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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary
1 Peter 1



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Verse 1

1 Peter 1:1

I. Election in its source: "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father."

II. Election in its means: "elect through sanctification of the Spirit." (1) Election first shows itself in a man's separation from the world, which lieth in wickedness. (2) But more than separation from or nonconformity to the world is here intended: the moral purification of our nature. (3) The wording of the text leads us still further: this holiness is not a limited, circumscribed result of the inward operation of the Spirit, but an infusion into our nature of the very quality or attribute of holiness inherent in Himself.

III. Election in its end: "elect unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ." (1) Election has for its object our obedience, obedience in a twofold sense: (a) the obedience of faith; (b) the obedience which faith produces. (2) The sprinkling of the blood is necessary not only at the beginning of the Christian career, but all along to the very end.

J. C. Jones, Studies in First Peter; p. 1.

References: 1 Peter 1:1, 1 Peter 1:2.—G. E. L. Cotton, Sermons to English Congregations in India, p. 283; J. S. Howson, Church of England Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 259.

Verse 2

1 Peter 1:2

Who would take happy views of religion, whoever would have full assurance of his own salvation, must be accustomed to look for his evidences, not in himself, nor in any abstract truth, but in the character, and the work, and the person of God. In this respect, the doctrine of the blessed Trinity is a very tower of confidence and strength to a Christian. The offices of the Holy Three are so full, they so fit into each other and make a harmony, they are so appropriate, each in its distinctness, and they are so sufficient, all in their completeness, that they seem made for this very purpose: to assure a man's soul and to leave no place for the weakest doubt.

I. The beginning, the foundation, of the whole scheme of salvation, is the electing grace of the Father. The election of the saved ranges without the slightest reprobation of the lost; and the right application of the doctrine is always an application of comfort. So St. Peter here implies, in like manner St. Paul, always to strengthen and assure, and stir up to holiness, afflicted Churches and tried believers.

II. Look at the path which election takes, by which it always travels, without which it is no election at all: "through sanctification of the Spirit." The great object of all election is the glory of God. The glory of God is a happy, holy thing, the reflection of Himself. The Spirit carries on His sanctifying work by implanting a new life, new principles, with new affections, within a man's breast, which then act with a threefold influence. First, they occupy the heart; then they keep down and restrain the evil that was and still is there; and then they gather up and absorb the bad nature, purify and elevate it towards the character of the Divine: this is sanctification.

III. "Obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Christ." In that obedience we were elected; for it we were created in Christ Jesus; God willed it, God purposed it, and God means it.

J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 5th series, p. 294.

References: 1 Peter 1:2.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. viii., No. 434; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 194.

Verse 3

1 Peter 1:3

To the question, What has the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead done for us Christians? a great many answers may be given.

I. Of these the answer which is, perhaps, of the first importance, the answer which Christ's own Apostles would have given, is this: that by rising from the dead Jesus Christ proved that He had a right to speak about God, a right to speak about the old religion of His countrymen, a right to speak about the religious conduct of the most influential classes among His countrymen; above all, that He had a right to speak about Himself as He had spoken. When He was asked to give a sign—that is, a something which might be accepted as evidence—of the commission which He had from heaven, He gave this: He said that just as the old prophet Jonah had been buried out of sight in the whale, and yet had been restored to his ministry and to his countrymen, so He Himself, though He should be stricken beneath the pangs and convulsions of death, though laid in the darkness of the tomb in the very heart of the earth, yet would at a given time burst the fetters of the grave and would rise again. Accordingly, when this prediction had been actually realised, the fact was appealed to, as we see from the Acts of the Apostles, by the earliest preachers of Christianity, almost in every single sermon. It was the fact which evidently did their work, in compelling men to listen to what they had to say about their risen Lord and in making faith in Him at least easy, better than any other topic; and St. Paul puts it forward when he begins his great Epistle to the Romans by simply saying that Jesus had been "declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead."

II. But the Resurrection has done other things for us besides this its great evidential achievement. It has endowed Christians, who treat it as a serious matter of fact, with the grace, the great grace, of hope. St. Peter feels the preciousness of this when he exclaims that God, the Father of our Lord, is blessed, if only because, from His abundant mercy, He has begotten us again unto a lively hope by His Son's resurrection from the dead. No man who has not a clear belief in a future life can have permanently a strong sense of duty. A man may, indeed, persuade himself during various periods of his existence that this sense of duty is the better and purer from not being bribed by the promise of future reward or stimulated, as he would perhaps say, unhealthily by the dread of future punishment. But, for all that, his moral life, if he has not an eternal future before him, is, depend upon it, feeble and impoverished. It is not merely that he has fewer and feebler motives to right action; it is that he has a false estimate, because an under-estimate, of his real place in the universe. He has forfeited, in the legitimate sense of the term, his true title to self-respect. He has divested himself of the bearing, the instincts, and the sense of noble birth and lofty destiny which properly belong to him. He is like the heir to a great name or a throne who is bent on forgetting his lineage and responsibilities in a self-sought degradation. Man cannot, even if he would, live with impunity only as a more accomplished kind of animal than are the creatures around him. Man is by the terms of his existence a being of eternity, and he cannot unmake himself; he cannot take up a position which abdicates his higher prerogatives without sooner or later sinking into degradations which are in themselves a punishment. He needs a hope resting on something beyond the sphere of sense and time, and God has given him one by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

III. There are three forms of interest which must be accorded to such a fact as the Resurrection. The first is the interest of curiosity in a wonder which is altogether at variance with the course of nature. This interest may exist in a high degree, observing and registering the fact, yet never for a moment getting beyond the fact. Then there is the interest of active reason which is satisfied that such a fact must have consequences, and is anxious to trace them, an interest which may lead a man to say that the Resurrection does, intellectually speaking, prove the truth of the mission of Christ, although the man may know nothing of the power of Christ's blood and of His Spirit. The third kind of interest is practical, moral, spiritual. It is an effort to answer the question, What does Christ's resurrection say to me? what does it mean to me? If it is true, if Christianity through it is true, what ought to be the effect on my thoughts, my feelings, my life? And St. Peter would answer all these questions. Thought, feeling, life, should be invigorated by the force of that living hope. But then this absorbing moral interest does not come of any ordinary process of observation and reason, like these two earlier forms. St. Peter says, using a remarkable expression, "We are begotten unto a lively hope." It is not the outcome of our natural mind or of common-sense, though it does not contradict it; it is the product of the Divine breath playing upon the soul and giving it the new birth, the new capacity for life. Of this birth the Father is the Author; the Eternal Spirit is the instrument; union with Jesus Christ, the perfect Man, the essence and the effect.

H. P. Liddon, Church Sermons, vol. i., p. 309.

The Hope of the Resurrection.

The religion of Jesus Christ presented one great contrast to the heathen religions with which it found itself in conflict: it pointed steadily forward, while they looked wistfully backward. The religions of classical heathenism were religions of regret; the Gospel is a religion of hope. Two great ideas are involved in the fact of the Resurrection, ideas influencing human thought and action at every turn, ideas coextensive in their application with human life itself.

I. By opening out the vista of an endless future, it has wholly changed the proportions of things. The capacity of looking forward is the measure of progress in the individual and in the race. Providence is God's attribute. In proportion as a man appropriates this attribute of God, in proportion as his faculty of foresight is educated, in the same degree is he raised in the moral scale. The Christian is an advance on the civilised man, as the civilised man is an advance on the barbarian. His vista of knowledge and interest is not terminated abruptly by the barrier of the grave. The Resurrection has stimulated the faculty and educated the habit of foresight indefinitely by opening out to it an endless field of vision over which its sympathies range.

II. The Resurrection involves another principle not less extensive or less potent in its influence on human life. The Resurrection does not merely proclaim immortality. It declares likewise that death leads to life; it assures us that death is the portal to eternity. Thus it glorifies death; it crowns and consecrates the grave. Death issuing in life, death the seed and life the plant, and blossom, and fruit—this is the great lesson of the Gospel.

III. See how far-reaching are the applications of this lesson to human life. Through darkness to light, through sorrow to joy, through suffering to bliss, through evil to good—this is the law of our heavenly Father's government, whereby He would educate His family, His sons and His daughters, into the likeness of His own perfections. Accordingly we find this same principle extending throughout the Gospel teaching. Everywhere it speaks of renewal, of redemption, of restitution—yes, of resurrection.

IV. So to the true Christian all the ills of life have an inherent glory in them. Not only do they deserve our pity, deserve our respect, deserve our alleviation. There is a great potentiality of future good in them. No degradation of human character, no abasement of human life, no depth of human vice, is so great as to forfeit its claim to the consideration of the Christian. How can it forfeit this claim when hope is shut out from none, restitution is denied to none? It was the common taunt of the heathen against the Christians in the early ages that they gathered about them the lowest of the people, the outcasts of society, the scum of mankind. They proudly accepted the reproach; they avowed that their shame was their glory. Had not their Master been taunted with the companionship of publicans and sinners? Was it not their special mission, as it had been His before them, to call not righteous men, but sinners?

J. B. Lightfoot, Sermons on Special Occasions, p. 233.

References: 1 Peter 1:3.—H. P. Liddon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 376; W. Hubbard, Ibid., vol. xxiii., p. 163; M. G. Pearse, Ibid., vol. xxx., p. 85.

Verse 3-4

1 Peter 1:3-4

The Lively Hope.

I. Whence does it spring? Hope is popularly defined to be the expectation of future good; but, to render the definition complete, the good should be an object which the mind affects and which the heart desires. It has been implanted in the breast of universal man, and is one of the chiefest displays of the loving-kindness of the Lord. Without it the world were a sepulchre and the conscience a hell. There is hardly a condition of human adversity which it cannot soothe and sweeten. But the hope to which the text refers is not an instinct. It is a gift, and is not, therefore, the common heritage of all mankind; it is the hope of heaven, which the world knoweth not, and to which the sinner is of necessity a stranger. Such a hope can only be of Divine bestowment; it is at once too lofty and too lasting to come from meaner hands. And it is the gift of God to those who receive the Gospel of His Son.

II. What is the medium by which this hope is certified to us? The Apostle says it is "by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead." The resurrection of Jesus is fitly put here for His whole atoning work, as it is at once the proof of the reality and completeness of His death as a sacrifice and the token of its acceptance as a satisfaction by the justice of the Father.

III. Note the recompense in which this hope of the Christian is fulfilled: "to an inheritance." The word at once traces the blessing to its source, and humbles at the outset all the vapourings of human pride. An inheritance is neither reward of industry nor meed of valour. Believers cannot purchase heaven. They may not win its honours, as a knight his spurs, by bravery; they are heirs because of their sonship, and their sonship is by adoption of grace. Boasting is excluded, and gratitude inspired by the boundless love of God. (1) This inheritance is incorruptible; it does not contain the seeds of dissolution. (2) It is undefiled. Herein is the secret of its incorruptibility. (3) It fadeth not away. There comes upon it no whisper of a change. There will be neither consuming memories nor boding fears. Once pass the portals of the inheritance, and you are safe for ever.

W. M. Punshon, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 80.

Verses 3-5

1 Peter 1:3-5

The Heavenly Inheritance.

I. The greatness of God's mercy is to be seen in the great number of the saved.

II. The greatness of God's mercy is to be seen in the great change which takes place in the great multitude.

III. The greatness of God's mercy is to be seen in the greatness of the inheritance which He confers on the great multitude which have undergone the great change.

IV. The greatness of God's mercy is to be seen in the greatness of the expense to which He went to be able to confer this great inheritance on the great multitude that have undergone the change.

V. The greatness of God's mercy is to be seen, lastly, in the greatness of the power that is pledged to bring the great multitude to the possession of the inheritance secured for them at such a cost.

J. C. Jones, Studies in First Peter, p. 15.

References: 1 Peter 1:3-5.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvi., No. 048; W. Boyd-Carpenter, Church of England Pulpit, vol. v., p. 263; Ibid., vol. xxi., p. 267; F. D. Huntingdon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 232. 1 Peter 1:4.—W. Marshall, Ibid., vol. x., p. 315; Homilist, 2nd series, vol. iv., p. 375. 1 Peter 1:6.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iv., No. 222.

Verse 6

1 Peter 1:6

The Theology of Suffering.

I. Temptations or trials reveal faith. (1) Trials, on the one hand, show us the evil that is in us. (2) Afflictions further serve to evoke our good, to lead forth into visibility the faith, the hope, and the charity God, in His loving-kindness, has infused into our souls.

II. Temptations or trials strengthen faith. (1) Bitters are the best tonic for the spiritual man, as for the physical; (2) sorrows further invigorate faith because they call it into frequent, yea constant, exercise.

III. Temptations or trials purify faith. (1) Trials release it from the impurities attached to it; (2) adversity throws faith more upon its proper resources, making it draw its aliment and inspiration more directly from God, from God as revealed in His book.

IV. Temptations or trials beautify faith.

J. C. Jones, Studies in First Peter, p. 29.

References: 1 Peter 1:6, 1 Peter 1:7.—R. W. Dale, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxv., p. 102 1 Peter 1:6-9.—H. S. Brown, Ibid., vol. xii., p. 230. 1 Peter 1:7.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 317; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 147.

Verse 8

1 Peter 1:8

Love a Way to Faith.

I. Love to Christ is the usual way to faith, both to belief in His reality and trust in Him. Of course I do not question that men may attain to faith through investigation. Inquiry and search cannot be otherwise than favourable to faith; what I mean is this: that for men in general, for men and women of all sorts, the way that leads through love to faith is the practical, the usual, the reasonable, and the sufficient one. In the Gospels Christ is presented specially and directly in a way to awaken love rather than to meet the questions of the reason. The great qualities of Christ have the effect of rousing some answering feelings in the souls of men. Every truly elevated life has such an influence, and that of Christ in an altogether peculiar and transcendent manner.

II. Let us notice one or two inferences from this line of thought. We see how love to an unseen Christ operates in keeping Him near to the soul in spite of the lapse of centuries. It seems at first sight as if it would be well-nigh impossible to resist the influence of time. It has such a dissolving power; all things crumble before it. But when souls love Christ and are in constant fellowship with Him, what matters the first century or the nineteenth? There are humble, earnest souls today in myriads that feel Christ more real and near than many who had seen Him in the flesh. How finely the natural and the spiritual blend in love to Christ. There are those who never seem to get beyond the natural. They love Christ as they love any great benefactor of the world. And who can tell just precisely when his love to Christ rose out of this sphere and became spiritual, or when any such love becomes spiritual, aspiring, and active? There are those who do not take the name of Christ, or call Him Master, who have an enthusiasm for Him that might make many Christians blush and bring tears to their eyes. Can any men draw the line between the natural and the spiritual, and say, Here the natural ends, and the spiritual begins? Is not all this love to good and right at bottom ultimately a love to God, if only it knew itself? Is not the immense power that Christ has over the natural admiration of men one of His own greatest weapons and one of the things which the Spirit of God most uses?

J. Leckie, Sermons, p. 147.

Loving the Invisible Christ.

The place occupied by any on the ledge of fame and genius is very narrow indeed. Forgetfulness soon grows over us, and we are less than shadows after the sun has passed. "I am clean forgotten," says Swift, "as a dead man, out of mind and out of loving hearts." Contrast this with the influence of the unseen Christ. "By His death," Paul says, "we see the resurrection and ascension." Not only is our Lord Jesus Christ known to countless millions, but He is loved wherever He is known. The proof of love is sacrifice. The martyrs have been dying for Christ for over eighteen hundred years. The noble army is added to year after year by fresh recruits ready to seal with their own blood their devotion to Christ. On our university classes and Toynbee Hall Christ looks down from His holy heaven, and strikes into life and arouses the chivalry and enthusiasm of those who work in the mission field of the East of London. This is a power we cannot but love. Amongst those who have never seen Him, Christ has power to perpetuate His love through all ages. The first Napoleon, who trusted rather to the effect of his own fascination, awoke to the continued fascination of the love of Christ, and said, "I am a judge of men, but I tell you that this was more than a man." That was Napoleon's commentary upon St. Peter's words, "Whom having not seen, ye love." Let me point to two applications.

I. The text lies at the heart and root of the whole Christian life. Remember the Epistle and portion of Scripture for St. Barnabas's Day. A great writer has told us, in his own picturesque way, that Antioch was the capital of vice, the sewer of all sorts of infamies, the house of moral and spiritual putrefaction; yet the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. It is a solemn time when a new influence gets its name, for the name is a distinct sign of separate existence. Many will in all probability say that that was the name by which believers were known to the Roman police. But this step was now taken; they were now no longer merely disciples, brethren, saints, and believers, but Christians. It may be that, as we have been told, the name was founded upon the misconception that Christ was a proper name; but, at all events, ten years after the Resurrection and Ascension our Lord's disciples called themselves by the name of One whom they loved, and that name will never die—that beautiful, that worthy, name by which we are called. Yes, save in the Gospels, there is no authentic likeness of Christ by one who had seen Him. In the long, worn features seen in the Lateran mosaics many Christians are able to perceive the hands and feet, the wounded side, and the awful circle of the crown of thorns; among all the pictures in galleries, and in all its forms, the crucifix stands out in distinct isolation, as if challenging the attention of those who believe the Gospel story; but none can claim to be the original and authentic likeness of Jesus, the Son of Mary and the Son of God. And yet, said St. Barnabas, that name of Jesus is not the name of a man, but of One who is true, gentle, pure, holy, and sympathising, and who is also the true and Eternal God. This idea, in all the Gospel and creeds, is fixed again and again by the reign of the Holy Ghost upon the sensitive plate of the human heart, and is a proof of the reality of the object which it represents: "Whom having not seen, ye love."

II. The text no doubt affords a personal test: "Whom having not seen, ye love." People are all too ready to put to others trisyllabic questions to which they must have monosyllabic answers. "Are you saved?" "Yes." Another question put in this form is, "Do you love Jesus?" That is a question to put to ourselves rather than to others. Imitate the sensitive delicacy of St. Peter in our text. He tells us we have not seen Christ, but he had seen Him in the guest-chamber, on the long summer evenings by the lake of Galilee, and it is an exceedingly reverential statement to make when he says, "Whom having not seen, ye love." Do we love Jesus? The answer, after all, does not depend upon what we say. Who does not remember that sublime passage in dramatic literature where the aged king intends to make a trial of the love of his three daughters? Two of them, when asked if they loved him, heaped word upon word, hyperbole upon hyperbole. The third was the one alone whose heart was richer than her tongue. Who loved the old man best of all? We can read the answer upon the heath where the old man's form stands out in the flashing lightning, and his white hair is drifted by the storm. Our answer to the question is to be measured not by what we say, not by what we think we are enabled to do, but by what we do when the hour of trial comes.

Bishop Alexander, British Weekly Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 89.

References: 1 Peter 1:8.—A. M. Fairbairn, The City of God, p. 335; Homilist, 1st series, vol. v., p. 107; R. Tuck, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 72.

Verse 8-9

1 Peter 1:8-9

Salvation: its Subjective Elements.

I. Faith. (1) Faith is the first Christian grace; (2) faith is a personal trust in a personal Saviour; (3) faith is trust in an invisible Saviour.

II. Love. (1) Love is one essential element of the Christian religion; (2) Christ claims and gets our supreme love; (3) these strangers of the dispersion evinced their love to the Saviour by suffering themselves to be despoiled of all their possessions rather than deny Him.

III. Joy. This joy defies philosophy to explain it, or language to express it. It is already glorified or full of glory.

J. C. Jones, Studies in First Peter, p. 50.

References: 1 Peter 1:8, 1 Peter 1:9.—F. Ferguson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxiii., p. 193; A. Rowland, Ibid., vol. xxxiv., p. 88; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 120; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii., No. 698.

Verse 10

1 Peter 1:10

I. The prophets are an example to us in the study of salvation—(1) in the intention of their study; (2) in the subject of their study; (3) in the noble spirit of resignation they evinced in presence of intellectual difficulties which they were not able to surmount.

II. The Apostles are examples to us in the proclamation of the Gospel—(1) in subject matter; (2) in manner of preaching; (3) in the power which accompanied their preaching.

III. The angels are examples to us in the wonder and adoration that should fill our minds in the contemplation of this salvation.

J. C. Jones, Studies in First Peter, p. 71.

Reference: 1 Peter 1:10-12.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi., No. 1524.

Verse 11

1 Peter 1:11

The Suffering which Fruits in Glory.

I. The sufferings of Christ. From what source did they spring? What was their deepest and most essential characteristic? There will be many answers. (1) They were vicarious; (2) they were extreme; (3) they were unmerited; (4) they were according to the will of God.

II. The glory that should follow. Language and imagination alike stagger in the Apocalypse under the revelation. It is called the glory of the Father, the glory at which the Father has been aiming through all the sin and sorrow of the world, for the sake of which He saw Eden broken up and the pall of sin settling over the earth. It is the glory which God saw beyond all the unutterable anguish of the great experiment of freedom, and which we shall behold, if we believe in Him who hath overcome the world, in the day of the manifestation of the Cross.

J. Baldwin Brown, The Sunday Afternoon, p. 243.

Reference: 1 Peter 1:11.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. vii., p. 199.

Verse 12

1 Peter 1:12

Advent Tidings.

Our text speaks of angel students, and it speaks of them as being engaged in their eager and, if I may use the word of such high, and blessed, and holy intelligences, in their curious, research; for in the original the term which is translated "desire to look into" conveys the idea of bending, stooping over, in order that they may eagerly peer into those subjects which are the objects of their investigation. Those subjects are the great Advent tidings.

I. The Apostle first brings before us those Advent tidings, or this Gospel report, in its great aim of salvation. This is the keynote of the passage—salvation first introduced to us, not in its primary stages, not in those stages of salvation which some of us are now enjoying, and which are within the reach, through God's mercy, of all of us, but salvation in its consummation. Never take a low view of this term "salvation." Remember that, while the salvation which you are called upon to seek is a salvation from the masterful tyranny of the devil, and of the world, and of indwelling sin, the crown of salvation, the full accomplishment and development of salvation, is never attained until the body is glorified by its resurrection at the second coming of the Lord. And this is the salvation of which the text speaks.

II. And mark again that we not only have the great aim of these Advent tidings, but we have also their great characteristic. The great characteristic is presented to us by the Apostle when he says, "the grace that should come unto you." Grace in this particular phase is love: love to the guilty; love to the fallen; love to those who have forfeited all right and title to God's favour. There is a combination of characteristics in the Gospel which shows how it bears the stamp of adaptation to our wants, while it bears the impress of the mind of Deity. It is the wonderful combination of depth and simplicity. There is such a combination of depth and simplicity in the Gospel that I may sit down to study it with an angel for my fellow-student, or I may sit down to teach it with a little child for my pupil.

J. C. Miller, Penny Pulpit, New Series, No. 617.

References: 1 Peter 1:12.—T. J. Crawford, The Preaching of the Cross, p. 38; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 131; vol. xiii., p. 321.

Verse 13

1 Peter 1:13


I. Christian hope, as St. Peter tells us, is seated in God. It is, as it has been called, one of the triad of virtues specifically theological. It takes its stand on Divine revelation; it looks on to the attainment of Divine promises; it draws its life-blood from no mere surmise as to what is possible for humanity in the race at large or in the individual, but from the manifestation of Divine truth and goodness in the Incarnate, whom St. Paul in one passage calls our hope, because our hope is grounded on Him and centred in Him. St. Paul, indeed, cannot think of hope without thinking of Christ.

II. A hope which is thus essentially religious, thus Christian, from the root upwards, and impossible except on the terms of Christian belief, is strong enough to face all facts, even such as are unwelcome or austere. Life must, after all, be taken seriously; the hope which is a Christian's privilege involves a wakeful collectedness of mind. When trial comes we are not to say, "It is more than we bargained for," but rather, "We were duly forewarned." Certainly there will be temptations to unhopeful-ness; there must be the discipline of hopes deferred, of successes marred, of apparent defeats and disappointments, of much that might tempt impatience to despair. A hope thus trained, while resting on august realities, is strong, because it is not fanciful.

III. Hope is a great instrument of moral and spiritual discipline. The hope which maketh not ashamed is always humble and always active. It remembers the terms of its existence: "We are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end."

W. Bright, Morality in Doctrine, p. 141.

The Christian's Hope.

I. First of all, let us deal with this very remarkable statement: "the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." Now, there are two or three very large principles which will come, I think, out of a careful observation of the theology of these words; and the first of them is this: "the grace that is to be brought to us." I don't want to deal with theological technicalities; but we all know in the common language of religious life and education, as well as in the language of scientific phraseology, that the grace is distinct from the glory, in the same way as we distinguish the present from the future. It is here obvious that the thing which the Apostle is speaking about is on the other side of the grave, because he tells us that it is the constant object of our hope. And thus he tells us that it is all involved in the revelation of Jesus Christ, and that it is definitely fixed when He shall come to be manifest in His saints and glorified in them that believe. This grace, undeserved by us, rises from the deep fountain and artesian well of His own nature. It is grace when He comes to you and me and forgives us our sins; it is grace when into our broken feebleness step by step, according to our capacity, He infuses and communicates His own strength in temptation, and gives us hope in sorrow and triumph in conflict; and it is grace when our palm-bearing hands shall be folded in rest, and the fight shall be behind us, and the victory in our hearts. Then we shall sit down, with the Saviour who has overcome, in the kingdom, and dwell there.

II. And then there is the other side. He would have us hope—it is a somewhat unusual and yet perfectly significant word—he would have us distinctly comprehend that that which is the object of our hope, whatsoever superlative degree of brightness and of wonderfulness we may attain to, is in essence and in kind the very same as the feeble beginnings and dull communications of love and goodness which we get from God here. The golden thread of unity ties together all the experiences and all the possessions of a redeemed man, from the first moment of the change that delivers him from the kingdom of darkness right away on through the endless pulses of an unbroken eternity. Grace is glory in the bud; glory is grace in the flower; and all which we hope for in the future is but the evolving of that which is planted in our hearts today if we love God, though it may have to fight with much antagonism to itself both without us and within. The grace comes all from the one source; and glory is but the superlative degree of that of which we already have possession.

III. And then there is another point which I wish to make about the simple language used concerning this great object of Christian hope, which also you will find, I have no doubt, in the Revised Version—about the grace that our Bible says is "to be brought." The original has it literally and strictly rendered, "the grace which is being brought." If I remember rightly, it was the saintly Archbishop whose commentary on this Epistle of Peter will always be held in great esteem and respected as honest and sound—I mean Archbishop Leighton—who rendered it, "the grace that grows, that has a being." It is being brought, it is on its road, as if some strong choir of angels had already left the throne and were coming towards us, and, like those who bear the Holy Grail, were flitting nearer and nearer and nearer to us; with all the power of the strong winds and the wave lifting them on, it is bearing down upon us as a ship at sea; travelling to us, it has already set out, as light has done years ago, from the far-off stars, and is on its road to us through the great abysses, and presently it will strike with sunshine against the darkling surface of this dull earth. It is the grace that is being brought to us floating down through the ages, the one great, far-off, Divine fact to which the whole creation is moving. And so let us cherish the solemn thought that it is ready to be revealed, and that it is coming to us with every pulse of diminishing time, with every grain of the past running out of the sand-glass; the day of the Lord is hastening on its course.

IV. This grace perfected, which is on its way to us, is given to us all, involved and implicated, or, to put it into plainer words, wrapped up—as the literal rendering would be—in the revelation, the apocalypse of Jesus Christ. When He comes, it comes. The two things are twisted together, like the fair jewel set in a golden setting is surrounded by stones and pearls; so for us our grace is all included in that encyclopædiacal glory the manifestation of Jesus Christ Himself. When He who is our Life shall be manifested, says the other Apostle, then shall we also appear, shall be manifested, with Him in glory.

V. And notice the brief reference to the quality of the hope which you and I have to cherish. You cannot build a fortress-home of hope in the future when you have nothing but the uncertain external foundation to build upon; but here is a rock for us. What rock? My Master's word. Here is another rock. What rock? My Father's character; and on this, and most of all, I believe, upon that historical fact that our Brother Christ hath died and risen again and is ascended up on high, we may build with absolute certainty the fair fabric of a perfect hope, erected upon a rock, and may have done with "peradventures" and "maybes" and change them into "verily, verily." He says that of us, and we believe that is true. Wherefore set your hopes on Christ, that you may prove all things. "Gird up the loins of your mind"—i.e., brace up yourselves to make an effort that is not an easy one; for there are plenty of difficulties in the way of any man keeping the light of hope burning in the watch-tower through the darkness of the night and the fury of the storm. "Gird up the loins of your mind"; fix your attention and concentrate your thoughts on the points on which the hopes are built. No man can cherish any hope about any poor miserable thing in this world unless he keeps thinking about it; and no Christian man or woman can cherish hopes for another world unless they keep thinking about it, and you cannot keep thinking about it without a dead lift of faith.

A. Maclaren, British Weekly Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 553.

Christian Hope.

I. Hope in its auxiliary conditions: girding up the loins and being sober.

II. Hope in its operation: "Hope perfectly unto the end." (1) Hope is natural to the human mind, nothing more natural; (2) we must persevere in the face of difficulties, however great, for he that endureth to the end shall be saved.

III. Hope in its immutable foundation. (1) Our hope is based on Divine grace as brought to us in the past at the first revelation of Jesus Christ; (2) fresh supplies of grace are being brought for us in the present; (3) our hope looks forward to the future. J. C. Jones, Studies in First Peter, p. 94.

The Place of Mind in Religion.

The phrase may have lost something of its picturesqueness in its transfer from the East to the West and from the first century of the Gospel to the nineteenth. But if St. Peter stood amongst us at this moment here in England, in London, at the exact point of thought and talk and writing which is our position today, I doubt if he could find a word of counsel more suitable or more suggestive than that which speaks in this brief text: "Gird up the loins of your mind." What can be more striking than St. Peter's application of this figure to minds, and to minds in their religious aspect? He sets before us the figure of an ungirt, untidy, slovenly mind, and bids us beware of it in ourselves as religious men and Christians. One thing is presupposed; St. Peter counts it self-evident: that mind has place in the things of God. St. Peter does not fear the too much mind, but the too little. What St. Peter dreads is the half-mind; what he rebukes is the slovenly, the untidy, the dissolute mind. He does not fear the practised, the disciplined, the intense intellect. He bids the mind gird itself up as for a task requiring all its exertion, a task desperate without it. Mind has place in the things of God, and must gird itself up to handle them. Just in proportion as it is earnest and active, it will know and keep its place. Let us try to sketch one or two of the particulars of that girding of the text.

I. "Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty. Surely I have stilled and quieted my soul, like a weaned child on the breast of its mother." Humility, queen of graces towards God and man, but chief element of that mind-girding which is our subject. Gird up the loins of your mind, first of all, by a deep humility. "Thou art near, they tell me, O Lord; but I am so far off—so ignorant, so stupid, so sin-bound—oh quicken me."

II. But next to it I would place its sister grace, which is patience, that Divine ὑπομονή of which we speak so often, made up of two ingredients: submissive waiting, that upward look which acknowledges dependence and that onward look which believes in eternity, which knows that with the Lord a thousand years are as one day, which therefore is "willing to wait." Be willing to wait, not indolently, not in indifference, not as those who wrap themselves in their virtue or wrap themselves in their faith, careless of the multitude, careless of the race, but in the twofold definition of the grace which we are magnifying: a submissive waiting.

III. Humility; patience; last, hope. Hope is the expectation—more or less confident, for it admits of degrees—of a pleasant future. It cannot be that this scene of confusion should be for ever. Hope, which is faith's foresight, sees things which are not as though they were, and hears a voice say from the excellent glory, "Behold, I make all things new." "We, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness."

C. J. Vaughan, Restful Thoughts for Restless Times, p. 264.

References: 1 Peter 1:13.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxii., No. 1909; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 422. 1 Peter 1:13, 1 Peter 1:14.—Homilist, 2nd series, vol. iv., p. 483. 1 Peter 1:14.—H. P. Liddon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxiii., p. 257; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 83.

Verse 14

1 Peter 1:14


I. Holiness in the heart, or as it works its way down to the depth of our nature. (1) In their unregenerate state men always fashion themselves after the pattern of their lusts or inward sinful desires; (2) the power of evil, though not expelled, is dethroned in the believer's heart, and the principle of dutiful obedience takes its place.

II. Holiness in the life, or as it widens out over the whole area of conduct. This enjoins holiness—(1) in all our reading and thinking; (2) in all our conversation; (3) in all our acts.

III. Holiness in its standard: "Be ye holy, for I am holy."

J. C. Jones, Studies in First Peter, p. 111.

References: 1 Peter 1:14-16.—W. Landels, Christian World Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 404. 1 Peter 1:15.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii,. p. 207. 1 Peter 1:15, 1 Peter 1:16.—J. Burton, Christian Life and Truth, p. 67; W. Simpson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 390.

Verse 16

1 Peter 1:16

God's Holiness and Man's.

I. The nature of God is the foundation of moral obligation. When we travel in thought to the cause and origin of all things, we perpetually fall back on God as the only solution of the mystery of the universe. In God's nature we find all moral principles, just as in His duration we find eternity, in His omnipotence all the forces of external nature, and in His thought absolute reality and truth. God's holiness is that which has made holiness desirable to every intelligence in the universe; His character is the rule of all mind.

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

III. All the essential perfections of God, even those in which we cannot resemble Him, add force to this appeal. (1) He who is omnipotent is holy. He has resolved to bring His omnipotence to bear upon the extermination of sin, for He is holy, and it is He who says to us, "Be ye holy." (2) He who is omniscient is holy; He who knows all the recesses of your heart, all the excuses to which you resort, all the palliations that you can make for yourself, all your thoughts, passions, fears, and joys, is holy. (3) He who is merciful is holy; therefore "be ye holy." His mercy is a manifestation of holiness; it is not a random or an arbitrary affluence of pity for our misery, but it is the transfiguration of holy law into heavenly love, so that from nature and from Calvary, as well as from Sinai, is heard the voice which says, "Be ye holy, for I am holy."

H. R. Reynolds, Notes of the Christian Life, p. 165.

I. We must not think we have exhausted the subject of righteousness when we have merely taught men the more obvious of the elementary lessons: to maintain an external respectability of conduct and to have a general preference for truth and justice. Christ came to supply a remedy that reaches deeper than this. The term "righteousness" implies that we must endeavour to maintain a more equitable balance than we often witness among the varied rights and interests which contribute to make up our social system. Our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees by founding itself, not on some rigorous definition of abstract right, but on equity inspired by love.

II. But if it were one object of our Saviour's coming to deepen and extend our moral regeneration, a still greater revolution is implied in our restoration to holiness, the character which is so emphatically claimed by God Himself, and which had been still more completely forfeited by sin. It is one of the foremost conditions of our sacramental union with Christ that His grace should cleanse our hearts from evil tendencies and should make and keep them pure and holy.

III. The third of the three great gifts which are to renew us in the image of Christ is that of knowledge, the marvellous extension of that spiritual knowledge which ranges from this world to the next. It is a revelation which appeals to the highest instincts of the spirit, lifting up the cloud which hung with equal mystery over the beginning and the end, showing us how man was created after the image of God and in what way he departed from his fellowship with God, opening out the prospect of that Divine contemplation which will form the highest reward and occupation of the saints hereafter in the eternity wherein the faithful shall be finally made perfect in Christ's image.

Archdeacon Hannah, Cambridge Review, Feb. 17th, 1886.

References: 1 Peter 1:16-20.—Expositor, 1st series, vol. i., p. 69; vol. iv., pp. 372, 496.

Verse 17

1 Peter 1:17

We collect from the language of the New Testament that fear formed a greater part of the state of mind in which the first disciples of Christ lived than it does now. Persons are described as being in a permanent and habitual state of mind which is called fear. It is not, of course, that state of disturbance and alarm which we are placed in by a sudden danger, not excitement and alarm. Still it is fear, and it has the natural and true characteristics of fear. It keeps people in earnest that they should be in the right way, apprehensive lest they should fail. They are solicitous about their own salvation, do not regard it as a matter of course. They always have it in their minds that they are going they do not know where; and while, on the one hand, they have firm hopes resting on God's promises, they still do not think of an unknown world and another life without fear.

I. It must appear indeed, when we examine it, that this fear is part of the very life of Christians, and that we cannot have even our understanding quick and vigorous without it; it is part of our very understanding. Fear is the very mode through which we express the fact that we do believe; it is our perception of things being real. It is simple stupidity, it is being without ideas, to be without it. Persons may have quick parts, eyes and speech may be quick and ready, but their souls are dull, they are without the quickening faculty, if they are without fear.

II. In the Christians of the Bible we see, as I have said, habitual fear, and this fear, far from depressing them, is rather a stimulus to their faith; and by giving strength to their faith, it confirms a happy experience of the effects of the Gospel upon them. With fear operating in them, they felt that they could not doubt. The faith of the early Christians was largely indebted to their fear for its rootedness and firmness. Fear planted it in their souls, and established it as a natural product of the soil, whereas under mere joy and hope it would have flourished prosperously for a season as an exotic, but its strength would have been a delusive one. While you fear, you believe; this, at any rate, is one effect. Fear is thus sustaining. While you fear God, you believe that God is, and that He is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. This is ever the accompaniment of fear in Scripture, and the great compensation; it settles, it tranquillises, it gives peace, and it breeds ultimately security and calm, and a reasonable assurance. All those quiet, settled views of the Divine government which fix and strengthen its hold upon the mind, and make it the great anchorage it is, from which to be unmoored is to lose everything, arise from fear, from seeing the awfulness of facts as they are and this whole world as it is around us.

J. B. Mozley, Sermons Parochial and Occasional, p. 322.

Christian Fear.

I. The first reason why we should cultivate this fear is that the God on whom we call is a Father.

II. The second, that He is a Judge.

III. The third, that He judges according to every man's work. (1) Here the work, not the person, is the subject of judgment; (2) work, not works. God will judge our life as a whole.

J. C. Jones, Studies in First Peter, p. 131.

Verses 17-19

1 Peter 1:17-19

Fear of Judgment to Come and of Redemption Accomplished.


I. The sphere and operation of Christian fear. There are some to whom the importance attached to fear in this place and elsewhere seems in contradiction to the teaching of the Apostle John, who speaks of fear as being cast out by perfect love. But it is to be observed that it is perfect love to which this prerogative is assigned. When love is perfect, it renders fear in any other sense than that of reverence unnecessary and impossible; but with imperfect love fear has room, and an important sphere of action. It affords help and stimulus to imperfect love, and pushes it on to perfection. You may say that fear depresses, and sometimes even benumbs and paralyses. This may be true of fear that exists alone in the soul, but it is not true of that which coexists with faith and love, and hope and joy. The sharp east wind of spring is not a favourite; nobody speaks well of it; everybody grumbles about it; but still it dries the wet earth, and it is the accompaniment of lengthening days and strengthening sunshine. So fear goes along with the stirring of life. Fear of loss and pain, and every form of evil, is such an essential part of human nature and so bound up with man's progress in every direction, so necessary even to his very existence, that man cannot extirpate fear except by casting out the last vestige of belief in danger and every faintest foreboding of conscience.

II. Fear in relation to the Father that judgeth. I believe in a Father that judges: that will certainly rouse me up; it will waken my slumbering energies; it will cause me to look well to the state of my heart and life; but the word "Father" will always keep the thought of judgment from overwhelming me. So long as the word "Father," is real to me, the thought of judgment will make life solemn and earnest, but never gloomy, never enduringly sad.

III. In order to have a true Christian fear we must place together judgment by works and redemption by the blood of Christ. Let not this fear in view of redemption be deemed inconsistent with the joy and freedom which belong to the Gospel. It is precisely the man who has that realising sense of redemption which makes him afraid of not proving worthy of it who has also joy. These two, fear and joy, grow out of the same root of redemption. The more joy in Christ any man has, the more will he be afraid of not conforming sufficiently to Christ. Fear is inseparable from earnestness of purpose. It accompanies all the nobler feelings. If you love, you fear; if you strive and aspire, you fear. Whatever may be one's estimate of the fear of judgment, all must recognise the nobility of the fear that springs from thinking of the greatness of redemption. This fear is only possible to men who have spiritual sight, tender conscience, and gratitude. But who can fail to see how the thought of judgment to come enhances redemption? Is it not equally clear that the awe of redemption and the fear of not being worthy of it will always, in proportion as a man grows, come more and more to the front, and throw the other fear into the shade? Fear thus stands out as one of the main ways by which men pass from the life of self to the life of God, and the higher fear shines forth as the antidote to all that is selfish and narrow in the lower.

J. Leckie, Sermons, p. 194.

Verse 18

1 Peter 1:18

The Ransom.


I. The foreordination of the sacrifice.

II. The preciousness of the sacrifice.

III. The efficiency of the sacrifice in accomplishing its twofold object—(1) in satisfying Divine justice, for "God raised Him up from the dead, and gave Him glory"; (2) in effecting the emancipation of men from the dominion of sin and the corruption of their nature, redeeming them from their vain conversation, received by tradition from their fathers.

J. C. Jones, Studies in First Peter, p. 149.

References: 1 Peter 1:19.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xi., No. 621; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 107; H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Sermonettes for a Year, p. 203; Homilist, 3rd series, vol. x., p. 286; A. C. Rice, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 108; J. Stannard, Ibid., vol. xiv., p. 232. 1 Peter 1:21.—L. D. Bevan, Ibid., vol. xxvii., p. 299.

Verse 22

1 Peter 1:22

Christian Love.

I. Purity: "Love one another with a pure heart fervently." (1) The word for purified in this verse is not that denoting the infusion of virtue, but that which signifies the expulsion from the soul of all defilement, and especially of selfishness. (2) The way to secure this is by believing obedience to the truth as revealed in the Gospel.

II. Unfeignedness: "unfeigned love of the brethren"—genuine love, without dissimulation, free from hypocrisy. (1) We read of faith unfeigned—that is, faith which is firm and solid to the core. (2) Love unfeigned is love which will not give way under trial, that will suffer a burden to be put on its back.

III. Fervour: "with a pure heart fervently." This implies that our love of the brethren should be powerful enough (1) to overcome all sinful obstacles in our nature, (2) to overcome all national and sectarian differences.

J. C. Jones, Studies in First Peter, p. 170.

References: 1 Peter 1:23.—Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 125; Homilist, 2nd series, vol. i., p. 325.

Verse 23

1 Peter 1:23

The New Birth.

I. Man's inner and nobler life is not like his outer life, a life carried on in many of its most important functions unknown to himself. That lower life has its youth and its age, its vigour and its infirmity, its ruddy cheek and its grey hair, independently of him who lives it. These things follow a fixed law, and come upon us although we will not, and when we know not. But it is not so with the higher life of the Spirit. There is no unconsciousness here. No man lives unto God and knows it not. If you are made a son of God, by the power of the Spirit, through faith in Christ, you don't go about hoping and trusting you are God's, committing your eternal prospects to a miserable uncertainty; no, if you have this life, you know it, and you live it. The truth of love first softened, first warmed, first quickened, your hard, and cold, and dead hearts, first found its way, like a chance seed, under some broken bit of the surface, and obtained a lodgment there, so that the birds of the air snatched it not away, nor the foot of the passer-by trod it down. "The Father hath loved Me." Let this seed abide and work, and though little is done in comparison with what is to come, much is done in comparison with what is past.

II. We want some Divine, abiding influence which may show us the wonders of that love; and so it was that when the incarnate and triumphant Son of God was taken from us He did not leave us orphans. He went up on high and received gifts for men, even God the Holy Spirit, who came down upon the assembled Church as the one fulfilled promise of the Father, the great result of redemption, the begetting, and enlivening, and enabling power of the new life in man. Without Him all were vain; without Pentecost Calvary were powerless.

H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. iii., p. 324.

References: 1 Peter 1:23-25.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii., No. 398; vol. xvii., No. 999.

Verse 24

1 Peter 1:24

The Frailty of Man.

"For all flesh is grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass." Disease is a democrat, like death. It makes no distinctions, and equalises all ranks in society, as the grave levels all mankind. For disease is no respecter of persons. It does not mind Cossacks on guard, or policemen on duty, or locks on doors; it has no awe of any king, or respect for purple and a crown, but invades a palace as well as a hovel. For we all go together in the main features of our wasting lives. We are all alike in weakness, in pain, in sorrow, and in death. Everything in the world is relative. Happiness is pretty evenly distributed. Fortune never comes with both hands full. In the main headings of our history you and I are alike; in sin and sorrow, in weakness and pain, by the open grave and with a broken heart, we are all alike—you and I, king and peasant.

I. Now hear the argument and application. Since, as Simon Peter says, "all flesh is grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass," since the longest life is such a pitiful span, since our days are flying before the pursuit of death, since you and I shall soon be "a kneaded clod in cold abstraction lying," since our little path across this world shall soon be overgrown with weeds and obliterated, and you and I forgotten—well, since that is so, what follows? "Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die"? No. St. Peter and you do not agree. But since all flesh is as grass, since we die tomorrow, and we want to dream sweet dreams in the sleep of death, therefore—"wherefore" let us lay aside "all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil-speakings." Ah, that is better. We go with Peter. For since we are grass and live a brief day of years, what is the use of so much anxious care, of so much fretting and fussing? What is the good of hoarding money for other people to ruin themselves with when you are dead? What is the good of hating your neighbour? What is the sense of trying to act a part, of seeming other than we are, of being hypocrites? What is the gain of guile, or envy, or evil-speaking? Let us think no evil, and do no wrong; for this is the word of the Lord that endureth for ever: that all bitterness and wrath, that all anger and clamour, that all evil-speaking, that all malice, be put away from you. And let us be kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven us. Then, since I am grass, and disease is in the air, and I die tomorrow, I will have no dealings with malice, or hate, or envies; I will chide nobody in the world except myself, against whom I know most faults. And that is the moral. If all flesh is grass, let us remember it: no grudge, no guile, no hate, no evil-speaking, but to love one another, for we are only the dream of a dream anyway; we are only here a night and gone tomorrow.

II. A man is only as big as his average deed—not an inch taller, not an ounce better—when it comes to assigning him his place among his fellows, or to rewarding him in presence of the judgment angels, before the throne of God; but a man is as big as his faith or his intention, thanks to Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice, when it comes to saving the soul of a dying thief on the cross, or, for that matter, the soul of you and me. The reward for deeds done in the body is one thing; salvation by faith in Jesus Christ is another thing. There shall be millions of people saved so as by fire. They won't take anything with them, not a bond, not a brick in a mansion, nothing. Everything but their little soul shall be consumed, and it saved so as by fire, as Lot was out of Sodom. But there are some thousands of people who won't go in through the gate empty-handed. No; they shall not merely be saved, but they shall have something in their hands. Like Vespasian coming amid triumphal acclaims up the Appian Way to the centre of the "Eternal City," with trophies won by conquests in many wars in far-away lands, so some heroes of God shall go through the gates, as Paul did, with stars of rejoicing in their crown. These are they who did Christ's works as well as confessed His name.

J. R. Paxton, British Weekly Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 495.

The Great Contrast.

Like the sway and swell of Christmas bells across the snow, like mournful music heard across the hurrying waves, like the haunting refrain of an enchanting song which refuses to be forgotten, come the words of this Apostle of human feeling chastened by penitence and sorrow, "All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withereth; the flower thereof faileth."

I. St. Peter is writing to the scattered congregations of the Lesser Asia. He is writing to comfort, to stimulate, to encourage. These poor struggling bands of Christians, surrounded by vast and unsympathetic heathen populations, needed all the assistance which could be given them by apostolic strength, and insight, and enthusiasm. St. Peter has his feet on the track of the greatest of the prophets; and just as the children of captive Israel must have found it hard to think of the vast Babylonian power which held them as anything but invincible, just as the spectacle of the immense material splendours of that ancient empire of palaces and temples must have overwhelmed their imagination, and therefore it was necessary for the prophet, gazing forward through these years of trial and sorrow, to leave them a certain assurance that all this earthly splendour was as passing as the withering grass or the fading flower, so it was now.

II. "All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass." Here, then, under the pathetic image of the withering grass and the fading flower, the Apostle illustrates the passing character of that group of phenomena which he characterises as man and his glory. The glory of man! Yes, man, in many departments of his wide-reaching activity, has the glory which thrills and excites him in this mortal life. (1) There is, for instance, his glory in relation to nature. How marvellous have been at once the discoveries and the consequent achievements in the fields of science. (2) Think, again, of the development of those arts and inventions, side by side with a more enlightened social sentiment, which have made this scene of sense and time more suitable, less painful, to man as a passing home! We are not foolish if these are viewed as among God's gifts. (3) Or think of the beauties of art, the sweet songs of sweet singers, the entrancing tones of music, the triumphs of architecture, or the development of principles of loyalty to love and duty which have created or guided the immeasurable blessings of a civilised society and a Christian home. The mind has only to rest for a moment on any of these very real blessings to feel how real, how attractive, is "the glory of man"! But we cannot close our eyes to the fact that, with all our many blessings, with all our intoxicating discoveries, the main conditions of the journey of life have not changed. There is still the mystery of bodily pain; there is still the darker mystery of moral evil; there are still disappointed hopes and broken hearts; and, still before us all—

"Black-stoled, black-hooded like a dream,"

there is the inexorable form of death. If we are to make anything our own in so real a sense that it may be ours for ever, it must be something more than that which death can touch; it must be something more than the "glory of man."

III. The "glory of man" is "as the flower of the grass." Yes, but "the word of the Lord abideth for ever." The word of the Lord! What do we mean by the word of the Lord? When we speak of the word of a man, we mean his very thought, clothed in appropriate garb and equipped with suitable equipments to enable it to pass from mind to mind. When we speak of the word of the Lord, we mean the very thought of the living God, sent forth to reach the mind, and to dwell in the heart, and to become part of the life of His creature; and as it comes from the Infinite, the Eternal, it partakes of His truth, His eternity, His infinity. By it man knows God, and "this is life eternal," this is a permanent possession, this is a lasting heritage: "to know Thee, the true God." (1) The moral law abideth for ever. Right is right, and wrong is wrong, by an absolute decree. Though all appearances are against it, "though hand join in hand"—appearances are one thing, and reality quite another—right in the long run must prevail, and "wickedness shall not go unpunished." (2) The catholic faith abideth for ever. Call it the Divine revelation, call it the Gospel of Christ, call it the catholic faith, call it what you will; do not quarrel about names, but remember that that body of unchanging truth with regard to God's nature, and man's dealing, and man's relation to God does not change. Of all duties there is none more paramount than in heart and life to "hold the faith." (3) The Bible in its sacred and unapproached pre-eminence abideth for ever. It lives on because it has in it the life and thought of the unchanging God, felt in serious moments to be of the last importance for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for consolation to the soul in the journey of life.

W. J. Knox-Little, The Journey of Life, p. 125.

The Perpetuity of the Gospel as compared with other Religions and Philosophies.

I. Christianity must satisfy the intellectual requirements of every age. It must (1) be in accord with the demonstrations of science, (2) offer new problems of its own, (3) stimulate the understanding to greater activity.

II. It must meet the moral requirements of every age. (1) This implies that it must accord with the distinct dictates of our moral nature. (2) It must be in advance of the moral performances of every age. (3) It must enter into the world as a refining element.

III. If the Gospel is to continue to the end of time, it must continue to meet the spiritual wants of man. If it does not do this, it is inevitably doomed to extinction.

J. C. Jones, Studies in First Peter, p. 185.

Human Changes and the Divine Unchangeableness.

I. The first consolation our text has for depression is that it contrasts with our frailty the word of the Eternal God. It matters little that the worker passes if his work endures. The truth we speak lives after us. God has His purpose, and He reveals it. He uses us as we wish to use ourselves: to do a thing which shall survive us. He calls us to take up our calling in a labour that others were at before us, and that shall be consummated when we are gone. We plant for our heirs; we build for the future: we heap up riches, and know not who shall gather them. If we had but as firm a faith in "the word of God" as we have in the results of human investigation, if we were as earnest in the Divine work as in our own, despondency would be at an end.

II. The next thought suggested by our text is that man's changefulness illustrates the eternal purpose of God. The Divine intention is brought out in His dealing with the fleeting generations of men; it becomes venerable in retrospect, while it is ever revealing itself in the freshness of a progressive history. A succession of changes implies the unchangeable; there would be no movement if there were not that which endures. An unvarying history would be a history of death; we gain a vaster idea of permanence by advance than we could ever gain by the continuance of unchanging forms. "One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh, but the earth abideth for ever," depository of God's creative energy. We want a varying, enlarging human history to gain a complete and worthy view of the faithfulness of God.

III. The perpetuity of the Gospel is the third subject of our thoughts. We need a revelation; an unrevealed were an unknown God. And yet how can we dream of abiding truth in a changing humanity? As mankind advances, will not men's thoughts vary concerning even such fundamental things as moral obligation, the character of virtue, the objects of our devotion, the very being of God? The answer is, all the progress of human thought and feeling, all developments of the religious consciousness which are to be enduring, will take place along the line of the Gospel revelation. There will be development in the Christian faith: a fuller apprehension of its truths; a deeper sympathy with its spirit; a larger experience of its power; a broader application of it to the varying wants of men.

IV. The enduring word of God is the pledge of our endurance. "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible seed, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." "Because I live, ye shall live also."

A. Mackennal, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvii., p. 51.


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Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on 1 Peter 1:4". "Sermon Bible Commentary".

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