Pray for that upon the spot. Command it. God has said it at this moment. It is what you want more than anything else in the whole world. ‘Lord, root me on the rock.’ ‘Stablish you.’

III. And so He will fulfil His beautiful promise—‘Will He plead against me with His great power? No; but He will put strength into me.’ You will become—that which in such a world as this you need—that which is the secret of all peace, of all decision, of all usefulness in life, of all effectual service—a strong character. Never be content till you are a strong character, for it is a promised thing: strong for your duties; strong for your difficulties; strong for your trials; strong for your dangers; strong for your whole life; for He has said it—‘He will strengthen you.’

IV. And so we travel to the highest, the last, and the best—‘He will settle you.’ He will give you rest. Heaven has been beautifully defined ‘the rest of desire.’ But how is ‘settling,’ rest? To ‘settle’ is to repose upon your foundation; to ‘settle’ is to have an attraction, and to that attraction always to point. The ship ‘settles’ to her anchor; the mountains ‘settle’ to their base; the magnet ‘settles’ to its pole. So God will ‘settle’ you on Christ. And not only that. Every brick put into the wall, every storey added to a well-built house, ‘settles’ the whole structure. In like manner, God, enabling you to add work to work, and usefulness to usefulness, will so ‘settle’ you—by your increase, while He ‘builds you up in your own most holy faith’; and then, ‘settled’ on Christ, in Christ, to Christ, for Christ, with Christ, you will not be the restless creature you once were; you will not need to go about, here and there, for satisfaction, for you have a resting-place, and in that place of your rest you will understand the wisdom and the order of the arrangement, and the exquisite completeness of the Divine plan—‘after that ye have suffered awhile, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.’

Rev. James Vaughan.

Illustration

‘God does not keep us in the furnace of trial longer than is needful for us. We may lengthen our own trials by being impatient and unsubmissive under them. The metal that does not melt has to stay in the crucible a longer time than that which does. If the heart is hard, then it takes more trials, and a longer time, and a severer discipline, till its stubbornness is gone, and itself is brought into conformity with the blessed will of God. That teaches us the lesson of submission. We ought to be ready to accept the teaching of God’s Holy Spirit. Whatever our trial may be, bear it, not because you must, but because it is God’s will concerning you. You may be sullen under a trial, and mutinous—many of us are, I am afraid. That will not make your trouble a bit the less. You will not get rid of it by being sullen under it. You will have to bear it all the same, and—you will lose the benefit of it.’

(THIRD OUTLINE)

REMEDIAL PUNISHMENT

Suffering is one of the great facts of humble life. It is a part of every one’s experience. The shadow of suffering is cast by the light of life, and that of necessity.

There are two classes of sufferings—those which God sends us, and those which are caused by our own fault.

I. Sin and its penalty.—If a man spends his money in profligacy, or wastes it by idleness, or throws it away foolishly, he becomes poor; but the poverty is his own doing. If a man commits sins in his youth, and then finds in his old age that those sins have found him out, then he has only himself to thank for it. If a man is drunken or dishonest, and finds after a time that he has lost his character and his health, then he must look upon that as his own work. He is reaping as he has sown. ‘Be sure your sin will find you out,’ says the Apostle. God’s world is so constructed that sin is sure to be followed by suffering, by pain of some kind or other, sooner or later. Just as you burn your hand when you touch fire, so you lay up for yourself punishment, pain, when you meddle with sin. God has laid down the law once for all. If you incur the penalty it is at your own peril. If you commit the sin and so have to suffer the penalty (as you certainly will), then you must not blame any one but yourself. We may get good indeed out of such punishments as these. They will make us wiser, if we take them in a proper spirit. They will teach us (like the burnt child dreading the fire) to avoid such sins for the future. But the text does not refer to pains and sufferings like these, because they are of our own causing. God intends them to do us good. His laws are evidently intended to be what is called remedial, i.e. just as you punish a naughty boy to make it better.

II. But the Apostle was not referring to the retributive punishment that follows upon sin.—He did not contemplate when writing that Christians would live in sin, and so he did not contemplate their being punished. But still he knew that they would have to suffer. Jesus suffered. He, even the Holy One, did not live His life without suffering. And shall His people expect to do so? Shall the Master be forced to cry out, ‘All thy waves and storms have gone over Me,’ and his people desire to sail idly on a summer sea? Not so. We must take up the cross, too. Sorrow is a part of the discipline and training of life, and God will give it to every one of us. This is the other class of trials, those which God sends. ‘Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.’ As the wrestler, or the runner, or the rower, is trained to his work with severe exercise and self-denial, so the Christian is trained by the experience of gladness and of sorrow, especially of the latter. And now we see why Christians are sure to have some sorrow—because it is good for them. It teaches them to bear the cross. ‘God is too wise to err; too good to be unkind.’ What is the lesson that He desires to teach us? Our first father’s sin, as you know, was disobedience. Therefore we require to learn obedience. ‘He learned obedience,’ said St. Paul, even of our Lord Jesus Himself (and a wonderful mystery it is), ‘by the things which He suffered.’ Patience and submissiveness, too; those are great graces; and there is no way of learning them except by suffering. When we are smarting under an affliction sent upon us, not by any fault of our own, but by the Providence of God, then if we strive to bear the blow patiently, and take it in faith—so as to believe that it was and is for our good, though we cannot see how—then suffering becomes a blessing, ‘the uses of adversity’ become indeed sweet. God reveals himself at length in grace to our souls. We may not see why the blow has fallen; let it be enough that God sees why. ‘After that ye have suffered a while (God) make you perfect.’

ST.


Verse 13

MARK

‘Marcus my son.’

1 Peter 5:13

I. That St. Mark possessed a missionary spirit is clear.—At first he was the devoted companion of St. Paul and St. Barnabas in some of their long journeys to propagate Christianity (Acts 12:25; Acts 13:5); but he withdrew himself in Pamphylia, because St. Paul contended with St. Barnabas about his going further with them, and he, ‘departing from them, returned to Jerusalem.’ Soon after this, he joined himself to St. Peter, for he loved him as Timothy loved St. Paul. We next read of him as being with St. Peter in Babylon (1 Peter 5:13). Subsequently he visited Rome, at the express wish of St. Paul, in company with Timothy (2 Timothy 4:11); but how long he remained in this famous city we cannot ascertain. Tradition says that he left it for Alexandria, where he planted a Church, and died and was buried. If all these things are true of him, and we can scarcely doubt them, then St. Mark loved not only his spiritual father, but the souls of men, and especially Him Who died to save them from perishing.

II. We think of him also as the writer of the second Gospel.—This he did between the years fifty-six and sixty-three. As he was for a long time the intimate acquaintance of St. Peter, he heard from his lips the chief events of the life of Christ, and also the substance of His wonderful discourses. The unbroken testimony of the Fathers is—that St. Mark was the interpreter of St. Peter, and that he wrote under his eye and with his help. Another fact is equally certain—the right of his Gospel among the inspired books has never been questioned, nor that he was the writer of it. He loved the truth as the truth was in Jesus, and therefore gladly penned it for the everlasting welfare of mankind.

III. The acts and memories of such a man are fragrant as Eden, and wholesome in their influences, albeit over such a man there hangs the thick veil of mystery, and consequently he will never be fully known, either in bodily presence or saintly virtue, until he is seen ‘face to face’ in heaven, and all mysteries are cleared away for ever.

Illustration

‘The exact time when a religious festival was instituted in honour of St. Mark cannot now be positively determined; it is nevertheless generally thought to have occurred about the ninth century, for it has been annually observed since then by the Greek, Latin, and other Churches with profound reverence, and finally on April 25, because then, according to tradition, St. Mark suffered martyrdom at Alexandria in Egypt, where he fixed his chief residence. But doubt does not end here: it attaches even to the Evangelist himself. Three other Marks are mentioned in Holy Scripture, while St. Mark changes his Hebrew name—John—to that by which he is now familiarly known in the Church. This was a common practice when Evangelists and Apostles were desirous of visiting the Gentile world on embassies of mercy; but it has generally added to the perplexity of deciding satisfactorily concerning some persons who have taken a leading part in sacred affairs. It is so in this instance. There are, however, some particulars respecting St. Mark which leave no room for doubt. His mother’s name was Mary; and it was at her house the Apostles and other Christian brethren were hospitably received, and to which St. Peter repaired after his deliverance from prison by the angel of the Lord (Acts 12:5-17). St. Peter makes special and interesting allusions to him as Marcus in his earlier Epistle. He was a good man. St. Peter calls him his “son,” just as St. Paul calls Timothy his “son”—a phrase of Christian endearment which means that as St. Paul was the spiritual father of Timothy, so St. Peter was the spiritual father of Mark.’

 


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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 1 Peter 5:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/1-peter-5.html. 1876.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, November 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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