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PETER’S SALUTATION TO THE SAINTS
2 Peter 1:1-2. Simon Peter, a servant and an Apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.
IN reading the epistles of the different Apostles, whether written to particular Churches, or to the whole catholic Church throughout the world, we cannot but be struck with the benevolence which they breathe in every part, and especially in the salutations with which they begin, and the benedictions with which they close. In the words which we have now read, which, as in the former epistle, are addressed to the whole Church scattered through the Roman empire, we may notice two things,—an inscription—and a salutation: to both of which we will now turn your attention.
Here the Apostle describes,
[His own proper name was Simon, or Simeon, as he is called in the original and by the Apostle James [Note: Acts 15:14.]. The name Peter was given to him by his Lord on two different occasions; partly, to mark his characteristic boldness; and partly to intimate, that on his testimony both to Jews and Gentiles the Christian Church should be established [Note: John 1:42.Matthew 16:18; Matthew 16:18.]. The office he held as a servant and an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ was the highest that could be assigned to mortal man: and the peculiar care which he took in thus designating his own name and character satisfies our minds that this epistle, no less than the former which bears his name, was written by him: for no bad man would have written it; and no good man could have been guilty of such a forgery as that of assuming the name and office of this inspired Apostle.]
The persons addressed—
[These were believers throughout the world. They “had faith” in our Lord Jesus Christ, as the only Saviour of fallen man. They had “obtained” this faith, not by any efforts of their own, but, as it were, by lot, just as all the tribes of Israel obtained their portion in the promised land. To each the precise measure was assigned by God himself: nor was there one throughout the whole land who was not constrained to acknowledge that he owed his portion solely to the free and sovereign grace of God [Note: λαχοῦσι.] — — — This faith was precisely “the same” whether in Apostles or private Christians, and “alike precious” to them all: for though the faith of different persons might differ widely in its degrees and consequent operations, it was “alike precious” to all, inasmuch as it was the one means of uniting them to Christ, and of saving their souls alive — — — “Through the righteousness of God our Saviour” too was this faith obtained: for by that righteousness it was purchased for them; and through the prevalence of that righteousness, as pleaded with God in their behalf, was the gift of faith imparted to them — — —
In this respect, then, every saint under heaven answers to the character drawn by the Apostle, and may consider the epistle as addressed personally to his own self in particular, as much as ever it was to the saints in the Apostle’s days.]
From the inscription we pass on to,
“Grace and peace” comprehended all the blessings of the Gospel—
[Sometimes, in the salutations of the Apostles, “mercy” is added; “Grace, mercy, and peace:” but generally it is, as here, “Grace and peace.” By “Grace” I understand all that is necessary for the transformation of the soul into the Divine image: and by “peace,” all that is necessary for the comfort and encouragement of the soul in its progress heavenward — — —]
These the Apostle desired to be “multiplied” unto the saints—
[There should be no measure of these in which we should rest; seeing that there is no measure which may not be greatly and abundantly increased. We should therefore, even if our attainments were equal to those of the Apostle Paul, “forget what is behind, and reach forth to that which is before”— — —]
They are to be multiplied solely “through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord “—
[It is by that knowledge alone that grace and peace are at first obtained: when we look to God as reconciled to us in Christ Jesus, then grace and peace flow down into our souls [Note: John 17:3. 2 Corinthians 4:6.]. In like manner, it is only through an increasing acquaintance with this mystery that we grow up into Christ, and are transformed into his image [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:18.]. Contemplate then more and more the wonders of redeeming love: and be assured, that in proportion as you are enabled to comprehend them, you shall “be filled with all the fulness of God [Note: Ephesians 3:18-19.].”]
[Receive this as a faithful expression of my regards for you: and pray for me, that what I desire in your behalf, I may richly experience in my own soul.]
EVERY THING NEEDFUL PROVIDED FOR US
2 Peter 1:3. His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness.
THE Lord Jesus Christ, as Mediator, procures for us all blessings from God: but, as God, he authoritatively imparts them. It is of him that the Apostle speaks, when he says, “His divine power hath given us all things that pertain unto life and godliness.” But the words which follow my text are of more doubtful interpretation. Some understand them as importing, that these things are given for the acknowledgment of God, who has called us by the mighty working of his power. This rendering of the words is so extremely different from that which our translators have given us, and at the same time is maintained by so many persons of eminence, that I have chosen rather to wave the consideration of them altogether, than to determine which of the two is the more correct: though I cannot but say, that I prefer the sense that is given us in our authorized translation. The words before us convey a most important truth, which I shall endeavour to illustrate. The Lord Jesus has indeed given us all things that pertain unto life and godliness,
In a way of general provision—
In his blessed word, he has given to us, and to the whole world,
[There is nothing needful for us to know, but it may be found in the Scriptures of truth. There we are informed how a sinner may be reconciled to his offended God — — — There we see how we may obtain a new nature, and be renewed after the image of our God in righteousness and true holiness — — — There we are told how we may walk so as to please and honour God — — — Nothing is omitted there, which can conduce, either to our obtaining of life, or to our possessing of vital godliness. And whatever has been added by man, has a tendency rather to counteract than forward our eternal interests — — —]
[These are “exceeding great and precious,” and comprehend every thing which our necessities require. Place us in any situation that can possibly be imagined, and there will be found a promise directly applicable to our state. Nor is any thing required of us, in order to obtain an interest in these promises: if only we have a desire after the things promised, and a willingness to receive them as the free gift of God for Christ’s sake, they become ours, and shall be fulfilled to us: and by them we shall be made partakers of that very godliness which might be supposed to be a necessary pre-requisite for an interest in them. We are not first to cleanse ourselves from sin, and then lay hold on the promises; but first to take the promises, and then, by their influence, to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness, both of flesh and spirit, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God.”]
[The force of example is pre-eminently great, as affording us both direction and encouragement. And there is no grace which we can be called to exercise, but we have it exhibited and embodied in some bright pattern that is set before us. As for faith, the first leading grace from which almost all others flow, the examples of it are innumerable; and the powers which it possesses to elevate the soul are displayed in the strongest colours. Would we wish to know the precise operations of patience and meekness? the lives of Job and of Moses afford us most distinguished patterns. Would we behold fidelity, devotion, and the constraining influence of love? Elijah, David, Paul, say to us, ‘Be followers of us, and ye shall attain these graces in perfection.’ Such examples as these, not to mention any others of a different kind, which are “set forth for our admonition,” serve to explain the precepts, and to shew us what measure of godliness we should aspire after, and may hope to attain. So that nothing is wanting to us, that can by any means help us forward in the divine life.]
But the Lord Jesus Christ has, to his obedient followers, given all things also,
In a way of special communication—
The instructions, promises, examples, which are contained in the Holy Scriptures, are common to all; but to his peculiar people the Lord Jesus Christ has given graces, which, by his divine power, he has wrought in their souls. On them he has bestowed,
The gift of faith—
[This grace is essential to the welfare of every child of man; for it is through it alone that either life or godliness can be brought into the soul. But he enables his people to come to him, and lay hold on him, and to embrace his promises; and to draw forth out of his fulness all needful supplies, both of grace and peace. In their minds he works a conviction, that they have nothing in themselves to recommend them to God, and can do nothing whereby to obtain an interest in his favour. To them he makes himself known, as “the way, the truth, and the life;” and he brings them to “live altogether by faith in Him, who has loved them, and given himself for them.”]
The assistances of his grace—
[“Without him they can do nothing:” but “through strength communicated by him, they are enabled to do all things.” Have they to conflict with Satan, and withstand his assaults? They go forth in the strength of Christ, and are made “more than conquerors:” not all the powers of darkness can stand before them. Have they to sustain the heaviest afflictions ? Through Christ they are enabled to “glory in tribulations;” and to “take pleasure in every species of distress for his sake,” under a full assurance that “his strength shall be made perfect through their weakness;” and that “he shall be magnified in their body, whether by life or death.” Whatever they have either to do or suffer, “his grace his sufficient for them;” and his divine power “makes them perfect in every good work to do his will, working in them that which is wellpleasing in his sight.”]
The consolations of his Spirit—
[These are of prime necessity in the divine life; for “the joy of the Lord is our strength.” Without the light of God’s countenance lifted up upon us, our “hands will hang down, our knees be feeble, and our hearts faint.” But he will send to his people the Comforter, according to his word, to be in them “a Spirit of adoption,” “a witness of their relation to him,” and “an earnest of their eternal inheritance.” This will support them under all their trials, and animate them in all their conflicts, and bear them up above all the concerns of time and sense. With “his love shed abroad in their hearts,” nothing will move them: “nor will they count their lives dear unto them, if only they may but fulfil his will, and finish their course with joy.”]
Let us inquire whether these blessings have indeed been conferred on us—
[As possessing the Book of Revelation, we have free access to all the benefits contained in it. But have we availed ourselves of this liberty, so as to have become partakers of the blessings themselves ? How many are there who name the name of Christ, and yet have never received any thing from him but the name! Look ye well to this matter, my dear brethren; for, if ye be not brought to live by him, and for him, and to him, it were better that ye had never heard the Gospel at all; yea, and better that Christ himself had never come into the world.]
Endeavour to make a just improvement of them—
[If we are responsible to God for the offers of salvation, which are given to the whole world, much more are we for those special communications which are made only to God’s peculiar people. Have you light in your understandings? follow it with holy assiduity, and with a tender conscience; never “hiding it under a bushel,” or “shutting it up in unrighteousness.” Have you good desires in your hearts? Labour to carry them into effect; and rest not till you have attained the object for which they were given. Let every grace “have its perfect work in you, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”]
Impart liberally to others what the Lord Jesus has so liberally conferred on you—
[It is not for yourselves only that Christ has bestowed on you such blessings; but that you may be instruments in his hands to impart them to others. Have you the Holy Scriptures? Put them, if possible, into the hands of every child of man. Are you instructed in the knowledge of them ? Send out missionaries into the world, to instruct the heathen, and to bring your Jewish brethren to the knowledge of that Saviour whom their fathers crucified. Endeavour, too, that the rising generation be imbued with the principles of our holy religion, and be made partakers of all the benefits which you yourselves enjoy [Note: If this subject be treated with a view to the advancement of a Bible Society, Mission Society, Jews’ Society, or Charity or Sunday Schools, the appropriate idea here touched upon must be amplified and enforced.] — — — “Freely we have received; freely give:” and let every blessing that ye possess be regarded as a talent to be improved for the Lord, and to be accounted for to him at his judgment-seat.]
THE PRECIOUSNESS OF THE PROMISES
2 Peter 1:4. Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
COMMENTATORS are not agreed with respect to the connexion of these words. Some connect “whereby” with “glory and virtue,” in the preceding verse; and understand it thus: “By which glorious energy of the Gospel are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises.” Others, understanding the third verse parenthetically, connect my text with “God and Christ,” in the second verse, and translate the passage thus: “By whom are given unto us,” and so on. But, for the use which I am about to make of the passage, it is of no importance to determine precisely what the connexion is. It is to the greatness and preciousness of the promises that I propose to direct your attention: and, therefore, waving any further notice of the context, I will open to you the promises of God, and shew you,
Their intrinsic worth—
But how shall I attempt this ? Shall I bring them all in order before your eyes ? Many hours would not be sufficient for this arduous undertaking: let it suffice, then, to say,
They extend to all the necessities of sinful man—
[Even the things of this life are frequently and fully comprehended in them: for St. Paul says, “Godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come [Note: 1 Timothy 4:8.].” And our blessed Lord has assured us, that, if we “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, all needful things shall be added unto us [Note: Matthew 6:33.].” But “the things which pertain unto life and godliness [Note: ver. 3.]” are those which are more immediately referred to in my text: and there is no want which an immortal soul can feel, in reference either to time or to eternity, which is not richly provided for in the promises of our God. Pardon, and peace, and holiness, and glory, are all secured to us, in terms the most explicit that language can afford. Nor, if men had been permitted to dictate unto God what things should be made over to them, or how freely they should be bestowed, could they ever have ventured to express what God has expressed, or to ask them on such easy terms: for all the promises are to be apprehended simply by faith, and to be possessed by all who will truly and unfeignedly rest upon them [Note: Such a passage as Jeremiah 31:33-34, may be adduced as a brief specimen.]”.]
But fully to declare their worth is impossible—
[Who shall appreciate a deliverance from the torments which are endured by those who are now cast into the lake of fire and brimstone ? or, who shall form a correct estimate of the glory and felicity of heaven ? None but those who have experienced the one or the other can form any just conception of either: nor could any one fully and adequately comprehend what salvation imports, unless he have both endured the evil from which a condemned soul is rescued, and partaken of the blessedness to which a glorified soul is exalted before the throne of God. Eternity will be too short to count the inestimable worth of the exceeding great and precious promises which are contained in the Gospel of Christ.]
Let us pass on to consider,
Their sanctifying efficacy—
We must not imagine that any sinner can so “partake of the Divine nature” as really to be united to the Divine essence. That is impossible. But to partake of all the communicable perfections of the Deity, is the privilege of all who believe in Christ—
We are exalted to bear a strict resemblance to the Deity—
[In mind, in will, in our whole character, we may resemble God: for, in conversion, we “are renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created us [Note: Colossians 3:10.];” so that we view every thing no longer according to the apprehensions of our corrupt nature, but as taught of God, and enlightened by his Holy Spirit. With a renovated understanding we receive also a new heart; so that, instead of finding our will opposed to the will of God, “we delight in the law of God after our inward man [Note: Romans 7:22.],” and desire to do his will even as it is done in heaven. I say not too much, if I add, that the very character of God is imparted to his saints, even as the impression of a seal to the melted wax; so that, through the operation of his grace upon them, they become “holy, even as he is holy,” and “perfect, even as their Father which is in heaven is perfect.” As for “the corruptions that are in the world through lust and inordinate desire, the true believer escapes from them:” he renounces the world and all its vanities: he “becomes crucified to it by the cross of Christ [Note: Galatians 6:14.]:” he rises above it, “keeps himself unspotted from it [Note: James 1:27. Revelation 3:4.],” and has his “conversation altogether in heaven [Note: Philippians 3:20.].”]
And by what is all this effected, but by the promises of God ?
[”By these we become partakers of the Divine nature, and escape the corruption that is in the world through lust.” St. Paul is particularly careful in marking this important truth. He traces not any of these benefits to mere human efforts, but simply to faith in the Lord Jesus, which alone can “overcome the world [Note: 1 John 5:4.],” and “purify the heart [Note: Acts 15:9.].” Hear his words; and mark especially the order which he prescribes for the attainment of these blessings: “Having these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God [Note: 2 Corinthians 7:1.].” Here, at the same time that he specifies the extent to which the promises will effect this change, he shews us, that we are not to attain the change first, and then lay hold on the promises; but first to lay hold on the promises, and by them to attain the change. Now, this is a point of extreme importance; and it was marked with singular precision in the Jewish law. In the ordinance for the cleansing of the leper, it was appointed that the blood of his sacrifice should be put upon the tip of his right ear, and on the thumb of his right hand, and on the great toe of his right foot [Note: Leviticus 14:14; Leviticus 14:28.]; which was to shew, that, in all his faculties, whereby he either received or executed the will of God, even from head to foot, he needed an application of the blood of atonement, to cleanse him from his guilt: and then oil was not only to be applied by the priest to the same places, but to be “put upon the very place of the blood of the trespass-offering” And what was this intended to shew ? I hesitate not to say, it was intended to declare the very same thing which is intimated in my text; namely, that our justification by the blood of atonement must be first sought, and then our sanctification by the Holy Spirit; that the blood of atonement must be the foundation of our sanctification; and that, though the two are never to be separated, they must be sought in their due order, and be put each in its appointed and appropriate place. In a word, we must first go to God as sinners, to obtain mercy through the blood of Christ; and then shall we be made saints, by the operation of the Spirit of Christ upon our souls.]
How desirable is an interest in Christ Jesus!
[It is in Christ that all the promises are treasured up for us [Note: 2 Timothy 1:1.]; and in Him alone are they ratified and confirmed to us [Note: 2 Corinthians 1:20.]. Unless as found in him, and united unto him by faith, we have no part in any one of them: but “all are ours, when we are Christ’s [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:21-23.].” How earnest, then, should we be, in fleeing to him, that we may receive out of his fulness all the blessings both of grace and glory ! I pray you, brethren, neglect him not; but seek him with your whole hearts, and cleave unto him with your whole souls.]
How truly blessed are they who are united to him by faith !
[To them God has secured every thing, not by promise only, but by oath also! And this he has done in order that they might be assured of “the immutability of his counsel, and enjoy the richer consolation in their own souls [Note: Hebrews 6:18.].” Take the word of God, my dear brethren: cull out of it every promise it contains, and carry it to the throne of grace, and plead it before God; and verily you shall, in your dying hour, be able to say with Solomon, “Blessed be the Lord, who hath given rest unto his people Israel, according to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise which he promised by the hand of Moses,” or by all his prophets from the foundation of the world [Note: 1 Kings 8:26.].]
THE CHRISTIAN’S GRACES
2 Peter 1:5-9. Beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
GREAT and unspeakable are the blessings vouchsafed to us by the Gospel: for in it “God hath given to us all things that pertain unto life and godliness;” and “through the exceeding great and precious promises contained in it, we are made partakers of a divine nature, and are enabled to escape the corruptions which are in the world through lust [Note: ver. 3, 4.]. Yet we are not to suppose that these blessings will flow down upon us without any effort on our part to obtain them. We must, if I may so speak, be “workers together with God:” or as my text expresses it, must “give all diligence to add” one grace to another, in order to our growing up into a perfect man.
Were we to enter minutely into every part of this exhortation, we should only distract your minds by too great a diversity of matter. It will be more instructive and edifying to compress the subject, so as to preserve its unity, and to bring before you in one point of view what we conceive to be the mind of the Holy Ghost in this important passage. For this end we will commend to your attention,
The import of the exhortation—
Two things we see in it;
What are the graces which we are called to exercise—
[It is here taken for granted that we have “faith;” for, in truth, we have no pretensions to call ourselves Christians till we have believed in Christ, and are united to him as branches of the living vine.
Assuming then that we are true believers, we must “add to our faith virtue.” By virtue we are not to understand that general assemblage of graces which in modern language is associated with that term; but courage, which is absolutely necessary to the Christian’s welfare. A man who will be faithful to his God, and walk worthy of his profession, will have much to contend with, both from without and from within: and, if he be not endued with fortitude, he will be in danger of yielding to discouragement, and turning back from his profession. Even the sneers of an ungodly world are not easy to bear: and thousands, through the fear of them, have made shipwreck of their faith. We must therefore be bold, if we would be “good soldiers of Jesus Christ.”
“To our virtue we must add knowledge.” By “knowledge” I understand, not general information, but wisdom and prudence, without which our courage may lead us astray, and prove injurious to the cause which we profess to serve. We must seek “a spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind [Note: 2 Timothy 1:7.].” Among the children of Issachar, we are told, “there were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do [Note: 1 Chronicles 12:32.].” Such should we be. The same conduct, if pursued at all times, and under all circumstances, would be very absurd: and perhaps scarcely in any thing does the adult Christian differ from the child more than in the exercise of “sound wisdom and discretion,” by which he is enabled to avoid the errors of the inexperienced [Note: Proverbs 3:21-23.], and to “walk wisely before God in a perfect way [Note: Psalms 101:2.].”
To this must “temperance be added.” In this term also there is more implied than we generally annex to it. In this catalogue of graces it would appear a small thing to say, that we should abstain “from surfeiting and drunkenness;” (though that doubtless is necessary for Christians too [Note: Luke 21:34.].) We are, as has been before noted, in a state which calls for bold and judicious exertions: and as those who contended in the Grecian games were “temperate in all things,” in order that their bodily strength and agility might qualify them for their contests [Note: 1 Corinthians 9:25.], so are we to be temperate, in order to ensure success in our spiritual conflicts. We should sit loose to all the things of time and sense, as well to those which are lawful as those which are unlawful! “using every thing so as not to abuse it [Note: 1 Corinthians 7:29-31.],” and “keeping under all our bodily appetites, and bringing them into subjection, lest, after all our profession, we become reprobates [Note: 1 Corinthians 9:27.].”
“Patience” is another grace which must be added to all the former. And this too, like all the former, must be understood in somewhat of a larger sense, not merely as a meek submission to trials, but as a persevering effort to fulfil all the will of God. We are told, that “we have need of patience, that, after we have done the will of God, we may obtain the promise [Note: Hebrews 10:36.]:” and it is only “by a patient continuance in well-doing, that we ever can obtain glory, and honour, and immortality [Note: Romans 2:7.].” This grace then must be added to all the rest. We must never be weary, either in doing, or in suffering, the will of God: but, as the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain; so must we “be patient, and establish our hearts, till the Lord himself shall come,” to crown, and to reward our labours [Note: James 5:7-8.].
We must not however rest here. “To patience we must add godliness:” for without a pious regard to God, all our efforts will be in vain. We may conceive of all the foregoing graces as exercised by a heathen: but we must have that sublime piety which no heathen can possess. We must see the hand of God in every thing; and receive every thing as from him; and do every thing as for him; making his will the rule, and his glory the end, of all our actions. At the same time, we must walk with him, and delight ourselves in him, and maintain sweet fellowship with him as our Father and our Friend, and must look for his approbation as our great reward.
To this there is yet another grace which we must add, and that is “brotherly-kindness,” We are all one family, and must regard every member of that family with a truly fraternal affection. It is “by this love one to another that all men are to know us for Christ’s disciples [Note: John 13:35.];” and by it we ourselves also are to judge of our having “passed from death unto life [Note: 1 John 3:14.].”
That which closes the train, and which must of necessity be added to all the rest, is “charity.” For though there is an especial regard due to “the household of faith [Note: Galatians 6:10.],” our love must not be confined to them: it must be extended to all, even to enemies; and must so pervade our whole spirit and temper, and so regulate all our words and actions, as to evince that we are indeed children of Him, whose name and nature is “Love [Note: 1 John 4:8; 1 John 4:16.].”]
The importance of them to the Christian character—
[No words can declare the importance of these graces to the Christian more forcibly than those in which the Apostle has declared it in my text: for he asserts, that the constant exercise of them will prove us to be intelligent and consistent Christians, whilst the want of them will prove us ignorant and inconsistent.
Attend to these assertions. “If these things be in you, and abound, they make you (that is, they render, or constitute [Note: καθἰστησιν.] you) neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” How shall it be known that any man possesses a truly scriptural and saving knowledge of Christ? It cannot be determined by his professions, but by the whole of his spirit and deportment. As a tree is known by its fruits, so is the faithful follower of Christ. If indeed these graces could flow from any other source than an union with the Lord Jesus, they would determine nothing respecting the reality of our faith in him: but they cannot. A man may have valour, and knowledge, and temperance, and patience, without any acquaintance with the Lord Jesus: but the whole assemblage of graces that are here mentioned he cannot have: they can be wrought in the soul only by the Spirit of God: and the Spirit can be supplied by none but the Lord Jesus Christ, “in whom is the residue of the Spirit [Note: Malachi 2:15.],” and “in whom dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily [Note: 1 Chronicles 1:19; 1 Chronicles 1:19; 1 Chronicles 2:91 Chronicles 2:9; 1 Chronicles 2:91 Chronicles 2:9.]:” and to none will Jesus so impart the Holy Spirit but to those who believe in him. Hence the existence and operation of these graces in the soul is a decisive evidence, that our faith in Christ is lively, our knowledge of him spiritual, and our walk before him consistent.
On the contrary, “he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off; and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.” A speculative knowledge may be possessed to a great extent, without any practical effect: but the circumstance of its being inoperative, clearly shews, that the person possessing it has no spiritual discernment. He is blind, or at best very dim-sighted, as to the excellency of the principles which he maintains: he sees not their proper tendency: he is unconscious of the worthlessness of mere notions, however just they may be, if separated from their practical effects: he betrays an utter ignorance of the nature of true religion: and he shews, that he has forgotten all the professions which he made, and the vows that he took upon him, when first he was baptized into the name of Christ. When by baptism he entered into covenant with God, he professed, that, as he expected the remission of sins through the blood of Christ, so he expected the mortification of sin by the Spirit of Christ. He engaged, that from that hour he would seek a conformity to Christ, “dying unto sin, as Christ died for sin, and rising again unto righteousness, even as Christ rose again to a new and heavenly life [Note: Romans 6:3-6.].” But by his want of all these graces, or his allowed deficiency in the exercise of them, be shews that he has forgotten all his former engagements, and is an ignorant and inconsistent professor, who disgraces that holy name by which he is called.
Now, I say, attend to these assertions of the Apostle, and judge whether the graces before-mentioned be not indispensably necessary to the Christian character, and whether we ought not to “give all diligence” to have the whole train of them exhibited in our lives.]
In further considering the Apostle’s exhortation, let us notice,
The insight which it gives us into pure and undefiled religion—
We should not be satisfied with viewing truth in abstract and detached parts: we should endeavour to acquire enlarged views of religion; to see it in all its bearings, and to get our minds duly impressed with its excellency and grandeur. In this we shall be greatly assisted by the Apostle’s exhortation; which, whilst with prismatic accuracy it brings before us the separate rays of which religion is composed, presents in their united power the full radiance of the Christian system.
See then in this passage the excellency of true religion:
How comprehensive it is in its nature!
[There is not any situation in which we can be placed, wherein religion does not prescribe the path that shall be pursued; nor any variety of circumstances that can occur, in which it does not meet with a corresponding variety of limitations and exceptions. There is not an operation of the human mind which it does not undertake to regulate, and require to be under its exclusive controul. Perhaps we may fitly compare it with the office of the soul in our animal frame. Without the soul the body is dead. By its presence the human frame is animated throughout. The soul pervades, and operates in, every part. Not the smallest motion of the body is independent of it. Whatever faculties be called into exercise, they derive all their power and energy from it. It is altogether through its agency, that the eye sees, the ear hears, the hand moves. And these different powers are exercised with ease, because of the entire presence of the soul’s energies in every part. Were there a single member, even the smallest in the human frame, that did not experience its power, it would be paralyzed, and the body, as a whole, would be deformed. Now thus it is that religion takes possession of the soul. Till that occupies the soul, the soul is dead: but when that descends into the soul, all our powers, whether of mind or body, are subjected to its controul. The influence of it being universal, its actings are easy, and without effort. If indeed there be an occasion that requires more than ordinary exertion, a suitable energy is put forth, just as in the human frame, when necessity requires.
Now what a view is this of religion! How grand, how glorious does it appear! Yet is this the view of it as set before us in the text, where every habit and disposition of the human mind is regulated by its requirements, and called forth into exercise by its vital energies. Such was St. Paul’s view of it when he said, “May the God of peace sanctify you wholly! And I pray God, your whole spirit and soul and body may be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ [Note: 1 Thessalonians 5:23.].”]
How connected in its parts!
[Which of the graces which the Apostle has enumerated in my text, can you dispense with? The whole forms a chain; of which, if one link be broken, the entire use is destroyed. Some indeed of these appear of less importance than others: but not only is every one of them necessary in its place, but every one must partake of the others that are connected with it, and can only operate with effect, when its exercise is so tempered. For instance; what would valour be without prudence? or prudence without temperance? or temperance without patience? or patience without godliness? or godliness without brotherly-kindness? or brotherly-kindness without charity? Take any one away, and the beauty and excellence of the whole will vanish altogether. St. Paul well illustrates this idea in his description of the Christian’s armour. The sword, the shield, the helmet, the greaves, the breast-plate, and the girdle, are all necessary in their place [Note: Ephesians 6:13-17.]: the loss of any one would be severely felt by the Christian combatant, and occasion his ultimate failure in his warfare. We must have “the whole armour,” or none. So the want of any one of the graces specified in our text would suffice to ruin the soul for ever. Our Lord has told us this in the most express terms. He supposes that we may fall short only in some one particular point: and that for that failure we may have an excuse, which might appear sufficient to satisfy any candid mind. The particular evil which we know not how to part with may be dear to us as a right eye, or necessary to us as a right hand. Yet, if we submit not to pluck out the one, or amputate the other, our whole body shall be cast into hell, “where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched [Note: Mark 9:42-48.].” In this the beauty of religion, as the beauty of the human frame, consists: only with this difference; that the body, though defective in its parts, may live; but the soul, if any one grace be wanting, is dead.
I pray you, brethren, consider this; and let the truth of it receive a daily illustration from your conduct. Never place religion in any one duty, or in any one set of duties; but let all the graces of the Spirit have their appropriate place, their seasonable attention, and their harmonious exercise.]
How lovely in its influence—
[Only conceive of any person living in the constant exercise of all these graces: how amiable, how godlike, I had almost said, would be his deportment! Then conceive of a whole family penetrated with this spirit, and what a picture of heaven would you behold! But conceive of religion filling, as assuredly it will one day fill, the whole earth, and every individual of mankind living in the unvaried exercise of these heavenly dispositions: well may such a state as this be called, as it is frequently in Scripture called, “The reign of Christ on earth.” Blessed, blessed state! O that God would hasten it m his time! But if we be not privileged to behold that day, let us at least seek the commencement of that period in our own souls Let us seek to resemble Christ as much as possible, and to “have the beauty of the Lord our God” beaming from our own face [Note: Psalms 90:17.]. This Moses had, by communing with God upon the holy mount; and this we also may have, if we will “give all diligence” to attain it. Rise then to the occasion: let your efforts be without intermission: cry mightily unto God for grace and strength: plead with him the promises which he has made to you in his Gospel; and “which in Christ Jesus are all yea, and amen.” So shall you be enabled to “cleanse yourselves from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God [Note: 2 Corinthians 7:1.].”]
MAKING OUR CALLING AND ELECTION SURE
2 Peter 1:10-11. Brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
IN the system of religion which the inspired penmen have transmitted to us, duty and privilege go hand in hand. It is “the Divine power alone which gives us all things which pertain unto life and godliness:” but we must exert ourselves in dependence on that power, to “escape the corruption that is in the world through lust.” This plain and scriptural idea gives the true solution to many difficulties that occur in the sacred volume, and particularly so to those which arise from the words before us.
In the text are set before us,
Though all are agreed that our duty is here declared, the opinions of men differ widely respecting the precise nature of that duty. Our first point therefore is to fix the true meaning of the text—
[By our “calling and election,” is meant that effectual call which men receive when they are truly converted unto God [Note: This is manifest from 1 Corinthians 1:26.], and which both evinces, and results from, God’s eternal purpose to save their souls [Note: 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5.].
Now those who deny the doctrine of election, argue thus. We are commanded to “make our election sure;” and, if we neglect to do so, we may “fall” and perish for ever: therefore there is no such thing as is generally understood by “election;” and that which is so called in Scripture, is nothing more than a designation of God to the enjoyment of outward privileges, or an acceptance of us upon certain conditions.
To avoid these consequences, many who hold the doctrine of election affirm, that the exhortation in the text means only that we should exert ourselves to get an assured sense of our election.
But there is no such ambiguity in the original, as there is in our translation. Whatever the text may prove or disprove, it can have but one meaning; namely, that we are to make our election firm, and, by diligence in good works, to secure the benefits to which God has elected us.
This however does not disprove the doctrine of election. The truth is, that God elects us to holiness as the means, as well as to glory as the end [Note: Ephesians 1:4.]: He elects us to the end by the means [Note: 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14.]; so that the end can never be secured but by the means prescribed. Though therefore God does elect us unto salvation, we can never partake of that salvation, if we be not found in a diligent discharge of all our duties, and the constant exercise of all moral virtues [Note: Romans 2:7.]. Hence St. Paul, notwithstanding he was assured of his final enjoyment of heaven [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:1.], was careful to “keep his body under and bring it into subjection, lest, after having preached to others, he himself should be a cast-away [Note: 1 Corinthians 9:27.];” and hence we also are commanded to “look to ourselves, lest we lose the things we have already wrought, and so come short of our full reward [Note: 2 John, ver. 8 and Hebrews 4:1.].” The truth lies, not in a simple affirming or denying of the doctrine of election, but in connecting the means with the end, as the joint objects which God, in his eternal purpose, has determined to accomplish.]
The meaning of the text being ascertained, the duty contained in it is clear—
[There is a connexion between all the graces of the Spirit: they are so many links in a chain, no one of which can be dispensed with. If we have faith, we must add to it “valour,” that shall encounter difficulties; “knowledge,” that shall regulate the whole of our deportment; “temperance,” that shall make us indifferent to the pleasures of sense; “patience,” that shall carry us through all hardships; “godliness,” that shall fill us with a delight in heavenly things; “brotherly-kindness,” that shall knit us to every member of Christ’s mystical body; and “charity,” that shall engage us in all offices of love even to our very enemies. All of these graces we should cultivate; and, having attained any measure of them, we should seek to grow in them daily; resting in no attainment “till we come to the measure of the full stature of Christ [Note: ver. 5–7.].”
In labouring after these things, we shall “make our calling and election sure:” we shall not only prove that we have been elected of God, and called by his grace, but shall “strengthen the things that remain,” and “make firm” the work that has been begun in our souls. Indeed the very pursuit of virtue must in itself tend (in proportion as we are diligent) to keep us from declension [Note: Proverbs 3:21-23.]: and it is certain, that God will prosper those who conscientiously labour to approve themselves to him [Note: 2 Chronicles 15:2.].]
Here then is our duty, viz. to secure by unwearied diligence in good works the final enjoyment of those blessings to which God has elected us by his grace, and called us by his good Spirit. And, to aid us in the discharge of this duty, the Apostle sets promises before us for,
“Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” But more particularly God engages to give his diligent and devoted people,
A steadfast life: “If ye do these things, ye shall never fall”—
[It too often happens that professors of religion are left to dishonour their holy calling by open and scandalous offences: nor have any of us any security against such falls, except as we are upheld in God’s everlasting arms. But this security shall be afforded to the zealous and faithful follower of Christ. My text says, “If ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” The diligent Christian doubtless will, even to his dying hour, have reason to acknowledge, that he is a poor imperfect creature: but he shall be kept from flagrant transgressions; and shall, in respect of them, “be preserved blameless unto God’s heavenly kingdom.” Numberless are the promises of God to this effect [Note: 1 Samuel 2:9. Psalms 37:23-24.] — — — And O, what encouragement do they afford to those who know their weakness and their frailty! Surely the hope of being enabled to “do all things through the strength of Christ,” and of being made “more than conquerors through him that loved us, and of having “our strength in all respects proportioned to our day of trial,” may well stimulate us to exertion, and make us diligent in performing every thing which God requireth at our hands [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:58.].]
A triumphant death—
[A variety of things may occur to affect the mind of a dying saint, and to prevent him from displaying the full efficacy of his principles in his last hours: but, in the general, the peacefulness of his departure will be proportioned to the integrity and diligence of his life. Indeed, it may be expected by those who “abound in every good word and work,” that God will be peculiarly present with them in the time of their greatest need [Note: Psalms 73:26.]: they may hope to be favoured with Pisgah-views of the heavenly Canaan, and, like Stephen, to behold their Saviour standing ready to receive them. Such was Paul’s departure, after a life of unremitting exertion in his Master’s cause [Note: 2 Timothy 4:6-8.]: and such “an abundant entrance into the kingdom of our Lord shall be ministered to us” also, if we follow the steps of that distinguished Apostle.
Who that has ever seen the insensibility of some, or the terrors of others, would not wish to have this promise fulfilled to him in a dying hour? — — — Let us then live the life of the righteous, if we would die his death. Let us look to it, that we be daily ripening for glory: then shall we in due time be carried to it, “like a shock of corn” to the garner.]
You will naturally ask me, what directions I would give you for the attainment of this great object? I answer,
Let there be in you no allowed sin—
[The wisdom that is from above, is “without partiality and without hypocrisy [Note: James 3:17.].” One leak will sink a ship; and one allowed sin will destroy the soul [Note: Matthew 18:8-9.]. If ever you would be saved at last, you must be “Israelites indeed, and without guile [Note: John 1:47.].” Faith in Christ must be laid as the foundation; but every Christian grace must compose the edifice that is built upon it.]
Cry mightily to God to perfect and complete his work within you—
[He who has been “the Author of your faith must also be the Finisher [Note: Hebrews 12:2.].” “Be strong only in the Lord, and in the power of his might [Note: Ephesians 6:10.].” Commit your soul into the Saviour’s hands, and entreat him to “keep you from falling [Note: Jude, ver. 24.]:” so shall you “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God [Note: Colossians 4:12.],” and “be kept by the power of God through faith unto everlasting salvation [Note: 1 Peter 1:5.]”]
A PASTORAL ADMONITION
2 Peter 1:12-15. Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you, always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth. Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me. Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.
IN every period of the world, the servants of God, at the close of life, have laboured with more than ordinary assiduity to impress on the minds of their people the truths, which, from the commencement of their ministry, they have inculcated. When Moses had brought the Israelites to the very borders of Canaan, he was ordered to “write a song, and to teach it to the children of Israel, that to the latest period of time it might be a witness against them for the Lord,” in the event of their turning from him to serve other gods [Note: Deuteronomy 31:19; Deuteronomy 31:29-30; Deuteronomy 32:1-43.]. Joshua, in like manner, at the close of his life, called for all Israel, and charged them to “fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and truth;” and, on their engaging so to do, he said, “Ye are witnesses against yourselves, that ye have chosen you the Lord to serve him [Note: Joshua 23:2; Joshua 24:14; Joshua 24:21-22.].” St. Paul also, how affectionately did he warn the elders of Ephesus, who had come to take their leave of him at Miletus [Note: Acts 20:17; Acts 20:28.]! Thus does the Apostle Peter, in this his second epistle to the Jewish converts dispersed throughout the world, endeavour to “stir them up,” by calling to their remembrance the truths he had inculcated, that so they might, after his removal from them, retain their steadfastness even to the end [Note: 2 Peter 3:17. with the text.].
In conformity with these examples, I would, after ministering to you for half a century, point out [Note: This was a Jubilee Sermon, preached on that special occasion.],
First, what, in conformity with St. Peter’s example, I have, from the beginning, laboured to instil into your minds.
I might here, in the review of my whole ministerial life, adopt the words which St. Paul used at the close of his career: “Having obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come; that Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people (the Jewish people) and to the Gentiles [Note: Acts 26:22-23.].” Yes, I can appeal to all who have ever known me, that to proclaim a suffering and triumphant Messiah, as revealed to us by Moses and the prophets, has been the one object of my life, without any variation as arising from the persons addressed, “whether small or great,” and without ever turning aside after novelties, or fond conceits, or matters of doubtful disputation. From the beginning, “I determined,” like that blessed Apostle, “to know nothing amongst you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”
But I will draw your attention rather to St. Peter’s conduct, and to his expressions as contained in the foregoing context. He says, “I will endeavour that you may be able, after my decease, to have these things always in remembrance.”
What “these things” were which he here refers to, I will endeavour to explain. He addresses himself to those who had obtained like precious faith with him, through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:” and he calls upon them to “add to their faith, virtue,” and a whole series of other graces suited to the Christian character [Note: ver. 1, 5.]. These were the things which their profession of Christianity indispensably required, and which alone could justify any pretensions to the knowledge of Christ, or give them a hope of acceptance in the eternal world [Note: ver. 8, 9.].
Now, my brethren, these are the things which I also, according to the grace given to me, have inculcated, from the first moment that I came amongst you. And these are the things which I am anxious that “you should bear always in remembrance after my decease.” I am aware that you, my stated hearers, both “know these things, and are, for the most part, established in the truths that have been set before you.” But I know also what danger there is of your forgetting them, when he, who has so long declared them unto you, is removed to a better world. You cannot but recollect, that the whole people of Israel, within the short space of forty days after that Moses had absented himself from them, turned away from Jehovah to worship the golden calf [Note: Deuteronomy 9:11-12.]: and that “King Joash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, no longer than whilst he was under the eye, and the instruction, of Jehoiada the priest [Note: 2 Chronicles 24:2.].” What then can I expect, but that many of you will “let slip the things which you have heard [Note: Hebrews 2:1.],” and “turn aside from the holy commandments delivered to you [Note: 2 Peter 2:21.]?” Excuse me, therefore, if I lay hold on this present opportunity to bring to your remembrance what you have so often heard delivered to you with all plainness and fidelity.
If it be asked why Peter adopted this course towards his Jewish converts, and why I endeavour to follow his example, I will proceed to shew you,
Secondly, Why he was, as I myself also am, anxious that you should “have these things always in remembrance.”
Amongst the numberless reasons that might be assigned, I shall content myself with stating the three following:—
First, I would impress these things on your minds, because on your remembrance of them depends the everlasting welfare of your souls.
Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the foundation of all your hopes. You all know that you are sinners, and that, as sinners, you are under a sentence of condemnation. And how shall that sentence be reversed? Need you be told, that you can never, by any works of your own, purchase the remission of your sins? You know you cannot. You know, that even your best actions are very imperfect, and incapable of claiming for you any recompence, if tried by the test of God’s holy law: so that for them, no less than for any fouler transgressions, you need forgiveness at the hands of God. Hence, I trust, you are ready to say with St. Paul, “I desire to be found in Christ, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is of the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith [Note: Philippians 3:9.].”
At the same time, you know the necessity of universal holiness in order to prove and attest the sincerity of your faith. I bless God, there is not amongst you all, so far as I know, even one single individual, that leans to Antinomian licentiousness, or that has any conceit that his faith can avail for his salvation, unless it “work by love [Note: Galatians 5:6.],” and “purify the heart [Note: Acts 15:8.].”
Yes, I am happy to say, that “ye know these things, and are, for the most part, established in them.” But is there no danger of your declining from them, when the tongue that now inculcates them shall be silent in the grave? Even in the midst of all endeavours to keep you in the “good old way,” have you never seen any “turned from the simplicity that is in Christ [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:3.]?” Alas! alas! even in the apostolic Churches such declensions were common: we must not wonder, therefore, if, amongst ourselves, some be drawn aside by Satan [Note: 1 Timothy 5:15.], to “make shipwreck of their faith, and of a good conscience [Note: 1 Timothy 1:19.].” But what must be the result of such instability? The Apostle tells us, that “if any man draw back, my soul,” says God, “shall have no pleasure in him.” Yes, beyond a possibility of doubt, every such person, whoever he be, and whatever he may imagine, “draws back unto perdition [Note: Hebrews 10:38-39.];” and his last end is worse than his beginning [Note: 2 Peter 2:20.].”
And shall it be thus with any of you, my brethren? God forbid. I tremble at the thought of it, and will endeavour, as far as in me lies, to prevent so awful an issue to my present ministrations. Let me tell you again and again, (for “to speak the same things to you, to me is not grievous, but for you it is safe [Note: Philippians 3:1.];”) let me tell you, I say, that “there is no other foundation for any sinner in the universe to build upon, but that which God himself has laid in Zion, which is Jesus Christ [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:11.].” And let me further declare, that “it is not a dead faith that shall save you, but one which is productive of good works [Note: James 2:14; James 2:20; James 2:26.];” and that “without holiness, real, universal holiness, no man shall see the Lord [Note: Hebrews 12:14.].”
Next, the Apostle laboured to impress these things on their minds, because he knew that his opportunities for reminding them of them were coming to an end.
The Lord Jesus Christ had told him many years before, that, when he should be old, he should be bound, and crucified by his enemies [Note: John 21:18-19.]. And the time for this catastrophe was now near at hand: yet with such sweet composure did the Apostle contemplate this tremendous death, that he spake of it only as the taking down of a tent or tabernacle, to rear it again in a better place: but, as it would put a termination to his earthly career, he was anxious to improve his few remaining hours in fixing these things upon their minds, in order “that they might have them in remembrance after his decease.” And though I have no reason to expect such an end, yet it cannot now be long before I must be called to “put off this my tabernacle,” and to cease from the work in which I have been engaged these fifty years. I do indeed bless God, that I have one to succeed me in part who shall carry on the work to far greater advantage than I have ever been able to do: but yet, who shall occupy the more ostensible post of your stated minister, God alone knows; and whether he shall maintain amongst you the same doctrine of justification by faith, and hold up before you the same high standard of practical piety, none but God can tell: but this I know, that no doctrine but that of a crucified Saviour, can ever avail for your salvation; and that no measure of holiness, less than that of an entire devotedness of heart and life to God, can ever justify a hope of an interest in Christ. And, whether all this be inculcated on you or not, who can tell whether you shall retain the experience of it in your souls? I look at the Seven Churches of Asia, and see how they were fallen, even whilst the Apostle John yet remained to instruct and warn them. And in what state are they now? Or see, if you will, places in our own land, where once a faithful ministry was established, and to what a state are they now reduced! A Sibbs [Note: The Master of Catharine Hall, in 1626.], and a Preston [Note: The Master of Emmanuel, in 1622.], once ministered in this place; but how little of their mind and spirit was transmitted to later generations, the records of this parish even in my own time, most fully testify. Whilst then God is pleased to continue me amongst you, “I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.” As long as I am able to bear any testimony amongst you, I will still declare, that Jesus, our adorable Lord, is the only Saviour of sinners; and that as his atoning blood alone can ever cleanse you from the guilt of sin, so his blessed Spirit alone can ever renovate you after the Divine image, or make you “meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.” Receive ye this, my brethren, as by anticipation, my dying testimony. Treasure it up in your minds, that, “after my decease, you may have it always in remembrance.” It is a comfort to me to think, that “long after I am dead,” I shall, by my printed works, “yet speak to you;” and, though I cannot hope that they should occupy the attention of persons situated as you are, they will exist as records of the doctrines delivered to you, and amongst them, this, as my dying address, will find a place, as a memorial of my love to you, and of my desire for your eternal welfare.
One more reason for St. Peter’s so insisting upon these things was, that he could not otherwise discharge his duty towards those whom he had been commissioned to instruct. He says, “I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance.” His expression here is remarkable: The word “meet,” would be properly translated “just:” He thought it just [Note: δίκαιον.] to do this: he considered, that, to be remiss in the discharge of this duty, would be an act of injustice; an injustice to them; an injustice to God; an injustice to himself. In this light I also consider it, my beloved brethren. If I should not press upon your minds the knowledge of Christ, and the necessity of universal holiness, it would be an act of injustice to you. You have been committed to me by Almighty God, as sheep to a shepherd, that I might watch over you, and lead you into the pastures which God has provided for you; and rather lay down my life for you, than suffer you to fall a prey to that “roaring lion that seeketh to devour you.” It would also be an act of injustice towards God, who is the great Proprietor of the fold, and who will “require at my hands the blood of every one amongst you that has perished through my neglect [Note: Ezekiel 33:7-8.].” Alas! What account shall I give to him when he shall summon me to his tribunal, and inquire into my discharge of my pastoral office? ‘Did I not send you to watch over them? Did I not appoint you a “steward of those great mysteries [Note: 1 Corinthians 4:1.]” which I had revealed in my word, the mysteries of redeeming love? Did you not undertake to make known to them all that my dear Son had done and suffered for them? Did you not engage to declare all that my Holy Spirit was empowered to work within them, by transforming them into my perfect image? Why then did you accept the office of an ambassador from me, if you did not intend to discharge it with fidelity? Why did you suffer so much as one single “soul for whom Christ died, to perish” through your neglect [Note: 1 Corinthians 8:11.]? Was it for this that I intrusted you with so high a commission, and put my interests into your hands, that you should be so remiss in the discharge of the one, and so careless in the advancement of the other?’ I may add also, it would be an act of injustice to myself. I know that “your blood will be required at my hands:” and I engaged at my ordination to “watch over you as one that must give account” to the Judge of quick and dead [Note: Hebrews 13:17.]. How then shall I appear at the judgment-seat of Christ, if I neglect to “declare unto you the whole counsel of God?” What shall I say when that question shall be put to me, “Where are those sheep which I committed to thee in the wilderness?” My dear brethren, if I have no concern but about my own soul, I must fulfil the ministry committed to me, and labour, whilst yet any remnant of power is continued to me, to stir up in your minds a love to that Saviour who has died for you, and to bring you to that conformity to his image, which can alone fit you for the enjoyment of his presence and glory.
But now, in the third place, what shall I say in order to effect my purpose? What considerations shall I urge upon you in order the more effectually to impress your minds with the truths which I have before stated? I will adopt the line of argument suggested by the Apostle himself in the preceding context.
An adherence to these things is what you engaged for in your baptismal covenant. Then Christ was received by you as your Lord and Saviour: and you professed to look for remission of sins altogether in his name, and through faith in his blood and righteousness. At the same time you gave up yourselves to him to be sanctified in body, soul, and spirit by his grace, and to live altogether to his glory. But, if you recede in any respect from these engagements, you abandon all the hopes which were then held out to you by that covenant of being “purged from your sins [Note: ver. 9.],” and you forfeit that remission, which, if you received your baptism aright, or subsequently realized the engagements then entered into, was then conceded to you. And are you willing to cast off thus your Christian profession, and to sacrifice your interest in those “great and precious promises” which were then tendered to you in the Saviour’s name, and “by which you might have been made partakers of the Divine nature [Note: ver. 4.],” and heirs of the Divine glory? Think, I pray you, of the loss you will sustain, and the tremendous responsibility that will attach to you: and beg of God, that he will never leave you thus, nor suffer you to “receive all this grace in vain [Note: 2 Corinthians 6:1.].”
Further let me say, These are the things on which your perseverance in the divine life entirely depends [Note: ver. 10.]. A simple life of faith on the Lord Jesus Christ is to you what the union of a branch is to its parent stock. If from adopting any notions whatever your communion with him is interrupted, nothing but decay and death can ensue. So likewise, if there be any one grace which you do not cultivate, the neglect of that will open the door to numberless other evils, and you will be “left to fall” and perish. It matters not what that virtue is which you neglect: if “intemperance,” or “impatience,” or “uncharitableness,” or “ungodliness” of any kind [Note: ver. 6, 7.] be suffered to retain an ascendant over you, it will, as water in a leaky ship, in a little time fully occupy your soul, and finally sink you to perdition. “A right hand or a right eye,” however necessary it may appear to your present happiness, will, if retained, “destroy both body and soul in hell [Note: Mark 9:43-48.].” The union of faith and holiness must be complete and abiding, even as the root of the tree with the fruit: both, in their place, are necessary to “make your calling and election sure:” and, if either fail, you will inevitably and eternally perish.
Once more—It is by bearing these things in remembrance that you will ensure to yourselves a happy dismission from the body at the hour of death, and an abundant entrance into the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ [Note: ver. 11.].” As to any thing of exalted joy in the hour of death, I do not see much of that in the death of the Scripture-saints, nor do I think that, as a general occurrence, we are authorized to expect it. But peace in a dying hour we may expect: “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace [Note: Psalms 37:37.].” But how is this to be secured? It is by cleaving to the Lord Jesus Christ with full purpose of heart, and by endeavouring to glorify him by a holy life and conversation. An entire reliance on him is necessary. Nothing but a view of his all-atoning sacrifice can satisfy the mind in a dying hour. We may now run after notions that are mooted and propagated in the Christian world: but they will afford us little comfort when we are about to enter into the presence of our Judge, and to receive at his hands our eternal doom. Nothing, I say, but a view of Christ as the appointed Saviour of the world, will give us boldness at that day. But, if now we “live entirely by faith on him, as having loved us and given himself for us [Note: Galatians 2:20.],” we shall be able then to commit our souls into his hands with an assured hope of acceptance, and a blessed prospect of dwelling with him for ever. At the same time, however, we must have the testimony of our conscience, that, amidst all our infirmities, we did not retain any allowed iniquity, but did endeavour to walk “as he walked,” and to “purify ourselves even as he was pure.” If in relation to this matter “our heart condemn us not, then shall we have confidence toward God [Note: 1 John 3:21.].”
Now consider, my dear brethren, how desirable this blessing is. To have misgiving fears in the hour of death will be very terrible: but to possess a sweet assured confidence that we are accepted of our God, and to have “an abundant entrance into the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour,” like that of a ship, with wind and tide in its favour, into its destined port, what felicity will that be ! And how greatly is it to be desired ! Would you then possess this blessing, keep in remembrance the things which I have preached to you; and get your minds so fully and continually occupied with them, that, after my decease, as well as during my few remaining hours, they may have their full influence upon you; and that, when we shall meet around the throne of God, I may have you as “my joy and crown of rejoicing to all eternity [Note: 1 Thessalonians 2:19.].”
THE TRUTH AND CERTAINTY OF THE GOSPEL
2 Peter 1:16. We have not followed cunningly-devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
AMONGST the various proofs which we have of the truth and certainty of our holy religion, one of great importance is, that amongst all the authors and founders of it no diversity of sentiment obtained upon any essential point of doctrine; whether the teachers of it were learned (like the Evangelist Luke and the Apostle Paul), or unlearned (like the rest of the Apostles), they were all of one mind: nor during the whole apostolic age was there so much as one controversy among them, if we except the doubt that was raised about imposing the yoke of the Mosaic law upon the Gentiles: nor was this question moved by the teachers themselves, but only referred to them by some who were less instructed amongst their converts. This shews, that they were all taught by one and the same Spirit: for it is not to be conceived, that amongst so great a variety of persons, so differently situated, and so differently gifted, there should not have been a considerable diversity of sentiment, sufficient to distract the minds of their hearers, and to cause divisions in the Church. Moreover, we never find one of the inspired Apostles speaking with doubt upon any fundamental point: they knew infallibly, and declared without hesitation, that we are all guilty and helpless in ourselves, all redeemed by the blood of Christ, all renewed by the influences of the Holy Spirit, and all to be summoned to the judgment-seat of Christ, to receive according to what we have done in the body, whether it be good or evil. We cannot but be struck with the confidence with which the Apostle Peter speaks in the words before us, and with the simplicity with which that confidence is expressed.
That I may place his words in a just point of view, I will endeavour to shew,
What he had declared respecting Christ—
The generality of commentators confine “the power and coming” of the Lord Jesus Christ to his future advent to judge the world. But I see no reason for so limiting them: I see nothing in the context that should lead us to such a contracted view of them. I conceive that they include what Christ has done, as well as what he will do; and that the Apostle refers to,
The power with which Christ has come—
Both the epistles of Peter are catholic, addressed to the whole Church. In the former especially he speaks very fully, and forcibly, of the Lord Jesus Christ, and of the different ends and purposes of his advent. He declares him to have been “fore-ordained before the foundation of the world, but manifest in these last times for his people [Note: 1 Peter 1:20.].” He specifies the end of his manifestation, which was, to “redeem his people by his blood,” and to bear their sins in his own body on the tree [Note: 1 Peter 1:18-19; 1 Peter 2:24.]. He declares him to have been “raised up from the dead by the Father; that our faith and hope might be in God [Note: 1 Peter 1:21.]:” and he states, that by his “resurrection from the dead he hath begotten us again to a lively hope of an incorruptible, and undefiled, and never-fading inheritance [Note: 1 Peter 1:3-4.].” He represents him further as “the foundation-stone upon which all his Church and people are built,” and which will infallibly support them all for ever and ever [Note: 1 Peter 2:5-6.]. And, lastly, he speaks of him as gone into heaven as our forerunner, and as “reigning there above all the principalities and powers” of heaven, earth, and hell [Note: 1 Peter 3:22.].
In the epistle that is before us too, he had spoken fully to the same effect, declaring that “grace and peace were to be multiplied unto us through the knowledge of this Saviour [Note: ver. 2.],” who is the one source and fountain of all good, and has “by his divine power given us all things that pertain unto life and godliness [Note: ver. 3.].”
Now these things Peter had declared: and they are no other than what every minister of Christ must declare. His ordination to his office from all eternity, his execution of it in time for the salvation of a ruined world, his exaltation to glory, from whence he communicates all blessings to his people, and overrules every thing for their eternal good, this must be made known by every minister of Christ, and must be received by every child of man.]
The power with which he will come—
[At a future period, that same Jesus, who was crucified, shall appear again “in power and great glory [Note: 1 Peter 1:7.],” and will come to “judge both the quick and dead [Note: 1 Peter 4:5.].” Then shall “his glory be fully revealed [Note: 1 Peter 4:13.];” and his kingdom be established for ever in the heaven of heavens [Note: ver. 11.].
These things also the Apostle affirmed. And what less could be declared by any one that has undertaken to preach the Gospel?
If they appear to any to be a cunningly-devised fable, I ask, Why do they appear so? The only answer that can be given is this; That these things are too great to be comprehended by us, and too good to be expected or believed. They are great, no doubt; and they are good also, beyond all that any finite intelligence could have conceived. But they are not on that account to be questioned. The creation of the world out of nothing, as far exceeds our conceptions as the redemption of it. Both the one and the other are the offspring of infinite wisdom, and power, and goodness: and, if we were not compelled by the evidence of our senses to acknowledge the wonders of creation, we should be as ready to deny the possibility of them, as we are to question the wonders of redemption. But the Apostle declares, that even these latter had, as far as they could be, been made objects of sense; and every evidence of them that could be submitted to the senses had been given to him.]
In confirmation of this the Apostle proceeds to state,
On what assured grounds he was enabled to bear
his testimony respecting him—
The Apostle had all the evidence respecting the Messiahship of Jesus that was possessed by the Church at large. He had beheld all the miracles that Jesus wrought, and heard all his discourses, and seen his bright example, and witnessed his resurrection and ascension, and had received from him the Holy Ghost according to his promise on the day of Pentecost; and had beheld also the triumphs of the Gospel over all the power and policy of earth and hell. (Of the prophecies which he had seen fulfilled in him, we shall have occasion to speak hereafter.) But in addition to all these, he himself possessed an evidence which had made the deepest impression on his own mind, an evidence, which no other human being, except James and John, was ever permitted to behold, and which he could not forbear to adduce on this occasion in confirmation of all that he had stated [Note: ver. 17, 18.].
He had received the evidence of his senses respecting the power and coming of the Lord Jesus—
[He with James and John had been taken up to Mount Tabor by his Divine Master, who had there been transfigured before them [Note: Matthew 17:1-5.]. On that occasion the bright effulgence of the Deity had been made to shine forth in the person of the Lord Jesus, whose “face was as bright as the meridian sun, and whose raiment was as white as the light,” whiter far than any fuller on earth could make them [Note: Mark 9:3.].” This bright effulgence Peter had seen with his bodily eyes.
On that occasion too Moses had been raised from the dead, and Elijah brought down from heaven, to bear their testimony to him. These two persons represented the law and the prophets, both of which had their full accomplishment in him: and they now, as it were, surrendered up their respective offices to him, who was henceforth to be the great Prophet, Priest, and King of his Church and people. Of this also Peter had been “an eye witness.”
But, in addition to this, God the Father had borne witness to his Son by an audible voice from heaven, saying, “This is that my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased: Hear ye him [Note: This is the force of the article in Matthew 17:5.].” In these words there was a direct reference to what God had before said to Moses, “A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren like unto thee: him shall ye hear: and whosoever will not hear that prophet, I will require it of him [Note: Deuteronomy 18:18-19.].” This voice declared, that very Jesus was the prophet so referred to, and the prophet whom all must obey at the peril of their souls. And this voice Peter distinctly heard.]
This evidence fully confirmed all that he had asserted respecting Christ—
[He had declared that Jesus Christ was the only-begotten Son of God, “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person [Note: Hebrews 1:3.],” and of this, as far as it was possible, he had been an eye, and ear witness. He had declared the sufficiency of his death for the redemption of the whole world: and how could he doubt this when God had audibly proclaimed his acquiescence in it in that view? He had declared, that the salvation or condemnation of every living man would depend on his acceptance or rejection of this Saviour, who was the one Prophet, whom all must hear; the one Priest, in whom all must trust: and the one King, whom all must obey: and so strongly were these truths assured to him by all that he had seen and heard, that he could not doubt of them one moment, or hesitate to appeal to them, in proof that “he had not followed any cunningly-devised fable,” as ignorant Gentiles, or superstitious Jews, were wont to do. And to these things do we also make our appeal: for in these things the three Apostles could not be deceived: and their whole life and death shewed clearly enough, that they had no design or wish to deceive.]
Let not any of you then be moved by the impious and blasphemous attempts which are made to undermine the Gospel—
[You may see in my text the construction which infidels and blasphemers are wont to put upon the truths of revelation: they pour contempt upon them as “cunningly-devised fables,” invented and propagated by designing priests for the advancement of their own interests. But who could ever disprove the truth and authority either of the Old or New Testament? It is easy enough to sneer and cavil at any thing: and impious scoffers ever have treated in this way the truths of revelation, even from the days of Jannes and Jambres, who withstood Moses [Note: 2 Timothy 3:8.], to the present hour [Note: February, 1820, just after the trial and condemnation of Carlile, for re-publishing a blasphemous and seditious libel—Paine’s “Age of Reason.”].” “Men of corrupt minds, and reprobate concerning the truth,” ever have, and ever will, “sport in this manner with their own deceivings [Note: Compare 2 Timothy 3:8. with 2 Peter 2:10-13; 2 Peter 3:3-4.].” But, beloved, search the Scriptures for yourselves: examine the evidences which have been adduced in proof of their divine authority: see the suitableness of the provision which has been made for you by Almighty God in the person and work of his only-begotten Son: and you will soon see, that the great mystery of redemption carries its own evidence along with it, and that what is spoken in Scripture respecting it, is “a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation” — — —]
Let all of you get an experimental acquaintance with the Gospel in your own souls—
[Peter believed the evidences which he had in common with others: but he felt peculiar conviction from those which he derived from his own personal experience. So the people of Samaria, who had believed on Jesus on account of the woman’s testimony, told her afterwards, “Now we believe, not because of thy saying; for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world [Note: John 4:42.].” Thus do you seek, if not the evidences of your senses, yet the evidence of your own experience; for it is certain, that “he who truly believeth in Christ, hath the witness in himself [Note: 1 John 5:10.]:” he knows the power and grace of Christ in a way that he never could know it from mere argument: and in speaking of Christ he can say, “What my eyes have seen, my ears have heard, my hands have handled of the word of life, that declare I unto you [Note: 1 John 1:1.].” There are “spiritual senses which may be exercised;” and though their testimony is not satisfactory to others, it is peculiarly convincing to those who possess it. For the good of others then I say, Seek an acquaintance with the established evidences of the Gospel: but for your own good I say, Go up to Jesus upon the holy mount, and there hear and see what God will reveal for the conviction and consolation of your souls. So shall you have an evidence which nothing can shake, and feel yourselves standing on a rock, which defies the assaults both of earth and hell.]
THE TESTIMONY OF PROPHECY
2 Peter 1:19. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts.
THAT persons ignorant of the grounds on which Christianity is established should doubt the truth of it, ought not to occasion us any surprise: for it must be confessed, that on a superficial view of the leading points contained in it, it does appear to surpass the bounds of credibility. That the God of heaven and earth should assume our nature, and be made in the likeness of sinful flesh; that he should thus humble himself, in order that he might in his own person bear, and expiate, the sins of his rebellious creatures; that, having wrought out in our nature a perfect righteousness, he should offer that righteousness to all who will believe in him, and accept it in their behalf for the justification of their souls before him; there is in all this something so wonderful, so glorious, so delightful, that it does indeed appear like “a cunningly-devised fable;” and one is tempted to say concerning it, as Job did under a similar impression of the manifold grace of God, “If I had called to God, and he had answered me (and told me by an audible voice from heaven that Christianity was true), yet would I not believe that he hearkened to my voice [Note: Job 9:16.].” As Peter, when actually liberated from prison, “wist not that it was true, but thought he saw a vision,” so, when we have the actual experience of the Gospel salvation in our own souls, it actually seems at times to be “a dream [Note: Psalms 126:1.].” But it is no dream, no cunningly-devised fable; but a glorious reality. Of this the Apostle was well assured. He had received the most positive evidence of it from his own senses. He had seen his Lord transfigured upon the holy mount: and had heard the testimony which the Father had borne to him by an audible voice from heaven; “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased [Note: ver. 16–18.].” But, however satisfactory this evidence was to him, it could not be so convincing to others, because it depended solely on the testimony of himself and the other two Apostles who were admitted to that sight, and because the inferences which he drew from what he had seen and heard would not commend themselves with the same force to others as they did to him. But there were other grounds on which all might feel the same assurance as he himself did. There was “a more sure word of prophecy,” which every one might examine for himself, and of which every one who did examine it was competent to judge. This no man could weigh without being convinced by it: he might as well doubt his own existence, as doubt the truth of Christianity, if only he examined the prophecies with a candid mind.
It is my intention to shew you,
The evidence of our religion as founded on prophecy—
Verily it is “a sure word,” that may well be depended on. Consider the vast collective body of prophecies: consider,
[There is not any one point relating to Christianity that has not been the subject of prophecy. Every thing relating to Christ, his person, his work, his offices; his life, his death, his resurrection and ascension; his investiture with all power at the right hand of God; the nature, extent, and duration of his kingdom; and his second coming to judge the world; all has been fully and distinctly declared by holy men of God, who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. Now I ask, Would any one have ventured to predict so many things respecting an impostor? Supposing that the dangerous ground of prophecy had been taken by any who conspired to deceive the world, would they not for their own sake have been satisfied with a few general predictions, that were capable of different interpretations, and that were likely in the common course of events to happen? Would any persons have undertaken to give beforehand so full, so large, so complicated a disclosure of all that should come to pass? But add to this,]
[It is surprising that prophecy should condescend to such minute occurrences as were actually foretold concerning Christ. Not only were the time and place of his nativity foretold, but his expulsion from thence to Egypt, and his subsequent abode at Nazareth. So again, not only was the manner of his death declared, but such minute circumstances as could not be conceived; such as the very words which his enemies should taunt him with, whilst yet he should hang upon the cross; and their offering him vinegar to drink; and even the manner in which they should dispose of his raiment, casting lots for one part, whilst they divided the rest. Now I ask, Could any but the omniscient God predict such things as these? things, which could not be fulfilled by any except by the very enemies who put him to death as an impostor?
But the evidence, as arising from the fulness and minuteness of the prophecies, will derive great strength from marking,]
[Certainly, when we consider that the prophecies were delivered by different persons wholly unconnected with each other, at distant times and places, during the space of three thousand six hundred years, and that the things which they predicted were in appearance so opposite to each other; it is inconceivable, that no inconsistency should be found in any of them, if they were not inspired by the omniscient and unchangeable God.
Let us enter a little into this point.—The person of the Messiah. He must be “Jehovah’s fellow,” “the mighty God,” and yet “a man,” yea “a worm, and no man, the very scorn of men and the outcast of the people.” He must be “the Root and yet the Offspring of David,” “David’s Son, and yet David’s Lord.” He must be “a Lion,” and yet “a Lamb.” He must be a King, a Priest, and a Prophet, all in one. He must die, yet live. Though a Jew, he must die a Roman death, and yet not experience the same treatment as was shewn to those who were crucified with him, in having his bones broken: yea, he shall “be pierced in his hands and feet,” where the bones are so numerous, and by the soldier’s spear also, and yet “not have a bone broken.” He shall die as a malefactor, and yet “have his grave with the rich.” He shall surfer thus under the hand of his enemies, and yet triumph; yea, and triumph by dying, and pass through the grave to his throne of glory; and, after standing at the tribunal of his rebellious creatures, summon the universe to his tribunal, and fix the everlasting doom of men and angels. Say, whether such apparent inconsistencies would ever have been predicted respecting an impostor, or, if predicted, would have been ever realized and fulfilled? There are, it is true, many prophecies which are not yet fulfilled. The restoration of the Jews, the conversion of the Gentiles, the universal establishment of Christ’s kingdom upon earth; these things have not yet taken place: nor have the prophecies taught us to expect that they should yet be accomplished. But the fulfilment of such diversified predictions which we have already seen, leaves us no doubt respecting the accomplishment of the remainder in due season: and this is one reason why the evidence from prophecy is so convincing; that it is ever growing stronger and stronger by the augmented and ever-increasing force which it receives, from the events which are yet daily taking place in the Church and in the world.]
This then may suffice for the first point which we were to consider, namely, the evidence of our religion as founded on prophecy. We now proceed to shew,
The use which we should make of that evidence—
“We should take heed to it,” and consider it well;
To satisfy our minds respecting the Messiahship of Jesus—
[In the world at large we have nothing to guide us in relation to this point: and even from Judaism we gain but little light. The whole Mosaic dispensation was dark and shadowy: and the very predictions which were handed down to us by successive prophets were so dark, that they were not understood by the very persons who uttered them [Note: 1 Peter 1:10-12.]. But these prophecies serve us for a light, which, duly improved, will infallibly lead us to the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. We may illustrate this by the star which appeared to the Magi in the East, which first of all directed them to Judζa, then to Jerusalem, the capital of Judζa. There they made inquiries respecting “the person who was born King of the Jews.” There, they learned that Bethlehem was to be the place of the Messiah’s nativity: and Herod was the person who directed them to go to Bethlehem. But, when they were going thither, the star which they had before seen in the East went before them, and stood over the very house in which the infant was. So will prophecy guide us. At first we are informed, that “the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head:” but where or when to find him we know not. Next we find, that he shall be of the seed of Abraham; and in the particular line of Isaac, and of Jacob. Proceeding further, we are directed to the family of David; and are told that he shall come whilst the second temple is yet standing, and be born at Bethlehem. Then we come to all the minute particulars respecting him. He must have such a forerunner as Elijah: he must have the Holy Ghost descend upon him: he must work unnumbered miracles in confirmation of his word: he must be scourged, and yet crucified; (though his scourging was inflicted by Pilate in order to prevent his crucifixion). A thousand minute circumstances must attend his death: and on the third day he must rise again; and ascend to heaven, and send down the Holy Ghost upon his Disciples, and enable them to speak all manner of languages, and work all manner of miracles: and, by their instrumentality, he must so establish his kingdom in the world, that the gates of hell shall never prevail against it. Now, where shall I find the person in whom all these, and ten thousand other predictions, meet? I go to one and to another; but I am stopped in a moment: I do not find in them any two requisites. I then come to Jesus; and I find he answers the description in some particulars. I then follow him to see if other things concur to point him out: and the more minutely I examine, the more evidence I gain, without one single disappointment. As the lot for the discovery of Achan fell first on the tribe, then on the family, then on the household, and then on the individual; so does every prophecy lead me nearer and nearer unto Jesus. till they fix infallibly on him as the object of my pursuit Thus, I say, I take prophecy for my light; and I follow it, till it stands over the very person of my adorable Lord, and leaves me no possibility of doubt respecting his being the true Messiah, the Saviour of the world.]
To lead us to an experimental sense of his excellency and glory—
[We must not be satisfied with knowing that Jesus is the Messiah, but must seek to experience all the blessings of his salvation in our souls. Suppose a condemned criminal to receive a pardon from his prince, and at the same time a grant of large estates, and a title to all the highest honours of his kingdom; and the man were to satisfy himself with examining and ascertaining that the writing which conveyed to him these benefits, was not a forgery: what should we say of that man? Should we think him sane? Should we not expect that, as a rational being, he would leave his prison, and go forth to possess his estates and honours? Yet this is the very folly which we are guilty of. We are contented with ascertaining to our satisfaction the Messiahship of Jesus, and go not forth to him to obtain the blessings he has purchased for us. But let us remember, that a lamp is only to guide us through a dark place: when the day has dawned and the sun is risen, we are then to walk in the light of that sun, which will supersede the use of the glimmering taper we have just employed. Now thus it is that the Lord Jesus Christ, “the true Morning-star [Note: Revelation 22:16.],” “the Sun of Righteousness [Note: Malachi 4:2.],” will arise in our hearts, and “will manifest himself to us, as he does not unto the world [Note: John 14:22.].” And, as light is its own evidence, so will he bring his own evidence along with him, and prove himself to be the Messiah by the blessings he imparts. Only let that “God, who commanded light to shine out of darkness, shine into our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:6.],” and we shall have the same evidence of his Messiahship as a man has of the sun’s existence when he is basking in the beams of its meridian splendour. This then is what we must seek. We must seek to have “the day dawn, and the day-star arise in our hearts:” and then we shall be able to say to prophecy, as the Samaritans did to the woman who had guided them to Jesus, “Now we believe, not because of thy saying; for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world [Note: John 4:42.].” It is said of heaven, that “the glory of God doth lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof [Note: Revelation 21:23.]:” and thus may it be said of us when Christ has once revealed himself within us; so bright, so cheering, so glorious will be his presence in the soul!]
We may learn then from hence,
The propriety of considering the evidences of our religion—
[Were we habituated from our early youth to consider these things, how vain and impotent would be the efforts of infidels to shake our faith! If we regarded nothing but intellectual amusement, we can scarcely conceive a richer feast to the mind than the study of prophecy. But, when we reflect that on the truth of Christianity our eternal welfare depends, it is surprising that we are not more interested about this all-important subject. We should not be satisfied with believing Christianity, because our fathers have believed it: we should examine for ourselves. We should search the Old Testament Scriptures, which testify of Christ; and compare them with the New Testament, in which the fulfilment of the prophecies is recorded. Thus should we examine the foundation upon which we propose to build, and assure ourselves that it will bear the edifice which we design to construct upon it.]
The folly of resting in them—
[A man who lays a foundation proceeds to build upon it. And so must we do. We have ascertained beyond a doubt that Jesus is the Christ. But what does the assurance of that fact avail us, if we go not to him for the salvation which he has purchased for us? The Israelites, when they found the manna that was round about their tents, inquired, “What is it?” But when they had ascertained that it was a species of bread given them from heaven, were they satisfied with having learned that fact? No: they proceeded to gather it, each one for himself, and then to feed upon it from day to day. Do ye then so in reference to Christ, who is “the true bread from heaven.” Do not imagine, that because you know he has been given, and are acquainted also with the ends and purposes for which he has been given, you will receive any benefit from that. You must lay hold upon him, and feed upon him from day to day. If he be indeed, as he has declared, the light of the world, you must walk in his light. Then shall your path to heaven be clear, and your way delightful: and then shall you be prepared to dwell with him in that place, where “the sun shall be no more your light by day, neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto you, but where the Lord shall be unto you an everlasting light, and your God your glory [Note: Isaiah 60:19.].”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 2 Peter 1". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany