Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. PETER WAS THE FIRST AMONG THE LITTLE GROUP OF CHOSEN DISCIPLES ADMITTED TO WITNESS CHRIST'S GLORY. Peter was the first-mentioned of the three who saw the transfigured Son of man upon the holy mount; and it was he who, as the spokesman of the others, exclaimed, "It is good for us to be here."
II. PETER OCCUPIED THE SAME POSITION AMONGST THOSE CHOSEN TO TESTIFY OF THE SAVIOUR'S HUMILIATION AND AGONY. Ill the garden of Gethsemane, Simon was one of the same band of three whom Jesus kept near to himself; and his prominent action in his Master's defense is proof of his admitted leadership.
III. PETER WAS THE FIRST OF THE APOSTLES TO BEAR WITNESS TO THE LORD'S MESSIAHSHIP AND DIVINITY. It was his exclamation, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," which called forth the Lord's approval and original blessing, "Blessed art thou, Simon," etc.
IV. PETER WAS THE FIRST TO PROCLAIM THE SAVIOUR'S RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD. Paul himself records that the risen Redeemer first appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. "The Lord hath risen indeed, and hath appeared unto Simon," - such were the joyful tidings which circulated among the little company during the resurrection-day.
V. PETER WAS THE FIRST, AFTER THE DESCENT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO HIS FELLOW-MEN. Upon the Day of Pentecost he stood up, and in the name of the brethren published to the multitude the explanation of the marvelous events of that day. As the chief speaker and representative of the Church, he proclaimed, not only the facts of the Resurrection and the outpouring of the Spirit, but pardon and salvation through the redemption which Christ had wrought.
VI. PETER WAS THE FIRST AMONG CHRISTIAN CONFESSORS TO ENDURE AND TO DEFY THE RACE OF THE PERSECUTOR. The storm broke upon the loftiest oak of the forest. Peter was naturally selected by the enemies of the faith as its most public and powerful representative, that he might be made to feel their power. But his attitude and language proved that he was conscious of the presence and support of One mightier than all those who were opposed to him.
VII. PETER WAS THE FIRST AMONG THE TWELVE TO WELCOME BELIEVING GENTILES INTO THE CHURCH OF CHRIST. The case of Cornelius, the circumstances attending the "Council of Jerusalem," are sufficient proof of this. Although the "apostle of the circumcision," it is plain that Peter was in fullest sympathy with that Divine move-meat of expansiveness which was to represent Christianity as the religion for mankind, and Christ as the Saviour of the world.
VIII. PETER WAS THE FIRST CONCERNING WHOM IT WAS FORETOLD THAT HE SHOULD SUFFER A DEATH OF MARTYRDOM FOR THE LORD WHOM HE LOVED. Jesus himself forewarned him of the fate which was before him, and even signified what death he should die. He who counted it an honour to fulfill his Lord's will, and to proclaim his Lord's grace and love, when the time came, counted it a joy to share his Master's reproach and to bear his Master's cross. - J.R.T.
I. THE TYPE OF MAN BY WHOM BLESSING COMES TO MAN. No one can take any thoughtful view of the book we call the Bible without learning how largely man is the channel of the Divine thought, the Divine emotion, the Divine grace. "Men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Ghost." And their individual manhood colours and tones their teaching. So that not alone by the writings of men, but by their lives - biographies that cluster round the Great Biography, either in resemblance or in contrast to it - men are taught, warned, comforted, stimulated, and, in a sense in which St. Paul uses the word, "saved" by man. In this passage is a type of the man by whom God blesses men.
1. In his manhood. "Simon Peter" - a name that recalls the story of his life, and discovers his temperament and unveils his ideal. The pearl is formed by some irritating substance causing discomfort, pain. So biography has its moral pearls. And St. Peter's is notable. There is pathos in the appeals of this letter, as we remember how "Peter went out and wept bitterly."
2. In his office. "A servant and an apostle." This is the right order: first a bondman; then a herald, eager and brave.
II. THE COMMON CONDITION ON WHICH MEN MUST RECEIVE THE CHIEF BLESSINGS OF GOD. Peter writes to those who "have obtained like precious faith." Their possession of that qualifies them to receive the blessings this salutation desires for them. "Like precious faith." "Like," not necessarily equal, but similar. "Precious" - a favourite word of Peter's, used about "stone," "promises," "blood," "faith;" having a double thought - costly and cherished. "In the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ." "Righteousness:" what is that? Well does Charnock say, "Without it his patience would be indulgence to sin, his mercy a fondness, his wrath a madness, his power a tyranny, his wisdom an unworthy subtlety." But this righteousness gives glory to all. As we know it in Christ
(1) it reveals itself;
(2) it vindicates itself;
(3) it communicates itself.
We cannot attain it or maintain it without Christ.
III. THE SUPREME BLESSING MAN CAN DESIRE FOR MAN. "Grace and peace" (already noted in the first Epistle). Peace, the growth of grace. "Be multiplied." These in large degree. "In the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;" better translated, "full knowledge." Peter would recall his Lord's words in the upper room: "This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent," From that knowledge, and that alone, will flow grace and peace. - U.R.T.
I. ADDRESS. "Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained a like precious faith with us in the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ." Peter seems to class himself with Jewish Christians in the personal designation "Simon," or, more probably, "Simeon Peter." His official designation is first (generally) a servant of Jesus Christ, and then (particularly) an apostle of Jesus Christ. The readers are designated, not with reference to locality (as in the First Epistle), but simply with reference to their Christian position. Peter writes on this occasion "to them that have obtained " - by lot, the idea is, i.e., not in their own power or of their own right (thus corresponding to "the elect" of the First Epistle). What they have obtained is faith, by which we should understand, not "the things believed," but the "subjective disposition of faith;" for it is faith in this sense that is the gracious possession proceeded upon in verse 5. It is a precious faith, both in the mysteries which are the object of it (centering in the Incarnation), and in the blessings which are appropriated by it (beginning with forgiveness of sins). It is "a like precious faith with us" that they have obtained. If Peter classes himself with Jewish Christians (as he seems to do in taking the designation Simeon), then it is the Gentile Christians who have a like precious faith with the Jewish, and it is they who are directly addressed in the Epistle, though Jewish Christians are included among the readers. This equal dealing is ascribed to "the righteousness of our God." This is in keeping with 1 Peter 1:17, and also with the sentiment uttered by Peter in connection with the admission of the Gentiles, as given in Acts 10:34 and Acts 15:9. The equal dealing is also ascribed to the righteousness of "our Saviour Jesus Christ" (who could not in this and in other places be so closely associated with God without being himself God). Jesus Christ is here regarded as the manifestation and demonstration of the impartiality of God: inasmuch as Saviour, he is Saviour for Gentiles and Jews, without any difference.
II. SALUTATION. "Grace to you and peace be multiplied in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord." By grace we are not to understand the attribute of graciousness, but rather the outgoing of graciousness as experienced by us. Peace is the result of the consciousness that we are not dealt with according to our own merit, but according to the merit of Another. Grace and peace are already enjoyed: what Peter wishes is their multiplication, for which there is room in the best. He looks for this multiplication in a particular way, viz. that of knowledge. It is the word which means appreciative, mature knowledge. It is a characteristic word of the Epistle. In view of the place that was afterward to be claimed for a false gnosis (insight into transcendental mysteries), it was well that Paul and Peter taught beforehand the place that was to be given to epignosis (with regard to which there is no mystification). Peter teaches here that grace and peace are only to be multiplied as an advance in Divine knowledge - the knowledge of God and of Jesus (thus again closely associated) as the manifestation of God. When we get to know bow gracious God is in Jesus, our peace is doubled, trebled, quadrupled. Peter thinks specially of a peace resulting from the fact that God has made Jesus our Lord, thus able to control all circumstances and influences that affect us. The thought of this Lordship is carried forward into the next verse, from which this is not properly dissociated. - R.F.
I. A GREAT INCREASE OF SPIRITUAL BLESSING IS POSSIBLE TO THE BELIEVER. "Grace and peace" we may take as including all spiritual good. Grace is God's part therein; peace is man's. God's attitude towards us is grace; our attitude towards him, for that is the end of righteousness, is to be peace. Between these two lies all that pertains to life and godliness. And the apostle says this may be multiplied to the Christian.
1. Because of the great capacity of his nature. The life imparted in regeneration has almost unlimited possibilities; it is Heaven's germ, from which will be developed the pure and perfect spirit which will gaze on the face of God, and reflect his glory. The believer is joint-heir with Christ; where Christ is, he is to be. Heaven will be a constant advance into the character of God; that is the capacity of spiritual life in the soul, "filled with all the fullness of God."
2. Because God has already given us all things that pertain to life and godliness. The power which God is prepared to manifest towards his people is equal to that which raised Christ from the helplessness of the grave to the supreme dominion of the universe. And in what way, but in giving us all things that pertain to life and godliness? Who can enumerate what is included in that "all things"? We do not always realize that with Christ God has already "freely given us all things." True, he holds them still, but it is on our behalf.
3. Because what we receive is through the Divine glory and virtue. In the Revised Version the third verse reads thus: "He hath called us by his own glory and virtue;" and that is the ground of our hopes, and triumphs over our sense of ill desert. God's glory is his mercy, and it is set free to exercise itself by Christ in the atonement; and he finds there the reason why he should enrich us.
II. THIS INCREASE OF BLESSING DEPENDS ON THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. God does not give us mature spiritual blessings, but rather supplies us with the means of acquiring them. When we can do anything to secure the answer to our prayers, God gives the answer by blessing our own efforts, and, apart from the effort, the answer does not come. He will not give spiritual enrichment to spiritual inaction. In answer to our prayers for grace and peace to be multiplied, God shows us how we may have it.
1. The means of spiritual increase is the knowledge of himself. Scripture invariably makes spiritual good to rest on the knowledge of God. For instance: Security - "They have escaped the corruptions of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." Peace - "Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace." Strength - "The people that do know their God shall be strong." Obedience - "Hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments." Love - "He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is Love." Our Lord Jesus Christ sums it up in one sentence, "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent? But there is a difference between knowing about God, and knowing God, and the difference is vital; the one knowledge is fruitful, the other barren. There is a natural connection between the increase of knowledge and the increase of grace.
2. Knowledge quickens desire. We cannot know God without longing to possess more of him and of what he has to give; and that longing means prayer for more, which will be answered, and effort for more, which will be successful.
3. Knowledge increases faith. Faith being the hand by which we appropriate and so possess. Why do we not take God as our own, with a confidence nothing can shake? To a great extent because we do not know him - how real he is, how vast his love, how infinitely trustworthy his nature. If we only knew more of him, we should hold him in the embrace of a strong, restful assurance.
4. Knowledge tends to participation. Personal acquaintance with God must have incalculable results. We should have a new power constraining us to righteousness. The grace and peace of his own nature would reflect themselves in us.
III. THIS INCREASE OF KNOWLEDGE SHOULD BE THE BELIEVER'S AIM. The difference in spiritual stature comes from different degrees of spiritual knowledge: then how can we know God better?
1. Greater knowledge is granted as the result of obedience. Unless God reveal himself, we cannot know him; and he reveals himself to him who lives in his fear. Sin blinds and deafens us; to do wrong is to put ourselves further from the knowledge of God; to do right is to thin the veil that hides him from us. If you would know him, obey him.
2. Greater knowledge is granted as the fruit of study and fellowship. It is only in face-to-face communion with God, such as is possible through the teaching of his Word, that we can really know him; therein he speaks to us, and in prayer we speak to him.
3. Greater knowledge is granted as the end of Divine discipline. That we may know him is the object of many of our sorrows. Sickness is often God shutting the busy soul up to himself. Trouble is often God showing us how tender a Father he is. Darkness is often God compelling us to look up -
"Darkness revealing worlds of light
I. THE DIVINE GIVER.
1. His boundless power accounts for the plenitude and variety of God's bestowments upon his people. If we speak of him as "the Almighty," when considering his material creation and all its illimitable extent, and its teeming wonders, much more evidently is such an appellation justified when we turn to regard those higher manifestations of creative energy which are furnished in transformations wrought in the individual and the social life of man.
"'Twas great to speak a world from naught, 2. His wonderful generosity. The endowments of the Church arc said to be "granted" or "given." And this must have been so; for they are altogether beyond human acquirement, whilst nothing that man could do could earn such blessings. And when the sinfulness of the whole race of men is considered, the generosity which was expressed in the bestowment of such gifts upon such recipients must be acknowledged to be wonderful indeed. II. THE SPIRITUAL GIFT. There are two parties to every gift, and in order to appreciate it, it is necessary to look at the gift in relation to him who gives and to those who receive. 1. Looked at on their Divine side, these gifts are the fulfillment of "promises precious and exceeding great." It would be absurd and sinful to suppose that what God bestows upon his creatures is flung to them in a momentary and capricious fit of liberality. As a matter of fact, from the earliest periods of human history, from the time of man's "fall," the revelation of God had been one intended to inspire hope of salvation; and the primaeval promise had been renewed, both by language and by symbol, from age to age. These promises might not always be fully understood, clear as they are to us when we read them in the light of their fulfillment. But they were glorious with a glory exceeding any human assurances of help and blessing. And the purport of them all was to reveal a Divine intention to provide spiritual blessings - knowledge, deliverance, and life - for a needy and a sinful race. Great as were the promises, the fulfillment was greater still. A Saviour was promised, and in the fullness of time a Saviour came; the incarnation and advent of Christ were the accomplishment of the predictions and the purposes of eternal wisdom and eternal love. The diffusion of the Spirit throughout a society which needed enlightenment and healing and fertilization was the accomplishment of some of the most striking and poetical prophecies of Old Testament Scripture. 2. Looked at on their human side, these Divine gifts include "all things that pertain unto life and godliness." A marvelously comprehensive description! Spiritual death and ungodliness prevailed in the world. And there was no human means by which their power could be destroyed and the salvation of men secured. But in the fulfillment of the Divine promises, in the mediatorial dispensation, in the coming of the Son of God, and of the Spirit of life and holiness, the amplest provision was made for the highest and immortal welfare of men. We may compare this declaration with the reasoning of Paul, who argues that he who spared not his Son, but gave him up for us all, will with him also freely give us all things. III. THE MEANS BY WHICH THE DIVINE GIFT IS APPRECIATED BY THE HUMAN RECIPIENT. 1. There is a call, a summons, an invitation of God. Very fine, very elevating and encouraging, is St. Peter's representation of the method adopted by Divine wisdom to secure that the gift shall not be lost. It is "by his own glory and virtue" that God calls us to salvation, i.e., by an exhibition of his natural and moral attributes eminently fitted to reveal himself to our hearts, and to produce upon those hearts a deep impression, winning them to faith, devotion, gratitude, and love. The beginning of good must be, and is, a movement on the part of the Almighty Ruler and Saviour. 2. There is a consequent "knowledge" of our redeeming God, which the revelation makes possible to us, furnishing us with an object of knowledge. Such teaching as this is directly opposed to the agnosticism with which so many are content. Our Lord himself, in his intercessory prayer, laid the greatest stress upon the knowledge of himself and of the Father. Doubtless this is a knowledge of a higher kind than is our knowledge of nature; and it is far more powerful to affect the character, to mould the life. Yet it is knowledge which is within the reach of the lowliest and the least cultured. To know God in Christ is life eternal. - J.R.T.
2. His wonderful generosity. The endowments of the Church arc said to be "granted" or "given." And this must have been so; for they are altogether beyond human acquirement, whilst nothing that man could do could earn such blessings. And when the sinfulness of the whole race of men is considered, the generosity which was expressed in the bestowment of such gifts upon such recipients must be acknowledged to be wonderful indeed.
II. THE SPIRITUAL GIFT. There are two parties to every gift, and in order to appreciate it, it is necessary to look at the gift in relation to him who gives and to those who receive.
1. Looked at on their Divine side, these gifts are the fulfillment of "promises precious and exceeding great." It would be absurd and sinful to suppose that what God bestows upon his creatures is flung to them in a momentary and capricious fit of liberality. As a matter of fact, from the earliest periods of human history, from the time of man's "fall," the revelation of God had been one intended to inspire hope of salvation; and the primaeval promise had been renewed, both by language and by symbol, from age to age. These promises might not always be fully understood, clear as they are to us when we read them in the light of their fulfillment. But they were glorious with a glory exceeding any human assurances of help and blessing. And the purport of them all was to reveal a Divine intention to provide spiritual blessings - knowledge, deliverance, and life - for a needy and a sinful race. Great as were the promises, the fulfillment was greater still. A Saviour was promised, and in the fullness of time a Saviour came; the incarnation and advent of Christ were the accomplishment of the predictions and the purposes of eternal wisdom and eternal love. The diffusion of the Spirit throughout a society which needed enlightenment and healing and fertilization was the accomplishment of some of the most striking and poetical prophecies of Old Testament Scripture.
2. Looked at on their human side, these Divine gifts include "all things that pertain unto life and godliness." A marvelously comprehensive description! Spiritual death and ungodliness prevailed in the world. And there was no human means by which their power could be destroyed and the salvation of men secured. But in the fulfillment of the Divine promises, in the mediatorial dispensation, in the coming of the Son of God, and of the Spirit of life and holiness, the amplest provision was made for the highest and immortal welfare of men. We may compare this declaration with the reasoning of Paul, who argues that he who spared not his Son, but gave him up for us all, will with him also freely give us all things.
III. THE MEANS BY WHICH THE DIVINE GIFT IS APPRECIATED BY THE HUMAN RECIPIENT.
1. There is a call, a summons, an invitation of God. Very fine, very elevating and encouraging, is St. Peter's representation of the method adopted by Divine wisdom to secure that the gift shall not be lost. It is "by his own glory and virtue" that God calls us to salvation, i.e., by an exhibition of his natural and moral attributes eminently fitted to reveal himself to our hearts, and to produce upon those hearts a deep impression, winning them to faith, devotion, gratitude, and love. The beginning of good must be, and is, a movement on the part of the Almighty Ruler and Saviour.
2. There is a consequent "knowledge" of our redeeming God, which the revelation makes possible to us, furnishing us with an object of knowledge. Such teaching as this is directly opposed to the agnosticism with which so many are content. Our Lord himself, in his intercessory prayer, laid the greatest stress upon the knowledge of himself and of the Father. Doubtless this is a knowledge of a higher kind than is our knowledge of nature; and it is far more powerful to affect the character, to mould the life. Yet it is knowledge which is within the reach of the lowliest and the least cultured. To know God in Christ is life eternal. - J.R.T.
I. GOD HAS GIVEN ALL THINGS NECESSARY for soul-salvation. Note:
1. The idea of soul-salvation. "Life and godliness." Observe the order. Vitality, then external piety.
2. The means of soul-salvation.
(1) Many: "all things." So that first there is no room for excuse; second, the "all" of God challenges the "all" of man.
(2) Divinely bestowed. "By his Divine power." What a use of infinite power - to save!
II. God calls the soul TO A KNOWLEDGE OF HIMSELF as the beginning of soul-salvation. The "all things" come to us:
1. Through the call of God. God is the great Caller. Whence? To what? How?
2. Through knowing him who calls us. Not knowing about him, but directly knowing him. Probably Peter again has a reminiscence of the Last Supper: "This is life eternal, to know thee."
III. God's call comes to souls BY THE REVELATION OF HIMSELF. "Called by his own glory and virtue." "Glory," majesty: what he is. "Virtue," energy: what he does. Both combined give the full revelation of God.
IV. God's call comes to souls WITH INSPIRING PROMISES. "Precious." Note Peter's frequent word, meaning rare, prized. "Exceeding great."
1. In their origin. The voice that rolls the stars along
2. In their substance.
3. In the multitudes to whom they are addressed.
V. God's PURPOSE in soul-salvation is the HIGHEST we can conceive of. There is a twofold end.
1. "Escape the corruption that is in the world."
(1) "Corruption," deadly evil;
(2) "in the world," near, mighty;
(3) "through lust." No evil can harm except through our own evil desires.
2. The other and higher end, nobler than the negative one just mentioned, is "become par. takers of the Divine nature;" i.e., share in the very righteousness of God. Not mere forgiveness of sins, not mere remission of penalty, not safety from external perils, but the blessed and holy purpose of God's love accomplished in our restoration to the Divine image. - U.R.T.
I. FOUNDATION OF EXHORTATION.
1. Grant. "Seeing that his Divine power hath granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness." The grant has reference to life and godliness. The first of these words is to be understood of healthful condition; the other is to be understood of that supreme regard to God, on which healthful condition depends. The grant is not of life and godliness, but of all things that pertain unto life and godliness, by which we are to understand the gracious influences that have been liberated by Christ - the Holy Spirit in his manifold gifts, the benefit of Christian institutions. Who is to be thought of as the Granter here? The nearer reference is to Jesus our Lord, and it is not superfluous to say of him, as it would be to say of God, that it was his Divine power that made the grant. It was the Divine power of him who afterward became man that was exercised when man was created and was then granted all that was necessary for securing life by godly conduct. The requirements were greater when man fell. Jesus bore what man as involved in sin deserved, so as to be constituted our Lord with Divine power to grant unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness. When he has such power to grant, nothing can be wanting of what is needed for our spiritual prosperity and the production of a godly type of character.
2. Communication of the grant.
(1) Knowledge. "Through the knowledge of him that called us by his own glory and virtue." This is the second introduction of knowledge in the intensive sense. It is here regarded as the channel through which are communicated to us "all things that pertain unto life and godliness." Thus it is that knowledge is power. To know God is to have a way of being supplied with all that we need. It is to have an inexhaustible fountain of blessing. It is to feel the quickening and transforming power of his perfections. But it will be noticed that it is the knowledge of God under a particular aspect, viz. of him that called us. Weiss says, "appointed us to the consummation of salvation ;" but this is brought into view afterwards. Here it is what in God causes our calling. For "called us to glory and virtue" is a great blunder: it is "called us by glory and virtue," i.e., these in God. It was a desire to manifest himself, or a regard for his own glory, that led him to call us. That is the first declaration of the cause; the second declaration is that it was his virtue or moral excellence, on which his glory in calling us rests. It is the same word which is used in the plural in 1 Peter 2:9, translated "excellences." The singular here points us to the sum of all that is excellent in God, of which there comes to be glorious manifestation. "Praise him," says the writer of the hundred and fiftieth psalm, "according to his excellent greatness." It was the transcendent character of his excellence, for which it becomes us to praise him, that led to his calling such as we were. Archangelic excellence would have passed us by; but there was an excellence in God far above all created excellence that led to his making use of the vilest materials.
(2) The reflection of God in the promises. "Whereby he hath granted unto us his precious and exceeding great promises." It is through knowledge that the grant is communicated to us; it is well to have the grant also in definite written form, which we have in the promises. These promises are characterized as precious, which characterization more naturally comes first, as in the Revised Version. They contain all that we need of light for our minds, of solace for our hearts, of strength for our wills, of stimulus for our desires. They are not only precious, but exceeding great, i.e., precious in the superlative degree. It is in Ephesians that we are directed to God as "able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." God has promised to open the windows of heaven, and pour us out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it. But let it be noticed that there is given an explanation of the promises being exceeding great in their preciousness. It is because they are granted by God's glory and virtue. They are, therefore, to be regarded as the reflection of what he is. They express all that he would bestow upon us - how, with his fullness, he would fill our emptiness, with his riches our poverty.
(3) Aim of the promises.
(a) Positively. "That through these ye may become partakers of the Divine nature." The teaching here is not with regard to our God-like constitution ("For we are also his offspring"), but with regard to what with our God-like constitution we may become. The language employed is strong and peculiarly attractive to some minds. We are not to think of deification, or absorption into God. But let us form no mean conception of what, encouraged by the promises, we may become. By the nature of God we understand those qualities which exist in him in an infinite degree. We are to become, in the last result, partakers of the Divine nature; i.e., we are to have the same qualities up to our measure. Even now we can think the same thoughts, be thrilled with the same joy. "God becomes a real Being to us in proportion as his own nature is unfolded within us. True religion desires and seeks supremely the assimilation of the mind to God, or the perpetual unfolding and enlarging of those powers and virtues by which it is constituted his glorious image. The mind, in proportion as it is enlightened and penetrated by true religion, thirsts and labours for a God-like elevation. Let it not be inferred that we place religion in unnatural effort, in straining after excitements which do not belong to the present state, or in anything separate from the clear and simple duties of life" (Channing).
(b) Negatively. "Having escaped from the corruption that is in the world by lust." In the world we do not find that healthful action, those attractive forms, which God intended for society; we have instead diseased action, forms from which we are repelled. This corruption is in the world by lust, i.e., the prevalence of the lower over the higher principles of our nature. Where there is the inversion of the Divine order, society must go to corruption. From this corruption we have not entirely escaped, inasmuch as lust is not entirely subdued in us; but with our becoming in the last result partakers of the Divine nature, it will be our privilege to have escaped for ever from the blighting, putrefying influences that prevail in the world.
II. EXHORTATION TO CULTIVATION OF THE CHRISTIAN VIRTUES.
1. Condition of development. "Yea, and for this very cause adding on your part all diligence." There is a great improvement in the translation here. One idea which is brought out is that what we are to do is to be in answer to the Divine doing. Christ does his part in granting all things that pertain unto life and godliness, and through the knowledge of God, who promises all that is needful for our being partakers of the Divine nature; we are to bring in by the side of, i.e., contribute our part. It is also distinctly brought out that the Divine doing is no reason for our doing nothing, but the very opposite - a reason for our doing. What we have to contribute on our side is diligence, i.e., in connection with opportunities for the exercise of the Christian virtues which are to be named. This is only in accordance with analogy. God supplies the qualities of the soil and the heavenly influences; and the farmer supplies diligence. Because God sends the sunshine and the rain, man is to be up and doing, not allowing his opportunity to slip by; so because Christ is so liberal in granting, because the promises are precious in the superlative degree, for that very reason we are to bestir ourselves.
2. Order of development from faith.
(1) Virtue. "In your faith supply virtue." The faith is here regarded as already present. If we have not yet believed, what we have got to do is to cooperate with God in believing. "This is the work of God [required by God], that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." Faith is here specially to be thought of as the laying hold on the Divine power in Christ that grants, or the laying hold on the Divine promises. "Be not afraid, only believe," Christ said; that saying, however, is not to be pressed to mean that faith, undeveloped, is everything. We are here taught that faith is only the root, and it must be carried out into its proper development. There are seven virtues needed to make it complete; and there is a certain order in which they follow each other. The connection is closer than is brought out by the "add to" of the old translation. The proper connecting, words are "supply in," the idea being, in each case, of that which goes before being incomplete, unless there is supplied in it as its complement that which follows after. Beginning with faith, we have to supply in our faith virtue, which is to be understood in the special sense of moral energy, or "a strenuous tone and vigour of mind." Faith is leaning on God, or allowing God to work. When there is only that side of things, there is the quietism to which Madame Guyon gives expression, "I can no longer will anything." To quiet leaning on God, passivity under the working of God, there is necessary, as its complement, personal force.
(2) Knowledge. "And in your virtue knowledge." Let us suppose that we have supplied in our faith personal force: is that enough? Where there is a stopping at this, there is a zealotism, the expression of which is," Let us be on fire: let us only be forcible." But in forcibleness there must be supplied, as its necessary complement, knowledge. There is a different word here from what was formerly used. The idea is that there must be enlightened judgment - an apprehension in every moment of what is the right application of the force.
(3) Temperance. "And in your knowledge temperance." Let us suppose that we have supplied in our force knowledge: is that enough? Where there is a stopping at this, there is scientism, the expression of which is, "Let us have abundance of light; let us not be imposed on; let us know the right way of things." But in this knowledge there must be supplied, as its necessary complement, temperance, i.e., the subjection of our appetites, desires, affections, tempers, to knowledge, which is very difficult, seeing that we are strongly tempted from within to be guided, not by what we know, but by what is pleasing to us.
(4) Patience. "And in your temperance patience." Let us suppose that we have supplied in our knowledge self-restraint: is that enough? Where there is a stopping at this, there is a rigorism, of which the expression is, "Let us abstain; let us mortify self." But in this self-restraint there must be supplied, as its necessary complement, patience, which is a sustaining by self, or putting one's shoulder under the burdens, and especially the hardships of life.
(5) Godliness. "And in your patience godliness." Let us suppose that we have supplied in our self-restraint patience: is that enough? Where there is a stopping at this, there is a stoicism, of which the expression is, "Let us be insensible to pain; let us be heedless of difficulties." But in this patience there must be supplied, as its necessary complement, godliness, or a God-regarding, especially God-fearing, disposition, without which there cannot be subduedness, sweetness, or stay, in patience.
(6) Love of the brethren. "And in your godliness love of the brethren." Let us suppose that we have supplied in our patience godliness: is that enough? Where there is a stopping at this, there is a one-sided religiousness, of which the expression is, "Let us pray; let us attend conscientiously on the public means of grace." But in this godliness there must be supplied, as its necessary complement, love of the brethren, i.e., of those who are our brethren in Christ. "For he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" (1 John 4:20); "And every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him "(1 John 5:1).
(7) Love. "And in your love of the brethren love." Let us suppose that we have supplied in our godliness love of the brethren: is that enough? Where there is a stopping at this, there is a narrow-heartedness, of which the expression is, "Let us make the Christian circle our home; let us choose the society of those who have the same thoughts and the same hopes." But in this love of the brethren there must be supplied love or philanthropy - love for all that bear the Divine image and for whom Christ died.
3. Importance of development with reference to knowledge.
(1) Positively. "For if these things are yours and abound, they make you to be not idle nor unfruitful unto the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." By "these things" we are to understand the seven virtues which are to be supplied in faith. These are regarded as actually subsisting in us or belonging to us. There is a difference between their thus being in us and their abounding in us. There is a difference between an infant's finding of strength and the consciousness of a giant's strength. There is a difference between a rudimentary knowledge and a knowledge that can be effectually applied to every question of duty that comes up. There is a difference between the mastery of a single appetite and the full mastery of all our appetencies and tempers. There is a difference between a patience that is untried and a patience that can stand the severest test. There is a difference between a sense of the Being of God and the deepest awe in the realization of his perfections. There is a difference between a sense of brotherhood in Christ and the full flood of Christian brotherliness. There is a difference between an interest in a single case of reclamation and a large-hearted philanthropy. Given, then, that these virtues are not merely in us, but abound, they make us, literally, put us in a position, to be not idle nor unfruitful. If there are certain elements in a tree, they make it to be not idle; i.e., it discharges its functions, it puts forth fresh shoots and leaves and blossoms. And making it not idle, they also make it not unfruitful; i.e., in due season it is laden with fruit. So if these virtues are in us, and in abundant measure, they make us to be not idle; i.e., we do in the right manner. And making us not idle, they also make us not unfruitful; i.e., there are good results. The goal toward which we are to be fruitful is the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is not the knowledge that is mentioned as one of the seven virtues, but the mature knowledge that has been twice mentioned. It has been regarded as the means; now it is regarded as the end. Showing diligence in the practice of the seven virtues, we are to come to a rich appreciative knowledge of Jesus Christ (who interprets God to us). Paul takes our aim to be the being able "to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge." Peter brings into view the knowledge of Jesus Christ as our Lord, i.e., able in his surpassing power to accomplish all things for us.
(2) Negatively. "For he that lacketh these things is blind, seeing only what is near, having forgotten the cleansing from his old sins." We are to practice the virtues; for there is a great disadvantage in lacking them. The lacking here is not merely the not having them in abundance, but the not having them at all. James says that "faith without works is dead." Peter says here that "he who has not supplied the seven virtues in his faith, instead of appreciating Christ, he is blind," i.e., to his real worth. His idea of blindness he brings to this focus - that he is shortsighted. The word is taken from a certain contracting of the eyelids in order to see. He sees what is near, but does not see what is far off. The things of this world bulk largely in his eyes; the distant realities of the eternal world do not come within his vision. The explanation of this kind of blindness is his having lapsed. There was a time when he was baptized. Then he was regarded as cleansed from his old sins; and did not that seem to indicate a certain appreciation of Christ? But having forgotten his cleansing, Christ has not worth in his eyes.
III. RESUMPTION OF EXHORTATION.
1. Condition restated. "Wherefore, brethren, give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure." This is the only use of the address "brethren" in the Epistles of Peter. It indicates greater closeness and urgency in his exhortation. He proceeds in "wherefore the more" on the advantage of having the seven virtues in abundance, and the disadvantage of lacking them. What he exhorts them to is increased diligence. The tense used points to their making this diligence a lifelong thing. They were to give diligence with regard to their calling and election, i.e., by God into his kingdom, the latter word referring to the actual separation of the called from the world. This calling and election, looked at from the lower side, was a matter of uncertainty; they are exhorted to make it a matter of certainty to allow no doubt to rest on their interest in Christ and title to the kingdom. It is not said how they are to make their calling and election sure; but the very want of specification points to what was formerly specified, viz. the practice of the seven virtues; and this is confirmed by what follows.
(1) Negatively. "For if ye do these things, ye shall never stumble." In "for" there is a falling back on the condition. "Doing these things" may refer to making their calling and election sure; but it is to it as a multiform act, viz. as covering the practice or the seven virtues. If they did these things with due diligence, they would never make such a stumble as would prevent their entrance into the kingdom.
(2) Positively. "For thus shall be richly supplied unto you the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." It is here that there comes into view the full scope of the condition laid down. It is a condition upon which their interest in a kingdom depends. It is no mean kingdom; for it is the kingdom presided over by their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The kingdom of Christ is essentially the same in the present and in the future; but in its present outward conditions it is to come to an end, in its future conditions it is to be eternal. It is the entrance into the eternal kingdom that is here promised. Coming to a kingdom is usually celebrated; so the entrance here must be regarded as a glorious event. This entrance is a gift; and yet it corresponds to previous diligence. This is strikingly brought out in the form of the language. To those who have supplied the seven virtues in their faith it is promised that there shall be supplied unto them this glorious entrance. But stress is laid upon the kind of entrance. There is a difference between reaping sparingly and reaping bountifully. There is a difference between a righteous man's reward and a prophet's reward. There is a difference between being saved as by fire, and being saved with a golden reward or a silver reward or a reward to be compared to precious stones. So there is a difference between a bare entrance and an entrance that is richly supplied. The richly supplied entrance is only for those who have in the highest degree been diligent in the practice of the seven virtues. Let this highest prize be the object of our ambition. Let us not be content with a bare entrance; let us, by increased diligence, enrich the entrance that we are to have. - R.F.
I. THE RESPECTS IN WHICH MAN MAY SHARE THE NATURE OF GOD.
1. This partaking is not in the natural attributes of Deity, such as omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience, which are incommunicable.
2. But in the moral attributes. Of these may be especially mentioned holiness, or the disposition and habit of loving and doing all things that are just and pure; and love, or the disposition and habit of seeking the true and highest well-being of all whom it is possible to benefit. It is a proof of the elevated conception of God which Christianity has introduced into the world, that these Divine attributes should occur to the mind as those most worthy of our admiration and imitation. And Christians must feel at once that, if these are wanting to the character, it is out of the question to pretend to trace assimilation to the nature of our holy and loving God.
II. THE CONSTITUTION IN VIRTUE OF WHICH MAN MAY SHARE THE NATURE OF GOD,
1. The human constitution is in complete contrast with that of the inferior animals, which may in their life carry out the purposes of God, but can only do this blindly and unintelligently. It is, says Kant, the prerogative of an intelligent being to act, not merely according to law, but according to the representation of law; i.e., to conceive, adopt, and voluntarily obey, the law.
2. Thus it is that man is endowed with a nature capable, through God's mercy, of acquiring the moral nature of his Divine Maker and Lord. Constituted as he is, fashioned in the likeness of God (however that likeness has been marred by sin), man can, under heavenly influences, perceive the excellence of the moral attributes of his God, can admire and can aspire to them, can resolve and endeavour to participate in and acquire them.
III. THE PROVISION MADE WHEREBY THIS POSSIBILITY MAY BECOME ACTUAL. It is not to be supposed that, merely by aspiring, a man can share the nature of God, any more than by merely desiring to fly he can raise himself into the air and cleave it as with wings. An interposition of a supernatural character is necessary.
1. A condition and means by which this end may be secured is deliverance by the redemption of Christ from the corruption of the world. There is no harmony between the lusts of the world and the flesh, and the life of God. The Redeemer came in order to set men free from the power which debases and degrades - in order, as St. Peter says in the context, to enable men to escape from the corruption that is in the world by lust. And experience has shown that the mediatorial grace of Christ is able to effect what do human power can bring to pass.
2. The renewal and purification which are the work of the Holy Spirit of God are the moral power by which the participation in question is actually accomplished. He brings the life of the Eternal into our human nature, and pours that life through the whole being of the believing and grateful disciple of Christ, so that he becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus.
IV. THE GLORIOUS RESULTS OF PARTICIPATION IN THE DIVINE NATURE.
1. A Divine nature involves a Divine life. This is not a merely sentimental, or even a merely mystical and transcendental, change; on the contrary, it is a change actual, discernible, and progressive; a change by which its Divine Author is glorified.
2. A Divine nature involves an immortal life of blessedness. To live in God is to live in the fullness of joy, and to live thus for ever. - J.R.T.
I. THE GREATNESS AND PRECIOUSNESS OF THE WORD OF PROMISE. Three facts determine the worth of promises - the value of the thing promised; the character of the promiser; and the conditions attached to it. And when we apply these to Scripture, and find that its assurances are of wonderful blessing, given by One who cannot fail, and that they require on our part only what the feeblest can fulfill, we understand well why the apostle calls them "exceeding great and precious promises."
1. The gift promised. Scripture does not so much contain promises; it is rather one great promise, God's Word of promise, Christ being the Gift promised. We shall never understand the promises by taking a text here and a text there, but only by pondering the whole volume as the revelation of Jesus; only thus can we have a true idea of the height, and depth, and length, and breadth of what God assures us of in his beloved Son. Look at him in any aspect, and, like the glittering facets of a precious stone, promises gleam on us from him at every point.
(1) Think, for instance, of the glory of his Person. The goodness, the grace, the majesty, the tenderness, the truth, embodied in him; and if he is ours (as he is), this alone is full of promise.
(2) The revelation of God which he is. He shows us God, so holy that he cannot pass by sin without atonement, though that atonement involved the sacrifice of himself. He shows us too the heart of God, telling us, when we pray, to say, "Our Father." Why, that one sentence involves the promise of all we need, all that God can give.
(3) The greatness of his work. He undertakes to be our Saviour in the threefold capacity of Prophet, Priest, and King; and his undertaking these functions is the assurance that he will fulfill them.
(4) The declaration of his will. Every purpose of Christ is a promise; it is Christ saying, "I will." And so also every command carries a promise of all grace needed for obedience to it.
(5) The. closeness of his relationship with his people. He, their Life and Head, and so having nothing which they shall not share.
2. The character of the Promiser. Each of God's promises is the expression of his loving-kindness to sinful men, and if his mercy could not rest till he had given them, it cannot rest till he has fulfilled them; going on giving, and giving, and giving, till his beloved can receive no more.
(1) He is unchanging. "I, the Lord, change not."
(2) He is able to fulfill his will. Omnipotence is behind each promise. "What he hath promised he is able also to perform."
(3) In every promise his honour is pledged. "It is impossible for God to lie." "He is faithful that hath promised." Read the promises, then, and scatter doubt by asking, "Hath he spoken, and shall he not do it?"
3. The conditions attached to the promise. The only conditions are - conscious need of the thing promised, and trust that for the Promiser's own sake it will be given. Need and trust are our capacity for receiving.
II. THE SANCTIFYING POWER OF THE PROMISES. The promises deliver us from the world's corruption, and work in us the image of God. Sanctification is something "put off" and something "put on." The "old man" is "put off," and the "new man" is "put on;" and this is said here to be effected by the promises, or by the Word of promise.
1. The Word of promise conveys the knowledge of what we may have. From the heights Of this sacred book all things lie beneath us, stretching away like a vast landscape into the dim horizon beyond which human sight cannot follow; and as we hear a voice saying, "All things are yours," surely nothing can deliver us from the bondage of the world as that can. One affection is only destroyed by another. Let the soul consciously possess better, and, depend upon it, it will turn away from the best that this world can give.
2. The Word of promise imparts the faith by which we receive from God. "Partakers of the Divine nature." Of how much of it? Of so much as exhausts the promise. "That ye might be filled unto all the fullness of God." Why, then, do we not receive it in that measure? Because God can only give according to the measure of our faith. Now, faith depends on the promises, it feeds on them, and thereby the soul's capacity to receive increases.
3. The Word of promise inspires the strength by which we conquer Satan. His effort is to make us doubt; that was his aim with Christ. He would take us back to the old bondage, and weaken the faith which holds us to God. Have we not often felt how doubt closes the heart to the incoming of the Divine nature? we can fight no more, but are led easy captives. Satan can deprive us of all, if he can only get us to doubt. Now, against that assault the promises are our refuge. God is in them; they are the utterances of his lips, the purpose of his heart; his resources and perfections are pledged to their fulfillment; there is perfect safety in trusting them; by them we can defy Satan and the powers of darkness. Between the bondage of corruption and the liberty of participation in the Divine nature is the Divine promise. Trust it, tread it without a fear; it will not give way beneath you, the adversary cannot follow you there, and on the other side is the beginning of heaven. - C.N.
I. WE HAVE HERE AN ENUMERATION OF CERTAIN GRACES OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. It begins with "faith" and ends with "love," and between these are two or three words which need attention. Next to "faith," "virtue" is mentioned; but "virtue" includes the whole group of graces, whereas Peter is thinking of something distinct. The classical meaning of the word is "manliness" - courage; so if we paraphrase it thus, we shall probably have the right idea. So with "knowledge," which is a different word to that rendered "knowledge" in the eighth verse, and here refers to "practical knowledge" or "prudence." "Temperance" is literally "self-control," and "godly reverence" is the idea in the word "godliness." "Faith, courage, prudence, self-control, patience, godly reverence, love of the brethren, love," - that is the list.
1. These are all subsequent to faith. Faith is supposed. The Epistle is addressed to those who "have obtained like precious faith through the righteousness of God and our Saviour;" and these excellences come after faith, and in the Christian have a character of their own, which nature cannot produce, and are, indeed, as much above nature as Jesus was above the sons of men.
3. Many try to be holy without saving faith; it is a useless effort; only from faith can those spiritual graces spring whose crown is love to all.
2. Every grace needs to be supplemented by another. No grace can stand alone; the text seems to urge that. The word "add" is the same as in the eleventh verse, where it is translated "minister." Each grace needs to be ministered to by another. There is not one which, if it be alone, will not speedily become an evil. One grace is to wait on, to supplement, to protect, to perfect another. For instance, to faith ministers courage - courage to confess the Christ believed in; to courage ministers prudence, for if courage be not discreet, it is destructive. Beware of being men of one grace.
3. The believer is not to be contented till he has acquired all the graces. What a list this is! The leading features of a perfect character; and Scripture gives a plain command to the Christian to acquire these. And nothing can be more assuring than this command, for God does not call us to impossibilities; and he is prepared to supply what is needed for its attainment.
II. WE HAVE HERE A DEMAND FOR DILIGENCE TO POSSESS THESE GRACES. Diligence is the burden of the passage: "Giving all diligence, add;" and in the tenth verse, "Give diligence."
1. Diligence implies that spiritual increase requires personal effort. Speedy and spontaneous sanctification is what we should prefer, but that idea is not encouraged in Scripture. It is true growth is the law of life - life naturally increases to maturity, as Peter says, "Grow in grace;" but he also says, "Giving all diligence, add." If we cherish the idea that sanctification is given immediately, as pardon is given, by one surrender of the will, as it is said, this passage ought to disabuse us; it clearly affirms that sanctification is progressive, and demands constant endeavour.
2. Diligence is encouraged by the fact that God hath given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness. The previous verses are, "His Divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness... whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises," etc.; when the next clause reads, "And for this very cause "(as the Revised Version has it), "giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue," and so on, we see what lies behind the diligence, what spurs it on, what sustains it. Sanctification is not human work, as it is sometimes supposed to be, when the need of effort is enforced, as though, redeemed by Christ, we have to sanctify ourselves - it is of God; yet it is through us, into our effort he will inspire his own Divine and victorious energy.
3. Diligence also involves that the increase of Christian graces comes from the personal culture of each. If the text were not in Scripture, but simply part of a sermon, it would be said to be mechanical and formal. It is to be feared the prominent features of our Christian character are often merely the result of natural disposition, or early training, or of circumstances beyond our control. Now, this passage claims that we do not leave it to accident what graces we shall have; it lays down a list of what is required of us, and bids us give all diligence to culture each. This is a discriminating, hourly, lifelong work.
III. WE HAVE HERE STRONG REASONS FOR THE PUTTING FORTH OF THIS DILIGENCE. Three reasons urged from the eighth verse to the eleventh, and they refer to past, present, and future.
1. The graces (which are the result of diligence) are the necessary means to spiritual wealth. The particular meaning in the eighth verse of the word "in" - "in the knowledge" - is shown in the Revised Version, where it reads, "unto the knowledge," and thus throws great light on the expression. The graces which come from a knowledge of Christ lead to a still greater knowledge of him - that is it. All the care we give to the culture of Christian graces leads, not only to the wealth of possessing them, but to the greater wealth of knowing Christ better.
2. The graces (which are the result of diligence) are the least that can be expected from one who is purged from his old sins. "He that lacketh these things is blind.... having forgotten that he hath been delivered from his old sins." That takes us back to the cross. It pleads our obligation to Christ, who laid down his life that we might be holy. The assurance of pardoned sin is the strongest stimulus to piety.
3. These graces are the only ground of assurance of entrance into heaven. Without them we may well doubt our election of God. Where calling and election are sure, ye shall never fall; but how can we be sure that we are among the called? Only by the fact that that to which they are called is being wrought in us. If we have a title to heaven, the spirit of heaven is already begun. - C.N.
I. True Christian character CONSISTS OF MANIFOLD ELEMENTS. Here is a chain no link of which may be omitted, a structure no stone in which may be lacking, a body no member of which may be wanting.
1. Whether the general order is to be insisted on or not, it is certain that faith is the primary essential of the whole character. It is the root out of which all grows, the foundation on which all rests. To aim at the rest first, and this afterwards, is to stand a pyramid on its apex instead of its base. Belief is great, is life-giving.
2. Each of the other elements of character demands careful contemplation. "Virtue," - manly vigour, making it impossible for the charge to be sustained that the devotional man is not necessarily a virtuous man. It is an element of character that will save a man from being a chameleon, catching the hue of every surrounding, or a moral mollusk with no backbone. "Knowledge," - discernment, intelligence. "Thou shalt love... with thy... mind." "Temperance," - all self-restraint; as Jeremy Taylor says, "reason's girdle as well as passion's bridle: "Patience," - the silver side of the shield whose iron side is temperance, - endurance, meekness, continuance in well-doing. "Godliness," - not the whole of piety, but fellowship with God, walking with God, being the "friend of God." "Brotherly kindness," - the duty of equals to equals - simple, constant kindness. "Charity," - better the great king-word, the dear home-word, "love;" the sunshine on the whole landscape of character, the Shechinah in the temple of character.
II. THE CULTIVATION of these manifold elements of character is AN URGENT CHRISTIAN DUTY. "Giving all diligence... add," etc.
1. They will not come as a matter of course.
2. They may be attained.
3. The methods of attaining them.
(1) Study of models.
(3) Fellowship with those that possess them, especially with the Christ. - U.R.T.
I. SPIRITUAL VISION. Such a character leads "unto the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ." They that do the will shall know the doctrine. For what is promised here is:
1. "Full knowledge." That is the key-word of the apostle.
2. And full knowledge of the Supreme Object, the Lord Jesus Christ. Often we think if we knew more we should do better; here the teaching is, if we did better we should know more. Obedience is the organ of spiritual vision. "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." All else are "blind."
II. MORAL FOOTHOLD. "Give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure." Two aspects of the same fact - choice, and the result of choice. "Make sure," - warrant, prove. "Never stumble." Peter had stumbled. Hence the pathos of his counsel. The near-sighted stumble. The moral vision depends on moral character.
III. SATISFACTION OF SOUL. This is the culmination and crown of Christian character. A life of Christian earnestness tends to, and ends in, this. "Entrance into the eternal kingdom." We are encompassed completely with its order, its beauty, its safety. "Richly supplied unto you" - a word that throws us back on the earlier word of exhortation. "Richly supply" Christian graces in your character, and God will "richly supply" Christian glories in your destiny. Your virtues must go out in a kind of festal procession, then your true glories will come to you in a kind of festal procession also. - U.R.T.
I. THE SUPREME IMPORTANCE OF BEING ESTABLISHED IN DIVINE TRUTH. There are certain fundamental facts which are essential to salvation, and essential to the understanding of the rest; certain great doors, so to speak, without passing through which it is not possible to thread the winding corridors within, and gaze upon the glory of the inner shrine. I understand it to be these whose constant remembrance is here enforced. Earnest research after truth is part of the honour due to the God of truth. It were an error to confine ourselves to one set of truths, and still more to any one aspect of them; yet there are some which are the key-note to the others, and the main channels through which life flows to the believer, and we must be established in them, and we must endeavour to "have these things always in remembrance." "These things are written that we may know;" and not to know them intelligently were fatal, if not to salvation, at least to spiritual peace and strength and hope.
II. THE SAINT'S RESPONSIBILITY FOR THIS WITH REGARD TO THOSE HE LOVES.
1. The apostle recognizes that human teaching is a Divine agency. God can dispense with human teaching. His Spirit accompanies his Word; though there may be no instrumentality, that Word may be "the power of God unto salvation." But none the less has he made it incumbent on those who know the truth to teach it. Think of this in connection with parental teaching. On parents the primary obligation of teaching their children rests; let them do it day by day, patiently, systematically, prayerfully instructing them in those things which it most concerns them to know.
2. The apostle recognizes that this must be continued so long as opportunity lasts. "Ye know these things, and are established in the truth," he says, and yet he will not be negligent to put them always in remembrance; he knows that it is not so much the knowledge as the recollection of truth that is operative. We think that because we know the truth we can dispense with the study of it. That is a great error, and full of evil. It is not the truths that are stored away in the memory which serve us in the battle of life, but those which can be grasped in a moment; they are they which operate on our spirituality and become ceaseless means of grace. That is why we need to study Scripture day by day, if not that we may know it, at least that we may remember it. And if this be true of us, how much more is it true of those we teach - the children! We must sow the same ground again and again if we would reap a harvest.
3. The apostle recognizes that the teaching may abide when the teacher has gone. For the Word is "incorruptible;" the seed we sow has life in itself; and, so far from being dismayed when it springs not up at once, we should remember it is said, "That which thou sowest is not quickened except it die;" that "the harvest is the end of the world;" and that, though when we pass hence there is still no life in the hard soil, there is time for us to witness, from another shore, first the blade, then the car, and then the full corn in the car. Life's work continues after life, to many generations; we never know for whom or for what we work. Temptations are resisted today, and crises passed, and sorrows borne, through the power of principles enforced long years before by those who arc now employed in higher spheres. "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them." Many of us can say, "Amen." May those who come when we are gone, as they hear these words, think of us, and say, "Amen." And that they may, let us say with Peter - We will endeavour that they may be able after our decease to have these things always in remembrance. "We will endeavour;" yes, we can only endeavour. Paul plants, and Apollos waters, but God must give the increase.
III. THIS RESPONSIBILITY INTENSIFIED BY THE SHORTNESS OF ITS OPPORTUNITY. I will not be negligent... knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me.
1. We cannot look calmly at death unless we have a sense of fidelity with regard to this. Calmness in the prospect of death can only be enjoyed by those who (like Peter, faithful to the end) are conscious that to their utmost they have been faithful to the opportunities of life. The evening of our days will be distressing (Christians though we be) unless we can look up and say (though the work seems poor indeed, and perhaps a failure), "O Father, I have glorified thee on the earth, I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." But we may not even reckon on an evening to our days; our sun may go down while it is yet noon.
2. Immediate fidelity is demanded, in that death-bed exhortations may be impossible. "Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle," should rather read, "knowing that swiftly - by a sharp, quick stroke." Then what he does he will do quickly. If some of us knew what Christ might tell us, we should find that we also are to die thus swiftly. Have we done our work? Have we pleaded with those we love? Have we taught the children the great things of God's Word? Have we lived remembering that "there is no work, nor device, in the grave whither" we arc going? - C.N.
I. AN AIM FOR THE HIGHEST GOOD OF OTHERS. Peter is desiring that "these things" should be remembered by others for their benefit and blessing. "These things" probably comprehend not only all the exhortations and promises the letter had already contained, but the great facts in the great biography to which ever and again, with the vividness of an eye-witness, Peter had referred.
II. An aim for the highest good of others AFTER HIS OWN DEATH. He would not simply be of service to those among whom he lived, whilst he was with them, but to them after he had lee this world, and to the generations afterward. All must exert posthumous influence; the true disciple of Christ cares intensely that that posthumous influence shall tell for good, and for good only.
III. An aim PURSUED WITH ALL THE MORE INTENSITY BECAUSE OF APPROACHING DEATH.
1. Peter felt death was near. The cords and skins of "the tabernacle" were loosening and shaking.
2. He had had a prediction from his Master about his death: "Another shall gird thee," etc. All this stimulated his eager zeal to do the most he could while he lived. - U.R.T.
I. THE TIME OF PUTTING IN MIND.
1. Putting in mind as long as he was in this tabernacle. "Wherefore I shall be ready always to put you in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and are established in the truth which is with you. And I think it right, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; knowing that the putting off of my tabernacle cometh swiftly, even as our Lord Jesus Christ signified unto me." Because of the importance of the things dealt with in the previous verses, Peter declares that he would be ready always, i.e., would take every opportunity, to put them in mind of them. "In matters of such importance reminders can never be superfluous; wherefore they should never be troublesome" (Calvin). In one way there was not need for putting them in mind; for he bears testimony courteously to their knowing these things, and being established, i.e., having a firm standing, in the truth that was with them (not the present-day truth, as is suggested by the old translation). Feeling their importance himself, he thought it right to tell them the same things again and again, thereby to stir them up, i.e., to a due sense of their meaning. It is important to enlarge the circle of human knowledge - to get new thoughts, new facts, new combinations of facts; but it is a thousand times more important to have the complete realization of one or two things that we know. Even with those who knew and were established Peter laboured, by reiteration, to stir them up - to give them a deeper impression of a few simple gospel truths. He was resolved to stir them up by putting them in mind, as long as he was in this tabernacle. This is a familiar designation of the body in relation to the soul (in 2 Corinthians 5:1 it is "tabernacle-house"). The body is a covering to the soul; it keeps it from being exposed to the glare of the world. "Tabernacle" also suggests that which can be quickly taken down (in Isaiah 38:12 there is the association of death with the removal of a shepherd's tent); the connection of the body with the soul is not so close but that it can be quickly removed as a shepherd's tent. Peter was incited to action by the knowledge of what our Lord Jesus Christ had signified unto him. There is unmistakable reference to John 21:18, 19. Our Lord, according to what is recorded there, signified to Peter that he was to die a martyr's death. Let Peter's language here be observed. There was to be not the striking of his tent, but still, not out of keeping with the idea of a tent as a temporary soul-covering, the putting of it off. And swift or sudden was the manner in which it was to be put off. We are not to think of the swiftness of death's approach (unless in the use of the present tense), but of death's swift work when it did come. He was to end his life by a violent death. Our Lord had signified to him that he was not to die soon; it was only when he became old that he was to stretch forth his hands, and another was to gird him, and carry him whither he would not. He was now old, without the assurance he had once had of living long; and as our Lord had signified to him that not much time was to be occupied in the putting off of his tabernacle, so long as he was in it he would let slip no opportunity of putting them in mind. "Teachers who are long sick can still feed others. The cross was not to permit that to Peter. So he sees to doing beforehand what required to be done" (Bengel).
2. Putting in mind as affected by his decease. "Yea, I will give diligence that at every time ye may be able after my decease to call these things to remembrance." "Decease" is literally "departure," which, from the context, we may take to be departure out of the tabernacle of the body. In view of what follows, it is to be remarked that both "tabernacle" and "decease" are words associated with the Transfiguration-scene. How were they to be provided for after his decease? He was to use diligence, that they would then be able, as occasion arose, to call these things to mind. We can think of Peter here reflecting the Divine thoughtfulness. The apostles were not to live alway; so God saw to the important things being put down in a permanent form in the New Testament. Peter, now an old man, was to die swiftly; so, as the servant of God, he was to see to the important things being put down in writing, that, as occasion arose, they might be able to call them clearly to mind.
II. PUTTING IN MIND WITH REFERENCE TO THE SUBJECT OF THE SECOND COMING.
1. The certainty of the coming. "For we did not follow cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." There are two important points to be noticed here. In the first place, Peter, writing in the name of the other apostles, declares that they were careful in what they admitted into the historical basis of their religion. They saw the putting forward of cunningly devised fables - stories without foundation in reality, cleverly concocted, so as to impose on the ignorant, and to keep up the influence of the priesthood or the false teachers. They did not follow this lead; but were careful to exclude all mythical elements, and to admit only well-established fact. In the second place, Peter and the other apostles made known unto the persons addressed the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The first exhibition of power was when Christ rose from the dead; its full exhibition was to be at the coming. It is true that in this Epistle there is no direct reference to the weakness and death of Christ; this is to be explained by the circumstances in which Peter wrote. There are times when we need to pass on from the humiliation, and to allow our minds to be occupied with the exaltation.
2. The attesting power of the Transfiguration to the coming.
(1) Eye-testimony. "But we were eye-witnesses of his majesty." The reference, as is seen from what follows, is to the Transfiguration. The three who were admitted as witnesses were Peter and James and John: they were admitted, while others were excluded. What they saw was not his ordinary earthly form, but that form transfigured - what is here called his majesty. "His garments,' according to the graphic account of Mark, "became glistering, exceeding white; so as no fuller on earth can whiten them." This remarkable manifestation, which was out of the ordinary course in Christ's earthly life, which was not for the common gaze, testified to the coming, inasmuch as it was to be regarded as the glorifying of Christ beforehand. It was Christ seen as he was to be after his ascension. It was Christ as he was afterwards seen by the prisoner of Patmos in his actually glorified condition.
(a) What was heard. "For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." In the original the verse begins, "for having received," and is interrupted before its close. The honour and glory from God the Father are to be associated with the voice, but with the voice as expressive of the majesty that was seen by the eye. The voice is represented as borne to him, not from, but by, the excellent glory, which is putting for God the excellent glory in which he dwells, so as to raise an impression of the magnificence of the scene. The voice was such as this, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." There is only a slight variation from the words given in Matthew, the effect of which is to present the good pleasure of the Father as on his beloved Son, so as to abide and not to leave him. This was fitted to encourage Christ in prospect of the decease which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem. As testimony to the coming, it is to be taken along with the change presented to sight. In that anticipation of glory was to be read how the good pleasure of God was to find manifestation.
(b) The hearing. "And this voice we ourselves heard come out of heaven, when we were with him in the holy mount." This helps to emphasize the reality of the voice. There was no possibility of deception; the voice was heard borne in upon them, borne in from heaven. There was present the condition of three witnesses, by which it is established as a fact. This also helps to connect the thought distinctly with the Transfiguration. The voice was heard when they, the three, were with him in the holy mount - the mount rendered holy by the association.
3. The attesting power of the prophetic Word to the coming.
(1) The greater attesting power of the prophetic Word. "And we have the Word of prophecy made more sure." The literal translation is preferable, "And we have more sure the prophetic Word." By "the prophetic Word" we are to understand the Bible, with special reference to what it has to say about the future in its connection with Christ. It must be recognized that a comparison is instituted. The comparison is not between the voice from heaven and the prophetic Word, but rather between the Transfiguration (with the accompaniment of the voice) and the prophetic Word in their attesting power to the second coming. The fact was significant; but there is greater satisfaction in having definite statements as to Christ's coming. It is the old prophetic Word that Peter seems to have in his mind; but we may regard it as elucidated and filled up by New Testament statements. From these statements we can have some conception of the scene. The Lord descends from his heavenly throne in majesty. The moment that the Lord descends, the archangel marshals his innumerable host, giving the shout of command with the living voice. Having marshaled his hosts to move in harmony with the descending Lord, he at a subsequent stage gives another shout of command, this time not with the living voice, but with the trump of God. At the trumpet-call the dead arise. The Christian dead, raised with reconstituted bodies, join the Christian living, whose bodies are transformed, making one company, and, caught up in the enveloping, upbearing clouds, they meet their descending Lord with the marshaled army of angels in the air. The Lord descends to earth; before him are gathered all nations, and, as Judge, he separates them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats. The wicked receive their desert; the righteous ascend in the triumphant retinue to heaven, to be for ever with the Lord.
(2) On account of its certainty we are to take heed to it. "Whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts." We do well to take heed to what the Bible says about the issues of life as connected with the coming of Christ. The prophetic Word is here compared to a ]amp, on account of the clear light it sheds. It is true of the Bible as a whole that it is as a lamp. "This lamp from off the everlasting throne mercy took down." The dark place in which it shines is the world. How dark would the world be but for the light it casts upon God and upon the future! It is to continue to shine until the day dawn, and the day-star arise. This bringing in of the full day is to be regarded as Christ's coming. Then the Bible, in its earthly form, will have served its purpose; it will give place to the great Teacher himself. The relation of all to that coming is not to be joyful; to some it will only be the time of exposure, the time of discomfiture and el consignment to darkness. But it is to come with a blessed certainty in the hearts of Christ's people. It is the beginning of a long bright day to them in the presence of their Lord.
(3) The ground of the certainty on account of which we are to take heed to it. "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of private interpretation. For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Ghost." The statement, declared to be of prime importance, that no prophecy of Scripture is of private interpretation, was long obscure; and Roman Catholic theologians took advantage of the obscurity to assert that its meaning is that Scripture can only be interpreted by the Church, and not by private Christians. There is now clearness as to its meaning, which is that the prophet did not proceed on his own private interpretation of things. For, it is added, no prophecy ever came by the will of man, i.e. originated in mere human determination. Men indeed spoke (and not always holy men, as in the case of Balsam); there was thus the exercise of the human mind to a certain extent, there was the human form in what they spoke, there were even individual characteristics brought out; but the higher causal account of it was that they spoke from God, and because they were borne along unresistingly by the Holy Ghost. There was thus, which is the point here, secured certainty, infallibility in what they spoke. We do well, then, to take heed to what they say to us, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith." - R.F.
I. THE WITNESS OF THE FATHER TO THE SON. On three occasions during our Lord's earthly ministry was the silence of heaven broken, and audible testimony borne by the Eternal to the "Son of his love." Of these occasions the Transfiguration was the most glorious and impressive. It was more than a majestic scene; it was an appeal to human intelligence and devoutness.
1. There was a voice from heaven. God chose an avenue which he himself had designed and fashioned, in order to reach the minds and hearts of men.
2. Expressed by this voice was the Father's personal relationship of affection towards Jesus. In his humiliation our Lord was acknowledged as the "beloved Son."
3. Witness was also borne to the complacency with which the Father regarded the Son, as fulfilling his will in the ministry and mediation he had undertaken.
4. The Transfiguration was justly regarded by the apostles as a bestowal upon their Lord of "honour and glory." Not that to them the outward splendor was everything; doubtless it was the symbol of a spiritual glory.
II. THE WITNESS OF THE DISCIPLES TO THEIR MASTER. This was a matter of fact, and is to us matter of history. Place and time are duly specified.
1. The disciples, who were serious and credible men, declared themselves to be eye-witnesses of Christ's majesty.
2. And ear-witnesses of the Divine attestation borne to him.
3. They expressly asserted that in this matter they were neither deceivers nor deceived. And, indeed, the case of their being either the one or the other is utterly incredible, is scarcely to be constructed by the imagination. They were not following cunningly devised fables; neither did they invent the incidents, nor did they adopt the inventions of others. In accepting the gospel narrative we build upon a sure foundation of fact.
III. THE PRACTICAL INFERENCE TO BE DRAWN BY THOSE WHO RECEIVE THIS TWO-FOLD WITNESS. Human nature is such that it is not possible for us to believe such facts as those which St. Peter here records, and not be affected by such belief in our spirit and our conduct.
1. As regards Jesus himself, whosoever receives the gospel is constrained to confess his power, presence, and coming.
2. As regards himself, he is bound to trust, love, honour, and serve the Saviour and Lord, who is thus made known to his spiritual nature by the revelation of the eternal Father, and by the testimony of his believing and devoted followers and apostles. - J.R.T.
certainty is the key-note of his utterance; He declares he knows what he enforces, that error has not been palmed on him for truth, that his eyes have seen and his ears have heard what he tells. Then our subject is - Certainty concerning Christ the secret of spiritual earnestness. Doubt and deadness go together, certainty and vigour; and in an age when doubt is so freely suggested, that it is almost in the air we breathe, and is sometimes thought to be a sign of wisdom, it ought to be useful to us to consider the need and possibility of certainty. It does not follow that certainty can be attained at once, nor that all doubt is to be condemned. Much doubt is temperamental, like that of Thomas (and Thomas was a disciple second to none in fidelity to Jesus), and much, again, means spiritual progress, leading to higher faith and deeper repose; but we need not remain in doubt. There is a reasonable basis for belief, some eternal rock at least, on which we can weather the storm, though mystery lies around us on every side. In this present state of limited vision we may expect this mystery.
I. CHRIST IS THE SUM' OF APOSTOLIC TRUTH. About what was the apostle certain? About Christ. He is here enforcing the need of spiritual truth; he is determined to live and die urging this truth, and in our text he sums up what this truth is. It is Christ. And that is equally the testimony of the Old Testament as of the New: what have they to say to us, but Christ? How that simplifies this book! how it shows what we are to come here to learn! One of the stumbling-blocks to the understanding of Scripture is that men come to it to learn what it is not intended to teach.
1. As Christ is the embodiment of Divine truth, the Bible is the revelation of Christ. That is what Peter in effect says here, the sum of the truth he urges - "the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ," that is, his Deity and Incarnation, the God-Man. In making Christ known Scripture necessarily touches on other subjects, for he is connected with every part of the Father's will, and he cannot be separated from them; there must be some reference to them, and this may be indistinct, leaving much to be known hereafter. But we may be sure there will be nothing indistinct in the great central theme of the revelation. It would be regeneration to some if they would be content to leave these minor matters unsolved, and, remembering that the object of this record is to make Christ known, would lend their powers to discover the certainty about him, and rest in that.
2. He is the revelation of the Father. "Who by searching can find out God?" but in Jesus we have God manifested. "The Word was God," and "the Word was made flesh." The revelation of Christ is the manifestation of the Godhead.
3. He is the filling up of every human need. For man's condemnation there is acquittal in him; for his sin there is the possibility of holiness; for his perplexity there is light; for his difficulties there is help; for his sorrows there is infinite love; for his fear of the future there are life and immortality. So perfectly can Christ raise us to the perfection of which our nature is callable, that it is said, "Ye are complete in him." The revelation of Christ is the satisfaction of men.
4. He is the end we are called to reach. For what were we made? Apart from him we know not. Do we fulfill our end in the toil and tears, the change and weariness, the fleeting pleasures and the lasting pains of three score years and ten? Is there nothing beyond this - nothing to which this may be but the development, nothing beneath it, whose blessedness shall justify our existence? God replies by revealing Jesus. His life and death and rising again, the work of his ascended life, - they are to raise us to likeness to himself: "We are predestined to be conformed to the image of God's Son." The revelation of Christ is the guide and hope of our being.
II. PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE IS THE GROUND OF CERTAINTY ABOUT CHRIST. Eye-witnesses, ear-witnesses, of what he is, therefore we know; - that is the ground of the apostle's assurance. There is here the suggestion of doubt concerning what was said of Christ. If we have sincere doubt about what is essential, it is better to face it and settle it, not to leave it to work its quiet mischief within us, or cast its shadow on our belief, but to look at it steadily, to turn on it the light of reason and truth, and satisfy ourselves that there is nothing in it. Some things it is not essential to know, and from their nature they are unknowable here; but of the mystery in what is essential, there is a solution somewhere, and to it God will not fail to guide the childlike spirit. There are three simple arguments which show it to be incredible that the doctrine of Jesus is a "cunningly devised fable." How could these unlearned men invent a fable surpassingly beyond what the world had ever heard, and so cunningly that for eighteen centuries it has deceived those who have tested it with the eagerness of settling life and death? Then how came this fable they had invented to change their own characters, and enable them to seal their testimony with their blood? Then how is it this fable has proved the regeneration of mankind, has become the world's hope, and is cleaved to with unwavering assurance by growing millions of the race? But notice how Peter meets the suggestion. He does not argue - he rests on what he himself had seen and heard. There was one season he ever remembered, when he was with his Lord in the "holy mount," and there came "such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Our certainty about Christ may have the same ground. At first we must depend on outside testimony for our knowledge of Christ; but when that has done most for us, there is a better assurance possible, personal fellowship with himself, that is the antidote to doubt about him. Let him work his work upon you, and you will smile at the suggestion that the "power and coming of the Lord Jesus" is a "cunningly devised fable."
III. CERTAINTY ABOUT CHRIST THE SECRET OF SPIRITUAL EARNESTLESS. Let us have no rest till we come to certainty about our Lord. We may be as certain that he is, and that he is the Saviour of sinners, and the Satisfaction of human needs, as we are of our existence. Then we shall be animated with earnestness in cleaving to him, in living for him; duty no more cold and hard, but joyous service for the Living One we love; the very sorrows that draw us to him tinged with joy; yea, death itself no longer dreaded because we see him waiting for us on the further shore. - C.N.
I. THE TESTIMONY OF THE APOSTLES.
1. They were "eye-witnesses" - a rare word, describing spectators who were admitted into the highest grade of initiation into mysteries. How true of Peter and James and John, with regard to the life of our Lord!
2. They were eye-witnesses of a wondrous revelation. "His majesty;" no one event only, though chiefly the Transfiguration.
3. They had heard a Divine voice. "The voice we ourselves heard." No hallucination: we all heard, we all saw.
4. The recollection of such vision and voice was forever sacred. "The holy mount." We know not its name, but it was to them for ever a consecrated height. Any spot becomes "holy" to the soul that has had there a deep sense of God's presence; has been awed by his greatness, touched by his love.
II. The testimony of THE EARLIER PROPHETIC WORD. "The word of prophecy." Does this mean "prediction" only? We think not.
1. That can scarcely be said to be more sure than the testimony of "eye-witnesses."
2. The usual scriptural use of the words "prophet" and "prophecy" is wider than that. "Take my brethren, the prophets." Are not Paul, John, Peter himself, New Testament prophets?
3. The significance of the words point to a wider meaning: "speak forth," or "speak for another." It tells of insight as much as of foresight.
4. The last verse covers the whole Scripture, not merely prediction, If the whole of Holy Scripture be thus meant, why is it called "more sure" than the oral testimony of witnesses?
(1) Because it is a more comprehensive record.
(2) More manifold authority.
(3) More able to be tested. Thy Word is tried. Concerning this "sure word of prophecy," this passage teaches:
(1) It is of wide application. "Not of private," that is, single "interpretation." Deals with principles, not merely with events.
(2) It is not a discovery, but a revelation: "No prophecy ever came by will of man," etc.
(3) It has a Divine Source: "Men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Ghost." "Borne along" - a strong word, denoting a ship before the wind.
(4) Is of great practical use. "A lamp shining in a dark [or, 'squalid and gloomy'] place;" a camp-fire in the desert.
(5) Must be observed. Christianity, as Dean Mansel says, is regulative rather than speculative. "Whereunto ye do well that ye take heed."
III. THE TESTIMONY OF CONSCIOUSNESS. This is the strongest of all.
1. In the best region: "In your hearts."
2. The outcome and end of all the rest: "Day-star arise." Better even than lamp is the Day-star. So much better is the knowledge of Christ as a power and presence on the soul than any other testimony.
(1) One is without, the other is within.
(2) One is passing, the other is perpetual.
(3) One is stationary, the other harbinger of eternal day.
Notice the signs of this dawn.
(1) What are they?
(2) Seek for them.
(3) Rejoice in them. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning. - U.R.T.
I. THE NIGHT OF TIME. The world is, apart from special illumination from above, a dark place. The human race, in this condition of being, are like wanderers in midnight gloom. Ignorance of what it most concerns us to know, sinful habits which cloud the reason and even corrupt the conscience, hopelessness as to the future beyond this brief mortal existence, - such are the elements of moral darkness. The gloom is not unrelieved, but it is real and undeniable.
II. THE LAMP OF REVELATION. The darkness of man's moral condition has been to some extent dispelled and scattered by the light which God himself has kindled in the minds of holy and devout men, and which they have shed upon their fellow-mortals' path. In them has been verified the grand saying of the poet -
"Heaven doth with us, as we with torches do, III. THE DAYBREAK OF CHRIST'S KINGDOM. The lamp is well enough for the night; but how welcome and how precious to the watcher or the traveler is the break of day! The day-star, the light-bringer, shines with rays of lustrous promise. Then the gray dawn appears in the east, and reddens as the sunrise approaches. Soon the sun rises in his strength and floods the world with light. The process is a picture of what happens in the spiritual history of humanity. 1. What the day is deserves to be considered. It is the day of knowledge, of holiness, of "hope. Through the shining of the Sun of Righteousness, they who sometime were darkness are now light in the Lord. 2. Where the day shines is also matter of great interest. To St. Peter the glory of noontide splendour was still in the future. Certain it is that the kingdom of Christ, like the path of the just, "shineth more and more unto the perfect day." What we have hitherto seen has been the beauty and the promise of the morning. The full noontide splendour has yet to be revealed. But in indulging bright hopes for the world, for the destiny of our redeemed and regenerated humanity, let us not lose sight of the internal, the spiritual, the personal experience of enlightenment. St. Peter's hope was that "in your hearts" this day should dawn, and this day-star arise. We have to look not only without, but within. If the heart be dark as a cavern secluded in forest depths from every ray of the sun in heaven, of what avail for us is it that the world is bathed in spiritual luster? APPLICATION. 1. Take heed to the lamp of prophecy, which does not cease to shine, and which is needed by every traveler through the night of time, to direct his feet into the paths of safety, wisdom, and peace. 2. Hail the promise of the morning, and look forward to the spiritual and perfect day. Of times and seasons we know but little; but this we know - "The Lord is at hand;" "The morning cometh." "Lift up, then, your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh." - J.R.T.
III. THE DAYBREAK OF CHRIST'S KINGDOM. The lamp is well enough for the night; but how welcome and how precious to the watcher or the traveler is the break of day! The day-star, the light-bringer, shines with rays of lustrous promise. Then the gray dawn appears in the east, and reddens as the sunrise approaches. Soon the sun rises in his strength and floods the world with light. The process is a picture of what happens in the spiritual history of humanity.
1. What the day is deserves to be considered. It is the day of knowledge, of holiness, of "hope. Through the shining of the Sun of Righteousness, they who sometime were darkness are now light in the Lord.
2. Where the day shines is also matter of great interest. To St. Peter the glory of noontide splendour was still in the future. Certain it is that the kingdom of Christ, like the path of the just, "shineth more and more unto the perfect day." What we have hitherto seen has been the beauty and the promise of the morning. The full noontide splendour has yet to be revealed. But in indulging bright hopes for the world, for the destiny of our redeemed and regenerated humanity, let us not lose sight of the internal, the spiritual, the personal experience of enlightenment. St. Peter's hope was that "in your hearts" this day should dawn, and this day-star arise. We have to look not only without, but within. If the heart be dark as a cavern secluded in forest depths from every ray of the sun in heaven, of what avail for us is it that the world is bathed in spiritual luster?
1. Take heed to the lamp of prophecy, which does not cease to shine, and which is needed by every traveler through the night of time, to direct his feet into the paths of safety, wisdom, and peace.
2. Hail the promise of the morning, and look forward to the spiritual and perfect day. Of times and seasons we know but little; but this we know - "The Lord is at hand;" "The morning cometh." "Lift up, then, your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh." - J.R.T.
certainty about Christ the result of giving heed to the Divine Word.
I. PERSONAL POSSESSION OF CHRIST IS THE GREAT PROOF OF SPIRITUAL REALITIES. How are we to know that Christ is, that he is the Saviour, the Way to the Father? We have testimony, the testimony of this book, the testimony of those who have come under his saving power, the testimony of what we have seen of the effect of his religion on the world. And we should deem that sufficient in any other matter. But so great arc the issues of this, that the soul suggests to itself that in this evidence there may be a flaw; that in spite of it, Jesus and what he can do may be a figment, and it craves evidence which never can be questioned, that it may cast itself on him without a fear. That seems an impossible thing to ask, but it is not - it can be granted. There is a witness to Jesus which no reasoning can shake. "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself."
1. To possess Christ is to know that he is. I have him, therefore I know he is; he has wrought his work on me, therefore I know what he can do.
2. To possess Christ is to possess the Revealer. If he dwells within us, the soul becomes a temple where he unveils his face and reveals his glory.
3. To possess Christ is to have that which throws light on spiritual things. We never see Divine love clearly till then, nor the sinfulness of sin, nor the beauty of holiness, nor the sweetness of the will of God, nor the meaning of redemption. Let us not wonder if we are dark till then; it must be dark "until the day dawn, and the Day-star arise in our hearts."
II. THE WAY TO POSSESS CHRIST IS BY GIVING HEED TO THE DIVINE WORD. The Day-star had arisen in the hearts of many to whom the apostle wrote. But what of those who would read this letter of whom that was not true - what could they do? For them the morning had not yet come; but they have a Lamp - "the Word of prophecy made more sure... as a lamp that shineth in a dark place." Let them take heed to that, and it will bring them to the dawn. "More sure:" more sure than what? The Revised Version shows how it ought to read. The Word of prophecy made "more sure" because it had been fulfilled. Many of the predictions in the Old Testament about Christ were vague and mysterious, but now that they had been fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, their meaning and truth were apparent; they could now be read and pondered with a confidence not possible before.
1. Scripture is the revelation of Christ. He is not to be found in nature, though he is there, and gleams of his glory appear therein on every side; but they are only gleams, not himself. He is not to be known by imagination; he is far beyond man's thought, and to fashion a Christ for ourselves, according to what we think ought to be, is to bow before a god of our own creation. Nor is he to be known by our highest spiritual experiences apart from Scripture. For though it is in communion he makes himself known to us, even that is through the medium of Scripture, and in harmony with what Scripture teaches. We cannot know Christ till we come to Scripture.
2. To "give heed" to Scripture is to obey and trust him who is revealed therein. But before we can trust ourselves to Scripture, we must have reasonable evidence that it is trustworthy. We must know on what intelligible ground these books, written by so many writers, are rightly regarded as the Word of God. Well, the Old Testament is as it was in the time of our Lord. He recognized it as the Divine Word, made it the ground of his teaching, declared it the final authority, that "the Scripture cannot be broken." The principle which determines the New Testament is equally simple. Christ said that he had more to say than he said whilst he was with his servants, and that the Spirit of truth should come to guide them into all truth; that Spirit came, and under his instructions the apostles wrote many things. Those books, then, which can be proved to have been written by them, or to have had their sanction, - all such books (but only those) are brought together to form the New Testament, the apostles being the duly authenticated messengers of Christ, of whom he said, "He that heareth you heareth me." The sacred writers impressed their peculiarities on their several productions, but behind them all there was the Divine Mind directing. Sometimes it was only necessary that they should be guarded from error in relating facts with which they were familiar; sometimes they were instructed to write what they could not fully understand - things far above them, demanding direct illumination; but in any case they were subject to the control and teaching of the Holy Ghost. There is a marvelous unity in the Bible, which shows it to be the product of one Mind; and a marvelous power by which it carries regeneration with it, which shows it to be the work of him who only can re-create.
3. To obey and trust Christ as here revealed is to come to know him perfectly. Christ has promised to make himself known to the obedient. He says, "If a man love me, he will keep my words:... and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him."
III. THE DIVINE WORD ONLY YIELDS ITS SECRETS TO DIVINE INSPIRATION'. "No prophecy of the Scripture is of any private [literally, 'one's own'] interpretation." Do not go to Scripture attempting to understand it by your own power; make use of it if you are in the dark, but remember beforehand that, as the Holy Ghost inspired men to write it, he must inspire you to understand it.
1. That explains why human learning and an unteachable spirit cannot understand Scripture. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God... they are spiritually discerned."
2. And this suggests the kind of inspiration possible to us now. God inspires his people still, not indeed to write Scripture, but to understand and obey it. Had he intended to inspire all as he inspired the writers of Scripture, why should he have inspired them to write? Clearly that inspiration was to cease.
3. But then this just casts us in prayer for spiritual knowledge on the Holy Ghost. This book is the instrument of the Spirit of God; apart from him it can teach us nothing. Then before we search it, let us bow our heads reverently and say, "Lord, open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy Law." - C.N.
I. THE BIBLE TEACHES MAN WHAT HE IS.
1. Everywhere in Scripture man is represented as a moral, spiritual, and accountable being. Other literature, properly enough, deals with man under other aspects of his nature - represents him as susceptible of emotions incidental to human relationships, as grief and joy, fear and hope; as capable of exertion, of self-denial, with a view to obtaining earthly objects. But every careful and discerning reader of Scripture feels that in every book of the volume human nature is depicted as moral, as affected, on the one hand, by temptation to a lower life, and, on the other hand, by stimulus and encouragement to a higher life; as capable of obedience and holiness, or of transgression and ungodliness. Never is man represented by the inspired writers as a mere animal, as a sentient nature moved, like the brutes, only by instinct and appetite. On the contrary, he is represented as akin to God, as dependent upon God, as responsible to God.
2. Everywhere in Scripture man is convicted of being sinful and guilty in character and habit. Such a state is, indeed, a violation of his original and proper nature; but the fact of human sinfulness cannot be concealed or palliated without injustice and flattery. It is this fact which accounts for very much of the contents of the sacred volume. This is the explanation of the Law, which is not for the righteous, but for sinners; and of the ceremonies and sacrifices of the old covenant, which symbolically set forth the impurity and depravity of man's heart and life. In this light we must read the history of the Hebrew nation, which occupies so large a part of the Old Testament. It is a record of Israel's faults, defections, and apostasy; and it is a record also of God's displeasure with sin, embodied in acts of chastisement, and especially in the afflictions which repeatedly befell the nation as a whole. Here, too, is the explanation of the fact that Scripture contains so many biographies of bad men, and of good men who have been tempted and have fallen into sin. The intention is to exhibit human frail, ties and errors, and to impress upon the mind of every reader the undeniable power and curse of sin. It would appear that the same purpose is subserved by the descriptions of the diseased and the demoniacs, which abound in the narratives of the evangelists.
II. THE BIBLE TEACHES MAN WHO GOD IS. The profound need and the pressing urgency and importance of such knowledge must be admitted by all, and are felt by those whose spiritual instincts are aroused to activity. And in nothing is the Bible more manifestly its own witness and evidence than in its incomparable and sublime revelation of God.
1. In Scripture the Personality of the living God pervades every book. Not only is there no pantheism and no polytheism; there is a pure and impressive theism throughout the sacred volume. Even those who deny to the Bible the character of a supernatural revelation, acknowledge the debt of humanity to the representation of monotheism given by the Hebrew prophets and apostles.
2. The righteous government and the holy character of the Eternal are set forth in the Bible, not only by means of statements, but by means of lessons conveyed in the form of history. His hatred of sin, in both private and public life, is effectively declared in his righteous judgments. His moral government is a great reality. In the Scriptures, the Divine Ruler is never exhibited as either indifferent to moral distinctions or capricious in his treatment of moral agents. None who acknowledges the authority of the Bible can expect to escape the eye or to evade the judgment of the righteous Governor.
3. God's interest in man, and his design for man's welfare, are portrayed in the Bible, as in no other professedly sacred and inspired book, and indeed as nowhere else in literature. From the opening pages of Genesis, where God is represented as walking and as speaking with men in the garden, down to the epoch of redemption, when "the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us," the Scriptures are full of evidence of the Divine interest in man's welfare. Whilst exhibiting the majestic dignity of the Eternal, in such a way as to call forth our reverence, the sacred volume beyond anything else makes God near to us, and leads us to feel that he is round about us in all our ways.
4. Especially does the Bible impress upon the mind of the reader the redemptive purposes of the Supreme; it shows him to be man's Saviour. His character is set forth as compassionate and merciful, and he is represented as using the means to give effect to his gracious intentions towards sinful man.
(1) In the Old Testament history we have proofs of this, especially in the deliverance of Israel from the bondage in Egypt, and in the restoration of Israel from the captivity in the East. These great events were both manifestations of God's mercy towards a nation, and prophetic anticipations of the greater deliverance in the future.
(2) For the New Testament is undoubtedly the fulfillment of the Old. What was done politically for a people was in Christ done morally and actually for the race. The Gospels and Epistles set forth before us Jesus as the Son of God and as the Saviour of mankind. "He that hath seen me," said Christ, "hath seen the Father;" and this has respect, not simply to his peerless character, but also to the mighty power and to the gracious purposes to which the world is indebted for the temporal deliverance and for the eternal hope. - J.R.T.