TRIED BY FIRE
EXPOSITIONS OF THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PETER
BY F. B. MEYER, B. A.
PART 1 - 1 Peter 1:1-2:10
PART 2 - 1 Peter 2:11-4:2
PART 3 - 1 Peter 4:3-5:10
THESE Expositions do not attempt to be critical or exhaustive; but the aim
has been to deduce such spiritual exhortations and consolations from the
glowing words of the Apostle as will most readily help Christian people in
the varied circumstances of daily life.
Delivered first as Expositions in the course of my stated ministry, they
were afterwards published week by week in the pages of "The Christian";
and in response to very many requests are here preserved in a permanent
It has never been my plan in regular exposition to burden the minds of my
hearers with all the different opinions of commentators on the varied
points arising for discussion in almost every paragraph. It has been my
habit rather to read everything within my reach, and then to state my own
general conclusions as simply and clearly as possible. This method has
been followed in the present case.
Leighton's admirable Commentary has been of considerable use, and I have
enriched my chapters with several extracts from this mine of spiritual
wealth. Indeed, wherever quotation marks occur without reference to the
name of the author, the reader may conclude that they indicate passages
culled from this source. I trust that I have acknowledged all my
indebtednesses where the ipsissima verba have been used: but who of us can
trace the source of ten thousand thoughts which by use we have come to
appropriate as our own!
Written amid the multiplied engagements of a busy life, it would be
impossible to estimate the benefit to heart and thought by bending over
these translucent depths of sacred truth--so calm, so still, so profound,
so counteractive of life's feverish haste; and it is my earnest hope that
these Expositions may pass on to others some of the blessedness which
their preparation has brought to myself.
F. B. MEYER.
"Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to
the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and
Bithynia; elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through
sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of
Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied."--1Peter 1:1, 2.
This Epistle was the child of many tears and of much sorrow. It was
written probably about the year A.D. 65, when the followers of Jesus of
Nazareth were regarded with growing dislike, whilst clouds of suffering
and persecution were passing over the house of God (1Peter 4:17). The
disciples had already begun to learn by bitter experience that they were
to follow their Master's steps by way of the Via Dolorosa to the light of
the Resurrection morn; and that they must not expect softer names or usage
than had been accorded to Him. They needed comfort; a stimulus to
patience; a recital of the arguments for heroic endurance--all of which
the Spirit of God supplied through these fervid and persuasive paragraphs.
And thus there is hardly any portion in the Word of God which has been
more eagerly read than this Epistle, by those who were pressed with many
trials and weaknesses. By exiles in distant lands, shut out from all human tendernesses; by travellers and voyagers; by persecuted and suffering
saints, hunted into the dens and caves of the earth, or immured in the
living rock and beneath the boom of the ocean wave; by those whom sore
sickness or venerable age may have incapacitated from meeting with the
visible church--these words have been lovingly pondered and treasured, as
a priceless heritage.
To a student of the earlier life of the Apostle Peter it would have seemed
in the highest degree unlikely that one so impulsive, so rough-handed, so
fond of action, should have been selected to write some of the tenderest
and most consolatory words that have ever fallen on the ears of suffering
and persecuted saints. Yet so it befell. And we are left to infer how
keenly this strong nature must have suffered before it could have become
so sweetened and softened, so humble and tender, as to afford a tropic
soil for the luxuriant growth of the balsam and spicery of Divine comfort.
Very different was this Apostle of Jesus Christ, when he wrote this
Epistle, from the fisherman who girded himself in early life to his
toils--from the disciple who abandoned all to follow the Master with
enthusiastic ardour. Frost and fire had disintegrated the rock. Age had
diminished the writer's strength, taken the sparkle from his eye, sown his
head with grey, and bowed his frame. His self-reliance had learnt to cling
to a stronger than himself; his wisdom to defer to a wiser. The asperities
and ruggedness of his character had been toned and mellowed by suffering
and sorrow, as the tints of a picture are softened by the breath of the
years. In the deepest sense he was "converted'' at last, that he might set
himself to strengthen his brethren (Luke 22:32).
We cannot now recover his hidden history, lost in the gulf which separates
this Epistle from the moment when last we caught sight of him emerging
from the prison at Jerusalem (Acts 12:19), or exciting the indignation of
St. Paul at Antioch (Gal. 2:11). We have no certain record of how those
years were spent. Though, since he speaks so familiarly to these saints
scattered throughout Asia Minor, many of whom may have received their
first impressions from his lips on the day of Pentecost (comp. first verse
with Acts 2:9), we should judge that he travelled with his wife (1 Cor.
9:5) for some time throughout those regions, settling for a longer time in
the new city, which was rising on the ancient site of Babylon (1Peter
5:13). This Epistle was written there; and the countries mentioned are
enumerated in the order which would naturally have suggested itself to one
looking out on them from a commanding central position.
1. THE INSCRIPTION
To the “Strangers of the Dispersion.” These words clearly designate Jews
as principally addressed. While as yet the site which was to be occupied
by Rome was covered by but a few straggling huts within a rude enclosure,
the King of Assyria was already engaged in carrying into exile the ten
tribes of Israel (2 Kings 17:6, &c.). They were captives quite a century
and a half before Judah and Benjamin were transplanted to Babylon; and it
does not appear that they, to any great extent, participated in the
restoration decreed by Cyrus. They remained in the land of their adoption,
whence many travelled in various directions until, at the time of the
writing of the New Testament, they were found in all the principal cities
of the world. These were the "Strangers of the Dispersion." Their speech,
their garb, their physiognomy, their religious rites--marked them out as
perfectly different from those around them, and identified them with the
holy city and with that peculiar people whose name they bore.
Many of them had become Christians, not only through the influences
experienced when visiting their national metropolis, the very atmosphere
of which must have been impregnated with Christian thought; but also
through the labours of the Apostle Paul, whose first efforts were always
directed to his own people, and whose name must be for ever associated
with the infant churches which he founded in the regions where so many of
the Jews of the dispersion had settled.
But we must not limit the scope of these words to Christian Jews. There
are phrases which demand a wider interpretation. That, for instance, which
alludes to "former lusts" of those addressed (1Peter 1:14); and that also
which speaks of them as not having been "a people" in time past (1Peter
2:10). Besides which, the term strangers is distinctly employed in a
spiritual sense (1 Pet. 2:11), and so applies equally to all who go out to
Christ without the camp, bearing his reproach, and who confess that they
have here no continuing city, but seek one to come.
Do we cultivate enough the spirit of the stranger? We know what it is to
turn from the attractions of a foreign city, with its wealth of art, its
churches and its picture galleries, its antique buildings, and the glitter
of its modern boulevards, towards a tiny box of brick in a grimy street,
which is endeared to us as home. We may not linger longer; we are going
home. Or if we stay on from day to day, we hardly unpack our portmanteaus,
and certainly do not secure a settled abode, because it is not our home.
Nor are we too much troubled by the discomforts and annoyances of our
hotel, or by the risings of popular excitement around. Of what consequence
are such things to those who may indeed bestow a passing interest on
events transpiring around them, but whose interests are elsewhere, in the
place which, however humble, differs from all the world beside in being
Oh for more of the TENT LIFE
amongst God's people!
But it is only
possible, when they catch sight, and keep sight, of "the city which hath
foundations." When that city is a city of tradition or dream, men will
begin to dig the foundations of permanent homes and ample fortunes. But
when it is realized as the object of passionate persuasion, descried by
faith rising above the mists and plains of time, and embraced by
outstretched eager arms, they dwell in tents, and confess themselves
strangers and pilgrims.
It is said that when, in a strange land, the Swiss soldier hears the rude
melody which gathers the cows back from the pastures, he is so filled with
longings for home that he will cast down his sword, tear off his foreign
livery, renounce his claims for wage, in order to hurry back to his
mountain home. Would that such an effect might be experienced, after a
spiritual sort, by many readers of these lines; who, as we speak of the
inheritance, shall also array their spirits in the pilgrim garb, and
start, not as they did in the Middle Ages for the holy sepulchre, or in
quest of the holy grail, but for the New Jerusalem, on which the hand of
invasion has never fallen, nor sin left its blight!
2. THE SPIRITUAL DESIGNATION
Scattered in the countries, and yet gathered in God's election, chosen or
picked out; strangers to men amongst whom they dwelt, but known and
foreknown to God; removed from their own country, to which men have
naturally an unalterable affection, but made heirs of a better.
Elect.--Before all worlds God chose us in Christ (Eph. 1:4). There is no
election outside of Christ. He was chosen, and all who were one with Him,
in a union which was before time, but which is manifested in the process
of time. We know little or nothing of the secret transactions of Eternity;
but we can tell if we were included in them by a very simple test. All
whom the Father gave to Christ come unto Him (John 6:37). If, therefore,
we have come to Christ, attracted to Him, as steel filings to the magnet,
we may assure our hearts, and dare to lay claim to the blessings and
responsibilities included within that mystic circle.
But notice to what we are elect!--We are elect to OBEDIENCE. Not merely
that we should escape the penalty due to sin, or that we should pass into
a region where storms do not rave and sin does not molest. No, this is but
a small thing in the history of our souls. We are elect to obey; elect to
suffer, that through suffering we may become strong; elect to be the saviours, and helpers, and priests, of other men, through a very baptism
of blood and tears; elect to be nearest Christ, because resembling Him
most closely in ministry, and devotion, and love.
Election is no selfish thing.--Those who think it is, and who lay
flattering unction to their hearts that they at least are right, and may
therefore leave the world to its fate, are probably utterly deceived; or
have only beheld the faintest glimmer of what God means by his high
calling and choice. We are chosen to obey; to serve; to learn; to suffer;
to die daily that others may be blessed and saved. Elect stars shine--to
illumine the night. Elect nations--to lead the van of the world's
progress. Elect spirits, like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Paul, Luther, and Knox--to
be the channels down which, at much cost to them, the grace of God may
better reach the world beneath their feet.
According to the foreknowledge of God the Father.--From all eternity He
knew those who would accept the overtures of mercy. Shall we say that He
foresaw the certain affinity between the elect One and those who would
cleave to Him by faith? And concerning all these, whom He foreknew, He
also predestinated, determined, resolved, that they should be conformed to
the image of his Son. To those who are really saved by faith in the Lord
Jesus, there is an infinite source of comfort here, in knowing
that--beneath all the changes of our moral and spiritual
condition--outlasting time, strong as Omnipotence, tender and true as the
heart of God, there is a Divine purpose which is pledged to carry us
onwards to beauty of moral character, and an obedience which is fashioned
after the pattern of Christ's (Rom. 8:29).
Through sanctification of the Spirit.--The election of the Father in
eternity is made effectual through the work of the Holy Spirit in time.
That which is election in the Father, appears as sanctification in the
work of the Spirit. Sanctification is setting apart. The root idea of the
word is just separation from common uses to the service of God. The saint
is one who has separated himself from known evil in an act of
consecration, which is prolonged through all his after-life; and who is
animated by but one aim and purpose--to be only for Jesus. We cannot do
more than this; nay, we cannot do this without the Holy Spirit. From Him
comes the first conviction that we are wrong; and the indication of the
infirmity, or weight, or evil, from which we must get free. From Him also
comes the grace by which we are set free. From Him comes the in-filling
with the love and life of God, which is inseparably connected with each
act of consecration. And thus there is evolved at last the obedience which
pleases God; and which is thus wrought through--and in--sanctification of
Yield to the Spirit. Recognize his indwelling. Do what He commands, and
forbear from doing aught that his still small voice forbids. Every such
act of consecration to his will must lead to the fuller light, and love,
and power which make up holiness. And out of all this there will unfold
the fair life of obedience, which is the perfected blossom of the hidden
subsoil root of election. Election, the root; the grace of the Spirit, the
atmosphere; obedience, the flower.
Unto sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.--Here, then, is the
Trinity--Father, Son, and Spirit--all engaged in the work of lifting us
from the bondage of corruption into a life wherein we shall as much love
to do right as now to do wrong.
Very fitly does this mention of the blood follow that of obedience, as if
to remind us that the best obedience could not avail to save us apart from
the precious blood, and that our best acts need sprinkling. "The very
tears of the purest repentance, unless they be sprinkled with this blood,
are impure. All our washings without this are but washings of the
blackamoor--labour in vain" (Jer. 2:22; Job 9:30, 31).
How necessary that the prayer of the contrite Psalmist should not be far
from our lips on our holiest days and after our best services! "Purge me
with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than
snow" (Psa. 51.).
3. THE SALUTATION
"Grace and peace be multiplied."
The Apostle here blends the Western and
Eastern modes of salutation. The Greek used grace, the Hebrew peace; and
whatever each meant was intended to be conveyed in this salutation.
Grace is the unmerited love of God, stooping to save and bless; the source
of all those bright and holy gifts which come from his infinite heart. As
one beam of light will break into many colours, so does the grace of God
decompose into the several priceless gifts of his grace; "grace upon
grace," like ripples breaking in music on a silver strand.
Peace follows upon grace. There is first peace with God, and then the
peace of God. We lay down our arms of rebellion, and are welcomed into the
family, so that there is no longer discord or dispute. And then the very
peace which dwelt in the heart of Jesus begins to float like a sweet odour
through our inmost being; and it garrisons our heart and mind.
Such is the heritage of the servants of the Lord. And there is no higher
wish to be entertained for them, than that this grace and peace should be
in them, and increase in geometrical progression, and so be multiplied.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according
to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the
resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance
incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven
for you." 1Peter 1:3-4
HOW little does the wailing infant, over whose cradle glistens the coronet
first won by the stout arm of a soldier-ancestor, understand of the
inheritance to which he has been born! The ancestral home, the far-spread
lands, the noble rank, the prestige of an ancient and lofty lineage--all
these things are his; but years must pass ere they can be truly realized
or appreciated. And how much less do the most saintly and heaven-taught
spirits conceive of that inheritance which is ours so soon as we become
the children of God through faith in Jesus Christ! (These opening
sentences were suggested by one of Dr. Guthrie's sermons on The
Inheritance of the Saints.) See how this fervent Apostle, though he would
fain find words to tell us in what its bliss consists, is obliged to
content himself with negatives. It is so much easier to say what the
inheritance is not, than to set down the elements of its exceeding weight
of glory. It were easier far to enumerate all the ills of this mortal
life, and to say of each, This is not there, than to give an inventory of
all that awaits the saints, as one by one they pass through the veil, and
find themselves in the land of their choice.
But surely, in dealing with the ungodly, it were well not only to dwell on
the woes they must incur, but to insist on the glories they must miss
unless they bethink themselves and repent. Ah! if only we could speak in
terms glowing enough, tinged with the certainty and rapture of our own
glad hopes concerning the fair land to which we are going, we should
induce many a dweller in the City of Destruction to start with us on
pilgrimage. But how can we talk with vivid conviction of that which
occupies so small a space in our own inner life?
1. THE NATURE OF OUR INHERITANCE
Many and varied descriptions might be given of it: Salvation, in its
fulness and perfectness, which is ours in germ, but which waits for its
hidden glories of colour and form to be revealed in the summer that is
coming (1Peter 1:5, 6, 7, 8, 9; Mark 13:28).
The City of God, the vision of which,
as its walls and pinnacles rose above the mists of time, allured the
patriarchs forward, and made them content to dwell in frail and shifting
tents. Heaven, with its cloudless light and sweet societies. Glory, as we
shall see it on the face of our Emmanuel, and as it shall flood our own
But there is a deeper and more comprehensive view than any of these: one
which includes them all; as the ocean includes seas, and bays, and
straits, which, though known by separate names, are parts of its majestic
and all-embracing fulness. In the law of the Jewish priesthood, "the Lord
spake unto Aaron, Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither
shalt thou have any part among them. I am thy part, and thine inheritance,
among the children of Israel" (Num. 18:20). It was a very satisfactory
arrangement for the pious priest. He could well dispense with the olive
yards and vineyards, the cornfields and homesteads of Palestine, if he
might have God to be the strength of his heart, and his portion for ever.
And the Psalmist eagerly caught at the thought, gladly surrendering all
portion in this life, if only he might be "satisfied" with God (Psa.
17:15). "The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: Thou
maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea,
I have a goodly heritage" (Psa. 16:5-6).
Our inheritance is God Himself.--Not the golden harps. Not the sea of
glass mingled with fire. Not rest from pain and immunity from sorrow. Not
the blessed society of heaven. From all these, apart from God, we should
at last turn away dissatisfied. They are but the accessories and
embodiments of something deeper, more inward and rapturous--the possession
of God. Heirs of God, i.e., of all the communicable glories of the Divine
nature. The Psalmist expressed the literal truth when he said, "Whom have
I in heaven but Thee?" (Ps 73:25.) To know Him, to explore his being, to
live on his fulness, to discover new tracts and continents in the terra
incognita of Godhead, to see his glory, to be changed into his image--this
is "the heritage of the servants of the Lord."
Our inheritance begins here.--As a matter of right all God's nature is
ours directly we are born into his family; as a vast tract of country,
filled with woods and rivers and ore, belongs to the heir at the moment of
birth. But, as a matter of fact, we shall never occupy all, even when
eternity is passing over us; the finite can never fully grasp the
infinite. Yet, from the first moment of conversion, we may begin to enter
on our inheritance. We commence by studying the inspired chart, which maps
out that inheritance, and tells us what God is, and what He is prepared to
be to us. Next we proceed to appropriate and make use of his attributes
and properties for daily need. Then we become possessed of the indwelling
Spirit of God, who brings his very nature into ours. And so we come to
possess God just in proportion as He possesses us. We inherit Him as our
portion up to the measure in which He inherits us. "The Lord is my
portion, saith my soul." "The Lord's portion is his people."
Up! Friends; you are living on a vast estate. Around you on all hands are
God's love, and grace, and power, and wisdom, awaiting your use. Set
yourselves to know, and then to appropriate and enjoy. "There is much land
yet to be possessed." Do not be content to be circumscribed and limited,
as were the Danes by our great Alfred. Be rather like the early squatters
in the Western States, who roll back their fences, taking in evermore of
the rich virgin soil, so adding field to field.
But our inheritance can only be perfected hereafter.--It is "reserved in
heaven." We tire and faint amid our most rapturous experiences. The body
refuses to sustain the weight of glory. The machinery of mortality breaks
down beneath the pressure of the loftiest spiritual emotion. "I fell at
his feet as dead." "Thou canst not see my face; for no man can see my face
and live." And it may be that just as there are qualities in the universe
which we cannot perceive because we have only five senses, so there are
properties in God which we know not of because our powers of perception
are limited. It is therefore quite conceivable that when clothed upon with
our house which is from heaven, which will have a great many more windows
in it than the earthly house of this tabernacle which is built for stormy
weather, there will be sides and aspects of the Divine nature that we know
nothing about to-day, but which shall be communicable and communicated to
us. (Suggested by Dr. Maclaren) Ah, fair inheritance! If earth and heaven,
which are but as his vesture, are so lovely, what will He be!
2. THE QUALITIES OF THIS INHERITANCE
Incorruptible i.e., as to its substance. It is not liable to decay. Nature
looks her best in the days of early autumn. The golden corn-sheaves; the
gorgeous tints of the fading leaves; the berries of the wild rose and the
rowan; the undiminished foliage of the forest trees; the ruddy wealth of
the orchard: but, amid all, our enjoyment is tinged with sadness, for we
know that decay lies beneath, eagerly at work; and that ere long the
woodland glade will be strewn with the dying leaves, falling in myriads
before the gale, and rotting in drenched heaps. So, too, amid our happiest
converse with beloved ones, a sad foreboding sometimes invades our hearts,
suggesting that it will not last: the artless child must leave the
mother's embrace; the brother will choose another confidante than the
sister whom he dearly loved. But the knowledge of God, like our treasure
in heaven, cannot corrupt, nor can it be stolen from us by any thieving
hand. It cannot pass from us; nor we from it. It cannot share the fate of
any earthly possession. Nay, when we are stripped of all things else, and
sit like another Job amid the wreck of former wealth, then we begin as
never before to take measure of our eternal treasure; and there arises
before us such a conception of the magnificence of our inheritance in God
that we cry, "Give what Thou wilt! without Thee I am poor; and with Thee
rich; take what Thou wilt away!"
Undefiled, i.e., as to its purity.--"All possessions here are defiled and
stained with many defects and failings." No marble without its flaw. No
flower without its freckle. No fruit without its blight. No face without
its blemish. No Joy without its taint. No day without its regret. No
heart, except one, without sin. The leprosy of human sin has so spread
itself throughout the whole creation that, as in Israel of old, garments
and houses are alike infected (Lev. 13, 14.). And even in the purest
earthly friendships, a love which in its inception is innocent and natural
too often becomes tainted with jealousy and selfishness, if not with
But to know God is to come into contact with the source of Purity itself.
"He that is near Me is near to-the fire" is a saying which an ancient
writer puts into the mouth of Christ. A wisp of straw might sooner survive
the flame than defilement outlive contact with God. "Neither shall evil
dwell with thee." So, far from our heritage becoming defiled, we cannot
enjoy it unless we love Purity. The pure in heart alone see God: and the
more they see of Him, the more pure they become.
Unfading, i.e., as to its beauty.--Here grows the amaranth, the flower
that fades not. One never tires of what is really beautiful. There is
always some fresh expression on a beautiful face, some new witchery of colour on a beautiful landscape. We can easily understand how a great
preacher of this century, after some masterly effort, would quiet his mind
by taking from his pocket a handful of precious stones which he always
carried there; handling them, rolling them to and fro, holding them up to
the light, and never tiring of their ever-changing beauty.
There is all this in fellowship with God. To know Him is a fountain of
ever fresh delight. He never palls on the satiated appetite. We never feel
that there is monotony, sameness, weariness, in his love. "All the
happiness of this life," said William Law, "is but trying to quench thirst
out of golden empty cups." But who shall speak thus of the river of God's
pleasure, which, as it gratifies the thirst, increases it; which is ever
more and better than we could conceive; and which allures us on to deeper
and yet deeper draughts, to desires which grow in being satisfied?
3. OUR TITLE TO
"Begotten again." It is not ours by merit; or by conquest; or by natural
birth. We may be the children of parents who have passed into the skies;
and yet we may miss the inheritance of the saints in light. "Except a man
be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God"; so said One who could
not err. "If children, then heirs," is the indispensable order. Nor is it
difficult to see why it must be so. The inheritance is spiritual; and it
requires spiritual faculties to apprehend and enjoy it. But in such as
have not been born again those spiritual faculties are wanting. A blind
man may stand amid the fairest landscape unconcerned, because the one
organ by which he could enjoy it is wanting. A lunatic may live in a house
stored with treasures of art and literature unaffected, because his mind
is blank to all its attractions. And the unregenerate man might stand in
heaven itself, and miss God, for want of those powers of spiritual
perception of which he is deficient. Sin blinds the eye, stops the ear,
and hardens the heart. The prime necessity is life; and life can only
begin in the new birth. We cannot possess God unless we love Him. We
cannot love Him, unless there is a kinship and reciprocity of nature. But
this nature is not ours by the first birth; and if it is to be ours at
all, it can only be by the impartation of a new nature and life, which are
the gift of God, through his Word (1Peter 1:23). Hast thou been born
again? The certain sign is the faith which receives Christ. "As many as
received Him, to them gave He the right to become children of God, even to
them that believe on his name; which were born of God" (John 1:12-13, R.V.).
4. THE LINK BETWEEN
OUR PRESENT AND FUTURE
"A living hope." We already have something of our inheritance, but at the
best it is only the earnest--what the half-crown of the labourer in the
feeing market is to the year's wage, or the sod of the estate to the broad
acres. "Now through a glass darkly"--glimpses soon shadowed; outlines not
filled up; dark sayings we cannot interpret.
But the time is coming when we shall know even as we are known, and see
face to face; when our communion with God shall be as unfettered as our
service; when we shall love Him better, and possess Him more fully.
Towards this blessed consummation, as yet reserved, our hope stretches out
both her hands; meanwhile, it is an inspiration and stimulus for every
moment of our life. It is, indeed, "a living hope."
Hope is said sometimes to die: this never can. Sometimes, though it
lingers in the breast, it is inoperative: this is always quick and
powerful. "Worldly hopes often mock men; they are not living, but lying
and dying ones. We live to bury them. But this hope answers our
expectations to the full, and deceives in no way, but far exceeds them."
Its basis is "the resurrection of Jesus Christ front the dead."--The man
who was once so hard to convince as he ran to the empty tomb, now realizes
the full meaning of that marvellous fact. Our Brother, Representative, and
Lord, not only identified Himself with us in life and death, but has made
us one with Himself in the Resurrection, which is also God's seal and Amen
to all He said and did; and is, therefore, a Divine corroboration not only
of his words, but of all the structure of hope and expectancy which we
have built on them.
5. THE ASCRIPTION
With which this paragraph begins is most befitting:
"Blessed be the God and Father of our
Lord Jesus Christ!"
Who shall compute the full measure of his abundant mercy? Mercy that He
gave his Son to die and to rise again! Mercy that He has adopted us to a
position which angels might envy; because we are children, and therefore
heirs! Mercy that He is willing to be the inheritance of such as we are!
Mercy that He has given us such strong consolation, and an anchor so sure
and steadfast! What multitudinous, infinite, inexpressible mercy! Let us
bless Him for it, the Father of Jesus, and our Father in Him. I Praise
Him! praise Him!
"It is a cold, lifeless thing to speak of spiritual things on mere report;
but they that speak of them as their own, and as having some experience of
their sweetness, cannot mention them, but their hearts are straight taken
with such gladness as they are forced to vent in praises. This is such an
inheritance that the very hopes and thoughts of it are able to sweeten the
greatest griefs. What, then, shall the full fruition of it be!"
"Kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation. "--1Peter 1:5.
To have been told as in the preceding verse, that our inheritance was
reserved in heaven could have yielded us little comfort unless that
assurance had been followed and capped by this, that the heirs also are
being kept for its full enjoyment. The sailor's most pressing question is
not so much as to the welcome which awaits him in his home, but whether he
can ride out the storm, and safely pass the jagged edges of the rocks, on
which the waves are dashing angrily. You must assure him of safety for
himself, as well as of welcome to his home, if you would put him perfectly
at rest. So it were vain for the Apostle to talk of that "long eternity
which shall greet our bliss with an individual kiss," unless he could also
assure us that we shall be kept from making shipwreck, and becoming
castaways. What comfort there is in that word "kept"!
The Greek word translated "kept" is borrowed from the camp. It is used in
2Cor. 11:32; Gal. 3:23; Phil. 4:7; and, in each case, conveys the
conception of an armed force, employed in sentry or escort duty,
surrounding their ward, and interposing a wall of enclosure and defence.
Thus does the Divine power surround the saints as a body-guard during
their sojourn in this perilous world. God is not only our exceeding great
reward, but our shield. The purged eye sees the mountains round about us
filled with horses and chariots of protection. We are hidden in the secret
of his presence from the pride of man, kept secretly in a pavilion from
the strife of tongues. God hath sent out his light and truth to lead us,
and bring us to his holy hill, and to his tabernacles. "Ye shall not go
out with haste, nor go by flight: for the Lord will go before you; and the
God of Israel will be your rearward."
It may be that many readers of these lines have come almost to despair.
They know and approve the better, but do the worse. Notwithstanding bitter
tears, and cries, and soul-anguish, they are constantly being brought into
captivity to some besetting sin. How often have their tears been their
meat day and night, as they have poured out their soul in the words of the
fifty-first Psalm,(Psalm 51) or cried with the Apostle, "Oh, wretched man
that I am, who shall deliver me?" For all such there is infinite comfort
in the announcement that those who have been begotten again, and are
therefore sons, may claim to be "kept'' by their Father's power unto full
and consummated salvation. Oh that from this moment all such may realize
to the full the keeping power of God!
1. WHAT THIS
It does not mean that we shall lose our sinful nature; which consists in a
perpetual tendency and liability to sin. Nor does it mean that we shall
become sinless beings, who need not the daily cry for forgiveness; because
in the best of us there must ever be much which is grievous in the sight
of a holy God. Nor does it mean that we shall cease to be tempted; that
alas! cannot be our lot, as long as we are passing through an enemy's land
to our inheritance. But it does mean that--though within us there is a
strong predisposition toward sin, partly inherited and partly built up by
long indulgence in evil habit, and though without us there is a hell full
of wicked spirits, each of which is pledged to do his worst to make us
fall--yet we may be kept from yielding to known and presumptuous sins, and
conducted safely through the "proud waters," so as to stand at last with
the OVERCOMERS on the shore of the sea of glass, having the harps of God.
Not taken out of the world, but kept from the evil (Rev. 15:2; John
Many are the images which suggest themselves to set forth the keeping
power of God. What the framework of bone and the eyelid veil are to the
delicate organism of the eye; what the shepherd's watchful care is to the
flock, which dwells safely in the wilderness, and sleeps in the woods,
though young lions are roaring around for their prey; what the lofty walls
are to the tender grapes, guarding them from rifling hands and little
foxes; what the wing of the mother-bird is to the brood menaced by the
hovering kestrel; what the valiant of Israel were to Solomon's bed; what
the iron safe is to its valuable contents, defying the robber's hand and
the forked tongue of flame--all that is the environing presence of God to
his saints. Though dogs compass us, and the assembly of the wicked enclose
us, yet there is an inner circle of defense through which they dare not
and cannot penetrate.
That there will be strife and war and temptation without, and cowering
weakness within, seems implied in every one of these images, and specially
in the metaphor we are considering. Of what need were KEEPING, unless
there were danger without and frailty within? But amid all, it is
evidently possible that we should be kept from stumbling; and spirit,
soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus
Christ. "Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it." This
KEEPING extends to the issues of life, and to the steps or goings of the
saints; but it touches these, because it deals so completely with the
inner man. There the power of God is exerted on the soul, on the heart,
and on the mind: unseen, but all-pervasive; and strong enough to quell the
uprising of the wildest passion that ever swept down on the inner nature
(Pr 4:23; 1Sa 2:9; Phil. 4:7; 1Pet. 4:19).
2. WHY THIS KEEPING
MAY BE CONFIDENTLY
It is demanded by the purpose of God.--We are "elect unto obedience," as
the first verses of this chapter tell us; but surely He who has called us
with so high a calling will not fail to deal effectually with all that
would prevent it from being realized.
It is demanded by the sacrifice of Christ.--The expenditure of Calvary was
gladly borne by our Savior--not to deliver us from hell so much as "to
purify unto Himself a people for his own possession, zealous of good
works." But is it possible to suppose that the whole scheme of redemption
is to be rendered abortive because, though He was able to purchase, He is
not able to keep that which He has acquired? During his earthly life He
kept those whom the Father had given Him, and none of them was lost, save
the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled; surely, then,
since all power is now his, He is equally able to keep those who bear his
It is demanded by the indwelling of the Spirit.--He is most certainly in
the heart of each believer; curtained, as of old was the Shekinah by the
heavy veil, but still burning as a spark of fire in the most holy place.
Above all things, He desires that the entire being, which is his temple,
should be kept clean and holy. And if He only is permitted to have his
way, He will most certainly reduce the inward chaos to order, and keep the
inner empire undisturbed. Would it not be in the highest degree at
variance with his loving holy nature to excite desires after holiness in
the breast which He would not, or could not, meet? The very intensity of
the passion for holiness which He instills is a pledge and harbinger of
The credit of God demands it.--If sin must always master us, so long as we
remain in this world, it would seem as if the remedy were not equal to the
emergency. Here were indeed a subject for hellish merriment, if God were
not able to counter-work the baleful influences which devils exert over
human spirits. "Aha," methinks they would cry: "Thou canst make thy saints
obedient only by taking them beyond the range of our power; but leave them
here within our reach, and Thou canst not keep them from yielding to the
temptations which we present."
Take heart, O tempted child of God; thou hast abundant reason to reckon
confidently on being "kept" from known transgression.
3. HOW THIS KEEPING IS EFFECTED
"By the power of God."--1Peter 1:5.
Consider that power in creation.--Stand with the exiles in Babylon, and
lift up your eyes on high to the starry hosts, spread out like a flock
resting in the midnight sky: "He calleth them all by names, by the
greatness of his might; for that He is strong in power: not one faileth."
And if He can keep the heavenly bodies, revolving through orbits of
measureless immensity, so exact to their hours that astronomers can
calculate their return with unerring precision, surely He can keep one
poor soul in its appointed orbit, especially when it is so eager to be
kept (Isa. 40:26).
Consider that power in history.--Not withstanding the free action of human
wills, warped and rebellious, He has been able to carry out his plans, and
secure results on which He had set his mind from all eternity. And as a
standing marvel the Israelite race remains to-day scattered among all
peoples, but absorbed by none; isolated and alone, almost in spite of
itself. But surely it must be as easy to preserve his Church, consisting
as it does of those who are exceedingly desirous of knowing and doing his
will (Jer. 33:25, 26).
Consider that power in the resurrection of our Lord.--It raised Him from
the dead, past all created excellence, above principalities and powers,
until the glorified but human body of Christ passed to the very throne of
the Eternal, where no created thing had ever come before. Nay, but
more--in raising Him, the Father also raised us in Him. And the Apostle
tells us that the very same power which bore Christ from the grave to the
throne is extended towards the weakest believer, to lift him also to a
similar level of resurrection-being. Surely such a power as this is
adequate to our direst necessity (Eph. 1:19, 20).
Consider this power in the human life of Jesus.--He met the devil in the
wilderness and in Gethsemane. The prince of this world measured himself in
mortal conflict with the Son of God, not once only, but many times. But he
was always defeated. His legions were driven forth from haunted lives. He
himself fell as lightning from heaven. His head was bruised. His chief
allurement and bait, the world, was overcome. His attempt to hold the
Savior in the tomb was defeated, as when a man brushes through the cobweb
that stretches across his path. And what Jesus did for Himself, He waits
to do on the behalf of each of his own, and to repeat in each of us the
conquests and triumphs of his own life on earth.
It is hardly necessary to say that the power of God is put forth by the
Holy Spirit.--He lives in our inner man, and exerts there his marvelous
energy. He keeps Himself unseen, and focuses all our thought on the Lord
Jesus, as light is sometimes made to fall on some beautiful face which
attracts the observer's entire attention. Thus it happens that though the
brunt of the inner war is borne by the Spirit (Gal. 5:17), yet the
believer is occupied with Jesus, appealing to Him in the conflict, and
softly breathing his name as a talisman of victory. Yet why do we need to
distinguish thus, when They are One?
The power of the Holy Ghost works through our faith.--God will do all that
we can trust Him to do; but He does not pledge Himself to work
independently of our faith. When faith is in strong and blessed exercise,
there is no limit to its possibilities, because it taps the reservoirs of
Omnipotence, and opens the sluice-gates, so that all God's power begins to
flow into the soul. Our faith is the means of our receptivity; the straits
through which the ocean of Divine fullness pours its tides.
But if our faith be meager and struggling, we cannot expect mighty
deliverances. Smite but thrice upon the ground, and Syria will still defy
you (2Kings 13:19). If you do not expect that God is able to keep you, do
not be surprised if you are not kept. According to your faith, or
unbelief, so will it be done to you.
Would you realize God's keeping grace? Give yourself entirely up to Him,
renouncing all trust in yourself, and all connection with evil. Choose
definitely and for ever the lot of the cross of Jesus. And then trust
Jesus to keep you. Whenever temptation approaches, look up, and say,
Jesus, I trust thy keeping power." Ask the Holy Spirit to keep you so
constantly in this attitude that it may become the habit of your soul to
look to Jesus when temptation assails. Trust Him to keep you trusting.
Nourish your faith by devout meditation on the promises of God. Do not
look at your weakness or your foes, but at the mighty bulwarks of God's
salvation, which He has appointed. "The Lord is thy Keeper." Hear his
gracious words, and hide them in your heart: "I the Lord do keep it; I
will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and
day." Surely it were the height of blasphemy to affirm that the Almighty
is not able, or willing, to keep the soul that trusts Him. Only man would
shake the fugitive dove out of his bosom to the hawk!
Thus will you await the consummation of your salvation, which shall be
yours at the coming of the Lord. Already it is finished and prepared; but
it waits to be revealed. And when, amid the breaking light and exuberant
gladness of perfect deliverance, you review the pathway by which you have
come, you will better realize your indebtedness to His wondrous grace, in
keeping that which you committed to Him against that day.
FOR THOSE IN HEAVINESS
"In heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith,
being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried
with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the
appearing of Jesus Christ."--1Peter 1:6-7.
"He began to be sorrowful, and very heavy."
It was only through the darkness of
that garden that He could pass upward to the glory of the resurrection
morn. And it is impossible to depict the condition of deep human suffering
more accurately than by the words in heaviness. As the leaves of the
laurel are pressed to the earth by the weight of a thunder shower, so are
souls made heavy "by manifold temptations."
Temptation here is equivalent to trial. In other days the same word was
used indiscriminately of the testings, which befall the saints, on the
part of God and of the devil. The one, that we may know ourselves as He
knows us, and that the first small germs of good which He has implanted
may develop by use into strong and beautiful maturity. The other, that the
evil within us may be made manifest, and hurried into such action as will
cast down our hopes, and sow the seeds of future indulgence. The motive of
God's testings is benevolence, that we may be nobler, sweeter, riper. The
motive of Satan's is malignity, that we may be hastened down the
sliding-scale of sin. Thus God is said in the Scriptures to tempt men, and
yet not to tempt them (Ge. 22:1; Jas 1:13). He tests and tries them,
but never allures them into evil.
In our desire to distinguish between these two methods of testing, we for
the most part employ different words, using trial of the divinely-ordered
discipline of life, and temptation of the attacks of the great enemy of
our souls. And, therefore, it is more appropriate to modern usage to speak
of being in heaviness "through manifold trials." This is also suggested by
the Revised Version. (See also Jas 1:2.)
"Manifold trials."--In this Epistle, as in a mirror, we can see reflected
the dark shadows which were gathering over these scattered saints.
Buffeted for doing well; reviled and suffering; exposed to railing and
terror; evil spoken of; tried in a fiery trial; partakers of Christ's
sufferings; reproached for the name of Christ; judgment beginning at the
house of God; experiencing the same afflictions as fell to the lot of
brethren throughout the world: such are some of the hints given throughout
this Epistle of the sources of their manifold trials. To "suffer as a
Christian" (1Peter 1:16), meant the loss of business, repute, and home;
desertion by parents, children, and friends; misrepresentation, hatred,
and even death. The new convert became the target for every weapon, hurled
from any quarter.
For ourselves, trials come generally from three sources: those brought on
us by others; those caused by our own sins, mistakes, and indiscretions;
and those sent to us directly from God, our Father. And beneath this
various pressure, what wonder that the heart is bowed down! How apt was
the summons of Jesus to the heavy-laden; and how incessant the great
procession of such passing down into the Vale of Tears, at the end of
which stands his cross, behind which the light of morning is breaking!
The Apostle does not blame this heaviness.--The Stoic scorns to shed a
tear: the Christian is not forbidden to weep; yea, he follows the best
example in letting his tears have free course. We must not despise the
chastening of the Lord, any more than we should faint under it. Strong
crying and tears befit sons who are learning obedience by suffering. The
soul may be dumb with excessive grief, as the shearer's scissors pass over
the quivering flesh; or, when the heart is on the point of breaking
beneath the meeting surges of trial, the sufferer may seek relief by
crying out with a loud voice.
But there is something even better. They say that springs of sweet fresh
water well up amid the brine of salt seas; that the fairest Alpine flowers
bloom in the wildest and most rugged mountain passes; that the noblest
psalms were the outcome of the profoundest agony of soul. Be it so. And
thus amid manifold trials souls which love God will find reasons for
bounding, leaping joy. Though deep call to deep, yet the Lord's song will
be heard in silver cadence through the night. And it is possible in the
darkest hour that ever swept a human life to bless the God and Father of
our Lord Jesus Christ. Have you learnt this lesson yet? Not simply to
endure God's will; nor only to choose it; nor only to trust it--but to
rejoice in it with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
Of such joy there are two sources: first, the understanding of the nature
and meaning of trial; second, the soul's love and faith in its unseen
Lord. There is enough in these two for unsullied and transcendent joy; in
fact, we may question whether we ever truly drink of Christ's joy, till
all other sources of joy are eliminated by earthly sorrow, and we are
driven to seek that joyous blessedness which no earthly sun can wither and
no winter freeze (Hab. 3:17, 18, 19).
2. THE NATURE
AND MEANING OF TRIAL
Trial is here compared to fire; that subtle element, which is capable of
inflicting such exquisite torture on our seared and agonized flesh; which
cannot endure the least taint or remnant of impurity, but wraps its arms
around objects committed to it with eager intensity to set them free and
make them pure; which is careless of agony, if only its passionate
yearning may be satisfied; which lays hold of things more material than
itself, loosening their texture, snapping their fetters, and bearing them
upwards in its heaven-aspiring energy. What better emblem could there be
for God, and for those trials which He permits or sends, and in the heart
of which He is to be found? Ah, the agony of suffering is keen to
bear--when friends forsake, and enemies reproach, and the work of years is
suddenly shattered, and the soul is stung with pain and shame and
ingratitude, with disappointment and bereavement: such suffering is to the
soul what fire is to the flesh.
(1) But this fire is a refiner's fire.--The reference is evident. And we
are taken back to an olden prophecy, from which we learn that when the
Lord comes to his temple, He sits as a refiner beside the crucible (Mal.
3:3). We may well take the shoes from off our feet, when we enter the
chamber of some tried Christian, for certainly the Lord is there.
It is He who permits the trial--The evil thing may originate in the
malignity of a Judas; but by the time it reaches us it has become the cup
which our Father has given us to drink. The waster may purpose his own
lawless and destructive work; but he cannot go an inch beyond the
determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. Satan himself must ask
permission ere he touches a hair of the patriarch's head (Job 1:8, 9, 10,
11, 12). The
point up to which we may be tested is fixed by consummate wisdom. The
weapon may hurt and the fire sting; but they are in the hands which
redeemed us. Nothing can befall us without God's permission, and his
permissions are his appointments, we cannot be the sport of blind fate or
chance; for in trial we are still in the hands of the living Saviour.
It is He who superintends the trial.--No earthly friend may be near; but
in every furnace there is One like the Son of Man. In every flood of high
waters He stands beside us--staying the heart with promises, instilling
words of faith and hope, recalling the blessed past, pointing to the
radiant future, hushing fear, as once He stilled the dismay of his
disciples on the lake: such is the ministry of Jesus. And as the sufferer
looks back on the trial, he says, "I never felt Him so near before; and if
it had not been for what He was to me, I could never have lived through
It is He who watches the progress of the trial--No mother bending over her
suffering child is more solicitous than is He--suiting the trial to your
strength--keeping his finger on your pulse so as to stay the flame when
the heart begins to flutter--only too eager to see the scum pass off, and
his own face reflected from the face of the molten metal.
Happy would it be for us if, instead of looking at our trials, we would
look away to his face, only eager to understand his meaning, and to learn
his intended lesson, so that as the outward man perishes, the inward man
may be renewed day after day. Whilst the marble wastes beneath the
sculptor's hand, the image grows; so should each loss in our estate or
circumstance have a corresponding gain in spiritual conformity to Christ.
(2) Trial is only for a season.--" Now for a season, ye are in heaviness"
(1Peter 1:6). The great Husbandman is not always threshing. The showers
soon pass. Weeping may only tarry for the few hours of the short summer
night: it must be gone at daybreak. Our light affliction is but for a
There is a subtle distinction here between the most precious and enduring
of material substances and the faith of the Christian soul. "Gold that
perisheth” (1Peter 1:7). Gold outlasts carved wood, and the potter's art,
and most things else. It may be attenuated and worn by long use, yet will
it survive the gentle hand on which it has spoken of unending love for
half a century. Yet gold will eventually wear out. But there is that in
each of us which cannot perish. The mere accident of death cannot affect
it, nor the flight of time, nor the descent of all created things into the
gulf of oblivion. It is eternal as the God who inspired it. And compared
to that boundless existence which is its birthright, how paltry and
insignificant do the longest trials appear, though they have lain for many
years on the soul and life! Judged by the measureless span of eternity,
they are but for a season, and will pass as completely from memory as the
clouds of early morning before the meridian glory of a long summer day.
(3) Trial is for a purpose.--" It needs be." There is nothing harder to
bear than the apparent aimlessness of sorrow. A new interest comes into
the monotony of prison-discipline as soon as the convicts feel that their
toils are achieving some positive result. And when no purpose seems
secured by our sufferings or toils, hope dies.
With the Christian there is no fear of this. There is a utility in every
trial. It is intended to reveal the secrets of our hearts; to humble us
and prove us; to winnow us as corn is shaken in a sieve; to detach us from
the earthly and visible; to create in us an eager desire for the realities
which can alone quench our cravings and endure for ever. We must not look
on trial as punishment for the past; because all penalty has been borne
for us by our Redeemer. But each trial points to the future, and is
intended to make us partakers of his holiness, and to work in us the
peaceable fruit of righteousness. The very fact of trial proves that there
is something in us very precious to our Lord: else He would not spend so
much pains and time on us. "We do not prune brambles, or cast stones into
the crucible, or plough the sea-sands." And Christ would not test us if He
did not see the precious ore of faith mingled in the rocky matrix of our
nature; and it is to bring this out into purity and beauty that He forces
us through the fiery ordeal. Be patient, O sufferer: He must love you, or
He would not chasten you; you must be his, or He would not take such pains
with you; you must be capable of some high service which can only be
secured through pain, or He would not plunge you into the refining fires.
You must be able to bear the fire, or He would not pass you through it
The result will more than compensate us.--"Found unto praise, and honour,
and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ."
The gold is well repaid for
the fires when it encircles the monarch's brow; the diamond for the
lapidary's wheel when it glistens on the neck of beauty. And we shall be
more than recompensed for all our trials, when we see how they wrought out
the far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. To have one word of
God's commendation; to be honoured before the holy angels; to be glorified
in Christ, so as to be better able to flash back his glory on Himself--ah!
this will more than repay for all. Let us live more constantly in that
future, under the powers of the world to come!--as soldiers solace
themselves in the arduous campaign by talking over their watch-fires of
the welcome and rewards which will greet them on their return. "Now they
do it to receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible" (1Co
9:25). All the blessings which accrue through trial are only possible to
us, however, when the heart meekly accepts it from the hand of God, and
opens to the operation of the Holy Spirit. Trial alone may harden, as the
fire which softens wax hardens clay to bricks. But when trial is
accompanied with the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit, it is as a
precious oil that does not break the head (Psa. 141:5).
See how much God thinks of faith.--It is priceless in his esteem. What
gold is to the miser, faith is to God. It is the root of all other grace,
the germ of the saintly life, the key to the Divine storehouse, the foot
of the heavenly ladder, the earthward pier of the arch that bridges the
abyss between the unseen and the seen. To make it strong in one poor heart
is a matter of extreme value in his sight. And since it can only grow
strong by use, and exercise, and strain, be not surprised if He expose you
to discipline, graduated according to your power, but becoming ever
severer, until beneath his gracious tuition the faith, which once shivered
at sight of the shallows, will plunge fearlessly into the deep, and do
business in mighty waters.
UNSEEN BUT LOVED
"Whom, having not seen, ye love; in
whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy
unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith, even the
salvation of your souls."--1Peter 1:8-9.
THE sixth verse begins, and the eighth
ends, with a Greek word expressive of leaping, bounding joy (to rejoice
exceedingly.) It is strange that such a word should be used of the
feelings experienced by handfuls of scattered saints over whom the dark
thunder-clouds of persecution were beginning to gather heavily. And yet it
is not strange when we study the sources of that joy, which are included
within these golden brackets, the first of which we considered in our
previous chapter. Is there not joy in the thought that trial is the
refiner's fire, sharp but salutary--the necessary preparation for results
of immeasurable blessedness? And is here not yet deeper cause for joy,
triumphant and exulting, in the relation into which we have been brought
with Jesus Christ our Lord?
Yes, the iron may hiss, and the fire sting; friends may desert, and foes
may threaten; the cold waters may creep up around our person, and the
shadows of the dark valley fling themselves between us and the Sunshine;
nevertheless, whatever be the nature or severity of our manifold trials,
it shall be enough for us to know that they are working out the results of
untold glory, and that nothing can break that holy and blessed personal
relationship into which we have entered with Him whom Bernard never tired
of addressing as Jesus Master.
Jesus, then, is the Heart and Center of these burning words; words which
recall the thrice-repeated question of the Lake of Galilee, Lovest thou
me? and the never-to-be-forgotten beatitude of the upper chamber, Blessed
are they that have not seen, and yet have believed! (John 20:29). And is
not this text an epitome of Christianity? What makes us Christians except
that we believe in and love Him whose receding form was veiled by the
chariot-cloud that swept beneath Him as He passed home to heaven? We may
accept and appreciate the words of many of the world's great thinkers,
whilst we concern ourselves but little with the men themselves; but we may
not do this with the words of Christ, and still be Christians. We cannot
take his words, and ignore Him. Christianity is the personal relationship
of the soul to Christ. Begin, not with his words, but with Himself; and
when you possess Him, you cannot fail of having all He said, and did, and
is, and will be, world without end.
1. AN UNSEEN CHRIST--
A POSSIBLE HINDRANCE TO EXULTING JOY.
"Not having seen"; "Now ye
see Him not." To a superficial thinker, this privation of a personal
vision of Jesus might be deemed sufficient to put all after-ages on a
lower platform than that glad first one which looked upon his face--the
face which reflected the moods of his tranquil and holy nature; which lit
up homes of sorrow and lives of despair with the radiance of hope; which
attracted little children to his embrace; and which often shone with the
gleam of celestial communications, glancing between Him and God. Surely
not to have seen it might count as an irreparable loss!
An old divine said that he wished he could have seen three things--Rome in
her glory; Paul preaching at Athens; and Christ in the body. And it was
because of their desire to satisfy themselves, and to meet this great
longing, that the great painters of Christendom covered the walls of
picture galleries with conceptions of the face of Jesus. Crowds have stood
transfixed and touched before these masterpieces of art. But who has not
turned from the very noblest of them with a sigh of dissatisfaction, and a
secret conviction that even if the sublimest feature were to be taken out
of each separate picture and all combined into one, the face so composed
must still fall infinitely short of that in which Deity and humanity met,
and shone, and wept, and loved. We shall never see anything worthy of that
face till we see Him as He is. "They shall see his face," and "the glory
of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (Rev. 22:4; 2 Cor. 4:6).
But is there not hardship and irreparable loss in this? Not so. He can be
nearer, dearer to us to-day, than if those old blessed days in which He
walked with his disciples over the hills of Galilee, or fell asleep in the
stern of Peter's boat, had been drawn out like a golden thread throughout
the centuries. We could not have always had Him then. Domestic duties; the
needs of the world; the requirements of food, or business, or sleep--must
have taken us from his side. Or, at the best, we could only have known Him
as part of a great multitude, all of whom would have been equally eager to
possess Him for themselves. In the press of saints and apostles we must
have necessarily occupied the outer rim of the vast crowd, and been
satisfied with a transient glimpse, or with such beams as those which
travel from our sun to Uranus, on the extreme limits of our system. And
amid it all, there might have been a strong temptation to such earthly,
sensuous love as made the woman of the crowd exclaim, "Blessed is she that
bare thee, and the breasts which thou hast sucked;" expressions which He
corrected by immediately recalling the thoughts of the crowd to the
greater blessedness of those who "hear the word of God, and keep it" (Luke
If we had seen Him once, or might see Him still, our joy would have been
dashed with the pain of losing Him; of intermittent fellowship; or of the
necessity of sharing Him with others. It would have been too deeply-rooted
in the outward and physical. It would have languished when manifold trials
intercepted its vision. It could never have possessed that vigour; that
independence of circumstances; that power to defy imprisonment, solitude,
and desertion; that buoyant and heavenward ardour--which indicate that its
temper is celestial, its nature Spirit-given. Therefore the invisibility
of Jesus, which might have seemed inimical to our joy, so far from being
so, is rather a condition of its existence in the soul; and for this
reason, that as a spiritual presence our dear Lord can be more to us and
more with us, than if He had lingered ever on our earth. Did He not
therefore say Himself, "It is expedient for you that I go away"? Christ
dwelling in our heart by the Spirit, with us, around us, in us, is
infinitely more than He could have been to us, though, like Peter, James,
and John, we had been the chosen companions of His earthly life.
2. TWO LINKS UNITE US
TO THE UNSEEN LORD.
"Ye love." "Believing" (1Peter 1:8). It is hard to say which is first or
chief. We cannot love without believing, nor can we believe without
loving. Faith is light; and love is heat. Where one enters, the other
follows. Woven in the texture of each of heaven's sunbeams, we cannot have
one without the other; and our joy will be in direct proportion to the
presence of these twin celestial sisters in our souls.
(2A) AS TO LOVE
No man is a Christian who does not love the Lord Jesus. "If any man
love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema" (1Cor. 16:22). This
is the touchstone of trial for each one of us; not what we profess or say,
but whether we love, and how much. But let us remember that love reveals
itself differently according to that aspect of Christ's person or work on
which the Spirit has fixed the beholder's eye. In some, conscious of a
great deliverance, it takes the form of gratitude. In others, smitten with
the beauty of his character, of complacency. In others, again,
pre-occupied with his claims, of reverential devotion to his service. The
symptoms of its presence are manifold. Sometimes adoring silence; at
others irrepressible tears; or the sudden burning of the cheek; or
unostentatious acts of mercy; or steadfastness in confessing Him at all
costs. Love betrays itself, whether it fetches water from the well of
Bethlehem at peril of life, or comes with precious spikenard to anoint the
dear body of the dead.
Those that love Christ most, often accuse themselves of not loving Him.
Their love so conceives of Him that He seems deserving of something
infinitely better than they can give. They love Him so much, that they
would be almost prepared to make way for any who could love Him better;
and yet to stand aside would be agony. Let such take heart! He who knows
all things, knows how much they love. And, after all, love is measured,
not by feelings, or sighs, or tears, but by acts. You love Christ by just
as much as you are prepared to do, or suffer or give up for Him.
How may we love Christ more?--Spend much time alone in
contemplating what He has done for you; and what He is, as the "chiefest
among ten thousand" and the "altogether lovely." Stir the inner fire by
means of memory; and let hope pile on it the fuel of promise till it begin
to blaze! Cultivate the habit of speaking aloud to Him, in an empty
chamber, or a lonely walk, until He be interlaced in the tiniest episodes
of existence. Open your heart to the entrance of the Holy Spirit, shedding
abroad the love of God in the heart, and gathering the rays of that love
into a burning focus, so that you may love God back with love which has
come from his heart into yours. And, very specially, accustom yourself to
do, for the sake of his dear love, many things which cost you
self-sacrifice and effort. As we show love to others we understand his
love to ourselves. "Every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love" (1John 4:7, 8).
The key to the knowledge of the love
of Jesus is not in singing rapturous hymns, nor in seeking to arouse
intense emotion; but in quietly doing daily deeds of self-denial for His
And surely this is the way to sow
ourselves as corns of wheat in the ground (John 12:24); whilst He measures
the least act of love, not by the magnitude of the deed itself, but by the
strength of the love which prompts it. It is astonishing how quickly we
graduate in the school of love, when we begin to put in practice all we
(2B) AS TO FAITH.
Who is there of us that does not often cry with the disciples: "Lord,
increase our faith!"? Certain it is that increased faith would mean
increased joy. But are we all prepared to use the means within our reach
for obtaining this increased faith? The germ of faith is the creative gift
of God; but its nurture and culture lie with us, by the grace of the Holy
The conditions of its growth are these:--
There must be, first, the
putting away from the heart and life of all known evil and inconsistency.
The reason for much of the weak faith around is to be found in the
permission of forbidden and questionable things, which clog and oppress
the soul. These are the birdlime on the soul's wings--the hood on the
Next, there must be time given
for quiet musing over the statements and promises of the Word of God, till
they assume a definite shape as eternal facts.
Lastly, there must be habitual
obedience to every known duty; so that, as the will of God is revealed, it
shall be instantly embodied in action; and this, notwithstanding any
difficulty that may line the path. Where these rules are observed, faith
will grow exceedingly, and will make the unseen Saviour "a living bright
reality" to the soul which yearns for a hand that can never fail, a heart
that can never cease to throb.
3. THE RESULTING JOY.
Is there not joy in love when a barrier is broken down which had estranged
for years; when confession is made and forgiveness is granted; when heart
flows to heart; when the golden key of love unlocks the choicest and most
sacred treasures? To know that since we love Christ; we must have been
loved; that we are loved with a love which will never let us go, but which
will cling to us through life and death and eternal ages, not for anything
good or worthy in us, but because of its own sweet will and choice; to be
persuaded that nothing, not even our failures and inconsistencies, can
separate us from the love of Christ--this, surely, must thrill us with
joy, however great and manifold may be the trials through which we are
called to pass.
Is there no joy in faith?--"Think with what joy the long-imprisoned
debtor, drowned in debt, receives a full discharge and his liberty; or a
condemned malefactor the news of his pardon--and this will somewhat
resemble it, and yet fall far short of the joy which faith imparts, by
bringing Christ into the soul and forgiveness of sins in Him. Nor is this
all, for the believing soul is not only a debtor acquitted, but enriched
besides with a new and great estate, having a right to the unsearchable
riches of Christ, to the favour of God, and to the dignity of his child."
Such joy is unspeakable.--There are times of high tide in the
believer's soul, when he dare not speak. Words seem superfluous and empty.
The tides overflow their banks, and pour their volume in unspoken
admiration into the heart of God.
And full of glory.--It is of the same substance, if not of the same
bulk and weight, as the glory which awaits us on the other side. There are
moments of heaven upon earth; prelibations of the river of life; stray
notes of the angel choruses; Eshcol grapes from the vineyards of the land
of promise; flowers from the parterres of Paradise. Oh for more of heaven
on the way to heaven! A prayer which we may almost answer for ourselves by
seeking more of Him who is Himself the heaven of heaven; and so adopting
"Christ in the heart;
heaven in the heart;
the heart in heaven."
AND GLORIES OF CHRIST
"Concerning which salvation the prophets sought and searched diligently,
who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what time
or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did point
unto when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the
glories that should follow them. To whom it was revealed, that not unto
themselves, but unto you, did they minister these things, which now have
been announced unto you through them that preached the gospel unto you by
the Holy Ghost sent forth from heaven; which things angels desire to look
into."--1Peter 1:10-12 (R.V.)
THIRTY years, full of varied and absorbing interest, had well-nigh passed
away since Peter--amid the gloom of Gethsemane; or as one of the little
crowd of servants in the high priest's hall; or as a heart-broken
spectator on the outer rim of the crowd--had been an eye-witness of the
sufferings of Christ; sufferings from the endurance of which he had done
his utmost to dissuade his Master. But they were as fresh as though they
had been borne but yesterday, like the blood-red of the sandstone rocks,
which remains as vivid as on the morning of creation, though thousands of
autumns have strewn them with the fading hues of nature's many-coloured
dress. Throughout the Epistle there is repeated reference to the
sufferings which culminated at Calvary. But how different is the tone in
which the Apostle alludes to them! A vast change has passed over him
since, on the eve of the Transfiguration, he said: "This shall not be unto
Thee." That which had aroused his strongest protestation is now better
understood, and has become the theme of his tenderest love (comp. Matt.
16:22 with 1Pet. 1:11; 2:21, 22, 23; 3:18; 4:1-13; 5:1).
By those sufferings, our salvation has been achieved.--SALVATION is a
great word. And some glimpses of the width of its contents are discovered
in the Apostle's threefold use of it here (1Peter 1:5, 9, 10). It is so
great and glorious that the saintliest souls cannot in this world fully
realize all its blessedness. It will only be revealed "in the last time"
(1Peter 1:5), because it includes the deliverance of our bodies from the
bondage of corruption, and their transfiguration into the likeness of the
body of Christ's glory; a result which cannot be attained till the second
coming of the Lord. Moreover, "salvation" includes something more than
deliverance from the penalty due to sin, to which its meaning is so often
It is SALVATION FOR SOULS (1Peter 1:9)--that is: it not only
makes them safe--but also sound, healthy, wholesome, and whole; breathing
into them the very nature of God; and replacing corruption with the life
of the eternal world. Well may the Apostle find an equivalent for such a
salvation, covering as it does our entire nature, in the sweet old word
GRACE. Who shall estimate the "grace" that has come to us in the coming of
such a salvation as this? (1Peter 1:10).
On this "salvation" we must not linger longer now, fascinating though the
theme must be to those who owe all to it, both in this life and the next.
But, as we pass from it, we ask our readers to inquire whether they have
experienced it, not only as a past act, breaking the entail of a deserved
penalty; or as a future act, uniting spotless soul and stainless body in
the presence of the King; but as a living present enjoyment, securing for
them daily, hourly, victory over known sin, whether suggested from within
or by the malevolence of our great spiritual foe.
The sufferings of Christ, then, must engage our thought, and under a
peculiar aspect.--In a picture of the crucifixion, by a great modern
painter, we stand behind the cross, not seeing the sufferer, but only the
shadows of three crosses falling down the hill-slope, the central one
being the deepest and broadest of the three. But the faces of those
passing by, or standing near, are toward us, and are filled with looks
which tell the story of the tragedy in a way which the minutest
delineation of horrors could never have done. So we are studying the
sufferings of Christ in their effect on the witness of the Spirit; the
testimony of the prophets; the preaching of the Apostles; and the rapt
gaze of the angels.
1. THE WITNESS
OF THE SPIRIT
"It testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ."
The name here given to the Holy Spirit
is very significant. He is called the Spirit of Christ. One as He is with
the Father and the Son in the mystery of the Holy Trinity, and proceeding
as a stream of holy influence from their common throne, yet He bends all
his influence to reveal and glorify our blessed Lord. In Himself He is
ineffably holy, loving, mighty--whom to know is everlasting blessedness.
And yet, with marvellous and divine unobtrusiveness, He withdraws Himself
from our notice, only anxious to focus all attention and interest on the
Christ (John 16:13-15).
Until Jesus was glorified, the Spirit was not fully given (John 7:39)-not
poured out freely upon all, as afterwards at Pentecost (Acts 2:17), but in
measure, and occasionally (comp. Judges 13:25). Even before the
Incarnation, He broke out in witness to the coming Saviour, and with
irrepressible love gave testimony of Jesus; as when the voice of the
Father refused to be longer bound by the restraints of a self-imposed
silence, but broke out in benediction after the baptism of the Son in the
waters of Jordan.
Nor is it wonderful that the Spirit's testimony pointed in the direction
of Christ's sufferings. The offering up of Christ in death is said to have
been through the "Eternal Spirit" (Heb. 9:14). It was an act, in which the
Trinity as a whole participated. It was the crystallization in the
concrete of an eternal thought in the counsel and purpose of God (Rev.
13:8). It was probably the most stupendous event in the existence of the
Blessed God. How, then, can we wonder at the Holy Spirit anticipating the
discoveries of time, and giving premonitory hints and signs, and
anticipations of the sufferings of the cross? It is surely a mistake,
then, for us to make so little, in meditation and in ministry, of that
which is the supreme point of interest to the Spirit of Christ in the work
of the Saviour upon our world. The emphasis that He lays on the sufferings
of Christ, like the word search on a cairn, might indicate what
inestimable treasures lie beneath.
And if the Blessed Spirit dwell so lovingly and gladly on the sufferings,
how much more on the glories of the Lord! The Apostle laid the emphasis
there when he said, "Yea, rather, that was raised from the dead" (Ro
8:34, R.V.). And deservedly, because the glories are the crown and flower
and fruit of the sufferings; the attestation of his Deity; the Divine
imprimatur on his work; the reward for the travail of his soul. Stay, my
soul, to recount the glories, one by one, of the Resurrection morning; the
Ascension mount; the triumphal procession through all ranks of being; the
session at the right hand of God; the Second Advent; and the Millennial
2. THE BURDEN OF THE
GOODLY FELLOWSHIP OF PROPHETS.
From the age of Samuel these men appear. Very zealous for the Lord of
Hosts, and full of the loftiest patriotism, they fulfilled a great
ministry to their times, serving the same purpose as the Tribunes of the
People in ancient Rome, and the public press to-day. They stood up before
kings for the rights of the people, as they stood up before the people for
the rights of God. Nathan before David; Elijah before Ahab; Isaiah before
Ahaz; Jeremiah before Zedekiah; John before Herod.
With us, the word "Prophet" looks out on the future, penetrating its veil;
but in the original it means "bubbling up," as when the Psalmist said that
his heart was bubbling up with good matter (Psa. 45:1), like springs
forcing their way out into the desert waste, making it smile and bloom.
Nevertheless, in their public utterances, which were primarily addressed
to men of their time, there were depths of meaning, references, and
anticipations, which demanded a fuller realization than could be found in
a series of national events, however momentous.
It was the distinguishing mark of the Jews, that, unlike other nations,
their golden age lay before them as a radiant goal, and that their
greatest Hero was not their father, but his remote Descendant. Expectation
stooped forward, intent on catching the first foot-fall of the coming
King, who should gather up and satisfy the loftiest hopes. Of these
expectations and hopes the prophets were the chief exponents. But this
would not have sufficed to explain the fulness and minuteness of detail
which characterize their words. There was an element present which can be
accounted for by no earthly or human prescience. These holy men spake from
God, being moved by the Holy Ghost (2 Peter 1:21, R.V.).
The Spirit of Christ was in them.--First, He was in them as the Spirit of
Revelation, communicating truths which they could not have foreseen or
discovered; truths which even baffled their understanding after they had
received them. Next, He was in them as the Spirit of inspiration,
affording spiritual aid in promulgating truth; so that the Bible contains
God's truth stated in human words, which nevertheless give an adequate and
sufficient statement of the Divine intention and purpose.
And it is easy, therefore, to understand that the burden of their words
would be the same as that which engrossed the blessed Spirit. Through them
He testified of the sufferings and the glory. The crimson cord of Calvary
surrounds every window in the sacred book. In each voice there is the wail
of the cross and the hallelujah of resurrection. Moses and Elias speak of
the decease (the exode) to be accomplished. And thus, as the Master talked
with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, He was able to expound to
them in all the Scriptures that Christ ought to suffer and to enter into
his glory (Luke 24:26, 27, 46). Well, too, might Paul reason at
Thessalonica for three whole Sabbath days, opening and alleging that
Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead (Acts
But though the prophets spake of these things, they but imperfectly
understood them. They searched into the very matters of which they were
made the organs and channels. Like Daniel, they "heard, but understood
not" (Dan. 12:8). They could not interpret the hieroglyphs of the dates,
nor foresee the mystery and glory of the coming days. And often were the
saintliest Jews puzzled at the marvellous conjunction of death with life;
of travail with triumph; of darkness with light--on the pages of their
They had to content themselves with ministering to us; and they have
performed a very efficient service: because the simplest believer has now
an irrefragable testimony to the Divine truthfulness of Scripture, in
being able to compare, the predictions of the Old Testament with their
fulfilment in the New, fitting each other as the two sides of a tally, or
as a key and lock. There is no proof of the Divine authority of the Bible
greater than this.
3. THE PREACHING
OF THE APOSTLES
Was full of the same theme (1Peter 1:12). The Gospel which they announced
was the tidings of the death and resurrection of their Lord. They preached
Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. They gloried above all things in the
cross. It was a matter of perfect indifference that to the Jews it was a
stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness: the Apostles persisted in
declaring that God had made that same Jesus, whom men had crucified, both
Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36; 4:10).
And with such preaching the Holy Ghost was able to co-operate.--The
Apostles preached in the power of the Spirit. The Spirit is said in this
verse to have announced these things through them. It was a theme which
attracted all his tenderest, mightiest interest. He who spake in the
Prophets, spake in and with the Apostles, working powerfully on human
hearts by their ministry. And so their preaching, if not with enticing
words of man's wisdom, was in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.
Yes, and if only men will still dare to preach the doctrine of the cross,
they will find again, other things being equal, that results will accrue
which bear the Divine hall-mark.
4. THE THEME
OF THE ANGELS
Is the same blessed topic. They desire to "look into" these things. They
bend aside, as did the cherubim over the mercy-seat, where these truths
were set forth in the sprinkled blood. They may have held high debate
about the full import of the Saviour's death; but though they cannot
penetrate all its mysterious depths, yet they set to music all they know,
crying, "Worthy the Lamb that was slain!" The cross attracts the keenest
interest of bright celestial spirits.
It may be that those sufferings have brought angels nearer God; but in any
case, they have given deep and marvellous glimpses into his heart; such as
else could never have come to them. Rightly they are lost in admiration
If the angels, with their opportunities of knowledge, find ever fresh
fields of interest and investigation in the sufferings of Christ and the
glories that are to follow, how little do the wisest of us know of them!
We are but ankle-deep at the furthest in this fathomless ocean. We are
still at the alphabet--the primer of knowledge.
But surely enough has been said to invest the Saviour's sufferings with
new interest, as we turn to them again to find heights, depths, lengths,
and breadths of meaning, which have engaged and baffled prophets and
kings, angels and saints.
YE SHALL BE HOLY
"Wherefore girding up the loins of your mind, be sober and set your hope
perfectly on the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of
Jesus Christ; as children of obedience, not fashioning yourselves
according to your former lusts in the time of your ignorance: but like as
He which called you is holy, be ye yourselves also holy in all manner of
living; because it is written, Ye shall be holy; for I am holy. And if ye
call on Him as Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to
each man's work, pass the time of your sojourning in fear." 1Peter
THE "wherefore" with which this paragraph opens gathers up the premises of
the preceding verses, and uses them as a massive platform of solid masonry
on which to erect the battery of appeal to which the Apostle now addresses
himself. Because our destiny is what it is; because Jesus Christ is what
He is; because our salvation has been the theme of prophets, apostles,
martyrs, angels; therefore...And the aim of his appeal is Holiness.--
ye yourselves also holy in all manner of living."
The cry for HOLINESS
rings through the Bible. It is the keynote of Leviticus, from which this
quotation is made (cp. 1Peter 1:16 with Lev 11:44; 19:2; 20:7, 26, &c.):
and it is equally the supreme demand of the New Testament. In point of
fact, all the wondrous machinery of redemption, from the distant choice of
eternity to the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, has
had this for its purpose, that we, who have been the subjects of the grace
of the Persons of the Eternal Trinity, should resemble them in the
holiness which is the perpetual burden of heaven's rapturous
minstrelsy--that song which was heard by the evangelic prophet Isaiah from
the Temple courts, in the year that King Uzziah died; but which was still
unfinished when the beloved Apostle John detected it amid the break of the
Aegean Sea around the lone island of his banishment; and which will never
cease, world without end:
"Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God the
Almighty" (Isa 6:3; Rev. 4:8).
Holiness is the property of God alone.--It is the totality of the Divine
attributes; the sum of the Eternal and Infinite Being of Godhead; the
essence of Deity; the chord made by the harmonious blending of Divine
qualities; the beam woven from the many colours of Divine perfections; the
expression in a single term of all that goes to make up the moral nature
of the great Spirit whom we call GOD. It is underived in its source;
unlimited in its measure; insupportable in its naked and unveiled
splendour by the eye of any creature which He has made "Who is like unto
Thee, O Lord, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?"
(Exod. 15:11). No tongue then shall dare to challenge God's right to
declare Himself as the Holy One of Israel, or to say in the words before
us, "I am holy."
Such holiness is evidently possible to us.--
See, the holy God has "called" us to it
"God hath not called us to uncleanness,
but to holiness" (1 Thess. 4:7).
He "hath called us with a holy calling"
(2 Tim. 1:9). All partakers of the heavenly calling are called "holy
brethren" (Heb. 3:1).
But God would not summon us to heights
we could not scale, or to tasks we could not perform. His CALL involves
two facts--first, that his holiness is within our reach; secondly, that He
is prepared to supply all that is necessary to effect in us that to which
He calls us. God is pledged to make us holy; or He will expose Himself to
the mockery of his foes. But we need not fear for Him. He counted the cost
before He issued his proclamation; and He is well able to finish that of
which He laid the foundation in the great depths of Calvary (Luke 14:29,
Nor is such holiness for saints and apostles alone; or only for the
special golden days which visit most lives--days of feast and song and
transfiguration. The Divine ideal is more comprehensive far. "Holy in all
manner of living" (1Peter 1:15, R.V.).
Zechariah foretold the time when the inscription on the high priest's
mitre should be written even on the bells of the horses: "Holiness to the
Lord." And it is God's will that that motto should be engraved on house
bells, and office bells, and shop bells; on dinner bells and factory
bells; so that in every department of our lives there may be sweet music
made to life's great Lord. Holiness at every turn, and in every incident
of our daily walk, like the golden tinkle which betrayed each movement of
Israel's high priest (Ex 28:33, 34, 35; Zech. 14:20, 21).
There is only one way of becoming
holy, as God is: and it is the obvious one of opening the entire being to
the all-pervading presence of the Holy One.
None of us can acquire holiness apart
from God. It dwells in God alone. Holiness is only possible as the soul's
possession of God; nay, better still, as God's possession of the soul. It
never can be inherent, or possessed apart from the Divine fulness, any
more than a river can flow on if it is cut off from its fountain head. We
are holy up to the measure in which we are God-possessed. The least holy
man is he who shuts God up to the strictest confinement, and to the
narrowest limits of his inner being; partitioning Him off from daily life
by heavy curtains of neglect and unbelief. He is holier who more carefully
denies self, and who seeks a larger measure of Divine indwelling. The
holiest is the man who yields himself most completely to be influenced,
swayed, possessed, inspired, by that Spirit who longs to make us to the
fullest extent partakers of the Divine nature.
Wouldst thou be holier?-- There is but one way. Thou must have more of God
in thee. Holiness is the beauty of the Lord God of hosts. Thou canst not
separate the one from the other. To have it thou must have Him. Nor will
it be hard to obtain either; for He longs to enter into thy being. Thy
longing is the faint response of thy heart to his call. The power that
works within is matched by the grace which can do for us exceeding
abundantly above all that we ask or think. Man never desired so much of
God as God desired of man. God's holiness has revealed itself in a human
form in the person of Jesus Christ our Lord; and so it is as able as it is
eager to enter human lives through that blessed Spirit who is
pre-eminently-the channel and medium by which we are filled up unto all
the fulness of God. Ask thy heavenly Father for this Spirit. He is more
eager to give Him than a father to give food to his hungry child. And,
having asked, dare to believe that thou hast received, and "go in this thy
might" (Judges. 6:14).
And this holiness will reveal itself in many ways.
1. THERE WILL BE THE
ATTITUDE AND TEMPER.
Eastern fashions suggest the figure of the flirt loins. There the loose
and flowing robes suit well the deliberate movements which the climate
begets; but they would grievously hamper pilgrim, wrestler, or warrior.
When the Israelites were momentarily expecting the summons for the Exodus,
they stood with their loins girt around the tables on which the paschal
lamb was smoking. Thus too did the prophet of fire gird himself for the
swift courier-run before Ahab's chariot, from Carmel to Jezreel (1Kings
Our souls are clad with the flowing garments of various tastes, appetites,
affections, and propensities, which hang loosely around us, constantly,
catching in the things of the world, and hindering us in the Christian
race. We must not let them stream as they will--or we do so at our peril.
Absalom rued the day when his luxuriant tresses floated behind him in the
breeze. We must "gird up" the habits of our souls, make trim ourselves, so
as to pass as quickly and easily as possible through the thorny jungle of
Hold your spirit in a tight band. Put a curb on appetite. Say "No" to
luxurious pleasure-seeking. Curtail your expenditure on yourself. Do not
spread yourself too widely. Watch eye and lip, thought and wish, lest any
break from the containing cords of self-control: "Keep thy heart with all
diligence." Give Vanity Fair as little chance as possible, by passing
swiftly and unostentatiously through.
Be sober!--Sobriety is a great word. It is constantly included in the New
Testament on elders, deacons, women, aged men, young men, and maidens. It
means temperance, self-control, and a just estimate of one's self in the
world. There are some who counterfeit it by assuming an austere and
forbidding attitude, denouncing much that is innocent and natural, and
looking severely on some who do not yield to their scruples. The truly
sober man, on the other hand, moves freely through the world, strewn with
beautiful and innocent things: using them without, abuse, rejoicing in
every good thing which the Lord God gives; but never allowing any of them
to usurp too great an influence on his affections, or to tyrannize over
When the heart is fully engaged with the Lord, his service and love, and
rewards, and welcome home at last, it can afford to look undazzled on many
a captivating spectacle, and to turn from many a fascinating cup. The holy
heart, filled to brimming with the presence of God, is like a man who has
been well banqueted, and who is therefore able to look calmly on the
passionate heat with which starving men will fight with each other over
Hope to the end--"Set your hope perfectly" (R.V.). Go fearlessly as far as
hope can go. Let her sit at her easel, painting her fairest pictures, or
sing rapturously her most ecstatic lay: she cannot be disappointed. The
"grace which is to be brought unto us" when the veiling clouds are rent,
and the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven, will far surpass all her
imaginings. Hope is the lamp of the soul, passed down from saint to saint,
as in the old Greek race, but destined to be eclipsed in the light which
is to break ere long upon our spirits--the day of perfected redemption, of
glorified creation, of a perfected church. The Revised Version reminds us
that that grace is being brought--it has started, and is already on its
2. THERE WILL BE THE
Once the children of disobedience, we have been born again, and become
children of obedience--a fair mother with noble offspring. Such, at least,
is the literal rendering of the Greek. And what a marvellous difference at
once comes over the lives of those who have passed through this change!
They "no longer fashion themselves according to the former lusts."
Lust is natural inclination run wild, overleaping all restraint, and
asserting its own imperious will. When we are yet in the darkness of
nature, unillumined by the grace of God, these lusts fashion us. Beneath
their touch we are moulded or fashioned, as clay by the potter's hand.
Ignorant of the abominableness of sin, of its disastrous results, of its
insidious growth, we yield to it until it becomes our tyrant and our ruin.
Oh, the horror of the awaking, should we see the depths of this beetling
precipice descending sheer beneath us to hell! When we no longer fashion
ourselves according to the former lusts, but according to the will of
God--that is obedience.
It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of this truth. Obedience is
not holiness; holiness is the possession of the soul by God. But holiness
always leads to obedience. And each time we obey, we receive into our
natures a little more of the Divine nature. "If ye shall indeed obey my
voice, ye shall be a holy nation unto Me." Do, then, whatever it is right
to do. Forsake all which begins and ends with self. Be not satisfied with
prayer and desire, but Do. And thus there will come over your face and
life more likeness to the Father of your spirits; and you will be holy.
How few Christian people seem to realize that obedience in trifles, in all
things, to the will and law of Jesus, is the indispensable condition of
life and joy and power. The obedient soul is the holy soul, penetrated and
filled by the presence of God, and all aglow with light and love. Dear
reader, resolve from this moment to live up to the margin of your light.
Let this be your motto: "All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be
obedient." Israel said this and failed utterly and shamefully; do you say
it by the power of the Holy Spirit, and He shall make it gloriously
3. THERE WILL BE A REVERENT ANTICIPATION
OF THE FATHER'S AWARD
God's children are to be judged, not at the great white throne, but at the
judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). That judgment will not decide our
eternal destiny, because that has been settled before; but it will settle
the rewards of our faithfulness or otherwise (Matt. 25:19; 1 Cor. 3:14).
There is a sense in which that judgment is already in process, and we are
ever standing before the judgment bar. "The Father who judgeth." The
Divine verdict is being pronounced perpetually on our actions, and hourly
is manifesting itself in light or shadow.
But it is a Father's judgment. We call on Him as Father. Notice this
reciprocity of calling. He called us; we call Him; His address to us as
children begets our address to Him as Father. We need not dread his
scrutiny--it is tender. He pities us as a father pities his children,
knowing our frame, allowing for our weaknesses, and bearing with us with
an infinite patience.
But for all that it is impartial. "Without respect of persons." Many years
before, this had been revealed to the Apostle from heaven in a memorable
vision, which affected his whole after-ministry (Acts 10:35). Not
according to profession, or appearance, or any self-constituted
importance, but according to what we do, are we being judged.
The holy soul realizes this; and a great awe falls upon it and overshadows
it--an awe not born of the fear which hath torment, but of love. It passes
the time of its sojourning in fear. Not the fear of evil consequences to
itself, but the fear of grieving the Father; of bringing a shadow over his
face; of missing any manifestation of his love and nearness to Himself,
which may be granted to the obedient child. Love casts out fear; but it
also begets it. There is nothing craven, or fretful, or depressing; but a
tenderness of conscience which dreads the tiniest cloud on the inner sky,
such as might overshadow for a single moment the clear shining of the
Father's face. So the brief days of sojourning pass quickly on, and the
vision of the Homeland beckons to us, and bids us mend our pace.
REDEEMED BY BLOOD
"Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things,
as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from
your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without
blemish and without spot: who, verily, was foreordained before the
foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, who
by Him do believe in God that raised Him up from the dead, and gave Him
glory; that your faith and hope might be in God." 1Peter 1:18-21.
We belong to a redeemed race (1Ti 2:6). The majority of men do not know
this. Others, knowing it, do not allow their knowledge to influence their
life or conduct, but sell their birthright for a mess of pottage. Happy
are they who not only hold the fact of redemption as an intellectual
acquisition, but permit it to become the moulding principle of their
entire life. To such the words of the Apostle come with marvellous
directness and force "Ye know that ye were redeemed."
Probably the most momentous truth about us is--that we have been redeemed.
It is much to have been created--called into being by the distinct fiat of
the Creator's will. It is much to be endowed with life in a world so full
of marvellous possibilities as ours. It is much to have a soul, which can
call up the past, or interrogate the present, or anticipate and prepare
for the future. But it is more that we have been redeemed. Redeemed, as
Israel from the bondage and tyranny of Egypt; or as a slave, by his
"Goel"--his kinsman-redeemer--from captivity to some rich creditor; or as
the captive of some hideous vice emancipated from its thrall. Redeemed!
Bought! Ransomed! Not that heaven is bought for us, but we bought for
heaven. This will perhaps distinguish us for evermore among all other
1. THE COST OF OUR REDEMPTION
HAS BEEN IMMENSE.
(1) Negatively.--"Not with corruptible things, as silver and gold."
moneyed man, who has been accustomed to look on his wealth as the key to
every treasure-chest is sometimes startled to find how little it can
really do. It touches the rim and circumference of life; but it fails
utterly in questions that affect the heart of human existence. Money
cannot compensate for broken vows; or unsay cruel words which eat into the
soul like acid; or bring back colour to the pallid cheek of the darling,
cold and still in death; or atone for the lack of love. "If a man would
give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be
contemned." Money can only purchase things which are as corruptible as
itself; but when it enters or seeks to enter into the sphere of souls, the
eternal and incorruptible, its way is barred; its currency will not pass;
its claims to be heard are nonsuited.
You cannot dissect an argument with a knife, or measure love by the yard
measure, or weigh souls by avoirdupois. And it is equally impossible to
ransom them from sin by "corruptible things, as silver and gold." There is
nothing in common between the gold and silver, which, however long they
endure, must perish in the end, and the soul, which is of ethereal temper,
impervious to destruction and decay, and destined to survive the crash of
matter and the wreck of worlds.
God could have given suns of gold, and stars of silver, constellations
glowing with precious metals; but none of these would have been sufficient
to free one soul from the curse or penalty of sin, or to change it into a
loyal and loving subject of his reign. Though the scales of the universe
groaned on the one side with the heaped treasures of heaven, the jewels of
its walls, the gold of its pavements--yet one soul placed on the other
would outweigh them all. Matter accounts for nothing in the
weighing-chamber of eternity. And therefore the Creator must give not
things, but life--not his gifts, but Himself--ere He could redeem.
(2) POSITIVELY.--"But with the precious blood of Christ."
The blood is the
life of all flesh. Life is man's supreme possession, and God's supreme
gift. To give up anything less than life is to fall short of the completest self-sacrifice for another. But when a man has given that, he
has given all he can. And, in addition, when blood is mentioned with the
laying down of life, there is the further thought of suddenness, of
intense suffering, of violence; yea, more, no one familiar with Leviticus,
and with that whole system in which the Apostle Peter was educated from
boyhood, could ever encounter such a reference as this without being
instantly reminded of that sacrificial system, in which lambs were offered
up day by day for the sins of the people.
When the Apostle speaks of being redeemed by the blood of Christ, "as of a
lamb without blemish and without spot," he not only refers to the agony,
and violence, and circumstances of his death, but gives renewed utterance
to that first conception about the Lord which had fallen upon his ear from
the lips of the great forerunner, whose disciple he had been in the
earliest days of his religious history (John 1:35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42). And there can be no
doubt that he desires clearly to connect the sufferer of Calvary with the
lambs daily offered in the morning and evening Temple worship; with those
slain at the great annual feast of Passover; and with others, whose blood
was constantly flowing to make an atonement for sin and sins.
In considering the number of lambs sacrificed in the Jewish temple, we
must always remember that a large proportion of their flesh was eaten,
whether by the priests or the offerers; and that every method was adopted
to keep the sacred structure pure, and sweet, and clean. And when we once
admit that it is the office of the lower orders of creation to subserve
the necessary interests of man, there is not much difference between their
dying to set forth in type great spiritual truths, which are the life of
the soul, or to provide suitable nutriment for the sustenance of the body.
But, let me repeat, in the Jewish sacrifices these two objects were most
It is most important to give due weight to the suggestion of this passage,
which is corroborated by many similar ones throughout the Bible, that the
death of Christ was no afterthought consequent on man's fall, but was
determined before the foundation of the world. Before the mountains were
brought forth, or the stars were rolled on their wondrous paths, or the
first ray of light shot through the gloom, in the thought and purpose of
God, our Lord was already the Lamb slain. "He was foreordained (designated
or set apart) from before the foundation of the world" (1Peter 1:20; Rev.
And so the sacrifices of the Jewish ritual were in fact "the copies of
things in the heavens." When Moses went up into the Mount, it is probable
that he was permitted to behold the Divine purpose and plan of man's
redemption; which, as it passed before his thought, took shape in that
symbolism of priest, and sacrifice, and rite, which was God's method of
tuition to the chosen people, affording a rudimentary and material outline
of eternal realities.
We must not think that Calvary was moulded on Leviticus, but that
Leviticus was moulded on Calvary, as it stood out from all eternity before
the mind of God. Yet it is unmistakeable that Leviticus furnishes the true
key to the understanding of the death of the cross. In those earlier books
the Holy Spirit supplies us with the nomenclature and terms which He was
afterwards going to employ. And just as it would be absurd to try to
understand the deductions of Euclid, without first studying his
definitions, so it is in vain to attempt the solution of the marvels of
the cross, without entering into the force and meaning of the rites and
sacrifices of the ancient Hebrew system.
Now, if there is one thing more clear than another in the Levitical
sacrifices, it is the substitution of the innocent for the guilty; and it
is under this aspect that we must consider the death of our Redeemer. It
is in this sense that He gave Himself for us. And this is the reason why
the Apostle lays such emphasis on the preciousness of the sacrifice.
Anything less than the costliest blood would not have availed; because it
must not be simply the blood of an individual sufferer, but of One who
could suffer for a race of sinners.
The blood of Christ was precious, because of the dignity of his nature,
and because of his perfect character. "Without blemish"--that is, without
personal sin. "Without spot"-that is, not defiled by contact with sinners
(1Peter 1:19). Lamblike in meekness, gentleness, purity, and
uncomplaining suffering. And thus it was adequate for the work of
cleansing away the terrible aggregate of sin. Oh, precious blood! Oh,
sacred heart of Jesus, from which it flowed, holy, loving, tender, broken
with grief! Oh, snowy whiteness of robes washed in that fountain, and
purer than the snow!
2. THE OBJECT OF
"From your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers." Do
we sufficiently realize the position into which the shedding of the blood
of Jesus has brought us who believe? It is our ransom price, the
purchase-money of our entire being to be Christ's. The Apostles lived in
the days of a merciless form of slavery; but they never hesitated to
borrow from it the imagery by which to set forth our relationship to our
Saviour. "Not your own, but bought with a price." "Denying the Lord who
bought them" (1Cor. 6:19, 20; 7:23; 2Pe 2:1).
The purchaser of any slave regarded him as his chattel, his goods. He
could, if he chose, fling him to feed his lampreys, and none might
remonstrate or punish. He looked on all his belongings, and earnings, and
talents, as so much emolument for himself. His word and will were absolute
law. Such are the rights which our glorious Master has over us. He has
redeemed us from the curse and penalty of sin to be a people for
possession--HIS VERY OWN.
Who then of us can live as we have been wont, following after vanity,
treading in the footsteps of our forefathers, content to do as others
before us? New claims have come in. Our Redeemer is Lord. As He has set us
free from the curse and penalty of sin, so now He demands of us to come
out and be separate for Himself; leaving the husks for bread; the bubble
for the substance; the vain conversation received by tradition, for
purity, holiness, and devotion to Himself.
What a marvellous exchange there is for us in Jesus Christ! Our "vain
manner of life" (n.y.) exchanged for "holiness in all manner of living" (1Peter 1:15, R.V.); our imitation of our "fathers" for the upward following
of Him who was raised from the dead to glory; our reliance on "tradition"
for vital contact with Christ Himself.
Have you assumed this attitude? If not, without delay confess with tears
that you have robbed your rightful Master; recognize his claims; give up
yourself entirely to his service; and let the time past more than
"suffice" you to have followed the tradition of the fathers, with their
vanities and sins. The blood of Jesus, like that of Asahel shed on the
pathway of the warriors, shall make us halt in our career, and turn us to
a better mind.
3. THE CHARACTERISTIC
OF THE REDEEMED
"Who by Him do believe in God." Our faith and hope, which at the beginning
of our Christian life are mainly occupied with Christ, so that we find
ourselves most often addressing Him in prayer, pass through Him, who is
God, to the Eternal God. The Son reveals the Father as He promised (John
14:7-9)-The Father is known and loved through the Son. God becomes All in
all; and the soul is satisfied to repose its entire weight on Him who has
raised and glorified our Blessed Lord.
It becomes us to ponder well this important passage, attesting as it does
a momentous truth. Let us not forget that the true and ultimate object of
our faith must be the God of the Resurrection; the Father of our Lord;
Jehovah, in whom the elders believed. And let it be also borne in mind
that one primary object of the wondrous revelation of the Father in the
person and work of Jesus has been to make it a little more easy for our
trembling and sin-stricken souls to believe in Him. "He raised Him up and
gave Him glory, that our faith and hope might be in God."
"Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the
Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another
with a pure heart fervently: being born again, not of corruptible seed,
but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth for
ever." 1Peter 1:22-23.
WE love the Lord whom we have not seen (1Peter 1:8). We must also love
our brethren whom we have seen. The latter indeed is the test of the
former. "He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love
God, whom he hath not seen?" (1John 4:20). "See that ye love one
But such love is not an easy thing. We are inclined to read such an
exhortation as this, and go our way, saying, "Oh yes, this is all we need
do. We must love every one, and especially those who belong to the same
Christian church as ourselves--our brethren." And what is the love to
which we set ourselves? Is it not too often an easy sentimentality? To
give things away: to indulge every wish and whim: to make things easy and
pleasant all round: to wear a gracious smile--this is too often the life
which we propose to ourselves, as the carrying out of the precepts of
universal love. And for some temperaments this is the easiest life
possible. They are naturally affable, pleasant, genial, and generous. But
does this fulfil the repeated injunction of the New Testament, that we
should love one another "as Christ has loved us"? For, after all, there is
often a species of refined selfishness in our apparent courtesy, which
desires to stand well with all, or shrinks from taking too much trouble.
What is that love of which our Lord and his Apostles speak? Not only, or
primarily, kind feelings, or generous impulses. Not certainly the
sentimentality which breathes itself out in sighs and raptures. Not merely
the fond attachment which clings as the rose against the trellis. But,
above all things, service--ministry--self-denial and self-giving. To put
another's well-being before our own--not because it is pleasant to do it,
but because it is right. To make another the pivot around which the wheel
of activity revolves. To give oneself to death a hundred times a day in
unobtrusive, trifling acts of self-denial. To check the hasty word, the
unkind speech, the damaging criticism. To vacate a comfortable seat in a
railway carriage for the sake of the love of God. To lead a little child
home, when lost in the street, or in an agony of terror from a
thunder-storm, to win the "inasmuch." To show to the inmates of one's
home, in the most trifling incidents, the same behaviour as is prompted in
men of the world by mere politeness; and to do it for the sake of Jesus.
All these things are traits of a love which has no native origin in human
hearts, but emanates from the being of God, descending into the hearts of
his own, and passing back through them to Him again. And this is what God
asks of us. Let us examine the marks of such love; its efficient cause;
its Divine origin. And may the Holy Spirit, whose first fruit is "love''
(Gal. 5:22), shed it abroad abundantly within our hearts.
1. THE MARKS OF SUCH LOVE.
(1) Unfeigned.--Dissimulation is a disease very antagonistic to Christian
love. More than once we are warned against it in the Apostolic writings
(Ro 12:9; 2Cor. 6:6). We are all tempted to profess more than we feel;
to kiss those whom we are betraying; to cover with soft words crevasses
which are yawning deeper every day. How much more effusive we are to our
friends than our thoughts of them sometimes warrant! How often we are one
thing to their face and another to their back! How subtly we are tempted
to maintain appearances, because of some ulterior gain!
Our politeness is often but skin-deep. (Ed: Convicted?
I am!) Our smiles assumed for a purpose.
Our words smoother than butter, whilst our hearts are drawn swords. Our
acceptance of apologies, as superficial as Joseph's brethren thought that
his would prove to be after old Jacob's death. Our love is not altogether
(2) Pure.--"Hearts may be cemented by impurity, by ungodly conversation
and society in sin, as in uncleanness or drunkenness. The mutual love of
Christians must be pure, from such causes as are pure and spiritual,
arising out of the Saviour's command or example." The eye of the heart
must be single; its habit stainless; its motives "white as the light."
There must be no thought or suspicion of the passions of the flesh, which
lie so near to the springs of intense spirituality in men and women. The
love of the world so often ends in lust; lofty ideals are shattered;
cloudless mornings become overcast. And our temptation lies in the same
direction. It is a mistake to think that, because we meet in religious
assemblies, and talk of hymns, and sermons, and sacred themes, there is no
danger of the taint of impurity destroying the delicate sensitive bloom of
our spirits. Too often our love is not pure.
(3) Fervently.--''On the stretch." Not with the loose string of the
unstrung bow, but with the tension of the strings of the violin drawn out
to their full. This is a model which almost seems to mock us. It is so
much easier to be on the stretch for ourselves than to seek the good of
others with the same eager energy. Our love seldom gets beyond
"temperate," and never to boiling point. We have not learnt the secret of
the heart bubbling over. We are not fervent in our love. We do not weep
over our brethren's faults; or rejoice in their success as much as in our
own; or love them with a passion which should act as an alembic for the
evil that is in them.
It was the Master's last prayer that we should love like this. He meant
that we should put off anger, wrath, malice, and evil speaking; and that
we should put on bowels of mercies, kindness, longsuffering, and
forbearance. So would the world believe (John 17:21).
2. THE EFFICIENT CAUSE OF SUCH LOVE.
It will come through "obeying the truth." This is very marvellous. We
should have thought that our love to each other would have been promoted
best by meeting for social enjoyment, by knowing each other better, by
constant association in Christian work. But this is not God's way. The
true lens by which hearts are made to glow is the Truth.
We must know the truth.--Put two burnished mirrors opposite each other,
and there will be no glow of light on either; but if a candle stand
between, the beams of light are flung to and fro, to an extent impossible
to either or both alone. So the mere contact of Christian with Christian
will not necessarily produce the burning heart, unless there be also
between them the Truth of God.
Study the lives of the saintliest men; and you will find it to have been
their invariable experience, that their love to God and men grew in the
precise proportion in which they explored the treasures of Divine truth.
It was when their intellects were most engaged in discovering the depths
of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God, that their hearts
seemed in a rapture of irrepressible and inexpressible ecstasy. "Did not
our heart burn within us while He opened to us the Scriptures?"
We must also obey the truth.--Do, and you shall know. Obey, and you will
love. Some try to promote love by the use of endearing epithets; or by the
endless repetition of experience; or by reading rapturous expressions,
like those which were so natural to a Bernard or a Rutherford. But such
endeavours will soon wear themselves out.
A thousand times better shall we find it to set ourselves to "obey the
truth." Let no command be unfulfilled in some dusty corner of the soul.
Let no margin intervene between your feet and the limit of your light. Let
the life follow the Divine Word as closely as the great Lawgiver followed
the cloud sailing majestically through the heavens. Translate all precepts
into the vernacular of daily duty; and you will verify, in a yet deeper
sense than ever, the Master's words:
"He that hath my commandments and keepeth
them, he it is that loveth Me" (John 14:21)
As we obey the truth, we shall be purified by it.--Young men cleanse their
way by taking heed thereto according to the Divine Word. The Bridegroom
purifies his bride by the washing of water through the Word. Oh, all ye
who groan under the sense of a defiled heart--here is one secret of
cleanliness, Obey the truth!
Many will read these lines who are athirst for purity and love. Innocence
can never be theirs--the innocence that consists in ignorance of evil and
unconsciousness of temptation. But they desire that purity which passes
through evil untainted, as sunbeams through a fetid atmosphere, and for
that love which floods cannot drown, like the old Greek fire which burnt
The atheist does not think that these things are possible. He has no hope
in God, and no belief in man. He looks darkly on all profession, and sadly
suspects every motive. Oh, do not let your high hopes be dashed or your
ambitions lowered by his suggestions.
Undaunted, still seek for the holy
grail of a pure and burning heart.
It shall certainly reward your search at last.
There is no need to seek this blessed gift in the wilderness, like St.
Anthony; on the pillar, like Simon Stylites; in the recesses of the
forest, like Gaudama. "The word is nigh thee, in thy mouth and in thy
heart" (Ro 10:8). Purify your heart in obeying the truth unto unfeigned
love of the brethren.
Nor will it be difficult to understand how it is that so simple a method
will achieve so great a result, when we have given the next consideration
its true weight.
3. THE DIVINE ORIGIN OF THE LIFE WITHIN.
"Having been begotten again" (1Peter 1:23, R.V.).
Our spiritual life is "not of the will
of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:13).
We have been twice born. Born once by
nature into the stock of the first Adam; and born a second time by grace
into the stock of the second Adam, the Lord from heaven.
"Of his own will God begat us by the
word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures"
One chief evidence of this life is
simple trust in the Saviour. As many as believe in his name were born
And the life that has been implanted within us is like the inheritance
which awaits us (1Peter 1:4) and the blood which purchased us (1Peter
It cannot, therefore, be limited by the
narrow landmarks of time, or sense, or this fleeting world. It overleaps
and clerics them all. It partakes of the nature of the Infinite and
Eternal. Thus it follows that the piety it affects is of celestial temper,
and the love it manifests is the true unfeigned love of Deity. The best
guarantee of the permanence and reality of Christian Purity and Love is to
look at the life from which they emanate, and which is implanted by the
second birth--a life which in turn is best considered in the seed from
which it has come, and by which it has been communicated to the believer's
That seed is here contrasted with the outward life of men. All flesh is as
grass: men and women pass away as the successive crops on the meadows. And
the glory of man as the flower of grass. The king-cups and daisies share
the fate of the lowly blades around them, emblems of the impotence of
wealth or strength or beauty to resist the ravages of the sickle of Time.
But in contrast to this stands out the eternal Truth of God, which is
enshrined in the holy words of God.
It is LIVING and life-giving.
It remaineth and "abideth for ever."
That the Bible is amongst us to-day--in spite of all that has been done to
destroy it, by fire, and search, and sword--attests the fact that there
are properties in it which divide it by an impassable chasm from all books
beside. It is clearly true of all Scripture words, that they "are spirit
and life," and can never pass away; and that not one jot or tittle shall
fail. And this fact that the Bible lives and abides, notwithstanding all
that has been done against it, proves that it possesses something of the
life of the eternal and infinite God. God is manifestly in this Book, as
of old in the acacia bush of the desert; or as natural life burns like a
tiny spark within each seed falling down the bank. The persistence of the
Book proves God to be in it. And therefore it is God's life which enters
dead human souls through the Word and makes them live. The life which is
thus begotten in them is infinite and eternal as Himself. And, being so,
it lifts its possessors above the time-sphere into the very realm of
heaven, and enables them to love, not with the poor faltering love of man,
but with the royal, pure, unfeigned, blessed love, which is the very soul
of the life of God Himself.
GOD'S NEW BORN BABES
AND THEIR FOOD
"Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and
envies, and all evil speakings, as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk
of the Word. that ye may grow thereby; if so be ye have tasted that the
Lord is gracious."--1Peter 2:1-3.
This paragraph is closely connected with the preceding one. In that we
learnt how we had been born again, and entered by the new birth into the
family of God. Here the same thought is resumed. We are addressed as the
babes of the Divine family, and bidden to cultivate the temper and seek
the nourishment suitable to a relationship at once so blessed and
1. OUR CONDITION AS GOD'S LITTLE ONES.
The metaphor is a very touching one.
This world is but the nursery in which the heirs of God are spending the
first lisping years of their existence, preparatory to the opening of life
to full maturity yonder in the light of God. The most advanced among us,
in knowledge and attainment, are, in comparison with what they shall be,
only as babes. The furthest stretch of vision, the most perfect
conceptions of the intellect, the fittest expressions of truth, are but as
the untutored thoughts and babblings of babyhood, compared with what is to
be in the mature life which beckons us yonder.
The same idea is expressed by the Apostle Paul in his exquisite idyll on
Christian love. He is endeavouring to show that this fairest of the whole
band of Christian graces is eternal in its nature, budding here, defying
the frosts of death, and blooming in heaven's everlasting summer. And, to
make his conception more emphatic, he contrasts love with knowledge,
affirming that our profoundest knowledge must vanish away, because in this
life we are but children. "When I was a child I spake as a child, I
understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I
put away childish things." And, similarly, in the next life, while we
retain the love which we have had in this, we shall put away the knowledge
as partial and immature, because from being children we shall have become
men in Christ. We need not concern ourselves now with all the majestic
conceptions which cluster around those words: it is enough to notice the
thought, that the Apostle Paul considered himself a little child, compared
with the coming maturity of eternity.
This word should teach us Humility. "Our best pace and strongest walking
in obedience here is but as the stepping of children when they begin to go
by hold, in comparison with the perfect obedience of glory, when we shall
follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. All our knowledge here is but as
the ignorance of infants, and all our expressions of God and of his
praises but as the first stammerings of children, in comparison with the
knowledge we shall have of Him hereafter, when we shall know as we are
known, and with the praises we shall offer to Him, when that "new song"
shall be taught us." It becomes us, therefore, not to exercise ourselves
in great matters, or in things too high for us, but to quiet ourselves as
a child that is weaned of its mother, so that our souls may be even as a
weaned child. Not surprised, if unnoticed or unknown; not angry, if
treated with small respect; not discouraged, if face to face with
incomprehensible mysteries. Our intellect is only in its dawn, our powers
undeveloped, our mental grasp limited. Far be from us the haughty heart,
the proud look, the conceited opinion, the sweeping assertion of
self-satisfaction. Ours is the lisp of infancy: "Abba."
This word should also teach us Hope. There is no young thing so helpless
as a babe, or for so long dependent on its parents' care. But He who has
appointed the long months of babyhood has also provided the love and
patience with which mother and father welcome and tend the strange wee
thing which has come into their home. It is not often that a woman can
forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on her son.
Through ailments and sicknesses, days of anxiety, and nights of watching;
with love which never considers cost, or pain, or self-denial - two fond
guardian angels care for the babe. Its least cry will compel the service
of a man dreaded by all his comrades, and noted for the strength and
independence of his character. And shall God have put into others
qualities in which He is Himself deficient? Shall He have provided so
carefully for us in our first birth, and have provided nought in our
second? Is not the very love of the human parent a parable of that of the
Divine? Is He not Mother and Father both?
It must be so. Since He has begotten us into his family, He must have to
us the love of a parent to a babe; and we must have a claim on Him, as the
babe on its parent. The more utterly helpless, and ignorant, and dependent
the babe is, the stronger is its claim. Yes, and the more puny and sickly
it is, the more urgent are its demands for tender solicitude and
attention, till the spark of life, shaded by loving hands from the least
unkindly breath, grows strong within the tiny lanthorn. Who is angry with
a child because it is weakly, sick, and dull of brain? Who does not find
in these things the reason for greater tenderness, so that mothers are
said to love most the children who have cost them most? And is it not so
with God? Your weakness, and ailments, and nervous dread, and besetting
sins, and hereditary taint of evil habit, and dullness of vision, will not
drive God from you, but will bring Him nearer. These things will draw down
his choicest love to your poor-cradled being. He will sit beside you as a
nurse. He will watch your every change. He will care for you with
unslumbering thoughtfulness. He will supply your every need. He will make
you know things hidden from the wise and prudent, but revealed to babes,
in words which even they can understand. He will never leave you until you
are reared to the perfect beauty of maturity in Christ.
This word should also teach us our true attitude towards God. Throw
yourself on Him with the abandonment of a babe. Roll on Him the
responsibility of choosing for you--directing, protecting, and delivering
you. If you cannot understand his will, expect Him to make it plain. If
you cannot feel as you would, believe that his feeling towards you is
unalterable as a father's. If you are overcome by sin, be sure that it
cannot alienate his love, any more than can the small-pox, which has
marred some dear tiny face, prevent the mother from kissing the little
parched lips. Oh, strong men and women, never get so strong as to cease to
remember that you are the babes of God, and that you may carry out this
winsome similitude to the full! Listen to his declaration: "I have
nourished and brought up children."
2. OUR FOOD.
"Long for the spiritual milk which is without guile" (R.V.).
At the close of the previous chapter
the Word of God was compared with seed; here, with milk. But it is the
same principle under different aspects. The new life is nourished by that
through which it was first imparted. There are deep analogies between the
worlds of nature and of grace, attesting the unity of design which
pervades the universe, making the seen and the unseen one great whole.
There is nothing which so prove the inspiration of the Scriptures as their
suitableness to the nurture of the new life in the soul. As long as that
life is absent, there is no special charm in the sacred Word: it lies
unnoticed on the shelf. But directly the new life has been implanted, and
whilst yet in its earliest stages, it seeks after the Word of God as a
babe after its mother's milk; and instantly it begins to grow. This
affinity between the Divine life in the soul and the sacred Scriptures
establishes their emanation from the same source as gave it birth. Human
life in infancy is most naturally nourished by the products of the life
from which it originated; and since the Divine life in man is nourished by
the words of the Bible, surely it also is proved to be Divine in its
origin, supernatural in its qualities, heavenly in its temper --as far
removed from the earthly and human as is the life to which it ministers.
Oh, well would it be if we were to minister to the regenerated spirits
around us more of the pure and unadulterated Word of God! It is this which
they really need. They may be attracted and pleased for a time by flowers
of rhetoric and the dazzling glow of eloquence; but they will not be
satisfied by these things. Underneath all there will be a great hunger for
the sincere milk of the Word. And when that word is presented in all its
fulness and simplicity, eager appetites will gather around, as bees
attracted by the flower-gardens, or the fragrant breath of the heather.
"Before conversion, wit or eloquence may draw a man to the Word, and
possibly prove a happy bait to catch him; but when once he is born again
then it is the milk itself that he desires."
And here surely we are taught the reason why so many Christians around us
are so puny and stunted in their growth. They are always needing
attention, nursing, wheeling about in perambulators, because their
teachers have not provided them with the nutriment which they really need.
As unsuitable food, however abundant, will soon tell its own tale on the
pinched face of a babe, so the sickly condition of so many Christians sets
forth a lamentable complaint of the food with which they are supplied. To
say nothing of strong meat, they do not even get milk. Hence the Church of
God too much resembles the wards of a children's hospital.
3. HOW TO CREATE
AN APPETITE FOR THE WORD.
"Desire." One of the most dangerous symptoms is the loss of appetite. It
is the danger-signal warning that evil lurks unseen within. And there is
no surer indication of religious declension and ill-health than the
cessation of desire for the Word of God. How can that appetite be created
where lacking, and stimulated where declining? The answer is given in the
(1) Put off the evil that clings to you.--The word translated "putting
away" is the same as in Col. 3:8. The idea is the change of dress which is
often used as a Scriptural figure for the change of the habit of the soul.
The habiliments which we must doff are enumerated, and a terrible
catalogue it is. Alas that it should ever have been necessary, or that it
should still be, to urge Christians to surrender such obvious evils as
Malice, which is anger cooled down into "double-distilled malignity,"
rejoicing in the misfortunes which come to others. Guile, which savours of
trick and craft. Hypocrisy, the Judas-act of concealing treachery beneath
the garb of friendship. Envy, which repines at another's good. Both malice
and envy vent themselves in evil speaking, These things spoil the appetite
for God's Word, as surely as sweetmeats clog the physical appetite and
taste. Many cannot enjoy the Word of God, because their minds are so
occupied with these poisoned dainties, or with the sugar-coated sweetmeats
of exciting or questionable literature, of worldly amusements, and of evil
imaginings. These things must be at once and for ever put away. You must
elect the cross. There must be a casting aside of the shameful works of
darkness, so only can the appetite for God's Word become vigorous and
eager. Clear away the rubbish, and the spring will burst up naturally from
(2) Remember that your growth depends on your feeding on the Word.--Who is
there amongst us that is not anxious to grow; to become more Christlike,
and holy, and devoted; to increase in knowledge and in grace? But we
appear often to imagine that we shall grow by attending meetings or doing
Christian work. It is a disastrous mistake. And until we come to see that
growth is proportionate to Bible-study, it will be impossible to rise up
to the perfect beauty of the stature of Christ. We shall always be
children, carried about by every wind of doctrine.
Do not always read your Bible because you like to do so, or desire it, but
because it is right to do it, and as a matter of simple duty to your own
life. Study the Word under the light of the Holy Spirit, as the ancient
saint, when blindness was setting in, was wont to carry his Bible to the
window, and place the open page in the full beams of the western sun. And
slowly the appetite will re-assert itself, and you will come to esteem the
Word of God more than your necessary food.
(3) Stimulate your desire by the memory of past enjoyment.--"If so be that
ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious." We seek food, not only because
our body requires it, but because we remember the past sweetness of it to
our taste. We often take more than is necessary to appease hunger, because
the food is toothsome.
How sweet to the taste is the precious Lord! For none among the sons and
daughters of men can be compared to Him. His love has sometimes filled our
souls with inexpressible delight and bliss--grapes of Eshcol, prelibations
of the river of life, branches laden with fruit reaching over the wall.
And those who have once tasted of that love have contracted a passion
which grows in being fed. Because they have tasted they must come again
and again to stay an appetite which, though always being met, is always on
Do you not remember days like these, of feasting and song, when you were
led into his banqueting-house, or sat under his shadow with great delight?
If so, surely the memory of them will sharpen the jaded desire, until it
cries with the spouse: "Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples; for
I am sick of love." Ah, how vapid and insipid do the joys of the world
appear when once the soul has tasted that the Lord is gracious. "Taste and
see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him."