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OFFICES OF THE HOLY TRINITY
1 Peter 1:1-2. Peter, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.
CONTEMPTIBLE as Christians often appear in the eyes of men, they are of high estimation in the sight of God. Many glorious descriptions are given of them in the inspired volume: but in no part of it have we more exalted views of them than in the words before us; where, at the same time that they are represented as treated by man with all manner of cruelties and indignities, they are spoken of as most dear to every person in the Godhead, having been elected by God the Father, redeemed by the Lord Jesus, and sanctified by the operations of the Holy Ghost. This is a great mystery,—the union of the Sacred Three in the redemption and salvation of fallen man. But the consideration of this mystery is of peculiar importance; not only as establishing the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, but as shewing the connexion of that doctrine with every part of our salvation; which originates with God the Father, is carried on by God the Son, and is perfected by God the Holy Ghost.
Let us, under a deep sense of our own ignorance, and with a humble dependence upon God for his guidance and direction, proceed to a calm, dispassionate, and candid consideration of this all-important subject.
The Father elects—
The doctrine of election is here, as in many other passages, plainly asserted—
[Christians are “elect, according to the foreknowledge of God.” By “the foreknowledge of God” I understand, God’s infallible discernment of future things, how contingent soever they may appear to us. That he possesses this perfection is unquestionable: for if he did not, how could he ever have inspired his prophets to foretell such distant and improbable events? It is not possible to read the life of our Lord, and to compare the predictions concerning him with the events by which they were fulfilled, and not to say, “Known unto God are all his works from the foundation of the world [Note: Acts 15:8.].” Indeed a man who denies this truth must “think God to be even such an one as himself,” ignorant of the future, and made wiser by the occurrences of every succeeding day;—a supposition from which the mind revolts with utter abhorrence.
Considering then the foreknowledge of God as comprising every thing relating to the salvation of man, we are constrained to view all that relates to man’s salvation as ordained of God. For though we may easily distinguish in idea between foreknowledge and fore-ordination, we cannot separate them in fact; since if God foreknow every thing, he foreknows it, not as probable, but as certain; and therefore certain, because it has been fore-ordained by him “before the foundation of the world,” and is “wrought by him in time according to the counsel of his own will [Note: Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 1:11.].”
Hence to God’s electing love we refer all the grace and mercy that we have ever experienced; and thankfully acknowledge, that “by the grace of God we are what we are [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:10.];” and that, if ever we be saved at all, it will be, “not according to our works, but according to his purpose and grace which were given us in Christ Jesus before the world began [Note: 2 Timothy 1:9.].”]
The objections which are usually brought against this doctrine, by no means disprove its truth—
[Many affirm, that, if the doctrine of election be true, that of reprobation, of absolute reprobation, must be true also. In answer to this, I would say, that we know nothing, either of the one or of the other, but from the revelation which God has given us; and that, if that revelation affirm the one and deny the other, we must receive that which it affirms, and reject that which it denies. That it does deny the doctrine of absolute reprobation, I think is clear as the light itself. If when Almighty God swears by his own life and immortal perfections, that “he has no pleasure in the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live;” and then founds on that oath this gracious invitation, “Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel [Note: Ezekiel 33:11.]?” I am constrained to say, that the doctrine of absolute reprobation, that is, of God’s forming any persons with an express determination to destroy them, irrespectively of any works of theirs, cannot be true. But must I therefore deny the doctrine of election, which the whole Scriptures uniformly assert, merely because I know not how to reconcile the two opinions? Surely not. My sentiments are formed on Scripture, and not on the fallible deductions of human reason: and if I cannot reconcile the two, it is no reason that God cannot. I cannot reconcile the existence of sin with the holiness of God: but do I therefore deny, or doubt, either the one or the other? Certainly not; so neither do I doubt God’s exercise of sovereign grace towards his elect, because my weak and fallible reason would be ready to connect with it an arbitrary decree against the non-elect. Sure I am, that the Judge of all the earth will do right; and that, whilst all the saved will ascribe their salvation simply and solely to the grace of God, there will not be found one amongst those who perish, who will not confirm God’s sentence of condemnation upon him, saying, “Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments [Note: Revelation 16:7.].”
Another objection against this doctrine is, That the elect will be saved, though they never should strive at all; and the non-elect will perish, however earnestly they may strive. But God has united the end with the means: and to attempt to separate them will be in vain. Who the elect are, we know not, till they themselves discover it by the effects produced upon them: nor will it ever be known who the non-elect are, till the day of judgment shall reveal it. But this we know,—and this we affirm for the comfort of all,—that “every one who asketh, receiveth; and every one that seeketh, findeth; and that to every one that knocketh, shall the gate of heaven be opened [Note: Matthew 7:7-8.].” What can the most determined opposer of the doctrine of election say more than this, or wish for more than this?
Some will yet further urge, That, if this doctrine be true, men may be saved without any regard to holiness. This objection is of the same kind with the former: and that there is no just ground for it, our text itself sufficiently declares: for we are “elect unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ;”—elect, not to salvation only, but to obedience also;—to the one as the means, and to the other as the end.]
What is spoken respecting our being elect “to the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ,” will lead me to shew, that whom the Father has elected,
On the subject of obedience being an end to which we are elect, we shall speak under the next head: at present, we confine ourselves to the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.
That the elect are sprinkled with the blood of Jesus Christ, is certain—
[Moses, when he confirmed the covenant which the Israelites entered into with their God, sprinkled both the altar and the people with the blood of the sacrifices [Note: Exodus 24:6; Exodus 24:8.]: and in like manner we, when we embrace the covenant of grace, are sprinkled with the blood of our Great Sacrifice, which purges us from the guilt of all our former sins, and sanctifies us as an holy people unto the Lord: “We come to the blood of sprinkling, which speaketh better things than the blood of Abel [Note: Hebrews 12:24.].”
And here it is particularly to be noticed, that it is not by the shedding of the Redeemer’s blood that any are saved, but by the application of it to their souls. Millions “perish for whom Christ died [Note: 1 Corinthians 8:11.]:” but no one ever perished, whose “heart had been sprinkled from an evil conscience,” and “purged from dead works to serve the living God [Note: Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 10:22.].”]
To this they are elected, as to the necessary means of their acceptance with God—
[None, however elect by God the Father, could come to God, unless a sacrifice were provided for them. All are sinners: all need pardon for their multiplied iniquities: no man could make satisfaction for his own sins. One sacrifice was provided of God for the whole world, even the sacrifice of God’s only-begotten Son. Through that, God determined from all eternity to accept them: and in due time he reveals it to them, as the way opened for their access to him. Thus they are brought to see Christ, as “the way, the truth, and the life:” and thus they receive “redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of all their sins.”
We must not however imagine that God elects any in a way inconsistent with his own honour. He does not by a mere absolute decree forgive them: he does not so overlook the honour of his own law, or disregard the demands of his own truth and justice. On the contrary, he provides for them a Saviour, through whose atoning blood they may be forgiven, and in whose obedience they may find a justifying righteousness. If he elected them simply to salvation without any regard to an atonement, he would exercise one attribute at the expense of all the rest: but in electing them to the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ, he provides for the honour of his broken law, and maintains in united and harmonious exercise the glory of all his perfections: he provides, that “Mercy and truth should meet together, and righteousness and peace should kiss each other [Note: Psalms 85:10.].”]
As Christ redeems whom the Father has elected, so those, whom Christ has redeemed,
The Spirit sanctifies—
It is in reality through the influence of the Holy Ghost that the souls of the elect are sprinkled with the blood of Christ: because it is He who reveals Christ unto them, and enables them to believe on him. But, besides this, “The Spirit sanctifies them to obedience”—
To this are the elect chosen, as to the means whereby their ultimate salvation shall be attained—
[It would be dishonourable to God if an unholy creature were admitted to a participation of his throne: nor, if we could suppose such a creature admitted into heaven, could he be happy there; because he would want all the dispositions which were necessary to qualify him for the enjoyment of that holy place. On this account God has ordained to sanctify his elect in body, soul, and spirit, and to “transform them into his own image in righteousness and true holiness.”]
And this work he has committed to the Holy Spirit—
[The Spirit originally breathed upon the face of the waters, and reduced the chaotic mass to order and beauty. So does he move upon the believer’s soul. Whatever is corrupt, he mortifies; whatever is wanting, he supplies. Above all, he reveals the Saviour to the soul, and thereby changes the soul progressively into the Saviour’s image [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:18.]. This is precisely what St. Paul also has spoken in his Second Epistle to the Thessalonians: “We are bound to give thanks to God for you all, brethren, beloved, because God hath chosen you to salvation (there is the end) through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” Here are the means to that end, even faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and his atoning blood; and the sanctifying operations of the Holy Spirit upon the soul [Note: 2 Thessalonians 2:13.].]
Of what infinite value are the souls of men!
[Every one carries about him a treasure which God himself covets. The Father has given his only dear Son to redeem it: and Christ has shed his own blood to purchase it: and the Holy Ghost is ever striving with us, to make us surrender it up willingly to God — — — O that men would view their souls in this light, and bestow upon them the care which they so richly deserve! — — —]
What encouragement has every man to seek after salvation!
[The doctrines of election, of faith in Christ, and of the influences of the Holy Spirit, are supposed by many to create despondency. But, if duly considered, they afford the best possible antidote to despair. Suppose a person to be bowed down under a sense of his own guilt and weakness, is it no comfort to him to reflect, that the Father may elect whomsoever he will; that the blood of Christ is sufficient to cleanse from guilt even of the deepest dye; and that the Holy Spirit can renew and sanctify a soul, however inverate its corruptions be? Let this then be the improvement made of these doctrines; and they will soon commend themselves by their cheering and transforming efficacy — — —]
1 Peter 1:3-5. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
AMONGST the many distinguishing characters of the true Christian, this is not the least remarkable, that he can rejoice in the midst of the heaviest tribulations. Others may be patient under them: but no man who is not born of God can attain this high state of feeling, to glory in them. The Christians to whom the Apostle wrote were in a state of very severe affliction, scattered over divers countries, whither they had been driven by the violence of persecution. Yet, how did the Apostle address them? in terms of pity or condolence? No: but in terms of the sublimest congratulation. He thinks not of what man has done against them, but of what God has done for them; and bursts forth in this rapturous strain: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who of his abundant mercy hath begotten us again!” The recollection of the mercy vouchsafed to them by regeneration swallowed up all thought of their trials, and superseded, for a time, all mention of their sufferings.
The terms in which regeneration is here spoken of will lead us to consider it in,
Regeneration is a spiritual and supernatural change of heart—
[Many, when they hear this word, are ready to merge its import altogether in the rite of baptism. I deny not, but that the word “regeneration” is used in Scripture as synonymous with baptism; and it was properly so used; because in baptism there is a real change of state; and there was good reason to hope that, in the person submitting to that rite there was also a change of nature: nor can I doubt, but that, wherever baptism is duly received, there is a descent of the Holy Spirit upon the soul, to seal it with a blessing from on high. But the strongest advocates for baptismal regeneration will not deny, but that the spiritual gift is that in which we are chiefly interested; and that, without that, the outward act would be of little value. And God forbid that we should be disputing about a term, when our main concern should be about the blessing connected with it! All are agreed, that we must be baptized with the Holy Ghost: all are agreed, that we must be made “partakers of a new and a divine nature [Note: 2 Peter 1:4.],” and become “new creatures in Christ Jesus [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:17.]:” in a word, all agree, that, in order to be children of God, we must be “begotten of God:” and that being admitted, I am indifferent as to the name by which it shall be called: call it a new birth, a new creation, a renewal in the spirit of the mind, or a conversion of soul to God; only let an entire change of heart and life be included in it, and (though one word may more strictly and appositely express it than another) we are satisfied. Suffice it to say, that “a new heart must be given us, and a new spirit be put within us;” and that this change is essential to us, as children of God.]
It is this that distinguishes the Lord’s people from all the rest of the world—
[The natural man possesses nothing but what he brought into the world with him. His faculties may be of the first order, so far as they relate to earthly things: yet is he as blind as others in relation to heavenly things. In order to comprehend these, he must have a spiritual discernment [Note: 1 Corinthians 2:14.]; which can only be given to him from above. This may be possessed by the poorest and most illiterate man, whilst it is withheld from the wise and prudent. In fact, God has so ordered it, that “what he has hid from the wise and prudent, should be revealed unto babes [Note: Matthew 11:25-26.]:” and there are but “few of the wise and learned, in comparison,” to whom this gift is imparted; for “God has chosen the weak and foolish, on purpose to confound the wise and mighty [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:26-29.].” Nor is this a mere conceit: it is proved by the life and conversation of all who are born of God. They shew that they have a view of God and of eternity, which others do not possess: and, in consequence of this view, they manifest a heavenliness, both of heart and life, which others cannot attain. Being born of God, they live no longer to themselves, but unto Him who begat them, and to Him who redeemed them with his blood.]
But in the passage before us we are more particularly led to notice regeneration in,
The great efficient cause of it is God—
[Jehovah, in the Old Testament, is called “the God of Abraham:” but to us he is revealed under the more endearing title of the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” and our God and Father in him. In this relation he is considered as “begetting us again;” and forming us, as it were, altogether anew. This he does by the operation of his word upon the hearts and consciences of men, and by the Almighty power of his Spirit working effectually in them. Hence we are said to be “born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever [Note: 1 Peter 1:23. See also James 1:18.].” In like manner we are said to be “born of the Spirit [Note: John 3:5-6.].” And this birth is not only distinguished from, but put in direct opposition to, the natural birth of man; for “to as many as receive Christ, to them gives he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name; who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God [Note: John 1:12-13.].” Here, then, the efficient cause of our regeneration is distinctly marked: it is not effected by any power which is possessed by the man himself, or by others over him, or by any created being: it must be traced to God himself, to God only, to God entirely, to God exclusively.]
The moving cause of it is his “mercy”—
[Man never merited it; never asked it; never of himself desired it. God, who sees us when dead in trespasses and sins, is moved only by his own “mercy” towards us, to impart unto us this transcendent gift. He saw us, like new-born infants, “lying in our blood; and bade us live [Note: Ezekiel 16:6.].” O! who can ever appreciate this blessing aright? Who can ever estimate the blessing of being “begotten of God,” and “born of God?” To be begotten and born of an earthly monarch were nothing in comparison of it; nothing in respect of honour; nothing in respect of benefit. That we were created men, was grace; because we might have been of a lower order of beings, like beasts: but to be new-created, after that we were fallen, and by this new creation to be made sons of God, is not only “mercy,” but such mercy as never was vouchsafed to the angels that fell: no; it was reserved for us: and “abundant” mercy it was! The very angels in heaven have not in this respect been so highly favoured as we: for they can sing of grace only: whereas we, when we had abused and forfeited all the blessings of grace, had them all restored to us through the tender mercy of our God.]
The instrumental or procuring cause of it was the Lord Jesus Christ—
[In general, the blessings of salvation are traced to the death of Christ, as their procuring cause. And such, no doubt, it was: for by it we are reconciled to God, and obtain the remission of all our sins. But here the blessing of regeneration is traced to the resurrection of Christ; and with great propriety; because, if “he was delivered to death for our offences, he was raised again for our justification [Note: Romans 4:25.].” To enter into this aright, we should place ourselves in the situation of the immediate followers of our Lord. What comfort should we have derived from the death of our Divine Master? We might be told, indeed, that he offered himself a sacrifice for our sins: but how should we know that sacrifice was accepted in our behalf? It was his resurrection alone that put that matter beyond a doubt: and therefore we find the Apostles everywhere insisting principally on this [Note: Acts 2:24-36; Acts 3:15; Acts 17:3; Acts 17:18; Acts 17:31.], as proving, beyond all reasonable doubt, that he was indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world [Note: Romans 1:4.]. Moreover, it is as a risen Saviour that “he lives to make intercession for us [Note: Hebrews 7:25.];” and is enabled to send the Holy Ghost down upon us, for the commencing and perfecting of a work of grace within us [Note: Acts 2:33; Acts 2:38-39.]. Hence St. Paul, speaking of the death of Christ as prevailing for our salvation, yet lays the greater stress upon his resurrection [Note: Romans 8:34; Romans 5:10.]: and hence also, in order to attain higher eminence in the divine life, he desired to “know Christ in the power of his resurrection [Note: Philippians 3:10.].” So that our regeneration may well be ascribed to the resurrection of Christ, not only on account of its proving his death to have been available for us, but as through it he is empowered to send down the Holy Spirit upon our souls.]
We must, however, proceed yet further to trace this work in,
Of its sanctifying effects I have spoken under the first head. But we must on no account omit to notice those great benefits which it confers,
In entitling us to heaven—
[Repeatedly does St. Paul mark the indissoluble connexion which God has established between our sonship and our inheritance: “If sons, then heirs, heirs of God through Christ, and heirs of God with Christ [Note: Romans 8:17. Galatians 4:7.].” Now, the inheritance to which God has begotten us is nothing less than all the glory of heaven; an inheritance, “not corruptible,” as earthly treasures, “which moth and rust will corrupt;” “not defiled,” like the earthly Canaan, by wicked inhabitants, (for “into heaven nothing entereth that can defile [Note: Revelation 21:27.];”) “not fading,” by use, or age, or enjoyment, like the pleasures of sense: no, it is an inheritance worthy of God to give to his beloved children, even that inheritance which Christ himself, as our Forerunner, our Head, and Representative, already occupies. “To a lively hope of this” are we begotten, whilst yet we are in this vale of tears; and to the full possession of it, as soon as we go hence.]
In securing to us the possession of it—
[In two ways is this inheritance secured to us: “it is reserved by God for us; and we are kept by God for it;” so that neither shall it be taken from us by any enemy; nor shall we be suffered to come short of it through our own weakness. This is what God promised, by his prophet of old: “I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me [Note: Jeremiah 32:40.].” O inestimable gift! This security is the crown of all. What would regeneration be without it? What would it be to be made sons of God, and heirs of heaven, if we were left to ourselves, to engage in our own strength our great adversary? Truly there is not one of us, however elevated he may at this moment be, who would not, in a very short space of time, if left to himself, become a child of Satan, and an heir of hell. But the power of God! what shall withstand that? or who shall fail, that has that exerted for him? All that is required of us is, to “have faith in God [Note: Mark 11:22. Joh 14:1.].” If only our faith be as a grain of mustard-seed, there is nothing that we shall not be able to effect [Note: Matthew 17:20.]. But “Christ has prayed for us, that our faith may not fail; and therefore, though Satan desires to have us, that he may sift us as wheat,” yet shall he not finally prevail against us [Note: Luke 22:31-32.]; but “shall be bruised under our feet [Note: Romans 16:20.],” even as he was under the feet of our triumphant Saviour: for “because HE, our Almighty Saviour, liveth, we shall live also [Note: John 14:19.].” Like persons in an impregnable fortress [Note: This is the precise import of the word φρουρούμενος.], we may defy all the powers of darkness, and smile at all the confederacies both of earth and hell.]
Observe then, beloved,
How happy are the saints, the sons of God—
[If we consider only the “hope,” “the lively hope,” to which they are begotten, methinks they are by far the happiest of all mankind. But, if we take a view of the inheritance itself, the wonderful inheritance to which they are begotten—and, above all, the security which they possess for the ultimate enjoyment of it—what shall I say? Are they not happy? Or can they be placed in any circumstances whatever (sin only excepted) wherein they are not proper objects of envy to the whole creation? Be it granted, that they are as much oppressed as ever saints were, and as destitute of all earthly comfort; still will I congratulate them from my inmost soul, and bid them exclaim with joy and gratitude, “Blessed be God, who hath begotten us again!” — — —]
How pitiable is the condition of the unregenerate—
[You, alas! have no part or lot in the felicity of God’s children. Never having been begotten of him, you have no relation to him, nor any title to his inheritance. Ah! think, then, whose children ye are [Note: John 8:44.], and with whom you must take your everlasting portion [Note: Matthew 25:41.]! I tremble to announce such awful tidings. But I thank God that yet ye may become new creatures: for, as all the saints once were what ye now are, so may ye become what they are [Note: Galatians 4:12.]. Yes, the word, which is God’s great instrument, yet sounds in your ears: and it is as powerful as ever, to convert souls to him [Note: Hebrews 4:12.]. Only receive it into your hearts by faith; and it shall “turn you,” as it has unnumbered millions of your fellow-creatures, “from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God [Note: Acts 26:18.].” Only believe in Christ, and you shall instantly become sons of God [Note: John 1:12. before cited, with Galatians 3:26.], and be enabled to look up to heaven as your everlasting inheritance. My dear brethren, “make not light of” this great salvation. Do but think how “ready it is to be revealed,” and how certainly it shall be attained by all who believe in Christ. May God now pour out his Holy Spirit upon you all, that not one of you may “receive this grace of God in vain!”]
THE END OF AFFLICTION
1 Peter 1:6-7. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.
THE enlightening and converting of souls are the first objects of a minister’s attention: nevertheless, the comforting of God’s people is also an essential part of his duty. This was the special direction which God gave to the prophet of old [Note: Isaiah 42:1.]: it is a conformity to the Divine Exemplar [Note: 2 Corinthians 7:6.]: it is the fruit of the comforts they themselves receive [Note: 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4.].” St. Peter is a striking pattern of a sympathizing and affectionate pastor. He writes to the Christians who were scattered through divers countries; and begins with setting before them the richest topics of consolation [Note: ver. 3–5.]. He shews them the blessed end for which their present troubles are suffered to come upon them—
The state and condition of God’s people—
Believers have at all times within themselves a ground of joy: yet they are also frequently oppressed with deep and pungent sorrow. They experience a peculiar and united exercise of these opposite affections.
They “greatly rejoice” in the mercy which has been vouchsafed unto them—
[They have been begotten of God to a lively hope of a glorious inheritance: they see that inheritance reserved for them, and themselves kept for it. This cannot but be matter of exceeding joy to them at all times.]
But they are at the same time encompassed with manifold temptations—
[They are hated, reviled, and persecuted by the world: they are assailed with “the fiery darts of the devil:” they are harassed with innumerable corruptions in their own hearts.]
Through these temptations they are sometimes “in great heaviness”—
[Grace does not destroy, but only moderates our natural feelings. Christians therefore may be deeply oppressed with grief: not that God will suffer them to continue always in heaviness. Nevertheless he permits them to be in this state occasionally, and “for a season.”]
There is “a necessity” that they should undergo trials of this kind—
[God could save them without leaving them to endure any trial; but he “perfected his own Son by sufferings:” he has ordained that the members shall in this respect be conformed to their Head [Note: Zechariah 13:9.].]
Their temptations, however afflictive at the time, are permitted for their good.
The end for which they are suffered to be in that state—
Temptations, of whatever kind they be, are justly called “trials of our faith”—
[No man can exercise the grace of patience, or of contentment, unless he be in a situation that may give rise to impatience or discontent: nor can faith be known to exist in the heart, unless there be some circumstances that give scope for the manifestation of it; but temptations, especially such as produce much grief, can be surmounted only by strong faith. Hence God himself speaks as though he discovered Abraham’s grace by means of the difficulties into which he was brought [Note: Genesis 22:12.].]
In this view they are “much more precious than the trial of gold”—
[Gold, though it stand the trial of the fire, will perish at last; but faith, in its effects at least, will endure for ever. The value and the brightness given to gold by the furnace are not so estimable, as the purity and brightness which our faith derives from affliction.]
Their real worth will not be discerned till the day of judgment—
[They will have a different aspect in “the day of Christ’s appearing” from what they have now. The benefit resulting from them will be then fully discovered.]
They will then “be found to the praise and honour of those who endured them”—
[Every thing we have done or suffered for Christ will be brought to light: a reward proportioned to our faithfulness will then be given us. Great sufferings will issue in “an eternal weight of glory”.]
They will be declared also to the praise and honour of Christ himself—
[Christ is “the author and finisher of our faith:” he will have the glory of carrying his people through their trials. Thus they will issue in the good of the sufferers, and the glory of Christ.]
This is the end for which God permits his people to endure them—
How little cause have any persons to question their interest in God’s favour on account of their trials, or their grief under them!
[Satan takes advantage of the afflictions of the saints to impress their minds with desponding thoughts: their natural turn of mind, too, sometimes favours such impressions. Even bodily disorder also may concur to deject their souls. But the being in heaviness through temptations is no just ground of doubting our acceptance with God. The persons of whom the Apostle speaks in the text, were most undoubtedly in a converted state [Note: They were “begotten again,” had “a lively hope,” “believed in Christ,” “loved him,” “rejoiced in him with joy unspeakable,” and had “received the salvation of their souls.” ver. 3, 8, 9.]. Let not any tempted soul then be desponding or dejected [Note: Isaiah 40:27-31.].]
What abundant reason have we to be reconciled to afflictions!
[Afflictions are trying to our frail nature, but they are salutary to our souls [Note: Hebrews 12:11.]. We shall ere long see the necessity and benefit of each of our sorrows. The praise and honour in which they will issue will make amends for all. Let us then even now account them “precious [Note: James 1:2-3.]:” let us consider how light they are, when compared with the glory of heaven [Note: Romans 8:18.]: let us only be concerned to possess our souls in patience [Note: James 1:4.].]
THE CHRISTIAN’S HAPPINESS
1 Peter 1:8-9. Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.
THE world often wonder that Christians do not conform to the vices of the age [Note: 1 Peter 4:4.]: and are yet more surprised, that any should be willing to suffer for the sake of their religion. But every Christian is actuated by a principle of love to Christ; which principle even gathers strength from the opposition it meets with. The Apostle is writing to those who were in heaviness through manifold temptations. He declares, however, that their trials were promoting their eternal good; and that they were supported under them by their attachment to their adorable Redeemer.
In his words we may see,
The state of true Christians—
Christians cannot be distinguished better by any thing, than by their regard to their Divine Master:
They love Christ—
[Once, like the ungodly around them, they were enemies to Christ and his cross [Note: Philippians 3:19.]: they “saw no beauty in him, for which he was to be desired [Note: Isaiah 53:2.].” But now he is truly precious to their souls [Note: 1 Peter 2:7.]: and they claim him as their best friend and portion [Note: Song of Solomon 5:16.]. This is the character of every true Christian [Note: Ephesians 6:24.] — — — If any answer not to this character, they are, and must be, accursed [Note: 1 Corinthians 16:22.].]
They rejoice in Christ—
[They have a good hope, if not a full assurance, of an interest in him. They have access to him in their secret duties. They receive strengthening and refreshing communications from him. They rejoice in him, as their faithful and almighty Friend [Note: Philippians 4:4.]. Their joy in him is “incapable of being fully declared [Note: ἀνεκλαήτῳ.].” It is a “glorified” joy, such as the saints in heaven possess [Note: δεδοξασμἑνῃ.]. Every Christian indeed does not experience the same measure of joy; nor is any one at all times alike joyful: but no one is a Christian, who does not esteem the light of the Redeemer’s countenance above every other good [Note: Psalms 4:6; Psalms 73:25.].]
That their felicity may be more generally experienced, we proceed to state,
The means by which they attain it—
[Many suppose, that if they could have a personal interview with Christ, such as Paul was favoured with, they should love him, and rejoice in him. But a sight of him with the bodily eyes only never in any instance produced this effect. Many who even heard his discourses, and beheld his miracles, were amongst his bitterest enemies. The Christians to whom St. Peter wrote had never seen Christ. The Apostle twice mentions this circumstance, to shew that their regard for him did not arise from any personal acquaintance with him. Faith is the only mean whereby we are brought to this love and joy: as it is said, “in whom believing, ye rejoice.” It is only by faith that we can behold the excellency of Christ — — — by faith only that we can apply his merits to ourselves — — — by faith only that we can receive his gracious communications [Note: Ephesians 3:17.]. Repentance will lead to this state; and obedience spring from it: but it is faith only that will prevail to bring us into it [Note: Romans 15:13.].]
To increase our ardour in pressing forward to this state, let us consider,
The blessedness of those who have attained it—
[The salvation of the soul is the great “end of our faith.” Present comforts are desirable; but eternal happiness is that which the Christian has principally in view. It is to this that he looks forward, under his first convictions. This is the end for which he cheerfully endures all his privations and conflicts. In every possible state he has an eye to this, as the consummation of all his hopes and desires. And this blessed object is already attained by all true Christians: they do not wait for it till they arrive in heaven; their full reward indeed is reserved for another world. But believers have the foretastes of heaven already communicated to them; yea, their love to Christ, and their joy in him, are an earnest, as well as pledge, of their eternal inheritance; they now, in a way of anticipation and actual enjoyment, “receive the end of their faith, even the salvation of their souls.”]
What a rational character is the Christian!
[He is thought an enthusiast, for loving and rejoicing in Christ; and they who have no such love or joy appropriate to themselves the name of rational Christians. Now we are willing to meet our adversaries on this ground, and to submit our sentiments to this test. If to admire supreme excellence, to love infinite amiableness, and to rejoice in unbounded goodness, be a rational employment; yea, if the glorified saints and angels be rational, then the Christian is a rational character; and the more so, in proportion as he loves and rejoices in Christ: and their adversaries are most irrational, in that they can love and rejoice in the things of time and sense, and yet feel no love to, nor any joy in, our adorable Lord and Saviour. Let those who are now despised as enthusiasts, think who will be accounted rational in the day of judgment — — —]
How clearly may we know, whether we be real Christians or not!
[There are certainly different degrees of faith, love, and joy; but every true Christian experiences them in some measure. This is decided by an authority that cannot be doubted [Note: Philippians 3:3.]. Let us then examine what is the supreme object of our affections, and chief source of our joys — — — Nor let us ever conclude well of our state, unless we can adopt from our hearts the language of St. Paul; “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord [Note: Philippians 3:8.].”]
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE PROPHECIES
1 Peter 1:10-12. Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the Gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.
THE same “salvation” that is made known to us, was revealed from the beginning. It was gradually unfolded to the world by many succeeding prophets. It is indeed exhibited as with meridian splendour in the New Testament. Yet by comparing the predictions of the prophets with the writings of the Apostles, we attain at once the fullest evidence of its divine original, and the deepest insight into its mysterious doctrines.
The truth of this observation will appear, while we consider,
The substance of the prophecies—
Though many things contained in them related only to the times wherein they were written, yet much of them undoubtedly relates to future and distant periods.
The grand scope of them in the general is “the grace that should come unto us”—
[The Gospel is called “grace,” because it is the highest expression of God’s kindness towards our guilty world. It declares the wonderful provision which he has made for our recovery, and calls us to receive his blessings as a free unmerited gift. It represents every part of our salvation as the effect of his grace, and requires us now, as well as hereafter, to give him all the glory of it.]
More particularly Christ is the sum and substance of the prophecies—
[God himself tells us that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy [Note: Rev 19:10 and John 5:39.]:” the prophets “testified plainly of the sufferings of Christ.” So minutely did they describe the smallest and most improbable circumstances of his death, that their writings appear rather like a narration than a prophecy [Note: See Psalms 22:8; Psalms 22:16; Psalms 22:18; Psa 69:21 and Isaiah 53:0.]: nor did they speak less accurately respecting “his glory that should follow.” Every step of his exaltation, from his resurrection to his future coming to judge the world, is distinctly marked [Note: Psalms 68:18; Psalms 2:6.]; and the triumph of his Gospel over the benighted Gentiles is proclaimed with confidence and exultation [Note: Psalms 2:8. Compare Romans 15:9-12.].]
As in this light they deserve the deepest attention, so do they also on account of,
The importance of them—
The words before us mark the importance of the prophecies in a variety of views:
They were dictated by “the Spirit of Christ”—
[The Holy Ghost was the agent whom Christ employed from the beginning [Note: Compare 1 Peter 3:18-20.]: through him did Christ inspire the prophets, and enlighten the world [Note: 2 Peter 1:21.]. Thus were all the prophecies clearly of divine original; and can any thing more strongly mark their value and importance?]
The Prophets themselves “inquired and searched diligently” into their meaning—
[The inspired men did not understand the precise import of their own prophecies. They only knew that they “ministered to the Church in distant ages;” but they studied the word, and sometimes with good effect, to gain an insight into the intentions and purposes of God [Note: Daniel 9:2.]. And if they judged their predictions so important while they were involved in obscurity, shall they be less valuable to us who have seen their accomplishment?]
The Apostles, in declaring their accomplishment, received miraculous testimonies from the Holy Ghost—
[They, “who first preached the Gospel, reported those things as done, which the prophets had beforehand testified” as to be done in due time; and their word was accompanied “with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven [Note: Hebrews 2:4.].” Nor was this divine seal ever more immediately set to their ministrations than when they expressly referred to the prophecies as fulfilled in Jesus [Note: Acts 10:43-44.]. Nothing surely could put a greater honour on the prophecies than this.]
The very Angels “desire to look into them”—
[The angelic figures over the ark were formed looking down upon it [Note: Exodus 25:20.]. This intimated the interest they feel in the work of redemption. They arc indeed made wiser by the revelation given to the Church [Note: Ephesians 3:10.]. Though they dwell in the presence of God, they desire to know more of this mystery. Though they have no personal interest in it, they long to comprehend it. Can we then, whose interest in it is so great, have low thoughts of any part of those Scriptures which exhibit and illustrate it?]
What a mercy is it to live under the full light of the Gospel!
[Those things, which the patriarchs saw only in types and prophecies, we are privileged to enjoy in their substance and accomplishment. Well therefore does Christ say to us, “Blessed are your eyes, blessed are your ears;” but if our light be greater than theirs, our obligations to follow it are proportionably increased; and if we neglect to improve it, surely both prophets and angels will appear against us to condemn us.]
In searching the Scriptures we should attend particularly to what is said of Christ—
[Many read the Scriptures without ever discovering the fulness and excellency of Christ; but as “they testify of him,” so we are most concerned in what relates to him. Let us then fix our eyes diligently on that ark of God; let us treasure up in our minds whatever is spoken of “his sufferings and glory;” and, “mixing faith with what we read,” let us seek to be made wise unto salvation.]
THE ANGELS INTERESTED ABOUT THE GOSPEL
1 Peter 1:12. Which things the angels desire to look into.
THE Gospel comes recommended to us by a great variety of most important considerations. It occupied the mind of God from all eternity. From the beginning of the world it has been revealed with gradually increasing light and evidence. When the period arrived for its full promulgation, it was opened by the Lord of life himself, and was spread with incredible effect by a few poor fishermen, whom he chose and qualified to proclaim it. The Holy Ghost also bore testimony to it by miracles unnumbered, that were wrought expressly in confirmation of it. But there is one circumstance, which is rarely adverted to, which yet should exceedingly endear the Gospel to us; namely, that the holy angels are greatly interested in it, and that they are daily studying to comprehend it. This is affirmed by St. Peter in the words before us: for the elucidation of which we shall point out,
The subjects of their inquiry—
The two preceding verses inform us, that the “salvation” of man, and “the grace that is brought unto us” for the securing of that salvation, are objects of their continual regard. More particularly they inquire into these things,
As foretold by prophets—
[Every minute circumstance relative to the Gospel has been foretold by one or other of the prophets; insomuch, that, if we understood perfectly every part of the prophetic writings, we might extract from them as complete an account of the person, work, and offices of Christ, and of the establishment of his kingdom upon earth, as from the New Testament itself. But the prophets did not know the full extent of their own prophecies. They knew that they spake by a divine impulse; but the precise import of what they spake, they knew not. As the wicked Caiaphas, intending to stimulate the Jewish council to put Jesus to death, delivered unwittingly a prophecy that Jesus should die for the whole world [Note: John 11:49-52.]; so the pious prophets frequently delivered their sentiments in language, which was dictated by the Holy Ghost for the purpose of proclaiming mysteries which they themselves understood not. Hence they “inquired and searched diligently” into the meaning of their own prophecies [Note: ver. 10, 11.]. The angels, in like manner, are desirous of investigating these deep subjects. To intimate the concern which they take in these things, there was a very striking emblem of it in the Jewish temple. In the holy of holies was the ark: on that was placed the mercy-seat: and over that were two cherubims overshadowing it with their wings. The ark (in which the tables of the law were kept) was a type of Christ, in whose heart the law was; and by whom it was fulfilled for us; and through whose obedience to it God exercises mercy towards us. This exhibited the substance of the Gospel. Now the cherubims were formed somewhat in an inclined posture, looking down upon the ark [Note: Exodus 25:20.]: and this was ordered of God on purpose to denote the interest which angels take in this deep mystery, and the desire which they have to comprehend it: and it is to this very thing that St. Peter alludes in the words of our text [Note: ἐπιθυμοῦσιν παρακύψαι.].]
As executed by Christ—
“The sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow,” were fully declared before he became incarnate. The angels therefore were prepared for that stupendous series of events which in the fulness of time began to be accomplished: and, no doubt, they waited for them with devout and earnest expectation. Accordingly, the very instant that they saw him brought into the world, they carried the glad tidings to the shepherds, and informed them of the place of his nativity. From that moment, and especially in the most important scenes of his life, they watched him, not only as anxious spectators, but as agents employed by their Creator to minister to his necessities, or to attest his triumphs. After his temptations in the wilderness, and his conflicts in the garden, they gladly interposed their friendly offices to comfort and support him. Though we are not expressly told that they were present at his crucifixion, we can have no doubt but that they attended on him at that awful period with more than ordinary solicitude. Were they capable of sorrow, methinks, their eyes would on that occasion be as a fountain of tears; and they would beat their breasts with grief and anguish. But with what joy did they roll away the stone from his sepulchre, in order that his re-animated body might arise [Note: Matthew 28:2-4.]! How happy were they to satisfy the inquiring females respecting the truth of his resurrection, and the accomplishment of his own predictions! At his ascension, too, they comforted his astonished followers, by announcing to them his intended return in the clouds of heaven at the last day. Shall we say that in these things they were mere servants and messengers, who felt no interest in the events themselves? We know the contrary: for at his birth a whole multitude of the heavenly hosts burst forth into that rapturous hymn, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards men!”]
As enjoyed by the Church—
[It is not in a speculative view merely that they contemplate the great work of redemption: they consider it as “the grace that is brought unto us:” and in that view their benevolent hearts are most deeply affected with it. Hence, as well as from a sense of duty to their God, arose that affectionate solicitude which they expressed on all the occasions above referred to. Wherever the glad tidings are carried, they hasten, to mark the effects produced by them: and if they behold a sinner impressed by them with humble penitence and contrition, not even the presence of their God, nor all the glory of heaven, will keep them from rejoicing on his account. They acquire, as it were, new joy from every triumph that the Redeemer gains, and from every benefit that man receives. From the moment of a sinner’s return to God, they watch over him with the tenderest care. They encamp around him, and minister unto him. Little do we think how much we are indebted to their friendly aid; from how many snares they deliver us; in how many conflicts they succour us; and with what transport they bear our triumphant spirits into the world of bliss. As once they waited with impatience to see the prophecies accomplished, and the work of redemption executed in the person of Christ; so do they now wait with ardent desire to see the consummation of the Church’s happiness, and the completion of the Redeemer’s glory. And at that great and solemn day will whole myriads of them attend, to perform their last kind offices to God’s elect; to assemble them in one collective body; and to unite with them in ascribing everlasting praises to God and to the Lamb. They cannot indeed say, “He has loved us and washed us;” but they will most heartily join in singing, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.”]
Their solicitude about things that relate to us, however strange it may appear at first sight, will not be thought strange, if we consider,
The reasons of it—
If we were unable to assign any reasons for their conduct, we might be well assured that their actions were regulated by wisdom and prudence.
But it is not difficult to account for their anxiety respecting these things: they look into them, not to gratify a vain curiosity, but,
Because of the glory of God displayed in them—
[The angels have been blessed with many bright discoveries of the Divine glory, both in the works of creation and of providence. But these have all been eclipsed by the brighter displays of it in the works of redemption. Every thing in the universe bespeaks the wisdom, the power, and the goodness of God: and the punishment inflicted on the fallen angels declares his justice and holiness. But the plan of salvation revealed in the Gospel is represented as being eminently, and beyond all comparison, “the wisdom of God, and the power of God.” Terrible as the justice of God appears in the miseries of the damned, it appears incomparably more tremendous in the sufferings of the Son of God, which were inflicted on him for our sins, and which were indispensably necessary to satisfy its inexorable demands. But what shall we say of mercy? There was not a single trace of that to be found in the whole universe. The angels, after seeing the judgments executed on the apostate spirits, could have no idea that mercy could be exercised towards the guilty. But in the Gospel it shines forth as with meridian splendour; and all the other perfections of the Deity unite and harmonize with it. Can we wonder then, that when they have a prospect of beholding “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” they should look into that glass which reflects it? Can we wonder that they should examine with unwearied attention the prophecies that relate to Christ, the various incidents of his life and death, and the numberless benefits that he confers on all his followers? This alone wore ample reason for all the care and diligence they can possibly exert.]
Because of the benefit accruing to themselves from the contemplation of them—
[Wise as those bright intelligences are, we have no doubt but that they are made wiser by their progressive discoveries of the truth of God. The revealing of the Gospel unto man is one way which God has adopted for the further illumination of the heavenly hosts; he makes known his manifold wisdom to the Church, in order that by the Church it may be exhibited before the eyes of angels and archangels [Note: Ephesians 3:10.]. We have no reason to think that they have any revelations made to them, except through the medium of the Church: and consequently, if they would grow in knowledge, they must search, as it were, the sacred oracles, and “draw their water out of our wells of salvation.”
But by their contemplation of the Gospel they are made happier too, as well as wiser. For, in what does their happiness consist? Is it not derived principally from the knowledge of God, and their admiration of all his glorious perfections? But it has been before shewn, that their views of the Divine glory are rendered incomparably more clear and full by the representations given of it in the Gospel: consequently, their admiration of God must continually increase; and their delight in him be proportionably enlarged.]
How unfounded is men’s contempt of the Gospel!
[The Gospel ever has been despised by proud self-sufficient men, and ever will be, as long as such men continue upon earth. It will ever appear “foolishness to the natural man.” It is still loaded with reproach, and stigmatized with opprobrious names; and he must be “a stranger indeed in our Jerusalem,” who has not known and witnessed this humiliating fact. But what do these scoffers think of themselves? Are they wiser or befter that the angels? Do they imagine the angels so weak as to admire and search into things which are unworthy the notice of a sensible man? Alas! these proud despisers of God and of good men evince to the world, that they themselves are the greatest objects of pity and compassion. We do not, however, say to them as Paul did to the obstinate and obdurate Jews, “Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish [Note: Acts 13:41.];” but rather, Behold, and wonder, and adore.]
How criminal is their neglect of it!
[Though the angels are in some measure interested in the Gospel, yet their concern with it is not to be compared with ours, They would have been happy, though no Saviour had come into the world; but where should we have been? what would have become of us? Christ took not on him their nature: he shod not his blood for them; it was for us he become a man: for us he died upon the cross. What guilt then do we contract in slighting all his overtures of mercy! Surely the angels will rise up in judgment against us, and condemn us, if we are indifferent to the salvation he has so dearly purchased, and so freely offered.]
How great a blessing is it to be well instructed in it!
[We do not wish to depreciate human knowledge; but we do not hesitate to affirm, that all other knowledge, how deep, extensive, or valuable soever it may be, is no better than dung and dross in comparison of this [Note: Philippians 3:8.]. All other knowledge shall vanish away; but this shall endure for ever. Angels would account all other things beneath their notice: but they never think they can pay too much attention to this. Know then, that if your eyes are opened to behold aright the groat mystery of redemption, you have the most valuable gift that God himself can bestow. You have that which will bring salvation to your soul. Yon, if yon have but moderately clear views of the Gospel, you are in that respect greater and more highly-favoured than all the prophets; not excepting even John himself, who was more then a prophet, and had the distinguished honour of pointing out to men “the Lamb of God that should take away the sin of the world.” Whatever then God has bestowed upon yon, value this above all: whatever he has with-held from you, be satisfied with this. Whatever you do, or whatever you neglect, be sure to cultivate this. Resemble the angels in “looking into these things;” and you shall resemble them in holiness, and be with them in glory.]
DIRECTIONS HOW TO SEEK HEAVEN WITH SUCCESS
1 Peter 1:13. Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
THE truths of God deserve our attention on account of their own excellence; but they are principally to be valued for the effects they produce on our lives. The Apostles never rest satisfied with stating a mere system of doctrines, they invariably proceed to make a practical application of them to the soul. St. Peter had briefly opened the blessed state of true believers. He had represented them as begotten to a glorious inheritance, of which their joy in Christ was an earnest, and to which, through their present trials, they would be advanced. He then urged the near approach of that glory, as a reason for exerting themselves more diligently in their Christian calling—“Wherefore,” &c.
The words of the text lead us to consider,
The great object of a Christian’s pursuit—
There are in Scripture many beautiful descriptions of heaven, but none more interesting than that contained in the words before us.
The day of judgment is here called “the revelation of Jesus Christ”—
[Jesus Christ was revealed in the first promise that was made to man [Note: Genesis 3:15.]. He was also exhibited in the sacrifices which Abel offered [Note: Hebrews 11:4; Hebrews 12:24.]. In successive ages he was made known in clearer prophecies [Note: Gen 22:18 and Isaiah 53:4-5; Isaiah 53:11.], and typified by various ordinances of the Jewish ritual [Note: Compare Exodus 12:5. with 1 Peter 1:19.]. In process of time he was personally “manifested in human flesh,” and shewed himself to be the Son of God by most irrefragable proofs [Note: Acts 2:22.Romans 1:4; Romans 1:4.]. In the preaching of his Gospel he was yet more fully revealed. The glory of God as shining in his face is most transcendently displayed [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:6.]; still however “we see him as yet only through a glass darkly [Note: 1 Corinthians 13:12.].” But in the last day he will appear in all his majesty and glory [Note: Matthew 25:31.]: he will “be revealed from heaven, with his mighty angels, in flaming fire [Note: 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8.].” His enemies, no less than his friends, will then see him to be “King of kings, and Lord of lords.”]
In that day, “grace will be brought unto us”—
[Grace and glory are sometimes used as synonymous terms in Scripture [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:18. compared with the text.]; indeed, grace is glory begun, and glory is grace consummated. The spiritual blessings which God bestows, appear now to be the gifts of grace [Note: Ephesians 2:7-8.]; but how much more shall we acknowledge the glories of heaven to be so! How shall we marvel at the goodness of God in all his dealings towards us! How shall we adore his wisdom, even in the darkest of his dispensations. How shall we stand amazed that we were saved, while so many others were lost! Surely, “when the top-stone is brought forth, we shall cry, Grace, grace, unto it [Note: Zechariah 4:7.].” All this felicity “shall be brought unto us” openly, and in rich abundance. Now, the grace imparted to us is small, though “sufficient for us;” and the consolations vouchsafed unto us, are known only to ourselves. But in that day the kingdom will be given us in the presence of the whole universe [Note: Matthew 25:32; Matthew 25:34.]; and our happiness shall be commensurate with our capacities and desires. What we partake of now, we obtain by diligent pursuit. What we receive then, shall be “brought unto us” freely by the hand of Jesus himself.]
In the meantime it becomes us to seek it with all earnestness.
In what manner we ought to seek it—
The directions given by the Apostle are very suitable and instructive—
He recommends to us three things:
Activity of mind—
[The Jews were accustomed to wear long garments; these they girded about their loins, when it was needful to use expedition [Note: Luke 12:35-37.]. By this figure, familiar to them, the Apostle represents our duty. Our minds are dissipated by ten thousand vanities, and our affections, for the most part, flow loosely round us, but our thoughts and desires should be carefully gathered in. We should pray, like David, “Unite my heart to fear thy name [Note: Psalms 86:11.].” Heaven is not to be sought with a divided heart. Earthly affections would impede our progress, as flowing garments in a race: the prophet compares them to an incumbrance of thick clay upon the feet [Note: Habakkuk 2:6.]. We should therefore “gird up the loins of our mind,” and “give all diligence to make our calling and election sure.”]
Sobriety of manners—
[Sobriety, in the scripture use of the term, means moderation. Excessive cares, and inordinate attachments, are very unfavourable to the soul: they so engross the mind with present things, as to draw it away from those which are eternal. We cannot therefore too carefully watch against these evils. We should endeavour to be “dying daily” to the world. We should be as one crucified to it; and it, as one crucified to us [Note: Galatians 6:14.]. This is the state and character of every true Christian [Note: Galatians 5:24.]; and we must attain it, if we would successfully pursue the one thing needful.]
Steadfastness of faith—
[Faith respects the certainty of the promises; and hope, the accomplishment. Now, our faith is apt to waver, and our hope, to languish. Temptations often allure us to forego our interest in heavenly things, and unbelief would often persuade us that we have no part or lot in them. But we must be careful never to be moved away from the hope of the Gospel [Note: Colossians 1:23.]. Hope is the very anchor of the soul, that must keep us steadfast in this tempestuous world [Note: Hebrews 6:19.]. We must “therefore hold fast our confidence and the rejoicing of our hope firm to the end [Note: Hebrews 3:6.].” The nearer we come to the prize, the more earnest should be our expectation of it. If our conflicts be many, we should, even against hope, believe in hope [Note: Romans 4:18.]. The proper disposition of our souls is well described by the Apostles [Note: 2 Peter 3:12.]—; and it is to persons of this description only, that Christ’s appearance will be a source of joy [Note: Hebrews 9:28.].]
Those who are only nominal Christians—
[Your loins indeed are girt, but it is for the pursuit of earthly objects. Instead of having your souls engrossed with heavenly things, you are perfectly indifferent towards them. As for your hopes they extend to nothing but what relates to this present life. Alas! what an awful contrast is there between you and the true Christian! What then, suppose ye, shall he brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ? The Apostle, in a fore-cited passage, tells you, it will be “vengeance [Note: 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8.];” yes, and Jesus will bring it with his own hand. It is in vain to think that your portion will be the same with that of a diligent, self-denying Christian. But, blessed be God, grace is now brought to you by the Gospel; yea, all the glory of heaven is now offered you by God himself [Note: Acts 2:38-39.]. Only repent, and go unto God as reconciled in Christ Jesus, then shall you “pass from death to life,” and from hell to heaven.]
Those who are Christians indeed—
[There are some, who “shine as lights in a dark world:” some, who, while living on earth, “have their conversation in heaven.” Doubtless, ye meet with many conflicts and troubles in your way. To you then in particular is the text addressed: for persons circumstanced like you these words were written [Note: 1 Peter 1:1; 1 Peter 1:6.]. Survey that grace which is now speedily to be brought unto you. Take a view of all the glory and felicity of the heavenly world; compare with that your light and momentary afflictions: you will then soon form the same estimate as St. Paul before you did [Note: Romans 8:18.]. Be not then diverted from the great object of your pursuit. Remember the solemn caution which God himself has given you [Note: Hebrews 10:38.]—; and take for your encouragement that faithful promise [Note: Matthew 24:13.]—]
NECESSITY OF HOLINESS
1 Peter 1:15-16. As he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.
IT is thought by many, that the Gospel is unfriendly to morality: and it must be confessed, that, when stated in all its freeness and in all its richness, it bears that aspect: for it proclaims a free and full salvation to men; and that solely by faith. It declares, that if men rely on their works, in any measure, for justification before God, or perform them in any respect with a view to obtain justification by them, they make void the cross of Christ, and cut themselves off from all hope of an interest in him. The Gospel authorizes us to say, that the most abandoned of mankind are as welcome to all its benefits as the most moral; and that “where sin has abounded, grace shall much more abound.” Now, these statements certainly do appear open to the objection that is brought against them: for, if past sins are no bar to our acceptance with God, and moral services cannot procure it, to what purpose is it to avoid sin, or to do good works? We may as well at once give loose to all our evil propensities, and “continue in sin, that grace may abound.” Now, it is worthy of particular notice, that these were the very objections urged against St. Paul’s statements [Note: Romans 5:1; Romans 5:15.]: and he was constrained to answer them, not by weakening the force of his statements, but by obviating the objections themselves; and shewing, that the Gospel, as preached by him, both made provision for holiness, and secured it against a possibility of failure [Note: Romans 3:31.]. The truth is, that though the law, as a covenant, is superseded by the Gospel, which introduces a better covenant, it is in force as much as ever, as a rule of life; and that, whilst we are without the law, in relation to its ceremonial ordinances, we are “not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,” in relation to its moral power and ascendency [Note: 1 Corinthians 9:21.]. St. Peter shews this with peculiar force: for, speaking to persons who were called to the knowledge of Christ and of salvation by him, he cites out of the Levitical law the command of God respecting holiness, and applies it to Christians as still existing in all its primitive force. Without any fear, therefore, of being legal, as it is called, or of clogging the Gospel with duties not pertaining to it, I proceed to set before you,
The injunction given us—
Repeatedly was this command given to the Jews of old [Note: Leviticus 11:44; Leviticus 19:2; Leviticus 20:7.]. Let us consider,
[Holiness is a conformity to the mind and will of God. And to it are we called by the Gospel [Note: 1 Thessalonians 4:7.]. “The grace which brings salvation to us, teaches us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world [Note: Titus 2:11-12.].” Negative holiness, if I may so express myself, is to be sought in the first instance. We are “no longer to fashion ourselves according to our former lusts in our ignorance [Note: ver. 14.];” but, advancing to the positive execution of our duty, we are to be “holy in all manner of conversation.” In all our walk with God, we must be sincere and upright: there must be no allowed guile in our hearts. And in our intercourse with men, every action, word, and thought, must be under the influence of love, and agreeable to its dictates. Neither times nor circumstances are so to operate as to produce in us any allowed deviation from God’s perfect law. We are to be altogether “a holy people unto the Lord.” It was for this end that the Lord Jesus Christ both lived and died, even “that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works [Note: Titus 2:14.].” And to this are we chosen by God himself: for though “we were chosen to salvation, it was to be through sanctification of the Spirit, as well as through the belief of the truth [Note: 2 Thessalonians 2:13.].” To this effect St. Paul speaks: “God has chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we may be holy [Note: Ephesians 1:4.].” And to the same effect St. Peter also says, in the commencement of this epistle; “We are elect, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience [Note: ver. 2.].” The command then is clear, that we are to be holy both in heart and life.]
The reason with which it is enforced—
[As children of God, we ought to be “children of obedience.” The very circumstance of our having been “called” by divine grace, lays this obligation upon us. But there is a remarkable force in the reason here assigned; “Be ye holy; for I am holy.” It seems to import these three things: “Be ye holy; for without holiness you cannot belong to me, or enjoy me, or dwell with me in my kingdom.” I could never acknowledge an unholy person as having an interest in my favour: it would be unworthy of me: it would be to make myself a patron and partaker of his sins. Nor could an unholy being gain access to me: his very dispositions would separate him from me; and prevent his having communion with me. Nor, though he were admitted into heaven, could he be happy there. He would find no one there that resembled him, or that had a like taste with him, or that could join with him in any of his pursuits. He would be out of his element altogether: nor would one in hell pant more for deliverance, to get rid of his pains, than he would for an escape from the company and occupations for which he felt no relish. Hence, when God says, “Be ye holy; for I am holy,” we must understand him, not as issuing a mere arbitrary command, but as declaring, that none but a holy being has any reason to expect, or any capacity to enjoy, his favour.]
But we shall have a deeper insight into the injunction, if we consider,
The exhortation founded upon it—
“As he that hath called you is holy, so be ye holy, in all manner of conversation.” In these words the Apostle does not merely confirm the authority of the injunction itself, but points out the extent to which it is to be obeyed, and the object we must aim at in order to a full compliance with it.
We must take God himself for our pattern [Note: This is the idea suggested in the original.]—
[The natural perfections of the Deity are, and ever must be, peculiar to himself: but his moral perfections must be possessed by us, so far as we are capable of attaining them. His goodness, his patience, his mercy, his love, his truth, his faithfulness, are all to be imitated by us; so that “what God himself is in the world, that are we to be also [Note: 1 John 4:17.].” That we might be at no loss on this all-important subject, the Lord Jesus Christ has “set us an example, that we might follow his steps [Note: 1 Peter 2:24.]:” and we are “to walk in all things as he walked [Note: 1 John 2:6.],” and to “purify ourselves even as he was pure [Note: 1 John 3:3.].” Of course, we cannot expect ever to attain his perfection: but that is no reason why we should not aim at it. There is no one point in which we should allow ourselves to fall short of it: we should strive to be holy in all things, even as God himself is holy; and “perfect, even as our Father which is in heaven is perfect [Note: Matthew 5:48.].”]
By this must we shew that we are his people indeed—
[It is to this that “God has called us.” It is the very object which he had in view, in his whole work of grace upon our souls, even that we might be “created anew after his image, in righteousness and true holiness [Note: Ephesians 4:24.].” And, if our hearts be upright before God, this is the thing which we shall pant after, no less than after heaven itself. Sin will be our burthen and aversion; and a conformity to God will be regarded as the first object of our desire. Yea, to be “like him” will be contemplated by us as the perfection of our happiness, in “seeing him as he is [Note: 1 John 3:2.].”]
Those who are yet in nature’s “ignorance”—
[To exhort you to holiness were a vain attempt. You have no eyes to discern, no heart to appreciate its excellence. You must have the eyes of your understanding enlightened by the Spirit of God, before you can form any just conception of the beauty of holiness: you must have your heart of stone removed, and a heart of flesh given you, before you can be capable of bearing on you any lineaments of the Divine image. Let your first concern, therefore, be to become regenerate: for most assuredly, except ye be born again, you can never enter into, nor ever see, the kingdom of God. Remember, I say not this to those only who are openly and grossly wicked: I say it to the most moral amongst you: if you were as moral and amiable as Nicodemus himself, I would say to you, “Ye must be born again [Note: John 3:3; John 3:5; John 3:7.].” “A new heart must be given you, and a new spirit must be put within you,” ere you can have the very first principles of holiness in your souls. I pray you, therefore, to seek this first of blessings at the hands of God; and not to rest, till, through the operation of his Spirit upon your souls, “old things are passed away, and all things are become new.”]
Those who have been “called” out of darkness into God’s marvellous light—
[You are longing for the very blessing of which we have spoken. But in many of you there yet remains a considerable degree of ignorance respecting the appointed method of obtaining it. You are looking too much to your own exertions, and too little to the Saviour: and hence you make but little progress in the divine life. Hence, also, you obtain but little comfort in your own souls. You are ready to say, How can I be a child of God, when I bear so little of his image? and how can I venture to apply to myself his promises, whilst I am so unworthy of them. But these persons need to be informed, that they reverse God’s method of making his people holy. They would become holy first, and then apply to themselves the promises of God: whereas they must first take to themselves the promises of God as sinners; and then, through their influence upon the soul, obtain a conformity to the Divine image. “God has given to us exceeding great and precious promises, that by them we may be made partakers of the Divine nature [Note: 2 Peter 1:4.].” Hence the Apostle says, “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness, both of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God [Note: 2 Corinthians 7:1.].” Adopt this method, then: look to the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, and “lay hold on him as your sure hope and refuge.” First receive him in all the freeness and all the fulness of his salvation; then shall you attain the holiness you desire; and be able to say with the Apostle, “We, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:18.].”]
THE NECESSITY OF HOLY PEAR
1 Peter 1:17. If ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear.
CHRISTIANS possess many privileges by means of their relation to God; yet it is not their privileges, but their practical improvement of them, that will determine their state in the eternal world. They are called to be holy after the example of their God; and they must be conformed to his image, if they would be partakers of his glory. There will be no more partiality shewn to them than to others in the day of judgment. God will determine the fate of all by their actions; and the condition for which they are meet, shall be the condition allotted them to all eternity. St. Peter, inculcating the need of holy fear, insists upon it particularly as conducing to fit us for that strict account to which we shall all be very shortly called. In discoursing on his words we shall shew,
The impartiality of the future judgment—
The children of God maintain communion with God as their Father in Christ—
[The Apostle speaks of Christians as “obedient children;” and as calling upon the Father for a supply of their daily wants. This is the privilege of all true Christians; “a spirit of adoption is given them, that they may cry, Abba, Father;” and, because they are children, they may expect to receive all the glory of heaven as their inheritance — — —]
Nevertheless they will experience no partiality in the day of judgment—
[Among men it is but too common for parents to feel an undue bias in concerns relating to their children. But God has established one mode of procedure for all. His written law is the standard to which every thing shall be referred. The principles from which our actions flowed, the manner in which they were performed, and the end for which they were done, will be minutely investigated, and a sentence passed upon us according to their real quality. There will be no difference in this respect between Jew or Gentile, rich or poor; nor will any regard be shewn to men’s professions: it will be to no purpose to plead, “that they had Abraham to their Father,” or that they had “cast out devils in the name of Christ;” the one inquiry will be, Were ye holy? and according as this appears, their state will be for ever fixed.]
Interested as we are in the event of that day, let us inquire into,
The influence which this consideration should have upon us—
God requires us to pass our short span of life in fear—
[We are “sojourners in this world, as all our fathers were.” It is but a short time that any of us have to live, and then we shall be removed to our long home. The present state is a state of probation, a moment allotted us to prepare for eternity. Under such circumstances we should be “working out our salvation with fear and trembling.” Not that we should indulge a servile dread of God as a hard master, and a vindictive judge, but a holy reverential fear of offending him, and a tender concern to please him in all things. This is “the fear in which we should walk all the day long.”]
Nor can any thing tend more to produce this fear in us than the consideration now before us—
[Shall I be judged according to my works? Will every action, word, and thought, be weighed in the balance of the sanctuary? Will all my motives be inspected by Him, who “searcheth the heart, and weigheth the spirits?” Surely I have need to fear, lest some hidden abomination lurk within me, and lest I should be “speaking peace to my soul when there is no peace.” I need be studious to please him, whose favour or displeasure are of such importance to my soul. If I must stand or fall for eternity, it becomes me to redouble my care.]
Now, methinks, you will say, ‘Give me some special directions, that I may know how to carry into effect the Apostle’s advice.’ This I will endeavour to do in four particulars.
Be watchful against all occasions of sin—
[Our Lord has taught us to “pray lest we enter into temptation;” for in temptation how rarely do we retain our integrity! Let not those pretend to fear God, who needlessly expose themselves to the assaults of Satan. If we would “keep our garments clean,” we must be careful where, and with whom we walk. Does the command to “come out from the world” appear severe? it is not severe, but merciful, and necessary. If I bade you not go where the plague was raging, would you account that severe? May God enable all of you carefully to obey it, that you may escape infection, and live!]
Reflect frequently on the strictness of that scrutiny which we must undergo—
[When tempted to sin, let us not ask, What will the world say? but, How will this appear in God’s eyes? How will this affect my eternal state? Apply this thought to your duties as well as to your temptations; How will this service appear when brought to the touchstone of God’s law? If this be done, too many of us will have to rank their services among their greatest sins.]
Apply continually to the blood of Christ for pardon—
[However circumspect we be, our feet will contract some defilement in this polluted world; and “if Christ wash us not, we can have no part with him.” Indeed our very tears need to be washed, and our repentances to be repented of: nor is there any fountain but that of the Redeemer’s blood, that can ever cleanse us. There, however, “sins even of a crimson die may be made white as snow.” Let there then be no hour wherein we do not bathe in that fountain, lest sin be found upon us in the day that we give up our account to God.]
Be much in prayer for the direction and assistance of the Holy Spirit—
[In vain will be all our fear and caution, if God do not both direct and uphold us: if he leave us for one moment, we fall; “without him we can do nothing.” Let us then be often praying, “Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe.” Thus shall we escape the snares that are laid for our feet, and “be preserved blameless unto his heavenly kingdom.”]
REDEMPTION FROM A VAIN CONVERSATION
1 Peter 1:18-19. Ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.
THE Christian’s duty is by no means easy to be performed. It requires the exercise of much firmness and self-denial. The inspired writers, aware of this, enforce it by every consideration that can influence our minds. In the passage before us the Apostle is recommending an holy fear and jealousy lest we should be drawn back into the love of this present world. He first urges this duty from a regard to the impartial tribunal of God [Note: ver. 17.], and then from the very intent of Christ’s death. This latter and most powerful argument calls for our attention at this time. To illustrate it we shall consider,
The extent of man’s redemption—
The “conversation” of men in all ages and in all places has been the same—
[Different customs indeed have obtained in different countries: but all have walked after the imagination of their own hearts: they have prohibited such things as they thought injurious to the welfare of society, but left themselves at liberty to consult their own inclinations in every thing else. Their practices in time formed a kind of law. What was sanctioned by one generation was followed by another. And the “conversation received by tradition from their fathers” was that which was adopted by every succeeding age.]
It is almost superfluous to observe that such conversation has been “vain”—
[Let any one ask himself what has his past conversation profited him? Has it given him any solid satisfaction? No; the remembrance of it cannot at all assuage the anguish of a mind bowed down with affliction, much less of a mind burthened with a sense of guilt. Has it brought honour to God, or any real benefit to mankind? It has been the means of almost shutting out the knowledge of God from the world; but has never honoured him in any single instance: and as for mankind, if it have in any respect advanced their temporal interests, it has blinded their eyes, and hardened their hearts, and encouraged them to walk in the broad way that leadeth to destruction.]
From this however the true Christian has been redeemed—
[It is not only from hell that the Christian is delivered, but from sin. He once indeed “walked according to the course of this world (which is the devil’s course [Note: Ephesians 2:2-3.]) fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind even as others:” but now he has seen the vanity of such a life: he proposes to himself another pattern, even Jesus, “who hath set us an example, that we should follow his steps:” he is no longer “conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of his mind.” By the cross of Christ the world is become lothesome to him, even as a crucified object [Note: Galatians 6:14.]: while he is in it indeed, he performs the duties of it in a conscientious manner: but he goes into it only, as a physician into an hospital, from a sense of duty, and for the good of others; and is glad enough to retire from it to a purer atmosphere.]
He endeavours to keep before his eyes,
The price paid for him—
Slaves and captives are redeemed with silver and gold; but gold was of no value in the redemption of our souls—
[The whole world was not a sufficient price for one soul: it could not atone for our sin or reconcile an offended God: nor could it at all avail to change our carnal dispositions. Gold and silver might rivet our chains, and fix us more strongly in a vain conversation; but it could never detach us from the love of present things.]
That, which alone was of value sufficient, was, “the precious blood of Christ”—
[The lamb that was offered daily in sacrifice to God was to be spotless and without blemish. By its blood, atonement was made for the sins of the Jewish nation; and they were preserved a holy and peculiar people. This was a typical ordinance: it represented Christ, who in due time “offered himself without spot to God:” and the benefits visibly, and in a figure, enjoyed by the Jewish nation, are invisibly, but really enjoyed by us. We have the substance of which they had the shadow. Well then might the Apostle call his blood “precious.” There is no bondage from which it does not deliver us. Were we under the curse and condemnation of the law? The blood of Christ redeems us from the penalty of all our transgressions: it gives peace to the guilty, and liberty to the captive, soul: it frees, moreover, from all the snares and entanglements of this vain world. This is mentioned both in the text and in other places as a principal end of Christ’s death [Note: Galatians 1:4.]. Precious indeed is it, when its influence is thus felt. To a true Christian the blood of Christ is not less precious as delivering him from sin, than it is as delivering him from hell itself.]
While we wonder that such a price was ever paid, let us inquire into,
The effect which the consideration of this price should have upon us—
The Apostle introduces the text as an argument for passing our time in fear—
[A slavish fear is one of those things from which we are delivered by the blood of Christ. We sprinkle that blood on our door-posts, and have no dread of the destroying angel. But there is a holy jealousy, which it is our duty ever to maintain. We are only sojourners in this world, and are hastening to our Father’s house. We are moreover in danger of being diverted from our path. We have a subtle adversary and a deceitful heart. Sin itself also is deceitful, and will beguile us, if we watch not against its wiles. We should therefore be on our guard, and pass the time of our sojourning here in fear.]
And well may this effect be produced by such a wonderful consideration—
[Were we laden with bags of gold, we should be cautious how we ventured ourselves among thieves and robbers. And shall we be careless when we carry about with us what is of more value than the whole world? Shall we trifle with that which nothing but the precious blood of God’s own Son could redeem? Shall Satan as a roaring lion go about seeking to devour us, and we not stand on our guard against him? Shall we suffer him to “destroy that for which Christ died?” O let not that precious blood be so vile in our eyes. Let not our souls appear of so little value. Let us rather watch night and day. It is but a little time: soon we shall be at home; safe in the bosom of our Lord, safe beyond the reach of harm.]
Let us inquire what we “know” concerning these things—
[The Apostle takes for granted that all Christians “know” them. But do ye know them? Do ye know that a worldly conversation is a vain conversation? Do ye know that no resolutions, no services, yea, nothing but the precious blood of Christ could ever redeem you from it? And do ye know by daily experience the efficacy of his blood in that view? “Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith,” and whether you have that deadness to the world, which alone can warrant a favourable conclusion. If ye be Christ’s, “ye are not of the world, even as he was not of the world [Note: John 17:16.]:” “ye are dead to it,” and “have your conversation in heaven [Note: Philippians 3:20.].”]
Let us labour to experience them more and more—
[There is something very fascinating in the temptations of the world. Its pleasures, riches, or honours are but too apt to draw us aside. But whenever ye are tempted, say, Shall I return to that bondage from which I have been redeemed with the precious blood of Christ? Shall I trample under foot the Son of God, and crucify him afresh [Note: Hebrews 10:29.]? Shall I, as it were, see his dead corpse lying in my way, and go over that to the gratification of my base desires? Surely such reflections will not fail to animate your resolution, and to keep you at a distance from those scenes of vanity, where your steadfastness would be endangered. Let us live as citizens of a better country, and “no more fashion ourselves according to our former lusts in our ignorance [Note: 1 Peter 1:14.].” Let us drink of purer pleasures, even of “that river, the streams whereof make glad the city of God.” Thus, experiencing the full benefits of redeeming love on earth, we shall ere long sing its praises in heaven for evermore.]
THE FATHERS PART IN THE WORK OF REDEMPTION
1 Peter 1:20-21. Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.
THE salvation of man is with great propriety ascribed to Christ, because he laid down his own life a ransom for us. But we shall have very imperfect views of this mystery, if we do not trace it up to God the Father, and see him concurring with Christ in every part, and performing, as it were, an appropriate office in the economy of redemption. Indeed a distinct knowledge of the Father’s work is highly conducive to our progress in the divine life. This being intimated in the text, we shall endeavour to shew,
What part the Father bore in the work of redemption—
He ordained his Son to his mediatorial office from all eternity—
[As the prophets frequently speak of the Messiah as sent and qualified for his office by the Father [Note: Isaiah 42:1.], so our Lord himself constantly acknowledged that he received his commission from him [Note: John 8:28; John 8:42.]. Nor was he first appointed when he became incarnate: he was fore-ordained before the foundation of the world. The time of his incarnation, the manner of his death, together with every the minutest circumstance relating to him, were fixed in the Divine counsels [Note: Acts 2:23; Acts 4:28.]. Hence he is called the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world [Note: Revelation 13:8.].]
In due season he manifested his Son to the world—
[The Father prepared him a body in the Virgin’s womb; and by a preternatural star conducted the Magi to him as soon as he was born. He afterwards bore testimony to him repeatedly by an audible voice from heaven, and by causing the Holy Ghost to light visibly upon him with the hovering motion of a dove. In all the miracles which he wrought, the Father bore witness of him [Note: John 5:36.]—even in the hour of his dissolution, when most of all his divine mission might seem doubtful, even then did the Father so testify of him, as to make the Centurion, who superintended the execution, exclaim, Truly this was the Son of God [Note: Matthew 27:54.]!]
After suffering him to be put to death, he raised him up again from the dead—
[Jesus was able to raise himself, and is often said to have risen by his own power [Note: John 2:19; John 10:18.]. But we are expressly told here, and in many other places, that the Father also raised him [Note: Acts 2:32; Acts 4:10; Acts 5:30.]. Indeed, as the Father, to whose justice he paid the debt, gave, as it were, the commission, by virtue of which he was imprisoned in the grave, it was necessary that he should also give him his discharge, when the demands of justice were fully satisfied. Accordingly, his restoration to life is spoken of as the strongest evidence of his Messiahship, and of his having finished that work which the Father had given him to do [Note: Romans 1:4.].]
Lastly he exalted him to heaven, and invested him with all the glory thereof—
[Jesus, in his obedience, had looked to “the joy that was set before him;” and when that obedience was fulfilled, his Father gave him the promised reward. He placed that very person, who was crucified, at his own right hand. He seated him upon his own eternal throne, and committed the government of the universe into his hands [Note: Philippians 2:9-11.]. He has commanded all to honour him even as himself; and to all eternity shall that adorable Lamb of God be the medium of his people’s happiness, as he has been the Author and Procurer of it.]
That this is not a matter of mere speculation will appear, if we inquire,
What effect the consideration of it is intended to produce upon us?
The ultimate end, for which the Father has thus interposed on our behalf, is, to glorify himself in the salvation of man. But there are other and more immediate ends, which the knowledge of his interference is intended to accomplish:
It should confirm our faith—
[We are called particularly to believe that Christ was the true Messiah; that he performed every thing that was necessary for our salvation; and that the Father is willing to be reconciled to all who come to him by Jesus. Now it is not possible to entertain a doubt of any one of these points, if we duly consider what the Father has done for us. Would God have so frequently, and in such a wonderful manner, borne witness to Jesus if he had been an impostor? — — — Would he have liberated him from the prison of the grave, and have exalted him to glory, if the work assigned him had been left unfinished — — — Would he have sent him into the world to redeem us, and have so gloriously rewarded his services, if, after all, he were not willing to accept returning prodigals? — — — Can we suppose that God has done all these things only to mock, and to deceive us? Far be it from us to entertain the thought one moment. Let us rather conclude, that, as “it is impossible for God to lie,” so it is most injurious to him to question one jot or tittle of the record which he has given us of his Son.]
It should enliven our hope—
[Many are the grounds upon which we are apt to indulge fear and despondency: but there is not one, which a due consideration of what God has done would not instantly remove. Do we suppose ourselves to have been overlooked by God? He gave his Son to be “a propitiation, not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world;” and has asserted with an oath, that he is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance and live.” Do we imagine ourselves to be too vile? “It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that he sent his Son to save sinners, even the chief.” Do we fear lest, notwithstanding we do believe, we should by some means or other be left to perish? Behold he has exalted his Son as our Head, our Representative, our Forerunner, in whom we are already accepted, and with whom we shall assuredly be glorified in due season: yea, “he has made his Son to be Head over all things to his Church,” in order that HE may put all his enemies under his feet, and secure the purchase of his own blood. Let us then yield no more to gloomy apprehensions, but ask of God the gift of his blessed Spirit, through whose powerful influence we shall both abound and rejoice in hope [Note: Romans 15:13.].]
In conclusion let me tell you—
Who they are that are especially interested in this great mystery—
[It was manifested for “those who by Christ do believe in God:” these are the persons interested in it, these universally, and these alone. Shew me a poor self-condemning sinner, one who under a sense of his utter guilt and helplessness comes to God through Christ, renouncing all dependence on himself, and hoping for acceptance solely through the merits and mediation of the Lord Jesus, he is the person for whom God sent his only-begotten Son; he is the person for whose benefit God raised up and glorified his Son, and for whose complete salvation he has invested his Son with all power in heaven and in earth. A man who feels not his own guilt and danger has no interest in all this; nor has the man who relies in any measure on his own righteousness or strength for his acceptance with God. It is the penitent believer, and he alone, that can derive any comfort from this stupendous mystery. Dear brethren, let this sink deep into your hearts; you must come to God through Christ, and “believe in God in and by Christ.” I pray you, do not forget this: for, till you come to God in this way, you have no saving faith, no scriptural hope. But, if once you be brought to this state of affiance in the Lord Jesus, whatever you may have been, or whatever you may have done, in times past, God’s promises are made to you, and shall be fulfilled in you; for “they are all yea and amen in Christ Jesus.” “All things are yours, if ye are Christ’s; and, as Christ is God’s,” so shall ye be to all eternity.]
What more particularly this mystery speaks to them—
[God’s design in all was, “that your faith and hope might be in God.” This then it says to you; Believe in God, and hope in God. Did God fail in any thing which he had promised to his dear Son? Neither then will he fail you, if only you believe in him. Look at the Lord Jesus: see his discouragements: see him in the manger at Bethlehem: what can that infant ever do? see him in the garden of Gethsemane, and on the cross, and in the grave: what can be hoped for from him? But behold him rising from the grave, ascending to heaven, seated on his throne, and invested with all power in heaven and in earth; and then you will see what God can and will do for you in your most desperate condition. The power exercised for Christ is the same that is engaged for you: yea, and the work wrought in and for Christ, is the very pattern and pledge of what shall be wrought for you. Do I speak too strongly here? Consult the Apostle Paul: it is the very thing which he himself speaks by inspiration of God: he declares, that “the exceeding greatness of God’s power which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him up from the dead, and set him at his own right hand above all the principalities and powers of earth and hell, is that which he will exercise towards every believing soul [Note: Ephesians 1:19-21.]” — — — Look then to God and “believe in him:” yea look at Christ Jesus, and “hope,” that, for his sake, all that has been done in and for him, shall be done in and for you. Think of nothing less: expect nothing less: be satisfied with nothing less: and, if at any time a doubting thought arise, chide your drooping spirit, as David did, and say, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance and my God [Note: Psalms 42:11.].”]
LOVE TO THE BRETHREN
1 Peter 1:22. Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.
AS our Christian profession lays us under peculiar obligations to holiness, so our Christian experience should influence us to exert ourselves as much as possible in the service of our God. The more we have attained, the more we should aspire after still higher attainments. To this effect is St. Peter’s exhortation in the passage before us. In his words we may observe,
What he takes for granted respecting all true Christians—
The Apostle, writing to those who professed to be followers of Christ, gives them credit that they were his disciples indeed; and takes for granted,
That they had “obeyed the truth”—
[To “obey the truth” is, in scripture-language, the same as to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. The substance of the divine record is, that in Christ Jesus there is life, and that we either have life or are destitute of it, according as we possess, or are destitute of, the knowledge of Christ [Note: 1 John 5:11-12.]. This is the true record of God, which we are enjoined to receive with all humility and thankfulness; and when we so embrace it as to found all our hopes of salvation entirely upon it, then we may properly be said to obey the truth. Now this every Christian does; he does not merely give his assent to any propositions about Christ, but he “flees to Christ for refuge,” and relies upon him as his only Saviour. And the Apostle takes for granted (with good reason too) that they to whom he was writing, had so received Christ: for, however they might have been baptized into the faith of Christ, they were no better than mere heathens, if they had not truly believed in him.]
That in obeying the truth they had also “purirified their souls”—
[We may cleanse the outward part of our conduct by various means. A regard to our reputation, a self-righteous desire of recommending ourselves to God, or a spirit of pride and self-complacency, will be sufficient to rectify in a measure our external behaviour; but it is the property of faith alone to purify the heart [Note: Acts 15:9.]. And as nothing but faith will prevail for this end, so wherever faith is, it will infallibly produce this effect [Note: 1 John 3:3.]. The faith that has not this fruit is dead; and will no more avail for our salvation than the faith of devils [Note: James 2:19-20.]. Well therefore does the Apostle take it for granted, that they, to whom he wrote, experienced this effect of their faith; seeing that it is the principal intent of the Gospel to ensure and produce it [Note: Titus 2:11-12.].]
That they had so purified their souls as to have attained an unfeigned love of the brethren—
[As faith purifies the heart, so in a more especial manner it “works by love [Note: Galatians 5:6.].” The love of the brethren never was nor ever can be, found in an unrenewed soul. There may be a semblance of it; there may be a partial attachment to our own sect and party, or a carnal attachment to a person who is spiritually-minded; but there never can be a love to spiritual persons simply on account of their relation to Christ, and their conformity to his image. But let the smallest portion of true grace be imparted to the soul, and instantly will this love spring up in the heart. Many things indeed may occur in the mind to restrain its exercise for a season, and to impede its growth; but it may be taken for granted that this principle both abides and operates in the heart of every true Christian; “he that loveth him that begat, cannot but love those who are begotten of him [Note: 1 John 5:1.].”]
That they had attained all this through the influence of the Holy Spirit—
[Faith itself cannot exist in the heart, till the Spirit of God has wrought it in us: he must overcome our reluctance, and make us willing to obey the truth [Note: Psalms 110:3.]. Neither can our hearts be purified but by the same almighty power. Faith indeed is the instrument whereby our sanctification is effected; but the Holy Spirit is the agent. Every progressive step of it must be wrought by him [Note: Romans 8:13.]. Our love can now from no other source; whatever be the grace that is exercised by us, He must be acknowledged as the author of it; “it is the same Spirit that worketh all in all [Note: 1 Corinthians 12:7-11.].”]
If what is here taken for granted be really found in us, nothing will be more acceptable than,
The exhortation grounded upon it—
“The end of the commandment,” says the Apostle, “is charity;” and our profession as Christians supposes that it exists, and operates, in our hearts. But care must be taken that it be exercised,
[There is a politeness and civility which is only a counterfeit of Christian love: but it is not this which the text inculcates. We are indeed commanded in other parts of Scripture to “be courteous;” and it would be well if some professors of religion paid more attention to this command. But the love enjoined in the text, is an “unfeigned” love to all the saints, arising from a view of their relation to God, and to ourselves. It must be an abiding principle in our hearts, operating uniformly in the whole of our conduct towards them. It must lead us to exercise meekness, forbearance, and forgiveness, and to seek both their temporal and spiritual welfare, as occasion may serve [Note: 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.]. In short, our love must be without dissimulation [Note: Romans 12:9.]; it must be not in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth [Note: 1 John 3:18.].]
[Even where there is a portion of Christian love, there may be a considerable alloy mixed with it. We may be influenced too much by selfish considerations. We may be seeking our own interest or honour, while we imagine that we are giving a testimony of Christian love. Yea, our love which was pure at first, may easily degenerate into mere carnal affection. The greatest caution is necessary, especially among young persons, lest our hearts betray us into indiscretion of any kind, and Satan take advantage of us to lead us into sin.]
[An empty profession of benevolence to the poor will not be deemed equivalent to an actual relieving of their wants; nor will a cold expression of regard to the brethren fulfil the sacred duty of love to them. In the latter especially, it should know no bounds, but those which were affixed to the love of Christ. Did he love us to such a degree as to lay down his life for us? we ought also to lay down our lives for the brethren [Note: 1 John 3:16.]. There is no service, however difficult or self-denying, which we should not render them for good. We should love one another, as the Greek word means, “intensely [Note: ἐκτενῶς.].” To sum up all in one word, we should love one another, as Christ has loved us [Note: Ephesians 5:1-2. Joh 15:12.].]
Inquire whether the things here taken for granted be found in us—
[Have we indeed received the Holy Ghost? and through his almighty influence have we believed in Christ, and purified our souls, and got a principle of holy love implanted in us? And do these attainments become so many motives to diligence, and means of spiritual advancement! Let this be duly weighed, and it will serve to shew us what we are. If we be in the faith, our self-examination will increase our comfort; and, if we be not in the faith, it may be the means of carrying conviction to the soul. Let us be assured that faith, love, and holiness universally characterize the Christian, and that our evidences of conversion will bear an exact proportion to our attainments in these things [Note: Joh 13:35 and Isaiah 61:9.]. Let therefore our exercise of these graces be so manifest and undeniable, that the Spirit’s agency in us may be confessed by all [Note: 1 John 3:19.].]
Endeavour to fulfil the duties that are here imposed on us—
[A sweeter command cannot possibly be given. To obey it is to enjoy a heaven upon earth. Heaven is a region of ineffable, unceasing love; and the more we have of that divine principle the more happy shall we be. Let us then strive to mortify whatever may retard its growth in our souls. Let us beware lest through the abounding of iniquity it wax cold. And let us strive to exercise it with all that purity and fervour which become persons so highly privileged.]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 1 Peter 1". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29