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Steps to a Divine Goal
2 Peter 1:4
I. Peter reminds us of the end to be achieved by those manifold assurances to which the Divine fidelity is pledged. 'That through these ye may become partakers of the Divine nature,' What a profound and original conception is this that God has expressly given to His people promises through which they may reach a vital participation in His own sacred and glorious nature. In all human society there is an unhappy tendency to exclusiveness and self-absorption. Men want to save up for themselves and their children the best fruit of their thought and toil, to establish monopolies, to fence off their privileges from common use. The end of human law is to prevent the dispersion of the benefits which certain groups of men have made their own; whilst the end of all Divine law is to diffuse the gladness, the honour, and the power which once belonged to God alone. What a sublime contrast to our mean, grudging exclusiveness is presented in the free, illimitable expansiveness of God's self-communicating love. He wishes us not only to love after the pattern of His love, to set before ourselves the same objects and the same pursuits, to yearn with affections like His own, to share in the glory of His mighty acts; but to possess an interblended life, to feel His vitality uniting itself to our central consciousness, to be organic channels which hold the movements of His nature just as in the tissues and vessels of the child the royal life of the house to which he belongs is surging.
II. The Apostle specifies a condition which lies upon the threshold of this great ascent. 'Having escaped the corruption which is in the world through lust.' Participation in a Divine life and attachment to an evil world cannot be coincident, and the one state necessarily excludes the other. Escape from the corruption that is in the world through lust is the bigger half of the problem which confronts us in our upward progress. God cannot unveil to us the glory of His loving Fatherhood, nor can we prove the high dignity of our sonship, in the base and unworthy associations which sometimes detain us. We are not sin-proof angels, and we may allow ourselves to be so saturated in the tempers and traditions of the world, that our most sacred capabilities will be profaned, and the foregleams of Divine greatness in us eclipsed.
III. St. Peter reminds us of the part played by these inspired promises in uplifting human character and destiny. The promises are described as 'great and precious,' because they contemplate ends of startling vastness, and bring men, through the faith of which they are the warrant, to priceless honour and blessedness. They are precious as the blood in which the redemptive covenant is founded, precious as the priceless faith they create in meek and contrite hearts.
2 Peter 1:4
When Isaac Watts was dying, and almost worn out by his infirmities, 'he observed, in conversation with a friend, that he remembered an aged minister used to say that the most learned and knowing Christians, when they come to die, have only the same plain promises of the Gospel for their support as the common and the unlearned; "and so," he said, "I find it. It is the plain promises, that do not require much labour and pains to understand them, for I can do nothing now but look unto my Bible for some promise to support me, and live upon that." He discoursed much of his dependence upon the atoning sacrifice of Christ: and his trust in God, through the Mediator, remained unshaken to the last. "I should be glad," he said, "to read more, yet not in order to be confirmed more in the truth of the Christian religion or in the truth of its promises; for I believe them enough to venture an eternity on them."'
2 Peter 1:4
This text is closely associated with the spiritual history of John Wesley. For 26th May, 1738, he opened his Greek Testament at these words. His later note shows how he interpreted them: 'Being renewed in the image of God, and having communion with Him, so as to dwell in God and God in you'. In the afternoon of the same day he heard the anthem at St Paul's Cathedral, 'Out of the deep have I called unto Thee, O Lord'.
References. I. 4. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvi. No. 931. R. F. Horton, The Examiner, 6th July, 1906, p. 649. D. L. Ritchie, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxviii. p. 244. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 435; ibid. vol. iv. p. 119. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Peter, p. 189.
Faith and Virtue
2 Peter 1:5
This familiar verse has been altered considerably in the Revised Version, where it is given in the form: "In your faith supply virtue, and in your virtue knowledge, and in your knowledge temperance,' and so on. Some one has said that this rendering proved how little the Revisers knew of English prose; but however that may be, at all events their translation does give us a clue to the writer's real meaning. The older form has the preposition 'to' throughout 'add to your faith virtue,' and the rest; so that virtue, knowledge, and temperance, were made to appear as separate, detached things, each of which could be tied or stuck on to the others. ' In your faith supply virtue' means something different. It means that faith is the root from which virtue grows up. These graces, in short, are not ready-made articles, which we can appropriate and use mechanically, like the dressed and polished blocks of stone one sees in a builder's yard. Instead, they are as closely related as the members of a live body. They flourish together, and they decay together; so near is the affinity and sympathy between them. A man who lacked any one of them entirely could have no real share in any other; just as a chain, one link of which is broken, will bear no weight whatever, be the other links ever so strong. He who has no patience, or no temperance, or no brotherly love is not merely an imperfect Christian; he is not a Christian at all.
So that it would be a good deal more true though of course every metaphor breaks down somewhere to say that the reciprocal connections of these graces are like those between the parts of a living tree. The twig sprouts from the branch, the branch runs down into the trunk, and the trunk stands broad-based upon the roots. In the same way, these verses give us the family tree of the Christian graces. Very likely the writer had no thought of the time-order in which they appear; time has comparatively little to do with such matters. He sets them before us rather in the order of their natural relationship. Each acts upon all, and all commence simultaneously. Brotherly kindness is near the foot of the list, and temperance is near the top; yet they were born the same hour.
I. Note, first, that faith is the root from which the graces spring. By faith, I need hardly remind you, the writer means faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The trustful apprehension of God's unspeakable gift, of the mercy which rose over the world like a bright dawn when the Redeemer came that is what he intends by the word. This is worth mentioning; for it is not uncommon to speak of faith abstractly, as no more than a hopeful, positive, serious way of regarding life. But when the New Testament writers say 'faith,' they mean quite definitely, faith in contact with its proper object, Christ, and becoming only through that contact a strong triumphant thing. Now and then religion is talked of as though it were but the reaching out of an empty hand gropingly and tentatively into vacancy, like some timid insect waving helpless feelers in the air. That is not our situation. True, there was a time, a time of long grief and pain consumed in experiment and exploration; but it was closed at last; closed, too, not half so much by man's finding God as by God's finding and redeeming man. In Jesus the Father has come amongst us, near enough to be touched, near enough to be grasped; and that touch, that grasp, is faith.
If there is no faith towards the Lord Jesus Christ, no consent of the will, no outgoing of the heart, no yielding of the whole nature, then the great result cannot follow. It is useless to look up to, and covet, this beautiful cluster of graces if we are unwilling to fulfil the conditions and to commence at the commencement. Christ's gifts are ours only as we take Christ Himself.
II. Note that faith is essentially prospective. The Greek word translated 'supply' is a very full and suggestive one. It is a word with a history. It takes us back to the days in old Athens when it was reckoned a high honour by a citizen to be asked to defray the expenses of a public ceremony. Translate that idea into the language of religion, and bring it down to date, and it means, does it not, that God is willing to launch us into the Divine life, and to sustain us in it, but we must help to meet the cost? For of course the Christian life cannot be lived without expenditure; expenditure of a moral and spiritual kind, which goes on all the time. Are you willing to take a share in that? God gives us Christ, and all the grace enclosed in that dear name; He gives us the cross; He gives the open grave of Easter morning; will you undertake to supply virtue, knowledge, patience? Surely religion is to cost us something. Not simply in money, real as its claim on money is; but in effort, in prayer, in vigilance, in renunciation. These stand for the expenses of the Christian discipleship, and every follower of the Son of God must meet them. True, in order to afford them we may have to pinch ourselves somewhere else. Far too often religion is thought of as a realm in which the rules of common sense may be flouted with impunity; but here also people who try find that impossible. If we waste our love and enthusiasm on lower things, how little is there left for God and Christ!
III. Note, lastly, what we are bidden to supply virtue. Plainly the word 'virtue' cannot bear in this passage its widest and most general meaning. That is to say, it cannot stand for the whole class, the entire round, of moral and spiritual excellences. Otherwise, if its scope were really so wide as this, it would be superfluous to say further on, 'to your knowledge add temperance, and to your temperance, patience'; for these qualities would have been already implied. When we look at the word more closely, therefore, and recollect that 'virtue' in its antique sense denoted something vigorous, manly, strong, we may bring it to a point by naming it moral courage. To your faith add moral courage that is the real message of our text.
H. R. Mackintosh, Life on God's Plan, p. 228.
2 Peter 1:5 f.
The progress of which St. Peter speaks is a development from within. It is not the impartation to a certain quality of a thing not originally there; it is the unfolding from it of a thing which is latently there. It is the bringing out into bloom that life of the flower which sleeps already in the bud; the expansion into meridian glory of the sunshine slumbering in the dawn. It is an exhortation to expand the life of the germ, to remember what possibilities are folded within the germ. This faith, in itself so small a thing, is declared to be the seed of all other things.
George Matheson, Landmarks of Christian Morality, pp. 147, 148.
References. I. 5. E. White, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvi. p. 323. H. R. Heywood, Sermons and Addresses, p. 184. Basil Wilberforce, Sanctification by the Truth, pp. 129, 138. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Peter, p. 198. I. 6, 6. J. Keble, Sermons for Sundays After Trinity, pt. i. p. 1. I. 5-7. J. Iverach, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvi. p. 91. I. 6. A. B. O. Wilberforce, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlv. p. 218. Basil Wilberforce, Sanctification by the Truth, pp. 150, 160, 170. I. 6, 7. J. Keble, Sermons for Sundays After Trinity, pt. i. p. 10. I. 7. Basil Wilberforce, Sanctification by the Truth, p. 180.
The Man Who Cannot See Far Enough
2 Peter 1:9
'The Short-sighted Man' is our subject, and the Apostle brings him before us rather strikingly. The word oculists use for physical short-sightedness is 'Myopia'. It is a term which signifies the flattening of the lens of the eye in such a way that the vision of the distant is blurred and dim. Now this is exactly the Greek word the Apostle uses here when he says of this man, 'He cannot see afar off'. In a word, he is suffering from spiritual Myopia. Though keen enough in descrying things that are near, he is spiritually incapable of appreciating things that are far away.
As in the case of the long-sighted man, so here this defect of vision may assume two forms. It may have regard to the past or the future. It may be a blindness in the vision of memory or in the vision of anticipation. A man may be blind by forgetfulness or heedlessness.
I. It is the first of these the writer of this Epistle has specially in his mind. 'He that lacketh these things,' he says, speaking of the graces of a holy life, 'is blind,' inasmuch as ' he hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins'.
It was so with the man of our text. There was a time in his life when his heart throbbed with a great emotion, when Christ was a reality in his soul, when he looked in vision to the cross, and felt as he did so that the guilt of his sins was rolled away, that he was 'purged from his old sins'. Christ crucified has died out of his life. Faith in the evangelic Gospel has become faint and far away. Love to the Saviour has grown cold. He has 'forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins'. He has become dim, short-sighted in his vision of a great past.
What is the cure for spiritual short-sightedness? Is it not just the uplifting of the eyes? The 'man with the muck-rake' would never have grovelled in the dirt had his eye caught sight of the golden crown above his head. 'I will lift mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh mine aid.' The great hills of God with their distant horizons and elevations these are what are needed to give coolness and healing to the eyes contracted with the things of earth.
II. But while our text has a message for those who cannot see afar into their past, it has one no less insistent for those who cannot look out into the dim distances of the future.
God has not left us without a rough sketch-plan of our future. 'I will show thee the path of life,' He says to the obedient soul; and though there may be many surprises in that path, its general direction is governed by great spiritual laws that never change.
I remember a man once telling me of a terrible time of physical distress in his life. Business worries and overwork robbed him of all his nervous resilience. Sleep forsook him. Madness stared him in the face. He left his business, and went from place to place in the weary search for health. But during all that time one resolve kept firm in his heart. He would never use narcotics of any kind to procure forgetfulness of his misery or the rest that nature denied. He was advised to do it again and again, even by skilled advisers. But to all he said, 'No! I foresee what the end of that will be. I shall become a slave to some terrible habit, and die a coward's death. Let me die, if die I must, fighting.' So he fought and won. Who is ever beaten when he fights so? I never knew one. He came back a stronger man both in body and mind and soul.
Far-sightedness has also another value. It may be an inspiration in discouragement as well as a deterrent in danger. It may spur on the runner as well as caution the foolhardy. As in the Greek games the laurel lifted high encouraged the racer, so in life's conflict the vision of the distant prize urges on the competitor and revives his ardour.
W. Macintosh Mackay, Bible Types of Modern Men, p. 168.
2 Peter 1:9
To know what these deficiencies that maim a man's religious life are, we must turn back to the category of qualities needing cultivation that Peter gives us. 'To faith add virtue.' Virtue, or inward strength, connects itself with the will, for it is through the will it works. 'To virtue knowledge.' It is through all the channels of the intellectual life that knowledge is received and treasured. 'And to knowledge temperance.' Temperance is concerned with the government of the passions; and God, in cleansing a man from his past pollutions, seeks the subjection of well-ruled passions to His service. 'To temperance patience.' Patience connects itself with the sensibilities, through which we are made to suffer. In cleansing a man, God seeks the after-harmony of all his sensibilities with the Divine will. 'And to patience godliness.' In separating a man from evil, God seeks for the response of all the religious faculties to His operations. 'And to godliness brotherly kindness and charity.' These qualities link themselves with the sphere of the affections. The Apostle describes the lack of these things, first, under the metaphor of a grave defect in one of the leading physical senses; and, secondly, under the figure of a lapse in the working of the intellectual powers.
I. He who is wanting in one or all of these high qualities lacks the primary organ of perfect spiritual perception. 'He is blind.' How many of us have inadequate views of what salvation means! Some people see nothing in salvation but deliverance from wrath and tempest and everlasting fire. A miserably defective view that is! God does not save us to put us on to some secure level of moral mediocrity and to leave us here, but to bring us into fellowship with Himself. 'He that lacketh those things is blind.' And now Peter softens the expression and substitutes a somewhat milder term. At best the blindness is half-blindness. 'He cannot see afar off.' He discerns the near, but is quite at fault when he comes to deal with the distant.
II. Again, St. Peter describes the lack of these higher Christian excellences under the figure of an intellectual lapse. 'Having forgotten the cleansing from his old sin.' The worth of a conversion may be lost through imperfect recollection. The very bases of all high and holy relationship to God, and of all noble, spiritual possibilities, are lost when a man forgets that he was purged from his old sin, and illustrates the forgetfulness in the neglect of these high excellences of character.
III. These words imply that the memory of past grace will be a living ana effectual inspiration to us at each successive step of our perfecting. An unbroken and ever grateful remembrance of the love God showed to us when He first saved us will inspire us to meet the loftiest demands of our Christian life and obligation. All imperfection has its root in ingratitude and indifference to past grace.
Emancipation From the Past
2 Peter 1:9
Let us at once recognise the inevitable struggle by which emancipation from the past is achieved, and yet insist on the glorious possibility of complete redemption.
I. The condemnation of the past must be dealt with. The solemn truth that 'God requireth that which is past' is registered in our conscience, and urged by it The thoughtless regard forgiveness as the simplest, easiest, and least costly of acts; and old sins are dropped into oblivion indifferently with old almanacs. Yet, awakening to the truth of things, we are at once acutely conscious of the extreme seriousness of the pride, self-will, and wickedness which poisoned the years that have gone. For the first time sin becomes a reality. Conscience knows nothing of the facility of absolution. Science finds no place for clemency. Government does not find it easy to forgive. When we come to think deeply and truly, to give conscience a chance, to reason out our action as in the sight of God, we know that nothing short of a miracle can purge our guilt, and set us free from the dead, unrighteous past clamouring for our blood. That miracle has been wrought in Christ The whole of revelation testifies that God did not find it easy to forgive. The elaborate system of temple worship and sacrifice depicted in the Old Testament symbolised the majesty of moral law and the immense difficulty of showing mercy to the sinner. And this is the tremendous problem which the New Testament sets itself to solve. Leave the old life and the old sins in the depths of God's love, Christ's merit, the Holy Spirit's grace. Then ours is the peace that passeth understanding, and we shall not be confounded.
II. The energy of indwelling evil is a portentous difficulty to be mastered. No sooner do we seriously challenge the evil of our nature than it acquires a vitality and force which surprise and confound us. Once more we come to a miracle of grace. The schism, strife, and sorrow of human nature are healed in the truth and love of Christ Jesus. The spirit of life in Christ Jesus makes us free from the law of sin and death.
W. L. Watkinson, The Supreme Conquest, p. 36.
2 Peter 1:9
These people of whom the Apostle speaks were in a word short-sighted people. They had accepted the Gospel when it was first preached, but they had never taken religion seriously. They had not given diligence to add virtue to faith, knowledge to virtue, and temperance to knowledge, and patience to temperance, and godliness to patience, and love to godliness. There had been no serious striving after sanctification. They had made no attempt to pluck up and root out and cast forth the pleasant vices of the flesh to which they had once been addicted. They had never made an effort at the daily self-denial, and the daily bearing of the cross, and the daily purification.
I. First, let me speak of short-sightedness and sin. Sin brings with it an immediate gratification. The Bible recognises this quite frankly. It speaks of the pleasures of sin. Sin at the moment means delight; ultimately it means death. At the moment it promises pleasure; in the long run it means the worm that dieth not, and the fire that is not quenched. And men sin because they blind themselves to all that seems far off and remote, to the regret, and remorse, and shame, and hell that sin entails; and have eyes only for what is nearest the immediate gratification. The covetous man sees his growing heap of gold, and not his lean and shrivelled soul. The drunkard sees satisfaction for his appetite, and not the drunkard's grave. The profligate sees gratification for his burning lust, and not the profligate's hell. Short-sightedness is the mother of sin. Men sin because they only see what is near.
II. Secondly, let me speak of short-sightedness and worldliness. Really worldliness is only one form of sin, and on the principle that the greater incudes the less, all that I have said about sin applies also to worldliness.
The reason for the prevalent and wellnigh universal sin of worldliness is spiritual short-sightedness. The prizes that earth offers are palpable, tangible, immediate. They engross men's attention, they absorb their thought, they fill the horizon of their desire. Heaven and the smile of Christ, and the well-done of God, seem remote, far off, uncertain. Money, pleasure, fame, banish them from the mind, and to the acquisition of these things men devote themselves, seeing only 'what is near'.
Our safety lies in the long look. Let no one persuade you that the thought of heaven is the mark of the dreamy and unpractical man. Charles Kingsley was one of the most strenuous and practical of men, but heaven was never absent from his thought Dr. Dale was the last man in the world against whom a charge of sentimentality could be brought, but how large a place heaven occupied in his thinking may be gathered by the space allotted to hymns about the better country in the book which he compiled. The thought of heaven is no dreamy unpractical thing; it is the means by which we are to emancipate ourselves from slavery to the transient and the perishing.
III. Thirdly, let me say a word about short-sightedness and despair. We sometimes fall into despondency and something like despair in our Christian service. There come times to us all when we feel like Elijah when under the juniper tree, and we say like him, 'Lord, let me die, for I have laboured for nought, and in vain'. What is the cause and origin of our despondency? Short-sightedness. We have only looked at the things which are near.
And the remedy for that hopelessness and despair is the long look. 'Lift up your eyes on high,' says the old Book. We despair when we see only the things that are near the sin, the vice, the indifference and callousness of men; but we gain courage and hope when we see God.
J. D. Jones, Elims of Life, p. 124.
Forgetting the Cleansing
2 Peter 1:9
'He that lacketh these things.' What things? The radiant treasures are named in a previous verse: faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, love of the brethren, love. Let us grasp the order of the Apostle's thought. 'Having forgotten the cleansing.' That is not the ultimate consequence; it is the primary cause. The 'lack' and the 'blindness' do not create the forgetfulness, they are created by it.
I. 'Having forgotten.' Forgotten what? 'The cleansing.' In the New Testament there is a recognised gradation in the importance of duties. Some of the commandments are described as 'least' and others as 'greatest'. There is a similar gradation in the importance of truths. 'I delivered unto you first of all' the truths concerning the 'cleansing'; 'first of all,' as of primary and unspeakable import. 'Christ died for our sins'; 'first of all,' as radical and alphabetic, in which everything which seeks to be positive and enduring must take its root. 'He was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.' You know the exalted eminence which these truths occupied in the teachings of the Apostle Paul. 'First of all,' proclaimed the Apostle Paul, 'Christ died for our sins.' 'First of all,' repeats the Apostle Peter, 'Christ hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.' 'First of all,' cries the Apostle John, 'the blood of Jesus Christ His son cleanseth us from all sin.' Now, what did they claim for the work? They claimed that the truth was a Gospel of power, 'the power of God unto salvation'. Let the primary truths have the primary place; let them be princes in the conscious life; and the princes of consciousness will appear as principles in conduct, filling life with moral passion and enthusiasm, and converting a reluctant drudgery into an exultant freedom.
II. But, now, obliterate the energising truth. What then? The practical will become the impracticable. You cannot expunge the theology and retain the morality. Dethrone the cleansing, and you chill the passion for perfectness; exalt the cleansing, and moral enthusiasm becomes abounding. We have abundant confirmation of the sequence in the history of the Christian centuries.
III. What is the ultimate issue? 'Blindness.' What we cease to crave for we cease to see. When moral passion cools, moral ideals fade, or we see 'only what is near'. Life having lost its background, loses its foreground. That is the order and succession of this appalling degeneracy forgetfulness of grace, moral laxity, lost ideal. Turn the matter round. If we are to see clearly, if we are to behold the heavenly, to appreciate it, to be responsive to the allurements of the ideal and the eternal, our moral life must have passionate enthusiasm, and for a passionate enthusiasm the consciousness needs to be possessed by the great energising truths of the cleansing.
J. H. Jowett, Apostolic Optimism, p. 247.
References. I. 1-9. J. D. Jones, Elims of Life, p. 124. Expositor (6th Series), vol. vi. p. 55.
2 Peter 1:10
I believe that we are all called and elected to eternal life, but that we may frustrate the counsel of God, and that therefore we are exhorted to make our calling and election sure, not to make ourselves sure that we are called and elected, but to make our undoubted calling and election firm, solid, as Æschines said of the democracy. The democracy existed, but it might be made sure, or it might be sapped by the factious oligarchy.
T. Erskine, Letters, p. 396.
References. I. 10. H. W. Webb-Peploe, The Record, vol. xxvii. p. 797. Bishop Welldon, The Gospel in a Great City, p. 141.
Holy Diligence and Holy Ambition
2 Peter 1:10-11
What do Peter's words: 'Make your calling and election sure' mean? Was he suspicious of the people to whom he was writing? Had he any doubt about their election and their calling? Both his Epistles were written to precisely the same people, for in his second Epistle he says: 'This second Epistle, beloved, I now write unto you'. He was writing 'to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God,' so that he had no doubt about their election, and he did not seem to have any doubt about their calling, for he said, 'ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people: that ye should show forth the praises of Him Who hath called you'. He was writing to men and women who had received the effectual call of the Holy Ghost.
I. How are we to make sure of our calling? By finding out what are the characteristics of God's call. (1) God's call is to holiness, and if we are able to say that we long for holiness we may be sure that we have received the call of God. (2) It is also a call that leads to the glorifying of the Lord Jesus, and if in any humble measure Jesus is being glorified in us, then our calling has been made sure.
II. There is holy ambition in the text. There is to be the abundant entrance.
A. G. Brown, The Baptist, vol. LXXI. p. 420.
References. I. 10, 11. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iii. No. 123. R. F. Horton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lix. p. 297. C. D. Bell, The Name Above Every Name, p. 193. T. Binney, King's Weigh-House Chapel Sermons, p. 138. I. 11. Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. p. 34. I. 11, 15. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Peter, p. 206. I. 12, 17. Ibid. (6th Series), vol. x. p. 285. I. 15. H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1597, p. 175. Expositor (5th Series), vol. vi. p. 270. I. 16. Ibid. (6th Series), vol. vi. p. 49; ibid. (7th Series), vol. v. p. 505. D. Heagle, That Blessed Hope, p. 27.
The Three Tabernacles
2 Peter 1:16 ; 2 Peter 1:18
The body of Moses, about which St. Michael the Archangel had contended with Satan, the body which had been buried by God in a valley over against Bethpeor, no man knowing its resting-place, appeared in glory. The body of Elias, which had been taken up in a chariot of fire and horses of fire, returned once more to earth. The giver of the law and the greatest of Prophets, came to bear witness to Him that was Maker of the Law, and the inspirer of the prophets. Now was fulfilled that which was written by Isaiah 'Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of Hosts shall reign in Mount Sion and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously'.
I. And what did they talk of? 'They appeared in glory and spake of His decease.' To talk of death in the height of this glory! To talk of a shameful death, a death of agony, amidst such brightness as the world had never before seen! Yes, but the text does not end so. They 'spake of His decease which He should accomplish'. What a wonderful word! When do we speak thus? We say that a man accomplishes deliverance from death, but to accomplish death itself, who would thus talk? And still further, 'they spake of his decease which He should accomplish in Jerusalem'. Now Jerusalem means the vision of peace. For it was by His death that He reconciled man to God. And that indeed was a glorious subject for a season of glory. This was a brighter and better vision than Moses had, when he got him to the top of Pisgah, and beheld all the land which God had promised to His people. This was a nobler prospect than Elijah had, when the chariot was bearing him up above the clouds and his mantle fell from off him.
II. St. Peter would speak, 'It is good for us to be here, and let us make three, tabernacles. No, good Peter. This is not what we want We want not three tabernacles but one mansion. We want no tabernacles that can be taken down and removed; we want a house not made with hands, that can never be shaken. And we only want one. There is but one hiding-place from the wind, one covert from the tempest, one ark. Our Lord Jesus Christ is all this; and He is one.
J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College Chapel, vol. IV. p. 85.
The Gospel of Certainty
2 Peter 1:16-21
In our text Peter sets forth the lines of evidence in favour of Christianity. They are three: Oral Testimony, Scripture, and Personal Experience. 'A threefold cord is not quickly broken.'
I. As to Oral Testimony. He says: 'We have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: but were eye-witnesses of His Majesty.' (1) Such evidence has valid weight. We are all the while accepting it. Ninety-nine per cent of our knowledge comes by hearsay. We receive the testimony of eye-witnesses unless there is a special reason for rejecting it. (2) Such evidence, in favour of Christianity, has a vast cumulative value for us. There are some hundreds of millions of people living today who are prepared to testify as to their personal experience in the saving power of the Gospel. It is submitted that so great a body of testimony is of overwhelming weight. The only question is as to the character of the witnesses. Can their credibility be impeached? Peter and his fellow-apostles were men of humble origin but unquestioned honesty, who had everything to lose and nothing to gain by their championship of the crucified Nazarene; and with their blood they sealed their devotion to Him. And what shall be said of those who constitute the Universal Church of today? Let a thousand be taken at random from any fellowship of believers, and a thousand from without; and let a just comparison be made between them. We will abide the issue. It was by such comparison that Alexander Pope, himself an unbeliever, was moved to make this historical definition: 'A Christian is the highest style of man'.
II. The next line of evidence is Scripture; of which Peter says: 'We have also a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place'. It is obvious that there must be somewhere a final criterion of truth. It cannot be supposed that the Heavenly Father would set His children adrift without a chart for their direction. This is the ground and rationale of the Scriptures. They were intended to be our ultimate and infallible rule of faith. And they are so received, despite all controversy, by the Universal Church. (1) The Apostle justifies his confidence in the Scriptures by adding that they 'come not by the will of man; but holy men spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost'. (2) Still further, the Apostle says that the Scriptures so written are not 'of any private interpretation'. The word rendered 'private' is literally 'one's own'. This means that no man is his own interpreter.
III. One more line of evidence is named by Peter: to wit, Personal Experience. Personal experience adds final confirmation to oral testimony and Scripture. All voices, human and Divine, are ineffective until by vital appropriation we make the Gospel an indwelling fact. The truth is put beyond all peradventure when the day star arises in our hearts. One thing is better, and only one to see Him in the brightness of His heavenly glory.
D. J. Burrell. The Gospel of Certainty, p. 9.
References. Expositor (6th Series), vol. vi. p. 53. I.17-20. Bishop Gore, Christian, World Pulpit, vol. liv. p. 88. I. 18. C. S. Robinson, Simon Peter, p. 279. Expositor (5th Series), vol. viii. p. 467; ibid. (7th Series), vol. v. p. 367. I. 19. E. T. J. Marriner, Sermons Preached at Lyme Regis, p. 19. 1. 19-21. Expositor (6th Series), vol. vi. p. 54; ibid. vol. x. p. 286.
Water From the Fountain
2 Peter 1:20
The idea of the passage is this: it is a very difficult passage, but this is the gist and pith of it: No prophecy is a dream of the prophet; in fact, the prophet has little or nothing to do with it; he is a mere instrument through which the revelation comes, and when he is out of his prophetic mood, he is conscious that great presences have passed before his vision, that great questions have been stated, and great visions have been seen. He is a mere instrument. The organ is not the music; it is but the instrument through which the music is expressed.
I. Now see what flows from this interpretation of the text. First of all, the prophecy is not human literature. It is something more, it is a quantity beyond. It leads me away and away, over fields and pastures, through forests and vineyards, farther and farther, until I lose it for a moment in heaven itself. The Bible is an immeasurable book; it begins, but never ends. Are you making this use of the Bible? Do you say, 'It is literature, and being literature, it ought to be measured by the dictionary and the grammar?' What can they measure? They are poor instruments; they can go but a very little way in the interpretations of Divine visions and revelations. Know that your vision is right when it leads you into self-forgetfulness, self-sacrifice, and the very passion of devotion. Where are our passionate men today, men all fire, all heat, all earnestness? If the Bible were only literature, it would be, of course, measured by the lexicon and by the grammar; but it is not mere literature, but as I have already said, literature and something more, and what that something more is the Holy Ghost must teach us.
II. And then, secondly, this proposition that the Bible is not mere human literature is proved by its quality. There is none like it; I never tasted water like this. I know this Bible river by the quality of its waters, and its general content. Some people read out of the Bible all its meaning, and they are likely to blame the vision of the seers who read into it what they imagine is foreign matter. My brother preachers, we must get into the spirit, into the original poetry and thought of the Bible, before we can really understand it; and when I am there, I am in the secret places of the tabernacles of the Most High, and the waters of criticism good or bad never rise to that mighty, wondrous level. You strive after the spirit, and you need have no fear, and will have no fear, that the Bible has had its day. Salvation is not of grammar, but of sympathy.
I do not want to know what David said, I want to know what the Spirit meant by the mouth of David. We must not say, David did not write this Psalm, or David could not have written this Psalm; David was dead five hundred years before that was done. I am not content with these things, I want to know what the Lord, the Holy Spirit, meant by these words, when He spake them through the mouth of the Prophet, and no man can help me unless he be in that same spirit.
Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. VI. p. 214.
References. I. 21. M. Biggs, Practical Sermons on Old Testament Subjects, p. 1. H. D. M. Spence, Voices and Silences, pp. 49, 65. H. E. Ryle, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lv. p. 241. H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1591, p. 123. J. R. Cohu, The Sermon on the Mount, p. 154. II. 1. Expositor (4th Series), vol. v. p. 188; ibid. (5th Series), vol. ii. p. 236; ibid. (6th Series), vol. iii. p. 106; ibid. vol. x. p. 56; ibid. (7th Series), vol. v. p. 171. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Peter, p. 215. II. 4. G. W. Allen, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliii. p. 70. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi. No. 1820. Expositor (6th Series), vol. vi. p. 70; ibid. vol. x. p. 286. II. 5. Ibid. (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 25a II. 6. Ibid. (5th Series), vol. vi. p. 380. II. 8. Ibid. p. 290. II. 9. Ibid. p. 213. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xli. No. 2441. II. 11. Expositor (6th Series), vol. vi. p. 221. II. 11-13. Ibid. vol. x. p. 289. II. 15, 16. B. J. Snell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. li. p. 153. II. 15-18. Expositor (6th Series), vol. x. p. 290. II. 17. H. Bonner, Sermons and Lectures, p. 218. II. 21. Expositor (5th Series), vol. vi. p. 91; ibid. vol. viii. p. 470.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 2 Peter 1". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany