Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
persecuted Christian reminded of the necessity of suffering for righteousness. Peter here states the fact that suffering for righteousness is no strange thing, but what Christians must reasonably look for.
I. CHRIST'S SUFFERING BIDS HIS PEOPLE BE READY TO SUFFER. The sufferings of our Lord alluded to here are not his substitutionary sufferings - they are referred to in the eighteenth verse; of them, to the world's last moment, it will be true, "I have trodden the wine-press alone, and of the people there was none with me." But there is another class of our Lord's sufferings in which his people can, and according to their likeness to him must, shape - the suffering he bore in the maintenance of holiness in an evil world; of this he could say, "The disciple is not above his Master." There is sometimes confusion in Christian minds, in finding that Christ is said to suffer for us, and yet that in many places we are called to suffer with him. Let us be clear on this point, we are "redeemed by the precious blood of Christ;" God requires nothing from us for our redemption, but, when thus redeemed, much of Christ's suffering becomes the pattern of ours; and of that he says, "He that taketh not up his cross and cometh after me cannot be my disciple."
1. Christ's experience would lead us to expect that holiness must suffer on earth. For three and thirty years he, the Embodiment of perfect love to God and man, lived and moved upon this earth, and what was the result? He was "despised and rejected of men;" the longer he lived, the more he wrought, the wider he was known, the wilder and louder and fiercer became the cry, "Away with him! Crucify him!" Goodness condemns wickedness when the lips say nothing; the very presence of a good man in an ungodly circle is a protest against evil. On one side at least there will always be enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman; and the nearer his people approach conformity to their Lord's character, the more may they be sure of conformity to their Lord's death.
2. What Christ's sufferings have made possible to us should lead us to be willing to suffer for its attainment. Our Lord's sufferings had no other end than our sanctification, to secure God-likeness in us. How great a boon must this be, when it could be purchased at no less a price than what comes to mind, when we speak of our Lord as "the Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;" and for which he did not regard that Drice as too great to pay! And if we find, when we try to secure and maintain this great blessing, that it can only be done at much cost to ourselves, how impossible it is for us to shrink from it, when we remember the greater cost of this to him ] It were a solemn thing to refuse through cowardice to "fill up that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ."
3. The claims of Christ should lead us to resolve to suffer if need be for him. Where Christ's sacrifice is present to the mind, there is no room for self left; the "I" in us is destroyed; the blood of Christ, when rightly apprehended, not only blots out our sin, but also our self. We come now to the difficult part of this passage, but I think it brings before us this truth -
II. THE SUFFERING OF CHRIST'S PEOPLE NECESSARILY ARISES FROM THREE CAUSES.
1. Suffering through mortification of the flesh. It seems natural to suppose that when, having said, "Christ hath suffered in the flesh," the apostle goes on to say, "For he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin," he is still referring to Christ. But it cannot be so, for of him" who did no sin" it cannot be said that he hath "ceased from sin;" it must refer to us. Yet how can it be said of them whom he has called to arm themselves with the same suffering mind as Christ, that they have "ceased from sin"? I think we have here a parallel to what we read in Romans 6:6-11," Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him," etc. That contains a priceless truth, which we do not half realize. It speaks of a death in us, corresponding to our Lord's death; that this is to be the sublime result of his death - the death of sin in his people; and it is this which Peter here holds up to us, "He that hath suffered in the flesh [hath put to death the flesh], hath ceased from sin," etc. But that destroying the flesh is suffering, to take our natural desires and passions and nail them to the cross is crucifixion - a slow, lingering death, which involves unutterable pain till it is complete.
2. Suffering through difference from the world. "For the time past may suffice to have wrought the desire of the Gentiles," etc. We have here a true picture of the pagan character, and it is hardly possible for us to imagine the contrast which was manifest when such a one became converted to Christ. Glaring evils had to be renounced at once, lifelong associations had to be severed at a blow. That was the case here; and what was the result? They were evil spoken of, and that is where the suffering always comes in when we break with wrong associations. We shall be thought strange by others, and shall seem to be condemning them, assuming that we are better than they. And to be misjudged, misrepresented, reviled, is suffering; but, as Christians, there is no help for it, we must sever ourselves from what is worldly.
3. Suffering through, spiritual discipline. "For unto this end was the gospel preached even to the dead" etc. The word "dead" here must be taken to mean those who are dead whilst they live. But. even with that alteration, it is difficult to see clearly what the verse means. Now it is said that the construction of the Greek allows of the insertion of the word "although;" just as in a passage in Romans 6:17, which we never read without mentally inserting the word "although." If that be so, the meaning is evident: "For to this end was the gospel preached even to them who were dead in sins, than [although] they might be judged, condemned, persecuted, put to death according to men in the flesh, they might live according to God in the spirit." Spiritual life is God's end with us, let men do with us what they may. And the spiritual life is often developed by means of what men do to us. Every act of persecution is to be followed by a deeper peace, a holier purity, a higher power.
III. THE COMING END ASSISTS CHRIST'S PEOPLE TO BEAR SUFFERING IN A RIGHT SPIRIT. Looking at this superficially, some might think this a hard gospel; the follower of Christ is to arm himself with the expectation of suffering. But look what comes before, and what follows after this. What comes before? "Forasmuch as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh." What follows it? "The end of all things is at hand." This hard demand stands between the cross and the crown; that makes all the difference.
1. The coming end calls us to estimate reasonably the extent of the sneering. Read it as it is in the Revised Version. "Be ye therefore of sound mind." The apostle is here calling the persecuted to regard their sufferings reasonably, in connection with the fact that "the end of all things is at hand." The earth-trials of God's people are, after all, but the momentary cloud in the day of heavenly sunshine, which shall have no evening, of which now in Christ we have the dawn.
2. The coming end calls us to vigilance lest we lose the coming blessing. That "coming end" wilt be the beginning of the glorified life - that life in which what we have sown here we shall reap; that life in which we may have "an entrance ministered to us abundantly," or in which we may be "saved yet so as by fire." Beware lest under the pressure of temptation you conform to the world, you be ashamed of Jesus, you refuse your cross, and thereby lose your crown. Suffering there must be; look to the end, anticipate the glory which it begins, and against all that would rob you of the fullness of that glory, watch unto prayer. - C.N.
I. THE EXAMPLE OF CHRIST CARNIES WITH IT THE RESOLUTION TO SUFFER. "Forasmuch then as Christ suffered in the flesh, arm ye yourselves also with the same mind." Peter goes back to the starting-point, that from it, with practical instruction, he may go beyond the present session of Christ at the right hand of God, viz. to his coming to judgment. He does not say, "put to death in the flesh," but more generally, to suit the condition of those whom he was addressing, "suffered in the flesh." When it is said that he suffered, we are to understand that he did not avoid, but bravely faced, whatever suffering came to him in the way of righteousness. He armed himself with the resolution to suffer; and thus he was prepared for it when it came. Let us also arm ourselves with the same mind. Let us not, in the way of evil compliance, avoid suffering. Let us be resolved bravely to face whatever ordeal our God appoints; thus also shall we be prepared for it when it comes. When it is said that Christ suffered in the flesh, there may be, in the line of a former thought, a look beyond his past condition to his present condition. He is no longer in the flesh to suffer; so shall it soon be with us, that we are no longer in the flesh to suffer.
II. THE RESOLUTION TO SUFFER CARRIES WITH IT A BREAK WITH SIN. "For he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; that ye no longer should live the rest of your time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God." It is better to carry the third person through the whole, the second part being simply a further definition of the first. It is wrong also not to bring out the past tense, "he that suffered," just as it was said "Christ suffered." It is, however, introducing a foreign thought to suppose the meaning to be that, when Christ suffered, the person thought of suffered. The person to be thought of is one to whom at a previous stage and a critical stage in his history there was given the choice of suffering or not suffering. When he resolved to suffer, he very distinctly broke with sin. He said that he would rather suffer than sin. He looked forward to the rest of his time in the flesh, and said that the rule of his life would no longer be the lusts of men (a rule variable and without authority), but the will of God (a rule invariable and having the highest authority). The "no longer" of sin along with "the time past of suffering" is to be explained by the fact that suffering commenced with conversion to Christianity.
III. THE BREAK WITH SIN IS NOT TO BE REGRETTED. "For the time past may suffice to have wrought the desire of the Gentiles, and to have walked in lasciviousness, lusts, wine-bibbings, revellings, carousings, and abominable idolatries." The life according to "the desire of the Gentiles" is particularly described. It was a life in excesses, especially of impurity. It was a life in lusts, especially fleshly. It was a life in wine-swillings. It was a life in night-banquetings, after which the custom was to sally out into the streets "wakening the echoes with song and dance and noisy frolic." It was a life in drinking-bouts. It was a life in idolatries that violated what was sacred (associated with many abominations). Peter's readers were of Gentile extraction; for it is said that in time past they had wrought the desire of the Gentiles, and walked in the things mentioned, He adroitly founds on their experience, saying less than the reality in order to suggest the more. "The past may suffice; there is a figure in that, meaning much more than the words express. It is enough - oh, too much, to have so long, so miserable a life" (Leighton). We are reminded of Paul's way of dealing with the Roman Christians, "For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things, whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death."
IV. THE NEW ARE A PUZZLE AND AN OFFENSE TO THE OLD. "Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them into the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you." The heathen a,e represented as rushing over the barriers that stand in the way of vicious indulgence: and they are astonished to find their former companions not rushing with them to the same goal. They are puzzled to understand the new principles from which they act, the complete revolution that has taken place in their ways of thinking and acting. And they are more than puzzled; they are offended. They take it as an affront that their company should not be thought good enough, and so they steak evil of them.
V. ACCOUNT IS TO BE GIVEN TO CHRIST AS JUDGE. "Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead." Was it right for the Christians to withdraw? was it wrong for the heathen to resent their withdrawal? Yes; it would be as decided by Christ, to whom these evil-speakers would give account. Thus does the apostle return to his line of thought. So far from being crushed by death, Christ is to be gloriously active in the future on earth again, He is here represented as ready to judge the quick and the dead. He is to judge all without exception, He is ready to judge, as invested with all the authority and power that are necessary for judgment. At this moment, if the materials for judgment were complete, he could descend from heaven to hold the great assize.
VI. CONNECTION WITH JUDGMENT OF THE FORMERLY MENTIONED PREACHING TO THE DEAD. "For unto this end was the gospel preached even to the dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit." "Dead" is general; but we are not to think of all the dead. The word is properly limited by the connected language. The time is to be observed - the gospel was preached to the dead. And we are only to think of the dead with whom the language can be associated, that they had been judged according to men in the flesh. The reference seems to be simply to the antediluvians. They had been overtaken, not by death in the ordinary way; but, in the interests of humanity, it had been considered necessary that they should be swept from the face of the earth. This judgment according to man was not one with the final judgment on them. To them, after they had been judged thus on earth, in Hades the gospel was preached. The aim seems to be so stated as to throw the judging before the preaching. The expression of the aim as life in the spirit is very startling. This is far from being plain to us; and we have not the links that would enable us to connect it with judgment. We can only apply to Peter's own writings the words he applies to Paul's, "In which are some things hard to be understood." - R.F.
I. WHAT DOES REFLECTION SUGGEST TO US CONCERNING TIME PAST IN ITSELF?
1. Its passage has been rapid, yet it has been filled with events of great importance.
2. It is perfectly irrecoverable; we cannot live the expiring year over again.
3. It has left ineffaceable traces upon our character. We are all changed by its influences, its occupations, its lessons - some for the better, some for the worse.
4. It is not forgotten by the Lord and Judge of all. In this sense he "requireth that which is past."
II. IN WHAT SPIRIT SHOULD THE CHRISTIAN CONSIDER THE TIME PAST?
1. His first and most prominent thought should be of the mercy and loving-kindness of God revealed to him as the days and weeks have passed by.
2. Especially should he remember the long-suffering and forbearance which has been displayed towards him by his heavenly Father upon repeated occasions, when such consideration has been called for by failures in duty and by forgetfulness of Divine love.
3. He should remember with regret and repentance the opportunities of obedience and usefulness which he has neglected.
4. Nor should he lose sight of the discipline which he may have been called upon to endure, and which he should remember, not with a rebellious, but with a submissive spirit.
III. IN WHAT SPIRIT SHOULD THE IRRELIGIOUS AND UNDECIDED REVIEW THE TIME PAST?
1. He should remember with humiliation and shame that he has broken the Law of God, and rejected the gospel of Christ.
2. He should reflect upon the evil influence which his example of religion has exercised over his fellow-men, especially over those within his family and social circle.
3. He should consider that he is the worse at the end of the year than at its beginning, because of his delay to repent and to commence by God's grace a new and better life.
IV. How SHOULD THE MEMORY OF THE TIME FAST AFFECT THE TIME TO COME?
1. We may be helped to realize the brevity of life, and the uncertainty and probable brevity especially of what of life yet remains.
2. We may be induced to turn away from the evil which has been indulged in during bygone years, and to enter upon the holier life and more consecrated service which our conscience approves and enjoins. The sands are fast falling; the tide is fast ebbing; the light is fast fading. Let the future see our vows fulfilled, our hopes realized, our aims achieved! - J.R.T.
is - Live to the will of God.
I. LIVE TO THE WILL OF GOD. This is the lesson of man's past evil life. St. Peter urges that "the time past may suffice to have wrought the desire of the Gentiles. What was the desire of the Gentiles in time past? What they desired for themselves and others. The life of that century throughout the Roman empire, where these scattered Christians were, has never, perhaps, been equaled in the hideousness of its private and public vices. The names of the Emperors Tiberius, Gaius, and Claudius Nero are so many symbols of cruelty, lust, and buffoonery. The walls of Pompeii, the pages of the poets, the annals of the historian, all testify how voluptuous, how debased, how heinously immoral, were the desires of the Gentiles.
1. Lasciviousness; outrageous debauchery in general, including all that follow - wine-swillings, roysterings, revels, and the filthy festivals of idolatry. So many forms - alas! scarcely exaggerated - of selfism prevalent in cultured and Christian England today. The apostle says, The time past may suffice to have wrought the desire of the Gentiles." There is deep sadness in the irony here about time past. And yet there is deeper hope, for the past is past, and need not return.
2. Sadness. Enough sin! and such sin as we have been gazing at! Enough; for such time past - hour, or day, or year, or years - was simply
(1) A time of degradation to self. Men in such indulgences become coarse, vulgar, low, bestial.
(2) A time of imperiousness to others. Such a life was the breathing out of pollution into the social atmosphere; the opening up of fetid and poisonous fountains that pour forth disease and death.
(3) A time of rebellion. The human misery in scenes of riot and shame tell of Divine anger. Enough; let not the wheels of time bring back an hour of such life as that to you, my brother.
3. Hope. Time past may be left behind.
(1) There is forgiveness for time past. "Depths of the sea;" not shallow river, not near shore, where the tide may wash on to the beach.
(2) There is deliverance for time past. The charm of evil can be broken; the spell of wrong-doing can be dissolved. With all the energy you have, get away from that past time. The pirate bears down upon the vessel and captures her when her sails are down and she is making no headway. Oh, press on! "Escape for thy life!"
"Let the dead past bury its dead. II. LIVE TO THE WILL OF GOD, NOTWITHSTANDING BAD MEN'S WONDER AT GOOD MEN'S CONDUCT. St. Peter said, nearly two thousand years ago, what can be truly said today, that worldly men, sinful men, sensual men, think it strange that Christian men do not run with them into the same excess of riot. Dissimilar characters often find it difficult to understand each other; the thoroughly corrupt man seems to find it impossible to understand the Christian. 1. He thinks his conduct strange, and so perhaps he ignores him altogether. He does not invite him to his carousals; he does not know him in society; still less is he on visiting or calling terms with him. He is an enigma he does not care to understand. 2. Or he thinks his conduct strange, and he is aggravated by it. He is contemptuous; he sneers; he tempts. He says about him, or to him, with curled lip, as he declines the wine-party, or gaming-talkie, or clubs of voluptuous pleasure. "Oh, you are 'green;' you are 'soft;' you are 'melancholy;' you're not 'half a man.'" And soon their irritation makes them scandal-mongers and slanderers, as were the pagan scandal-mongers and slanderers of -the early Christians. 3. Or, better far, he thinks his conduct strange, and it leads him to inquire. Wonder ends in respect, and respect in admiration, and admiration in imitation. Not a few of the men who have been reclaimed from lives of silly, not to say sensual, self-indulgence, began to climb the higher path and to breathe the purer air of Christian manhood because they saw a change come over some old companion that they at first thought strange, but soon found to be fascinating and ennobling. Who of you would not wish so to live that men should say, "We will go with you, for we have seen that God is with you"? III. LIVE TO THE WILL OF GOD, FOR BOTH CHRIST'S JUDGMENT AND CHRIST'S GOSPEL ARE FOR ALL. The point the apostle is here pressing is that these bad men - these Gentiles and pagans of that day, who find their counterpart and succession in all worldly, sensual, selfish men of today - will have to give account to him who will judge quick and dead. The last time he mentioned Christ it was as having ascended to the right hand of God; just before that, as having suffered and died and gone to Hades; now, as in the very order in which the Apostles' Creed enshrines the great biography, he mentions him as judging the quick and the dead. All the living and all the dead shall stand at that tribunal. "Every one of us shall give account of himself to God." But if all are to be judged, all must have the gospel preached to them; or the judgment would be partial, unjust, unrighteous. "Unto this end," that is, that all may be righteously judged, all have the gospel preached to them. The gates of mercy are as vast as the seat of judgment; the cross of Christ is as stupendous as the great white throne. Hence the good tidings had been preached "to the dead." "Spirits in prison' were visited by the Redeemer; to the dead Christ goes with his boundless gospel of righteousness and mercy. The myriads in the Roman empire in Peter's day who died without a single note of the evangel falling on their ears - died in gross corruption and bewildering superstitions of heathenism, are yet to be met with the offers of mercy, with the provisions of the gospel, and with the love of Jesus Christ. So that though according to the flesh - their life on earth - they were judged by men, and rightly judged, as evil and wicked men, they may, if they will yet receive the gospel preached to them, if they will read its blessed writing in the lurid light of the very flames of hell, yet be trophies of its unspeakable grace, and live to God in the spirit. Their life in the flesh was a ruin and a wreck, a scourge and a curse; - so they are judged according to men. But, wondrous ray of hope! their life in the spirit may, after the purgings of those terrific fires, and through the influence of the gospel of our blessed Lord, yet become a life unto God. That is the object and only sufficient end of the preaching of the good tidings of Christ anywhere and at any time - now and here, or then and yonder. Has it led us to live unto God, as the flower lives to the sun, turning to it to paint its petals and to distil its odors and to nourish its exquisite life; as the subject lives to his sovereign, in unflinching and loyal fidelity; as the child lives unto his parent, in loving, watchful, eager obedience? Some men are alive to pleasure, or gain, or ambition, or friendship, and no more. Are we alive unto God? - U.R.T.
II. LIVE TO THE WILL OF GOD, NOTWITHSTANDING BAD MEN'S WONDER AT GOOD MEN'S CONDUCT. St. Peter said, nearly two thousand years ago, what can be truly said today, that worldly men, sinful men, sensual men, think it strange that Christian men do not run with them into the same excess of riot. Dissimilar characters often find it difficult to understand each other; the thoroughly corrupt man seems to find it impossible to understand the Christian.
1. He thinks his conduct strange, and so perhaps he ignores him altogether. He does not invite him to his carousals; he does not know him in society; still less is he on visiting or calling terms with him. He is an enigma he does not care to understand.
2. Or he thinks his conduct strange, and he is aggravated by it. He is contemptuous; he sneers; he tempts. He says about him, or to him, with curled lip, as he declines the wine-party, or gaming-talkie, or clubs of voluptuous pleasure. "Oh, you are 'green;' you are 'soft;' you are 'melancholy;' you're not 'half a man.'" And soon their irritation makes them scandal-mongers and slanderers, as were the pagan scandal-mongers and slanderers of -the early Christians.
3. Or, better far, he thinks his conduct strange, and it leads him to inquire. Wonder ends in respect, and respect in admiration, and admiration in imitation. Not a few of the men who have been reclaimed from lives of silly, not to say sensual, self-indulgence, began to climb the higher path and to breathe the purer air of Christian manhood because they saw a change come over some old companion that they at first thought strange, but soon found to be fascinating and ennobling. Who of you would not wish so to live that men should say, "We will go with you, for we have seen that God is with you"?
III. LIVE TO THE WILL OF GOD, FOR BOTH CHRIST'S JUDGMENT AND CHRIST'S GOSPEL ARE FOR ALL. The point the apostle is here pressing is that these bad men - these Gentiles and pagans of that day, who find their counterpart and succession in all worldly, sensual, selfish men of today - will have to give account to him who will judge quick and dead. The last time he mentioned Christ it was as having ascended to the right hand of God; just before that, as having suffered and died and gone to Hades; now, as in the very order in which the Apostles' Creed enshrines the great biography, he mentions him as judging the quick and the dead. All the living and all the dead shall stand at that tribunal. "Every one of us shall give account of himself to God." But if all are to be judged, all must have the gospel preached to them; or the judgment would be partial, unjust, unrighteous. "Unto this end," that is, that all may be righteously judged, all have the gospel preached to them. The gates of mercy are as vast as the seat of judgment; the cross of Christ is as stupendous as the great white throne. Hence the good tidings had been preached "to the dead." "Spirits in prison' were visited by the Redeemer; to the dead Christ goes with his boundless gospel of righteousness and mercy. The myriads in the Roman empire in Peter's day who died without a single note of the evangel falling on their ears - died in gross corruption and bewildering superstitions of heathenism, are yet to be met with the offers of mercy, with the provisions of the gospel, and with the love of Jesus Christ. So that though according to the flesh - their life on earth - they were judged by men, and rightly judged, as evil and wicked men, they may, if they will yet receive the gospel preached to them, if they will read its blessed writing in the lurid light of the very flames of hell, yet be trophies of its unspeakable grace, and live to God in the spirit. Their life in the flesh was a ruin and a wreck, a scourge and a curse; - so they are judged according to men. But, wondrous ray of hope! their life in the spirit may, after the purgings of those terrific fires, and through the influence of the gospel of our blessed Lord, yet become a life unto God. That is the object and only sufficient end of the preaching of the good tidings of Christ anywhere and at any time - now and here, or then and yonder. Has it led us to live unto God, as the flower lives to the sun, turning to it to paint its petals and to distil its odors and to nourish its exquisite life; as the subject lives to his sovereign, in unflinching and loyal fidelity; as the child lives unto his parent, in loving, watchful, eager obedience? Some men are alive to pleasure, or gain, or ambition, or friendship, and no more. Are we alive unto God? - U.R.T.
I. THE VIEW WHICH CHRISTIANS ARE TAUGHT TO TAKE OF THEIR EARTHLY CONDITION. The New Testament impresses upon us the transitory and temporary nature of all things earthly. Sound understanding will seek to verify this, not by prophetical and historical dates, but by moral and unquestionably significant facts.
1. There may well have been in the apostle's mind a foresight of the approaching destruction of Jerusalem, the dispersion of the Jewish race, and the abrogation of the Hebrew religion.
2. Yet a larger reference is probable; "the end of all things" can scarcely be limited to the catastrophe which befell the Israelitish people. There is no permanence on earth. The Christian, like the Jewish dispensation, must pass away. When this world has served its purpose - the purpose centring in the moral history of mankind - it will be dissolved. The visible and tangible are not the real, are not the lasting. Moral results will outlast the material framework of their development.
3. Every individual who reflects must feel that his own brief life-history gives point and pathos to the end of all things.
II. THE CONSEQUENT SPIRIT AND DUTY OF CHRISTIANS CHERISHING SUCH CONVICTIONS AND EXPECTATIONS. A superficial observer might suppose that the result of such beliefs must needs be excitement and distress, or, if not distress, solicitude. But this is not the effect designed by our Lord and his apostles. Quite the contrary; for St. Peter, in view of the approaching end, admonishes to
(1) soundness of mind;
(2) sobriety; and
Such great and solemn realities as religion unfolds before the mind are fitted to strengthen, steady, and mature the character; and at the same time to inspire with pious desires and petitions. A spirit such as that here enjoined may justly be said both to qualify for this present probation and to prepare for future fruition. For "the end of all things" does not involve the end of God's government, or the end of man's life and spiritual progress. - J.R.T.
pure living, and this because our past life is long enough for sin and its vanities; notwithstanding that sinful men think your separation from them in spirit and conduct strange; and to pure living, because Christ's judgment and Christ's gospel are for all. The exact point in the argument is this - that even to the dead was the gospel preached; and this is a deep fathomless mystery of justice and of grace. But however that may be, you are to remember and to realize, that "the end of all things is at hand," etc. Here we note -
I. THE PREDICTION OF A SOLEMN FACT. "The end of all things is at hand." There are, as every student of the New Testament Epistles knows, great diversities of opinion as to the aspect of the transitoriness of all things on which Peter was now dwelling, and from which he was enforcing great lessons. It is clear that not only here, but all through his Epistles, he was deeply impressed with the transitoriness of all things. Glance back at the first chapter, and on: Sojourners - " a little while;" "time of your sojourning;' "All flesh is grass," etc. "Sojourners and pilgrims in the day of visitation." Peter seems to have expected now a termination of human history - at least an approaching end of the age. He was old now, nearly seventy. He came to Rome on the eve of the conflagration of the city by Nero. He felt himself growing old - a prisoner hounded on to the death of martyrdom like the Master who preceded him; and, getting to the end of all things, discerns in the corruptions of the Roman empire indications of ruin - "the end of all things." He discerns, too, the end of Judaism, of ceremonial, of institutions; germs perishing; and the scattering of Christians; the end of all things to the Church - personally, in the empire, in systems. Whether "the end" be "the end of the world" or "the end of the age, that is approaching, so far as we and all with whom we daily have to do are concerned, "the end of all things is at hand." In our persons, homes, institutions, in the world itself, are elements of decay, indications of transitoriness. Yesterday, honors, old age, are carried to the grave; tomorrow, youth and hope - one shadow on all households; one and another and another join the majority. "Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness?"
II. THE CONSEQUENT CALL TO THE HIGHEST PERSONAL AND SOCIAL DUTY. The thought of the termination of our connection with all things produces different impressions on different minds. Epicureans both ancient and modern, as represented by Athens and England, have said, "Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die!" "A short life, and a merry one," is the maxim some formulate from their impression of all things passing away. Wiser, deeper, Heaven-taught natures draw an altogether other lesson. Here it is:
1. Personal. "Be of sound mind and sober," etc. - an echo (especially as the old version puts it of what Peter had heard from his Lord on the last evening of his life, and in discourses in which he portrays the great days of judgment. A memory which saddened him; for he had not watched "one hour" which he would give worlds to have back. The bitter experience of his fall had taught him his deepest need. "Sound mind;" not volatile and fickle, and perhaps impulsive and fanatic. "Sober Another word than that which clears gluttony and drunkenness from the experiences of the Christian life; all temperance, all self-control, free from the intoxication of all inordinate excitement, whether the cause be alcohol or gold, appetite or ambition. Unto prayer. This is the point to be touched, the focus through which life shall pass - the concert-pitch note of prayerfulness. Prayer is both a means and an end. Here it is an end. Such nearness to Heaven is the secret of confidence in and submission to God.
2. Social. Above all things." This is all-comprehending and crowning social duty. Love alone - all alone. John, Paul, Peter, James.
(1) The character of love. Fervent or ardent. The cordial grasp of the hand; the tried and steady gaze of the eye; the eager step. of the foot. Unservile, unremitting; to mix and mingle with men whose vices jar, tastes annoy, cannot watch, nor yet love.
(2) The effect of love. "Covereth." Some thought the text "justification by love," covers a man's own sin - atones for it. Forgo such teaching; though "forgive as we forgive" shows that the condition of enjoying forgiveness is a true test of forgiveness - covers the sins of others.
(2) puts best interpretation upon;
(4) prevails by not provoking, not differing; -
a better, truer spirit. As you have seen ivy covering twisted gnarled oak, defaced and scarred ruins, so let love be ever green, covering the multitude of sins that defame and deface and scar human nature on every side of you. - U.R.T.
I. NEARNESS OF THE END. "But the end of all things is at hand." It is presupposed that all things are to come to an end, i.e. the Divine purpose in all things is to be brought forward to its completion. What gives this solemn significance to us, is that there is to be, in view of probation, a final relating of us to the purpose. How shall we stand related to the completion of all things? Stress is laid here on the time of the end. It is not revealed when definitely it is to be - whether it is to be today or a thousand years hence. In judging of the language employed, it is to be borne in mind that with the Lord "a thousand years are as one day." Allowance is to be made for the great vividness of the language. The early Christians, taking some words of revelation too literally, thought the end of all things was to be in their day. We go to the opposite extreme, and put it far off. It is intended that the Church, in all times, should have a vivid realization of the end.
II. DUTY IN VIEW OF THE NEARNESS OF THE END.
1. Personal duty.
(1) Calmness. "Be ye therefore of sound mind, and be sober." The two verbs are to the same purport. The first points rather to governing considerations; the second points rather to the effect of governing considerations. Because the end is near, we are not to be imaginative, extravagant, unbalanced. We are to be free even from the intoxication of the coming glory; not driven to idleness, but bringing ordinary prudence to bear on our daily duties; not taking our pleasure, but rather being the more exacting on ourselves.
(2) Calmness unto prayer. "Unto prayer." A calm mind is needed for prayer; prayer, again, reacts on the mind in making it calm. By prayer we quietly refer the determination of the future and of the end to God. The force of the plural seems to be that we are to connect prayer with every event as it transpires; thus shall we be prepared for the last event.
2. Relative duty.
(1) Ministering love in its intensity. "Above all things being fervent in your love among yourselves; for love covereth a multitude of sins." It is presupposed that we are to have love among ourselves; the essential thing is that this love is to have its proper intensity or warmth. Soon the end is to be upon us; why should there be any coldness or disagreements? The apostle does not enjoin without presenting sufficient reason. He goes back, as is his manner, on Old Testament language. "Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins" (Proverbs 10:12). It is the latter clause that is made use of here, with the substitution of "a multitude of sins" for "all sins." It is not difficult to catch the meaning. Where there is rancor or coldness there are constant occasions of variance; where there is good feeling there is a passing by faults in the spirit of forgiveness. For the removal of faults connected with brotherly intercourse, the Church must depend on the fervency of love.
(2) Ministering love in its manifestations. Hospitality. Using hospitality one to another without murmuring." It is taken for granted that we are hospitable. There was greater opportunity when Christians had sometimes to leave their homes, to lose their employment, on account of their religion. Stress is laid here on the quality of this form of ministration. Let it be without murmuring, i.e. at the trouble and expense caused by the hospitality. There is a hint here, which is not unneeded. Our religion requires that we should give out of our means for its support and extension. When we thus give out of our means, in loyalty to our convictions, let us not spoil the giving by murmuring. Exercise of gifts. Rule for their exercise. "According as each hath received a gift, ministering it among yourselves, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." All that God graciously bestows on the Church is here called grace; particular manifestations are graces (the words being connected). The grace of God (summing up the particular manifestations, and implying their homogeneity) is manifold, i.e. the gifts graciously bestowed on members of the Church are very varied. Each hath received a gift, i.e. one or more. According to the kind of gift which each hath received we are to minister it. We are not to allow it to be unused; and the rule for its ministration is that we are to use it for the good of the Christian community. This proceeds on our being not absolute owners, but stewards of the gift. As God has bestowed the gift, he has the right to determine the use to which it is to be put; and he intends it for the service, not of the individual (which would be division), but of the society (which preserves unity). What, then, we have to aim at is to be good stewards, i.e. to have the excellence of stewardship - fidelity to our trust. Let us see that we faithfully carry out the intention with which the gift was bestowed on us. Application of the rule to speaking. "If any man speaketh, speaking as it were oracles of God." It is a complaint brought against Christian teachers that we assume too much. We assume the existence of God; we assume that the Bible has come from God. We do not argue about these things in the pulpit. We have warrant for taking this course. We proceed on the principle here laid down by the Apostle Peter. In speaking, we speak as it were the oracles of God, i.e. as uttering the Divine thoughts, as giving forth the truths presented to us in God's book. And it is preaching that answers to this description - is an effective uttering of the Divine thoughts, opening of the meaning of Scripture, that is fitted to produce the best results. Application of the rule to doing. "if any man ministereth, ministering as of the strength which God supplieth." We are not to think merely of official ministering. There is a ministering official and unofficial to the young, to the poor, to the sick, to the ignorant, to the erring. The rule for this ministering is here laid down. Whatever service we render to the congregation, or to any section of those who need to be cared for, we are to do it, not as out of our own store of strength, but out of the strength which God supplieth. It is by attention to this rule (difficult, for self will come in, even when we profess to be unselfish) that Christian service is to be purified and elevated. Let us seek, even in our ordinary services, to be filled with the thought of God supplying the strength. End contemplated in the rule. "That in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, whose is the glory and the dominion for ever and ever. Amen." The speaking and the acting are both regulated so that, in all things embraced under these, God is to be glorified, and not we the speakers and actors. It is God's thoughts we utter, not our own; and so God has the glory for these. It is God's strength that we employ in service; and so it is to him that we ascribe the enabling power. It is only through Christ's agency that we can either speak or act; and so when we glorify God, it is through him. The glory and the power we ascribe to God to the ages of ages. To this ascription let us add our hearty "Amen." - R.F.
I. THE DIVINE FOUNDATION OF LOVE AS A CHRISTIAN VIRTUE.
1. The Divine nature is love; this is the pre-eminent attribute of the Eternal Father.
2. The spirit and example of our Lord Jesus are the supreme revelation of this grace; and such a revelation was only possible because Jesus was the Son of God.
II. THE PEERLESS EXCELLENCE OF LOVE AS A CHRISTIAN VIRTUE. St. Paul tells us, "the greatest of these is charity." And Peter here enjoins Christians to be "above all things fervent in their love."
III. THE SOCIAL BENEFITS OF LOVE. In the Christian society there is no place for those lower principles of union which have force in some relations of human life, as e.g. a common interest. But where love is, there joy and peace, fellowship and sympathy and material helpfulness, will assuredly prevail. Love covers sins; it hides those that exist, prevents those that in its absence might make their appearance, and secures by intercession the pardon of those which have been committed.
IV. THE FERVOR OF CHRISTIAN LOVE. Love may be in name only; it may exist in a state of feebleness. But in such cases it is of little service. The love which Christ approves is that which" many waters cannot quench," and which is "stronger than death." - J.R.T.
I. THE DEMAND FOR FERVENT LOVE IN THE CHURCH. We sometimes excuse ourselves for not feeling as we should towards the brethren by saying we cannot make ourselves love. But that cannot be right, for our very text lays on us the responsibility of having fervent love, and everywhere it is the subject of command. What, then, can we do to this end? There are three duties we can fulfill which tend to it.
1. The cultivation of what would foster brotherly love. Love of the brethren springs from love to the Father. Natural love is born in us, spiritual love is not. That comes with the new birth, and is fostered and developed only by fellowship with God. Know God, dwell in God, love God, and the Scripture says brotherly love will be the result. Cherish love to God, and we shall find ourselves, without setting out to do it, loving those he loves for his sake.
2. Watchfulness against what would hinder brotherly love. If certain evils are allowed to spring up in a Church, farewell to a spirit of love then. One great danger of these evils is that they are subtle and dwell mostly out of sight. The Church as a Church, therefore, cannot deal with them; its safety depends on its individual members jealously watching their approach, and unsparingly destroying them at the moment of contact. A disputatious spirit is one of these evils. Some minds are never known to agree with anything; there is always something to criticize adversely everywhere. That spirit is contagious, and kills love. There is also a jealous spirit; half the troubles of Church-life are due to jealousy, which often has no ground but that of suspicion. There is a tale-bearing spirit. If you see a man or woman going from ear to ear with some mischief-making story, some gossip which tends to wound or discredit another, suspect that person's own character, regard him as an emissary of Satan. There is also a self assertive spirit which forgets the claims of others. We are all terribly apt to be overcome by that spirit, and love falls a speedy victim to it. Every spirit in the Church that is hostile to love we must destroy.
3. A refusal to be repulsed by a lack of love. An unloving Christian can only harm himself if others refuse to be influenced by him. There are two ways of treating such - either as he treats you, which makes two wrong-doers instead of one; or to refuse to be overcome of evil, and to overcome evil with good. It is impossible that fervent love can long widely exist in a community, unless there be a general individual determination, in the strength of God, first, not to provoke, then if provoked, not to "render evil for evil,... but contrariwise blessing."
II. THE MANIFESTATION OF CHRISTIAN LOVE.
1. It expresses itself in different ways. Love speaks evil of no man, and thinketh no evil. Love is the "advocate of the absent." Love gives; the homes of the persecuted were but slenderly stocked, they had often to endure the "spoiling of their goods;" but there was to be a place at the table and a room for the stranger who needed food and rest. Love speaks - not always, does not obtrude itself, but where there is an erring step or a listening ear, love speaks.
2. It is reciprocal. Each has his own gift, his own power of doing good; there is not a single member of Christ's Church who is to be receptive only; for every gift each receives from another there is another he can give. This is the law, "By love serve one another;" "Edifying one another in love;" "We being many are one body, and every one members one of another." All receiving, all bestowing, and doing both in love, that is God's ideal of the Church on earth.
3. It recognizes that it holds all as stewards for God. "As good stewards of the manifold grace of God." That raises our thoughts from the human to the Divine obligation; it calls us to the duty of love of the brethren, by reminding us of the claims of a higher love still. Sometimes our love to the brethren is not enough to constrain us to these tasks; self-love is strong within us, and sometimes our effort may be repulsed and our desire chilled by a cold response. It is unspeakably hard to get over the feeling, if one will not love he shall not be loved. But here is the antidote to that - the apostle says we are to exercise our gifts with a view to God; service we could not render to others for their own sakes we can render for him.
III. THE END OF CHRISTIAN LOVE IS THE GLORIFYING OF GOD THROUGH JESUS CHRIST. The possession and manifestation of Christian love glorifies God, and in so many ways.
1. In the manifestation of what most honors him amongst men. We think of 1 Corinthians 13. as the creed of the Church; it is the creed of the world, it is what the world believes in, what the world when it sees it recognizes as Divine. It cares nothing for our doctrines or systems; what it believes in is a manly, faithful loving-kindness; where that is it feels the power of God.
2. In the power with which it supplies others to glorify him. Probably to absence of love in the Church is due, more than to anything else, the defections from the Church. It is largely in the power of love to make others what they should be, to draw them into the Church if they are not in, and when they are, the quick eye of love should detect the first signs of wandering, and the gentle power of love restrain. The atmosphere of heaven is love, and when that is the atmosphere of the Church, God will be honored in the beauty of a piety which otherwise he seeks in vain.
3. In the opportunity it gives him of glorifying himself. Discord silences his voice and grieves his Spirit, and he needs to chasten us, and his Word becomes vain, and our labor vain. Brethren, "live in peace, and the God of love and peace shall be with you." - C.N.
minister and deacon" denotes a servant, so the word "ministereth" here really conveys the simple thought of service - a thought which veins the beautiful marble of these two verses. This service is -
I. UNIVERSAL IN ITS OBLIGATION. "As each hath received a gift." That includes all, for all are gifted by God with some endowment or other. The man who has received no gift from God would be one not only without possession or influence, but without life; he is as nothing, and he is nowhere to be found. We have seen all through the Epistle some of Peter's memories of his Lord's teaching. Is there not here a recollection of the parable of the talents? In its light every gifted man is "a steward" (ver. 10).
II. MANIFOLD IN ITS METHOD. All serve, but all serve in different ways. The service of love is not a dreary monotone, but the richest music; it embraces the full diapason of duty. It is "the manifold grace of God." Some of the notes are here. "Using hospitality." This is specially applicable to those to whom the Epistle was first written, i.e. "strangers of the dispersion." It was, indeed, almost the earliest form of Christian charity. Peter finds it in Simon the tanner, Paul in Gains, etc. It is incumbent on men now in the midst of the yawning social distinctions, and of the ceaseless travel of today, Here is an echo of the teaching of the apostle's Lord, "I was a stranger, and ye took me in." "Without murmuring;" i.e. without grumbling. Three watch-dogs keep the door of the inhospitable man: temper, suspicion, reproach. "If any man speaketh." Just as the hands put on the table viands for the body, the lips are to spread a banquet for the intellect and the heart. How? "As it were oracles of God." That must mean with reality, with purity, with tenderness. "If any man ministereth." This comprehends every form of service. It is a widening of the other two just mentioned. "As of the strength which God supplies." That implies that the service will be rendered
(1) humbly, - no pride, for he is a channel only, not a fountain;
(2) freely, - no stint, or grudging, when God is the Source.
III. ONE IN PURPOSE. "That in all things God may be glorified." Hospitality, teaching, almsgiving, all are to be for the glory of God. "Through Jesus Christ." Had it not been for Jesus Christ, that kindness, activity, wisdom, liberality, would not have been. He awakened all. He is the Head from whom the life of love flows. "Whose is the glory and dominion, forever and ever. Amen." This is not a note of conclusion, but of strong emotion. Reason, gratitude, love, all utter their deep "amen' to the declaration that God through Christ has endless glory and dominion. - U.R.T.
I. THE UNIVERSALITY OF GIFT. "Every man hath received," says Peter, and builds upon it as a well-recognized fact. All these poor ignorant Asiatics, picked from the filth of idolatry, slaves and outcasts as some of them had been, rude and uncultured and lowly of station and imperfectly Christianized as many of them were, - they each had some Divine gift which needed only to be burnished and shown to shine afar with heavenly brightness. Every Christian man today, in like manner, is endowed with some gift; for every Christian has the Spirit of God dwelling in him, and that Spirit never comes empty-handed. Whatever subordination there may be in the Church, as in all organized communities, its very life depends on the fact that all its members possess the Divine Spirit, and no claim of authority to rule nor prerogative of teaching, which does not recognize that fact, can stand for a moment. The aspiration of Moses has been fulfilled (Numbers 11:29), "All the Lord's people" are "prophets," and "the Lord" has "put his Spirit upon them." Miraculous powers were widely diffused in the early Church, and, with the gift of tongues, constituted the most conspicuous tokens of the gift of the Pentecostal Spirit. But even then these were not "the best gifts." The graces of faith, hope, and charity, those fruits of the Spirit which consist of a holy character and a heart transparent for the heavenly light which burns within it, as a light fed by perfumed oil in an alabaster lamp, - these are better gifts of an indwelling Spirit than all supernatural endowments. The natural faculties, of course, are gifts. To each man the question may be addressed concerning these, "What hast thou which thou hast not received?" But the natural faculties of the Christian, reinforced, quickened, directed by the indwelling Spirit, are still more emphatically gifts. The power of brain or tongue, the spirit of counsel or of might, which he received from the creative breath of God, is intensified by the Spirit, which brings the breath of a new Divine life, as a lamp burns brighter when plunged into a jar of oxygen. And besides the new graces and heightened action of native power, all ability or opportunity dependent on outward circumstances is gift. Health, any skill of hand or eye, wealth, position, - everything must come into this category. All which we have is gift. In that sense the gift is universal. And we all have the gift. In that sense, too, it is universal.
II. THE VARIETY OF GIFTS. The apostle speaks here of the "manifold" - literally, the "variegated" or "many-colored" grace; and exhorts to variety of service based upon dissimilarity of gifts. It cannot but be that the fullness of God passing into the limits of created minds should manifest itself in an infinite variety. The light flashed at different angles from a million dewdrops twinkles and glitters from their tiny spheres in all differing tints of green and purple and gold. The unlimited variety of innumerable recipients growing in the measure of their possessions through eternity is the only adequate manifestation of the infinite God. Such variety is essential, too, to the existence of a community. "If the whole were an eye, where were the body?" The homely proverb says, "It takes all sorts to make a world." With diversity comes room for mutual help and mutual tolerance. Every man has some gift; no man has all. Therefore they are bound together by reciprocal wants and supplies, and convexities here and concavities there fit in to one another and make a solid whole. The same life works, but variously, in the different organs of the one body, so that there should be no schism in the body. This variety constitutes an imperative call to service. Each man has something which some of his brethren want.
The least flower with a brimming cup may stand, III. THE RESPONSIBILITY OF GIFTS. As good stewards." Peter is probably here repeating the thought which he had learned from his Master's parables. The thought of stewardship is no doubt a natural one, even apart from the reminiscence of our Lord's teaching; but we can scarcely suppose that Christ's words did not suggest it here. All gifts are trusts, Peter thinks; that is to say, no Christian gets his natural endowments, nor his material possessions, and still less his spiritual graces, for himself alone. We all admit that in theory about the two former, and in some degree about the latter. But Christian men do not sufficiently consider that God gives them even salvation for the sake of others as well as for their own. No creature is so small but that its well-being is a worthy end for God's gifts and care. No being is so great that its well-being is worthy to be an exclusive end of God's gifts and care. We are saved "that we may show forth the praises of him who has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light." The joy of forgiveness, the peace of conscience, the blessed assurance of the Father's love, the hopes of an immortal heaven, - these are not given us for self-absorbed and solitary enjoyment, but that, saved, we may glorify and proclaim the Savior, and bring to others the unspeakable gift. So with all the lesser gifts which flow from that greatest - all spiritual endowments, natural capacities heightened by the Spirit's indwelling, or outward endowments and possessions - they are our Lord's goods put into our hands to administer for him. They were his before they became ours. They are his while they are called ours. They are ours that we may have the joy of bringing him somewhat, and may not only know the blessedness of receiving, but the greater blessedness of giving, even though we have to say, while we bring our gifts, "Of thine own have we given thee." If Christian men really believed what they say they do, that they are stewards, not owners, trustees and not possessors, the whole face of Christianity would be altered. There would be men and money for all noble service, and the world would be bright with unselfish and various ministries, worthily representing "the manifold grace of God." - A.M.
III. THE RESPONSIBILITY OF GIFTS. As good stewards." Peter is probably here repeating the thought which he had learned from his Master's parables. The thought of stewardship is no doubt a natural one, even apart from the reminiscence of our Lord's teaching; but we can scarcely suppose that Christ's words did not suggest it here. All gifts are trusts, Peter thinks; that is to say, no Christian gets his natural endowments, nor his material possessions, and still less his spiritual graces, for himself alone. We all admit that in theory about the two former, and in some degree about the latter. But Christian men do not sufficiently consider that God gives them even salvation for the sake of others as well as for their own. No creature is so small but that its well-being is a worthy end for God's gifts and care. No being is so great that its well-being is worthy to be an exclusive end of God's gifts and care. We are saved "that we may show forth the praises of him who has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light." The joy of forgiveness, the peace of conscience, the blessed assurance of the Father's love, the hopes of an immortal heaven, - these are not given us for self-absorbed and solitary enjoyment, but that, saved, we may glorify and proclaim the Savior, and bring to others the unspeakable gift. So with all the lesser gifts which flow from that greatest - all spiritual endowments, natural capacities heightened by the Spirit's indwelling, or outward endowments and possessions - they are our Lord's goods put into our hands to administer for him. They were his before they became ours. They are his while they are called ours. They are ours that we may have the joy of bringing him somewhat, and may not only know the blessedness of receiving, but the greater blessedness of giving, even though we have to say, while we bring our gifts, "Of thine own have we given thee." If Christian men really believed what they say they do, that they are stewards, not owners, trustees and not possessors, the whole face of Christianity would be altered. There would be men and money for all noble service, and the world would be bright with unselfish and various ministries, worthily representing "the manifold grace of God." - A.M.
I. THE CHRISTIAN'S ENDOWMENTS, ACQUISITIONS, AND POSSESSIONS ARE THE FREE GIFT OF GOD'S KINDNESS. Those who do not believe in a Divine Giver cannot regard their possessions as a gift. But many who do not deny that they are the creatures of God's power and the dependents upon God's bounty, nevertheless think and act as if they had only themselves to thank for their advantages. We are therefore again and again reminded that we owe all that we have to the unmerited favor of Heaven. "What hast thou that thou didst not receive?"
II. THE CHRISTIAN'S ENDOWMENTS, ACQUISITIONS, AND POSSESSIONS ARE A TRUST WHICH HE HOLDS FROM GOD, AND FOR WHICH HE MUST GIVE ACCOUNT. We are called to be "good stewards." Now, a steward is not an owner of the property; he is the responsible administrator of a trust. Why have our various advantages been conferred? Certainly not that we may use them for our personal pleasure or emolument or aggrandizement, but that by their means we may be serviceable to others. The former course would be an abuse of the trust reposed in us. The conferring of such a trust is a personal probation. He who has five talents is expected so to use them as to increase his means and powers of usefulness, and to offer to the Judge the interest which accrues to him who faithfully employs his deposit.
III. THE CHRISTIAN'S ENDOWMENTS, ACQUISITIONS, AND POSSESSIONS ARE DESIGNED FOR THE SERVICE AND BENEFIT OF Ills FELLOW-MEN. The expression of St. Peter is noticeable in its definiteness and graphic force: "ministering it among yourselves."
1. This, then, is an appointed service.
2. A beneficial service.
3. A mutual service. In the Church of Christ no one is wholly and only a giver, or wholly and only a receiver. Every one has some gift, and every one has some need. It is by mutual ministration that the general welfare is secured.
4. A service acceptable to Christ. He who gave not only his gifts, but himself, for men, cannot but take pleasure in every manifestation of sympathy, in every ministration of helpfulness, to be met with in his Church. - J.R.T.
I. THE SEVERAL KINDS OF CHRISTIAN SPEECH.
1. In the primitive Church there were those who were inspired to utter forth with authority doctrines and precepts of religion. This was a special and supernatural "gift" bestowed upon the apostles, but by no means confined to them, and a gift the exercise of which must have been especially serviceable when Christianity was young, when some of the books of the New Testament were not yet written, and the canon was not yet complete. With bow deep a sense of responsibility such gifted persons must have addressed Christian congregations one can easily understand.
2. There were also those who were entrusted with the gift of tongues. Whatever differences of opinion may prevail with regard to the character of this gift, one thing is clear, and that is that it was supernaturally adapted for making a deep and signal impression in favor of the Christian faith. The singular nature of this power must have led its possessors to deem themselves "oracles" of God.
3. But there seems no reason for confining the reference of this admonition within limits so narrow. In the Church of Christ were those who, as pastors, teachers, and evangelists, were wont to employ the gift of speech from Christian motives and to Christian ends. This is a function which men of God have through all the Christian centuries been called to discharge, for the edification of the body of Christ, and for the spread of the gospel among men. Often have such experienced the restraining and inspiring influence of the apostolic direction given in this passage. When tempted to use their gift of speech for the purpose of advancing their own interests or displaying their own powers, such men have been checked by the recollection of this just and holy requirement, that they should speak as God's oracles.
4. Further, the reference of this language may be enlarged so as to include all speech of Christian men. There is a sense in which he who is filled with the Spirit of Christ must needs speak, whenever he opens his lips, as the oracles of God; for his speech is sincere and true, wise, just, and kind.
II. THE HOLY AND BENEFICENT INTENTION OF CHRISTIAN SPEECH.
1. It should be a revelation from God - not, indeed, in the narrower and more proper meaning of that word, but in a sense justifiable and defensible. The oracle declares the mind and will of the Divinity. The Christian's speech brings the holy and gracious God near to those who listen and understand.
2. It should serve for the guidance of those to whom it is addressed. It may not be didactic in form, but substantially it possesses a directing virtue. Christian speech may, and constantly does, preserve men from error and from sin, and guide them into truth and righteousness. It is used to this end by the Spirit of wisdom and of grace, who not only influences the mind and heart of him who speaks, but also the conscience, affections, and will of those who hear. - J.R.T.
I. THE PURPOSE FOR WHICH TRIALS ARE PERMITTED. To many minds the trials which befall the good and the bad alike seem hardly consistent with the benevolent character of God. But it is forgotten that the end of the Divine government is not to secure to all men the greatest possible amount of enjoyment, but to place every man in a position of moral discipline, to give him an opportunity to resist temptation, to cultivate virtuous habits, to live an obedient and submissive and truly religious life. Not as if God were indifferent to the issue of such probation; on the contrary, he watches its process with interest, and delights to see the gold purified in the furnace, the wheat winnowed from the chaff. The hearer of the Word is put upon his trial, and events prove whether he will hear or forbear. The believer in Christ is put upon his probation, and it is seen whether his faith is strong and his love sincere. Time tries all.
II. THE SPIRIT IN WHICH TRIALS ARE TO BE ENDURED BY THE CHRISTIAN. St. Peter shows us that the true Christian temper under trials is that which regards all such afflictions as participation in the Master's sufferings. He who is one with Christ finds his satisfaction in being "as his Master, his Lord." He does not ask to be exempt from the experiences Jesus submitted to pass through before him. And he is sustained and cheered to know that, even in the heated furnace, there is One with him whose form is as the Son of God. Here is the true remedy for human restlessness and for human discontent. What we share with Christ we may accept with submission and gratitude.
III. THE ISSUE TO WHICH TRIALS ARE TO TEND. We are not left without light upon the future. As our Lord himself', even in his humiliation and woe, saw of the travail of his soul, and was satisfied; so are his followers justified in anticipating, not merely deliverance, but exaltation. The glory of the triumphant Redeemer shall be revealed, and they who have shared his cross shall then with joy sit down with him upon his throne. - J.R.T.
I. THERE IS THE JOY OF FELLOWSHIP WITH CHRIST IN SUFFERING. Suffering for righteousness brings us into fellowship with Christ.
1. It is suffering for his sake. The persecuted partake of Christ's sufferings. Some of our Lord's sufferings were peculiarly his own, and could not be shared; but we participate in his sufferings when we suffer in the interests of his Church, the interests of righteousness, for the spread of his kingdom. Suffering is always suffering, but when we know it is for that for which our Lord suffered, and on which his heart is set, it is suffering glorified.
2. It is suffering by his side. We are never more conscious of his presence and sympathy than in suffering voluntarily endured for his cause. None ever suffered for Christ without loving him more.
3. It is suffering preparatory to his glory. Some of Christ's servants do not think much of his coming again. That may be due to their not having fulfilled the tasks he gave them. His servants know when they have really tried to please him, and he knows it too, and this gives them confidence towards him, and makes them eager for his appearing.
II. THERE IS THE JOY OF GLORIFYING THE SPIRIT IN SUFFERING.
1. Be sure that yours is really Christian suffering. "Let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as a busybody." (Strange company that, by the way, for busybodies!) Is it not strange that Peter should suggest that Church-members might be guilty of such things? The fact is that the early Church contained many from the criminal classes, and some of them were too easily admitted to fellowship; their adhesion to Christ being simply an endeavor to atone for a life of misdeeds while the misdeeds secretly remained. Let us see to it that we do not take to ourselves the comforts of those who suffer for Christ's sake, when we really suffer for our sins' sake. It is not the suffering that makes the martyr, but the cause of it.
2. Yours be Christian suffering, its endurance glorifies the Spirit. "If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you." The word "resteth" here is the same word our Lord uses when he says, "Come unto me and rest." On the seventh day God rested from his works, but be also rested in them: "He saw all that he had made, and behold it was very good." God in his works was satisfied. So the Spirit of God rests on the Christian martyr, for he sees his work there - the fruit of the sacred love he has inspired, of the sustaining grace he has imparted; and the gracious Spirit reposes in the glorious result of his mission.
3. Reproach becomes our glory rather than our shame. "If any man suffer as a Christian," etc. Christian was a name of scorn at first, and Peter says, "Be not ashamed, glorify God in this name; respond to the reproach of earth by praise of heaven." Why should we do this? Because in us at that moment the Spirit of God finds a resting-place. Do we not often forget the claims that gracious Spirit has on our service and our love? We owe all that Christ is to us, and all that the Father is to us, to him.
III. THERE IS THE JOY OF TRUSTING THE FATHER. "For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it -first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator." "The time is come that judgment," etc. We understand these words when we remember that the Epistle was written before the awful judgment which terminated in the destruction of the ecclesiastical and civil polity of the Jews, which our Lord had foretold: "wars, rumors of wars, famines, pestilences, earthquakes," as "the beginning of sorrows;" and added to his people, "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you, and ye shall be hated of all men for my Name's sake." "And if the righteous scarcely [with difficulty] be saved," etc. What fires of discipline, and what deep waters of sorrow, they have to go through to enter the kingdom] If this is what God's children endure, what of those who are not his? If so heavy is the hand of chastening, educating love, what will the hand of judgment and wrath be! Christian, shrinking under the one, remember that you are delivered from the other. Trustfully acquiesce in the endurance of Christian suffering. This suffering is according to God's will, the other is not, and can only be unmingled curse; but that of his people in the way of righteousness is his choice, he selects that, presides over it, tempers it, and leads it on to unmingled blessing. Here, then, is a fresh possibility of joy in suffering for Christ - the joy of resting in the will of the Father. I)o we know anything of suffering for righteousness' sake? Other sufferings we are each familiar with, but have we suffered for Christ? do we live a life of voluntary suffering for him? If not, I might say we have reason in that to wonder whether we are his followers at all. If we are strangers to Christian suffering, we are strangers to the deepest Christian joy. Christian joy is a flower which bears its fairest blossoms only when it grows on the grave where self lies buried. - C.N.
fire is very common in the Old Testament Scripture, with which Peter shows himself familiar, and also because he is writing to Christians, upon whom through all parts of the Asiatic provinces of Rome the cruelties of Nero's persecution were being in many ways wreaked, we conclude that "the fiery trial" is a wider and more scathing and more enduring conflagration than that which destroyed the imperial city. So the lessons here are of wide application. They cover the whole scope of Christian suffering.
I. THE CHRISTIAN MUST NOT RECKON HIS SUFFERINGS AS STRANGE. Tenderly, with the word "beloved," Peter bids Christian sufferers not to feel themselves bewildered as men in a strange country. Do not let suffering shock you. Do not fear as you enter into the cloud. Why not? Because:
1. The sorrows the Christian shares in common with the world generally are not strange. His religion will not exempt him from bodily pain, business calamities, social bereavement, physical death.
2. The sorrows that Christians endure in persecution because they are Christians are not strange. Persecution is not to be wondered at. It is
(1) an instinct of evil men;
(2) in harmony with all history. The flippant dislike the real, the unclean are angry with the pure, the votaries of error are irritated with the teachers of truth, the wicked hate the good; hence the pains and penalties of persecution are not strange.
3. The sorrows that are the direct result of Christian spirit and character are not strange.
(1) Grief for sin and imperfection;
(2) compassion for the miserable;
(3) self-sacrificing sympathy for the vicious and wretched.
No. Trial is not "strange;" for:
(1) It meets the necessities of Christian character. "It cometh upon you to prove you."
(2) It is in fulfillment of the repeated declarations of God's Word.
(3). It is in harmony with all the biographies of good men. The device on the Church's shield is the bush that burns and yet is not consumed.
II. THE CHRISTIAN MAY FIND IN HIS SORROWS A CAUSE FOR PROFOUND JOY. To Peter, as well as his beloved brother Paul, the vast region of sorrow was not unknown or unexplored; they did not feel "strange" in it, as bewildered men in a foreign country. They had descried light on its hill-tope, drunk of streams in its deserts, plucked flowers in its solitudes, eaten manna in its wastes. How was this? They were "partakers of Christ's sufferings." Some of our Lord's sorrows are infinite secrets. Some can be known and shared. Such as:
1. Agonizing sensitiveness to sire His sigh, tear, groan, we may know in our experience.
2. Sacrificial compassion for sinners.
3. Sternly self-denying loyalty to duty. In all these we may, we must as Christians, be partakers of Christ's sufferings. "At the revelation of his glory." These words speak of unspeakable future joy. To rejoice in the revelation of his glory, which will be the triumph of pity, of purity, of the mission to bless others, we must be partakers of his sufferings. Blessed now with reproach for his sake, we shall, by growing resemblance to him and gracious reward from him, be blessed then. "The Spirit of glory and of God resteth on you." This token of the Divine presence not simply indicates the continuance of God with you, but the satisfaction of God in you. His spirit "resteth" upon you. The teaching is:
(1) God is near those who are partakers of Christ's sufferings. The Spirit of God is with them.
(2) God is near them to glorify them, and himself to rejoice in them. "The Spirit of glory resteth. The music of the Beatitudes is ringing through Peter's soul, and he flings out their consoling, inspiriting tones to all who were or ever shall be in the fiery trial" through which all Christians pass. "Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." - U.R.T.
I. HAPPINESS CONNECTED WITH THE FIERY TRIAL.
1. The fiery trial not a perplexity. "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial among you, which cometh upon you to prove you, as though a strange thing happened unto you." With an affectionate address the subject is appropriately introduced. There was a fierce trial not coming on them, as the old translation bears, but already in the midst of them, as the revised translation bears. The word used ("fieriness") expresses the sharpness of the persecution to which they were subjected. They were mercilessly attacked in their dearest earthly interests. We do not know the details of the persecution; but it was a reality as of fire carried into the midst of the Christians, laying hold upon one here and upon another there, and distressing the whole circle. By severe suffering there has often been suggestion of the way of the Divine dealing. The apostle here supposes that they might be inclined to think it strange that they had the fire of persecution in the midst of the loved circle. The word expressive of the feeling of strangeness was formerly used with regard to the miraculous change of life introduced by Christianity. Former companions thought it strange that they did not continue to overleap the bounds with them. Now, the supposition is of them that did not overleap the bounds, but put on restraints, thinking it strange that the fire should be allowed to come among them. How did this consist with their Christian standing, character, destiny? Were they not the objects of covenant love? Were they not sincerely striving to honor the Divine ordinances? Were they not looking forward to a glorious, blood-bought inheritance? Why, then, was the fire working its work among them? It was justified, Peter points out, by its probationary use it was upon them, and not yet fully spent, not to pain them simply (which would be inconsistent with covenant love), but by its very painfulness to Trove them, i.e. to bring out their sincerity, and also their greater excellence, and therewith their deliverance from remaining impurity. The fire makes us feel the reality of life. It tends to make us thoughtful, earnest, humble. There is a knowledge of God, of Divine things, of the Divine promises, which enters only by the door of suffering. "Knowledge through suffering entereth." It is as sufferers that we obtain the richest experience, even of the tenderness of God, and that our love in its greatest tenderness is drawn out towards him. Let us not, then, think the fire strange, even as though a strange thing were happening unto us. It is not strange when it works toward such an end. And we may trust the All-wise God to proportion the intensity of the fire to what our spiritual requirements are.
2. The fiery trial a rejoicing. "But insomuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings, rejoice; that at the revelation of his glory also ye may rejoice with exceeding joy." The apostle rises here to jubilation. Not merely is the fiery trial not a reason for bewilderment; it is even a reason for rejoicing. We are to rejoice in that we are partners with Christ; we are to rejoice in that we are partners with Christ even in his sufferings, i.e. those which he personally endured on earth. He endured the sharpness of persecution, ending in "the sharpness of death;" and what made his death so difficult to endure was not the fire of persecution, but the penal fire of God. There was a solitariness in Christ's sufferings; and yet our sufferings can be joined to his sufferings, and it is an honor to have them so joined. We are to look even at the degree or measure in which our sufferings can be placed along with Christ's sufferings. For there is the quantitative word used - meaning "in proportion as." There is thus exegetical value in the remark of Leighton, "What does the world, by its hatred and persecutions and railings for Christ, but make me more like him, give me a greater share with him in that which he did so willingly undergo for me?" The persecuting world thus in a way defeats itself; it makes the Christian suffer, but only to add to his joy in making him a greater sharer with Christ in what he suffered. "Rejoice," then, is the word of command to the persecuted; but now the end of the present rejoicing is seized on. "Rejoice; that at the revelation of his glory also ye may rejoice with exceeding joy." There is a present rejoicing; there is also a future rejoicing; and the one is with a view to the other. Both, it seems to be implied here, and is certainly elsewhere taught, go upon partnership, and in this order - first partners with Christ in his sufferings, and then partners with Christ in his glory. The future rejoicing is to be at the revelation of Christ's glory. There is a glory of Christ which is at present concealed - concealed from the world. There is even a glory of Christ which is not yet possessed - the glory expressive of the final vindication of his mission, the final triumph of his cause. Then he is to get glory from the saints; but then, also, he is to be in a position to bless his saints, without any hindrance, according to his heart's desire, according also to the thought of the Father from all eternity; and he is to bless them by making them partners with him in his glory. Their very bodies raised are to take after his glorified body: how can it, then, be aught but Christ's glory that is to shine forth in their spirits? The word for the present is "rejoice," but at the revelation of Christ's glory it is to be rejoicing with exceeding joy, rejoicing beyond the measure of the present, rejoicing far beyond our present power of conception. Now it is rejoicing in the midst of persecutions; then it will be rejoicing when the persecutions are all over for ever and sublimated, and the glorious realities are in actual possession.
II. THE CONDITION OF HAPPINESS EMPHASIZED.
1. Being reproached for the Name of Christ. "If ye are reproached for the Name of Christ, blessed are ye; because the Spirit of glory and the Spirit of God resteth upon you." The condition which has been implied is now expressed. There are reproachful words, and there are reproachful acts. To be reproached for the Name of Christ is to be interpreted in the light of our Lord's own words, "In my Name, because ye belong to Christ." We are not, then, to understand the Beatitude as connected with what Christians suffer in the ordinary course of providence, but with suffering that they could avoid but do not avoid because the Name of Christ does not permit it. Blessed are they who are not intimidated, who are willingly reproached, when it is demanded by Christian principle, nay, by loyalty to him who has been manifested as their Savior, and entitled to be served before and above every other. Blessed are they, because the spirit resting upon them is not the reproach-avoiding spirit of the world, but the Spirit of glory, who is also the Spirit of God. When Paul prays for the Ephesian Christians that they may have a worthy conception of the future glory, he calls God "the Father of glory" (Ephesians 1:17); so here Peter says that there rests upon the reproached for the Name of Christ the Spirit of glory, i.e. whose nature is glory, and who, according to his nature, imparts glory. Granted that they do not by worldly compliance avoid reproach: have they not infinite compensation in what the possessed Spirit of glory will yet make to shine forth in them?
2. The condition in what it excludes. "For let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or an evil-doer, or as a meddler in other men's matters." "For" is explanatory. Let the characterization of the condition be noted; for there is a suffering with which the Beatitude is not connected. "Let none of you [Peter is here directly personal] suffer for his own faults." "Let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or [generally] an evil-doer." By the second "as" a fourth class is marked off by itself. "Let none of you suffer as a meddler in other men's matters;" literally, "a bishop or overseer within what belongs to another." The word, which may have been of Peter's own coining, is sufficiently expressive. The Christian, with his superior knowledge, saw many things around him which needed to be rectified. Let him not thereby be betrayed into stepping beyond his proper sphere. Thus meddling, he was not to be classed with the evil-doer; but for his interference he might suffer heavily enough.
3. The condition further elucidated. "But if a man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God in this name." This verse is remarkable for the introduction of a name which occurs in only two other places in the New Testament. At first the followers of Christ were confounded with the Jews; when the distinction could be made, they were very naturally named Christians. This was the name current when Peter wrote. It was a name which exposed its bearer to suffering. But if he suffered in this name, let him not consider himself disgraced. He was disgraced if he suffered as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evil-doer, or even as a meddler; but not if he suffered as a Christian. On the contrary, says Peter, "let him glorify God in this name." He might have said, "Let him consider himself honored," but, going beyond that, his thought is, "Let him render the honor of such suffering to God."
III. UNHAPPINESS CONNECTED WITH DISOBEDIENCE.
1. The order of judgment. "For the time is come for judgment to begin at the house of God: and if it begin first at us, what shall be the end of them that obey not the gospel of God?" This follows up not being ashamed, but glorifying God. There is to be, in accordance with ver. 7, which is not yet lost sight of, a speedy rectification of things. There is the actual arrival of the time for judgment to begin. With this there is a passing on to the order of judgment. The object of judgment is first the house of God, i.e. believers collectively. The language is taken from the temple at Jerusalem, which was probably still standing. The objects of judgment are next - they that obey not the gospel of God. We are not to think of those with whom the gospel has not been brought into contact. We are rather to think of men refusing the gospel when presented to them. We are especially to think of men showing active hostility to the gospel as persecutors. The gospel is here called "the gospel of God," not as coming from the heart of God, but rather as that with which God has to do in judgment in respect of the treatment it receives. There is judgment upon the house of God. We are not to think of condemnatory judgment, but rather of the corrective judgment referred to in 1 Corinthians 11:32, "But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world." The judgment was to be regarded as taking place in the persecutions to which they were subjected as belonging to the house of God. These were fitted to remind them of their sins, their shortcomings. Because they were not pure enough, the fiery trial was sent upon them to act as a refiner's fire, separating the unworthy, and also from the genuine all unworthy elements. There is also to be judgment upon them that obey not the gospel of God. This is of the nature of condemnatory judgment. There is to be final judicial dealing with them for their ungodly deeds, for their hard speeches. There is especially to be final judicial dealing with them for the treatment they have given the gospel, the preachers of the gospel, the Christian communities, the Christian members. Stress is laid on the order of the judgment. The starting-point is noted. It begins at, or from, the house of God. The language is used in Ezek. ix. 6, "Begin at my sanctuary." Upon this an argument is founded. It is similar to what is found in Jeremiah 25:29, "For, lo, I begin to bring evil on the city which is called by my Name, and should ye be utterly unpunished?" The argument has a consolatory side to them that belong to the house of God. "If it begin first at us," says Peter, referring to himself and the persecuted to whom he wrote. It was only to begin first at them; it was not to stay with them. It was to pass on to them that obeyed not the gospel of God - and how? We may understand, with increasing severity; for the question is ominously asked, "What shall be the end of them that obey not the gospel of God?" They experienced the beginnings of the storm: what would be their experience upon whom the storm, gathering volume as it proceeded, at last burst in all its fury?
2. Old Testament reference. "And if the righteous is scarcely saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear?" The reference is to Proverbs 11:31, "Behold the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner." The language is properly from the imperfect Septuagint rendering. The singular individualizes. The righteous is he who stands in a right relation to God. The New Testament bearing is he who stands in right relation to God in view of the revelation made in the gospel. The Old Testament equivalent to "obeying not the gospel of God," is "the ungodly and sinner," i.e. he who has not the fear of God on him, and therefore acts presumptuously. It is said of the righteous that he is scarcely saved. Two men have a task assigned to them - climbing a hill; the task to be accomplished in a given time. It would require of both all their might to reach the top in the given time. One sets himself to it, and when the time expires he has scarcely reached the top What is to be said of the other, who all the time has gone after his own pleasure? God has assigned to all, as he has a right to assign, a task; this task is the salvation of the soul. To accomplish it in the time appointed requires working with all the might. Here is one who sets himself to the task. He works while it is day; and when the night of death comes down on him the task is scarcely accomplished, there is still purification that needs to be done. It is not said of him that he shall not appear before God in the issue of judgment; rather may we understand that he shall appear, though there may be withheld from him the highest reward in the presence of God. Here is another who misjudges life, who spends the day of grace in idleness and pleasure, who has not fear for the God who is to judge him, who throws off restraints. This ungodly man and sinner, where shall he appear? The question is ominously left unanswered; but we may take the answer as given in the first psalm, "The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish."
IV. CONCLUSION SHOWING HOW THEY WERE TO DO UNDER THE FIERY TRIAL. "Wherefore let them also that suffer according to the will of God commit their souls in well-doing unto a faithful Creator." "Also" is to be connected with "wherefore," and is to be taken as indicating something additional in the way of conclusion. By the will of God we are to understand, not so much the Divine appointment, as the Divine requirement. It is the will of God that we should suffer even as confessors and martyrs rather than deny Christ. Let them that thus suffer according to the will of God follow this course. Let them commit their souls to God. Thus it was with him who pre-eminently suffered according to the will of God. In dying he said, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." Let them commit their souls in well-doing unto a faithful Creator. There can be a falling back, not only on Fatherhood, but even on Creatorship. In creating us he constituted us so that in a course of well-doing we should be happy. Let us do well, and we may be assured that God wilt be faithful to his part of the covenant. "All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Thou shall call, and I will answer thee; thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands (Job 14:14, 15). - R.F.
(1) gives great rain;
(2) destroys evil;
(3) purifies the good. Notice -
I. SUFFERING FOR WRONG-DOING IS CERTAIN AND IS SHAMEFUL. "Let none of you suffer as a murderer," etc. This is strange counsel to Christians. That it is thus given to them:
1. Reminds us of the classes from which the first converts were drawn. No doubt many were not only from the poorest, but from criminal, classes. Hence the apostle's reminder after he has described some of the basest of characters, "Such were some of you."
2. Suggests to us to be on our guard against sins to which before we became Christians we were addicted. The old taint is a peril. Perhaps tow now need fear being "murderers" or "malefactors," but many may be on their guard against being "meddlers." "Lay aside the sin that so easily besets." "Them that obey not the gospel." Here is another class whose sufferings will bring shame. The climax of judgment is for them. Who can tell what their" end" will be? "The house of God" is under his control, and all in it must suffer for their wrong-doing. Those who know the claims of the gospel, the possibilities it offers, and yet despise it and reject it, "do not obey it," must have even severer suffering than Christians who have blundered into error or been overborne by evil, for they at least have
(2) hope of better life;
(3) conscious fellowship with a forgiving God.
II. SUFFERING FOR RIGHT-DOING MAY BEFALL US, BUT WILL BE A SOURCE OF GLORY. This Peter noted in earlier paragraphs, and reverts to again. "Suffer as a Christian," that is, because he is a Christian. The very name was at first one of scorn. And the name of scorn has become a name that glorifies God. So with all the sufferings that the character of those who truly wear that name has ever brought upon them. Are they the sufferings of
They are sufferings none need be ashamed of, but in which they may, as the noblest of men have done, glorify God.
III. SUFFERING FOR RIGHT-DOING MUST BE ENDURED IN THE RIGHT SPIRIT. The words of the nineteenth verse, the final words about "the fiery trial," are addressed to those who suffer because they are Christians.
1. They "suffer according to the will of God."
(1) Because he wills it;
(2) along the course of his wise providence.
2. In such sufferings they are to "commit their souls, in well-doing unto a faithful Creator." Here is the obligation of:
(1) Trust. "Commit;" deposit the treasure.
(2) Dutifulness. "In well-doing;' keep on doing the right.
(3) Trust in and dutifulness towards God. Faithful Creator. He knows - he cares: he will be faithful to his creation, and emphatically to the trustful ones. He who gave the soul its existence: and knows its capacities and needs, is its loving Guardian. - U.R.T.
I. THE TRUE TEMPER OF THE CHRISTIAN SUFFERER. We can scarcely fail to hear in the words one more echo of the gospel story. Peter remembers, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit," and bids us all, in our lighter sorrows, in like manner commit our souls to God. The word is the same, and, though our Lord spoke of the act of death, and the apostle of the surrender in life, the temper and disposition are the same. Absolute confidence and complete submission were exhibited on the cross. [Nothing less is our duty and privilege. When sorrow comes, and not only in joy when it is so easy, we are to give up ourselves to God in the full abandonment of trust, as a man who has been fighting for hours against the storm reaches home at last, and, with muscles relieved from strain, gratefully flings himself down to rest. We are to put ourselves in God's care, as people in war flock into the forts, or as a householder will deposit his valuables in the hands of his banker, and then sleep careless of thieves or fire. God will take good care of all that is deposited in his custody. No violence can force his safe where his jewels are kept. If we recognize our own importance, and, abandoning all self-reliance, trust wholly to him, we shall suffer no harm and fear no foe; but if we will live in the open country, and refuse the shelter of his stronghold, because we either do not believe the peril, or think we can keep ourselves sale by our own arms, some night or other we shall be roused from dreams to see the faces of the savage foes all about our bed, and shall know the sharpness of their arrows and the implacableness of their hearts. These two things, which are but the positive and the negative sides of one - self-distrust and reliance on God - are the secret of all tranquility as well as of all safety. That heart may well be at rest which has shifted the responsibility of its defense from its own weak self to God. If we once can come to feel that it is more his business than ours to take care of us, a whole cloud of cares falls like some black precipitate to the bottom, and leaves the heart clear. Confidence is not enough without submission. To commit our souls to God includes "Do what thou wilt," as well as "Thou wilt do lovingly and well." Only when the will yields, and, though it may be with tears bitter as death, and lasting as life, accepts and conforms itself to God's will, do we really know the blessedness of faith. That which we no longer kick against no longer pricks us. The cell out of which we do not wish to go ceases to be a prison, and becomes an oratory or a study. The horse that plunges feels the restraint of his harness, which would not gall if he went quietly. "It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good," is a talisman which changes bitter into sweet, darkness into light, sorrow into content, and death into life.
II. THE PRACTICAL ACCOMPANIMENT OF THIS TEMPER. "In well-doing." There are many important truths suggested by that significant addition.
1. The familiar truth is suggested that our committing our souls to God does not mean that we are to fold our hands in indolence, which we misname trust. Neither are we to be so much engaged with cultivating the inward graces of faith and submission as to neglect the practice of common deeds of kindness. Our religion may become transcendental, a thing of spiritual experiences and emotions, and may be in danger of soaring so high as to forget the work which has to be done here. But it must have hands to toil as well as wings to mount. Peter was foolish when he desired to stay on the Mount of Transfiguration, for there was a poor devil-ridden boy waiting in the plain to be healed.
2. Here is a warning against giving up work because of sorrow. Ages of persecution have seldom been ages of service. All the strength of the Church has been absorbed in simple endurance. And in our private sorrows we are too apt to fling aside our tools in order to sit down, and brood, and remember, and weep. We hold ourselves excused from tasks which otherwise seem plain duties, because our hearts are heavy. There is no greater mistake than to give up work because of trouble. Next to God's Spirit, it is the best comforter. We feel our own burdens less when we try to help some heavy-laden brother to catty his. Our sorrow will be less and our faith more if we honestly set ourselves to the tasks, and especially to the tasks of doing good to others which lie at our hands.
3. All sin kills faith. "Well-doing" here may either mean beneficence or pure moral conduct. If the former, the remarks just made apply. If the latter, the principle is presented that such conduct must be associated with our committing of our souls to God, because every breach of the solemn law of right will weaken our power of faith and make a barrier between us and God. A small grain of sin will blind us; a little sin will prevent us from seeing God. A thin film of air hinders two bodies from uniting; a thin layer of sin keeps the soul from touching God. Any transgression will disturb our faith, and make it close its opening buds, as a bright cloud crossing the sun folds together the petals of some plants. There must be pure and noble deeds if there is to be any completeness and continuity of peaceful confidence; for, though faith is the parent of righteousness, righteousness reacts on faith, and a hand foul with evil is lamed thereby, so that it cannot firmly grasp the outstretched hand of Christ.
III. THE GROUND OF THIS CONFIDENCE IN THE ACTS AND CHARACTER OF GOD. He to whom we entrust our souls is their Creator. Therefore he is strong to preserve no less than to make, and therefore, too, he knows how much tension and strain the soul can bear, and will not overweight it, nor test it up to the breaking-point. As St. Paul says, he will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able. Where better can some precious work be put for safe keeping than in the maker's hands? Where can my soul be so secure and well than confided to the care of him who fashioned me, and measures my sorrows, knowing my frame and remembering that I am dust? He is a faithful Creator. The act of creation constitutes a relation between God and us, which imposes on 'him obligations and gives us claims on him. He has made a covenant with his creatures in the hour when he created them, which he keeps for ever. He is faithful, in that he ever remains true to himself, to his own past, and to his articulate promises. What he has been we can rely on, and be sure that, as we have heard, so shall we see, and that every act of mercy and succor in the past binds him to extend the same mercy and succor today and for ever. So all the old history flashes up into new meaning for every poor sorrowful, trusting soul. What he has spoken he will adhere to, and there are promises enough for us to build absolute confidence upon. No man shall ever be able to quote an assurance of his which turned out a rotten support, a rind without a kernel. He is a faithful Creator. Therefore, if we "commit the keeping of our souls to him in well-doing," with the ancient prayer, "Forsake not the work of thine own hands," we too shall be blessed with the answer given to a hundred generations, and fulfilled to every soul that rested upon it, "I will not leave thee until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of." - A.M.