1 Peter 2
Biblical Illustrator
Wherefore laying aside all malice.
I. THAT REGENERATION AND THE LOW OF SIN CANNOT STAND TOGETHER, it must needs be accompanied with a new life. Do vines bear brambles?

II. THAT THERE IS NO PERFECTION HERE TO BE ATTAINED, for even the best have sin dwelling, though not reigning, in them.




(John Rogers.)

I. WHAT IS TO BE LAID ASIDE? "All malice, guile, hypocrisies, envies, evil speakings." These are only a few specimens of the many lusts which are to be cast out, if we would enter the kingdom of heaven. If a child has swallowed poison I could not expect that wholesome food would confer any benefit upon him — the poison must be first removed; and if these poisonous evils lodge in your hearts and be not repented of, they prevent the Word of God having its proper effect, they effectually neutralise it.

II. THE SPECIAL REASON WHY THESE ARE TO BE "LAID ASIDE." The fact of their being "newborn babes," the apostle urges as a reason why they should put away all these evils. This reason is a very efficacious one. If you are born again, what have you to do any more with the old habits of corruption?

III. WHAT IS TO BE DESIRED? "The sincere milk of the Word."


(H. Verschoyle.)

I. It is exceedingly PROFITABLE TO GATHER SPECIAL CATALOGUES OF OUR SINS WHICH WE SHOULD AVOID, to single out such as we would specially strive against, and do more specially hurt us.

II. THE MINISTER OUGHT TO INFORM HIS FLOCK CONCERNING THE PARTICULAR FAULTS THAT HINDER THE WORK OF HIS MINISTRY where he lives. It is not enough to reprove sin, but there is a great judgment to be expressed in applying himself to the diseases of that people.

III. THE APOSTLE DOTH NOT NAME HERE ALL THE SINS THAT HINDER THE WORD, but he imports that in most places THESE HERE NAMED DO MUCH REIGN, and marvellously let the course of the Word.


(N. Byfield.)

is an old grudge upon some wrong done, or conceived to be done to a man, whereupon he waits to do some mischief to him that did it. Anger is like a fire kindled in thorns, soon blazeth, is soon out; but malice, like fire kindled in a log, it continues long. This is often forbidden (Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8).

1. We ought to take heed of the beginnings of unadvised anger. God is slow to wrath, and so should we be.

2. If we be overtaken (as a right good man may) take heed it fester not, grow not to hatred; heal it quickly as we do our wounds. The devil is an ill counsellor.

(John Rogers.)

Scientific illustrations.
There are plants which may be said to distil venom of their own accord. The machineel tree, for example (by no means uncommon in the West India Islands), affords a milky fluid which blisters the skin as if it were burnt with a hot iron; and indeed so dangerous has the vegetable been accounted, that if a traveller should sleep under its shade it was once popularly believed he would never wake again. The venomous disposition of these plants has its representative in the human family. There are persons to be met with who are so spiteful as to cause pain the moment you come into contact with them. Their lips distil malice, and it seems the object of their life to inflict malignant wounds. If you trust them your happiness will sleep the sleep of death.

(Scientific illustrations.)

All guile
It is meant of guile that is between men and men in their dealings with each other, as in buying, selling, letting, hiring, borrowing, lending, paying wages, doing work, partnership, etc.; when men would seem to do well, but do otherwise; when one thing is pretended, but another practised. We are not born for ourselves, but for the good of each other; we must not lie one to another, seeing we are members one to another, as it were monstrous in the natural body to see the hand beguile the mouth, etc., and yet how common is this sin! how doth one spread a net for another! not caring how they come by their goods, so they be once masters of them.

(John Rogers.)

"All" — this is added to show (lest any should think none but guile in great matters or measure forbidden here) that there is a thorough reformation required. Therefore it will not serve any man's turn to say, "My shop is not so dark as others; I mingle not my commodities so much as such and such; I never deceived in any great matters." All guile must be abandoned by a Christian who cares for his soul. A Christian must show forth the truth of his Christianity in his particular calling, in his shop, buying, selling, etc., that men may count his word as good as a bond, that they dare rest on his faithfulness, that he will not deceive.

(John Rogers.)

1. Keep thyself in God's presence; remember always that His eyes are upon thee (Psalm 16:8; Genesis 17:1).

2. Thou must pray much and often to God to create a right spirit within thee; for by nature we have all hypocritical hearts (Psalm 51:10).

3. Keep thy heart with all diligence, watching daily and resisting distractions, wavering thoughts, and forgetfulness. Judge thyself seriously before God (James 4:8; Matthew 23:26).

4. In all matters of well-doing be as secret as may be (Matthew 6) both in mercy, prayer, fasting, reading, and the like.

5. Be watchful over thy own ways, and see that thou be as careful of all duties of godliness in prosperity as in adversity, in health as in sickness (Job 27:9, 10).

6. Converse with such as in whom thou discernest true spirits without guile, and shun the company of known hypocrites.

7. Be not rash and easy to condemn other men for hypocrites, only because they cross thy opinions, or humours, or will, or practice. It is often observed that rash censurers that usually lash others as hypocrites fall at length into some vile kind of hypocrisy themselves.

(N. Byfield.)

Hypocrites are like unto white silver, but they draw black lines, they have a seeming sanctified outside, but stuffed within with malice, worldliness, intemperance; like window cushions made up of velvet, and perhaps richly embroidered, but stuffed within with hay.

(J. Spencer.)

Coals of fire cannot be concealed beneath the most sumptuous apparel, they will betray themselves with smoke and flame; nor can darling sins be long hidden beneath the most ostentatious profession, they will sooner or later discover themselves, and burn sad holes in the man's reputation. Sin needs quenching in the Saviour's blood, not concealing under the garb of religion.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. Consider THE SUBJECT PERSONS in which it usually is. It is found most in natural men (Titus 3:3), yea, in silly men (Job 5:2). This was the sin of Cain (Genesis 4). yea, of the devil himself.

II. Consider THE CAUSE OF IT. It is for the most part the daughter of pride (Galatians 5:26), sometimes of covetousness (Proverbs 28:22), and often of some egregious transgression, such as in Romans 1:29, but ever it is the filthy fruit of the flesh (Galatians 5:25).

III. Consider THE VILE EFFECTS of it, which are many.

1. It hath done many mischiefs for which it is infamous. It sold Joseph into Egypt (Genesis 37), and killed the Son of God (Matthew 27:8);

2. It deforms our natures, it makes a man suspicious, malicious, contentious, it makes us to provoke, backbite, and practise evil against our neighbours.

3. It begins even death and hell, while a man is alive (Job 5:2). It destroyeth the contentment of his life, and burns him with a kind of fire unquenchable.

IV. It is A NOTABLE HINDRANCE TO THE PROFIT OF THE WORD, and so no doubt it is to prayer and all piety, as evidently it is a let of charity (Philippians 1:15).

(N. Byfield.)

All evil speakings
He that would restrain himself from being guilty of backbiting, judging, reviling, or any kind of evil speaking, must observe such rules as these.

I. HE MUST LEARN TO SPEAK WELL TO GOD AND OF GODLINESS. If we did study that holy language of speaking to God by prayer, we would be easily fitted for the government of our tongues toward men: we speak ill to men because we pray but ill to God.

II. He must STUDY TO BE QUIET and not meddle with the strife that belongs not to him; resolving that he will never suffer as a busybody in other men's matters (1 Thessalonians 4; 1 Peter 4:15).

III. HE MUST KEEP A CATALOGUE OF HIS OWN FAULTS CONTINUALLY IN HIS MIND. When we are so apt to task others it is because we forget our own wickedness.

IV. HIS WORDS MUST BE FEW, for in a multitude of words there cannot want sin, and usually this sin is never absent.

V. HE MUST NOT ALLOW HIMSELF LIBERTY TO THINK EVIL. A suspicious person will speak evil.


VII. HE MUST AVOID VAIN AND PROVOKING COMPANY. When men get into idle company the very complement of discoursing extracteth evil speaking to fill up the time; especially he must avoid the company of censurers, for their ill-language, though at first disliked, is insensibly learned.

VIII. HE MUST ESPECIALLY STRIVE TO GET MEEKNESS, and show his meekness to all men (Titus 3:1, 2).

IX. If he have this way offended, then let him follow that counsel, "Let his own words grieve him" (Psalm 56:5); that IS LET HIM HUMBLE HIMSELF SERIOUSLY FOR IT BEFORE GOD by hearty repentance; this sin is seldom mended, because it is seldom repented of.

(N. Byfield.)

Alas, evil speaking floods the world as some weeds cover the fields in early summer! My heart was made sad in some journeys last year as I saw many large tracks of grain almost hidden by a yellow sea of flowering weeds. For the time you think it is not possible that any of the corn can come to perfection. Even there, however, a harvest is reaped; but the harvest would have been heavier if the fields had been clean. Evil speaking, like one dominant weed, covers the surface of society, and chokes in great measure the growth of the good seed. Christians, ye are God's husbandry — ploughed field; put away these bitter things in their seed thoughts and in their matured actions, that ye may be fruitful unto Him. If the multitude of words spoken by professing Christians in disparagement of their neighbours were reduced first by the omission of all that is not strictly true and fair; and next by the omission of all that is not spoken with a good object in view; and next by the omission of all that, though spoken with a good intention, is unwisely spoken, and mischievous in its results; — the remainder would, like Gideon's army, be very small in number, but very select in kind. The residuum would consist only of the testimony of true men against wickedness, which truth and faithfulness, as in God's sight, compelled them to utter.

(W. Arnot.)

As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word

1. This may relate to the commencement of the spiritual life at regeneration, as compared with its subsequent growth in this world. Not only has this life a beginning here, after the natural birth, but it begins like that, in a small, feeble, and almost imperceptible manner.

2. But this childhood may relate to the whole state of the spiritual life in the present world as compared with its future manhood.


1. In knowledge. At first this principle is weak in its perception of the things of revelation. It begins with those parts of Scripture which lie nearest to human observation, and in which the Bible most accommodates itself to human ignorance. It proceeds to those passages suited to an awakened and quickened state of feeling.

2. In purity. The mind naturally conforms itself to the sentiments with which it is conversant.

3. In heavenly mindedness. To that world from which the Scriptures Came, and about which they frequently treat, they insensibly draw the devout peruser. They facilitate the withdrawment of our minds from this world by the transitoriness which they attach to all earthly excellences, and by making them to stand for signs of others, yet greater and better, in the celestial economy. Hence our elevation is effectively promoted.

4. In peace and tranquillity of mind, amidst all the disturbances and ills of life. What book is, or can be, like the Bible, for its perpetual reference of all things here to a Divine superintendence?

5. In fine, the Scripture is calculated to promote the growth of every grace of the Spirit necessary to complete the Christian character. It feeds repentance by the evil it discloses in sin; it feeds Divine love by the excellence it portrays in God, rectifying the misconceptions of the carnal mind; it feeds faith by the representation of its objects, and by the impression it makes of its innate majesty and authority on the devout peruser of its pages. In like manner it feeds hope, patience, resignation, zeal, and every other grace which branches out of the principle of spiritual life, and completes the character of the man of God.


1. There must be the removal of what would otherwise prove fatal impediments. James inculcates the same duty under a different metaphor (1 Peter 1:21). He compares the Word to a fruit bearing plant, requiring a clean and friendly soil for its growth. The weeds of evil dispositions must be eradicated, or its roots will not spread, nor its virtue disclose itself. "Purify your hearts," therefore, he adds elsewhere, "ye double minded. Be ye doers of the Word," etc.

2. These impediments being removed, we must cherish and promote the spiritual appetite. The appetite of the infant for its appropriate supply is natural. The spiritual appetite, to be analogous to it, must have several properties.(1) It must be earnest. The child cries, is impatient for its designed support; and it is not an idle, cold, sluggish desire after the aliment provided for spiritual growth that will subserve our growth. "My soul breaketh," says David, "for the longing it hath to Thy statutes."(2) It must be specific and suitable. No toys and gew-gaws, no gifts of gold and silver, no, nor even of the most delicious food, will compensate the infant for the absence of its natural support. Thus we must take heed not to substitute for the truth of Scripture the sentiments of men, though set forth with all the advantages of learning and eloquence.(3) It must be constant, The infant tires not of its proper food, but finds in it all it wants both nutritive and delicious. Nor must we tire of the Word of God, nor seek for a greater variety than it presents. It contains within itself all that is necessary for life and godliness, for comfort and improvement.

(J. Leifchild.)

I. OUR CONDITION AS GOD'S LITTLE ONES. "Newborn babes." This world is but the nursery in which the heirs of God are spending the first lisping years of their existence, preparatory to the opening of life to full maturity yonder in the light of God.

1. This word should teach us humility. Our best pace and strongest walking in obedience here is as but the stepping of children in comparison with the perfect obedience of glory, when we shall follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. All our knowledge here is but as the ignorance of infants, and all our expressions of God and of His praises but as the first stammerings of children, in comparison with the knowledge we shall have of Him hereafter. It becomes us, therefore, not to exercise ourselves in great matters, or in things too high for us, but to quiet ourselves as a child that is weaned of its mother. Not surprised, if unnoticed or unknown; not angry, if treated with small respect; not discouraged, if face to face with incomprehensible mysteries.

2. This word should also teach us hope. There is no young thing so helpless as a babe. But He who has appointed the long months of babyhood has also provided the love and patience with which mother and father welcome and tend the strange wee thing which has come into their home. And shall God have put into others qualities in which He is Himself deficient? Shall He have provided so carefully for us in our first birth, and have provided nought in our second? Your weakness, and ailments, and nervous dread, and besetting sins, and hereditary taint of evil habit and dulness of vision, will not drive God from you, but will bring Him nearer.

3. This word should also teach us our true attitude towards God. Throw yourself on Him with the abandonment of a babe. Roll on Him the responsibility of choosing for you — directing, protecting, and delivering you. If you are overcome by sin, be sure that it cannot alienate His love, any more than can smallpox, which has marred some dear tiny face, prevent the mother from kissing the little parched lips.

II. OUR FOOD. "Long for the spiritual milk which is without guile" (R.V.). There is nothing which so proves the inspiration of the Scriptures as their suitableness to the nurture of the new life in the soul. As long as that life is absent, there is no special charm in the sacred Word: it lies unnoticed on the shelf. But directly it has been implanted, and whilst yet in its earliest stages, it seeks after the Word of God as a babe after its mother's milk; and instantly it begins to grow.

III. HOW TO CREATE AN APPETITE FOR THE WORD. "Desire." One of the most dangerous symptoms is the loss of appetite. And there is no surer indication of religious declension and ill-health than the cessation of desire for the Word of God. How can that appetite be created where lacking, and stimulated where declining?

1. Put off the evil that clings to you.

2. Remember that your growth depends on your feeding on the Word.

3. Stimulate your desire by the memory of past enjoyment. "If so be that ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious."

(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

The text urges three important elements of holy living.

I. SOUL MORTIFICATION — "Lay aside all malice," etc. This is a sacrifice. It does not come natural to the human soul. It demands effort. It is not an immediate attainment, but demands a period of growth. The series of worldly developments here alluded to are important marks of fallen men, and at the same time are painful disfigurements to professing Christians.

1. There is malice — i.e., ill-feeling of every kind. Under malice may be ranged political animosities which disturb the kindly relationship of men; unreasoning prejudice; the desire to injure those whom we dislike; bitterness, etc.

2. There is guile. This includes deceit.

3. There is hypocrisy — pretending a fictitious goodness which we do not possess. I take it that this includes cant, boasting, parade of religion, etc., for the word is not hypocrisy, but hypocrisies.

4. Envies. Again in the plural, for there are different kinds of envy.

5. Evil speakings. The failing here alluded to goes far to cause all the bitterness of worldly society.

II. SOUL DEVELOPMENT. There must be not only casting out of the evil, but also the taking in of what is good. The first requirement for development is to be brought into a state fit for growth.

III. SOUL INCITEMENT — "Since ye have tasted," etc. The first taste creates a desire for a more abundant supply.

(J. J. S. Bird, B. A.)

I. That soul advancement is an EVOLUTION - "That ye may grow thereby." That is, the growth of the whole soul — all its faculties, forces, and germs of power. Growth implies —

1. Inner life. A dead thing cannot grow. Sometimes education is spoken of as if the mind were a vessel into which a certain amount of information is to be poured until the mind is filled. Sometimes, as if the mind were a stone, on which the instructor was to act as a lapidary, and polish it into some beautiful form. Hence we hear so much of accomplishments, painting, drawing, music, etc. Sometimes, as if the mind was arable land, to be ploughed and in which to plant seed to germinate and develop. Philosophically, nothing can grow in the soul. It is the soul itself that grows.

2. An inner life of latent power. A thing may have life, and nothing within for future development. Not so with the soul; it has boundless possibilities.

3. A life possessing developing conditions.

II. That soul evolution involves SOUL HUNGER. "As newborn babes desire [R.V., long for] the sincere [R.V., spiritual] milk." Vegetable life grows without a desire; so, indeed, with animal life. But if the soul is to grow, it must desire it intensely.

1. The hunger must be for natural nutriment.

2. The nutriment must be of the best kind — "Sincere [R.V., spiritual] milk." What is the best kind? The "truth as it is in Jesus."

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

I. HEALTHY APPETITE: or, in other words, an earnest desire for spiritual nourishment.

1. It is of prime importance that we have a real craving for spiritual truth, for Christ will benefit us only as we appropriate Him.

2. We should further cultivate a discriminating taste. The babe's taste guards it against unwholesome food; it covets nothing but the mother's milk. So ought we to acquire a sensitive palate in respect of spiritual things, a palate able to discriminate between the precious and the vile. Is not the vitiated taste of many hearers of the gospel a symptom of a long-standing disease?

3. We should further habituate ourselves to desire strong meat, to digest well the great fundamental doctrines of the gospel. This then is the first requisite of orthodoxy, namely that we possess vigorous, healthy digestive organs. Gospel truth must be mixed with faith in them that hear it; that is to say, they must possess healthy organs, able to supply the spiritual secretions necessary to convert what we read and hear into part and parcel of our spiritual life.

II. HEALTHY FOOD; or, in other words, God's truth as contained in Holy Writ.

1. The milk of the Word. The great verses of the Bible are like so many breasts, from which we are to suck in the spiritual aliment necessary to our well-being. Do you know what it is to eat words, and especially God's words? The process is as real as eating bread and meat, and the results are much more abiding. "Thy words were found, and I did eat them": he converted them into an integral part of his spiritual nature.

2. "The milk of the Word," or rational milk. Rational milk in contrast to the rites and ceremonies both of the Jewish and heathen religions. Christians are to live more by mind and less by the senses.

3. "The sincere — unadulterated — milk of the Word," that is to say, milk free from all deleterious admixtures.

III. HEALTHY GROWTH. "That we may grow thereby unto salvation." In this Epistle salvation is used technically for salvation in the future, salvation full, complete, perfect. Now what does this growth unto salvation imply?

1. For one thing it implies growth in knowledge, for spiritual enlightenment is an essential factor in salvation.

2. Growth unto salvation further implies growth in holiness. "Having laid aside all sin, and all malice, and all evil speaking." Other religions forbid particular sins; but whilst prohibiting one class of sins, they tolerate other classes. Mahometanism, for instance, prohibits drunkenness; seldom does a Mahometan get intoxicated. But whilst prohibiting drunkenness it licenses adultery. And by thus flinging away sin from us our spiritual palate will gradually recover its normal, healthy tone; we will relish the unadulterated milk of the Word more than our ordinary food and drink.

(J. C. Jones, D. D.)

It is agreed that religion, subjectively considered, is life. "He that hath the Son hath life." If a man has religion, it is life in him. But it is finite life, limited and dependent. It requires for its continuance outside support and supply. Turning now to this life let us take note of some of its characteristics.

1. And, first, all life grows. This may not he apparent to the eye, but it is to the reason. Growth is the most unambiguous and decisive sign of life. A swelling bud, a beating pulse — this is proof. Life and growth go together as inevitable antecedents and consequents; and where there is growth, there is increment. This does not necessitate augmentation in size. It is not untrue to fact or absurd to say of a thing growing that it is growing small. Many a tree, many an animal, not a few persons of our acquaintance, are not as large as they formerly were.

2. Wherever there is growth, there is eating. The plant eats; down in the ground at the end of the rootlets we find spongioles, and these are mouths. In transplanting a shrub or tree the thing we care for is not to destroy these mouths, If true of vegetable life that it lives by eating, it is more obviously true of animal life. Do you say that in many of the lowest forms of sentient life we find no mouths? True apparently; but the bodies of such invertebrates abound in absorbents that serve the same purpose.

3. That nothing eats without an appetite. The etymology of this word (appetitus) gives as its striking meaning a seeking for, longing after. In vegetable life we have the analogue of appetite; for we find that every root, trunk, branch, is elongating itself in pursuit of its required supply. The tree in the thick forest extends itself to get up into the light and heat; and the stray vegetable in the cellar does the same to get out of the dark and cold just where the light and warmth have been pouring in. This power to elongate and reach its supply is one of the most interesting phenomena in the vegetable kingdom. Nor is it otherwise among animals. Their power to help themselves is itself a department of science, and awakens the deepest interest. Besides the power of elongation to get supply, they have the power of locomotion. Appetite unsupplied is hunger, one of the most intense forms of physical unrest; and impels to the most intense exertions to get relief. But what next after appetite? You say that our series of organic facts cannot end in appetite; you say it must have its correlative supply. You add that there is a wonderful law in nature ordaining in every grade of life that there shall be as many forms of reciprocal supply as there are subjective wants. For every mouth there is the required morsel, and, in general a superabundant supply. In man this law bears sway in a three-fold form, for he has in him three lives: life of body, brain, and soul. The physical life grows by eating what the physical appetite craves; the supplies here are found in the outward physical world. This life can live and grow on bread alone. The intellectual life grows by eating what the intellectual appetite craves; the supplies here are found in the truths of fact and principle discoverable in the world of science. The moral and spiritual life grows by eating what the moral and spiritual life craves; here the supplies are found in all the verities that appertain to the soul in relation to God and the immortal life. Having these three forms of life, and, in natural order, these three forms of growth, eating, and appetite, and, having these three forms of supply, man can have three forms of satisfaction: he can be physically, intellectually, and morally supplied and at rest. Therefore he can have three forms of health. He can be whole in body, mind, and soul; or he can be ailing in one department of his being, and well in other respects. In order to perfect health in each life there must be a perfect working of the functions of each in possession of a perfect supply. A man can have as many forms of hunger, starvation, and death by starvation, as he has lives. The inference here is inevitable, that if a man has in him three lives, and, in his prerogative of free will, can make each growthful or not, according as appetite is fed or not fed, then man has in him the power of a three-fold suicide. Thus far we have been considering life as it develops normally. In its various grades we find it growing according to a natural law inlaid in the constitution. We find it interfered with only by encroachment and want of supply. Unfallen human life observed this law in the primeval garden. But this adherence to law in an orderly unfolding did not continue. Sin entered, and with it a new factor, disease. It is an easy consequence of sin, itself wholly unnatural; it belongs to that category of thorns and thistles, toil and sweat and birth pangs, visited upon the race as instruments of probationary discipline and culture. This prepares us to notice the benignity of nature in providing not only for normal but as well for abnormal wants. Not only does she provide for hunger, thirst, rest, to repair waste and recover tone, but she is a storehouse of remedies for disease. There are provisions not only for life when exhausted by expenditure, but when assailed and wounded by assault. It is well known that animals when ill either refuse to eat, or, eating, select a medicinal diet. Such food is found in those forms of supply abounding in nature that are repelled in a state of health. Disease sharpens an instinctive appetite for them, and impels to a search for them. Man as a physical being, diseased, like all animals, finds himself dependent for cure on medicinal remedies stored in nature. There is a more subtle force in man, and a more destructive one, than disease, and whose proper seat is the soul. It is sin: what disease is to the body, sin is to the spiritual powers of man. The spheres in which these destructive forces work greatly differ, but such is the organic connection between them that we are quick to see the natural alliance of sin and disease. As in physical disease there is a suppression of appetite for common food, and a search for a medicinal diet, so in man's apostate condition and severance from God there is disclosed in the remains of his fallen nature, in the intuitions of reason and the instincts of a guilty conscience, a longing after some form of deliverance that has an expiatory value. Sin itself seems to evoke a longing for a remedy that will destroy it. A sick man wants health, and if lie finds it at all, he finds it in nature's stores; a lost man wants salvation, and if he finds it at all, he finds it in Christ crucified. Mark here the point of critical interest: when the sinner in the consciousness of his need turns to Christ and believes on Him, he is born again. In this change, his third life has been taken off the creature as having a supreme interest and placed upon God where it originally belonged; and so, being in Christ Jesus, the man, dead in trespasses and sins, is made alive from the dead. But the new man that is born in him is, to use the apostle's figure, a babe in Christ. There exist still in the converted man the remains of the old nature, and these remains are summed up by the apostle and called the old man. And now what have we? A marvellous phenomenon! a man with four lives in him. The physical and intellectual lives remain; then we have the new life, the babe in Christ, called the new man; finally we have a fourth life in the remains of the old life, called by St. Paul the old man. In the soul of the renewed man then we find two lives; and let us mark their relation to each other. In the first place, the new man though a babe holds the ascendency. He is so much the creation of the Spirit that we can say of him that he is the child of a King. In his minority in this world he has to retain his throne by warfare. In the text, St. Peter, addressing believers, urges them to exercise the appetite, characteristic of newborn babes, in their longing for the spiritual milk of the Word which is without guile, that they may grow thereby. He assumes the existence of life, and life that is to grow by eating in compliance with an awakened appetite. The reign of law is supreme in all growth. All the characteristics of life in the lower kingdoms of nature reappear here in the spiritual sphere. We have seen that all appetite, wherever found, finds its corresponding supply in its environment. This is true of the life of the believer. That life is Divine in its origin from heaven, and in its nature spiritual; therefore corresponding to it is an objective supply equally Divine and spiritual. But you ask, How about the old third life, now called by the apostle the old man, and which we have seen to be living a dying life? Does it grow? I reply that the old man still lives, but, struck with death, is in a mortal decline; there is growth too; but in proportion as the new man grows strong, he grows weak. If the new life is stationary, the old life holds its own; if it is retrograde, the old life waxes and regains ascendency, "sin reigns." But you say that if the old life lives in any form, even a lingering death, it must have food, and what is it? This is a vital question; can we find an answer? We have seen that the new life is in spirit totally unlike the old life, and cannot therefore live on the same diet, unless it is mixed. Here we fall upon the great source of weakness among believers — adulteration of food. The Divine plan for the new life is that it should live and grow "on spiritual milk, which is without guile." The word "spiritual" here does not refer to the Holy Spirit as the originator of this diet, but to the Spirit of the new life itself, with which this diet is perfectly congruous. The new life is spirit, and has a diet fitted to it as such; but the diet must be without guile, unadulterated, the pure Word of God. When the new life has this food, and only this food, and enough of it, it hastens on to full growth. Instances abound in the Church of persons of signal excellence in whom this life has had a luxurious exposition. But this food, so nutritious and medicinal to the new man, is innutritious and destructive to the old man. The Divine plan is to kill the old life by the natural process of starvation. It is said that in certain soils clover will not grow under butternut trees; the roots of the butternut extract from the soil all the elements the clover lives on, and so the clover starves and dies. It is by this same law of death by starvation that the old life in believers is to end its career. But the painful fact is that its law is not obeyed. Strange as it may be, believers do not insist that the spiritual milk they drink shall be without adulteration. They allow a mixed diet — elements introduced that are agreeable to the old man. When the diet is half and half, when both the old and the new man can sit at the same table and partake of the same food with equal pleasure, neither is satisfied; both live a stunted life. It is just here that we find an explanation of the mystery of the weakness that abounds in Christian living. Believers half live, because fed on a diet half of which is prepared for the old life. They consult with flesh and blood. They are self-indulgent; and the self they indulge is the old self. They hanker after forbidden food. In them the old life is robust and well to do, the new is pinched and emaciate. Why is this? Because the Divine law of growth in the text is not heeded. Believers are not studious as to their diet. They do not live on the spiritual milk of the Word, and insist that it shall be without guile. They are too tender and sympathetic with the old self. Vigorous self-denial is here demanded. This order is never introverted. It is always the new man in us that drives out the old; and to have the strength required to do it he must have for his diet the spiritual milk of the Word, which is without guile.

(C. B. Hulbert.)

1. The Word is compared to milk in respect of the plainness of it to young children, which is therefore opposed to strong meat, that is, harder points, and mysteries of religion, so especially for the nourishing nature thereof.

2. It is also compared to milk for the sweetness of it. The Word is sweet to a newborn Christian.

3. Besides, as milk is a general food for all rich and poor, so is the Word the common food of all Christians, the means of their edifying.

(John Rogers.)

Observe the relation in which the negative and the positive stand to each other. Although the precept about putting off first meets our eye on the page, the act is not represented as taking precedence in point of time. It is neither first put off the evil and then admit the good, nor first take in the good and then get quit of the evil. The language of the text determines that the two acts are strictly simultaneous. The form of the sentence is, "Laying aside these, desire this." This is scientifically correct as well as scripturally true. The coming of Christ unto His own, to the throne of a human heart, "is like the morning." And how does the morning come? Is it first that the light comes and then the darkness departs? or first the darkness departs and then the light advances? It is neither. As the light advances the darkness recedes. The processes are strictly simultaneous, but in nature the advance of light is the cause and the departure of darkness the effect. Such, also, is the rule in the spiritual sphere. It is indeed true that evil must depart to let in the good, but it is the advance of the good that drives the evil before it. Christ is the stronger who overcomes the strong and casts him out and reigns in his stead. To take in the milk and retain also the envies and evil speakings will give neither comfort nor growth. The effort to mingle these opposites mars the happiness of many a life, and distorts all its testimony for the truth of the gospel.

(W. Arnot.)

As in children, all speak and work at once — hands, feet, mouth. The Greek word signifieth vehemently to desire.

(J. Trapp.)

Guileless, unmixed milk, not sugared or sophisticated with strains of wit, excellency of speech, etc.

(J. Trapp.)

The Rev. Mr. Walker, of Muthil, was preaching in a neighbouring parish. Next day he was met by one of the resident landowners, who explained to the reverend gentleman that he had not been hearing him on the Sabbath afternoon, as he felt he could not digest more than one sermon. "I rather think," said Mr. Walker, " the appetite is more at fault than the digestion."

(C. Rogers, LL. D.)

That ye may grow thereby
I. CHRISTIANS ARE TO "GROW" — "grow unto salvation." This implies present immaturity — that they have not yet reached "the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." Their hope is ofttimes indistinct and tremulous, even when it is not averted from its appropriate object. Their holiness is stained by innumerable defilements of the flesh and the spirit. Their fear dissolves into a carnal security or a worldly dissipation. Nor does "brotherly love continue." But if they are Christians indeed all these elements of the new creature exist at least in the germ. Growth may be slow, and, for a time, even imperceptible. Obstructed by the remaining constitutional taint of the old nature, it may be hindered also by unfavourable circumstances, by the diseases incident to childhood, or through neglect of the appropriate means of growth. But the tendency is there, and that tendency is to be fostered by Christian education.


III. But, in order to the profitable use of even the pure milk of the Word, there are CERTAIN CONDITIONS PREREQUISITE.

1. There is, first, the necessity of spiritual life. Without it, as there can be no growth, so neither is there any desire after the means of growth,

2. If the soul is to enjoy the full benefit of the provisions of grace it must also be careful of its spiritual health, avoiding all occasions of disease, and especially maintaining a constant guard against the evil tendencies of its own constitutional taint.

3. When the soul has thus been "purified of malice and wickedness," one unfailing sign of its healthy condition is a "desire" — an earnest desire — for the nutriment of the Divine Word.

4. If we would grow by means of the Word it is important that we use the Word for that end.


1. In this growth itself there is blessing enough to be its own motive and great reward. There are other considerations, however, suggested by the text. Observe —

2. The introductory word, "wherefore," literally "laying aside, therefore," etc., referring back to the illustrious attributes of the Word, as these had been set forth at the close of the first chapter. It had there been magnified as the Word of the Lord, as the incorruptible seed, as the living, abiding, everlasting Word. Seeing, then, says Peter, this precious Word decays not, grows not obsolete, and can as little be exhausted as it can be superseded by the word of man or of angel, what remains but that ye "follow on to know" it, "give yourselves wholly" to it, and drink deep, drink daily, drink forever of the Divine fountains. This might the rather be expected of them as —

3. In the third place, they had already experienced the regenerating power of the Word, "as newborn babes." This is not so much a comparison as a reason. If, moreover, they remember still that they are but children, what more natural than that they should be ambitious to grow?

4. And finally, as they had been made subjects of the gospel's regenerating power, so they had likewise tasted the sweetness and blessedness of its revelations. "If so be" — or if indeed, as you profess, and as I fully believe — "ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious," good, kind. You "tasted," and you are well aware that you did no more than taste, "of the heavenly gift," of that which shall be the eternal satisfaction and joy of all the redeemed. With what confidence, then, in your ready compliance may I not say, Open your mouths wide and the good Lord will fill them. Enlarge to the uttermost both your capacities and your desires, and you will still find this cup of blessing, this river of God, as full as at the first.

(J. Lillie, D. D.)

I. It involves YOUNG LIFE. There is no growth without life, and old life grows not. Soul growth consists in the simultaneous and harmonious development of all the powers of the mind under the inspiration and direction of supreme love to God.


1. The Word must be taken into the soul by hearing and reading.

2. The Word must be digested by the soul by reflection and prayer.

3. The Word must be incorporated in the soul by holy activities and habits.


1. The soul must have an appetite for truth before it will take it.

2. The soul must have an appetite for the genuine truth before it will get the right nutriment.


I. THE GREAT END TO BE SOUGHT AFTER. "That ye may grow." The newborn babe is a fit emblem of the Christian. lie is one who has in him the principle of a higher life, and therefore the capacity of growth.

1. In what is it the Christian is to grow? In all that constitutes the new nature which he has received of God.(1) The foundation of the Christian life is laid in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.(2) On this there must be a superstructure of virtue and moral goodness reared, and the advancement of the one must keep pace with that of the other.

2. This growth is a gradual process. We must be prepared for fluctuations and vicissitudes in our spiritual condition.

3. Whenever this growth takes place it will be discernible. Not directly, or in itself. A child grows without being in the least degree sensible of it. Nor can even the keenest onlooker see the child grow. The fact that it has grown is discovered from the comparison of what it is now and what it had been at some period more or less distant in the past. Even so it is with Christian growth.


1. The truth of God is revealed to us as being adapted to nourish the life of God in the soul.

2. We are to desire God's Word in order that we may grow thereby. It is very possible to desire Divine truth for other reasons and other ends than this. It is quite possible to desire to read Holy Scripture because we have been accustomed to do so, or because this wonderful book is very pleasant to read, and touches every part of our intellectual nature.But we must use it intelligently, perseveringly, to secure the great end.

1. Have we any right to call ourselves babes in Christ, children of God, born again? If not, then simply we cannot grow. Dead things, stones, cannot grow.

2. Ought not the necessity of growing to be more deeply felt, and the duty on which it depends to be more faithfully discharged?

(W. L. Alexander, D. D.)

What man amongst us would consent to be dressed in the garb of his infancy, and to be sent forth into the world dandled in the arms of bearers and habited in the long clothes of his babyhood? But so far as spiritual knowledge and attainments are concerned men are only too willing to retain their infantile ideas, and to resent any attempt to lead them to larger and loftier conceptions of truth, to a more robust and manly faith.

(J. Halsey.)

Spiritual growth and development are required of us, and spiritual growth and development are a matter of spiritual diet. Buckle, in his "History of Civilisation," shows how the characters and dispositions of the various races of men are affected by the food they eat. The broad general truth of this is obvious. The gross feeders are slow thinkers, and the difference in the intellectual qualities between the Eskimo with his blubber and the Frenchman with his cutlets and claret is as great as the difference between the foods themselves. We are what we are — physically, mentally, and to a great extent even morally — mainly in virtue of our diet. If we were to be always subsisting on babies' food, farinaceous powders and sopped rusks, we should never grow into a stalwart manhood. At the same time you do not expect elevation and refinement of thought from the gourmand and the epicure. The man who con fines himself to the elements of thinking limits himself to the infantile stages of growth, to their helplessness and dependency.

(J. Halsey.)

They take a pride in cultivating their physical nature, in developing their muscle and sinew to the highest efficiency; they will even go into severe training to achieve this end; but in the spiritual sphere the toothless, flabby, milk-imbibing infant is their ideal.

(J. Halsey.)

And it is in that thinking faculty that resides your power of growth. The machine can never be anything else or anything better than it is unless human thought be brought to bear upon it. You cannot teach a machine anything, and because it cannot think it cannot grow. The instinct in the animal is always mere instinct. It never grows. The instinct whereby the bee makes its cell today is the same as that of its ancestors who sipped honey in primeval Eden. The ox is as bovine today as when it first appeared upon the stage of existence. Not one solitary idea has ever entered its brain during all those perhaps hundreds of thousands of years. It has never been able to think itself out of the animal groove, to lift itself, by force of its own will, one step in the scale of creation. But in virtue of his thinking faculty man's capacity for growth is illimitable. If he will only use it, cultivate it, develop it, no bounds can be set to its power to expand and elevate him.

(J. Halsey.)

The relation of growth to nutrition is a law of the universe. Every description of life has its appropriate aliment, and only as it is provided with this will it grow; and if you were a farmer you would find that you could not raise your corn and other crops without first charging the soil with silica and ammonia and phosphates, and other elements essential to the building up of the tissues of the plant. The religious manhood is built up no otherwise. It is purely a question of nutriment.

(J. Halsey.)

You have seen on a summer's evening the gnats gliding upon the smooth surface of a great river. What do they know of the river's wealth, of the beautiful gardens of aquatic weeds, of the shoals of silvery fish and other forms of life that teem in the clear depths beneath? Such is the knowledge of the universe that many Christian people possess, and that they think it right to possess. They skim the surface, but are careful not to wet their wings, and to go no deeper than the guardians of orthodoxy assure them it is safe.

(J. Halsey.)

"If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious." "If, if" — then this is not a thing to be taken for granted. "If" — then there is a possibility that some may not have tasted that the Lord is gracious. "If, if" — then this is not a general but a special mercy, and it becomes our business to inquire whether we are comprehended in that company who know the grace of God by inward experience.

I. First, then, TASTE is prominent in the text.

1. The taste here meant is doubtless faith. Faith, in the Scripture, is all the senses. It is sight (Isaiah 45:22); hearing (Isaiah 55:3); smelling (Psalm 45:8); touch (Mark 5:30, 31). Faith is equally the spirit's taste. "How sweet are Thy words to my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to nay lips." We shall have an inward and spiritual apprehension of the sweetness and preciousness of Christ as the result of living faith.

2. The taste here meant is faith in one of its highest operations. To hear Christ's voice as the very voice of God in the soul will save us, but that which gives the true enjoyment is the aspect of faith wherein Christ, by holy taste, becomes assimilated to us; we feed on Him; He becometh part of us; His living Word sustaineth us, and His precious blood cheereth us as generous wine. Do you ask, "In what respect does faith taste that the Lord is gracious?" It is faith operating by experience.

3. Faith, as exhibited to us under the aspect of tasting, is a sure and certain mark of grace in the heart. It is a sure sign of vitality. Man, by nature, is dead in trespasses and sins. Or, to put it in another light, if men have a taste of Christ, it is certain evidence of a Divine change, for men by nature find no delight in Jesus.

4. This taste, where it has been bestowed by grace, is a discerning faculty. If thou canst live upon a gospel which leads thee to depend upon thyself, thou hast no spiritual taste, or else thou wouldst loathe, as much as ever Egyptian loathed to drink of the waters of Nile when turned into blood, to drink of any river which flows from created springs; thou wouldst only drink of the cool stream of the river of life which rises at the foot of the throne of God and flows around the base of Calvary, where Jesus shed His blood. Say, soul, dost thou love Jesus only? Is He all thy salvation and all thy desire, and dost thou repose wholly and solely in Him? For if not, then thou hast no spiritual taste, and thou hast no reason to believe that thou belongest unto Jesus Christ at all.

5. Faith as a taste is not Simply a discerning but a delighting faculty. Men derive much satisfaction from the organs of taste. I pray you delight yourselves in Christ! Let your faith so taste Jesus as to make you glad. Let your joy be as the joy of harvest, and sing ye with Zechariah, "How great is His goodness, and how great is His beauty! Corn shall make the young men cheerful, and new wine the maids."

6. This taste of ours is in this life imperfect. As old master Durham says, "'Tis but a taste!" We have not yet rested beneath the vines of Canaan; we have only enjoyed the first fruits of the Spirit, and they have set us hungering and thirsting for the fulness of the heavenly heritage. We groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption.

7. Though ours is an imperfect, we thank God it is a growing taste. We know that sometimes in the decline of life the taste, like the other powers of manhood, decays; but, glory be to God, a taste for Christ will never decay.


1. We first dwell upon evils to be avoided.

2. The apostle, having told us what to avoid, tells us what to eat and drink. "As newborn babes desire," etc. The Christian man should desire pure doctrine; he should desire to hear the gospel plainly and truthfully preached — not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but in the words which the Holy Ghost teacheth. It is a sign of declining health in a Christian when he does not love the means of grace.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Essex Remembrancer.
I. DEFINE CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE SO FAR AS EXPRESSED IN THE LANGUAGE OF THE TEXT. Tasting supposes life; where there is no spiritual life there can be no spiritual taste. Tasting implies reception, and this is requisite in order to appreciation. They who savingly prove the gracious character of God are such who have the inward evidence of it. Religion is not a matter of speculation, but of experience; not of form, but of hallowed feeling. Such participation is no criterion of extraordinary proficiency in Christianity; it is essential to its existence.


1. "If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious," what thanks do you owe Him?

2. "If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious," be gracious like Him.

3. "If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious," you know what you are to hope for. Proofs hitherto of His love are pledges for the future.

4. "If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious," think what is expected from you. Grow in spiritual stature. The more ample the crop the more delightful to the husbandman and to every beholder who feels an interest in what is excellent.

5. "If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious," pity those that have not.

(Essex Remembrancer.)

I. We may consider THE GOODNESS OF GOD. He is said to be gracious, or of a bountiful, kind disposition. The graciousness of God is always sweet; the taste of that is never out of season. God is gracious, but it is God in Christ. Though God is mercy and goodness in Himself, yet we cannot apprehend Him so to us, but as we are looking through that medium, the Mediator. His grace is all in Christ. Let us therefore never leave Him out in our desires of tasting the graciousness and love of God, for otherwise we shall but dishonour Him and disappoint ourselves.

II. YE HAVE TASTED. There is a tasting exercised by temporary believers spoken of in Hebrews 6:4. That is merely tasting, rather an imaginary taste than real; but this is a true feeding on the graciousness of God; yet is it called but a taste in respect of the fulness to come. Jesus Christ being all in all unto the soul, faith apprehending Him, is all the spiritual senses. Faith is the eye that beholds His matchless beauty, and so kindles love in the soul, and can speak of Him as having seen Him and taken particular notice of Him. It is faith that touches Him and draws virtue from Him, and faith that tastes Him. In order to this there must be a firm believing of the truth of the promises, wherein the free grace of God is expressed and exhibited to us — a sense of the sweetness of that grace being applied or drawn into the soul, and that constitutes properly this taste He that hath indeed tasted of this goodness, oh, how tasteless are those things to him that the world calls sweet! As when you have tasted something that is very sweet, it disrelishes other things after it. Therefore can a Christian so easily either want or use with disregard the delights of this earth.

III. THE INFERENCE. If ye have tasted, etc., then lay aside all malice and guile, and hypocrisies and envies, and all evil speakings, Surely if you have tasted of the kindness and sweetness of God in Christ, it will compose your spirits and conform them to Him. It will diffuse such a sweetness through your soul that there will be no place for malice and guile; there will be nothing but love, and meekness, and singleness of heart. As the Lord is good, so they who taste of His goodness are made like Him (Ephesians 4:32). Again, if ye have tasted, then desire more. This is the truest sign of it. He that is in a continual hunger and thirst after this graciousness of God has surely tasted of it. "My soul thirsteth for God," saith David (Psalm 42:2). He had tasted before; he remembers that he went to the house of God with the voice of joy. This is that happy circle wherein the soul of the believer moves. The more he loves it the more he shall taste of this goodness, and the more he tastes the more he shall still love and desire it. But observe — If ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious, then desire the milk of the Word. This is the sweetness of the Word, that it hath in it the Lord's graciousness, gives us the knowledge of His love. This they find in it who have spiritual life and senses, and those senses exercised to discern good and evil, and this engages a Christian to further desire of the Word.

(Abp. Leighton.)

Peter is here quoting from Psalm 34:8: "O taste and see that the Lord is good." The passage actually runs — "O taste and see that Jehovah is good," and Peter does not hesitate for a moment to apply the passage to the Lord Jesus.

I. A ROYAL DAINTY. "The Lord is gracious." Jesus is full of grace. Once tasted, this grace is remembered.

1. The Lord is gracious in His person, nature, and character. He would never have been Immanuel, God with us, if He had not been gracious.

2. We have found Him exceeding gracious in the manner of dispensing His salvation. He is most free, spontaneous, and generous in His gifts of grace.

3. As He is gracious by nature and gracious in manner, so is He gracious in His gifts. How gracious was He when He gave Himself for us! What priceless boons follow therefrom! He gave us pardon and life. Where sin abounded, grace doth much more abound. Since we have come to know our Lord, how gracious have we found Him to be! "He giveth more grace." Oh, the wonders of free grace in its continuance and perseverance! Truly "the Lord is gracious."

4. The Lord is gracious, for He hears prayer.

5. Some of you have been favoured with choice times, "as the days of heaven upon the earth." You have climbed the mount and been alone with God. Oh, the rapture of intimate fellowship with God!

6. Possibly your experience has been of a sadder kind; you have backslidden, and He has restored you in His grace. But you do not know how gracious the Lord is.

7. Remember that He is preparing us for a glory inconceivable. Everything is working out His perfect design.

II. But now think of A SPECIAL SENSE which is exercised in tasting that the Lord is gracious. Faith is the soul's taste by which we perceive the sweetness of our Lord and enjoy it for ourselves. In answering the question, What is meant by taste? I would bid you notice the likeness of the word "taste" to another, namely, "test."

1. Taste is a test as to things to be eaten. We prove and try an article of food by tasting it. Even so we do not speculate upon the grace of God, but "we have known and believed the love which God has toward us."

2. In order to spiritual taste there must be apprehension. We must have some idea of what being gracious means, and some conviction that this is truly the character of our Lord Jesus. The clearer the knowledge the m. ore distinct the taste may become.

3. After apprehension must come appropriation. Martin Luther saith, "And this I call tasting, when I do with my very heart believe that Christ hath given Himself unto me, and that I have my full interest in Him, that He beareth and answereth for all my sins, transgressions, and harms, and that His life is my life. When this persuasion is thoroughly settled in my heart, it yieldeth wonderful and incredible good taste." Appropriate Christ, I pray you. Let each one take Him to himself, and then you will know what tasting means. But taste further means appreciation. You may have a thing within yourself and yet not taste it, even as Samson's lion had honey within its carcase, but he was a dead lion, and so could not taste it. A man may get the gospel into his mind, but never taste it. It wants a living man, and a living appropriation, and a living appreciation, or else the royal dainty is not tasted. Have you ever enjoyed the truth that the Lord is gracious? Jesus is all in all to all who are in Him.

III. A SEARCHING QUESTION. "If so be that ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious."

1. This is a very simple elementary question. I may not know what a dish is made of, but I may have tasted it for all that. I may be grossly ignorant of the mysteries of cookery, but I can tell whether a dish is sweet to my taste. I put it to every one here, whether babes or strong men Have you tasted that the Lord is gracious?

2. However simple is the question, it goes to the root of the matter; it takes in the whole ease of a man's soul. Do you know Christ by personal reception of Him? If not, you are in an evil case. Oh, that you would come to the feast! Oh, that you would eat that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness!

3. Every man here must answer that question for himself. We cannot in this matter be sponsors for one another. Tasting is an operation which must be performed by the individual palate. There is no other method of practising it. Let me tell you when we have tasted the graciousness of the Lord. We have done so after great bitterness. Our Lord, as George Herbert would say, has put His hand into the bitter box and given us a dose of wormwood and gall. We have drunk the cup in submission, and afterwards He has made us taste that the Lord is gracious, and then all bitterness has clean gone, and our mouth has been as sweet as though wormwood had never entered it. The taste of grace is always on some men's palates; their mouths are filled all the day with the praises of the Lord. These are happy beings; let us be of their number.


1. "Desire the sincere milk of the Word." If you have tasted it, long for more of it.

2. Next, expect to grow, and pray that you may do so. Pray for more faith, more hope, more love, more zeal, and so let us grow. "Desire the sincere milk of the Word, that you may grow."

3. Next, "If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious," abhor the garlic flavour of the world's vices. I mean those alluded to in the first verse malice, guile, hypocrisies, envies, and all evil speaking."

4. I want you also, if you have tasted that the Lord is gracious, to lose taste for all earthly trifles. Let the ox have its grass and the horse its hay, but souls must feed on spiritual meat.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

There are two ways of ascertaining whether a reputed loaf of bread is really bread, or a reputed glass of water is water. One way is by chemical analysis; the other way is by eating and drinking. Upon the whole the common and experimental test is the more satisfactory, and it is quite as scientific. Some people reach Christ by long and painful argumentation and searching into all the evidences of Christianity, while others simply take God at His word and come to an experimental knowledge of the truth and saving power of the gospel. This is by far the better way. "O, taste and see that the Lord is good."

(J. R. Pentecost.)

A taste whets the appetite.

(J. A. Bengel.)

A hundred thousand tongues may discourse to you about the sweetness of honey, but you can never have such knowledge of it as by taste. So a world full of books may tell you wonders of the things of God in religion, but you can never understand them exactly but by the taste of experience.

(N. Caussin.)

To whom coming, as unto a living stone.
The Christian life is begun, continued, and perfected altogether in connection with the Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes when you go a journey, you travel so far under the protection of a certain company, but then you have to change, and the rest of your journey may be performed under very different circumstances, upon quite another kind of line. Now we have not so far to go to heaven in the guardian care of Jesus Christ, and then at a certain point to change, so as to have somebody else to be our leader, or some other method of salvation. No, He is the author and He is the finisher of our faith. We have not to seek a fresh physician, to find a new friend or to discover a novel hope, but we are to look for everything to Jesus Christ, "the same yesterday, and today, and forever." "Ye are complete in Him."

I. HERE IS A COMPLETE DESCRIPTION OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. It is a continuous "coming" to Jesus. Notice that the expression occurs in connection with two figures. There is one which precedes it in the second verse, namely, the figure of a little child fed upon milk. Children come to their parents, and they frequently come rather longer than their parents like; it is the general habit of children to come to their parents for what they need. Just what your children began to do from the first moment you fixed your eyes on them, and what they have continued to do ever since, that is just what you are to do with the Lord Jesus Christ. You are to be always coming to Him — coming to Him for spiritual food, for spiritual garments, for washing, guiding, help, and health: coming, in fact, for everything. You will be wise if, the older you grow, the more you come, and He will be all the better pleased with you. If you will look again at your Bibles, you will get a second illustration from the fourth verse, "To whom coming as unto a living stone," etc. Here we have the figure of a building. A building comprises first a foundation, and then the stones which are brought to the foundation and are built upon it. This furnishes a very beautiful picture of Christian life.


1. The very best way to come to Christ is to come with all your needs about you. If you could get rid of half your needs apart from Christ, you would not come to Jesus half so well, for your need furnishes you with motives for coming, and gives you pleas to urge. Suppose a physician should come into a town with motives of pure benevolence to exercise the healing art. What he wants is not to make money, but to bless the townsmen. He has a love to his fellow men, and he wants to cure them, and therefore he gives notice that the poorest will be welcome, and the most diseased will be best received. Is there a deeply sin-sick soul anywhere? Is there man or woman who is bad altogether? Come along, you are just in a right condition to come to Jesus Christ. Come just as you are, that is the best style of "coming."

2. If you want to know how to come aright the first time, I should answer, Come to find everything you want in Christ. I heard of a shop some time ago in a country town where they sold everything, and the man said that he did not believe that there was anything a human being wanted but what he could rig him out from top to toe. Well, I do not know whether that promise would have been carried out to the letter if it had been tried, but I know it is so with Jesus Christ; He can supply you with all you need, for "Christ is all."

3. The best way to come to Christ is to come meaning to get everything, and to obtain all the plenitude of grace which He has laid up in store and promised freely to give.

III. WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO COME AFTERWARDS? The answer is — Come just as you used to come. The text does not say that you have come to Christ, though that is true, but that you are coming; and you are to be always coming. The way to continue coming is to come just in the same way as you came at first.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. CHRIST THE SURE FOUNDATION. Without Christ the Bible is meaningless, the world hopeless, heaven charmless. You might as well have a summer without a gleam of light, without the smell of flowers, or the song of a bird, as have a life without Jesus Christ. You might as well have a year without a summer, nothing but barrenness and death, as to have a life without Jesus Christ. You might as well have a night without a morning, as to live in this world, and die, and be buried without Jesus Christ. You might as well speak of the astronomy of the world and leave out the sun, as speak of history, philosophy, and creation, and leave out Jesus Christ. In Christ, and in Him alone, the real and the ideal meet. Christ was the perfect, the symmetrical Man, the true centre of redeemed humanity.

II. CHRIST REJECTED BY MANY. He reveals character; He makes men declare themselves; He is the touch stone that draws worth and develops worthlessness. Come near to Christ, and if you have the elements of nobility you will be drawn toward Him; if you are worth less you will hate Him.

III. A STARTLING CONTRAST — God's judgment of Christ as compared with that of men: "Chosen of God, and precious." God knew Him, and He knew God as it is impossible for men to know Him; and this is the judgment which God here gives.

IV. In order to receive the blessing of Christ's life, WE MUST COME TO HIM. God's promise includes God's condition.

(R. S. MacArthur.)


1. Jesus Christ is here set forth as the foundation of the Christian Church.

2. The apostle here seems to violate the rules of rhetoric and elegant composition by attributing life to a stone. God's thoughts were so infinite that the laws of grammar stood in constant need of expansion to receive them.

3. "Disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God." This Divine choice does not refer primarily, if at all, to God's eternal election of His Son to be the foundation of the Church, but to His choice of Him in consequence of His holy life and atoning death. The disallowing by men and the choosing by God were simultaneous processes. God chose Him, not arbitrarily, but on account of fitness after trying Him.


1. What then is the first step you should take to be built into the walls of this spiritual edifice? This — you must come to Jesus Christ. "To whom coming"; or, as the words might be rendered, "To whom coming close up," "to whom coming very near" — so near as to be in personal contact with Him, nothing whatever intervening. You must remove all the earth and brush away every grain of sand, and build your house on the clean face of the rock, with nothing whatsoever between.

2. "To whom coming close up, as unto a living stone," then it follows that "ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house." The word for "stones" here suggests — I do not say it positively means, but it suggests stones dressed, smoothed, and polished, fitted to their place in the walls of the spiritual edifice — the root of the English word lithograph. Young people, and old, you will not do to be built into the walls of this temple in the rough, as you come from the quarry of the world. The Holy Spirit alone can prepare you for this.


1. "A priesthood." So there is a priesthood in the Christian Church. The whole body of believers forms the Christian priesthood.

2. "An holy priesthood." A learned priesthood? No. An educated priesthood? No. No; an holy priesthood.

3. "To offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." "Spiritual sacrifices": what are these? Singing? Yes. Praying? Yes. Preaching? I am glad to believe it. Under the law material sacrifices were required — oxen, sheep, doves; but under the gospel only those sacrifices which proceed from a regenerate heart, and which testify to the gratitude and devotion of an emancipated spirit. God condescends to accept the offering for the sake of the love which inspires it. What else is necessary? That we present all by, or, as in the Welsh, "through" Jesus Christ. Our sacrifices must ascend to the throne through Him; and as they go through Him they are beautifully filtered and refined.

(J. C. Jones D. D.)

Disallowed indeed of men
Disallowed lie was, indeed, of men: they called Him the carpenter's Son, a Samaritan, winebibber, deceiver; they would have no other king but Caesar; with them Barabbas was meeter to live than He. What was the cause? They looked for one that should come as an earthly prince, to deliver them out of the hands of the Romans; but His kingdom was not of this world. They looked also for one that should have upheld their customs, laws, and traditions; but the date of them was out. Again, how came they to this height of disallowing Him? At the first of ignorance and blindness, but after of malice; so men grow (when they desire not to amend and see the truth) from one degree of wickedness to another.

(John Rogers.)

Ye also, as lively stones, are built up
Religious art finds its culmination in the temple of the ancients and the cathedral of the moderns. Higher than this it cannot reach. That the temple made a profound impression upon the minds of the apostles, that its association interpenetrated their religious life and coloured their teaching, we have unmistakable evidence. In his Epistle to the Ephesians Paul seizes hold of the idea to illustrate the stability, the growth, and the grandeur of the Church. It is precisely the same idea which Peter had in his mind. The idea is a grand one, and it has had a fascination for more than one of the great men of the Church. To mention only one instance, it has given to us the immortal work of John Howe, "The Living Temple." Let us look at it. Rising slowly in the midst of the world, noiselessly and unobserved by the majority of men, are the fair proportions of a temple in comparison with which the grandest conceptions of man are but blurred and broken lines of beauty. Century after century has contributed its quota to the pile, and during the unborn ages it will continue to increase in symmetry and perfection, until with the last man the edifice will be complete. The text reminds us that believers are the living stones of this living temple. Let us pay a visit to the temple, and look upon the stones that are being built into it.

I. As soon as we approach our attention is arrested by some HUGE, UNSHAPELY BLOCKS OF STONE, SHARP ANGLED, AND DISFIGURED HERE AND THERE WITH MUD. We glance hastily up at the superb building before us, re-examine the stones, and then in some wonder ask our guide, "What possible use can these be put to?" Touching the stone tenderly with his fingers, the master builder replies that there is no better material built up in the whole fabric than this. Despite their roughness and shapelessness, these stones, he says, possess a nature which yields readily to the tools and skill of the workmen. Do we understand the teaching? Have we not in our Church fellowship met with men and women freshly hewn from the world's quarry, with such angularities of character, with such imperfect knowledge, with such lack of grace, that we have begun to question if such rough material could be used for anything but stumbling blocks in the cause of Christ? It may have been, even, that we have treated them with indifference, if not with contempt, and denied them the assurance of a brother's sympathy. Forgetting "the hole of the pit from whence we have been digged," we have despised these little ones for whom Christ died. Let us be consistent with ourselves. We profess to believe in spiritual capacities and capabilities, and we cry each day out of the depths of our weakness and ignorance, "Lord, help us." In what lies the difference between us and them? Are not their souls endowed with the satire faculties, the same capabilities, spiritually, as ours? But if we have seen anything of the operation of Divine grace upon the heart, we surely have seen enough to lead us to the belief that there is no limit to its power, that it can fashion the roughest into symmetry and grace. The tinker of Elstow is transformed into the immortal dreamer. Ah, surely bitter must be our humiliation if by our spiritual pride we mar the beauty and usefulness of our Christian life, and see those whom we have despised outstripping us in service, and bearing more vividly upon them the imprint of Divine favour. Proceeding in our examination of the stones, we have one pointed out to us as being of great importance.

II. Examining it we find that WHILE IT BEARS EVIDENT MARKS OF THE WORKMEN'S TOOLS, IT IS ONLY A LARGE PLAIN BLOCK OF STONE, WITH NO PRETENSION TO ORNAMENT WHATEVER. We acknowledge at once its solidity, but have to ask an explanation of its use. We are led to a part of the building where the first stones are being laid in the freshly excavated earth, and there we are told that these plain blocks of stone are used for the wall foundations. "What!" we exclaim, "are they to be hidden out of sight, and their worth never to be appreciated?" "True," replies our guide, "they are hidden, and the thoughtless dream not of them; but the architect knows their value. They serve a grand purpose; upon them depends the strength, aye, and the beauty of the building, too." Unspeakable comfort this to many a lonely, toiling Christian. Look at that mother, the object of her children's lavish affection — their most trusted adviser in times of difficulty and doubt. But she is unknown to the world and fame. Men do not know that the strength and nobility of character which they have been accustomed to admire in her son, has a foundation in her life and heart. Let us take courage, therefore, and labour on in the dark a little while longer. We cannot pass by these pillars without stopping a minute or two to admire their strength and various beauty.

III. In these pillars WE SEE GRACE, STRENGTH, AND UTILITY COMBINED. To be a pillar in the Temple of God is the highest honour to which we can reach. Do we covet their position, their fame, or their worth? Then we must drink of the cup they have drank of, and be baptized with the baptism they were baptized with. That the Church has had such pillars, and will continue to have them, is her strength and hope. "Ah! more ornamental than useful," we exclaim, as we are called to look at some stones covered with filigree work, or highly finished carving. "A judgment somewhat hasty and thoughtless," replies the architect. "See, this stone you have despised because of its ornament is fashioned for a keystone, and its utility will be enhanced by its beauty. This other, with all its marvellous delicacy of carving, has a sound core, and is fashioned for the capital of one of these pillars. It will add grace to the pillar, and will sustain part of its load." Hasty and thoughtless judgments are, alas! too frequent among professing Christians. By some zealous workers the men and women of culture are despised as being necessarily more ornamental than useful. They are not seen to be enthusiastic in the service of the Master, and forthwith, without a moment's calm thought, they are spoken of rather as hindrances than helps in the cause of righteousness. Have we been tempted to think so of anyone? Let us see to it that we have not been doing great injustice to a keystone or a capital in God's Temple — living stones, perchance, not only more beautiful than we, but vastly more useful also. Some of the most zealous and humble Christian workers are to be found among the men and women of culture today. And not only is it so, but they do a work that the less cultured cannot do. Like the carved capital or keystone, they can catch the eye of the careless or sceptical men of culture and compel them, by the force of their intrinsic worth, to investigate the claims of religion. "How beautiful is the polish on this stone! How it reveals the beauty of the granite! How it flashes back the sunlight! Such is our exclamation over a stone which our guide regards with a look of mingled tenderness and delight. "Very beautiful," he replies, "but at what cost!" and then he explains to us the hard pressure, the constant friction, and the other processes to which it had been subjected before it took on this lustrous beauty. Just so. We have a friend in whose Christian life there is a sparkle, a heavenly beauty, as exceptional as it is delightful. Would we know the secret? Then let us look into his past life. Sorrow came to his heart suddenly, overwhelmingly. "Made perfect through suffering!" How difficult the lesson! Instinctively we shrink from pain. Truly, pain is a mystery. "Hold, hold!" cries the stone to the polisher when the cold water and rough sand are thrown upon it, and the heavy polishing plane passes over it for the first time. "Hold, hold! Why this rough treatment? What wrong have I done? Have I not already suffered at the hands of workmen?" "Peace, foolish stone," cries the polisher. "Dost thou not know that there are yet roughnesses in thy nature to be rubbed down, and wilt thou grudge the pain? Dost thou not know that I will bring to light thy hidden beauty by this process? Thou wilt become a mirror to catch the faintest smile of heaven if thou wilt but suffer it to be so now."

IV. "What mean these quantities of SMALL STONES lying here and there? Is it possible that they can be used in the great building?" To which question our instructor replies, "The temple could not be built without them. There is not only a place for them, but there are places which nothing but they can fill. Unseen by the eye, these small stones supplement the deficiencies of the larger ones, and there would be many an interstice through which the wind and rain would penetrate were it not for these insignificant-looking stones." Little children living stones in God's temple! Sweet thought! What parent does not clutch at it with unspeakable joy? The fact may well fire the zeal and intensify the love of every parent and teacher of the young in pouring out their souls labouring for their weal. We would do well to ponder —

1. In the first place, it is quite possible for the living stones to be deceived with regard to their position and importance.

2. In the second place, a true view of our own hearts, as well as of the importance of Christian service, will lead us to cast ourselves at the Master's feet, saying, "Choose my place for me."

(W. Skinner.)


1. This is the leading plan in the world's history.

2. This plan, though unknown by men, is being worked out by them.

II. IT IS COMPACTED TOGETHER INTO A NECESSARY UNITY. Supreme love for a common Father, unbounded confidence in a common Christ, life consecration to a common cause, are the indissoluble bonds of union. This union is —

1. Independent of local distances.

2. Independent of external circumstances.

3. Independent of ecclesiastical systems.

4. Independent of mental idiosyncrasies.

III. IT IS THE SPECIAL RESIDENCE OF THE ETERNAL SPIRIT. There is more of God to be seen in the true Church than anywhere else under heaven. In nature you see His handicraft, in saints you see His soul.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

The only idea which I think can be legitimately connected with purity of matter, is this of vital and energetic connection among its particles; and the idea of foulness is essentially connected with dissolution and death. Thus the purity of the rock contrasted with the foulness of dust or mould is expressed by the epithet "living," very singularly given the rock in almost all languages; singularly I say, because life is almost the last attribute one would ascribe to stone but for this visible energy and connection of its particles; and so of water as opposed to stagnancy.

(J. Ruskin.)

The apostle assumes, as a matter of course, that if one is in Christ, one is also in His Church. Detached stones are mere rubble. There is contact, cohesion, mutual attachment and support in these "living stones" of God's spiritual house. Based on the "living stone," the bedrock of the Church, they grow together into God's glorious human temple.

(G. G. Findlay.)

Travellers sometimes find in lonely quarries, long abandoned, or once worked by a vanished race, great blocks squared and dressed, that seem to have been meant for palace or shrine. But there they lie, neglected and forgotten, and the building for which they were hewn has been reared without them. Beware, lest God's grand temple should be built up without you, and you be left to desolation and decay.

(A. Maclaren.)

Tyndall, speaking of the frozen crystals in snowflakes, says: "Surely such an exhibition of power, such an apparent demonstration of a resident intelligence in what we are accustomed to call 'brute matter,' would appear perfectly miraculous. If the Houses of Parliament were built up of forces resident in their own bricks, it would be nothing intrinsically more wonderful."

(Hours of Exercise on the Alps.)

An holy priesthood
Christians are a royal priesthood; they are united together in the Church to be a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ: the joy of priesthood should be the tasted joy of every member of the Church of Christ. True it is that in its fullest sense there is but one priest — Jesus, the anointed of the Father. No other priest can be, since He ever lives and ministers in His priesthood. But He ministers as priest under two conditions — in heaven in His glorified human body: on earth in His mystical body — the Church. When He was on the earth "in the days of His flesh," He ministered to men through His natural body. In it He interceded for them with God, and instituted and offered the holy Eucharistic sacrifice. By it He spake to them God's words, and did among them God's works. But when His body was taken up into heaven, it could not be the instrument of His priesthood on earth. So He created His mystical body — the Church. Thus the Church, as the mystical body of Christ, is the extension of His natural body, and so is the fulness of Christ, As, then before His ascension, Christ ministered on earth in His natural body, since His ascension He ministers on earth in His mystical body. Hence His Church is a sacerdotal society. It is a kingdom of priests, because its members are the ministers of Christ's priest hood. Its priesthood is not one existing side by side with, nor is it supplemental to, the one priesthood of Christ. It is not the delegated representative of an absent Lord fulfilling priestly ministries on His behalf; it is the organism of a present Lord. It is the organism whereby Christ intercedes with God for men in prayer and Eucharist on earth, and by which He teaches men God's faith, and ministers to them God's grace. This sacerdotal vocation and character is not the exclusive possession of any one section of the mystical body of Christ — it is common to all Christian men. Each member of the mystical body of the Great High Priest is himself a priest unto God. But he is a priest called on to minister in the unity and in the order of that mystical body. Each member in it is placed in his position in its structure to fulfil the ministry proper to him as the organ of the whole body. The priestly character is common to all, but all are not called to the same measure of priestly ministries or gifts. The priesthood of the laity is recognised by the Church in confirmation. Christians are born to priesthood in the sacrament of regeneration as sons of the second Aaron, just as Aaron's sons were born to the priesthood of Israel. But as in Israel of old those thus born were at a given age solemnly consecrated and commissioned to execute the priest's office; so in the Church of Christ the regenerate are consecrated, commissioned, and dowered, for the lay priesthood in the sacrament of confirmation. This priesthood of the laity has, as priesthood always has, a two-fold aspect — Godward and manward. The Church, as a sacerdotal society, has primarily to minister to God — to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. The first duty of the lay priesthood is by cooperation with the consecrated ministers of the Church to offer to God continual worship in Christian sanctuaries. Closely allied with the ministry of worship is the ministry of intercession. He whose soul ascends to God and rests in God in adoration will share with God His love to men, and, sharing this love, he will breathe it out in intercession. Moreover, as God's priest, the layman is called to minister to man for God in active service. He has his place in that great mediatorial system by which God wills to give to men the two great gifts of truth and grace. Each Christian Churchman is here in a position of grave responsibility. All wealth is a trust held by each for all. And, in addition to this, as the priest of God, the layman is called on to do what he can to bring his fellow men into the knowledge of the truth as he knows it, and with those gracious conditions of life in which he is privileged to live. He must be an evangelist — the bearer to others of the good tidings in the joy of which he is privileged to live. Let me conclude with two cautions bearing on this question of lay priesthood.

1. Avoid individualism in its exercise. Priesthood is an official status; it exists in the body of Christ, and can only be rightly exercised according to the will of God in the unity of that body. All its ministries must be performed "decently and in order." God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, in all churches of the saints, "and peace is," as St. teaches us, "the harmony of ordered union."

2. The one motive of the layman in his priesthood must always be to reveal to men and to bring them to submit to the One Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, as He ministers in and through His Church. No one can rise to the realisation of his lay priesthood except he be one who, in the unity of the Church, tastes and sees the goodness of the Lord.

(Canon Body.)

I. THE PERSONS OF WHOM THIS PRIESTHOOD IS COMPOSED. The apostle is here writing, not to Church officers, but to individual Christians scattered throughout the world. Why should they be represented as a priesthood?

1. On account of their entire devotedness to Divine service.

2. On account of their free access to the Divine presence (Ephesians 2:18; Hebrews 10:19-22).

II. THE CHARACTER BY WHICH THIS PRIESTHOOD IS DISTINGUISHED. "Holy." Moral holiness is resemblance to Christ — the spirit of supreme love to the Father and self-sacrificing love for man.


1. The sacrifices are spiritual.

2. Mediatory.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

The priesthood of the law was holy, and its holiness was signified by many outward things, by anointings, and washings, and vestments; but in this spiritual priesthood of the gospel, holiness itself is instead of all these, as being the substance of all. The children of God are all anointed and purified, and clothed with holiness. There is here the service of this office, namely, to offer. All sacrifice is not taken away, but it is changed from the offering of those things formerly in use to spiritual sacrifices. Now these are every way preferable; they are easier to us, and yet more acceptable to God. How much more should we abound in spiritual sacrifice, who are eased of the other! But though the spiritual sacrificing is easier in its own nature, yet to the corrupt nature of man it is by far the harder. He would rather choose still all the toil and cost of the former way, if it were in his option. A holy course of life is called the sacrifice of righteousness (Psalm 4:6; and Philippians 4:18; so also Hebrews 13:16), where the apostle shows what sacrifices succeed to those which, as he hath taught at large, are abolished. In a word, that sacrifice of ours which includes all these, and without which none of these can be rightly offered, is ourselves, our whole selves. Now that whereby we offer all spiritual sacrifices and even ourselves, is love. That is the holy fire that burns up all, sends up our prayers, and our hearts, and our whole selves a whole burnt offering to God — and, as the fire of the altar, it is originally from heaven, being kindled by God's own love to us, and the graces of the Spirit received from Christ, but, above all with His own merits. The success of this service; acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. The children of God delight in offering sacrifices to Him; but if they could not know that they were well taken at their hands, this would discourage them much; therefore this is added. He accepts themselves and their ways when offered in sincerity, though never so mean; though they sometimes have no more than a sigh or a groan, it is most properly a spiritual sacrifice. No one needs forbear sacrifice for poverty, for what God desires is the heart, and there is none so poor but hath a heart to give Him. But meanness is not all. There is a guiltiness on ourselves and on all we offer. Our prayers and services are polluted. But this hinders not, for our acceptance is not for ourselves, but for the sake of one who hath no guiltiness at all, "acceptable by Jesus Christ." In Him our persons are clothed with righteousness. How ought our hearts to be knit to Him, by whom we are brought into favour with God and kept in favour with Him, in whom we obtain all the good we receive, and in whom all we offer is accepted! In Him are all our supplies of grace and our hopes of glory.

(Abp. Leighton.)

I. First, all those who are coming to Christ, daily coming nearer and nearer to Him, are as living stones built up into A TEMPLE.

1. They are called a spiritual house in opposition to the old material house in which the emblem of the Divine presence shone forth in the midst of Israel, that temple in which the Jew delighted, counting it to be beautiful for situation and the joy of the whole earth. When we become holy, as we should be, we shall count all places and all hours to be the Lord's, and we shall always dwell in His temple because God is everywhere.

2. We are a spiritual temple, but not the less real. The Lord has a people scattered abroad everywhere, whose lives are hid with Him in God, and these make up the real temple of God in which the Lord dwelleth. Men of every name and clime and age are quickened into life, made living stones, and then laid upon Christ, and these constitute the true temple, which God hath built and not man, for He dwelleth not in temples made with hands; that is to say, of man's building, but He dwelleth in a temple which He Himself hath builded for His habitation forever, saying, "This is My rest forever; here will I dwell, for I have desired it."

3. This temple is spiritual, and therefore it is living. A material temple is dead, a spiritual temple must be alive; and so the text tells us, "Ye also as living stones."

4. We are a spiritual house, and therefore spiritually built up. Peter says, "Ye are built up" — built up by spiritual means. The Spirit of God quarries out of the pit of nature the stones which are as yet dead, separating them from the mass to which they adhered; He gives them life, and then He fashions, squares, polishes them, and they, without sound of axe or hammer, are brought each one to its appointed place, and built up into Christ Jesus.

5. We are a spiritual house, and therefore the more fit for the indwelling of God who is a Spirit. It is in the Church that God reveals Himself. If you would know the Lord's love and power and grace you must get among His people, hear their experiences, learn from them how God dealeth with them, and let them tell you, if ye have grace to understand them, the height, and depth, and length, and breadth of the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, for He manifesteth Himself to them as He doth not to the world. Hath He not said, "I will dwell in them and walk in them"?

II. In addition to being a temple, God's people are said to be A PRIESTHOOD. Observe that they are spoken of together, and not merely as individuals: they make up one indivisible priesthood: each one is a priest, but all standing together they are a priesthood, by virtue of their being one with Christ.

1. This stands in opposition to the nominal and worldly priesthood.

2. This priesthood is most real, although it be not of the outward and visible order; for God's priests become priests after a true and notable fashion.

3. We are priests in the aspect of priesthood towards God. You are to speak with God on man's behalf, and bring down, each of you, according to the measure of your faith, the blessing upon the sons of men among whom you dwell.

4. And you are priests towards men also, for the priest was selected from among men to exercise necessary offices for man's good. The priest's lips should keep knowledge, and if ye be as ye should be, ye hold fast the faith once delivered to the saints.

5. This is to be your function and ministry always and in every place. You are a holy priesthood; not alone on the Lord's day when ye come into this house, but at all times.

III. Consider the SACRIFICES which we offer — "spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."

1. We offer spiritual sacrifices as opposed to the literal.

2. This sacrificing takes various forms. "I beseech you, brethren, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice." You are to present yourselves, spirit, soul, and body, as a sacrifice unto God. You are also to "do good and to communicate, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased." To Him also you are to "offer the sacrifice of praise continually, the fruit of your lips giving glory to God." To the Lord also you must present the incense of holy prayer; but all these are comprehended, I think, in the expression, "I delight to do Thy will, O God."

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

The theory of sacrifice seems to be intuitively inherent in all religions. The sacrifice of the life and death of Christ is the one essential foundation of every acceptable offering which can be made to God. God never requires what we cannot offer. He never asks a sin or trespass offering from us. You and I could not offer that. But He asks what we can give, a sweet-savour offering, as a testimony of our gratitude and love. Not a sin offering. As far as Christ's work was propitiatory, it stands absolutely alone: "He offered one sacrifice for sin." But though no sufferings, no work, no worship, no service of ours can propitiate, God still requires from us offerings of another character. These are called "spiritual sacrifices," which we are "ordained" to offer. There is no more attractive form in which a devout life can appear than that of a constant oblation to God, of all that we are, have, or do. Let the thought of sacrifice be inwoven into the texture of your life. Study to turn, not your prayers alone, but your whole daily course and conversation, into an offering. Surely the thought that God will accept it if offered in union with the merit of His Son, is enough to give stimulus to the sacrifice; to open purse, and hand, and heart. You can please Him if you give, strive, work in His name. To please God. What a privilege to lie open to us day by day, and hour by hour! What a condescension in our heavenly Father, when we consider the strictness of His justice, the impurity of our hearts, and our manifold falls, to admit of our pleasing Him, or to leave any room for our touching His complacency. We may have this dignity if we offer all in Christ. We need not go far to seek the materials of an acceptable offering; they lie all around us; in our common work; in the little calls of providence; in the trivial crosses we are challenged to take up; nay, in the very recreation of our lives. If work be done (no matter how humble) in the full view of God's assignment of our several tasks and spheres of labour, and under the consciousness of His presence, it is a sacrifice fit to be laid upon His altar. If we study the very perversity of our enemies with a loving hope that we may find something of God and Christ about them yet, which may be the nascent germ of better things; if we try to make the best of men, and not the worst, treating them as Christ treated them, we may thus redeem an hour from being wasted, and sanctify it by turning it into a sacrifice to God. If you should obey an impulse to divert some trifle meant for self and luxury to Christ's poor and charity, here, again, is a sacrifice, sweet smelling before God, which will buy the better luxury of His smile and love. And if you regard time as, next to Christ and the Holy Spirit, the most precious gift of God; if you gather up its fragments and put them into God's basket by using them for holy things and thoughts — this, too, grows into a tribute which God will accept. It is the altar which sanctifieth the gift. Apart from Christ and Christ's sacrifice, no offering of ours is redolent of the sweet savour, For our best gifts are flecked and flawed by duplicity and evil.

(A. Mursell.)

Christians, you are priests. Be like Christ in this,

1. Wherever you go carry a savour of Christ. Let men take knowledge of you, that you have been with Jesus; let it be plain that you come from within the veil, let the smell of your garments be as a field which the Lord hath blessed.

2. Carry a sound of Christ wherever you go. Not a stop, Christians, without the sound of the gospel bell! Even in smallest things, be spreading the glad sound, Edwards says, wherever a godly person enters, he is a greater blessing than if the greatest monarch were entering. So be it with you.

(R. M. McCheyne.)

To offer up spiritual sacrifices
1. The offering up of our bodies and souls, and all that is in us to serve God; having neither wit, will, memory, nor anything else, but for the Lord's use. It is meet we should offer this sacrifice, for it is His by right of creation, redemption, and continual preservation.

2. The sacrifice of a contrite and broken heart.

3. Prayer and praise.

4. Alms, mercy to all in hunger, thirst, sickness, prison, especially to the household of faith.

(John Rogers.)

It is contained in the Scripture.
I. THEY WERE INSPIRED ALL OF THE HOLY GHOST (2 Timothy 3:17; 2 Peter 1:21), so were no other writings.


III. THEY WERE PENNED BY MORE EXCELLENT MEN THAN ANY OTHER WRITINGS: the greatest, wisest, holiest men — Moses, David, Solomon, prophets, evangelists, apostles, etc.

IV. THEY HAVE SUCH PROPERTIES AS NO OTHER WRITINGS HAVE: they are more perfect, pure, deep, and immutable than any man's writings. These contain all things necessary unto faith and a good life (2 Timothy 3:17, 18).

V. IF WE CONSIDER THE EFFECTS THAT MUST BE ACKNOWLEDGED TO THE PRAISE OF THE SCRIPTURES, no writings can describe God so fully to us, do so bring glory to God; no Scripture but this can convert a soul (Hebrews 4:12, 13; Psalm 19:11; Psalm 119:14, 15, 27).

(N. Byfield.)

I lay in Sion a chief cornerstone

1. Jesus Christ is the cardinal truth of the Christian system.

2. Jesus Christ is the central truth of Christianity.

3. Jesus Christ is the all-comprehensive truth of Christianity. Christ is Christianity.What is meant by it? Two things.(1) First, that Jesus Christ is essential to His religion. Plato is not essential to Platonism. Suppose that nothing was known of the birth, life, and death of Plato, that his writings came down to us anonymously, it would make but very little difference to his students. And what is true of Plato as a philosopher is also true of Cakyamouni, Confucius, and Mahomet, as founders of religions. Their personalities form no integral portion of their systems. Plato said, "Accept my ideas"; Christ said, "Accept Me." Cakyamouni said, "This is the way, by renunciation"; Christ said , "I am the Way." They, each and all, put the centres of their systems outside themselves; but Christ put the centre of His in His own person.(2) But, secondly, the phrase, Christ is Christianity, means precisely the same as when we say that the tree is the branches. The tree throws itself out into branches, and it must be patent to all that there can be no more in the branches than there is already in the tree.


1. He is the Cornerstone of the religions of the world; that is to say, in Him and the religion He instituted all other religions meet and are unified.

2. Jesus Christ is the Cornerstone of Christian doctrines; in other words, in Him they find the principle of their reconciliation.

3. Jesus Christ is also the Cornerstone of Christian Churches; in Him is their one point of union.

III. JESUS CHRIST IS THE SURE FOUNDATION. "Whosoever believeth in Him shall not be confounded."

1. Jesus Christ is the sure foundation, the one truth which maintains its ground notwithstanding the fierce assaults made upon it from time to time.

2. He is a sure foundation for us to build thereupon the hope of everlasting life.

(J. C. Jones, D. D.)

I. STABILITY. The cornerstone upholds and is the strength of the building. So it is in the Church, whether viewed collectively, or as composed of individual Christians. Strength is in Christ alone.

II. BEAUTY. Cornerstones give beauty and ornament to a building. They are often graceful and rich, and curiously wrought; and the other and ordinary stones of the building get comeliness from the very relation in which they stand to the cornerstones. Now Christ is the beauty of the spiritual temple.

III. UNITY. Cornerstones are the medium by which the walls of a house, with all the several stones which compose those walls, are united in one building. Take away the cornerstones, and the sides of the house would be separated from each other. The stones of which the walls are built may be of different sizes, and of different degrees of value or beauty; yet so long as they are held together by the cornerstone, the house is one house; nor is there any stone in it however small or common but that stone is necessary to the unity of the house. It cannot be spared. Such is Christ as the precious cornerstone of the spiritual temple.

(A. C. Price.)

I. THE FOUNDATION is called here "a chief cornerstone." Jesus Christ is the alone Head and King of His Church, who gives it laws, and rules it in wisdom and righteousness. "Elected," or chosen out for the purpose, and altogether fit for it. Isaiah hath it, "A stone of trial or a tried stone." As things amongst men are best chosen after trial, so Jesus Christ was certainly known by the Father, as most fit for that work to which He chose Him before He tried Him, as afterwards, upon trial in His life and death and resurrection, He proved fully answerable to His Father's purpose in all that was appointed Him. He was God, that He might be a strong foundation; He was man, that He might be suitable to the nature of the stones whereof the building was to consist, that they might join and cement together. "Precious," inestimably precious, by all the conditions that can give worth to any: by rareness and by inward excellency.

II. THE LAYING OF THIS FOUNDATION. It is said to be laid in Zion; that is, it is laid in the Church of God. And it was first laid in Zion, literally, that being then the seat of the Church and of the true religion. He was laid there in His manifestation in the flesh, and suffering, and dying, and rising again; and afterwards, being preached through the world, He became the foundation of His Church in all places where His name was received. He saith, "I lay"; by which the Lord expresseth this to be His own proper work, as Psalm 118:23. And it is not only said, "I lay," because God the Father had the first thought of this great work, but also to signify the freeness of His grace in giving His Son to be a foundation of happiness to man, without the least motion from man, or motive in man, to draw Him to it. This, again, that the Lord Himself is the layer of this cornerstone, teaches us the firmness of it. Psalm 2:6, "I have set My King upon My holy hill of Zion"; who then shall dethrone Him? "I have given Him the heathen for His inheritance, and the ends of the earth for His possession"; and who will hinder Him to take possession of His right?

III. THE BUILDING ON THIS FOUNDATION. To be built on Christ is plainly to believe in Him. It is not they that have heard of Him, or that have some common knowledge of Him, or that are able to discourse of Him and speak of His person and nature aright, but they that believe in Him. Much of our knowledge is like that of the poor philosopher, who defineth riches exactly, and discourseth of their nature, but possesseth none; or we are as a geometrician, who can measure land exactly in all its dimensions, but possesseth not a foot thereof. And truly it is but a lifeless unsavoury knowledge that men have of Christ by books and study, till He reveal Himself and persuade the heart to believe in Him. There is in lively faith, when it is infused into the soul, a clearer knowledge of Christ and His excellency than before, and with it a recumbency of the soul upon Him, as the foundation of its life and comfort; a resolving to rest on Him, and not to depart from Him upon any terms.

IV. THE FIRMNESS OF THIS BUILDING. "He that believeth on Him shall not be confounded." This firmness is answerable to the nature of the foundation. Not only the whole frame, but every stone of it abideth sure. It is a mistake to judge the persuasion of perseverance to be self-presumption. They that have it are far from building it on themselves, but their foundation is that which makes them sure; because it doth not only remain firm itself, but indissolubly supports all that are once built on it. In the prophet whence this is cited it is, "Shall not make haste," but the sense is one. They that are disappointed and ashamed in their hopes, run to and fro, and seek after some new resource; this they shall not need to do who come to Christ.

V. THE GREATNESS AND EXCELLENCY OF THE WORK intimated in that first word, "Behold," which imports this work to be very remarkable, and calls the eyes to fix upon it. The Lord is marvellous in the least of His works; but in this He hath manifested more of His wisdom and power, and let out more of His love to mankind, than in all the rest. Look upon this "precious stone," and behold Him not in mere speculation, but so behold Him as to lay hold on Him; for we see He is therefore here set forth, that we may believe on Him; and so not be confounded, that we may attain this blessed union, that cannot be dissolved. All other unions are dissoluble. A man may be plucked from his dwelling house and lands, or they from him, though he have never so good a title to them; may be removed from his dearest friends, if not by other accidents in his lifetime, yet sure by death, the great dissolver of all such unions, and of that straitest one, of the soul with the body; but it can do nothing against this union, but on the contrary perfects it.

(Abp. Leighton.)

St. Peter, when arraigned before Annas and Caiaphas, had reminded them of that passage (Psalm 118:22) which speaks of a stone cast aside by the builders as unfitted for their purpose, but afterwards, by the Lord's own act, chosen out to be "the head of the corner." The sacred irony of this contrast had evidently taken hold of his mind. In the context here he has been referring to that passage in combination with one of Isaiah's (Isaiah 28:16), and applying both to the Lord Jesus, as identified with that Lord of whom another Psalmist had said, "O taste and see that the Lord is gracious." He now quotes from Isaiah, applying the title of "cornerstone" to his Master, just as St. Paul says (1 Corinthians 3:11; Ephesians 2:20). What does this ancient and sacred image, thus borrowed by St. Peter and St. Paul from the stores of Hebrew prophecy, convey to us Christians? When Isaiah was drawing near to the close of his public life, a worldly and irreligious party had risen to influence and temporary command in the kingdom of Judah. Their aim was to strengthen it by a secular policy, with an Egyptian alliance for its basis. Their thoughts, if put into modern shape, would run somewhat as follows: "Judah must be set free from the bondage of a narrow clerical interest: it is essentially a kingdom, existing side by side with other kingdoms; its needs, its emergencies, are like theirs; it must, perforce, do as they do. It must therefore shake off the tyranny of meddlesome preachers, who can only look at secular matters from their own theological point of view, and pretend to school practical men like children, with a dull iteration of precept upon precept. We have outgrown all that; it is time for common sense to reign. We know how to make safeguards for the throne and for the country, which will enable us, so to speak, to be on friendly terms with death, exempt from the peril of destruction; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come to us." Isaiah turns round upon them as the minister of Him who scorneth the scorners. "No," he says, "your hopes are vain; your covenant with death shall be cancelled; your hiding place is a refuge of lies, and the hailstorm and the rising flood will sweep it away. The scourge, when it comes, will simply trample you down. But I will tell you where a refuge can be found; there is a stone laid by God for a sure foundation, a stone tried and precious; he that trusteth to it shall not make haste, shall not be shaken from his foothold." This refers first to that sacred character of the house of David, which belonged to it as destined to culminate in David's future preeminent Son, and in the fuller sense to that Son in His own Person, as realising all that could be indicated by the glorious titles of "the Emmanuel, the Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God." Because He was one day to appear, the pious in Judah would rest their hopes and stay their souls on Him. And this should be, in a far more effective sense, the experience of those who know the Christ as having come. Consider a few of the senses in which He makes good this title of cornerstone. How, do we think, did the first preachers to the heathen win converts? By appealing to men's deepest sense of need, to the felt necessity of a centralising, consolidating principle for human life.

1. Two things, at least, we must secure, if life is not to be a failure.(1) One is, something certainly true, a truth to stand by amid uncertainties. As we advance in our earthly journey, perplexities gather round on all sides. Life has not verified our first expectations; it raises questions which it does not answer; there is a confusion of theories; but where is that which we can depend upon, and grasp firmly, looking life and death in the face? The answer is in the words of Jesus, "I am the Truth."(2) Man also needs a power of moral and spiritual rectification. He believes Christ is all-precious, because He can and does help them to become pure and single-hearted, high in aim and active in duty.

2. These two great questions well answered by the acceptance of Jesus Christ, one sees how in His relation to the several doctrines and institutions of His Kingdom, He sustains the character of the One Foundation.(1) It is so in regard to doctrines.(2) He is also the foundation of all His ordinances. All the instrumental agencies whereby He waits upon the soul — the means, as we call them, or channels of His grace — derive their efficacy from Him; nay, more, it is He who is the real though unseen Minister in them all, the true Celebrant, Baptizer, Absolver, Ordainer, the sovereign Priest of His Church.

3. If Christ be, in these ways, the foundation of our spiritual life, in all its aspects, should He not be also the foundation of all that we do?

(W. Bright, D. D.)

I. Jesus Christ is the cornerstone, uniting JEWS AND GENTILES.

1. Jews and Gentiles met in His Person. He was of the seed of David according to the flesh, a Jew of the Jews, His genealogy complete and flawless right up to Abraham. But as we carefully survey the stream of His ancestry, we here and there discover Gentile blood flowing as tributaries to it. It is rather remarkable that the only women mentioned in the line of His pedigree are of Gentile blood and soiled character.

2. Jews and Gentiles had also a place in His ministry. The Jewish Rabbis never looked over the Wall of Separation, never gave a kindly thought to the great world without, lying in wickedness, seething in misery. Jesus Christ, however, distinctly purposed from the first to bring Jews and Gentiles into one community an idea absolutely original.

3. As Jesus Christ united Jews and Gentiles in His person and teaching, so tie has also joined them in the Church He established. Today we behold Jews and Gentiles, the civilised nations of the earth and the newly reclaimed barbarians of the South Sea Islands, reclining under its refreshing shade.

II. Jesus Christ is the cornerstone, uniting MEN and ANGELS.

1. Jesus Christ has united men and angels in His person. He is our countryman, cry the angels, the Lord from heaven; but He is our kinsman, men make reply. He belongs to us by the ties of citizenship, say the angels; but He belongs to us by the ties of blood, answer men. Thus angels and men can legitimately claim a share in this Son of Jesse.

2. He represents men and angels in His teaching as being one in Him.

3. Men and angels are brought together in unity in His Church.

III. Jesus Christ is the cornerstone, uniting GOD and MAN.

1. Both meet in His person.

2. He brought God and man together hi His ministry. The great, one might say the central doctrine of His preaching is the Fatherhood of God, and the corresponding sonship of man.

3. In the Church of Christ God and man are welded together in the bonds of closest friendship. God is reconciled to man in the sacrifice of His Son, and now He is reconciling men to Himself. Sinners are being brought into line with the cornerstone, and thus into union with God.

(J. C. Jones, D. D.)

1. Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of religious doctrine. He was the Son of the God of truth; He was truth Himself, and He came into the world to bear witness to the truth. By His personal ministry and by the ministry of His apostles, He revealed to the fallen children of men the things which belonged to their peace.

2. Christ is the cornerstone of morality. During the whole period of His ministry He afforded a constant example of perfect obedience to the moral law. Every duty which it became Him as a man to fulfil towards men He discharged no less punctually than those obligations of which the immediate object was God.

3. Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of salvation. Through Him we are justified, sanctified; through Him we receive the inheritance of eternal life.

(T. Gisborne, M. A.)

The figures woven into this passage are architectural. They do not, however, touch the imagination as much now as they did when they were first drawn; for we have been misled with regard to the truths they are designed to illustrate, by the degradation that has befallen the cornerstones which we plant. The cornerstone is not a foundation stone with us. It might just as well be put at the middle of the wall as at the corner; at the top as at the bottom; and, for that matter, it might as well be put in the tower as in the wall. It is merely a ceremonial cornerstone, made to contain a few records, giving the date, the time, and what not, belonging to the building. But there are real cornerstones yet. When builders have dug down and found the bottom level, and desire to lay a foundation which no fire can reach, no water undermine, no weight sway, and lay broad and vast stones, then these stones have a marked relation to the integrity of the whole building above. If they are weak, or easily displaced, the foundation will be unstable; and when that gives way, the superstructure, no matter how carefully it may be built, will follow it. There was, however, another kind of cornerstone in former times — namely, a massive slab, which, standing upright, united to itself firmly the two side walls, and so bound together the building laterally. Both of these terms are in our text, and both of them are applied to Christ, who is represented as not only bearing up the whole structure of piety as a foundation, but binding it together as a cornerstone, or the head of the corner, so that, vertically and laterally, the building takes hold and sustains itself by the foundation and the cornerstone. This passage teaches that as a building rests upon its foundation stones, so every Christian rests upon Jesus Christ. They are not merely connected with Him: they rest upon Him. So do they rest upon Him, that if He were to be removed from them all their religious experience would fall, as a wall would go down if its foundation stones were taken out of the way.

I. I first ask you to mark THE DISTINCTION WHICH EXISTS BETWEEN A MERE GENERAL DEPENDENCE UPON GOD, AND A CONSCIOUS PERSONAL LIFE IN CHRIST JESUS, for that is the distinction which demarks between the school of what may be called the naturalists in religion, and of evangelical Christians. It is one thing to be a believer in God's government; it is another thing to hold company with God — to behold Him, to love Him, and to commune with Him, to twine your life about Him.

II. I remark, secondly, THAT THIS DIRECT, INTIMATE, HOURLY, AND DAILY LIVING WITH CHRIST, IS THE THING WHICH THE GOSPEL PROPOSES AS ITS CHARACTERISTIC AIM. Morality is a good thing. A man without it certainly cannot be a Christian, although he may not be one with it. Moralities are mere day labourers, who dig out the roots and clear off the weeds, and get the ground ready for something else. Morals do but plough the soil — piety is the fruitful stein, and love the fair flower which springs from the soil. It is only love that can find out God without searching. Upon its eyes God dawns. Love is that regent quality which was meant to reveal the Divine to us. It carries its own light, and by its own secret nature is drawn instantly towards God, and reflects the knowledge of Him back upon us. When love hath brought forth its central vision of the Divine, and interpreted it to all the other faculties, then they, in turn, become seers, and the soul is helped by every one of its faculties, as by so many eyes, to behold the fulness of God.

III. I remark, thirdly, THAT IT IS DEEMED BY MEN VERY DELUSIVE, AND BY SOME WISE MEN UTTERLY IMPOSSIBLE, IN THIS MORTAL STATE, FOR A MAN TO LIVE BY FAITH IN AN INVISIBLE BEING, so that Christ shall seem to be a present companion to him. You might as well attempt to root up an oak of a hundred years' growth as attempt to eradicate my faith in Christ present with me — Christ living with me, and I with Him, so that my life is joined to His. Imagine that I stand, tearful and tremulous, yet joyful, by the side of a magnificent picture, which electrifies me, which touches all the great fountains in my nature, causing them to rise and overflow; which translates my mind, and purifies it. As I stand looking at such a picture, a man comes to me and says, "What are you gazing at, sir?" I begin, in broken language, to tell him what effect the picture is having upon me; and he looks at me with astonishment, and says, "Well, it may be that it affects you so, but it does not stand to reason; for it is natural to suppose that if it affected you so, it would affect me in the same way; and I do not have any such feelings as you profess to have. I am sure I would not pay a sixpence for the thing." There I stand trembling before the picture; he reviles it, because his sensibilities are all materialised. Next there comes to me a utilitarian — one of those men who think nothing good unless it be useful, and with whom use means that which is good to sell or to eat. "Is it possible," he says, "that this picture can operate upon your feelings? It makes no impression upon me whatever. I do not see how it can do such a thing. If you were to tell me that it was one of Raphael's great productions, and that it was worth five or six thousand dollars, I should understand that it had some value. You are a little touched, are you not?" Then a bloated sensualist comes to me, and says, "I would give more for one flagon of wine than for all the old painted rags on earth." He and I live in different worlds. But if none of these could be made to understand my feelings in the presence of a picture, how much less can they know the reality and glory of my feelings before that more glorious revelation of heavenly beauty which shall remain unrolled forever and forever, and which, as I stand before it, causes everything in me of faith, and hope, and joy, and love, to cry out!

IV. NEED I SPEAK OF THE PRECIOUSNESS OF YOUR SAVIOUR? Need I call to your remembrance the experiences in which He has manifested Himself to you? Do you not remember those days of struggle and distress, through which you passed, and that day of hope and joy which succeeded them, when Christ dawned upon you, and you felt that your troubles were over, and your resistance to His will was ended, and you cried out, "My Lord and my God!" and He raised you to His bosom? Has He not revealed Himself to you, saying, "I am with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you"? The manifestation of Christ to us takes away from trouble all its sting. By and by we shall strand, every one of us, in the narrow passage of death, and there is but one Pilot there. If He comes, bright and shining, from the dark waters of the troubled sea, how sweet and precious will He be to the dying soul that has loved Him, and longed to see Him!

(H. W. Beecher.)

I. THE FOUNDATION OF THE BELIEVER'S FAITH. "He that believeth on Him." The foundation of the believer's faith is Christ Jesus Himself. But in what sense am I to believe in Jesus Christ?

1. I reply, first, as God's appointed Saviour of men. "Behold I lay in Zion a sure foundation." We trust in Christ Jesus because God has set Him forth to be the propitiation for sin.

2. We also believe in the Lord Jesus because of the excellency of His person. We trust Christ to save us because we perceive Him in every way to be adapted by the nature and constitution of His person to be the Saviour of man kind.

3. Another ground of our reliance upon Christ is that He has actually finished the work of our redemption. There were two things to be done. The first was the keeping of the law on our behalf: that He has performed to the uttermost, even as He said to His Father, "I have glorified Thee on the earth, I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do." We see our Lord also doing the other part of His work, namely, suffering in consequence of our sin, and our faith becomes fully established.

4. One other truth must be mentioned, seeing that our Lord is now no longer dead, we feel it more easy to place our confidence in Him because He ever liveth to see to the completion of our salvation. A living faith delights in a living Saviour. This is the seal of all that went before.

II. THE MANNER OF THIS BELIEVING. How do we believe in Jesus Christ? Now, we have not to go a single inch to find an instructive illustration of what faith in Jesus is. The verse before us is connected with building.

1. If, then, you want to know what it is to believe on Jesus, it is relic upon Him as a stone lies upon a foundation when the mason puts it there. Faith is leaning, depending, relying.

2. A stone rests wholly on the foundation. That is faith: resting upon Christ wholly and entirely, looking to Him for everything that has to do with our salvation. Genuine faith in Christ does not trust Him to pardon sin, and then trust itself to overcome sin. No, it trusts Christ both for the conquest of evil and for the forgiveness of it.

3. The stone laid on the foundation comes closer to that foundation every day. When a house is finished there still goes on a measure of settlement, and you are glad if it settles all in a piece together. Every day the stone is brought by its own weight a little closer to the foundation; may every day's pressure bring you and me closer to Christ. Oh, that the pressure of our joys and griefs may press us nearer to our Lord!

4. A well-built stone gets to be one with the foundation. In the old Roman walls the mortar seems to be as hard as the stones, and the whole is like one piece; you must blow it to atoms before you can get the wall away. So is it with the true believer: he rests upon his Lord till he is one with Jesus by a living union, so that you scarce know where the foundation ends and where the upbuilding begins; for the believer becometh all in Christ, even as Christ is all in all to him.

III. THE EVIL WHICH WILL NEVER COME UPON THE MAN WHO BELIEVETH ON JESUS. The text says, "He shall not be confounded," and the meaning of it is, first, that he shall never be disappointed. All that Christ has promised to be He will be to those who trust Him. And then comes the next rendering — you shall never be confounded. When a man gets to be ashamed of his hope because he is disappointed in it, he casts about for another anchorage, and, not knowing where to look, he is greatly perplexed. If the Lord Jesus Christ were to fall through, what should we do? No, Jesus, we shall not be confounded, for we shall never be disappointed in Thee, nor made ashamed of our hope! According to Isaiah's version, we shall not be obliged to "make haste"; we shall not be driven to our wit's end and hurried to and fro. We shall not hurry and worry, trying this and that, running from pillar to post to seek a hope; but he that believeth shall be quiet, calm, assured, confident. He awaits the future with equanimity, as he endures the present with patience. Now, the times of our special danger of being confounded are many; but in none of these shall we be confounded. Let us just turn them over in our minds. There are times when a man's sins all come up before him like exceeding great armies. All your thoughts, words, and deeds, your bad tempers and rebellions against God — suppose they were all to rise at once, what would become of you? Why, even then, "he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded." The depths have covered them, there is not one of them left. He that believeth on the pardoning Saviour shall not be confounded, though all his sins should accuse him at once. The unbelieving world outside labours to create confusion. The scientific discoverers, the possessors of boastful culture, and all the other braggers of this marvellously enlightened nineteenth century are up in arms against the believers in Jesus. Faith in Jesus can be justified before a synagogue of savans, it deserves the respect of a parliament of philosophers. To trust the Son of God incarnate, whose advent into this world is a fact better proved by history than any other that was ever on record — to trust oneself upon His atoning sacrifice is the most reasonable thing that a man can do. He that believeth on Him shall not be confounded by human wisdom, for God hath long ago confounded it and turned it into foolishness. But the world has done more than sneer; it has imitated Cain and sought to slay the faithful. There they stand. The lions are loose upon them. Do they cry for mercy, and treacherously deny Christ? They are feeble men and women; do they recant and leave their Master? Not they. They die as bravely as ever soldier fell in battle. Well, but there will come other troubles to Christians besides these, and in them they shall not be confounded. They will be tried by the flesh; natural desires will break forth into vehement lustings, and corruptions will seek to cast them down. Will believers perish then? No. He that believeth in Christ shall conquer himself, and overcome his easily besetting sins. There will come losses and crosses, business trials and domestic bereavements. What then? He shall not be confounded; his Lord will sustain him under every tribulation. At last death will come to us. We may not be able to shout "victory"; we may be too weak for triumphant hymns, but with our latest breath we will lisp the precious name. They that watch us shall know by our serenity that a Christian does not die, but only melts away into everlasting life. We shall never be confounded, even amid the grandeurs of eternity.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Unto you therefore which believe He is precious.

1. The grace of faith, which renders Jesus precious to the soul, is not the faith of assent, or such a faith by which men credit the testimony of Jesus through the gospel.

2. It is not only a believing of Christ, but a believing in Christ — the soul's receiving of, and resting upon Him alone for righteousness, pardon, and salvation.

3. That faith works by love (Galatians 5:6).(1) This faith is ever attended with an affectionate desire of the company of Jesus Christ (Song of Solomon 4:6; Psalm 4:6; Job 23:3; Isaiah 26:8).(2) With delightful thoughts of Him (Psalm 139:17).(3) With cheerful service to Him (Psalm 119:4, 5).(4) Such as believe in and love the Lord Jesus in sincerity, are tender of His name and honour.(5) They are afraid to offend Him.(6) True faith in Christ, and sincere love to Him, are ever attended with the soul's longing to be more and more like Him — in humility, in patience, in service, in resignation, and in holiness.

(a)It is such a faith as is the act of a living soul; for these believers, to whom Christ is precious, are said to be "new born."

(b)Those to whom Jesus is precious are such as have "tasted of His grace."

(c)They are described by their living by faith on Christ — "to whom coming."

II. UPON WHAT ACCOUNT IS JESUS PRECIOUS TO THEM THAT BELIEVE? I answer, in general, that it is from His suitableness to them, their relation to Him, and the benefits they receive from Him. But, more particularly —

1. Jesus is precious to believers, in the constitution of His person, which is very wonderful.

2. On account of His excellent qualifications and rich anointing for His work, as Mediator between God and men.

3. On account of the discharge of His offices of Prophet, Priest, and King, in order to the salvation of His people.

4. On account of the relations that He stands in to them that believe. He is their Head of influence, and they are members of His spiritual Body. He is their Shepherd. He is their best Friend — loving, tender, compassionate, sincere, sympathising, and constant. He is their great Physician and Healer.

5. On account of the display of His transcendent love and riches of His grace in order to their salvation.

6. He is most precious to believers, as whatsoever makes any of the creatures lovely, desirable, and precious one to another, is originally in Him; it is in them as a cistern, but in Christ as an inexhaustible fountain.(1) Is beauty one ground of the creature's delighting in each other? The Lord Jesus excels them all (Psalm 45:2).(2) Does wisdom recommend any creature to the affection of another? The Lord Jesus is the Wisdom of God. He not only governs the world in wisdom, but as a Prophet He teaches men to know God and Himself, which is eternal life.(3) Does usefulness in any creature bespeak the affections and esteem of others? Jesus Christ is more than all the creatures put together; He is all things to His people — their light, their life, their food, their strength, their clothing and ornament, their riches and honour, their guide and leader, their healer, their advocate and intercessor, and all in all.(4) Does a meek and quiet spirit, attended with patience and humility, commonly win the esteem of fellow creatures? Jesus Christ excels them all in these most desirable endowments; He is a perfect pattern of humility and meekness for all His disciples.(5) Does faithfulness to any trust win the love and esteem of one to another? This is eminently found in Jesus Christ (Hebrews 3:2).(6) Does sincere and ardent love in anyone call for the love and esteem of Others? The Lord Jesus excels them all; no creature can possibly love another at such a rate as He has done; His love is strong as death, many waters cannot quench it. And it is as free as it is great and uncommon.


1. By choosing Him for their own, and careful endeavour to clear up their interest in Him.

2. By their frequent and delightful thoughts of Him (Psalm 139:17).

3. By earnest desires of His presence, communion with Him (Job 23:3; Psalm 42:1, 2).

4. They yield to Him the seat and habitation of their very hearts (Ephesians 3:17).

5. By making use of Him, for all the ends that God the Father has appointed Him.

6. By their sincere love to Him.(1) They love to think of Him, and their love inclines them to think and speak honourably of Him.(2) They love His image wherever they can perceive it (Psalm 16:3).(3) They love His Word (Job 23:12; Romans 7:22).(4) They highly esteem His ordinances, and the places and means where they may enjoy Him.(5) They are careful to keep His commandments (John 14:21).(6) They desire to be more and more like Him (Romans 8:29).(7) They rejoice in Him, and all He is made of God to them (Philippians 3:3).

(W. Notcutt.)

I. First, this is a positive fact, that UNTO BELIEVERS JESUS CHRIST IS PRECIOUS. In Himself He is of inestimable preciousness, for He is very God of very God. He is, moreover, perfect man without sin. The precious gopher wood of His humanity is overlaid with the pure gold of His Divinity. He is a mine of jewels and a mountain of gems. He is altogether lovely, but, alas! this blind world seeth not His beauty.


1. Jesus Christ is precious to the believer because He is intrinsically precious. But here let me take you through an exercise in grammar; here is an adjective, let us go through it.(1) Is He not good positively? Election is a good thing; but we are elect in Christ Jesus. Adoption is a good thing; but we are adopted in Christ Jesus and made joint heirs with Him. Pardon is a good thing; but we are pardoned through the precious blood of Jesus. And if all these be good, surely He must be good in whom, and by whom, and to whom, and through whom are all these precious things.(2) But Christ is good comparatively. Bring anything and compare with Him. One of the brightest jewels we can have is liberty. If I be not free, let me die. Ay, but put liberty side by side with Christ, and I would wear the fetter for Christ and rejoice in the chain. Besides liberty, what a precious thing is life! "Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life." But let a true Christian once have the choice between life and Christ — "No," says he, "I can die, but I cannot deny."(3) And then to go higher still — Christ is good superlatively. The superlative of all things is heaven, and if it could be possible to put Christ in competition with heaven, the Christian would not stop a moment in his choice; he would sooner be on earth with Christ than be in heaven without Him.

2. Still, to answer this question again: Why is Christ precious to the believer more than to any other man? Why, it is the believer's want that makes Christ precious to him! The worldling does not care for Christ, because he has never hungered and thirsted after Him; but the Christian is athirst for Christ, his heart and his flesh pant after God. This is the one thing needful for me, and if I have it not, this thirst must destroy me. Mark, too, that the believer may be found in many aspects, and you will always find that his needs will endear Christ to him.

3. Look at the believer, not only in his wants, but in his highest earthly state. The believer is a man that was once blind and now sees. And what a precious thing is light to a man that sees! If I, as a believer, have an eye, how much I need the stun to shine! And when Christ gives sight to the blind He makes His people a seeing people. It is then that they find what a precious thing is the sight, and how pleasant a thing it is for a man to behold the sun. From the very fact that the Christian is a quickened man, he values the robe of righteousness that is put about him. The very newborn powers of the Christian would be very channels for misery if it were not for Christ. But, believer, how precious is Christ to thee in the hour of conviction of sin, when He says, "Thy sins, which are many, are all forgiven thee." How precious to thee in the hour of sickness, when He comes to thee and says, "I will make all thy bed in thy sickness." How precious to thee in the hour of trial, when He says, "All things work together for thy good." How precious when friends are buried, for He says, "I am the resurrection and the life." How precious in thy grey old age, "Even in old age I am with thee, and to hoary hairs will I carry you." How precious in the lone chamber of death, for "I will fear no evil, Thou art with me, Thy rod and Thy staff comfort me." But, last of all, how precious will Christ be when we see Him as He is! All we know of Christ here is as nothing compared with what we shall know hereafter.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. WHAT CHRIST IS TO HIS PEOPLE. The Revised Version reads the text, "For you therefore which believe is the preciousness." His very self is preciousness itself. He is the essence, the substance, the sum of all preciousness. Many things are more or less precious; but the Lord Jesus is preciousness itself, outsoaring all degrees of comparison.

1. How do believers show that Christ is thus precious to them?(1) They do so by trusting everything to Him. Every believer stays his hope solely upon the work of Jesus. Our implicit faith in Him proves our high estimate of Him.(2) To believers the Lord Jesus is evidently very precious, because they would give up all that they have sooner than lose Him. Tens of thousands have renounced property, liberty, and life sooner than deny Christ.(3) Saints also find their all in Him. He is not one delight, but all manner of delights to them, All that they can want, or wish, or conceive, they find in Him.(4) So precious is Jesus to believers, that they cannot speak well enough of Him. Could you, at your very best, exalt the Lord Jesus so gloriously as to satisfy yourself?(5) Saints show that in their estimation Christ is precious, for they can never do enough for Him. It is not all talk; they are glad also to labour for Him who died for them. Though they grow weary in His work, they never grow weary of it.(6) Saints show how precious Christ is to them, in that He is their heaven. Have you never heard them when dying, talk about their joy in the prospect of being with Christ?(7) If you are not satisfied with these proofs that Christ is precious to believers, I would invite you to add another yourself. Let every one of us do something fresh by which to prove the believer's love to Christ. Let us invent a new love token. Let us sing unto the Lord a new song. Let not this cold world dare to doubt that unto believers Christ is precious; let us force the scoffers to believe that we are in earnest.

2. In thinking Christ to be precious, the saints are forming a just estimate of Him. "He is precious." For a thing to be rightly called precious, it should have three qualities: it should be rare, it should have an intrinsic value of its own, and it should possess useful and important properties. All these three things meet in our adorable Lord, and make Him precious to discerning minds.

3. The saints form their estimate of Him upon Scriptural principles. "Unto you therefore which believe He is precious." We have a "therefore" for our valuation of Christ; we have calculated, and have reason on our side, though we count Him to be the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely.(1) Our Lord Jesus is very precious to us as "a living stone." As a foundation He is firm as a stone; but in addition, He has life, and this life He communicates, so that we also become living stones, and are joined to Him in living, loving, lasting union. A stone alive, and imparting life to other stones which are built upon it, is indeed a precious thing in a spiritual house which is to be inhabited of God. This gives a character to the whole structure.(2) Our Lord is all the more precious to us because He was "disallowed indeed of men." Never is Christ dearer to the believer than when he sees Him to be despised and rejected of men.(3) He becomes inconceivably precious to us when we view Him as "chosen of God." Upon whom else could the Divine election have fallen? But He saith, "I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people." The choice of Jehovah must be divinely wise.(4) Note well that the apostle calls Him "precious," that is, precious to God. We feel abundantly justified in our high esteem of our Lord, since He is so dear to the Father.(5) Moreover, we prize our Lord Jesus as our foundation. Jehovah saith, "Behold, I lay in Sion a chief cornerstone." What a privilege to have a foundation of the Lord's own laying! It is and must be the best, the most abiding, the most precious foundation.

II. WHAT IT IS IN THE SAINTS WHICH MAKES THEM PRIZE CHRIST AT THIS RATE. It is their faith. "Unto you therefore which believe He is precious." Faith calls Him precious, when others esteem Him "a root out of a dry ground."

1. To faith the promises concerning Christ are made. The Bible never expects that without faith men will glorify Christ.

2. It is by faith that the value of Christ is perceived. You cannot see Christ by mere reason, for the natural man is blind to the things of the Spirit.

3. By faith the Lord Jesus is appropriated. In possession lies much of preciousness. Faith is the hand that grasps Him, the mouth that feeds upon Him, and therefore by faith He is precious.

4. By faith the Lord Jesus is more and more tasted and proved, and becomes more and more precious. To us our Lord is as gold tried in the fire. Our knowledge is neither theoretical nor traditional; we have seen Him ourselves, and He is precious to us.

5. Our sense of Christ's preciousness is a proof of our possessing the faith of God's elect; and this ought to be a great comfort to any of you who are in the habit of looking within.

6. Christ becomes growingly precious to us as our faith grows. If thou doubtest Christ, He has gone down fifty per cent. in thine esteem. Every time you give way to scepticism and critical questioning you lose a sip of sweetness. In proportion as yea believe with a faith which is childlike, clear, simple, strong, unbroken, in that proportion will Christ be dearer and dearer to you.

III. WHAT BELIEVERS RECEIVE FROM HIM. Take the exact translation, "Unto you that believe He is honour."

1. Honour! Can honour ever belong to a sinner like me? Worthless, base, only fit to be cast away, can I have honour? The Lord changes the rank when He forgives the sin. Thou art dishonourable no longer if thou believest in Jesus. Thou art honourable before God now that He has become thy salvation.

2. It is a high honour to be associated with the Lord Jesus.

3. It is a great honour to be built on Him as a sure foundation. A minister once said to me, "It must be very easy for you to preach." I said, "Do you think so? I do not look at it as a light affair." "Yes," he said; "it is easy, because you hold a fixed and definite set of truths, upon which you dwell from year to year." I did not see how this made it easy to preach, but I did see how it made my heart easy, and I said, "Yes, that is true. I keep to one fixed line of truth." "That is not my case," said he; "I revise my creed from week to week. It is with me constant change and progress." I did not say much, but I thought the more. If the foundation is constantly being altered, the building will be rather shaky.

4. It is an honour to believe the doctrines taught by Christ and His apostles. It is an honour to be on the same lines of truth as the Holy Ghost.

5. It is an honour to do as Christ bade us in His precepts. Holiness is the truest royalty.

6. It will be our great honour to see our Lord glorified.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Unto you therefore who believe is the honour."

I. Practical trust in Christ gives man the NOBLEST CHARACTER. What is true nobility or honour? Disinterested love is the spring and essence of a noble character, this is the soul of the hero. Where it is not, though a man be sage, statesman, poet, king, he is contemptible. How does a man get this? By practically trusting in Christ — in no other way.

II. Practical trust in Christ gives man the HIGHEST FELLOWSHIPS. But into what society does practical trust in Christ introduce them? First, into the society of sainted sages — the great and good men of all lands and times. Secondly, into the society of holy angels — the firstborn of the Eternal. Thirdly, Into the society of the great God Himself.

III. Practical trust in Christ gives man the SUBLIMEST POSSESSIONS.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

Many will doubtless feel some regret at the loss in the Revised New Testament of the familiar words, "Unto you therefore which believe He is precious." The marginal reading of the Revised Version is even preferable to that of our text, "For you therefore which believe is the honour." Men object to be told that they must believe in order to know the truth, the power, the value of Christianity.

1. Faith is the condition of all knowledge. The student of natural science believes that there are hidden secrets of nature, laws unknown as yet, which will be revealed to patient investigation. Because he believes this, he laboriously toils and patiently waits.

2. Faith is the condition of all enterprise. It is because men believe, not merely in the possibility, but in the probability of the success of an undertaking that they are willing to engage in it, and even to incur toil and risk.

3. Nay, more, faith is the condition of existence. We eat because we believe that food is necessary and will nourish us. We rest at home or walk abroad because we believe in the stability of nature's laws and the goodwill of our fellow men.

4. Faith, which is the condition of everything else, itself rests on conditions, and compliance with those conditions involves the believer in much "honour." It depends on knowledge, on experience, i.e., on evidence.

5. Nor does faith rest on evidence simply, but on an emotion, on the feeling which the evidence excites, and on the will which is thereby awakened and influenced.

6. What, then, is the faith in Christ which is the condition of this honour? What do we believe about Jesus Christ? What are we called upon to believe, and on what evidence?(1) Ascending from the lower to the higher, we believe first in Jesus Christ as the ideal man.(a) Faith in the perfect humanity of Christ brings with it the assurance of immortal life and of undying sympathy.(b) And as we think of Him living still, we feel assured of His sympathy with us. For His perfection was not something inherent in Himself, something necessary and unavoidable, but a perfection attained through conflict and suffering.(2) From the belief in the perfect humanity of Jesus Christ we rise to a higher faith in His Divinity, His Deity. For we find that He stands alone in His sinlessness, in His perfection. This is, I believe, the real genesis and growth of true faith in Christ. It is through His humanity that we rise to the conception of His Deity. "The person of Christ is the perennial glory and strength of Christianity."(3) The faith attained through looking at Christ, meditating on Christ, reasoning about Christ, is developed and perfected by experience. Experience is the test of faith, of its value or worthlessness. The strongest faith, that which cannot be shaken, is that which rests on personal experience. Unto you that believe is the honour. What honour?

I. IT IS THE HONOUR OF BUILDING ON A FOUNDATION WHICH CAN NEVER GIVE WAY. It is the safety of having an unfailing refuge in which to hide. We have an experience of which nothing can rob us, and a hope that maketh not ashamed, which will never disappoint, as the anchor of our soul. "Unto you that believe is the honour."

II. MAN'S HIGHEST HONOUR IS TO RENDER HOMAGE TO PERFECT LOVE AND RIGHTEOUSNESS AND THE TRUEST HOMAGE IMITATES THAT BEFORE WHICH IT BOWS IN REVERENCE. Dishonouring Christ, men dishonour themselves. Many may admire a .picture which only one could paint, and the consciousness of inability would prevent them from attempting to emulate the artist whose work fills them with delight and wonder. But if the artist were to offer to enable us to do what he had done, and assure us of his power to do so by the example and experience of numbers who had been taught by him, should we Hot gladly accept such an offer? Such an offer Christ makes to every one. He sets before us in His life a purity, a nobility, a righteousness which we cannot attain by ourselves, but which He can and will help us to attain.

III. THE HONOUR IS THAT OF TESTIFYING TO THE POWER AND GRACE OF THIS SAVIOUR AND FRIEND OF MAN, THE HONOUR OF MAKING HIM KNOWN TO OTHERS. We can only do this as we believe in Him ourselves, and our life must prove our faith.

(A. F. Joscelyne, B. A.)

The doctrine from these words is this, that Jesus Christ is an honour to all believers.

1. He is the author of honour to them.

2. He is, and ought to be, the object of honour from them. He honours them, and they do and should honour Him.

I. HOW IS THE LORD JESUS THE AUTHOR OF HONOUR TO ALL TRUE RELIEVERS? We use to say concerning the king, that he is the fountain of honour, that is, all his subjects that are men of honour derive their honour from him. Others give them honour, but it is he that makes them honourable. Now King Jesus is He, and He alone, that is the fountain of honour to all true believers.

1. He hath Himself an honourable esteem of them. They are persons of honour, even the meanest of them, in His account (Isaiah 43:4).

2. His will is that every one else should be in this like Himself, in having an honourable esteem of them. As when the king bestows a degree of honour upon a person, makes him a knight, or a lord, or an earl, he expects others so to regard him; so it is here (Esther 6:3, 6, 7). How much soever they may be despised by others, they are the excellent of the earth in His eye because they are so in Christ's eye (Psalm 16:2).

3. He hath done that for them which in the account of men may and doth deserve that honour. What is it that tie hath done for them that may be the ground of men's honouring them?(1) One ground of honouring men is upon the account of their personal excellences and endowments; some are honourable for their learning and knowledge in arts and sciences; some for their, wisdom and prudence in the management of secular affairs; in the field, as soldiers; in the senate, as counsellors. Now if so, the people fearing God deserve honour indeed, for they have better knowledge than others. They from the least even to the greatest know God. And whence have they that knowledge but from Christ, who gives them an understanding? (1 John 5:20) They have wisdom also, another sort of wisdom — wisdom from above in soul affairs.(2) Upon the account of their great usefulness in their particular places and stations; in court or camp, for peace or war. By their prayers, fetching down mercies, keeping off judgments, as Moses. By their pattern, they are the lights of the world.(3) Upon the account of their honourable relations wherein they stand. He that is himself in honour reflects honour upon all that are related to him. Now what are the relations of true believers? They are all the children of God, and how but by faith in Jesus Christ? (Galatians 3:16; John 1:12) And is not that a high honour? To be a servant, even the meanest, to men of honour, carries honour in it (Psalm 116:16). Nay, they are His friends, admitted to His secrets, acquainted with His counsels (John 15:15). As Hushai was a friend to David (2 Samuel 15:37). Zabud to Solomon (1 Kings 4:5).(4) Some are honourable on account of their honourable hopes. Young heirs are honoured for their inheritance sake, though as yet under age.(5) Some are honourable on account of their honourable offices and employments (Revelation 1:5) — kings and priests, so He makes them.(6) Others are honourable on account of their honourable name (James 2:7). The word Christian is from Christ; all this honour have all His saints (Psalm 149:9).


1. It is real honour. Other honours are but a shadow, a dream, a fancy. This hath substance in it (Proverbs 8:21).

2. It is righteous honour. Other honours which the honourable men of the earth have are oftentimes unrighteous — unjustly given, and unjustly taken.

3. It is heavenly honour. Other honours are from below, this is from above; other honours are upon earthly accounts, this upon heavenly. The birth of a believer is heavenly, his endowments heavenly.

4. It is harmless honour. Other honours often hurt those that have them, puff them up with pride, as Haman, but so doth not this.

5. It is unsought honour. What endeavours are there to obtain other honours, what struggling, what bribing and waiting!

6. It is unfading honour. It is honour that lasts, it is everlasting.


1. We learn what to think of the great and glorious majesty of heaven and earth. His name, and His Son's name, is certainly upon this account to be adored by us and by all His creatures, angels and men. For what? For His infinite love and free grace in condescending in this manner to a remnant of Adam's seed, so as to put all this honour upon them.

2. We learn what to think of those who are not believers; all the ignorant, careless, unregenerate generation: certainly they have no part nor lot in this matter. They are none of those that God will honour.

3. We learn what is the true way to true honour. It is in our nature to desire it. But the misery is, we mistake our end, and consequently our way. We take those things to be wealth and pleasure and honour that are not so, and that not to be so which is so, and we pursue accordingly.

4. We learn what is our duty towards those to whom Christ is an honour. Certainly it is our duty to see them truly honourable, and to love and honour them accordingly (2 Kings 20:12, 13).

5. We learn what is their duty to whom Christ is an honour. To make it their business to honour Him all they can. Why is He to be honoured? He is worthy that it should be so. It is the Father's will it should be so (John 5:22, 23; Colossians 1:18, 19). It will be our own benefit and comfort, living and dying. We shall be no losers, but gainers by it. Wherein are we to honour Him? In general — let Him be precious to you. Have high and honourable thoughts of Him. Speak high and honourable things concerning Him, as Paul did. Do nothing to displease and dishonour Him, but everything contrary (Philippians 1:2).

(Philip Henry.)

1. He is precious as a Redeemer from sin. The believer appreciates salvation, because he knows what it is to be lost.

2. He is precious as a manifestation of God.

3. Look at His mission. He enters into my sin and poverty to pity and to aid.

4. He is the central glory of heaven. Human loves are not extinguished, but they will be subordinated to Him.

(J. M. Buckley, D. D.)


1. I would mention, first, the difficulty of securing the possession of the Saviour. He is freely offered "without money and without price." Yet "all men have not faith." The reason is, that there are difficulties in the way of their believing, which is one cause why we may say that Christ is precious.

2. There are few who possess this invaluable gift; not, indeed, that there is not in Christ a sufficiency for all, but Christ can only be received in one way — by faith. You may try to discover the Saviour by your works, but you cannot find Him.

3. There is a great demand for the Saviour; not, indeed, amongst the worldly, the frivolous, the luxurious and selfish, the sensual and profane. But the demand is amongst those who are convinced of their sin.

4. There are advantages accruing to the possessor, which can leave no doubt of the preciousness of Christ. His blood is precious; His intercession is precious; His righteousness, His Word, His doctrine.

II. WHO EXPERIENCE THIS PRECIOUSNESS? Gold is valueless to the infant. Pearls are as nothing to swine. And, alas! the precious blood of Jesus is to many as an unholy thing.

1. To the openly profane, Christ is as nothing.

2. The men of the world can see nothing in Christ in which they should rejoice; but they do see their lusts forbidden, and their lives condemned (Titus 2:11, 12).

3. The luxurious experience no comfort in Christ. He who had "not where to lay His head" is a continual reproof to them.

4. Nor is Christ more precious to the formalist (Romans 10:3, 4).

5. It is to the believer, and to the believer alone, that Christ is precious. It is the believer who has felt the burden of sin. He can say, "Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift."(1) Meditate on His name — Jesus, Saviour I How much does that word convey to a believer's heart!(2) Consider how precious to us is the sympathy of Jesus (Proverbs 18:24; John 13:1).(3) Call to mind the power and strength of our Redeemer. We know that we are surrounded by enemies, that we are subject to misrepresentations, to persecutions for righteousness' sake. But Jesus, the mighty God, is on our side, and we become "more than conquerors through Him who loved us."(4) Again, behold the righteousness of Jesus.

(H. M. Villiers, M. A.)






(D. Dickson, D. D.)


1. This is the peculiar privilege of those who are Christians indeed, whereby they are distinguished from others. "All men have not faith" (2 Thessalonians 3:2). Many there are who impose upon themselves, and vainly suppose that they believe, because they entertain some speculative opinions about religion.

2. Those who believe possess not only a peculiar but an important privilege. Faith is everywhere represented in the Word of God as a Divine and powerful principle, which is of unspeakable moment to the eternal interest of men.

3. Those who believe are endowed with a useful principle. True saving faith in Jesus Christ is not a dormant disposition, but a vigorous and active grace, attended with the happiest effects. It unites to Jesus Christ. It purifies the heart from the love and power of sin. It is the source of all holy obedience to God; it worketh by love, and is fruitful in all good works.


(W. McCulloch.)

This is a recognition of the practical religious value of the Christ — of what He is to those who have put Him to experimental tests. All the qualities that constitute preciousness are in Him, in a degree of excellence that imagination cannot overcolour, that even love cannot exaggerate.

1. In respect of rarity, He is the only Saviour of men; the "one Mediator between God and man"; the only hope of sinful souls.

2. In respect of beauty, He is the perfection of all moral excellence.

3. In character He is ideally good, pure, devout, benevolent, loving.

4. His work, as the Redeemer of men, realises our very loftiest conceptions — first, of moral philosophy; next, of spiritual holiness; next, of self-sacrificing love.

5. In respect of serviceableness, of personal beneficial relations to men, as their Redeemer from sin, His preciousness transcends all our words or thoughts.(1) We might apply a comparative test, and put the preciousness of Christ into comparison with all other possessions of our human life. How does our practical judgment estimate Him? Or we might subject Him to a comparative estimate with other good men; His character with that of all other saints; His teaching with that of all other prophets; His redeeming work with all other schemes for human improvement. How instinctively we give Him the transcendency!(2) Our estimates are largely influenced by the judgments of others. Let us think, then, of the estimate put upon Christ's character and work by other moral beings. Is it not significant of His excellence that He attracts the most readily and attaches the most profoundly the holiest and noblest natures?(3) The conclusive appeal, however, is to the conscious experience of our own religious souls: "If so be we have tasted that the Lord is gracious." This is the ground upon which myriads of religious men, men whose knowledge is limited, whose theology is confused, whose reason is easily baffled, who are able neither to defend their Christianity, nor theoretically to understand it, justly trust in Him. They have personally come to Christ; He has consciously quickened the life and the love of their souls; they "know that they have passed from death unto life," that "whereas once they were blind, now they see." His Divine presence witnesses in their souls. In some mystic way He is their daily Saviour, and Sanctifier, and Comforter.

I. Is not Christ precious to us WHEN WE GROPE AND STUMBLE AT THE MYSTERY OF GOD, when we feel that "the gods of the heathen are no gods"? When we cannot by any searching of our own find out God; when a thousand possibilities of ignorance and superstition torment us with vague and nameless fears; what a marvellous revelation of light and power of assurance it is when Jesus Christ puts before us His great teaching of God; when, with the strong confidence, and in the quiet ways of perfect knowledge, He tells us of the Father! Upon the conceptions of God which Jesus Christ has taught us our religious life rests. These ideas are the practical inspirations of what we are and do. In the sore feeling of our rebelliousness and guilt we go to Him, as the prodigal to his father, to ask the generous forgiveness of His fatherly love. In the helplessness of our need we cast ourselves upon the care of Him who clothes the lily and feeds the raven. Whether true or not, this conception of God is the greatest, the most inspiring, the most satisfying thought ever presented to men; the highest, purest, most endearing that the world has known.

II. How precious the Christ is WHEN THE SENSE OF SIN IS QUICKENED within us, when we awaken to the grave culpability of its guilt, when we realise its essential antagonism to the Divine holiness, its transgression of God's inviolable law, the imperative necessity of its dread penalty of death! The moral sense, the conscience within me, that which makes me a moral being, demands atonement for sin as much as my safety does. Mere security is no moral satisfaction to a righteous being. I could not be happy in the salvation of Christ if I were saved as a man is saved who breaks prison, or to whom the prison doors are illicitly opened; if I were saved at the cost of a single righteous principle. How unspeakably precious, then, the Christ when He is "set forth as a propitiation for sin," "who Himself bare our sin in His own body on the tree." "He loved me, and gave Himself for me." True or not true, it is, to say the least, a theory of forgiveness, the most perfect and satisfactory to all the feelings of our moral nature.

III. How precious again is the Christ IN OUR STRUGGLE WITH PRACTICAL EVIL, as we fight with lusts, resist temptation, overcome worldliness, subdue selfishness, or mourn over failures and falls! How assuring and helpful His perfect life, His promised grace, His ready and tender sympathy! But for Him we should have despaired in our degradation and helplessness. Again we say, this conception of Him, true or not, is practically the greatest moral force that we feel. Therefore He is precious to us, because He enables the moral redemption of our soul.

IV. How precious the Christ is IN TIMES OF GREAT SORROW; when we stand by open graves, and "refuse to be comforted because those whom we love are not"! How He comes to us, as He came "from beyond Jordan to Bethany"! How He talks with us about "the resurrection and the life"! How He weeps with us in the silence of ineffable sympathy!

V. And how precious He is IN OUR OWN MORTAL CONFLICT; when "the shadow feared of man" falls upon ourselves; when "heart and flesh fail"; when human love falls away from us, and we hear its receding voices as we go forward alone into the dark valley! "Into His hands we commit our spirit"; "His rod and staff comfort us"; His hand clasps ours; He leads us through the darkness into the eternal light and life.

(H. Allon, D. D.)

I. THAT JESUS CHRIST IS NOW PRECIOUS TO BELIEVERS. Notice attentively how personally precious Jesus is. There are two persons in the text: "Unto you that believe He is precious." You are a real person, and you feel that you are such. You have realised yourself; you are quite clear about your own existence; now in the same way strive to realise the other Person. "Unto you that believe He is precious." You believe in Him, He loves you; you love Him in return, and He sheds abroad in your heart a sense of His love. Notice, too, that while the text gleams with this vividness of personality, to which the most of professors are blind, it is weighted with a most solid positiveness: "Unto you that believe He is precious." It does not speak as though He might be or might not be; but "He is precious." If the new life be in thee, thou art as sure to love the Saviour as fish love the stream, or the birds the air, or as brave men love liberty, or as all men love their lives. Tolerate no peradventures here. Mark, further, the absoluteness of the text, "Unto you that believe He is precious. It is not written how precious. The text does not attempt by any form of computation to measure the price which the regenerate soul sets upon her Lord. The thought which I desire to bring out into fullest relief is this, that Jesus Christ is continually precious to His people. Unto you that believe, though you have believed to the saving of your soul, He is still precious; for your guilt will return upon your conscience, and you will yet sin, being still in the body, and thus unto you experimentally the cleansing atonement is as precious as when you first relied upon its expiating power. Nay, Jesus is more precious to you now, for you know your own needs more fully, have proved more often the adaptation of His saving grace, and have received a thousand more gifts at His blessed hands.

II. LET US THINK HOW CHRIST IS TODAY PRECIOUS TO YOU. To many of you there is as much in Christ undiscovered as you have already enjoyed. As surely as your faith grasps more, and becomes more capacious and appropriating, Christ will grow in preciousness to you. Ask, then, for more faith.

III. BECAUSE JESUS IS PRECIOUS TO BELIEVERS HE EFFICACIOUSLY OPERATES UPON THEM. The preciousness of Christ is, as it were, the leverage of Christ lifting up His saints to holiness. Let me show you this.

1. The man who trusts Christ values Christ; that which I value I hold fast; hence our valuing Christ helps us to abide steadfast in times of temptation.

2. Notice further: this valuing of Christ helps the believer to make sacrifices. Sacrifice making constitutes a large part of any high character. He who never makes a sacrifice in his religion may shrewdly suspect that it is not worth more than his own practical valuation of it.

3. Moreover, this valuing of Christ makes us jealous against sin. He who loves the Redeemer best purifies himself most, even as his Lord is pure.

4. High valuing of Christ helps the Christian in the selection of his associates in life. If I hold my Divine Lord to be precious, how can I have fellowship with those who do not esteem Him? You will not find a man of refined habits and cultured spirits happy amongst the lowest and most illiterate. Birds of a feather flock together. Workers and traders unite in companies according to their occupations. Lovers of Christ rejoice in lovers of Christ, and they delight to meet together; for they can talk to each other of things in which they are agreed.


(C. H. Spurgeon.)

There are very few people who would not agree with the apostle when he says that Christ is precious to believers. But when one comes a little closer, and asks professing people why He is precious to them, and in what degree, the answers to this question are vague. It is not of Christ Himself that most professors will speak. Some will say they need His righteousness, others that they hope in His death; but ah! the genuine child of God alone can say, from the very bottom of his heart, "To me Christ is precious." Christ's righteousness cannot be separated from Himself, and nothing but faith in a living, reigning Jesus will save the soul. But now, to apply the subject more directly, we shall briefly notice a few characteristics in believers themselves which seem to show that to them Christ is precious.

1. Innumerable marks might be given, but here is a distinguishing one — Christ is the object nearest to a believer's heart. He dwells in the soul, nearer than any creature more closely entwined round the heart strings than aught beside.

2. The second mark of the believer's value for the Lord Jesus is, that he puts no society in comparison with His presence; no other company has such power to refresh and comfort and purify the soul.

3. The third proof of the estimation in which Christ is held by His people is that, for His sake, and for the love they bear Him, they give up all known sins.

4. The fourth proof that we shall now mention is that where Jesus is precious His ordinances are highly prized — we shall value His Word, alone and in the family, as well as in the house of God. And so also with His house, His table, His Sabbath.

5. Again, God's people are precious to the believer.

6. Another mark that Christ is precious to believers is that they are longing for His second coming. The way to heaven is to be in Christ; and heaven is to be with Christ.

(W. C. Burns.)

"To you therefore which believe, He is precious." The illative particle "therefore" shows this passage as an inference from what went before; and the reasoning seems to be this: "This stone is precious to God, therefore it is precious to you that believe. You have the same estimate Of Jesus Christ which God the Father has; and for that very reason He is precious to you, because He is precious to Him."

1. He is precious to all the angels of heaven. Angels saw, believed, and loved him in the various stages of His life, from His birth to His return to His native heaven. Oh, could we see what is doing in heaven at this instant, how would it surprise, astonish, and confound us! Do you think the name of Jesus is of as little importance there as in our world? Do you think there is one lukewarm or disaffected heart there among ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands? Oh no! there His love is the ruling passion of every heart and the favourite theme of every song.

2. He is infinitely precious to His Father, who thoroughly knows Him, and is an infallible judge of real worth (Isaiah 42:1). And shall not the love of the omniscient God have weight with believers to believe Him too? And now what think you of Christ? Will you not think of Him as believers do? If so, He will be precious to your hearts above all things for the future. Oh precious Jesus! are matters come to that pass in our world that creatures bought with Thy blood, creatures that owe all their hopes to Thee, should stand in need of persuasion to love Thee? What horrors attend the thought!(1) None but believers have eyes to see the glory of Christ. The god of this world, the prince of darkness, has blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine into them.(2) None but believers are properly sensible of their need of Christ. They are deeply sensible of their ignorance and the disorder of their understanding, and therefore they are sensible of their want of both the external and internal instructions of this Divine Prophet, but as to others they are puffed up with intellectual pride, and apprehend themselves in very little need of religious instructions, and therefore they think but very slightly of Him.(3) None but believers have known by experience how precious tie is. They, and only they, can reflect upon the glorious views of Him, which themselves have had, to captivate their hearts forever to Him.

(S. Davies, M. A.)

"When asked by a member of his family as to his hope he answered: 'I am a sinner saved by grace,' and added, 'Jesus! — Oh, to be like Him!' At another time he said: 'To you that believe He is precious.' Then with stronger voice he broke forth into holy rapture and exclaimed: 'Precious, precious, more than precious!' The writer of this notice, highly honoured with the friendship of the family, saw Mrs. Simpson a few minutes after the bishop had spoken these words, While her heart was breaking, she murmured amid her sobs, 'Precious, precious, more than precious!' She might well say: 'No one knew him as we did at home. He was so good and kind. We thought he would be spared to us a little longer.' Then she turned again to his comforting words about his Lord: 'Precious, precious, more than precious.' They sound as a refrain after his 'Psalm of life.'"

(Memoir of Bishop Simpson.)

If He is precious to you, you cannot help speaking about Him. We remember, in a house which we used to visit, an ornament under a glass shade which delighted the children. It was a gilt casket, with a cameo on the top, and inside a nugget of gold, the ore in its rough state. It had been brought from Australia, and was kept locked up and rarely seen. No one was the richer for that gold. There are many saved ones now who have the priceless nugget, the living Christ, whom they would not part with for worlds; but He is bidden in the deep recess of their soul, and no one is the richer. You must breathe out and pass on that name of Jesus; there is in it a living power, more than that of the philosopher's stone, of turning all into gold.

I like what was said by a child in the Sunday school, when the teacher said, "You have been reading that Christ is precious; what does that mean?" The children were silent for a little while, but at last one boy replied, "Father said the other day that mother was precious, for 'whatever should we do without her!'" This is a capital explanation of the word. You and I can truly say of the Lord Jesus Christ that He is precious to us, for what should we do, what could we do without Him?

Them which be disobedient
is eminently worthy of notice that over against "believe" in ver. 6 stands, not its exact correlative "unbelieving," but "disobedient." They who receive Christ believe: you would expect to read conversely, they who reject Him are unbelieving; but instead, you read that they are disobedient. People raise a great debate upon the question whether a man is responsible for his belief, and whether he can be condemned for not believing. Quietly this debate is all quashed here by the representation that unbelief is disobedience. Unbelief is indeed the root, but the outgrowth is disobedience.

(W Arn.)

The stone which the builders disallowed
1. To show that God had purposed the salvation of His Church and building of His kingdom by a way that the wise men of the world never dreamed of.

2. That their malice might appear to their punishment, and God's power in resisting them.

3. To show that great men are not always the greatest maintainers of the truth, but often great enemies and hindrances thereto.Uses:

1. This serves to teach us not to stand upon great men's opinion, approving and disallowing upon their testimony or example.

2. To magnify the power and wisdom of God, that hath used to build His kingdom, not only without the help, but against the will of great men.

(John Rogers.)

I. A GREAT OPPORTUNITY MISSED. Who are the builders? All the sons and daughters of men. But there are blind builders that reject the "chief cornerstone." They cannot perceive the glory of the largest and divinest truth. The causes of this blindness are manifold worldliness, prejudice, and intellectual pride. The immediate cause is ever a superficial spirituality, however it may be produced.

II. TRUE GREATNESS IGNORED AND NEGLECTED. The neglect suffered by the prophet in his own age is proverbial. He lets in the glory from the eternal into this half-blind world until it becomes a pain, and he is accused of being the enemy of his generation. We pride ourselves that such a history is a thing of the past, that we enlightened ones honour our prophets. It is for a future generation to discover whether we have done so. "Demos" is emphatically the builder today. Is the democracy laying the foundations of its temple on the "cornerstone" of Divine and eternal truth? But there is ever great danger that "the spirit of the age" may ignore the divinest message that is delivered to it.

III. THE CERTAIN SUPREMACY OF TRUTH. The divinest truth must ultimately become the "chief stone of the corner." False prejudices are powerful, and may seem for a time all supreme. Truth is God, and God is truth. The eternal energies have the world in their grip, and "He must reign forever and ever."

IV. THE WORDS FIND THEIR IDEAL FULFILMENT IN JESUS CHRIST. Unspeakably magnificent was the opportunity lost by the Jewish nation. God guard us from similar blindness! May the Christ be apprehended by us in all the fulness of His glory, so that we may not be ashamed when He appears to reign.

(John Thomas M. A.)

A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence

1. First came the Jew. He had the pride of race to maintain. Were not the Jews the chosen people of God? Jesus comes preaching the gospel to every creature, He sends His disciples even to the Gentiles: therefore the Jews will not have Him. But the opposition of His countrymen did not defeat the cause of Christ; if rejected in Palestine, His word was received in Greece, it triumphed in Rome, it passed onward to Spain, it found a dwelling place in Britain, and at this day it lights up the face of the earth.

2. Next arose philosophy to be the gospel's foe. But though it made terrible inroads for a while on the Church of God, in the form of gnostic heresy, did it really impede the chariot wheels of Christ? The stone from the sling of Christ has smitten the heathen philosophy in the forehead, while the Son of David goes forth conquering and to conquer.

3. After those days there came against the Church of God the determined opposition of the secular power. All that cruelty could do was done; but what was the result? The more the Christians were oppressed, the more they multiplied; the scattering of the coals increased the conflagration.

4. Since that period the Church has been attacked in various modes. The Arian heresy assaulted the deity of Christ, but the Church of God delivered herself from the accursed thing, as Paul shook the viper into the fire. Be of good courage, for brighter days are on the way. There shall come yet greater awakenings, the Lord, the avenger of His Church, shall yet arise, and the stone which the builders disallowed, the same shall be the head stone of the corner.


1. When men stumble at the plan of salvation by Christ's sacrificial work, what is it that they stumble at?(1) Some stumble at the person of Christ. Jesus, they will admit, was a good man, but they cannot accept Him as co-equal and co-eternal with the Father.(2) Some stumble at His work. Many cannot see how Jesus Christ is become the propitiation for human guilt.(3) Some stumble at Christ's teaching; and what is it they stumble at in that? Sometimes it is because it is too holy: "Christ is too puritanical, He cuts off our pleasures." But He denies us no pleasure which is not sinful, He multiplies our joys; the things which He denies to us are only joyous in appearance, while His commands are real bliss. We have found some object to the teachings of Christ because they are too humbling. He destroys self-confidence, and He presents salvation to none but those who are lost. "This lays us too low," saith one. Still I have known others object that the gospel is too mysterious, they cannot understand it, they say. While again, from the other corner of the compass, I have heard the objection that it is too plain. Do not cavil at it. What if there be mysteries in it? Canst thou expect to comprehend all that God knoweth? Be thou teachable as a child, and the gospel will be sweet to thee.(4) We have known some who have stumbled at Christ on account of His people, and truly they have some excuse. They have said, "Look at Christ's followers, see their imperfections and hypocrisies." But wherefore judge a master by his servants?

2. What does the stumbling at Christ cost the ungodly? I answer, it costs them a great deal.(1) Those who make Him a rock of stumbling are great losers by it in this life. What anger it costs ungodly men to oppose Christ! Some of them cannot let Him alone, they will rage and fume. Concerning Jesus it is true that you must either love or hate Him, He cannot long be indifferent to you, and hence come inward conflicts to opposers.(2) Ah, what it costs some men when they come to die! If you oppose Him you will be the losers, He will not. Your opposition is utterly futile; like a snake biting a file, you will only break your own teeth.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

A bridge is made to give us a safe passage over a dangerous river; but he who stumbleth on the bridge is in danger to fall into the river.

(J. Trapp.)

But ye are a chosen generation.
I. "Ye are a CHOSEN GENERATION" — the word "generation" here meaning not contemporaries but the offspring of one common parent, the offshoots of one original stock.

1. The Israelites were a special "generation," having sprung from Abraham as their common progenitor. Similarly, believers are a distinct "generation" of men, being all born of one God, and animated by the self-same Divine life. Consequently a striking family likeness prevails among them.

2. The Jews were, moreover, a "chosen generation" — called out of the darkness of Chaldaean idolatry to the marvellous light of Divine revelation. And so it is with believers now,

3. "Ye are a chosen generation, that ye should show forth the praises — the excellences — of Him who hath called you." The mistake of the Jews was to take for granted that they were chosen to show forth their own excellences. Their election they converted into food for pride. Let us remember the Church is a generation to show forth the excellences of God. Through good men, not necessarily great men, does God reveal His character; through holy men, not necessarily able men, does He make known the benevolence, the uprightness, the genial warmth of His nature.

II. "Ye are a ROYAL PRIESTHOOD" — a phrase borrowed from Exodus 19:6.

1. The Jewish nation was a nation of priests, its fundamental idea being religious, not secular. This idea is now embodied in the Christian Church. Every believer is now a priest, having a right to enter into the Holiest of all.

2. "A royal priesthood." "Ye are kings and priests" — kings over yourselves and priests unto God.

3. "Ye are a royal priesthood, to show forth the excellences of Him who hath called you." By your holy conversation, upright demeanour, you are to show forth the character of your God.

III. "Ye are a HOLY NATION."

1. The Israelites in Egypt were a "chosen generation," but not a "holy nation." Not till they were established in their own land, with laws and a king of their own, did they develop into a nation. Believers, scattered in the world, without mutual recognition, might be of the right seed; but not till they attach themselves to a Christian institution, variously termed the kingdom or the Church, do they become a nation.

2. "A holy nation." God set the Israelites apart from all the world. He made them what all nations ought to be — holy. True, they did not live up to their profession; but in theory, in ideal, they were holy.

3. As a people bound together for the purposes of holiness, we should show forth the excellences of our God. As a holy nation, scattered amongst all the nations of Europe, we ought to propagate the principles of God's kingdom.


1. "Ye are a people." The Israelites were brought out of Egypt a host of undisciplined slaves, capabilities of great things slumbering within them, but only half civilised. But after forty years' pilgrimage in the wilderness, God was able to form them into a people, and settle them in the land promised unto their fathers. And in our natural state, we cannot be said to be a people in the true sense of the word, bound together by rational and spiritual ties. As individuals you can hardly be said to really exist till you believe. "Of Him ye are in Christ Jesus." Ye were not before, but now ye are — you live in the higher ranges of the soul. Before you only lived in your animal nature — you did not live the distinctive life of man. But through union with Christ first, and with the Church afterwards, you fulfil the idea of your being, you live in the higher faculties instead of the lower, having higher purposes and different interests from the rest of the world.

2. "Ye are a peculiar people," the word "peculiar" here being used in its etymological, not its colloquial sense, as meaning property, not singularity. "These people have I formed for Myself — they are My very own."

3. But mark, we are God's, purchased at a great price, in order that we may tell forth with a loud voice His praises. The word for "show forth" means literally "to proclaim to those without what has taken place within." Here Israel failed. Let the Christian Church beware of committing the same mistake — God has purchased us to be His special possession, on purpose that we should proclaim to the world lying in darkness the excellences of His love in the Gospel of His Son. We must either send or carry the light to the heathen.

(J. C. Jones, D. D.)

I. THE STATE OF CHRISTIANS, "a chosen generation;" so in Psalm 24. The psalmist there speaks first of God's universal sovereignty, then of His peculiar choice. As men who have great variety of possessions have yet usually their special delight in some one beyond all the rest, and choose to reside most in it, and bestow most expense on it to make it pleasant; so doth the Lord of the whole earth choose out to Himself from the rest of the world a number that are a chosen generation. "Generation." This imports them to be of one race or stock. They are of one nation, belonging to the same blessed land of promise, all citizens of the New Jerusalem, yea, all children of the same family, whereof Jesus Christ, the root of Jesse, is the stock, who is the great King and the great High Priest. And thus they are a "royal priesthood." They are of the seed royal, and of the holy seed of the priesthood, inasmuch as they partake of a new life from Christ. Thus, in Revelation 1:5, 6, there is first His own dignity expressed, then His dignifying us. There is no doubt that this kingly priesthood is the common dignity of all believers; this honour have all the saints. They are kings, have victory and dominion given them over the powers of darkness and the lusts of their own hearts, that held them captive and domineered over them before. This royalty takes away all attainders, and leaves nothing of all that is past to be laid to our charge, or to dishonour us. Believers are not shut out from God as they were before, but, being in Christ, ale brought near unto Him, and have free access to the throne of His grace. They resemble, in their spiritual state, the legal priesthood very clearly.

1. In their consecration. The levitical priests were washed; therefore this is expressed (Revelation 1:5), "He hath washed us in His own blood," and then follows, "and hath made us kings and priests."

2. Let us consider their services, which were diverse. They had charge of the sanctuary, vessels, lights, and were to keep the lamps burning. Thus the heart of every Christian is made a temple to the Holy Ghost, and he himself, as a priest consecrated unto God, is to keep it diligently, and the furniture of Divine grace in it; to have the light of spiritual knowledge within him, and to nourish it by drawing continually new supplies from Jesus Christ. The priests were to bless the people. And truly it is this spiritual priesthood, the elect, that procure blessings upon the rest of the world, and particularly on the places where they live.

3. Let us consider their course of life. We shall find rules given to the legal priests, stricter than to others, of avoiding legal pollutions, etc. And from these, this spiritual priesthood must learn an exact holy conversation, keeping themselves from the pollutions of the world: as here it follows: "A holy nation," and that of necessity; if a priesthood, then holy.

II. THE OPPOSITION OF THE ESTATE OF CHRISTIANS TO THAT OF UNBELIEVERS; we are most sensible of the evil or good of things by comparison. Though the estate of a Christian is very excellent and, when rightly valued, hath enough in itself to commend it, yet it doth and ought to raise our esteem of it the higher, when we compare it both with the misery of our former condition, and with the continuing misery of those that abide still and are left to perish in that woeful estate. We have here both these parallels. The happiness and dignity to which they are chosen and called, is opposed to the rejection and misery of them that continue unbelievers and rejectors of Christ.

III. THE END OF THEIR CALLING. That ye should show forth the praises, etc. To magnify the grace of God the more, we have here:

1. Both the terms of this motion or change, from whence and to what it is.

2. The principle of it, the calling of God.(1) From darkness. The estate of lost mankind is indeed nothing but darkness, being destitute of all spiritual truth and comfort, and tending to utter and everlasting darkness. And it is so, because by sin, the soul is separate from God, who is the first and highest light, the primitive truth. And the soul being made capable of Divine light, cannot be happy without it. And as the estate from whence we are called by grace is worthily called darkness, so that to which it calls us deserves as well the name of light. Christ likewise, who came to work our deliverance, is frequently so called in Scripture, not only in regard of His own nature, being God equal with the Father and therefore light, but relatively to men: "The life was the light of men." There is a spirit of light and knowledge flowing from Jesus Christ into the souls of believers, that acquaints them with the mysteries of the kingdom of God, which cannot otherwise be known. And this spirit of knowledge is withal a spirit of holiness; for purity and holiness are likewise signified by this light. Then from this light arise spiritual joy and comfort, which are frequently signified by this expression. There are two things spoken of this light, to commend it, "His marvellous light;" that is — it is after a peculiar manner God's — and it is marvellous. All light is from God, the light of sense, and that of reason; therefore He is called the Father of lights. But this light of grace is after a peculiar manner His, being a light above the reach of nature, infused into the soul in a supernatural way, the light of the elect world, where God specially and graciously resides. Now this light being so peculiarly God's, no wonder if it be marvellous. And if this light of grace be so marvellous, how much more marvellous shall the light of glory be, in which it ends! Hence learn to esteem highly of the gospel, in which this light shines unto us; the apostle calls it therefore the glorious gospel. Surely we have no cause to be ashamed of it, but of ourselves that we are so unlike it.(2) The principle of this change, the calling of God. "He hath called you." Those who live in the society and profess the faith of Christians, are called unto light, the light of the gospel that shines in the Church of God. Now this is no small favour, while many people are left in darkness and in the shadow of death, to have this light arise upon us and to be in the region of it, the Church, the Goshen of the world; for by this outward light we are invited to the happy state of saving inward light, and the former is here to be understood as the means of the latter. This is God's end in calling us, to communicate His goodness to us, that so the glory of it may return to Himself. As this is God's end, it ought to be ours, and therefore ours because it is His. And for this very purpose, both here and elsewhere are we put in mind of it, that we may be true to His end and intend it with Him. This is His purpose in calling us, and therefore it is our great duty, being so called, to declare His praises. All things and persons shall pay this tribute, even those who are most unwilling; but the happiness of His chosen is, that they are active in it, others are passive only.

(Abp. Leighton.)


1. "An elect race." Separated, called, chosen, quickened. Not a casual result out of ordinary forces.

II. HER FUNCTION IN THE WORLD — "a royal priesthood." Here king and priest are blended to show the power and function of the priesthood. We plead with man for God and with God for man: the regal kings are the saints of God.

III. THE BEAUTY OF HER CHARACTER — a holy nation." With us holiness frequently is a bundle of negation, an emptiness; but holiness is a cluster of positive glories, the glory of courage, the gleam of tenderness, the radiancy of mercy.

IV. HER PRECIOUSNESS TO GOD. "A peculiar people." His delight, joy, resting place. It is easy to depreciate. It takes a wise man to see the background as well as the figure on it. If the Church can be chosen, royal, priestly, beauteous, dear to God, she wants no earthly help.

V. HER WORK IN THE WORLD — "that ye may show forth the excellencies of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light."

1. Every quickened soul has its own story to tell. There is a gospel according to you and me. The truth of God is the gathering up of all these gospels.

2. We have the power to utter praise.

3. We have the motive — gratitude for deliverance from darkness.

(R. Glover, D. D.)

I. THE GLORY OF THE CHURCH IN ITS CHARACTERISTICS. A people for God's own possession. First, by acquirement — "He gave," etc.; second, by endearment — "He loved," etc.

II. THE GLORY OF THE CHURCH IN ITS MISSION. Here is its great purpose — "That." This throws us back on the thought in the word "elect" — chosen for what end, choice for what uses? The purpose is:

1. A great manifestation. "That ye may show forth." Tell out by word and deed some great message.

2. A great manifestation of the true greatness of God. "The excellencies of Him." The virtues, the glories of God; what

(1)a lofty theme;

(2)boundless theme;

(3)sacred theme.

3. A manifestation of the excellencies of God in blessing men. "Who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light." The Spirit of God calls from

(1)the darkness of ignorance;

(2)the darkness of guilt;

(3)the darkness of dread.The Spirit of God calls to

(a)the "marvellous light" of truth;

(b)the "marvellous light" of holiness;

(c)the "marvellous light" of love;

(d)the "marvellous light" of heaven.

III. THE GLORY OF THE CHURCH IN ITS PRESENT CONDITION AS CONTRASTED WITH THE PAST HISTORY OF ITS MEMBERS. "Which in times past" — the mention of this is to kindle gratitude, to inspire humility, to awaken watchfulness.


A royal priesthood
I. It is amongst the most common, and certainly not the least dangerous, of THE MISTAKES OF THE PRESENT DAY TO IDENTIFY THE CHURCH WITH THE CLERGY, AS THOUGH THE LAITY WERE NOT TO THE FULL ONE OF ITS CONSTITUENT PARTS. I am indeed a minister of the Church, but not on that account more a member of the Church than any of those amongst whom I officiate. We are not speaking of what that community may be by practice, but only of what it is by profession; and of what it would be if it acted up to the obligations taken on itself. Let a parish of nominal Christians be converted into a parish of real Christians, so that there should not be one within its circuit who did not adorn the doctrine of the gospel; and what should we have but a parish of priests to the living God? We call it a parish of priests, because we can feel that it would be as a kind of little sanctuary in the midst of country or city, which might elsewhere be deformed by great ignorance and profligacy. There would be no trenching upon functions which belong exclusively to men who have been ordained to the service of the temple; but, nevertheless, there would be that thorough exhibition of Christianity, which is amongst the most powerful of preaching, and that noble presentation of every energy to God, which is far above the costliest of sacrifices and burnt offerings, And you will easily see that, in passing from a parish to a nation, we introduce no change into our argument! We only enlarge its application. We cannot tell you what a spectacle it would be in the midst of the earth, if any one people as a body acted on the principles of Christianity; but we are sure that no better title than that of our text could be given to such a people. Neither is it only through the example they would set, and the exhibition they would furnish of the beneficial power of Christianity, that the inhabitants of this country would be as the priests of the Most High, You cannot doubt that such a nation would be, in the largest sense, a missionary nation, Conscious of the inestimable blessing which Christianity had proved to its own families, this people would not send forth a single ship on any enterprise of commerce, without making it also a vehicle for transmitting the principles of religion.

II. But consider next: CERTAIN OF THE CONSEQUENCES WHICH WOULD FOLLOW, IF THE PRIESTLY CHARACTER WERE UNIVERSALLY RECOGNISED. We begin with observing that the members of the church watch its ministers with singular jealousy, and that faults which would be comparatively overlooked if committed by a merchant or a lawyer, are held up to utter execration when they can be fastened on a clergyman. We might press them home with the question, are not ye priests? You may be forgetful, you may be ignorant of your high calling; but, nevertheless, you belong incontrovertibly to "a royal priesthood"; and if there be avarice amongst you, it is the avarice of a priest; if there be pride amongst you, it is the pride of a priest; if there be sensuality amongst you, it is the sensuality of a priest. We are quite persuaded that men vastly underrate, even where they do not wholly overlook, the injury which the vices of any private individual work to the cause of God and religion.

III. If you were to regard yourselves as the priests of God, YOU COULD NOT BE INDOLENT WITH RESPECT TO ANY ENTERPRISE OF CHRISTIAN PHILANTHROPY. You have been appointed to the priesthood that you may "show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light." If ye be priests of Christianity, for what end can you have been consecrated, if not that you may disseminate the religion which you have embraced as the true?

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

The New Testament knows no such thing as different degrees of consecration to God's service for different men. A man is no more consecrated to the work of God when he is made a clergyman than he was before as a layman. He is simply consecrated to a special department of that work; to the department, namely, of the Word and Sacraments. But, in fact, the ministry of Christ takes in much more than this. The word "ministry" means simply service; and in this sense all Christian people belong to the Christian ministry. We are all ordained to it in Holy Baptism. In which department of this one great ministry a man is to work — whether in the department of the Word and Sacraments or in what may be called the department of temporal supplies — this is a question which the man must settle for himself; but whether or not he shall serve in the ministry of Christ at all, this is not an open question for anyone. It has been settled. One man may go to the altar, and another to the counting room; but the man who goes to the counting room has no better right to be selfish than the man who goes to the altar. Many people in entering the Church think not to do anything in particular, but to keep out of danger; not to battle for the truth, but simply to "flee from the wrath to come." In the most solemn manner they pledge themselves wholly to God's service, and yet seem to have no idea of serving anyone but themselves in what they call their secular sphere; that is, in by far the greater part of their inner and outer life. What is worse than all, the Church does not seem shocked at the inconsistency. If pleasure have been a man's aim in the world, pleasure may continue to be his aim in the Church; only in the Church his pleasures must be innocent. They may be selfish, but they must be innocent. If the man's aim in the world was to amass wealth just for selfish uses, he may pursue that aim quite as safely in the Church, and perhaps a trifle more successfully; only his methods must be honest. If he has no ambition in this direction; if he says, "I have enough to supply my wants, I have no desire for further gains, I will retire from work and live on what I have"; the selfish indifference is likely enough to be taken as a mark of Christian moderation. "I have enough." No matter for others. No matter that want, myriad voiced, is crying from altar and from hearthstone. Suppose that a clergyman should talk in this way: "I am now fifty years old; I have for many years been in receipt of a large salary; I have, by God's blessing, been able to lay up enough of it to maintain me the remainder of my days; I will stop preaching." The inconsistency in that case would shock people. Why not the same inconsistency in the case of a layman? Simply because of the unscriptural distinction between religious and secular in a Christian's life and work. A gospel which does nothing more than simply provide Christian manners for selfish lives will never do. Only the gospel which directs all human motives to the one supreme end, of serving God; which proclaims the priesthood of all believers, and the sacredness of all spheres of duty and of life; only this is the true gospel of the kingdom, and only this can win the world.

(J. S. Shipman, D. D.)

An holy nation
On first hearing these words, we may think that they have more of a Jewish than a Christian sound. Undoubtedly they have a Jewish application. Three times over, at the least, it was declared to the Jews by God: "Ye are a holy nation"; "Thou art an holy people to the Lord thy God"; and certainly they were so. It was both their glory and their condemnation. But, besides that we cannot think that any blessing conferred upon the Jews is withheld from Christians, these words were expressly spoken by St. Peter of Christians — of Christians as a body, and they declare one of the great blessings resting upon them, a condition of their individual and personal blessings, one which they could not forget or deny without great injury to themselves. I propose to draw out this great truth, the truth, I mean, of the corporate holiness of Christians, a holiness of which, by being incorporated into Christ, they are made to partake together; and separation from, or loss of, which is death. See how this is brought out, not merely by the apostles, but by our Lord Himself. It is remarkable how the words and the symbols of our Lord all pointed to the disciples as a body; how He called them the salt of the earth; called them friends; how He addressed them as His flock, His household, as a vine branches at least of it, for He was the Vine, and they all lived in Him. Observe how St. Paul enlarges the same idea, using his favourite image of a body; the whole body living in Christ, and Christ in it; how he speaks of Christians as a family, a peculiar people, a Temple of God; nay, addresses them all as saints, though we know that several of them personally could not claim the title of holy. Still, in virtue of their having been made members of a spiritual body, they were sharers of the Spirit that dwelt in the whole body until they had utterly cast it from them and were reprobate. Even their children were declared in this respect to be holy; they themselves were said to be "called with an holy calling," "partakers of the Divine Nature"; not some only, but all. What the exact nature of this corporate holiness pervading the whole body is, I do not attempt to describe beyond saying that it is union with Christ. Only it is not a fiction, not merely a title, it constitutes a real consecration to God and the participation of a real gift, which cannot be done despite to without danger of sacrilege. Let us try to grasp this truth. It brings into full light and gives reality to the relation of each Christian to Christ. There is not a baptized soul to whom we may not say, "God hath chosen and called you by a holy calling in His Son; He hath sealed you, as He has consecrated the whole body, with the spirit of promise"; and if in that soul there is any power of making a true response, we use the strongest engine in our hands to quicken it to newness of life. See the power of this argument in effecting a true conversion. The first prerequisite in a converted soul is repentance. Must it not deepen that repentance for one to feel that all along, up to that time (in whatever measure it may be so) he has been sinning against grace, resisting his holy calling, dishonouring Christ? See, too, how this truth tends to check that narrow spirit which leads many pious people to form themselves into small parties of those like minded with themselves; thus, not merely rending the body of Christ, but frequently fostering a temper of much uncharitableness and self-assumption.

(A. Grant, D. C. L.)

A peculiar people
That is a people proper to the Lord which He Himself hath purchased, whom He keeps under His protection, to whom also He reveals His secrets: His undefiled. In the flood He saved His Church, when all others were drowned. No marvel, though the Lord set such store by His Church, seeing He hath been at such cost therewith, as to redeem it with the blood of His Son, and to give His Spirit thereto, to sanctify and make it like Himself. The lands we purchase are dear to us; we are God's purchase.

1. If we be so peculiar and choice to the Lord, how choicely should we walk; how should we set as great store by the Lord and His commandments, as He hath done by us!

2. This is a comfort that God makes such special reckoning of His; therefore, though we have many and mighty enemies, yet we need not fear.

3. Terror to the wicked. How dare they hurt or persecute any of these little ones, lest their angel he let loose to destroy them (Judges 5:23)!

(John Rogers.)

The word "peculiar," by which the thought is expressed in English, we derive directly through the Latin, and the use of the term in the secular life of the Romans will throw light on its meaning here in the spiritual sphere. The system of slavery prevailed in the Roman Empire. It interpenetrated all society. An elaborate code of laws had sprung up to regulate its complicated and unnatural relations. The slave, when he fell into slavery, lost all. He became the property of his master. But if he served faithfully, law and custom permitted him to acquire private property through his own skill or industry. A man might, for example, hire himself from his owner, paying him so much a day. He might then employ himself in art or even merchandise, and, if successful, might soon accumulate a considerable sum. Some slaves in this manner purchased their own liberty and raised themselves to a high position. Now the savings of a slave, after satisfying the demands of the master, were called his "peculium." The law protected him in his right to this property. It may be supposed to have been very dear to the poor man. It constituted his sole anchor of hope. He cherished it accordingly. From this a conception and expression have been borrowed to show the kind of ownership that God is pleased to claim in the persons who have been won back to Himself after they were lost.

(W. Arnot.)

A people of purchase; such as comprehend, as it were, all God's gettings, His whole stock that He makes any great reckoning of.

(J. Trapp.)

(margin, A.V.): — Suppose you go out and make some purchase. You pay down the price and get the receipt, and tell the seller to send it home to you at once. The day goes by and it does not come. Weeks go by and it does not come. You send to the shop a message, "What are you doing with what I bought?" They reply, "We sent it up." "Well, it has not arrived." "Then the errand boy has kept it on the way; we suppose he is using it for himself for a bit before he gives it over to you." You do not make purchases on these terms. How often God's own people are like that errand boy! You have been bought with a price. Have you sent yourself home to the purchaser, or have you kept yourself on the way? "I keep myself to myself," people will say. That is the last thing a Christian ought to do; he ought to give himself away to God at once.

(Hubert Brooke, M. A.)

Show forth the praises of Him
The Revised Version, instead of "praises," reads "excellencies" — and even that is but a feeble translation of the remarkable word here employed. For it is that usually rendered "virtues"; and by that word, of course, when applied to God, we mean the radiant excellences and glories of His character, of which our earthly qualities, designated by the same name, are but shadows. It is, indeed, true that this same expression is employed in the Greek version of the Old Testament in Isaiah 43, in a verse which evidently was floating before Peter's mind: "This people have I formed for Myself; they shall show forth My praise."

I. Here we get A WONDERFUL GLIMPSE INTO THE HEART OF GOD. Note the preceding words, in which the writer describes all God's mercies to His people, making them "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation"; a people "His own possession." All that is done for one specific purpose — "that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness." Now that aim has been put so as to present an utterly hard and horrible notion. That God's glory is His only motive may be so stated as to mean merely an Almighty selfishness. But if you think for a moment about this statement, all that appears repellent drops away from it, and it turns out to be another way of saying "God is love." Because what is there more characteristic of love than an earnest desire to communicate itself and to be manifested and beheld? That is what God wants to be known for. Is that hard and repellent? Why does He desire that He should be known? for any good that it does to Him? No; except the good that even His creatures can do to Him when they gladden tits paternal heart by recognising Him for what He is, the Infinite Lover of all souls. But the reason why He desires most of all that the light of His character may pour into every heart is because He would have every heart gladdened and blessed forever by that received and believed light. The Infinite desires to communicate Him self, that by the communication men may be blessed.

II. There is another thing here, and that is A WONDERFUL GLIMPSE OF WHAT CHRISTIAN PEOPLE ARE IN THE WORLD FOR. "This people have I formed for Myself," says the fundamental passage in Isaiah already referred to, "they shall show forth My praise." It was not worth while forming them; it was still less worth while redeeming them except for that. But you may say, "I am saved in order that I may enjoy all the blessings of salvation, immunities from fear and punishment, and the like." Yes, certainly! But is that all? I think not. There is not a creature in God's universe so tiny but that it has a claim on Him that made it for its well-being. That is very certain. And so my salvation is an adequate end with God, in all His dealing, and especially in His sending of Jesus Christ. But there is not a creature in the whole universe, though he were mightier than the archangels that stand nearest God's throne, who is so great and independent that his happiness is the sole aim of God's gifts to him. Every man that receives anything from God is thereby made a steward to impart it to others. So we may say, "You were not saved for your own sakes." One might almost say that that was a by-end. You were saved — shall I say? — for God's sake, and you were saved for man's sake? Every yard of line in a new railway when laid down is used to carry materials to make the next yard; and so the terminus is reached. Even so Christian people were formed for Christ that they might show forth His praise. Look what a notion that gives us of the dignity of the Christian life, and of the special manifestation of God which is afforded to the world in it. You, if you set forth as becomes you His glorious character, have crowned the whole manifestation that He makes of Himself in Nature and in Providence. What people learn about God from a true Christian is a better revelation than has ever been made or can be made elsewhere.

III. Lastly, WE HAVE HERE A PIECE OF STRINGENT PRACTICAL DIRECTION. The world takes its notions of God, most of all, from the people who say that they belong to God's family. They read us a great deal more than they read the Bible. They see us; they only hear about Jesus Christ. "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image" nor any likeness of the Divine, but thou shalt make thyself an image of Him, that men looking at it may learn a little more of what He is. If we have any right to say that we are a royal priesthood, a chosen nation, God's "possession," then there will be in us some likeness of Him to whom we belong stamped more or less perfectly upon our characters; and just as people cannot look at the sun, but may get some notion of its power when they gaze upon the rare beauty of the tinted clouds that lie round about it, if in the poor, wet, cold mistiness of our lives there be caught, as it were, and tangled some stray beams of the sunshine, there will be colour and beauty there. A bit of worthless tallow may be saturated with a perfume which will make it worth its weight in gold. So our poor natures may be drenched with God and give Him forth fragrant and precious, and men may be drawn thereby. Nor does that exclude the other kind of showing forth the praises, by word and utterance, at fit times and to the right people. But above all, let us remember that none of these works can be done to any good purpose if any taint of self mingles with it. "Let your light so shine before men that they may behold your good works and glorify" — whom? you? — "your Father which is in heaven."

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

I. THE SPHERE IN WHICH WE ARE TO SERVE GOD. In "His marvellous light." There is —

1. The light of His truth (Psalm 118:29; Psalm 119:105, 130).

2. The light of His favour (Psalm 4:6; Numbers 6:26).

3. The light of His holiness (Ephesians 5:8; 1 John 1:7).


1. In a life of gratitude (Hebrews 13:15; Ephesians 5:20).

2. In a life of testimony (1 John 1:1-3; Philippians 2:15, 16).

3. In a life of godliness. Show forth the excellences of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:10; Philippians 1:11).


1. Some are afraid to begin, lest they should fall back (1 Corinthians 1:8; Jude 1:24; Psalm 56:13).

2. Some are hindered by a feeling of shame (Mark 8:38; Romans 1:16).

3. Others are idle, because they do not see their resources (Philippians 4:13; Ephesians 1:3).

(E. H. Hopkins.)

Christian World.
There is a headman of a kraal in Natal, South Africa, who does not object to his people becoming Christians, but who decidedly objects to their becoming bad Christians. This is how he puts it to natives who profess conversion: "If you become better men and women by being Christians, you may remain so; if not, I won't let you be Christians at all."

(Christian World.)

The picture of a dear friend should be hung up in a conspicuous place of the house; so should God's holy image and grace in our hearts.

(J. Trapp.)

A child of God should be a visible beatitude for joy and happiness, and a living doxology for gratitude and adoration.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Called out of darkness into His marvellous light

1. It is a darkness which involves the loss of truth, the light and life of the soul, and of the soul itself.

2. This darkness carries with it a heavy load of guilt.

3. This darkness, as regards the moral nature, is woe and misery.


1. Its nature.

2. Its source.

3. Its effects.



1. The power of Satan.

2. Moral confusion.

3. Impurity.

4. Spiritual loss — ignorance.

5. A state of misery.

6. A state of danger.

7. God calls us out of this darkness; and if we do not obey His call we "love darkness rather than light, because our deeds are evil." But let us count the cost of such a choice.


1. God's kingdom.

2. Moral order.

3. True wisdom.

4. Spiritual purity.

5. Heaven in prospective.


1. That we may be obedient to His will, and follow the example of Christ — God's ideal of perfected humanity.

2. To live as His children, and render unto Him a loving, loyal service, bearing His gentle yoke with cheerfulness and meekness, and so recommend the service of God by our conduct before men, that they shall be drawn to God by our example.

(W. Harris.)

It is very desirable that Christians should realise both what they have been and what they are; both the degradation and disadvantages of the condition from which they have been delivered, and the dignity and privileges of the condition into which they have been called. Peter contrasts the two conditions of life by characterising the one as "darkness" and the other as "marvellous light." Perhaps it may help in some degree to give vividness to his thoughts if we recall an incident in the history of Israel in Egypt. One of the plagues sent on the Egyptians — the last but one, and probably the severest, except the last — was a darkness which might be felt. The humblest hut of an Israelite was far preferable to the palace of Pharaoh. When we regard this as a figure of what still exists, there are everywhere two peoples dwelling side by side, one of which is enshrouded in a darkness more dismal than that which lay upon the Egyptians, while the other is enjoying a far more pleasant light than was in the dwellings of the Israelites. There are two conditions of life which divide between them all human society — a state of nature and a state of grace. And these two states are as opposite as night and day. God's people know both conditions, for they have been delivered out of the one and brought into the other. The world lieth in darkness; there is darkness in our natures, a darkness which hides the light, which turns away from it, although the light may be shining all around it. This darkness extends to the whole spiritual nature, and affects its observation, sentiments, and actions, after the manner that physical darkness affects the senses, sensations, and emotions of the body; broods, for example, over and within the intellect of man. It hides from him, in consequence, one vast region of most important truth, and it does not allow him to attain what is the highest kind of knowledge. There is a natural world with which natural sense and intellect are competent to deal, but it does not follow that there is not also a spiritual world with which they are incompetent to deal. This is what Scripture testifies. Natural things do not need to be spiritually discerned, spiritual things do. We may know, indeed, much about even many of these things in a natural way; we may become versed in the controversies of theology, we may be able to discourse learnedly of the Divine attributes — on redemption, on regeneration, and kindred themes — but so may a blind man theorise and discourse on optics or painting. A true perception of spiritual things, however, is as impossible to the merely natural man as a true perception of light and shade and colour is to the bodily blind. Let us not suppose that this spiritual blindness is a slight misfortune. There can be none greater. Physical blindness only excludes the perception of some of the works of God, and from enjoyment of some of His gifts; spiritual blindness deprives us of the perception and enjoyment of God Himself, and of all living insight into His ways and dispensations. God can easily and richly compensate a man for the want of knowledge of anything finite; but what compensation can there be for the want of knowledge of His own perfections, and especially of His love and mercy in Jesus Christ, when that knowledge is the highest good, true, and eternal life? Spiritual blindness is the most awful blindness; blindness as to what is alone essential, and as to all that is essential; blindness which involves loss of the truth, the light and the life of the soul, the loss of the soul itself. The darkness of which Peter speaks presses not merely on the intellect of man, it extends also to his will, and affects his whole moral life and dignity. It involves moral as well as intellectual blindness, wickedness not less than ignorance. For one thing, this darkness, implying as it does love of the darkness and aversion to the light, is not only a cause of sin, but is of itself a grievous sin. Our rejection of this light can only be because while it is pure we are impure; while it is Divine love, there rages in us selfish and carnal passion; and, in short, that through perversity of heart, we will not recognise God to be what He is, or acknowledge His claims to our admiration, gratitude, and services. This darkness is itself sin, but it also calls forth and shelters all other sin. The evil in us is not only unchecked, but fostered, and every passion which prompts to wicked action is allowed a most dangerous advantage. Spiritual darkness thus tends to spread and deepen into outermost moral darkness and corruption. But yet, further, the darkness of man's merely natural state is, as regards the intellect, ignorance and blindness; and, as regards the will and moral life, a guilt and sin. As regards our moral nature, it is guilt and misery. Light and enjoyment are always associated; darkness and sadness are as naturally joined. It is pleasant to the eyes to behold the light of the sun. Gladness seems to shrink away in proportion as light is withdrawn. The happy rejoice in the light, but the sorrowful seek to be in darkness; night is the season of terrors, of dismal clouds, and of a million fancies and gloomy forebodings. Here, too, outward darkness is a symbol of the inward. So long as a man is in the spiritual darkness of his natural state, so long as he is not cheered by the light from the countenance of a reconciled God and Father, he cannot be happy. God has so made each human heart that it can only find true satisfaction in Himself, and when it lives under the light of His approval. Happiness must be something real, permanent, and elevating, not something fleeting, delusive, and degrading. And it is only this true happiness which I say cannot be where God is ignored, where the light of His presence is not recognised, and the blessings of His presence are not felt. I have dwelt long on the state and condition of life which Peter calls darkness, but I may touch so much the more briefly in consequence on that which he calls "marvellous light." For darkness and light are contrasted, and not only cannot be understood except as contrasted, but whatever is truly said about either implies something true about the other. Therefore, as you have already had explained to you how the darkness of which Peter speaks is in one ignorance and error, in another sin and unrighteousness, and in yet another disquiet and unhappiness, so you may, without further explanation, conclude that the light of which Peter speaks must be knowledge and truth in the intellect, obedience and holiness in the moral life, and joy and happiness in the heart. "Marvellous" light! So St. Peter most appropriately calls it. It is marvellous in its source, a marvellous light of Him who is called the Father of Lights. It comes from no earthly luminary, but directly from Himself, specially revealed through His Son Jesus Christ, conveyed to the soul by the Divine genius of His own Spirit, freely given to whom, in His wisdom, He will; so given, that many a poor, uneducated man can see what the wise of this world are blind to. It is marvellous, too, as appearing after such darkness; the nature of the light of the world is very marvellous, although, owing to its commonness, we seldom think how marvellous it is. But a prisoner brought from long confinement in a darkened dungeon, or a blind man restored to sight, will not fail to appreciate it aright. It is those who have just been brought out of the darkness of the state of nature into the light of a state of grace who feel most vividly how marvellous the light of the Father is. It is marvellous, also, in its own nature; marvellous for its exquisite beauty, and marvellous because it is so pure and penetrative. It reveals to men sins and shortcomings in their own hearts of which the light of nature had awakened no suspicion, and causes evils of all kinds, even the most secret and subtle, to be seen in their real hatefulness. It is marvellous in the extent of its disclosures, in rendering clear and intelligible to us the wonders of redemption, and marvellous in its power of diffusing light and happiness. It is exceedingly marvellous in its issues, for it is this light of grace which shineth more and more unto the perfect day, and ends as the light of heavenly glory. I have still to remind you that, according to the teaching of the apostle, those who have passed from the darkness to the marvellous light are bound to show forth the praises, or — as may be more accurately rendered — the excellences of Him to whom the change is due. They have not worked their own way out of the darkness into the light, but God has had compassion on them. The final end of redemption, as of creation, is to show forth the glory of God. It becomes every rational creature, and it becomes still more every partaker of redemption, to act on this truth. But what will doing so imply? Clearly this at least, that we are not ashamed to honour His name, or defend His cause with our lips; that we are willing to declare His perfections when we can do so; that whenever a word in season tending to exalt the character or justify the ways of God can be uttered by us with good effect, we are ready and glad to utter it. But not less certainly it means also that whatever excellence of nature or grace God has imparted to us, we should so use it as that the glory should redound to the Giver, and the wealth of His excellences be seen in the richness of His love to us. It implies that we should consecrate our talents to His services, dedicate to Him our reasons, imaginations, affections, and souls, and strive to render and keep them as worthy of Him as we can.

(Prof. R. Flint.)


II. THE GRACIOUS CHANGE PRODUCED. "Called out of darkness into marvellous light."

III. THE RESULTS OF BEING THUS CALLED. "That ye show forth God's praises."

1. By extolling His mercy (Psalm 103:3-5, 11-13).

2. By exhibiting His image (Ephesians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:5, 6).

3. By obedience to His authority (2 Corinthians 10:4-6).

4. And by zeal for His glory (2 Corinthians 10:17; Galatians 6:14).


1. Consider the state of the sinner before God, as in darkness of soul.

2. The only way of deliverance is by the death and obedience of Jesus Christ, as made known by the gospel.

3. Also let the Christian learn from this subject his great obligations to God, and consider what ought to be his conduct.

4. But especially let him see to whom the glory of so much mercy belongs.

(T. B. Baker.)

Why is this a marvellous light?

I. Because it is a light upon SPIRITUAL REALITIES. The sun can light up landscapes, but where is the light which can reveal man to himself and God to man? We need another light — a light above the brightness of the sun.

1. The gospel throws a marvellous light upon sin.

2. Upon the holiness and awfulness of Divine law.

3. Upon the elements which are requisite to a perfect reconciliation to God.

II. Because it is a light upon SPIRITUAL DESTINIES. Man can throw no light on his own future. He can but speculate and hope. The gospel distinctly deals with the mystery of time to come.

1. Judgment.

2. Rewards and punishments.

3. Duration.

4. Service.The fact that the gospel claims to be a marvellous light shows —

(1)That the world is in a state of marvellous darkness.

(2)That the diffusion of the gospel is a diffusion of light.

(3)That all who believe the gospel should walk as children of the day.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

Is it not strange that any will refuse to receive this light? If anyone would persist in living in a dark cave far away from the light of the sun, with only dim candles of his own making to pour a few feeble, flickering beams upon the gloom, we should consider him insane. What shall we say of those who persist in living in the darkness of sin, with no light but the candles of earth's false hopes to shine upon their souls?

(R. Miller.)

There is an old legend dating back to the seventh century, of St. Modabert, who had such sympathy for his blind mother that he one day rushed forward and kissed her eyes, and her sight came immediately to her, and she rejoiced in the beauties of nature as they shone about her. Whether the legend contains any truth it matters not; but it certainly gives us a very striking illustration of the kiss of Christ's love as it opens the eyes of the penitent believer, and reveals to him the riches and beauty of the pardon of all sin, and makes him a dweller in the kingdom of our God.

(G. W. Bibb.)

In the old dispensation the light that broke through clouds was but that of the rising morning. It touched the mountain tops of the loftiest spirits; a Moses, a David, an Elijah; caught the early gleams while all the valleys slept in the pale shadow, and the mist clung in white folds to the plains. But the noon has come, and from its steadfast throne in the very zenith, the sun which never sets pours down its rays into the deep recesses of the narrowest gorge, and every little daisy and hidden flower catches its brightness, and there is nothing hid from the light thereof.

Scientific Illustrations and Symbols.
There are children of light and children of darkness. The latter shun the bright, the pure azure shining sky of truth with all its loving beams. Their world is like the world of insects, and is the world of night. Insects are all light shunners. Even those which, like the bee, labour during the daytime, prefer the shades of obscurity. The children of light are like the birds. The world of birds is the world of light — of song. Nearly all of them, says Michelet, live in the sun, fill themselves with it, or are inspired by it. Those of the south carry its reflected radiance on their wings; those of our colder climates in their songs; many of them follow it from land to land.

(Scientific Illustrations and Symbols.)

Which in time past were not a people
In that he sets before them the time past, and what they were; note, that for a people to look to their beginnings is of singular use. As for us, who since Christ's coming are admitted to the same privileges with the Jews. This serves —

1. To make us humble and take down our pride.

2. To stir us up to thankfulness.

3. To strengthen our faith to believe in God forever afterwards, and for all blessings needful to salvation.

(John Rogers.)

The apostle is speaking of believers not individually, but collectively. He says of them that in their former condition they "were not a people"; that is, they had no organised existence. The present condition of the Jews may supply us with an illustration. They are now "not a people." They exist as individuals, and in a state of distinctness from all the nations amongst which, in their calamitous dispersion, they are scattered; but they have no national existence — no king, no country, no organisation, no government, no political being. Just so the great community of believers — God's spiritual commonwealth — had no being; for the members who now compose it stood in no covenant relation to God, and they had no bond of union, no spiritual incorporation among themselves. Reverse the statement and you have their present condition. For, in the first place, all believers, by virtue of their faith in Christ, are in covenant with God. God and believers walk with each other in amity. Whereas once there was alienation and enmity, there is now mutual love. They have taken Him to be their God, and He has taken them to be His people. And then, secondly, being in covenant with God, all believers are in union with each other. This second conjunction flows by a necessary consequence from the first; for, being reduced under one sovereignty, they necessarily compose one community. While they were estranged from God, they were estranged from one another. Now of this commonwealth of the faithful, many things may be said.

1. God places Himself at its head. As He stands in close connection with every individual member of it, so He establishes a connection, not less close, between Himself and all the members collectively. He originates the community, and He governs it.

2. It is composed of all believers. This great community excludes from its fellowship none whom Christ does not exclude from salvation. All the saints are your fellow subjects in that kingdom. Not all the saints on earth simply, but the saints also in heaven.

3. The blessings of the new covenant constitute its privileges. These blessings consist in whatever is obtained through the blood of Christ; all "spiritual blessings in heavenly places," or heavenly things; things, that is, which have a heavenly origin and nature, and a tendency to prepare us for heaven. Hence all believers are justified and sanctified.

4. Heaven is the place of its perfect development, and its everlasting home. It is never seen as a whole on earth. Here it has never existed otherwise than in detachments, and separated portions. And these never stay long. God's people are gathered out of the world, collected into little fellowships, trained, sanctified, and then drafted away to the great meeting place of the redeemed.

(E. Steane, D. D.)

As strangers and pilgrims abstain.
"Dearly beloved, I beseech you." There is a faculty of reproving required in the ministry, and sometimes a necessity of very sharp rebukes. They who have much of the spirit of meekness may have a rod by them too, to use upon necessity (1 Corinthians 4:21). But surely the way of meekness is that they use most willingly; with ingenious minds, the mild way of sweet entreaties is very forcible; they prevail as the sunbeams, which, without any noise, made the traveller cast off his cloak, which all the blustering of the wind could not do, but made him rather gather it closer and bind it faster about him. Now this word of entreaty is strengthened much by the other, "Dearly beloved." Scarcely can the harshest reproofs, much less gentle reproofs, be thrown back, that have upon them the stamp of love. "Abstain." It is one and the same strength of spirit that raises a man above the troubles and pleasures of the world, and makes him despise and trample upon both. EXPLAIN WHAT THESE FLESHLY LUSTS MEAN, then to consider THE EXHORTATION OF ABSTAINING FROM THEM. Unchaste desires are particularly called by this name, but to take it for these only in this place is doubtless too narrow. That which seems to be the true sense of the expression here, takes in all undue desires and use of earthly things, and all the corrupt affections of our carnal minds. To abstain from these lusts is to hate and fly from the very thoughts and first motions of them; and if surprised by these, yet to kill them there, that they bring not forth; and to suspect ourselves even in those things that are not sinful, and to keep far off from all inducements to the polluted ways of sin. It was a high speech of a heathen, that "he was greater, and born to greater things, than to be a servant to his body." How much more ought he that is born again to say so, being born heir to a crown that fadeth not away? Again, as the honour of a Christian's estate is far above this baseness of serving his lusts, so the happiness and pleasantness of his estate set him above the need of the pleasures of sin. The philosopher gives this as the reason why men are so much set upon sensual delights, because they know not the higher pleasures that are proper to the soul. We are barred fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, to the end that we may have fellowship with God and His Son Jesus Christ. This is to make men eat angel's food indeed, as was said of the manna. The serving of the flesh sets man below himself, down amongst the beasts, but the consolations of the Spirit and communion with God raise him above himself, and associate him with the angels. But let us speak to the apostle's own dissuasives from these lusts, taken —

1. From the condition of Christians: "As strangers." If you were citizens of this world, then you might drive the same trade with them and follow the same lusts; but seeing you are chosen and called out of the world, and invested into a new society, made free of another city, and are therefore here but travellers passing through to your own country, it is very reasonable that there be this difference betwixt you and the world, that while they live at home, your carriage be such as becomes strangers; not glutting yourselves with their pleasures, but, as wise strangers, living warily and soberly, and still minding most of all your journey homewards, suspecting dangers in your way and so walking with holy fear, as the Hebrew word for a stranger imports.

2. The apostle argues from the condition of these lusts. It were quarrel enough against "fleshly lusts which war against the soul," that they are so far below the soul, that they cannot content, no, nor at all reach the soul; they are not a suitable, much less a satisfying good to it. Although sin hath unspeakably abused the soul of man, yet its excellent nature and original does still cause a vast disproportion betwixt it and all those base things of the earth, which concern the flesh and go no further. But this is not all: these fleshly lusts are not only of no benefit to the soul, but they are its pernicious enemies; "they war against it." And their war against it is all made up of stratagem and sleight, for they cannot hurt the soul, but by itself. They promise it some contentment, and so gain its consent to serve them, and undo itself. They embrace the soul that they may strangle it.

(Abp. Leighton.)


1. The language of the Christian is strange to the world. Take, for instance, those simple words which sum up in one comprehensive sentence so much of the faith and hope of the true Christian, "The God of all grace." This is an expression so rich in its associations to a faithful mind, that the subject can never be exhausted. But how few, if any, ideas does an unfaithful person attach to it? or take the language which a true Christian uses to express his ideas of the corruption of human nature, and the necessity of the new birth. The wondering ignorance displayed by Nicodemus affords an apt illustration of the strangeness of Christian language in every age, to a yet unchristian heart.

2. The manners of the believer are strange to the world. Doth in business and pleasure. "They think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess."

3. The most remarkable and chief difference between the world and the Christian, is to be found in their religion. There is a religion of the world outward and formal. The religion of the believer is promotive of humility and self-distrust.


1. He feels himself a stranger only sojourning here for a time, and then passing away. He does not permit himself to be entangled in the affairs of this life, or so engrossed therewith as to find in them his chief happiness.

2. Again, he feels himself a stranger in a land which he believes to be full of danger; and therefore he is one that walks warily.

3. It is another consequence of the believer's strangeness sojourning in a strange land, that he is attracted to all them that love the Lord Jesus in sincerity and truth. There is a common sympathy between them; and no truer test can be given of God's children than that, in spite of their lesser differences, they love one another.

4. But if such be the feeling with which they regard each other, what must be their affection for their native land, and for that special spot within it which is called by the magic name of home? Whatever may be the counteracting force of outward circumstances, the heart still yearns for home!

5. With these expectations as an abiding principle, he can withstand the powerful seductions of the world, sit loosely affected by its most innocent and useful engagements, "waiting" for his summons to return home, "ready to depart and be with Christ, which is far better."

(T. B. Paget, M. A.)


II. THE INFLUENCE OF DISORDERLY PASSIONS IS HOSTILE TO OUR OWN INWARD LIFE. They war against reason, memory, imagination, conscience, affection, and hope.


1. Our outward life is closely scrutinised. "They behold."

2. Our outward life is readily calumniated. "Speak against you." Gossip and slander are eager.

3. Our outward life should be beautiful. No human loveliness, no natural scenery so influential as "good works." Souls ought to have a grandeur, a richness, a variety transcending all the fascination of flowers, all the glory of mountains, all the majesty of the sea, The noblest beauties are "the beauties of holiness."

4. Such outward life glorifies God.

(1)Directly. For it is a tribute of praise to Him.

(2)Indirectly. For it leads others to praise Him, A holy example is often "the gate beautiful" by which men enter into the city of God and go up to the knowledge of Him anal communion with Him.


In military monarchies it has always been the policy to employ the soldiers far from home. When the Austrian Empire was a conglomerate of many nationalities, German regiments were sent to campaign in Italy, and Italians served in Germany. When the men had not a home to care for, they were more completely at the disposal of their leaders. This is Peter's idea here. Christians are not at home in the world. There is less to distract them. They should be better soldiers of Jesus Christ. The more loose their hearts are to the earth, the more firm will be the anchor of their souls on high. Conversely, the more they are attached to their home in heaven, the less will they be entangled with the wealth and the pleasures of the world.

(W. Arnot.)

Fleshly lusts, which war against the soul

1. An intelligent being ought to love everything that can elevate, perpetuate, and make him happy, and to avoid whatever can degrade, confine, and render him miserable. This, far from being a human depravity, is a perfection of nature. By "fleshly lusts" St. Peter doth not mean such desires of the heart as put as on aspiring after real happiness and true glory.

2. An intelligent being united to a body, and lodged, if I may speak so, in a portion of matter under this law, that according to the divers motions of this matter he shall receive sensations of pleasure or pain, must naturally love to excite within himself sensations of pleasure, and to avoid painful feelings. This is agreeable to the institution of the Creator. This observation affords us a second clue to the meaning of the apostle: at least it gives us a second precaution to avoid an error. By fleshly lusts he doth not mean a natural inclination to preserve the body and the ease of life; he allows love, hatred, and anger to a certain degree, and as far as the exercise of them doth not prejudice a greater interest.

3. A being composed of two substances, one of which is more excellent than the other; a being placed between two interests, one of which is greater than the other, ought, when these two interests clash, to prefer the more noble before the less noble, the greater interest before the less. This third principle is a third clue to what St. Peter calls "lusts," or passions. What is the meaning of this word? The Scripture generally uses the word in two senses. Sometimes it is literally and properly put for flesh, and sometimes it signifies sin. St. Peter calls the passions "fleshly" in both these senses; in the first because some come from the body as voluptuousness, anger, drunkenness, and in the second because they spring from our depravity.


1. The passions produce in the mind a strong attention to whatever can justify and gratify them. The most odious objects may be so placed as to appear agreeable, and the most lovely objects so as to appear odious. Certainly one of the noblest advantages of man is to reason, to examine proofs and weigh motives, to consider an object on every side, in order on these grounds to regulate our ideas and opinions, our hatred and our love. The passionate man renounces this advantage, and never reasons, in a passion his mind is limited, his soul is in chains, his fleshly passions war against his soul.

2. Having examined the passions in the mind, let us consider them in the senses. To comprehend this, recollect that the passions owe their origin to the Creator, who instituted them for the purpose of preserving us. When an object would injure health or life, it is necessary to our safety that there should be an emotion in our senses to effect a quick escape from the danger; fear does this. A man struck with the idea of sudden danger hath a rapidity which he could not have in a tranquil state, or during a cool trial of his power. It is necessary, when an enemy approaches to destroy us, that our senses should so move as to animate us with a power of resistance. Anger doth this, for it is a collection of spirits. Such are the movements excited by the passions in the senses, and all these to a certain degree are necessary for the preservation of our bodies, and are the institutions of our Creator; but three things are necessary to preserve order in these emotions. First, they must never be excited in the body without the direction of the will and the reason. Secondly, they must always be proportional. I mean, the emotion of fear, for example, must never be except in sight of objects capable of hurting us; the emotion of anger must never be except in sight of an enemy, who actually hath both the will and the power of injuring our well-being. And thirdly, they must always stop when and where we will they should. When the passions subvert this order they violate three wise institutes of our Creator. The motions excited by the passions m our senses are not free. An angry man is carried beyond himself in spite of himself. A voluptuous man receives a sensible impression from an exterior object, and in spite of all the dictates of reason throws himself into a flaming fire that consumes him. The emotions excited by the passions in our senses are not proportional; I mean that a timorous man, for example, turns as pale at the sight of a fanciful as of a real danger; he sometimes fears a phantom and a substance alike. A man, whose God is his belly, feels his appetite as much excited by a dish fatal to his health as by one necessary to support his strength and to keep him alive. The emotions excited by the passions in the senses do not obey the orders of our will. The movement is an overflow of spirits, which no reflections can restrain. This is what the passions do in the senses, and do you not conceive that in this second respect they war against the soul? They war against the soul by the disorders they introduce into that body which they ought to preserve. They dissipate the spirits, weaken the memory, wear out the brain. They war against the soul by disconcerting the whole economy of man, and by making him consider such sensations of pleasure as Providence gave him only for the sake of engaging him to preserve his body as a sort of supreme good, worthy of all his care and attention for its own sake. They war against the soul because they reduce it to a state of slavery to the body, over which it ought to rule.

3. If the senses were excited to act only by the presence of objects, if the soul were agitated only by the action of the senses, one single mean would suffice to guard us from irregular passions; that would be to flee from the object that excites them. But the passions produce other disorders, they leave deep impressions on the imagination. When we give ourselves up to the senses, we feel pleasure, this pleasure strikes the imagination, and the imagination thus struck with the pleasure it hath found recollects it, and solicits the passionate man to return to objects that made him so happy.

4. Let us consider, in fine, the passions in the heart and the disorders they cause there. What can fill the heart of man? A prophet hath answered this question, and hath included all morality in one point, "My chief good is to draw near to God" (Psalm 73:28); but as God doth not commune with us immediately while we are in this world, but imparts felicity by means of creatures, He hath given these creatures two characters, which, being well examined by a reasonable man, conduct him to the Creator, but which turn the passionate man aside. On the one hand, creatures render us happy to a certain degree — this is their first character: on the other, they leave a void in the soul which they are incapable of filling — this is their second character. This is the design of God, and this design the passions oppose. They remove us from God, and by removing us from Him deprive us of all the good that proceeds from a union with the supreme good, and thus make war with every part of ourselves, and with every moment of our duration. War against our reason, for instead of deriving, by virtue of a union with God, assistance necessary to the practice of what reason approves, and what grace only renders practicable, we are given up to our evil dispositions, and compelled by our passions to do what our own reason abhors. War against the regulation of life, for instead of putting on by virtue of union to God the easy yoke, and taking up the light burden which religion imposes, we become slaves of envy, vengeance, and ambition; we are weighed down with a yoke of iron, which we have no power to get rid of, even though we groan under its intolerable weightiness. War against conscience, for instead of being justified by virtue of a union with God, and having "peace with Him through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1), and feeling that heaven begun, "joy unspeakable and full of glory" (chap. 1 Peter 1:8), by following our passions we become a prey to distracting fears, troubles without end, cutting remorse, and awful earnests of eternal misery. War on a dying bed, for whereas by being united to God our death bed would have become a field of triumph, where the Prince of life, the conqueror of death, would have made us share His victory, by abandoning ourselves to our passions we see nothing in a dying hour but an awful futurity, a frowning governor, the bare idea of which alarms, terrifies, and drives us to despair.


1. In order to prevent and correct the disorders which the passions produce in the mind, we must observe the following rules —(1) We must avoid precipitance and suspend our judgment.(2) A man must reform even his education. In every family the minds of children are turned to a certain point. Every family hath its prejudice, I had almost said its absurdity; and hence it comes to pass that people despise the profession they do not exercise. To correct ourselves on this article we must go to the source, examine how our minds were directed in our childhood; in a word, we must review and reform even our education.(3) In fine, we must, as well as we can, choose a friend wise enough to know truth, and generous enough to impart it to others; a man who will show us an object on every side when we are inclined to consider it only on one.

2. Let us now lay down a few rules for the government of the senses. Before we proceed, we cannot help deploring the misery of a man who is impelled by the disorders of his senses and the heat of his constitution to criminal passions. Such a man often deserves pity more than indignation. However, though the irregularity of the senses diminishes the atrociousness of the crime, yet it cannot excuse those who do not make continual efforts to correct it. To acknowledge that we are constitutionally inclined to violate the laws of God, and to live quietly in practices of constitutional heat, is to have the interior tainted. Certainly the best advice that can be given to a man whose constitution inclines him to sin, is, that he avoid opportunities, and flee from such objects as affect and disconcert him. Three remedies are necessary to our success in this painful undertaking: to suspend acts, to flee idleness, to mortify sense.

3. The disorders produced by the passions in the imagination, and against which also we ought to furnish you with some remedies, are like those complicated disorders which require opposite remedies, because they are the effect of opposite causes, so that the means employed to diminish one part not unfrequently increase another. It should seem at first that the best remedy which can be applied to disorders introduced by the passions into the imagination, is well to consider the nature of the objects of the passions, and thoroughly to know the world; and yet, on the other hand, it may truly be said that the must certain way of succeeding would be to know nothing at all about the world. We hazard a fall by approaching too near, and such very often is the ascendancy of the world over us that we cannot detach ourselves from it though we are disgusted with it. Let us endeavour, then, to preserve our imagination pure; let us abstain from pleasures to preclude the possibility of remembering them; let retirement, and, if it be practicable, perpetual privacy, from the moment we enter into the world to the day we quit it, save us from all bad impressions, so that we may never know the defects which worldly objects would produce on our passions. This method, sure and effectual, is useless and impracticable in regard to such as have received bad impressions on their imagination. People of this character ought to pursue the second method we mentioned, that is, to profit by their losses, and derive wisdom from their errors. When you recollect sin, remember the folly and pain of it.

4. To heal the disorders which the passions produce in the heart, two things must be done. First, the vanity of all the creatures must be observed, and this will free us from the desire of possessing and collecting the whole in order to fill up the void which single enjoyments leave. Secondly, we must ascend from creatures to the Creator, in order to get rid of the folly of attributing to the world the perfection and sufficiency of God.

(J. Saurin.)

There is, I fear, a large body of our fellow creatures by whom those "fleshly lusts" are regarded as affording the only tangible benefits of their existence. Too little touched by the spirit of piety to derive any delight from the abundant sources of religious contemplation; too devoid of those kind affections which constitute the charm of domestic intercourse, to receive any satisfaction from the society of their family and friends; and too narrow and unimproved in mind to find interest in any intellectual pursuit, they are no sooner freed from the confinement imposed upon them by their business than they turn, as to their only relief for the tedium of inactivity, and the only means of enjoyment for which they have any value, to the gross gratification of their animal appetites. But, however general such a course of life may be, it is decidedly unchristian. Even under the most favourable circumstances, though a man should abstain from all gross excesses, and scrupulously respect those limits of external decency, he cannot act upon the principle of habitual self-indulgence, without being guilty of violating one of the most clearly expressed duties of the gospel. His religion demands of him a course of conduct the very reverse of that which he pursues (1 John 2:15, 16; Romans 8:5, etc.; Matthew 16:24). Those precepts of self-denial and mortification which we find inculcated in the gospel, did not originate with the gospel. They made a part of the system of every distinguished moral teacher among the heathen themselves. Even the wise, and the scribe, and the disputer of this world could perceive, that voluptuousness and sensuality were most miserably unworthy the attention of the human soul. The grounds on which I would exhort you to abstain from "fleshly lusts," are those suggested by St. Peter, "they war against the soul."

1. They are hostile to the intellectual faculties of the soul. No man, whose avocations demand of him any great and frequent stretch of mental exertion, is ignorant of this fact: and we find those instructors of youth, who merely treat of worldly arts and sciences, and treat of them in a worldly manner, almost invariably inculcate on their pupils, as one of the indispensable requisites of eminence, the practice of a strict and almost ascetic temperance, for the sake of securing to themselves the possession of the full, free, and active use of the powers of their own minds. Such precepts derive their reasons from the very constitution of the human frame. If the body suffers from excess, the mind becomes proportionately affected. It receives its impressions slowly and indistinctly, from the derangement of the channels through which it holds communion with the external world; and it revolves, compares, and decides upon them doubtfully and inefficiently, from the lassitude and exhaustion of the machinery with which it acts.

2. They are also inimical to the moral qualities of the soul. If the generous affections are not cultivated by exercise, they dwindle away and perish. If the selfish affections are allowed to act without restraint, they acquire a frightful and gigantic development. As we live to ourselves and for ourselves, we become gradually absorbed in our own selfish views and interests. As we pamper our appetites, the objects they delight in acquire consequence in our estimation. As we devote ourselves more and more to our own personal gratifications, we can less and less endure that those gratifications should encounter any opposition; till, at length, we prove blind and insensible to every claim but those of our own overweening will, and only regard our fellow creatures with favour, as they minister to our passions, or with enmity, as they cast impediments in their way. Where are we to look, among the dissolute children of the world, for instances of permanent attachment, of disinterested friendship, of long-cherished gratitude, and of self-sacrificing tenderness? Are such things among the fruits and flowers found to flourish in that tract which they cultivate with so indefatigable a pursuit of the pleasures of this life, and so fatal an oblivion of the treasures of the next? No, that false light of cordiality, which glows so brightly during the convivial hour, becomes extinguished as the vapours of the goblet which enkindled it are dispersed. Let any individual, even the most cherished of their society, suffer a reverse of fortune, and he will put these maxims to the proof. Let him be the deer which is stricken, and he will find himself abandoned by the herd.

3. Such gratifications are not only pernicious to the intellectual faculties and moral qualities of the soul, but they affect its temporal existence. They disorder and destroy the earthly tenement in which it is contained. They wear away, and overstrain, and often suddenly rend asunder those fine fibres, by which it is confined to its present transitory home.

4. Finally, according to the clearly declared principles of the Christian faith, we know that they are most pernicious to the eternal interests of the soul (Romans 8:7; 1 Timothy 5:6; Romans 8:6; Galatians 5:24; Romans 8:13). Indeed, if we look with an unprejudiced eye on the terms and conditions of the gospel covenant, we shall find that no course can be more destructive to the eternal interests of the soul than the course pursued by the voluptuary. This earth is not designed to be a house of feasting; life is not meant to be a holiday festival; we are sent into the world as a place of discipline and preparation, in which our souls may be educated for a more glorious state of being; and the allurements which address us, the difficulties we have to combat with, and the restraints we are bound to lay on our inclinations, constitute the very means by which our souls are so prepared, and disciplined, and educated. But we sometimes hear the sensualist assert that it cannot be very criminal to yield to such temptations, because it is natural to do so. This I utterly deny. They are, on the contrary, diametrically opposed to nature. The excesses of the voluptuary are only natural if we regard him as a being in the lowest possible state of demoralisation, as an anomaly in the creation, as a monster possessing passions without conscience and appetites without reason. But to the man who is complete in all the essentials of humanity, it is anything but natural that he should abandon himself to such a course of life. His reason opposes it; his moral sense opposes it; his regard for his personal health and welfare opposes it: so thoroughly indeed does every higher principle of his nature oppose it, that he must drown reflection; he must close his eyes against all experience; he must, in short, forcibly extinguish those moral and intellectual lights which God, in His mercy, has given him as his guides, before he can pursue such habits without repugnance, without being painfully oppressed by the sense of his own sin and folly, and without spending one-half of the day in mourning over the excesses of the other.

(W. Harness, M. A.)

The flesh aims to damn the soul. It is in this conflict as Caesar said in the battle he had once in Africa with the children and partakers of Pompey, that in other battles he was wont to fight for glory, but there and then he was obliged to fight for his life. Remember thy precious soul lies at stake in this conflict.

(Christopher Love.)

Men that reject religion in favour of indulgence, do not stand any chance of permanent prosperity. Such men are like gipsies, that, by some freak of fortune, are turned into a magnificent mansion, well built, well furnished, and well stored with works of art. These gipsies go to work and break to pieces the exquisitely carved furniture, pull down the rare pictures, and strip the house of all the valuable things in it, and burn them, in order to make their pot boil, and thus to serve their lower nature, until, by and by, the whole building is desolate, and bleak, and barren. And men who reject religion and serve their passions are doing the same thing. They are kindling those lower fires at the expense of everything broad, and fine, and beautiful in their higher nature.

(H. W. Beecher.)

I can remember the time when flowers, pictures, beautiful laces and music set stirring always some strong emotion within me, in which it seemed that I saw hidden away in a crystal cell in the depths of my own strange heart, the shining form of a white-robed Soul maiden, who cried out to me, "Ah! cannot you make your life as pure and beautiful as the flowers and the music, that so you may set me free?" But I chose the ignoble part, and gave myself up body and soul to the greed for gain. And often in the hour when, tempted by an evil thought, I turned to do some shameful or selfish action, I seemed to see the white arms of the Soul maiden uplifted in piteous entreaty to heaven, until at last the time came when her voice was silent, and when I knew that I had thrust her down and down into a darkness whence she would never again come forth.

(A Dead Man's Diary.)

That word "war" is full of meaning. It gives the idea of the march of an army against a city, as of the Greeks to surround and capture Troy — an assault which began with open war and ended by the stratagem of the wooden horse, from which the armed warriors descended into the heart of the city at dead of night. Of course we should all admit that excessive indulgence in any appetite injures the body, and especially the organs through which the sin against the whole fabric has been committed. But we may not all realise how destructive these fleshly lusts are to the inner life. They attack and conquer it, and lead it into captivity, impairing its energies, sullying its purity, lowering its tone, and cutting off the locks of moral strength. Remember, then, when tempted to yield to some unholy prompting, even though you only indulge the thought and wish, you are exposing yourself to a certain diminution of spiritual force, which will inevitably cripple your endeavours, and show itself in failure and defeat. No act of sensual indulgence is possible without inevitable injury to our true selves. It may be forgiven, and put away, through the forgiveness of God, by the blood of Jesus; but the soul can never be quite what it would have been had the temptation been overcome, and the grace of self-restraint exercised. How many there are around us, eminently fitted by their gifts, to lead the hosts of God, who, like Samson, grind in the prison house, making pastime for their foes, because they have been mastered by appetites which they should have controlled, as the horseman his fiery steed. Is there not a deep spiritual truth in the notion of the savage warrior, that the strength of a fallen foe enters the arm which has smitten him to the dust? Indulge the flesh, and you are weak, Curb it by self-restraint, and you are strong.

(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

These desires that belong to the flesh are adversaries of the soul. There is a difference between a war and a battle. It is not a random stroke; it is warfare on a plan. A battle may be won, and yet the victor be overcome ere the war be over. The first French emperor gained several great battles in the Russian campaign; but his army was not only vanquished, it was almost annihilated in the end. It is thus that certain appetites and passions, although once and again overcome by a resolute will, return to the charge, and watch their opportunity: It is not a battle, and done with it: the vanquished foe often enslaves his conqueror. A young man in modern society must do battle for his life with strong drink. He can taste it freely and stop in time. He despises the weak who seek safety in flight and abstinence. He knows what is good for him, and will not allow himself to be overcome. He obtains a good many victories, and counts himself invulnerable. But the wily foe persists. By little and little a diseased thirst is generated. The enemy now has an accomplice within the castle gates; and in the end the strong man, like Samson with his eyes out, grinds darkling in his enslaver's prison.

(W. Arnot.)

Not only acts of sin breaking out in the body, but the inward lusts that are in the heart, though they should never break out, for even the heart and soul is flesh as well as the body, and fleshly, even corrupt and sinful, as the sinful lusts of unbelief, impatience, hardness of heart, hypocrisy, rebelling against that which is good, weariness in well-doing, pride, anger, envy, self-love, covetousness, uncleanness, uncharitableness, etc.

(John Rogers.)

Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles
It is our duty not only to live godly among the godly, but even among the wicked; we must not follow a multitude to do evil. True, it is no easy thing with the cruel to live mercifully, with the hurtful to live helpfully, with the profane to live holily; yet it is to be attained unto, and we must labour for it.

1. This rebukes such as severing themselves from all company, because they would not be tainted nor troubled with men's ill manners, betake themselves to a solitary, hermit's life. We are not born for ourselves, but for our parents, country, God's Church, etc. Besides, it is no such mastery for a man to avoid all occasions, as to live among occasions, and not be tainted with them.

2. It rebukes those that be for all companies. In good company they will be sober, in ill as the company is, will swear with swearers, lie also and dissemble when they be with such, so thinking that they may hold with the hare and run with the hound; like the chameleon they change themselves into all colours; but these are none of God's honest men, they are not for His turn, as if He were not the God of all places and times. Let such know that they have rotten and unsanctified hearts. But how should a man do, to live well among such? As they that live where the plague is, use preservatives; so must we daily pray God to keep us in a continual hatred of sin, considering the happiness of them that hold out. Think of Noah, Lot, Abraham, and their commendation; observe the judgments that fall upon bad men, and think what will be hereafter. Again, avoid familiarity with them; we cannot touch pitch and not be defiled, walk on coals and not be burnt.

3. It rebukes such Christians as living among such, walk not so holily as they should, but if they do not approve of, yet consent to their bad behaviour, without dislikes, especially being with their betters.

4. If God would have us live well among the wicked, what would He then in the midst of all good means? What, then, is their sin, and where shall they appear, that break out and live badly in the midst of the means of good, the ministry of the Word, etc.? What would these do, if they were far from such means?

5. It rebukes those that professing religion more than ordinarily, yet remember not with whom they live, but as if they were only among the good, which would hide all their frailties, or interpret them to the best, not as if they were among the wicked, that seek occasion against God's servants, that desire no better booty than the fall of a professor, etc.

(John Rogers.)

"Having your conversation honest." Both terms need some explanation. In modern English, conversation means the talking of two or three persons with each other; but the sense in this text is, the whole habit and life course of a person — his character and temper and conduct in presence of his fellows. At all times, and in all circumstances, walk circumspectly, for you never know who may be looking on. The modern meaning of honest is, that you do not cheat in a bargain; but as used here, and in ancient times generally, it signifies beautiful — first a material and then a moral winsomeness. These two terms in conjunction convey the precept, Let all the circumference of your life shine in the beauty of holiness. Alas! bid this dull earth shine like a star of heaven! To have commanded the house of Israel to shine as a light to surrounding nations, would have been an impossible requirement, if the precept had not been mated with a promise. But as the record runs, it is a reasonable service that is demanded (Isaiah 60:1). This precept given by Peter is on both its sides the echo of Isaiah's words. A light is needed because darkness reigns around. Peter desiderates a beautiful life among the Gentiles; and Isaiah expects that, when Israel basks in the favour of God, the Gentiles shall come to their light. It is a characteristic of true faith that it has positive hope. It does not despair even when things are at the worst, for it trusts in God. It is not enough that the primitive disciples should repel surrounding, assailing evil, and hold their own. They expect to make aggression and to gain a victory; to turn scoffs into hymns of praise, and enemies of Christ into zealous disciples: "That, whereas they speak against you as evil-doers," etc. It is not by the loudest debate and profession that these conquests can be made. It is not by what Christians say, but by what Christians are, that they can win the neighbourhood. The call is not so much to give evidence, as to be witnesses. Still further the precepts run down into detail. Submission to magistrates is prescribed as a Christian duty. Considering the time and the circumstances, this is a remarkable feature of the New Testament. The gospel fosters liberty; but does not suggest insurrection. Witness the emigration of the persecuted Puritans from England to America. These men would not resist constituted authority; but neither would they allow themselves to be crushed by a despot, as long as a remedy, which they could with a good conscience adopt, lay within their reach. The results will tell with decisive effect on the future condition of the human race. Ordinances of man should be obeyed, but they stand not on the same level with ordinances of God.

(W. Arnot.)

The relation in which Christians stand to those who are not Christians is of vital importance to understand and feel (Psalm 39:1; Nehemiah 5:9; Titus 2:7, 8). These and like references inculcate the duty of conserving the Christian name and the glory of God. That the Christian character should be perfect for the sake of its own beauty is a truth worthy of prayerful solicitude at all times; but the Christian character is more than a garment to be observed — it is an influence to be imparted to others.

I. WE BEGIN WITH THE FACT THAT WE ARE WATCHED BY THOSE WHO ARE OF OPPOSITE TENDENCIES. We are under daily examination. There are those who take a greater delight to look at an eclipse of the sun for five minutes than to enjoy its light for a lifetime. But if there were no light in the sun there could not be an eclipse. So with men of worth; the contrast between the excellent and the not excellent fixes the eye of envy upon them, but where excellency is it cannot be altogether ignored. Young Christians, bear with me, and suffer the word of exhortation. You are not sufficiently alive to the fact that your Christian life is under a perpetual scrutiny. Not only that, but efforts are made to draw you aside from the way of peace. An honest conversation means a life true in every part to the great pattern set before us in the gospel.

II. LET US FURTHER CONSIDER THE INFLUENCE OF THE CHRISTIAN CHARACTER FOR THE GOOD OF OTHERS. "Glorify God," etc. Too frequently it is supposed by some that because they cannot take a prominent part in gospel services, and thereby possibly become instrumental directly in the conversion of souls, their lives are comparatively unobserved and useless. Let us remove this notion. As there is not a single ray of light, or drop of water, or breath of air, which does not contribute to the vast system of light, of water, and of air, so there is not a single Christian example which does not minister in the circle of the Church and lead to higher results.

1. Men will feel the need of the change which they see in us.

2. Men will feel the need of the peace which we enjoy.

3. Men will feel the need of the prospect which cheers us. We have a good hope through grace.

4. And lastly, the influence of the Christian life leads to the highest results. It may be that today we think so much of self that we cannot rise to the highest point in our life. The highest degree of Christian excellence is the service and glory of God. To realise this we must look beyond ourselves, and beyond those to whom we may bring salvation; and beyond any benefits faith may confer on either them or us, to God. He will manifest Himself in the day of visitation, when we shall see and feel that our life is intended to reach even to Himself. In the day of visitation all matters will be seen in their true light. The text is a warning to the world as well as to the Church. That any soul, however degraded, should delight in making the sins of others his prey, passes comprehension. What, a vulture, with only a taste for carrion! A sense of guilt endeavours to fix all eyes on the sins of others to avoid personal detection. The sins of others will help no man in the day of judgment.

(T. Davies, M. A.)

The Rev. Dr. Stalker once related the following incident in an address on "Religion in Common Life": "A lady went to him with a request to join his church. She and her husband were foreigners and Roman Catholics, but had lapsed from all church going for ten or eleven years. One night their servant went home rather late from a meeting. Upon pressure being brought to bear upon her, this servant acknowledged that she had that night been convicted of sin, and stayed behind to speak about her soul. The lady resolved to watch the girl for the next fortnight. Such a change in her temper and diligence was observable that, at the end of the fortnight, the mistress asked where the meeting was held, and went on the next Sabbath evening, with the result that both she and her husband were converted. The servant's consistent walk was more powerful than anything she could have said, so true is it that example is better than precept."

καλην ("honest"), good, or comely. The deeper view of Greek philosophy represented immorality and ugliness, and morality and beauty as convertible ideas.

(J. Muller.)

They speak against you as evildoers
Amongst the numerous attempts to throw doubt upon the evidence of our religion, not the least successful has been suggested by the imperfections of those who profess them selves the disciples of its Author.

I. THAT THE OBJECTION ITSELF IS ON SEVERAL ACCOUNTS DELUSIVE. It is drawn, not from any difficulties inherent in religion or its evidence, but from a supposed insufficiency of its influence and effects. Christianity itself never supposes its followers to be without fault, that its influence can secure unerring obedience to its own laws. So far from this, indeed, "it is impossible," according to its own language, "but that offences will come."

II. One great reason why the lives of Christians do not always correspond to their religion, IS THAT FREEDOM OF MIND AND ACTION, WITH WHICH OUR CREATOR HAS ENDOWED US, and which is absolutely necessary to creatures responsible for their conduct. Impelled by passions impatient for gratification, and surrounded with temptations, frequently perplexed with difficulties between duty and inclination, and sometimes deceived by appearances; can it be a just subject of wonder, if the love of the present sometimes prevail over the expectation of the future, or the delusions of pleasure for a while withdraw the mind from the prospect of its consequences; if we violate the laws which we confess to be just, and practise what our religion condemns?


IV. ANOTHER PLAUSIBLE BASIS FOR THE SAME CENSURE MAY BE LAID IN THE OPPOSITE CHARACTERS OF VIRTUE AND VICE. Virtue is always modest, peaceable, and silent; vice often forward, loud, and conspicuous.

V. CHRISTIANS, AGAIN, HAVE BEEN SEVERELY CENSURED ON ACCOUNT OF THE NUMEROUS DIVISIONS AND DISTINCTIONS AMONGST THEM. It would be unreasonable to expect that mankind should differ in their opinions on almost every other subject, and yet should be all agreed on this; on a subject which is of all others the most interesting, the most extensive, and the most complex. To this let us add the effects of the weakness and folly, of the vanity and ambition, of the enthusiasm or the hypocrisy of various individuals amongst us, and we shall be able to account very satisfactorily for the multiplicity of our tenets and parties.

VI. Such as these are the censures that have been thrown upon Christianity and its professors. But as far as they have any foundation in truth, THE ONLY ADEQUATE REFUTATION IS AN AMENDMENT IN OUR OWN MORALS, a regulation of our lives, more agreeable to the principles that we profess.

(W. Barrow, D. D.)

I. "Whereas they speak against you as evildoers." This is in general the disease of man's corrupt nature, and argues much the baseness of it — this propensity to speak evil one of another, either blotting the best actions with misconstructions, or taking doubtful things by the left ear; not choosing the most favourable, but, on the contrary, the very harshest sense that can be put upon them. All these kinds of evil speaking are fruits that spring from that bitter root of pride and self-love, which is naturally deeply fastened in every man's heart. But besides this general bent to evil speaking, there is a particular malice in the world against those that are born of God, which must have vent in calumnies and reproaches. These evil speakings of the world against pious men professing religion, are partly gross falsehoods invented without the least ground or appearance of truth. Then again, consider, how much more will the wicked insult upon the least real blemishes that they can espy amongst the professors of godliness. And in this there is commonly a three-fold injury — they strictly pry into and maliciously object against Christians the smallest imperfections and frailties of their lives, as if they pretended to absolute perfection. Men are apt to impute the scandalous falls of some particular Christians to the whole number. It is a very incompetent rule to make judgment of any man by one action, much more to measure all the rest of the same profession by it. They impute the personal failings of men to their religion, and disparage it because of the faults of those that profess it.

II. "Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles." As the sovereign power of drawing good out of evil resides in God, and argues His primitive goodness, so He teacheth His own children some faculty this way, that they may resemble Him in it. He teacheth them to draw sweetness out of their bitterest afflictions, and increase of inward peace from their outward troubles. The sharp censures and evil speakings that a Christian is encompassed with in the world, are no other than a hedge of thorns set on every side, that he may not go out of his way, but keep straight on in it, not declining to the right hand nor to the left; whereas if they found nothing but the favour and good opinion of the world, they might, as in a way unhedged, be subject to wander out into the meadows of carnal pleasures that are about them, which would call and allure them, and often divert them from their journey. And thus it might fall out, that Christians would deserve censure and evil speakings the more, if they did not usually suffer them undeserved.

III. "That they may glorify God in the day of their visitation." He says not, They shall praise or commend you, but, "shall glorify God." It is this the apostle still holds before their eyes, as that upon which a Christian doth willingly set his eye and keep it fixed, in all his ways. He doth not teach them to be sensible of their own esteem as it concerns themselves, but only as the glory of their God is interested in it. "In the day of visitation," The beholding of your good works may work this in them, that they may be gained to acknowledge and embrace that religion and that God, which for the present they reject; but that it may be thus, they must be visited with that same light and grace from above, which hath sanctified you.

(Abp. Leighton.)

The more sincere any is in professing the truth, the more the wicked naturally hate him. Thus have God's children ever been ill-spoken of (Matthew 5:11; Genesis 21:9; Galatians 4:30; 1 Kings 18:17; 2 Kings 9:11; Ezra 4:5-16; Nehemiah 6:5, 6; Esther 3:8; Acts 24:14; Matthew 11:19; Luke 11:15; John 8:48; Acts 2:19; Acts 6:11, 16, 20, 21).

1. Seeing the wicked are so apt to speak evil, we should give all diligence to look so to our ways as to give them no just occasion.

2. Think it not strange to be ill spoken of; it is the nature of the world thus to do, as for the birds to fly, and we must not be discouraged at it, and say, "I have striven to do as well as I can, and yet I am ill spoken of; I cannot tell what to do," and so faint and melt as wax. Oh, no; but let it be as a whetstone to sharpen you on more (2 Samuel 6:22).

3. This might make men not too ready to believe reports, and think ill of men by and by upon flying reports, seeing the world are so apt to speak wrongfully, especially of God's children.

4. For them that be ill speakers of God's servants, they cannot bear a worse badge, as ill a sign as can be of any; for if he be translated from death to life that loves the brethren, what then he that hates them? He is no true member of the Church, nor led by David's spirit (Psalm 15:8; 16:2), but is of Ishmael's generation, and will be cast out as he. How shall they escape the curse threatened (Isaiah 5:20; Proverbs 17:15)?

(John Rogers.)

Your good works, which they shall behold
All religion which does not lead to a life of good works is a counterfeit. It is bad money, which will never pass current at the court of heaven. It may bear the name of Christ, but it lacks His mind and spirit. It hinders the progress of the gospel, and is one of the worst enemies of His kingdom. On the other hand, a life fruitful in good works brings honour to our Father in heaven. It manifests His wisdom in the free salvation which He bestows. It prepares the way in many a heart for the reception of the truth, and kindles in many others a desire to walk more closely with God. Let me give a single example, from the writer's personal knowledge, of the effect of a consistent, holy life. A wealthy tradesman in London was most zealous and self-denying in his labours and liberality in the Lord's work. Each year he gave away many thousands of pounds, and a large part of this anonymously. I had it from this man's own lips that in early life he was saved from infidelity by noticing the holy, godly, blameless walk of a young banker's clerk. Who can tell the countless benefits that thus arose to the Church of Christ through the consistent life of that young man? There are one or two points as to the life of good works on which it is needful to dwell.

I. WHAT IS THE PREPARATION FOR SUCH A LIFE? How can anyone hope to enter upon such a course, and then persevere in it?

1. Your first duty is to embrace the blessed hope of life which is in Christ Jesus. As the shipwrecked man must first lay hold of the rope or get into the lifeboat that so he may escape destruction and get safe to shore, and then can again enter upon the works of his calling, so must you first accept the free invitation of Christ in the gospel, and reach the shore of peace and reconciliation with God. Believe in the readiness and power of Christ to save you. Rejoice that He welcomes you to His care, and will keep you by His power. Then you may go forward, and will not fail. A life of good works will be a necessity to you. You possess a new motive. A spirit of grateful love to God will fill your breast. You will keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.

2. Moreover, you will possess a new power. In the strength of the Spirit you can do those good works which are pleasing to your Father in heaven. Be sure, therefore, that you begin your course aright. Begin in humility and faith.

II. IN WHAT WAY MAY YOU BEST CARRY OUT IN DAILY PRACTICE A LIFE DEVOTED TO GOOD WORKS? Take a sample of "a good work," one that we know to have been truly such from the lips of Christ Himself. You remember Mary in the house of Simon the leper (Mark 14:6, 8, 9). Here was every element of a good work. It was done to Christ Himself, and out of love to Him. It was a costly work, for the ointment was very precious. It was a lowly work. Both hands and hair were used in anointing the Lord's feet. It was a work of personal service. She did not do the work by another, but herself ministered to Christ. It was a work which spread a sweet savour around, and thus of benefit to those in the house. It was a work which brought honour to the Lord, which pointed to His death of suffering, and which was abundantly recompensed in the gracious words which Christ spoke of her.


1. There is the ministry of home life. This stands in the first rank of duty. The lamp which the Lord hath lighted should give light to all that are in the house where it is found. The most commonplace duties ought to be done before God, and thus become an acceptable sacrifice. The care of children, the work of the house, the use of the needle, the rising in the morning, attention to the wants and comforts of each member of the family — such ordinary things as these may afford scope for self-denial, for manifesting an unselfish spirit, and in many ways for proving the sincerity of our Christian profession. No less important is it that a diligent guard should be set over tongue and temper, over infirmities and irritabilities, over clouded looks and wayward passions, over doing little things which ought not to be done, or over doing right things in a wrong way.

2. There is the ministry of glad, willing, freehanded gifts. Of whatever we possess we are but stewards. It belongs not to us, but to Him who gave it into our charge. Let there be real self-denial. Above all, never forget that a ready, cheerful spirit is especially pleasing to God.

3. There is the ministry of personal work and effort in the Lord's vineyard. Give not only money, but the gold of time to do work for God, for His Church, for the souls of poor and rich, of sick and strong, of young and old.

4. Lastly, there is the ministry of fervent prayers and intercessions. Of all agencies this is the most powerful. There are those who by sickness and extreme poverty can do little or nothing in the way of personal service, who yet by true, believing prayer may bring down rich benefits on Christ's Church. And those who can both work and give yet fail to employ the very greatest talent, if they neglect constant intercession on behalf of others.

(G. Everard, M. A.)

Be revenged by shining.


"Which they shall behold," while they pry and spy into your courses (as the Greek word imports) to see what evil they can find out and fasten on.

(J. Trapp.)

Glorify God in the day of visitation
I. BY KNOWLEDGE, when we conceive of God after a glorious manner. Seeing we can add no glory to God's nature, we should strive to make Him glorious in our own minds and hearts. And we may, by the way, see what cause we have to be smitten with shame to think of it, how we have dishonoured God by mean thoughts of Him.

II. BY ACKNOWLEDGMENT, when in words or works we do ascribe excellency unto God, as —

1. When in words we magnify God and speak of His praises, and confess that He is worthy to receive honour, and glory, and might, and majesty (Revelation 4:11; Psalm 29:1; Psalm 86:9).

2. When men confess that all the glory they have above other men in gifts or dignity was given them by God (1 Chronicles 29:11, 13). And thus we make God the Father of glory, as He is called (Ephesians 1:17).

3. When the praise of God or the advancement of His kingdom is made the end of all our actions, this is to do all to His glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).

4. When we believe God's promises, and wait for the performance of them, though we see no means likely for their accomplishment. Thus Abraham (Romans 4).

5. When we publicly acknowledge true religion, or any special truth of God, when it is generally opposed by the most men.

6. When men suffer in the quarrel of God's truth and true religion (1 Peter 4:16).

7. When on the Sabbath men devote themselves only to God's work, doing it with more joy and care than they should do their own work on the week days (Isaiah 58:13).

8. When men do in particular give thanks to God for benefits or deliverances, acknowledging God's special hand therein. Thus the leper gave glory to God (Luke 17:18; Psalm 11:3, 4).

9. By loving, praising, and esteeming of Jesus Christ above all men; for when we glorify the Son we glorify the Father (John 1:14; John 11:4).

10. When we account of and honour godly men above all other sorts of men in the world.

III. BY EFFECT, when men make others to glorify God. Thus the professed subjection of Christians to the gospel makes other men glorify God (2 Corinthians 9:13). So the fruits of righteousness are to the glory of God (Philippians 1:10). So here the good works of Christians do make new converts glorify God; so every Christian that is God's planting is a tree of righteousness that God may be glorified (Isaiah 61:3). So are all Christians to the praise of the glory of God's grace, as they are either qualified or privileged by Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:7).

(N. Byfield.)

The day of visitation

1. Let them which have felt this work acknowledge God in it, and give Him all the glory.

2. They that be yet without it, let them not defer it as a small matter to the last, as if they could convert themselves when they list, but humbly seek it of God in attending on His ordinances.

II. IT IS GOD'S GREAT MERCY TO CONVERT A SINNER. This is the greatest mercy that can be bestowed: to be delivered from sickness into health, from prison into liberty, from poverty to riches, from death to life. Let those that have obtained it give glory to God.


IV. WHEN A MAN IS CONVERTED HE WILL GLORIFY GOD; yea, he cannot choose but in heart admire God's goodness and love, and in his life seek to glorify Him. Then will he also do all he can to gain others (Luke 22:32).


1. Never despair of them that be very bad, but pray for them, and give them good counsel.

2. This may be an exceeding provocation to the worst, that they may prove good and be saved, as unlikely as it is.

3. Yet let none instead of good take hurt by this, and heart to go on in sin, seeing the worst may become converts. They shall find God a just and severe revenger of such proud despisers and presumptuous sinners.

(John Rogers.)

Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man.
What if the rulers themselves be wicked men, and the government itself a tyranny?

1. Let it be considered that there is probably no government, not even that of the worst slave plantation, that is not on the whole to be preferred to anarchy, or no government at all; and that, therefore, the argument from the uses of government never quite fails.

2. There is no question whatever that, when human government errs and transcends the limits prescribed by its very nature and the ends of its being, forbidding what God has commanded, or commanding what God has forbidden, our duty in every such case is to hearken unto God more than unto men. In the conflict of authorities the higher authority must rule.

3. The Christian law does not strip a man of whatever civil rights his country's law allows him, nor does it prohibit him from defending those rights in any lawful way (Acts 16:37; Acts 22:25; Acts 25:11).

4. These things being understood, the apostle's rule may safely be taken as absolute and universal in its application. Reverencing still the dark and distorted shadow of the Divine sovereignty, they will leave it to His all-controlling providence, and to outraged humanity, to redress the wrongs of nations.

(J. Lillie, D. D.)

I. ALL AUTHORITY OF EVERY KIND IS FROM GOD, AND IS TO BE REGARDED AS SUCH. The Word of God goes further, and says, "that there is no power but of God." Nor is this truth confined to the case of kings and their subjects; it applies to every authority whatever; all the relations in life, and our obedience, is due simply because it is the will and ordinance of God.

II. THE PERSONS WHO RECEIVE THIS THEIR AUTHORITY FROM GOD ARE BUT MEN. Now man in his natural state is full of corruption, pride, selfishness, unrighteousness, covetousness, maliciousness. It is therefore to be calculated upon, and God contemplated this when He gave the precept, that the persons who are in authority should abuse it in some way or another. And therefore it is nowhere written: Children, obey good parents; servants, obey kind masters; subjects, obey a good government; there is no such limitation, but quite the contrary, "not only the good and gentle, but also the froward." If those in authority abuse or neglect their trust, they will assuredly have to give account to God; but our duty is to submit, while using all lawful means to be delivered from unjust treatment.

(John Tucker, B. D.)

I. AN AUTHORITATIVE COMMAND of obedience, "Submit your selves."

II. THE OBJECT, to which this obedience must be yielded, "Every ordinance of man."

III. THE DIVISION OF THIS ORDINANCE OF MAN into supreme and subordinate. "Submit to the King, as supreme; and to governors" sent by Him, as subordinate.

IV. THE DUTY OF ALL GOVERNORS, and the end of all governments expressed, and that is, "The punishment of evil-doers, and the praise of them that do well."

V. THE MOTIVE, which enforceth this exhortation and command: submit to them "for the Lord's sake."

(Bp. E. Hopkins.)







1. We ought not, upon any pretences or inducements whatsoever, to yield active obedience to such a command.

2. Though we may not yield active obedience to the unlawful commands of our superiors, yet we are bound to yield passive obedience to them. VII. WE OUGHT, IN NO CASE WHATSOEVER, TO RESIST AND REBEL AGAINST THE LAWFUL POWERS WHICH GOD HATH SET OVER US; yea, though they should use their power unlawfully; for whosoever resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

(Bp. E. Hopkins.)

1. The reasonableness of this apostolical precept is suggested by the terms used to convey it; for why "rulers and governors," unless it be indeed their office to rule and govern, our duty to submit and obey?

2. But that there should be government, and that men should obey it, is the will and appointment of God.

3. A third reason assigned for obedience to government is the benefit derived from it to the community. It is instituted for the protection of good men by the punishment of evil ones.

4. A fourth reason for the precept inculcated is the honour of Christianity.

(Bp. Horne.)

You will say the doctrine is unreasonable, and of tyranny there can be no end if it be unlawful to resist it. Perhaps, if we only lay aside for a moment our passions and prejudices, we shall see how much better God has provided for our happiness than we ourselves should do.

1. For, if you allow to subjects a power of taking arms and deposing their princes, who is to be judge when there is a sufficient reason for exerting such power? Men will never judge fairly and impartially in their own cause.

2. It should be considered that, although government may sometimes be bad, rebellion will generally be worse. "The wrath of a king," says the Scripture, "is as the roaring of a lion," he may destroy some; but "the madness of the people" is as the raging of a tempestuous sea when it has burst its bounds; it overwhelms all. Compare the mischief said to be done, or designed, by our unfortunate Charles I with the bloodshed, the devastations of the great rebellion, from the horrors of which the nation was at length obliged to seek protection by reestablishing the government that had been east off.

3. But respecting the principle of obedience, and the inconveniences to which it may sometimes subject us, we do not sufficiently rely upon the providence or the promises of God. The Scriptures teach us that as He setteth a righteous prince over a people that fear and serve Him, so He often sendeth an unrighteous one to punish a wicked nation.

(Bp. Horne.)

Water may be made to assume different forms, in fountains and cascades, and be made to flow in different channels or aqueducts by the hand of man; but the element itself, which flows in them, is from God. So again, marble may be hewn by man's hand into different shapes; under the sculptor's chisel it may become a statue, a frieze, or sarcophagus, but the marble itself is from the quarry, it is from the creative hand of God. So it is with the civil power. The form which power may assume, and the person who may be appointed to exercise it, may be ordinances of man, but the authority itself is from God.

(C. Wordsworth.)

There was a law amongst the Persians that when their governor was dead there should be a lawlessness for five days after, that every man should do what he list; now for those five days there was such killing and robbing, and such destroying one another, that by the time the five days were over, they were glad of government again. So that any kind of government is better than no government; but happy is that people that live under a good government, where justice flows from the Supreme as head, and is conveyed by subordinate ministers unto the people.

(A. Burgess.)

That with well doing ye may put to silence
I. WHAT WAS THAT CAVIL AND OBJECTION AGAINST CHRISTIAN RELIGION WHICH THE APOSTLE HERE HATH RESPECT UNTO, AND WOULD HAVE SILENCED? From vers. 13, 14 we learn that it was that old clamour, that Christian religion was an enemy to government, and the professors of it seditious persons. This was indeed the very masterpiece of Satan's policy; by this he wrought the condemnation of the blessed Jesus, and even constrained Pilate to give sentence against Him (John 19:12-13). And by the same artifice he hoped also to destroy His religion, and to root the profession of it out of the world.

II. BY WHAT MEANS THE APOSTLE WOULD HAVE THIS DONE. There is not a more excellent way to take off all scandals against religion than the exemplary lives of those that profess it. But the notion of well-doing here is that honest and regular, that ready and conscientious subjection to government, that he had pressed in the preceding verses. And it is certainly the most effectual way.

1. All men have not parts to examine what the principles of a religion are, or to understand what the natural consequences from them be; and many that can do this are idle, or cannot spare time to do it, and all these will go that near way of judging a religion to be such, as they behold the professors of it to be.

2. Actions are commonly more convictive, then principles and professions.


1. This is God's will, because He knows this to be so very much for the good and happiness of the world.

2. The maintaining His own appointment and institution.

3. For the credit of His holy religion.

(H. Hesketh.)

1. Because it is natural to them to be hateful and hating others, and it is a hard task to overcome a natural disposition in man (Titus 3:3).

2. Because the unregenerate mind of man is full of objections, and the devil supplies them with cavils.

3. Because many withhold the truth in un righteousness; they love darkness and lies, and therefore resist the power of the truth.

4. Because they encourage one another in an evil way; they observe that the great men of the world, and many that are in reputation for wisdom, are scorners as well as they; they think they may revile securely.

5. Because many ignorant persons, when they are confuted, yet are so foolish that they will wilfully persist in their objections, though they cannot reply against the answer, yet they think if such and such were there, that have more experience and learning, they would make good what they say.

6. Because malice hath no ears; they hate the truth and godly men. If it be not as they say, yet their malice would fain have it so, and if it may disgrace the godly, they care not whether it be true or no.

7. Because many times God gives them over to such a reprobate sense, that through custom and evil surmises, they think verily they do not much amiss to oppose and hate such persons. This was the case of such as reviled and persecuted the apostles, they thought they did God good service. Uses —(1) Therefore we should not wonder if we see this daily come to pass that men of all sorts should reproach the good way of God so unjustly, so pertinaciously.(2) It shows that godly men had need to be circumspect, and that they which will confute ignorant men must strive to be thoroughly furnished with wisdom of words and abundance of good works.(3) It shows that ignorant persons are in a lamentable case, that so wilfully run towards the gates of death and ruin, that are so hardly cured of this spiritual blindness.(4) It imports that self-willed Christians that cannot be advised are to be reckoned in the rank of these fools, what show soever they make of a better estate.(5) It does comfortably import that when one is teachable, and hates reproaching, and will do or say nothing against the truth, and uses the means to get the knowledge and love of the truth, that such a person is escaped from the congregation of these fools, and is in some measure enlightened with true wisdom from above.(6) It may warn all that love their own souls, hereafter to take heed, to avoid wilfulness and self-conceitedness.

(N. Byfield.)

I. THE VICES OF BELIEVERS AFFORD AN ARGUMENT TO INFIDELITY. The vices of believers are not the consequences of religion, but of its abuse or neglect; the corruption of Christian manners cannot be at all compared with the enormous wickedness of the heathen nations; those excesses, which seem more peculiarly the offspring of Christianity, were the real production of ignorance and superstition. Unbelievers are not the only persons whom our misconduct may fatally mislead.

II. EVEN IN PROFESSED CHRISTIANS THERE IS A COLD OR CONTEMPTUOUS NEGLECT OF PUBLIC WORSHIP, AND OF REVEALED DOCTRINES, WHICH IS OFTEN DEFENDED ON THE SAME PRETENCE: that it does not appear that they have either of them any actual influence on the conduct of those who regard them most scrupulously. Belief in the doctrines of religion, and attendance on its solemnities, have plainly a natural tendency to awaken our sense of those duties which the Being, whom we adore, has commanded, and to quicken our pursuit of those virtues, which it is the end of revelation to promote. And though it must be acknowledged that these means, however wisely adopted, partake in the imperfection of everything relating to man, and often fail of their ends; yet is it far from being certain that they fail so frequently, or so considerably, as the objection supposes. Religious observances, it is true, cannot divest us of our natural frailty; but they certainly give us awful ideas of the moral Governor of the world, and have a peculiar tendency to encourage that serious disposition of mind which will best secure us from great or frequent excesses.

III. THE VICES OF BELIEVERS not only furnish a pretence to the infidelity of some, and the irreligion of others, but SPREAD ALSO A VERY DANGEROUS SNARE IN THE PLAINER PATHS OF MORAL VIRTUE. The force of example on the minds and manners of mankind is universally acknowledged. Interest, inclination, and duty, the laws of man, the laws of nature, and the laws of God, are in vain united to resist its progress: every principle of action is perverted by the magic influence of prevailing fashion. As therefore the consequences of our conduct on the belief and manners of those around us are thus important in themselves; as they cannot be prevented by any prudence, nor averted by the sincerest repentance; they surely form a motive to goodness, which no thinking man can overlook, and no generous man will disregard.

(James Fawcett, B. D.)

As free, and not using
Freedom is one of those words which need no recommendation: it belongs to the same category as light, order, progress, law. It is one of the ideas which, in some sense or other, mankind accepts as an axiom; as a landmark or principle of healthful life which is beyond discussion. What do we mean by freedom? We mean the power of a living being to act without hindrance to the true law of its life.

I. Christ has given men POLITICAL OR SOCIAL FREEDOM. He has not indeed drawn out a scheme of government, and stamped it with His Divine authority as guaranteeing freedom. Yet with our Lord there came the germs of political liberty. When individual men had learnt to feel the greatness and the interest of life; the real horizon which stretches out before the soul's eye beyond the grave; the depths of being within the soul; its unexhausted capacities for happiness and for suffering; the reality and nearness of God, of His Divine Son, of our fellow citizens the blessed angels; the awful, inexpressible distinction of being redeemed from death by the blood of the Most Holy, and sanctified by the Eternal Spirit; it was impossible not to feel also that each man had, in the highest sense, rights to assert and a bearing to maintain. Thus a Christian was a free man, simply because he was a Christian. It has often been alleged that, as a matter of fact, our Lord left the great despotisms of the world for a while untouched. Jesus Christ taught, He was crucified, He rose, He ascended. But the Caesar Tiberius still sat upon the throne of the Roman world. There never was a more odious system of personal government than that of the Roman Emperors; the surviving forms of the extinct republic did but make the actual tyranny which had succeeded it more hard to bear. Yet it was of such an Emperor as Nero that St. Paul wrote (Romans 13:1); and St. Peter (1 Peter 2:13, 14). And in the same way apostles advise Christian slaves to give obedience to their masters as unto the Lord; to obey, not with eye service, as if they had only to do as much as might be insisted on by a jealous owner, but with singleness of heart, as men who throw every energy into their work. It may be asked, How are such precepts compatible with the assertion that Christ gave us political freedom? The answer is that He gave us a moral force which did two things. First, it made every Christian independent of outward political circumstances; and, secondly, it made the creation of new civil institutions only a question of time.

II. Christ gave men also INTELLECTUAL FREEDOM. He enfranchised them by the gift of truth. He gave truth in its fulness; truth not merely relative and provisional, but absolute and final. Until He came the human intellect was enslaved. It was enslaved either to degrading superstition, or to false and one-sided philosophies. When Christ, in all the glory of His Godhead and His Manhood, had enthroned Himself in the soul, He taught men to think worthily of the greatness of God and of the greatness of man, notwithstanding man's weakness and corruption. He freed men from all the cramping influences of local philosophies, of local teachers, of petty schemes and theories for classes and races. He led men out into the great highways of thought, where, if they would, they might know the universal Father, manifested in His Blessed Son, as the Author of all existence, as its object, and as its end. Certainly our Lord has given us a body of Truth, which we can, if we like, reject, but which it is our happiness to believe. What He did for men in this way is embodied in His own teaching, in the writings of His apostles, and in the creeds of the universal Church. These are to intellectual liberty what law is to social liberty. They protect, they do not cramp it. They furnish a fixed point, from which thought may take wing.

III. Christ has made men MORALLY FREE. He has broken the chains which fettered the human will, and has restored to it its buoyancy and its power. What had been lost was more than regained in Christ. Not merely was the penalty of old transgressions paid, so that man was redeemed from a real captivity: but the will was reinvigorated by a Heaven-sent force or grace, once more placing it in true harmony with the law of man's life (Romans 6:18). Here it is objected that moral freedom is not worth having if it be only a service after all. "You talk of freedom," men say, "but you mean rule. You mean restrictions upon action; restrictions upon inclination; restrictions upon speech. You mean obligations: obligations to work; obligations to self-discipline; obligations to sacrifice self to others; obligations to all the details of Christian duty." You are right: certainly we do. A Christian lives under a system of restrictions and obligations; and yet he is free. Those obligations and restrictions only prescribe for him what his own new heaven-sent nature would wish to be and to do. Whatever a Christian may be outwardly, he is inwardly a free man. In obeying Christ's law he acts as he desires to act: he acts according to this, the highest law of his life, because he rejoices to do so. He obeys law; the Law of God. But then he has no inclination to disobey it. He is, as St. Peter says, a servant of God; but then, as he would not for all the world be anything else, his service is perfect freedom.

(Canon Liddon.)

It often happens that apparent contradictions disappear when we reach a purer and higher range of life. Many of the things which perplex us when children, and seem to our eyes to be inconsistencies on the part of our parents, now appear, when we look back on them with the clearer vision of later years, to be not only consistent, but perfectly justifiable. And may that not be the same in all the regions of life? Of course it might be said on a superficial view, that servitude and freedom were inconsistent with one another. But in the larger life I gather that it is not so. The apostle at all events speaks as though a man might be perfectly free, and at the same time be living a life of servitude.

I. The first law almost of existence is that which expresses itself in THE STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM. Would you not say that the child that was born but yesterday is very much like a man that has just been drawn out of the water after drowning? All the struggle, all the painful symptoms you notice in that drowned man are the efforts of life, so to speak, to recover itself, and to take possession of those conditions under which its existence alone can continue. The child, in the same way, is not yet, as it were, adjusted to the conditions by which it is surrounded, and the earlier stages of life are the struggle to lay hold of the conditions in which it finds itself. Thus I should say the struggle of all early life is the struggle to get possession of the right of life. And this will become more apparent if we ask ourselves what we mean by freedom. Freedom is the educated capacity to live according to the capacity of our being. The least reflection will show us that this is true. Take, for example, what we know perfectly well, that our struggle as a child turns upon the conception that that is the meaning of freedom. When you take your child and say, "It is now time that it began to learn those little physical exercises, whether you call them calisthenics or dancing classes." You say to yourself: "The child is not yet in possession of its full power. These exercises are to give it mastery over itself with regard to its physical organisation, and we are trying to give it such a mastery that it may be able to use all its physical power according to the order, law, and condition of that physical framework." It is the same when you come to the mental region. The man who thinks freely thinks truly, and a man only thinks freely according to the law and order of thought; and when you take your lad and say, "It is time you were educated," and send him to school, you do so because you know that exactly as physical training is to make him master of his own frame, so the mental training is to make him master of his own intelligence. It is the same thing in social life. The awkwardness which you see in your children is just that which arise out of the fact that they are not self-possessed. But when they go into society and are trained they become, by the education of mixing with their fellow men, possessors of themselves, and what you call ease, manner, grace, is only that the man is master of himself, that the self-consciousness which disturbs his own happiness has vanished in entering into his rightful heritage of being a self-possessed individual. Look at it from the religious point of view. It is also true that religion comes to set a man free. Religion is the great coordinating power of the moral and physical forces of life. It is that which gives us power over ourselves. It sets us free from false conceptions. "Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made you free," means, "Stand fast in the possession of principles which clear your mind from false conceptions." The bulk of men are not to be charged with being slaves of the grosser or more vulgar passions, but they are very much the slaves of false conceptions of life. The competition for wealth, the desire to achieve physical ease, free from the anxieties of life — these things rise up in men's minds, and are fostered by the conditions of society, and man is the victim of a false idea of life. Christianity is sent surely to emancipate men from that, to show men what the real significance of life is, that those are little weaknesses in us which betray us into conditions and surroundings which make us less and lower than we ought to be. Therefore Christianity would not be a complete or valuable system if its only idea were that we should negative the positive sins in the world. No, we must reorganise humanity upon noble lines, make man master of himself and give him a true conception of life, that conception of life which God intends him to take.

II. The second stage is THE STAGE OF SERVICE. As truly as the earlier stage is the stage of struggle, so it is true equally that the second stage is a stage of service. It is true in our ordinary life. There is no difference, as I take it, between the religious point of view and the purely natural point of view. The man who is educated to freedom only reaches that freedom in serving. It is true in the fields of nature: you only bring a thing to maturity in making it of service. the corn shall grow by slow degrees. That is the process by which it struggles into its freedom. It struggles first for bare existence and then for conditions under which it may reach its maturity; but the moment that maturity is reached the harvest is come, it has reached the condition of life in which service is absolutely imperative to it. This wheat grain means the law of service; therefore the moment its maturity is acquired it is acquired in order that it may be utilised. This is true with regard to human life. How we dreamed of what we would do when we were twenty-one! And yet, now that the twenty-one years are passed, the man's only freedom is service. He is not content to be a free man. Set him free and he is miserable. It comes in the gentle dawn of new emotions, which lead him to form his own little home nest. tie has parted with freedom to dream of domestic life, a life in which he has pledged himself to service in the great citizenship of the world. Perhaps you are going to make your son a surgeon; you send him to his long training, in which his eye is skilled to perceive the symptom and meaning of every disease, to keep his nerve steady. The very moment the seven years of training are past, what is it that is springing up in his soul? The consciousness of power. But what does that lead him to? The necessity of service. Trained, we must use our powers. Make a man free in his whole nature, and you will make him thirst to lay down those powers for the service of his fellow men. Christ was free, but look at that life of our Lord: precisely because it was free, the whole of it was consecrated to service — so much so that to Him the only idea of human existence was this, that the powers of it should be used in the service of men. "I am among you as one that doth serve."

III. THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THESE TWO PRINCIPLES IS THE IMPORTANT THING. It is not simply that we are to live a life of service, nor that we are to seek to be free men. It is because we do not see that there is an indissoluble connection between the two that we sometimes blunder in many of the matters submitted to us. It is the free man who can yield the true service. That is what we want to get hold of. It is not that we want to make men serve one another by compulsion. That would be of no value at all. You do not want the enforced service of your wife or child. What you ask is free service. You speak of a man's freedom because all his actions are free; he is a free man in the use of his powers. You speak also of the charm and the graciousness wherewith a thing is done. The meaning of it is that it is the homage of a free man. There is a difference between the attitude of the slave and the splendid homage of a free man. Make men conscious of their freedom, let them feel that what they do is the free homage of the free men, and you will have from them what is worth more than all the tyranny of law.

(Bp. Boyd Carpenter.)


1. A. freedom from the power and dominion of sin and the devil, and the curse of the moral law.

2. A freedom from the ritual ceremonies of the Mosaic law and the spirit of bondage to fear, abrogated by our Saviour.

3. A free use of all things that are in their nature indifferent; that is, things concerning which the law has made no determination; leaving us at our own choice, either to act or not to act.

II. INSTANCE SOME OF THE ABUSES OF THIS LIBERTY, wherein it may be so perverted as to be made a cloak of maliciousness.

1. As to principles. It would be endless to recount all the blasphemies, heresies, and errors maintained under this specious pretence.

2. Secondly, to their practice. Which we shall find to be a true transcript of their principles. For such a freethinker, if he be consistent with himself, must be a free actor too. He is equally without guide or governor, owes as little allegiance to his prince, as faith to his God; he is a rebel against both; sets up his own will as the supreme measure of his actions, for which he is answerable to nobody but himself.

III. PROVE THE ABSURDITY, AS WELL AS WICKEDNESS, OF SUCH ABUSES OF OUR LIBERTY. Upon what bottom would these lawless men found their liberty? By what authority do they these things? Or who gave them this authority? Whence was it? From heaven or of men? They own the authority of neither. But they still insist, it is their natural right, as free-born men; whereby none is subject any further than compact and content obliges him. What do they mean by this so much talked of natural right? Is it essentially, and independently inherent in themselves, or communicated by another? If they say the former, can anything belonging to a dependent being be itself independent? If the latter, who is that other who so communicated this right? Who can communicate a natural right, but the author of nature? To speak strictly, no being has any natural right but God; who by virtue of creation has a natural essential right to the obedience of His creatures. But those creatures themselves have naturally no right to anything, unless it can be proved that they had a natural right to be created.

IV. THE HAPPY CONSEQUENCES OF TRUE LIBERTY, AND THE MISERY AND SLAVERY OF THE MISTAKEN NOTIONS ABOUT IT. Having shown the absurdity and wickedness of this false principle in itself, as utterly inconsistent with reason and religion, gospel and law, the contrary position must be irrefragably true, and entirely agreeable to the laws of God and man; and there needs not much argument to prove that the effects must resemble the causes, and that happiness and prosperity, peace, and freedom must be the natural product of subjection to certain laws; and shame and misery, confusion and slavery, of their immunity from all.

(H. Sacheverell, D. D.)

1. The great purpose for which the powers and the liberty of thought were bestowed was for the discovery of truth; for the discovery of those speculative truths which conduct us to the love of God, and of those practical truths which enable us to be the ministers of good to man. When, therefore, freedom of thought is employed as means to these its destined ends, it is a virtuous principle, and he who feels it is acting from some of the most respectable motives of his nature. He is acting, in the first place, in conformity to the laws of his constitution, and has the secret voice of conscience applauding him amid every difficulty of his progress. He is acting, in the second place, with the dignity that belongs to the character of man; and, while the world around him is swayed either by the prejudices of antiquity, or by the idler prejudices of novelty, he stands as the superior to all the prejudices which influence lower minds.

2. When freedom of thought is employed as an end in itself, it is a principle which arises from very different causes, and is productive of very different effects. There is naturally much admiration due to that strength and independence of mind which can detect error, or which can discover truth; and there is accordingly, much sincere admiration paid to it. It is in this admiration that the danger and the snare consist. Because freedom of thought has been the great instrument of the discovery of truth, it is hastily concluded that all this is due to the freedom of thought itself rather than to the effects produced. If you feel that opinions are valuable in your estimation, not because they are free but because they are true, then go on, in the sight of God and of man, to the true honours of your moral and intellectual being. It is in this discipline you can acquire for yourselves permanent fame. But if in the employment of the powers of thought you look only to your own distinction, and care. not for the ends for which they were given, pause, I beseech you, before you advance farther.

(A. Alison.)

Liberty, freedom! The young heart bounds at the thought. It speaks of the unloosing of chains, the free roaming of the uncaged soul. the full freedom of the will. Man was born, created to be free; full freedom is his original endowment, the condition of his nobility of soul, his distinction from the irrational creatures, the image of God in which he was created. As contrasted with necessity, it is as indestructible as in Almighty God who created it. What then is the freedom which the prophets foretold, which Jesus said that He would give the glorious liberty of the sons of God? Christ freed us from the yoke of sin by the freedom of righteousness: He freed us from the dominion of concupiscence by the freedom of the Spirit and the dominion of love and grace. "Tell me," says Socrates to a disciple, "thinkest thou that freedom is a great and glorious possession alike to a man and a state?" "Most exceedingly." "Whoso then is ruled by bodily pleasures and on account of them cannot do what is best, thinkest thou that he is free?" "Not at all." "For to do what is best seemeth to them to be free; and so then, to have those who should hinder so doing to be unfree?" "Certainly." "The incontinent seem then to you to be unfree?" "Assuredly." "And they seem to you not only to be hindered from doing the best things, but to be constrained to do the foulest?" "Both alike." "But what sort of masters deemest thou those to be, who hinder what is best, constrain to what is worst?" "The worst." "And what slavery thinkest thou the worst?" "That to the worst masters." "The incontinent then are enslaved to the worst slavery?" concludes . "I think so." You know how with one consent heathen philosophers said, "The wise man alone is free." "He alone is indeed free," says Philo, "who taketh God alone for his commander." "The good man alone is free; for the evil man, though he deny it, is the slave of as many lords as he has vices." "Lust cometh, and saith, 'Thou art mine, for thou covetest the things of the body. In such or such a passion thou soldest thyself to me; I counted down the price for thee.' Avarice cometh and saith, 'Thou art mine; the gold and the silver which thou hast is the price of thy slavery.' Luxury cometh and saith, 'Thou art mine; amid the wine cups I purchased thee; amid the feasts I gained thee.' Ambition cometh and said to thee, 'Thou art surely mine. Knowest thou not, that to that end I gave thee command over others, that thou thyself mightest serve me? Knowest thou not, that to that end I bestowed power on thee, that I might bring thee under mine own?' All vices come, and one by one they chant, 'Thou art mine.' He whom so many claim, how vile a slave is he!" From this slavery Christ came to set us free. "If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." But then are we not still under a law? and, if we are under a law, how have we that freedom which youth especially longs for? Is then lawlessness the only freedom? Men admire what is called "the reign of law," throughout the boundless realms of God's creation. So did they idolise the beauty of the conception, that they are jealous even of Almighty God Himself, and would not have Him, by any higher law of His love, suspend His usual modes of His operation, Law then is some thing beautiful. Even in human things, what in sights and sounds so thrills through us, as when many voices or minds through obedience to a law become as one? What are all these deeds of united heroism, when all lay "with their back to the field and their feet to the foe," or that inscription, "To Lacedaemon tell, that here, obeying her behests, we fell," but the wills of many, obeying, to the death, minds without them whose will they reverenced? And cannot Almighty God make us love a law, which is the transcript of His perfections, the law of love; a law which responds to the law of our better nature within; which brings our whole being into harmony with itself, with our fellow beings and with Him.

(E. B. Pusey, D. D.)


1. Earliest references. No doubt the reference, in the first place, is to that liberty of the gospel which distinguished it from Judaism or the old Mosaic law. Then came the gospel, that more spiritual and manly dispensation, with its great rush of liberty. Law gave way to principle, pupilage to manhood, contracted interests to worldwide fellowship. But with that freedom came danger: the danger of excess, of self-assertion, of even licence.

2. But this early application and experience was no uncommon or exceptional one. It was an example and an illustration of a very common danger and a very common experience. The early Christians were tempted to excess, not because they had been Jews and had become Christians, but because they were men of like passions with the rest of mankind.(1) There is a great freedom open to man, but a freedom which does not belong to man completely nor at once. Within certain wide limits, man has a great area of freedom. Physically, socially, providentially, man cannot do all he likes, but within a wide area he has a liberty so great that few of us in our daily life are ever brought up sharply by obstacles and reminded that we are hedged about by hindrances. It is only when we attempt the impossible or the extraordinary.(2) Now, this liberty, great as it is, is not attainable at once; we enter upon it gradually, often slowly. There is childhood turning to manhood, the wider area of liberty becomes at the man's disposal; but this is reached only after the lapse of the years of childhood, and boyhood, and youth. Or again, look at what is called success in life, when the man becomes more and more his own master, and the resources of life become more and more his; but this, too, is gained in the vast majority of cases, after years of toil. Or, once more, take political freedom. But here, too, liberty is gained not so much at once or by leaps and bounds.(3) Thus we have seen that a great freedom is open to man, and that this freedom is not attainable at once, but rather gradually. The question now presents itself as to the extent of that liberty. As regards the individual. He has liberty, even when he treads upon forbidden ground. It is true that sooner or later the violated law will vindicate itself. Nevertheless, he is free to violate these laws. So with regard to the rights and interests of others. Beyond a certain point, his fellow men will step in and restrain his liberty of action, and by pains and penalties contract his freedom. But up to this point the individual has a wide field for the exercise of even his selfishness. Once more, with regard to God. It is true man cannot thwart the great sweep of God's providence. Yet, right or wrong, good or evil, wisdom or folly: these he can choose. And the great patience of God in allowing man to disregard Him is one of the great solemn facts of life. Man's liberty is great, and the wonder is not at man's lack of freedom; it is rather the other way: how fully and to what an extent he can act as if he were his own master.

3. But with this liberty comes the temptation to misuse it, to abuse it, to make it an occasion of evil rather than of good; and this individually, socially, religiously. Individually, by giving rein to the passions, turning liberty into licence. Socially, by defying the opinions and claims of others. Religiously — or rather, irreligiously — by ignoring God and His claim to our obedience, setting up self as the one great object of worship. And so liberty becomes a cloak of maliciousness and an occasion of evil.


1. The conditions of the problem are two fold. There must be respect for freedom and the recognition of liberty on the one hand; and on the other, reckless and malicious use of freedom must be counteracted. These are the two sides of the problem which must be kept in view. Extreme methods violate both these. On the one hand, if mere restraint be adopted, the result must be a reduction of liberty. If, on the other hand, the absence of all restraint be allowed, the result will be the destruction of all true freedom.

2. What, then, is to be done if liberty is to be preserved, and yet not abused? Three conditions must be fulfilled:(1) There must be respect for freedom, not the depreciation of it, if anything the enhancing of it.(2) But that freedom needs to be guided towards noble ends to become a great spontaneous power which of itself will influence the life aright, and direct it towards what is high, and generous, and good. This is the more necessary the more freedom is granted. Side by side with freedom, if it is not to be abused, must be developed the spirit of voluntary acquiescence in what is right and a conscientious desire for what is best.(3) The third condition is the sense of responsibility; that as each gift, power, opportunity has its corresponding responsibility, so has this freedom; that the greater the freedom, the greater will be the responsibility for its use.

3. Now, this is just what Christianity has done. At a critical period in human history, when the old order of tyranny and corruption was crumbling, and the ground was being prepared for the growth of liberty, Christianity came, implanting great principles, awakening the consciousness of wrong, and stirring up the love of what is right, and true, and good. Thus, as the old restraint of the law passed away, the new spirit of personal responsibility, that great spiritual force, came to men; and just because Christianity was this spiritual force, it could do what no other power did. It could do without the old Jewish economy, it could sap the foundations of tyranny, it could be the promoter of liberty. It is this action of Christianity which is illustrated in St. Peter's words. See how naturally, instinctively, and comprehensively he deals with the question of liberty. "As free" — as if he said, "You are free, you have been made free, you have a right to be free. The old bondage of the law is gone, gone forever, and the freedom which is yours has been brought to you by Christ. It is nothing less than a God-given possession." But every possession has its accompanying responsibility; the free man is not the same as the irresponsible man, In fact, our responsibility increases with our powers, our possessions, our gifts, our opportunities. What, then, is the great principle and power which is to direct each one in the use of this liberty? It is the great sense that while you are free, you are yet not free. You are to act "as the servants of God." Liberty is recognised, but a service is presented as well; but one which is not enforced, it can be given or refused. But these two, liberty and service, are connected by a sense of responsibility: and that a responsibility which recognises the claims of God upon them. It is just that which imparts dignity, and power, and great gladness to duty, when it is thus seen in the light of the great and glorious service of God. For it is only as we use our liberty and all our powers in obedience to God that we can hope and accomplish much. While we stand, or try to stand, alone, while we reject God as the great end of our service, our powers are feeble, and our acts work little good, great evil, and weariness or dissatisfaction takes the heart out of our labour. But when we bring our liberty and all our powers into the service of God, all we have and all we are and all we do become connected with what is best, and, falling in with the great work of God, we become not only doubly free, but doubly useful and doubly strong.

(A. Boyd Carpenter, M. A.)

Liberty is the essence of Christianity. No one knows what it is to be quite "free" till he is a real Christian.

1. A converted man, by the fact, at once is "free" from his past. It is "cast into the depths of the sea." It is gone "away into a land not inhabited," to be mentioned no more! That is "liberty!" O how large, and how sweet. To know that the entail of the past is all cut off. Therefore the converted man is "free," too, from thousands of chains which bind other men. He is "free" from death. To him death is only a liberator. All it can do is to unshackle his spirit from the thraldom of his body. The grave cannot hold him. Satan himself — the great captivator — is a captive.

2. He is in freedom from his present self. Sin does not rule in him any more; the world no longer fascinates, the flesh no longer drags him down. He has gone up far above those things. He walks his higher path, a path where the whole man can expand itself; a path worthy of his immortality, at large, satisfying, infinite! And beyond all this, that "man in Christ" has now "free" access to God. He can go up any moment, under any circumstances of life, and he can tell his Father. All this must go to make freedom. Who, then, is the "free" man, but he whom the Lord makes free?

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

There is not anything in the world more generally desired than liberty, nor scarce anything more generally abused. The apostles, therefore, especially St. Peter and St. Paul, the two chiefest planters of the Churches, endeavoured early to instruct believers in the true doctrine, and to direct them in the right use of their Christian liberty so often in their several epistles as fit occasion was offered thereunto. And we may further observe concerning these two apostles that St. Paul usually toucheth upon this argument of liberty as it is to be exercised in the case of scandal; but St. Peter oftener, as in the case of obedience. From which words I gather three observations, all concerning our Christian liberty, in that branch of it especially which respecteth human ordinances, and the use of the creatures and of all indifferent things. Either

1. In the existence of it, as free.

2. In the exercise of it, "and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness."

3. In the end of it, "but as the servants of God." The first observation: We must so submit ourselves to superior authority, as that we do not thereby impeach our Christian liberty, "as free." The second this: We must so maintain our liberty, as that we do not under that colour either commit any sin or omit any requisite office, either of charity or duty, "and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness." The third this: In the whole exercise, both of the liberty we have in Christ and of the respect we owe unto men, we must evermore remember ourselves to be, and accordingly behave ourselves as those that are God's servants, "but as the servants of God." The sum of the whole three points in brief this: We must be careful without either infringing or abusing our liberty at all times, and in all things to serve God. Now then to the several, points as they lie in the text. "As free." Which words have manifest reference to the exhortation delivered three verses before the text. Submit yourselves to public governors, both supreme and subordinate, be subject to your own particular masters, honour all men with those proper respects that belong to them in their several stations; but look you, do all this, not as slaves but as free, do it without impeachment of the liberty you have in Christ. First, this liberty is purchased for us by the blood of Christ, and is therefore usually Called by the name of Christian liberty (John 8:36; Galatians 5:1). Secondly, is revealed unto us outwardly in the preaching of the gospel of God and of Christ, which is therefore called the law of liberty (James 1:25; James 2:12). And thirdly, is conveyed unto us inwardly and effectually by the operation of the Spirit of God and of Christ, which is therefore called a free spirit (Psalm 51:12; 2 Corinthians 3:17). Now this liberty, so dearly purchased, so clearly revealed, so firmly conveyed, it is our duty to maintain (Galatians 5:1). A thing whereof it behoveth us to have a special care, and that for weighty respects. First, in regard of the trust reposed in us in this behalf. Every honest man taketh himself bound to discharge with faithfulness the trust reposed in him. Now these two, the Christian faith and the Christian liberty, are of all other the choicest jewels whereof the Lord Jesus Christ hath made His Church the depository. Especially since we cannot so do, secondly, without manifest wrong to Christ; nor, thirdly, without great dishonour to God. Not without wrong to Christ. St. Paul therefore disputeth it as upon a ground of right. "Ye are bought with a price, be ye not the servants of men" (1 Corinthians 7:22). You cannot dispose yourselves in any other service without apparent wrong to Him. Neither only do we injure Christ by making ourselves the servants of men, but we dishonour God also, which is a third reason. For to whom we make ourselves servants him we make our Lord and God. The covetous worldling therefore, by serving mammon, maketh mammon his god. Yea, and our own too, which may stand for a fourth reason. "Ye see your calling, brethren," saith the apostle (1 Corinthians 1:26). He would have men take notice of their Christian calling, that so they might walk worthy of it. Now by our calling we are free men (Galatians 5:13). And being so, we infinitely abase ourselves and disparage our calling, when of free men we become slaves. Leo the Emperor, therefore, by special and severe constitution, forbade all free men within the empire sale of their liberties, calling it facinus in those that were so presumptuous as to buy them, and no less than folly, yea, madness in those that were so base as to sell them; not without some indignation at the former laws for suffering such an indignity to be so long practised without either chastisement or restraint. And if he justly censured them as men of abject minds, that would for any consideration in the world willingly forego their civil and Roman liberty, what flatness of spirit possesseth us if we wilfully betray our Christian and spiritual liberty? Whereby, besides the dishonour, we do also, with our own hands, pull upon our own heads a great deal of unnecessary cumber. For whereas we might draw an easy yoke, carry a light burden, observe commandments that are not grievous in the service of God and of Christ, by putting ourselves into the service of men we thrust our necks into a hard yoke of bondage. Besides these, that do it thus by open assault, I would there were not others also that did by secret underminings go about to deprive us of that liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, even then when they most pretend the maintenance of it. We oftentimes betray away our own liberty when we might maintain it, and so become servants unto men, when we both might and ought to keep ourselves free. Which fault we shall be the better able to avoid when we shall know the true causes, whence it springeth; which are evermore one of these two, an unsound head or an unsound heart. Sometimes we esteem too highly of others, so far as either to envassal our judgments to their opinions, or to enthral our consciences to their precepts, and that is our weakness; there the fault is in the head. Sometimes we apply ourselves to the wills of others, with an eye to our own benefit or satisfaction in some other carnal or worldly respect, and that is our fleshliness; there the fault is in the heart. This latter is the worst, and therefore in the first place to be avoided. The most and worse sort, unconscionable men, do often transgress this way. There is, I confess, much reverence to be given to the writings of the godly ancient fathers, more to the canons and decrees of general and provincial councils, and not a little to the judgment of learned, sober, and godly divines of later and present times. But we may not build our faith upon them as upon a sure foundation. What is Calvin or Luther, nay, what is Paul or Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed? That is to say, instruments, but not lords of your belief. To do God and ourselves right, it is necessary we should with our utmost strength maintain the doctrine and power of that liberty wherewith Christ hath endowed His Church, without either usurping the mastery over others, or subjecting ourselves to their servitude, so as to surrender either our judgments or consciences to be wholly disposed according to the opinions or wills of men, though of never so excellent piety or parts. We must so maintain our liberty that we abuse it not, as we shall, if, under the pretence of Christian liberty, we either adventure the doing of some unlawful thing, or omit the performance of any requisite duty. "As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness." The apostle's intention in the whole clause will the better appear when we know what is meant by cloak and what by maliciousness. The Greek word ἐπικάλυμμα, which is nowhere else found in the whole New Testament but in this verse only, signifieth properly any covering, as the covering of badgers' skins that was spread over the tabernacle is in the Septuagint's translation called ἐπικάλυμμα. And it is very fitly translated a cloak, in respect of that notion wherein the word in our English tongue is commonly used, to note some fair and colourable pretence, wherewith we conceal from the knowledge of others the dishonesty and faultiness of our intentions in some things practised by us. It is a corruption very common among us; whatsoever we are within, yet we desire to make a fair show outwardly. We are loth to forbear those sins which we are ashamed to profess, and therefore we colour them and cloak them that we may both do the thing we desire and- yet miss the shame we deserve. You see what the cloak is; see now what is maliciousness. Κακία is the word, which is properly rendered by malice or maliciousness. And as these English words, and the Latin word malicia whence these are borrowed, so likewise κακία in Greek is many times used to signify one special kind of sin, which is directly opposite to brotherly love and charity, and the word is usually so taken, wheresoever it is either set in opposition to such charity or else ranked with other special sins of the same kind, such as are anger, envy, hatred, and the like. And if we should so understand it here, the sense were good; for it is a very common thing in the world to offend against brotherly charity under the colour of Christian liberty, and doubtless our apostle here intendeth the remedy of that abuse also. Yet I rather conceive that the word maliciousness in this place is to be taken in a larger comprehension for all manner of evil and of naughtiness. To use liberty for an occasion to the flesh, and to use liberty for a cloak of maliciousness is the very same thing, and it is a very great sin. For the proof whereof I shall need to use no other arguments than the words of the text will afford. First, every act of maliciousness is a sin; and, secondly, to cloak it with a fair pretence, maketh it a greater sin; but then, thirdly, to use Christian liberty for the cloak giveth a farther addition to it and maketh it a greater sin. First, it is a sin to do any act of maliciousness. Nor so only, but it is a hurtful thing, and of a noxious and malignant quality, as leaven souring the whole lump of our services to God. But if men will need be hypocrites, and must have a cloak for their maliciousness, they might yet at least bethink themselves of somewhat else of lighter price to make a cloak of, and not to use to so base a purpose so rich a stuff, as is this blessed liberty which the Son of God hath purchased with His most precious blood. As in nature, so in morality, by how much better anything is in the right use of it, by so much is it worse in the abuse. Now we see how great a sin it is thus to abuse our liberty it will be needful in the next place to inquire more particularly wherein this abuse consisteth, that so we may be the better able to avoid it. We are therefore to know that Christian liberty may be abused for a cloak of maliciousness these four ways following: First, we may make it a cloak of maliciousness if we hold ourselves by virtue thereof discharged from our obedience, either to the whole moral law of God or to any part of it. Great offenders this way are the libertines, who quite cancel the whole law of God under the pretence of Christian liberty, as if they that were in Christ were no longer tied to yield obedience to the moral law, which is a pestilent error and of very dangerous consequence. The law considered as a rule can no more be abolished or changed than can the nature of good and evil be abolished or changed. It is our singular comfort then, and the happiest fruit of our Christian liberty, that we are freed by Christ, and through faith in Him from the covenant and curse of the law; but we must know that it is our duty, notwithstanding the liberty that we have in Christ, to frame our lives and conversations according to the rule of the law. The second way whereby our liberty may be used for a cloak of maliciousness is when we stretch it in the use of things that are indeed indifferent beyond the just bounds of sobriety. It belongeth to every sober Christian advisedly to consider, not only what in itself may lawfully be done or left undone, but also what in godly wisdom and discretion is fittest for him to do, or not to do, upon all occasions, as the exigence of present circumstances shall require. He that without such due consideration will do all he may do at all times, under colour of Christian liberty, he shall undoubtedly sometime use his liberty for a cloak of maliciousness. It may be done a third way, and that is by using it uncharitably, which is the case whereon I told you St. Paul beateth so often. When we use our liberty so as to stumble the weak consciences of our brethren thereby. He that will have his own way in everything he hath a liberty unto, whosoever shall take offence at it maketh his liberty but a cloak of maliciousness by using it uncharitably. The fourth and last way, whereby we may use our liberty for a cloak of maliciousness is by using it undutifully, pretending it unto our disobedience to lawful authority. And so I pass to my last observation. The observation was this: In the whole exercise both of the liberty we have in Christ and of those respects we owe unto men, we must evermore remember ourselves to be, and accordingly behave ourselves as those that are God's servants; in these last words, "But as the servants of God," containing our condition and our carriage. For the first, We cannot imagine any consideration, that may be found in any service in the world, to render it desirable, which is not to be found, and that in a far more eminent degree, in this service of God. If justice may provoke us, or necessity enforce us, or easiness hearten us, or honour allure us, or profit draw us to any service, behold here they all concur. First, It is the most just service, whether we look at the title of right on His part or reasons of equity on ours. It is, secondly, the most necessary service. Necessary, first, because we are born to serve. We have not the liberty to choose whether we will serve or no; all the liberty we have is to choose our master. It is necessary, secondly, for our safety and security, lest, if we withdraw our service from him, we perish justly in our rebellion. It is necessary, thirdly, by our own voluntary act, when we bound ourselves by solemn vow and promise in the face of the open congregation at our baptism. It is, thirdly (which at the first hearing may seem a paradox, yet will appear upon further consideration to be a most certain truth), of all other the most easy service, in regard both of the certainty of the employment and of the help we have towards the performance of it. He that serveth many masters, or even but one, if he be a fickle man, he never knoweth the end of his work. It is some ease to know certainly what we must do; but much more to be assured of sufficient help for the doing of it. It is, fourthly, the most honourable service. He goeth for the better man that serveth the better master. It is, fifthly and lastly, the most profitable service. We are indeed unprofitable servants to Him, but sure we have a very profitable service under Him. These things among others the servant of God may certainly reckon upon as the certain benefits of his service wherein his Master will not fail him if he fail not in his service — protection, maintenance, reward. And he that will be God's servant in truth, and not only in title, must perform all these to his heavenly Master. Reverence is the first, which ever ariseth from a deliberate apprehension of some worthiness in another more than in a man's self, and is ever accompanied with a fear to offend and a care to please the person reverenced; and so it hath three branches, whereof the first is humility. From which fear of offending a care and desire of pleasing cannot be severed. Obedience is the next general duty. Servants be obedient to your masters. We are to show our obedience to our heavenly Master yet further by submitting to His wholesome discipline when at any time He shall see cause to give us correction. The third and last general duty is fidelity. "Who is a faithful and wise servant?" "Well done, thou good and faithful servant," as if the wisdom and goodness of a servant consisted in his faithfulness. The first whereof is heartiness in His service. There are many servants in the world that will work hard and bustle at it lustily for a fit and so long as their master's eye is upon them, but when his back is turned can be content to go on fair and softly and fellow like. Secondly, We must show our faithfulness to our Master by our zeal in His behalf. A faithful servant will not endure an evil word spoken of his master behind his back, but he will be ready upon every occasion to vindicate his credit and to magnify him unto the opinion of others. He will make much of those that love his master, and set the less by those that ce not for him. And as to his credit principally, so he hath an eye also, in the second plce, to the profit of his master. Thirdly, If we be His faithful servants, we should let it appear by our diligence in doing His business. No man would willingly entertain an idle servant. We see now what we are to do if we will approve ourselves and our services unto the Lord our heavenly Master.

(Bp. Sanderson.)

A cloak of maliciousness
The word translated "maliciousness" is a large word. Sometimes it means "cowardice"; sometimes "baseness," It is elsewhere rendered "evil," and (James 1:21) "naughtiness" — which perhaps best conveys the whole sense. "As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of anything that is wrong." For instance, there are those who, having found forgiveness, are now walking very carelessly, and do not hold sin in sufficient abhorrence. Still more, there are those who, because they have escaped from one sin, allow themselves in another. As when a man only changes worldly pride for spiritual pride, or gives up carnal indulgence for some religious selfishness, or, worse still, when a man deliberately commits a sin, with a thought: "God will forgive it, as He has forgiven other of my sins. When I have done it I shall pray, and I shall repent, and hear no more about it." Or, more dreadful yet, "I am elect. It does not matter what I do. God does not see sin in His saints." Awful delusion! Or — if "evil" do not go to such a length as that — it may be your religious freedom has made you very severe in your judgment of others. You are "free," but you are not sympathising with those who are doing the very thing which once bound you. You have still almost a "malicious" pleasure in hearing or speaking of somebody's faults! A "free" one should be always so humble in the recollection of his past bondage that he should be tender and gentle to the sin which he once did! But say you have "liberty," how are you using it? All your powers, privileges, hopes; are you consecrating them to do all the good you can to the Lord's "free" men? That serenity of mind that you have now learnt, that ease of heart, that sense of safety, that peace that God has given you, are they held as talents to use for others? All your former experience of the wickedness of the world, is it now being turned to good account? or are you content with your own exemptions, sitting, as indifferent to what may befall your fellow creatures? And is not all that "using liberty as a cloak of maliciousness"? Surely every "free" one should be a liberator!

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

As the servants of God
The good old word servant is going out of fashion. In a mission held lately, some services for domestic servants were advertised, and it was discovered that the notice gave offence. The servants were ashamed of their name. There is nothing to be ashamed of in the fact of being a servant, but there is a great deal to be ashamed of in the fact of being a bad servant. Liberty does not mean licence. We are not free to do wrong. Let us look at ourselves, then, "as free, but as the servants of God," and learn some of the marks of a good servant.

I. A GOOD SERVANT SHOULD be HUMBLE. There is a great want of humility amongst us. We live in an age of advancement. Education is making gigantic strides, all classes are being put on the same political level, and all this has a tendency to make people less humble.

II. A GOOD SERVANT SHOULD BE INDUSTRIOUS. Dr. Livingstone took as his motto, "Fear God, and work hard." It is a good motto for every Christian now. We are to be workers together with God. He is always working in us, and for us, and we must do our part. You know the Prince of Wales has for his motto — "Ich Dien I serve.

III. A GOOD SERVANT LOVES HIS MASTER. The best work is always done where the heart goes along with the hands. We shall not find any work too hard, or any self-sacrifice too great, if we love our Master.

IV. A GOOD SERVANT WILL BE GOOD TO HIS FELLOW SERVANTS. Jesus came to clasp all hands together, and make the whole world kin. We who are working God's work should lend a helping hand to others. In God's great house of this world we have our different stations and labours. Let the strong help the weak; let those who have learnt most of the service of God our Master teach the beginners.

(H. J. Wilmot Buxton, M. A.)

Honour all men.
I. PERSONAL COURTESY. It is our duty to make manners a part of religion.

1. Respect.

2. Consideration. Put yourself in others' ways and plans and difficulties.

3. Kindness.

II. AFFECTIONATE BROTHERHOOD. It is only reasonable we should "love the brotherhood," for we are —

1. Sharers of the same discipline.

2. Heirs of the same blessings.

3. Travellers along the same road.


IV. SANCTIFIED LOYALTY. "Honour the King."

1. Independently of the ruler's character.

2. Independently of personal distinction.

(1)Loyalty is the essential of national well-being.

(2)Loyalty is the secret of national happiness.

(3)Loyalty is the principle of national prosperity.

(J. J. S. Bird, B. A.)

First, the duty, what it is, and then how that duty is either extended or limited in regard of the object. The duties are honour and love. The first, by opening the duty, and what we are to do. The next, by inquiring into the obligation, and why we are so to do. The last, by examining our performance, and whether we do therein as we ought to do or no. And first of the former precept, Honour all men. Honour, properly, is an acknowledgment or testification of some excellency in the person honoured, by some reverence or observance answerable thereunto. Thus we honour God above all as being transcendently excellent, and thus we honour our parents, our princes, our betters, or superiors in any kind. The word honour in this place imports all that esteem or regard, be it more or less, which is due to any man in respect of his place, person, or condition, according to the eminency, merit, or exigency of any of them respectively, together with the willing performance of such just and charitable offices upon all emergent occasions as in proportion to any of the said respects can be reasonably expected. In which sense it is a possible thing for us to honour, not only our superiors that are over us or above us, but our equals too that are in the same rank with us, yea, even our inferiors also that are below us or under us. And in this latitude you shall find the word honour sometimes used in the Scriptures, though not so frequently as in the proper signification. You have one example of it in the seventh verse of the next chapter, where St. Peter enjoineth husbands to give honour to the wife as to the weaker vessel. It was far from his meaning doubtless that the husband should honour the wife with the honour properly so called, that of reverence or subjection, for that were to invert the right order of things and to pervert God's ordinance. In like manner we are to understand the word honour here in the text, in such a notion as may include all those fitting respects which are to be given to equals and inferiors also, which is a kind of honour too but more improperly so called. And then it falleth in, all one with that of St. Paul (Romans 13:7). "Render therefore to all their dues, tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom, fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour." Now we see in the meaning of the words both what duty we are to perform and to whom. It may next be demanded upon what tie we stand thus bound to honour all men? I answer — there lieth a three-fold tie upon us, to wit, of justice, of equity, of religion. A tie of justice first, whose most proper office it is to give to every one that which of right appertaineth to him. It is a thing not unworthy the observing that all those words which usually signify honour in the three learned languages do either primarily signify or else are derived from such words as do withal signify either a price or a weight. Now by the rules of commutative justice the price of every commodity ought to be according to the true worth of it. A false weight is abominable, and so is every one that tradeth with it; and certainly that man maketh use of a false beam that setteth light by his brother whom he ought to honour. The next tie is that of equity. "Whatsoever you would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them, for this is the law and the prophets." We care not how much honour cometh to ourselves from others, how little goeth from ourselves to others. Let every man therefore in God's name take to himself that portion of honour and respect that is due to him, and good luck may he have with his honour. Provided always that he be withal sure of these two things first, that he take no more than his due, for this is but just; and then, that he be as willing to give as to take, for that is but equal. He that doth otherwise is partial and unreasonable. And thus we are tied in equity to honour all men. There is yet a third tie, that of religion, in respect of that image of God, which is to be found in man. All honour is in regard of some excellency or other, and there is in man no excellency at all of and from himself, but all the excellency that is in him is such only as God hath been pleased to put upon him. And that excellency is two fold — natural and personal. The natural excellency is that whereby man excelleth other creatures. Personal that whereby one man excelleth another. Of the natural first which ariseth from the image of God stamped upon man in his creation. Besides this natural, God hath put upon man a personal excellency which is an effect of His Providence in the government of the world, as the former was of His power in the creation of it. And here first beginneth the difference that is between one man and another. We have seen hitherto both the duty and obligation of it. What are we to perform, and why? We come now to examine a little how it is performed among us. Slackly and untowardly enough no doubt as all other duties are. Are there not some first, who are so far from honouring all men as the text requireth that they honour no man at all, at least, not as they ought to do? No, not their known superiors? But how much less then their equals or inferiors? There are others, secondly, that may perhaps be persuaded to yield some honour to their betters (that may be but reason) but that they should be bound to honour those that are not so good men as themselves, or at the most but such like as themselves are they see no great reason for that. But there is no remedy; St. Peter here telleth them that must be done too. There is a third sort that corrupt a good text with an ill gloss as thus. The magistrate shall have his tribute, the minister his tithe, and so every other man his due honour, if so be he carry himself worthily and as he ought to do in his place, and so as to deserve it. In good time! But I pray you then, first, who must judge of his carriage and whether he deserve such honour, yea or no? But, secondly, how durst thou distinguish where the law distinguishes not? Where God commandeth He looketh to be answered with obedience, and dost thou think to come off with subtleties and distinctions? Least of all, thirdly, with such a gloss as the apostle hath already precluded by his own comment in the next verse, where he biddeth servants to be subject to their masters, not only to the good and gentle but to the froward also, and such as would be ready to buffet them when they had done no fault. Such masters sure could challenge no great honour from their servants. But tell me, fourthly, in good earnest, dost thou believe that another man's neglect of his duty can discharge thee from the obligation of thine? Lastly, when thou sayest thou wilt honour him according to his place if he deserve it, dost thou not observe that thou art still unjust by thy own confession? For where place and merit concur there is a double honour due (1 Timothy 5:17). There is one honour due to the place and another to merit.

(Bp. Sanderson.)

It has been observed that more attention is commonly given to the specific than to the general precepts of Holy Scripture. Thus, in the verse there is a particular precept, to "honour the king," which has attracted more notice than the wider principle "honour all men." The reason is this: The vast field of action which opens before us, when contemplating a general precept, is so fatiguing to the imagination, that we are tempted to give up the task of considering it in something like despair. Nor is this the only reason for the practical disadvantages of general, as compared with specific precepts. As morality is too often taught, these general precepts are rested upon considerations too abstract to exert a real influence upon average men. A general precept, like that before us, must be based on an energetic conviction, in order to give it the needful vividness and force. Of this the precept before us is an eminent illustration. We only bring it down from the neglected region of moral proprieties, we only learn its living and working power, and give it a clothing of flesh arid blood, when we place it in the light of the great Christian doctrines of which it is the practical and animated expression. What is honour? It is, first of all, a sentiment which prompts us to acknowledge, and to do homage to, some form of truth. It must spring from a sense of merit of some kind in the object which provokes it; and, therefore, it must begin from within. Honour, then, in the first place, is a genuine movement of the soul; but, secondly, it is often a substantial expression of that movement in the outward visible world of sense. Whether it be embodied in a gesture, or in a title, or in a gift of money, it is at bottom an acknowledgment of superior worth, attaching, it may be, to an individual, or to an office, or to an institution. It is a practical expression of the sentiment of honour, quickened into activity by a worthy object. When, then, St. Peter says that we are to "honour all men," he means, no doubt, that if opportunity arises we are to give practical expression to the disposition to honour them. But he means, first of all, that this disposition should itself exist. And it is here that we reach the point at which the need is felt of basing the precept upon a conviction. Why should we thus be disposed to "honour all men"? It is clear that if man is left to himself, he is by no means disposed to "honour all men." Why is he bound to make head against this natural inclination? Is it in deference to a sense of self-interest? to a belief that courtesy is a cheap thing, which if it does not make friends, yet keeps clear of making enemies? No! The honour which the apostle prescribes is not an insincere conventionalism, but a true expression of inward respect. Are we then to honour all men in deference to the mere instinct of race? You say that, at least, in this case man should honour his brother man as a reproduction of himself. Does then one brute, nay, the most intelligent of the brutes, honour other brutes? There is nothing in a second animal, who is a mere reproduction of my animal self, which properly commands this tribute of honour; while there is much in him which might incline me to refuse it. But here comes a teacher who repeats the injunction under a new formula. Humanity is the god of Positivist thinkers; man is the highest being whom the consistent philosophy of experience can consent to recognise. Man in his collective capacity, the organism "humanity," is to be worshipped by each individual man. And from this new cultus, we are told, there is to flow forth a morality, which, in its spirits and its objects, shall be enthusiastically human; against which, as we are further assured, the inferior ethics of Christendom, weighted with the dogmatic teaching of the creeds, will struggle in vain for supremacy in the Europe of the future. But what is the real meaning of this cultus of humanity? Taking humanity as an actual whole, it is to worship that, in which the immoral decidedly preponderates over the moral, the false over the true, the bad over the good.


1. The first is, that all men are made in the image of God. "God created man in His own image, after His likeness." This image and likeness consist in the fact that, first of all, man is an intelligent being, conscious of, and able steadily to reflect upon, his own existence; and, next, that his will is free. In each of these respects he is unlike any one of the lower creatures; in each he is like God. All men are endued with an immortal, conscious, self-determining principle of life. Or rather that principle is each man's true self, around which all else that belongs to him is clustered, and to which it stands in the relation of a property, or it may be of an accident.

2. Our Lord's death upon the Cross is a second reason for honouring all men. His death was indeed a true sacrifice offered to the justice and majesty of God, but it was also an act of homage and honour to the worth of the human spirit. It was to enlighten the conscience of man, it was to purify man's soul from the stains, and to free it from the burden of sin, it was to restore man to his true and native dignity among the firstborn of creation, that our Saviour died.

3. From these two motives a Christian will gather a third, which must lead him to honour all men, both in feeling and in act. I refer to the capacity of every man, be he who or what he may, while in this world, for improvement, for goodness. This generous faith in humanity is a creation of the gospel. The glory, the sinlessness, the ineffable majesty of the ascended Christ is the measure of the hopes of man. And from that throne of His in the highest heavens there descends upon the race which He has ennobled, and which He yearns to glorify and to save, an interest, a radiance in Christian eyes, an inheritance of a title to honour, which has made the precept of the apostle one of the main factors of the moral life of Christendom.

II. BUT IS THE PRECEPT TO BE UNDERSTOOD LITERALLY? Does "all men" mean all members, all classes of the human family? Let me ask, in return, Why not? Let us look at some of the barriers which have been raised against man's universal right to honour by the prejudices of man.

1. There is, first of all, and, morally speaking, lowest of all, the barrier of wealth. Wealth honours wealth; income pays respect to income; but it is wont to cherish, in its secret heart, an unmeasured contempt for poverty. To believe that a man with £60 a year is just as much deserving of respect as a man with £6,000, you must be seriously a Christian.

2. A second barrier is the spirit of station or of class, founded whether upon success in life, or upon the circumstances of birth. That an aristocracy has, in God's providential government of society, distinct and great functions to perform, is a position which is not for one moment to be denied; since the experience of history seems to show that society creates a higher class by a natural process, and we in England know how largely such a class may, if it will, serve its country. But when it develops an exclusive spirit, which divides humanity into two sections, those within and those without the imaginary barrier, it comes into collision with the teaching of the gospel. The Divine image, expressed in man's intelligence and freedom; the atoning blood, giving the measure of man's preciousness in the eyes of God; the glorified manhood of Jesus, revealing to man his capacity for glory; — these are the privileges of no class or station; they are the right and the possession of humanity.

3. A third barrier is that of race or country. Patriotism, no doubt, has its providential purpose; and the instinct of race is but an expansion of the instinct of the family. Both are based upon a natural foundation and have a Divine sanction; but in their exaggeration both may foster sentiments which are crimes against humanity. When we hear of the African savage who a few months since floated his canoe in a lake of human blood, that he might fitly observe his father's obsequies, we may for a moment look hard at the precept to honour all men. Yet, all crime being, in the eyes of absolute justice, strictly relative to opportunities, it may well be that this pagan prince stands higher before heaven than do you or I, when we lose our tempers in conversation, or say our prayers without thinking of the solemn work in which we are engaged.

4. The absence of intelligence is often held to constitute a fourth barrier against this honour of man as man. To make intelligence, in the sense of cultivated intellect, the real test of a claim to honour, would secure such honour to Voltaire, and (may we not add?) to Satan, while denying it to the apostles of Christ. To make intelligence, in the sense of the common faculty which is capable of reflecting on self and of knowing God, the ground of that claim, is to own that a debt of honour is due to the whole human family. The precept before us, however, is not adverse to our recognising the specific titles to honour which individuals or classes may possess. It only insists upon a broader basis of such right to honour than that which any of these titles suggest. It is entirely in harmony with the honourable recognition of moral worth, because moral worth enriches and intensifies what is best in humanity, namely, the freedom and power of man's will. It does not force us to condone either the wilful propagation of error or the guilt of crime. It does not imply indifference to the interests either of truth or virtue.

III. THE PRACTICAL BEARINGS OF THIS SUGGESTIVE PRECEPT are so numerous that it will be necessary to confine ourselves to the following, by way of conclusion.

1. "Honour all men" is a fitting motto for the spirit of much of our study.

2. Here is the Christian rule for social intercourse. Honour high station, honour authority, honour genius, honour courage, honour even success, if you will; but do not limit your honour to these things. If you honour the representative men of humanity, those who embody and intensify its great qualities or interests, do not forget that that which you honour in them is shared in a measure by all.

3. Lastly, in this precept we may discover the true spirit of Christian works of mercy. All the plans which Christian charity really devises and sets on foot are based on the principle of respect for man. Christian charity relieves poverty, not as conferring a favour, but as satisfying what is in some sense a right — the right of humanity to live, and to ask in God's name at the hands of property the means of livelihood.

(Canon Liddon.)

There is no need of argument to prove the kindliness of Christianity, compared with every other system of belief. Its regard for life and its sympathy with human weakness may be seen upon the surface of every Christian land. To this we owe our hospitals and refuges, and all the multitude of charitable institutions which mitigate human suffering. But it is by no means sufficient merely to notice this as a fact. It is of great moment that we search into the principle from which it springs, and that principle is shortly but forcibly brought out in the precept of St. Peter — "Honour all men." Now it is important that we should see why this precept was confined to Christianity. It was so, first, because its teaching made it for the first time possible, truly, and with reason, to fulfil it. Before this, dark shades rested upon the nature of man. Different qualities of man might be honoured, but right reason could scarcely honour man — poor, fallen, wretched, debased man. So it was of old. But so it was not after Christ our Lord had come upon the earth. His incarnation has dispelled this darkness. For it clearly showed that the sin which dwelt in man and mocked him, by pretending to be a part of himself, was no true part of himself. For in that very humanity, the Son of God had tabernacled without spot of sin. But besides this Christianity alone made all men brothers. Its blessed communion makes all equal, not by putting down the distinctions of earth, confounding the ranks of society, but by raising the manhood in each of us to its true worthiness, by teaching the master to treat the servant "not now as a servant" but "above a servant," as a "brother beloved"; by showing all that as "partakers of the benefit," as members of Christ, they have a unity which the petty distinctions of earth cannot dissever; a true dignity, which its seeming degradations cannot obscure. See, then, how great a part of Christianity is contained in this precept. How growth in its spirit is a necessary and certain accompaniment of growth in true, living, practical religion, as it stands opposed to the sickliness of sentimentality. But to see this still more clearly, look at the example of our Master, Christ; see in Him the perfection of this grace. How did He look at man? Who ever saw so far into all the feebleness, uncertainty, and wickedness of those who came around Him, as He did whilst He walked up and down this crowded wilderness? Who ever read the hidden evil of men's hearts as He did? Yet, how did He look upon all? Was there one over whom, as being a man, He did not yearn; was there one sharer of humanity whom, as man, He did not honour — one lost one whom He did not "seek," and was not ready "to save"? And this was the secret of His deep tenderness towards sinners, His unwearied forbearance — His most compassionate love, His sympathy with every; one of the fallen but redeemed race. And we, if we would have these graces in our measure, must seek for their spring head — we must strive for this great power of "honouring all men" — of seeing in all the true manhood; seeing in all the true value of life; earnestly believing that in all is that which Christ our Master took unto Himself, and in taking to Himself sanctified and purified and made capable of a true and real worthiness. And if we would make any progress in this high grace, we must not hide from ourselves the difficulties which will surely beset its exercise. For these are many and great and will be too much for us, if without counting the cost, we endeavour to encounter them. First, there is selfishness, that deep root of inner corruption which is the absolute antagonist of such a spirit — for this, which leads every man to "mind his own things," to grasp at everything within his reach, to rate himself, his own plans, his own pleasures, first, must of necessity rob him of the power of "honouring others." But besides selfishness, there is the whole current of worldly society to be withstood. In spite of the great healing which the gospel of Christ has wrought, its waters are still bitter and turbulent, and they flow for the most part right against the stream of heavenly things.

1. Then let me say, if you would "honour all men," begin by truly honouring yourselves. A true Christian honour of ourselves leads us to feel most deeply the taint and degradation of the sin which dwells in us, which is so unworthy of our redeemed station. Instead of feeling self-sufficient, we see that only in Christ, only as one of the ransomed family, as dwelt in by Him, as justified through Him, can we have hope. And thus we join ourselves to our brethren in Christ; we and they are one in hope, only we know more of our own loss and misery than we can know of theirs: and therefore we are lowly, and honour them in Christ, their God and ours. So also does a Christian honour of ourselves oppose itself to vanity. How to such an one can the ignorant applause of his fellows be anything but a mockery? Again, his reverence for the redeemed manhood in himself makes him fear lest sensuality should cloud it; lest it should be turned into the heaviest curse by separation from Christ. This makes him most tender of the welfare of the souls of others — he yearns over them; he would "eat no meat while the world lasteth," rather than make "a brother to offend."

2. And as honouring ourselves is the first rule that I would give, so the second is — seek to practise yourselves in honouring others. God has so formed us that our spiritual and moral cure is to be wrought by the blessing of His grace upon our practical efforts. We must gain tender, sympathetic hearts, hearts which indeed honour our brethren, not by cultivating abstract sensibilities, but by practising kindly actions.

(Bp. S. Wilberforce.)

"Honour all men Honour the king." It is the same word in both cases. Honour is the thing due to king and to man. But in the Greek the tense is different; honour all men as various occasions arise for it; but in the other three cases the object and the occasion are known; give present love and fear and honour to a visible brotherhood, and a present God, and a known ruler. It is as though the apostle prefaced the special precepts with this more general one. Honour all men everywhere; nothing is to annul this, the charter of the whole redeemed race; but specially love the Christian brotherhood, and fear the God so visibly present among them, and honour the appointed king.

1. Man is honourable among the creatures of God for his knowledge and power of thought. By the light of God that is in him, man sees God in the world of matter and life. The finger point of the most wise Artificer is upon every part.

2. But that which is at once the glory and the shame of man, is his power to choose, his will.

3. And this power of action is also a power of obedience to the law of God.

4. And, lastly, man is immortal. "God is not the God of the dead but of the living." We are immortal, for the hope of a future life, awakened and fostered by our Lord, cannot be meant to end in a delusion. Honour all men, then; honour those to whom God has given the discerning soul, and the deciding will, and the guiding conscience, and the inheritance of eternal life.

(Abp. Thomson.)

This was one of the rules which St. Peter gave to the Christians of his day. They were placed in the midst of Jews and heathens, On every side there were enemies, slanderers, persecutors; they were surrounded by foolish men living in fleshly lusts, froward and hard tempered — and yet with all this they were to honour all men. These were not excluded. It is a common thing for men to say that the rich and the clever despise the poor, ignorant, hard-working classes below them. Often that way of speaking is false. There are many exceptions to it. But often, we must confess with pain, it is true. Younger men among those classes have their favourite words of contempt by which they try to set themselves up above others, and to mark off those who are as much heirs of God's kingdom as they are themselves, as people to be laughed at or insulted. And so they do not honour all men. And this want of the will to honour affects all relations of life. It disturbs the peace and happiness of families. No position of life affords greater opportunities for exercising kindness than that of the master or mistress of servants — the employer of workmen. And yet everywhere we find the duties of that position neglected. Men do not "honour" those who are thus placed, by the providence of God, in dependence on them. Do not think that this commandment is easier for one class of men to perform than for others. Those who look up to most other men as being above them in rank and riches, are just as faulty in this matter as the haughtiest and highest. Many of you must feel in your heart of hearts that all the time when you have seemed outwardly most respectful, there has been no reality, no truthfulness in it. You have honoured not the man, but his money, or his station, or his opinions, or you have hoped to gain some thing from him, or you have been afraid of his displeasure. And that want of true honour which we note in these instances is seen yet more in the acts and the speech of poor men, too often even towards each other. Go into the streets and courts of any of our great cities; listen to the disputes which are to be met with at every corner, and what strikes one most is the abuse and scorn which men of the same class, who are fellow workers often, and have a common interest, pour out upon each other. They show no respect, no consideration, no "honour." One step further we must go to reach the worst form of the evil. In all ranks of society you will find men who ought to know better, who pride themselves on reading their Bibles, and keeping out of the sins of their neighbours, and caring for their own souls. They, we might think, will surely "honour all men," and that not with a false show of honour, but in earnest. A man's knowledge of the Bible may serve not to make him truer, better, severer in judging himself, but to give him greater cleverness in picking out texts against his neighbours. He loves to think of himself as chosen, saved from hell, and sometimes seems almost as if he liked to think also of other men as going the wrong way, so that he sees them led captive by the devil without any effort to save them, without doing anything to gain their affection and respect. I do not say that this evil is universal. Can you not imagine what a man would be in whose soul the words, "honour all men — all without exception — the youngest, the poorest, the most sinning," had been traced as with the finger of God, never to be blotted out? Would there not be in such a man an unequalled courtesy, a gentleness and yet openness of speech which would win all men's confidence? I can think of such an one in any station of life, as a man himself to be loved, trusted, honoured, Read St. Paul's Epistles, take that single letter even, which he wrote to Philemon, and tell me if you do not find there precisely such a character as that which I have tried to describe. See how he behaves to governors and kings and centurions, and captains of ships and gaolers and peasants, and everywhere you find the same freedom from all violence and selfishness and rudeness. And this, doubtless, was the secret of the wonderful power which he had over the hearts of other men, winning their respect even in spite of them, gaining affection and love from the roughest hearts which seemed at first dead to all such feelings. But there is a higher example in this matter, even than St. Paul's. Was there not in Jesus of Nazareth one Who was meek and lowly in heart, taking upon Himself the form of a servant that He might save all who were willing to come to Him? Here then, once for all, is an example of the width and depth of this commandment of God. And this which supplies the example furnishes also the motive. Do not think that St. Peter would have enforced the rule of honouring all men on those grounds on which we sometimes try to persuade our children or our dependents to be respectful. It was not because that was the way to lead a quiet life, to get on in the world: to gain the favour of the great, to avoid persecution and ill-will; but much rather because Christ had taught him to think of a Father in heaven, who was inviting all men to become His children; because he believed that Christ had come to redeem all men, to manifest Himself as their brother and their friend. How could he despise those whom the Lord had not despised? How could he refuse to honour one for whom Christ had not refused to suffer and to die?

(Dean Plumptre.)

No nobler tribute could be paid to a memory than that which was written of the martyred bishop, Pattison, by one of his simple converts in the Southern seas — "He did not despise anyone, nor reject anyone with scorn, whether it were white man or black man; he thought of them all as one, and he loved them all alike."

(Canon Duckworth.)

Among the many blessings of Christianity, I regard as not the least the new interest which it awakens in us towards everything human, the new importance which it gives to the soul, the new relation which it establishes between man and man. Christianity has as yet but begun its work of reformation. Under its influences a new order of society is advancing, surely though slowly; and this beneficient change it is to accomplish in no small measure by revealing to men their own nature, and teaching them to "honour all" who partake it. The soul is to be regarded with a religious reverence hitherto unfelt. There is nothing of which men know so little as themselves. Men have as yet no just respect for themselves and of consequence no just respect for others. The true bond of society is thus wanting, and accordingly there is a great deficiency of Christian benevolence. It may be said that Christianity has done much to awaken benevolence, and that it has taught men to call one another brethren. Yes, to call one another so, but has it as yet given the true feeling of brotherhood? Do we feel that there is one Divine life in our own and in all souls? Here is a tie more sacred, more enduring, than all the ties of this earth. Is it felt, and do we in consequence truly honour one another? Sometimes, indeed, we see men giving profound respect to their fellow creatures; but to whom? To great men; to men distinguished by a broad line from the multitude. But this is not to "honour all men," and the homage paid to such is generally unfriendly to that Christian estimate of human beings for which I am now pleading. The great are honoured at the expense of their race. They absorb the world's admiration, and their less gifted fellow beings are thrown by their brightness into a deeper shade, and passed over with a colder contempt. To show the grounds on which the obligation to honour all men rests, I might take a minute survey of that human nature which is common to all, and set forth its claims to reverence. But leaving this wide range, I observe that there is one principle of the soul which makes all men essentially equal, which places all on a level as to means of happiness, which may place in the first rank of human beings those who are the most depressed in worldly condition. I refer to the sense of duty, to the power of discerning and doing right, to the inward monitor which speaks in the name of God, to the capacity of virtue or excellence. This is the great gift of God. We can conceive no greater. Through this the ignorant and the poor may become the greatest of the race; for the greatest is he who is most true to the principle of duty. The idea of right is the primary revelation of God to the human mind, and all outward revelations are founded on and addressed to it., He in whom the conviction of duty is unfolded, becomes subject from that moment to a law, which no power in the universe can abrogate. He forms a new and indissoluble connection with God, that of an accountable being. He begins to stand before an inward tribunal, on the decisions of which his whole happiness rests; lie hears a voice, which, if faithfully followed, will guide him to perfection, and in neglecting which he brings upon himself inevitable misery. We little understand the solemnity of the moral principle in every human mind. Did we understand it, we should look with a feeling of reverence on every being to whom it is given. I proceed to observe that, if we look next into Christianity, we shall find this duty enforced by new and still more solemn considerations. This whole religion is a testimony to the worth of man in the sight of God, to the importance of human nature, to the infinite purposes for which we were framed. Men viewed in the light of this religion are beings cared for by God, to whom He has given His Son, on whom He pours forth His Spirit and whom He has created for the highest good in the universe, for participation in His own perfections and happiness. I estimate political revolutions chiefly by their tendency to exalt men's conceptions of their nature, and to inspire them with respect for one another's claims.

(W. E. Channing.)

Honour in a narrower sense is not universally due to all, but peculiar to some kinds of persons. Of this the apostle speaks (Romans 13:8). We owe not the same measure of esteem to all. We may, yea, we ought to take notice of the different outward quality or inward graces and gifts of men; nor is it a fault to perceive the shallowness and weakness of men with whom we converse, and to esteem more highly those on whom God hath conferred more of such things as are truly worthy of esteem. But unto the meanest we do owe some measure of esteem, first, negatively. We are not to entertain disdainful thoughts of any, how worthless and mean soever. We are also to observe and respect the smallest good that is in any. Although a Christian be never so base in his outward condition, in body or mind, yet they who know the worth of spiritual things, will esteem the grace of God that is in him, in the midst of all these disadvantages, as a pearl in a rough shell. The Jews would not willingly tread upon the smallest piece of paper in their way, but took it up, for possibly, said they, the name of God may be on it. The name of God may be written upon that soul thou treadest on. It may be a soul that Christ thought so much of, as to give His precious blood for it; therefore despise it not. Wheresoever thou findest the least trait of Christ's image, if thou lovest Him, thou wilt honour it. Or if there be nothing of this to be found in him thou lookest on, yet observe what common gift of any kind God hath bestowed on him, judgment, or memory, or faculty in his calling, or any such thing, for these in their degree are to be esteemed, and the person for them. Or imagine thou canst find nothing else in some men, yet honour thy own nature, esteem humanity in them, especially since humanity is exalted in Christ to be one with the Deity. Account of the individual as a man. The outward behaviour wherein we owe honour to all, is nothing but a conformity to this inward temper of mind; for he that inwardly despiseth none but esteemeth the good that is in the lowest, or at least esteemeth them in that they are men, will use no outward sign of disdain of any. He will not have a scornful eye nor a reproachful tongue to move at any, not the meanest of his servants, nor the worst of his enemies; but, on the contrary, will acknowledge the good that is in every man, and give unto all that outward respect that is convenient for them and that they are capable of, and will be ready to do them good as he hath opportunity and ability.

(Abp. Leighton.)

All mankind are to be honoured —

1. Because all men are the children of one Almighty Father, and were made originally in His glorious image.

2. Because all men were made of one blood.

3. Because all men are gifted with the same common immortality.

4. Because all men have been redeemed by one common Saviour.

5. Because all men are susceptible of the same spiritual and everlasting life.

(H. Stowell, M. A.)

Essex Remembrancer.

1. Superiors.

(1)In office.

(2)In rank and station.

(3)In talent and attainments.

2. Equals (Romans 12:10).

3. Inferiors. I remember to have heard a friend once say, after passing and noticing a poor man, "When I meet a human being I always wish to consider that I meet a brother."


1. The good. "Go and do likewise." You cannot honour a good man more than by treading in his steps.

2. The bad.

(1)By sincere pity and kind concern.

(2)By advice and counsel.

(3)By your prayers.

(4)By readiness to do them good.


1. Old age. The ancient Spartans were famous for the respect they paid to the aged; so that it was not unusual to say, "It is a pleasure to grow old in Lace demon." Let this pleasure be enjoyed by the aged among us.

2. The young are to be honoured by tender and faithful solicitude for their welfare; by a concern for the right formation of their characters, and the fixing of right principles in their minds. And if they are yet under authority, by affectionate care of them, their persons, their morals, their company, their habits, and especially their souls.


1. The afflicted. Bear one another's burdens. Mutual sympathy is mutual honour.

2. The prosperous. You will honour yourself, as well as your neighbour, when you rejoice in his prosperity, and feel your own happiness increased by witnessing his.

3. The perplexed. Feel for and assist them.

4. Relations and strangers, countrymen and foreigners, those who belong to our own party or denomination and those who belong to others, all have some claim upon us. More especially let us honour an upright conscience wherever it exists, although its conclusions may be different from our own.

(Essex Remembrancer.)

Both creation and redemption teem with evidences that God sets a high value on His creature man. All the relations and uses of minerals, plants, and animals have been arranged for man's benefit; for no other creature is capable of observing or turning them to account. But the grandest evidence of the value which God sets on man appears in the mission, ministry, and sacrifice of Christ. So high in heaven was the estimate of even ruined man, that when no other price could buy the captive back the Son of God gave Himself, the just for the unjust. Value highly immortal beings made in their Creator's likeness, and capable yet of living to His praise. We act according to our estimates. Estimate humanity aright in the habit of your hearts, and your conduct will fashion itself naturally accordant, as a river finds its way to the sea. Value the whole man, and not merely a part. In particular, and for obvious practical purposes, value his soul as well as his body, and his body as well as his soul. So did Christ; and therefore so should we. The body's sufferings did not occupy His attention to the neglect of the soul's sins; the soul's sins did not occupy His attention to the neglect of the body's sufferings.

(W. Arnot.)

There is no respect of persons with God, and there should be none with men. When you fail to value aright any man or class of men, you are fighting against God, and will certainly be hurt. Nothing is gained by a false estimate of the value of any man. The circles of Providence, like the celestial bodies, correct aberrations, and right themselves as they go round. Value the young. How precious these germs are! They will be the men and women of the generation when we become children again. Value the poor and ignorant. In that state Christ valued you, believer. He did not pass you because you were worthless. Value the rich. He is as precious as the poor, and will be as worthy, if he is redeemed, when he walks with his Redeemer in white. Value the vicious. Although they wallow in a deep mire today, they have fallen from a high estate, and may yet regain it. That poor staggering drunkard is worth more than worlds, if he were won. They who hope in Christ should not count any case hopeless. Value yourself. Do not hold yourself cheap, ye who may have Christ for your brother and heaven for your home.

(W. Arnot.)

1. As made in the image of God.

2. As capable of heaven.

3. As having some special talent to trade with.

(J. Trapp.)

Dr. Joseph Parker says there are two ways of accosting a poor man — one which tells him he is a man and another which only tells him he is poor.

M. Boudon, an eminent surgeon, was one day sent for by the Cardinal du Bois, prime minister of France, to perform a very serious operation upon him. The cardinal, on seeing him enter the room, said to him, "You must not expect to treat me in the same rough manner you treat your poor miserable wretches at your hospital of the Hotel Dieu." "My lord," replied M. Boudon with great dignity, "every one of those miserable wretches, as your Eminence is pleased to call them, is a prime minister in my eyes."

(J. Percy.)

It is said of Burns the poet, that walking along the streets of Edinburgh with a fashionable acquaintance, he saw a poorly dressed peasant, whom he rushed up to and greeted as a familiar friend. His companion expressed his surprise that he could lower himself by speaking to one in so rustic a garb. "Fool!" said the poet, with flashing eye, "it was not the dress, the peasant's bonnet and hodden gray, I spoke to, but the man within — the man who beneath that bonnet has a head, and beneath that hodden gray a heart better than a thousand such as yours."

(J. C. Lees, D. D.)

At this time the great majority of human beings was neglected and despised by the wise and learned, as well as dishonoured and oppressed by the rich and powerful and governing classes. With feelings of reverence and awe the traveller gazes, not only on the crumbling shrine and hallowed dust of Iona, but on the ruins, accursed and hopeless though they be, of wicked Nineveh and proud Babylon. But here is a ruin in which God once dwelt, and in which He desires yet again, and eternally, to dwell. Surely it is not for those whom grace, and grace alone, has saved from a like degradation, to exult over the desolation, or even to pass it by with indifference. "Honour all men" — if not for what they have made themselves, at least for what the Creator and Redeemer designed them to be. Honour that kindly thought of God toward them by striving, as best you may, for its realisation. And, when all your efforts seem to prove abortive, still honour it, and the objects of it, by your prayers and tears.

(J. Lillie, D. D.)

Love the brotherhood
As the clouds which soar in the air are to the universal mass of waters, so are the brotherhood of God's renewed children to the whole human family. Of mankind these brothers are in origin and nature; but they have been drawn out and up from the rest by an unseen omnipotent law.

1. Love to the brotherhood is an instinctive emotion. It is not an accident, but a nature. It springs in renewed hearts, as love of her offspring springs in a mother's breast. It is the result not of an artificial policy, but of a natural law. The new creature exercises instincts as well as the old.

2. The Lord Jesus was not satisfied with the measure of this affection which existed among His followers during His personal ministry. "That they all may be one," was His prayer; "Love one another," was His command.

3. Those who are destitute of this affection themselves are acute enough to observe the want or weakness of it in Christians.

4. Brotherly love among Christians, when it really exists, honours the Lord and propagates the gospel. It has convinced many who resisted harder arguments.

5. It is the most pleasant of all emotions to the person who exercises it.

6. Love of the brotherhood is the command of God, and, consequently, the duty of men; but another thing goes before it to prepare its way. Before you can love the brotherhood, you must be a brother. It is the new creature that experiences this hallowed affection.

(W. Arnot.)

(with 1 Peter 1:22): — There is a great difference between loving "the brethren" and loving "the brotherhood." "The brotherhood" is the society of "the brethren" — the Church. Each needs the other. "The love of the brotherhood" divorced from "the love of the brethren" will always lead to superstition, to an undue reverence for form and custom, to some sort of tyranny. "The love of the brethren" separated from "the love of the brotherhood" will always minister to foolish divisions, to confusion of faith, to ecclesiastical anarchy. St. Peter, who said "Love the brotherhood," said also "Love as brethren."

1. We ought to love the brethren. Religion is for men. The mission of the Church is to help everybody who needs help. There is constant need of humanising the work of the Church, that is, of emphasising the supreme purpose for which the Church exists — to make the world better.

2. On the other hand, while we ought to love the brethren, we ought also to love the brotherhood. Christ Himself directs us to "hear the Church." The customs of the ancient society, the ways of the Church, ought not to be readily laid aside. The probability is that the brotherhood is wiser than any of the brethren.

(Bp. Hodges.)

Now of the obligation of this duty there are two main grounds — goodness and nearness.We must love the brotherhood for their goodness. All goodness is lovely. There groweth a love due to every creature of God from this, that every creature of God is good. Some goodness God has communicated to everything to which He gave a being: as a beam of that incomprehensible light, and a drop of that infinite ocean of goodness, which He Himself is. But a greater measure of love is due to man than to other creatures, by how much God hath made him better than them. And to every particular man that hath any special goodness in him there is a special love due. He that hath good natural parts, if he have little in him that is good besides, yet is to be loved even for those parts, because they are good. He that hath but good moralities only, leading a civil life, though without any probable evidences of grace appearing in him, is yet to be loved of us, if but for those moralities, because they also are good. But he that goeth higher, and by the goodness of his conversation showeth forth the graciousness of his heart, deserveth by so much a higher room in our affections than either of the former, by how much grace exceedeth in goodness both nature and morality. Since then there is a special goodness in the brethren in regard of that most holy faith which they possess, and that blessed name of Christ which is called upon them, we are therefore bound to love them with a special affection. The other ground of loving the brotherhood is their nearness. The nearer, the dearer, we say; and there are few relations nearer than that of brotherhood. But no brotherhood in the world is so closely and surely knit together, and with so many and strong ties, as the fraternity of Christians.

1. We are brethren by propagation. Children of the one eternal God, the common Father of us all, and of the one Catholic Church, the common mother of us all. And we have all the same elder brother, Jesus Christ, the firstborn among many brethren.

2. We are brethren by education - foster brethren; as Herod and Manaen were. They that have been nursed and brought up together in their childhood for the most part have their affections so seasoned and settled then that they love one another the better while they live.

3. We are brethren by covenant, sworn brothers at our holy baptism, when we dedicated ourselves to God's service as His soldiers by sacred and solemn vow. Do we not see men that take the same oath pressed to serve in the same wars and under the same captains?

4. We are brethren by cohabitation. We are all of one house and family; not strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God. Lastly, we are brethren by partnership in our Father's estate. Co-partners in the state of grace; all of us enjoying the same promises, liberties, and privileges whereof we are already possessed in common; and co-heirs in the state of glory, all of us having the same joy, and everlasting bliss in expectancy and reversion. Having all these obligations upon us, and being tied together in one brotherhood by so many bands of unity and affection, I presume we cannot doubt but that it is our bounden duty thus to love the brotherhood. There remaineth now no more to be done but to look to our performances that they be right. Not but that we may make a difference between one brother and another in the measure and degree of our love, according to the different measures and degrees, either of their goodness considered in themselves or of their nearness in relation to us.

(Bp. Sanderson.)

No one will deny that these emphatic words express a great leading principle of the gospel. But in order to respond, in heart and conduct, to this teaching of St. Peter we must understand what the brotherhood is; we must know something of its institution; we must be assured of its continued existence; we must be instructed in the purposes which it has to fulfil, and in the powers and privileges with which it is endowed. On all these points the first Christians had a more perfect, because a more practical, knowledge than Christians in general have now. To them the brotherhood was not an abstract speculation, but a thing of life and reality. They were required to consider it, act towards it; and they did so. But now the case is different, In the present state of the Christian world the generality of Christians have no practical acquaintance with the brotherhood as such; at least they are not conscious of any. It is to them a thing invisible, inaudible, unapproachable; and so indeed they call it. They cannot therefore act towards the brotherhood as a whole, but only towards individuals. When they see a man leading a holy life, sound in the faith, they love him as a brother in the Lord. And they do well. But it is one thing to love a brother, or a number of brethren, as individuals, and another thing to love the brotherhood itself. And the difference is most important. For on the one hand, though we should love numberless individuals, on account of their personal graces, yet this would never lead us on to the love of the brotherhood as such; whereas if we begin by loving the brotherhood, then our love will manifest itself towards all those who belong to it. But we are to observe another vast difference, in a practical point of view. Consider the many good offices which Christians are encouraged to seek at each other's hands, and of which they stand so greatly in need in their present condition as strangers and pilgrims upon earth — exhortation, admonition, edification in the truth, guidance, governance, consolation, reproof, intercession, cooperation. All these most necessary offices would, if faithfully discharged, keep alive in us a constant sense of mutual dependence, and quicken mutual love. But how lamentably are they neglected. And why are they neglected? We think of each other not as members and representatives of our holy brotherhood, but as individuals. The feelings of love which would lead us to seek whatever help we severally require, are not indeed destroyed in us; but for the most part they now spring from nothing deeper than our own opinion (based on our own limited experience) of each other's character; and therefore one while they are powerless, bearing no fruit at all, and another while they are mischievous and their fruit unwholesome. What, then, is to become of those strong affections which are ever seeking some object whereon to rest in peace and security? He who knows our wants, has also abundantly provided for them. He has taught us not to place our hope of guidance and protection in this man or that, or in any number of men; but to seek a nobler alliance, and make a more exalted choice. It is not the might, nor the multitude, nor the wisdom, nor the talents, nor the piety of men, which He hath set before us as the best object of our present love and confidence; but it is communion with Himself our Heavenly Father, and with the holy angels, and with the spirits of the just made perfect, and with all good men on earth, by the Holy Ghost, in the mystical body of Christ. Here is an object worthy of our hearts, and able to satisfy their wants; here is the brotherhood which St. Peter bids us love — the great Christian brotherhood, the communion of saints, the Church of the living God. But this brotherhood being so high and holy a thing, how and where can it be seen on earth? The first Christians loved the brotherhood in its outward and visible parts — in its members, its ministers, its sacraments, its ordinance, and its laws; loved it, I say, and sought it, revered, believed, obeyed it, for the sake of the Awful Presence which they knew to be dwelling in it, and acting by and through it. In its weak, despised, and suffering appearance, they saw the marks of the Lord Jesus, the humiliation of His Cross; in its energy and holiness, its victories and conversions, they beheld the power of His resurrection. Him they beheld in all its ways and works; and therefore all its ways and works were precious in their sight. No wonder that they loved the brotherhood; for in its prayers, its sacraments, its ministry, they heard the prevailing intercession, the pardoning voice, the life-giving truth — they saw the dispensing hand, the protecting arm, the all-judging eye, the gracious yet most awful form of their ascended Saviour. In a word, they saw in it His chosen representative — the Apostolic Church, by which He completes on earth His three-fold office of Prophet, Priest, and King. So when those early believers came themselves to be admitted into this glorious brotherhood, though men were the instruments by whom the gate of baptism was opened to them, yet were they well assured that their election was of God. Well might they set themselves in earnest to follow their heavenly profession, knowing the grace to which they had been called, labouring to make their calling and election sure, trembling at the bare imagination of letting slip so great salvation. For truly they found themselves in the midst of heavenly sights and heavenly sounds, which many prophets and kings bad desired to see and hear, but had not seen or heard: they found themselves called to the enjoyment of those promises which the saints of old had seen afar off. Such was the Christian brotherhood to the first followers of Christ, when its members were few, its outward condition weak, despised, oppressed. Now it has gone forth into all lands, and gathered into itself many people, and it is oppressed no longer. Is it then to us the same inestimable treasure which it appeared to the first Christians? Alas! far otherwise. The world, in drawing near to it, has too often flung over it the shadow of its own bad principles and unrighteous practices, and thereby has partially obscured its brightness. Many even of its own children regard it rather as a useful instrument of man than as a great unsearchable mystery of God, But still, we humble trust, the presence of the Lord abideth in it. Still it has peace and plenteousness for those who will repose in it with calm believing hearts. Only let us have faith to use the light and strength which yet remains-and more may perhaps be given us. Only let us "love the brotherhood" in the day of its humiliation, and show our love by eschewing those things that are contrary to our profession, and following all such things as are agreeable to the same; and then, unworthy as we are, we may even be allowed to contribute something, if it be but a prayer, towards the renewal of its life and vigour.

(R. Ward, M. A.)

Fear God
There are two principal species of fear, as we may readily perceive by consulting our own emotions — the fear of apprehension, and the fear of respect. The first has for its foundation that evil which he who is feared can inflict; the second arises from the high idea we have of him for whom we entertain this sentiment. The first is exercised towards a being who, we suppose, has the will and the power to hurt us; the second is felt when, apprehending nothing from his anger, we entertain esteem and veneration for him.

1. Let us commence with the fear of respect. This is always felt by the true believer. Can he avoid feeling it, when he views on one hand the splendour of the perfections of God, and on the other his own littleness and baseness?

2. With respect to the fear of apprehension, which has as its foundation the evils which God can inflict on us, it is of two different kinds; we may fear to offend and displease God, and we may fear to be punished for it. When the former is the motive of this fear, it is called filial fear, because it is the sentiment of an affectionate child towards its parent. This fear has as its source love and gratitude.

3. With respect to the other kind of fear of apprehension, that which is founded only on the dread of future punishment, it is (considered absolutely and in itself) neither morally good nor evil. Not morally good, since we see it every day felt by the most wicked, and since the devils themselves tremble under it. Not morally evil, since it is a sentiment that reason would require; since God has used the threatenings of this punishment to deter men from sin. It becomes morally good only when united with filial fear. It is morally evil when accompanied with love of sin, with distrust, and despair. It then acquires the name of servile fear.

(H. Kollock, D. D.)

1. There is, first of all, a fear of God which to me appears to be a reproduction, measure, or colour of the national life, different as the nations differ. I believe it to be impossible to bring a Frenchman and a German, or a Scotchman and an Irishman, or any two men that reach back into a radical difference of race, to regard God in the same way.

2. But, in our own nation, where so many nativities centre, the idea of God and the consequent fear of God differ very greatly. The first and lowest form is a fear of God as a gaoler and executioner, who stands and waits until that sure detective, Death, shall hunt the criminal down and bring him into court. The pagan, on this plane of belief, is wiser than the Christian. He says boldly that the doer of this is the evil spirit, and so he tries to be on good terms with him. But wherever such a fear has a real place in the soul of man or woman, African, Indian, or Saxon, in that soul the love of God, or even a true fear of God, is utterly out of the question. It destroys every fair blossom of the soul; it leaves nothing to ripen, nothing beautiful even to live.

3. Then, to the eye of the resolute Christian thinker — who dares not, as Coleridge has said, "love even Christianity better than the truth, lest he shall come to love his own sect better than Christianity, and at last himself better than all" — there is another form of the fear of God, not the best by far, but far better than this utterly slavish fear. I mean that in which God becomes the embodiment of pure bargain, exacting from us to the uttermost penny whatever is due. Here God appears with tie guards and sanctities of the law about Him, self-imposed and self-respected. The man need not contract the debt if it does not please him, but if he does contract it he must pay, or another must pay for him. Then the Son of the Great Creditor gives His own body to the knife, and bears the intolerable agony instead of the debtor. Now there is a touch of sublimity in this conception. Yet when we come to question the system it will not stand. The moment you open the idea with the master key of the Fatherhood of God you begin to see that it cannot be true.

4. But a far higher fear of God is to fear Him as we fear the surgeon who must cut out some dreadful gangrene in order to save the life, Such a fear as this really touches the outskirts of love — it is love and fear blended. When I went to Fort Donelson to nurse our wounded men, it was my good fortune to be the personal attendant of a gentleman whose skill as a surgeon was only equalled by the wonderfully deep, loving tenderness of his heart, as it thrilled in every tone of his voice and every touch of his hand. And it all comes up before me now how he would come to the men, fearfully mangled as they were, and how the nerve would shrink and creep, and how, with a wise, hard, steady skill he would cut to save life, forcing back tears of pity only that he might keep his eye clear for the delicate duty, speaking low words of cheer in tones heavy with tenderness; then, when all was over, and the poor fellows, fainting with pain, knew that all was done that could be done, and done only with a severity whose touch was love, how they would look after the man as he went away, sending unspoken benedictions to attend him. Now a fear like this is almost the loftiest fear of God that has come to the human soul.

5. Then, finally, there is a fear of God which is more of love than fear — a fear that has no torment. There is an inspiration by which our duties rise up before us, vested in a nobleness like that which touches the landscape for a great painter. The true artist works ever with a touch of fear. He stands at his task, his heart trembling with the great pulses of his conception. He is fearful exactly as he sees the perfection of the thing he is trying to embody. Now, believe me, God hides some ideal in every human soul. At some time in our life we feel a trembling, fearful longing to do some good thing.

(R. Collyer, D. D.)

Honour the king
For the coherence of these words with the former, note —

1. That the duties to God and our neighbours, the duties of the first and second table, are to accompany one another; they must not be sundered (1 John 4:21).(1) This rebuketh such as make show of great zeal in the duties to God and of His worship, but in the meantime make no conscience of deceiving, oppression, falsehood, backbiting, idleness, etc.(2) This rebuketh also such as are very civil and just in their dealings, sure of their word, and kind neighbours, and yet make no conscience of the duties of the first table.

2. That the knowledge and fear of God is the fountain of all our duties to men in their several places. None can be a good servant, one to be entrusted with business of weight, with hope of blessing, but such a one as feareth God; so no man can truly honour the king and be an absolute good subject except he fear God.Uses:

1. Let all that fear God show it in their several places by the performance of their duties to men, especially of subjection to their governors, that so they may bring the same in esteem, and procure credit thereto.

2. Would any be good subjects, let them begin at the right end, perform their duties in the right manner, even for conscience sake, as being required of God.

3. Magistrates are to trust those most which do most fear God, and accordingly to use them kindly and countenance them as being indeed their most loyal subjects; yea, to further the gospel what in them lies, whereby people may be brought to fear God.

(John Rogers.)

The most unreasonable things in the world become most reasonable because of the unruly lives of men. What is less reasonable than to choose the eldest son of a queen to guide a State? For we do not choose as steersman of a ship that one of the passengers who is of the best family. Such a law would be ridiculous and unjust, but since men are so themselves, and ever will be, it becomes reasonable and just. For would they choose the most virtuous and able, we at once fall to blows, since each asserts that he is the most virtuous and able. Let us then affix this quality to something which cannot be disputed. This is the king's eldest son. That is clear, and there is no dispute. Reason can do no better, for civil war is the worst of evils.

(Blaise Pascal.)

Servants, be subject to your masters.
The word here rendered servants means not slaves in the strict sense of the term, but domestic servants — hence the exhortation is the more applicable to our own age and country.


1. "Servants, be subject to your masters in all fear." Let not the service you render be constrained and forced, but ready and joyous, remembering that, however humble, it is ennobled by religion.

2. But to what extent are they to submit? Has God placed you under a master who is exacting and ungenerous? act worthily of your profession, and show that master that there is something real in religion.

3. A cogent reason is assigned. "For this is thank-worthy" — literally grace — "if a man for consciousness of God endure grief, suffering wrongfully."

II. THE EXAMPLE of the Lord Jesus is set before us as the ground on which the submission should be practised.

(Thornley Smith.)

I. THEIR DUTY. Be subject. Keep your order and station under your masters, and that "with fear" and inward reverence of mind and respect to them, for that is the very life of all obedience. Do faithfully to your utmost that which is entrusted to you and obey all their just commands, and suffer patiently even their unjust severities. But, on the other side, this does not justify nor excuse the unmerciful austerities of masters. It is still a perverseness in them, as the original word is here, and must have its own name, and shall have its proper reward from the sovereign Master and Lord of all the world.

II. THE DUE EXTENT OF THIS DUTY. "To the froward." It is a more deformed thing to have a distorted, crooked mind, or a froward spirit, than any crookedness of the body. How can he that hath servants under him expect their obedience when he cannot command his own passion, but is a slave to it? And unless much conscience of duty possess servants, more than is commonly to be found with them, it cannot but work a master into much disesteem with them when he is of a turbulent spirit, a troubler of his own house. The Christian servant, however, who falls into the hands of a froward master will not be beaten out of his station and duty of obedience by all the hard and wrongful usage he meets with, but will take that as an opportunity of exercising the more obedience and patience, and will be the more cheerfully patient because of his innocence, as the apostle here exhorts. All men desire glory, but they know neither what it is nor how it is to be sought. He is upon the only right bargain of this kind "whose praise is not of men, but of God." If men commend him not he accounts it no loss, nor any gain if they do, for he is bound for a country where that coin goes not, and whither he cannot carry it, and therefore he gathers it not. That which he seeks in all is that he may be approved and accepted of God, whose thanks are no less to the least of those he accepts than a crown of unfading glory. Not a poor servant that fears His name and is obedient and patient for His sake but shall be so rewarded.

III. THE PRINCIPLE OF THIS OBEDIENCE AND PATIENCE. "For conscience towards God." This imports, first, the knowledge of God and of His will in some due measure, and then a conscientious respect unto Him and His will so known, taking it for the only rule in doing and suffering.

1. This declares to us the freeness of the grace of God in regard to men's outward quality, that He doth often bestow the riches of His grace upon persons of mean condition. He hath all to choose from, and yet chooses where men would least imagine (Matthew 11:25; 1 Corinthians 1:27).

2. Grace finds a way to exert itself in every estate where it exists, and regulates the soul according to the particular duties of that estate. A skilful engraver makes you a statue indifferently of wood or stone or marble, as they are put into his hand; so grace forms a man to a Christian way of walking in any estate. There is way for him in the meanest condition to glorify God and to adorn the profession of religion; no estate so low as to be shut out from this; and a rightly informed and rightly affected conscience towards God shows a man that way and causes him to walk in it.

3. As a corrupt mind debaseth the best and most excellent callings and actions, so the lowest are raised above themselves and ennobled by a spiritual mind.An eagle may fly high and yet have its eye down upon some carrion on the earth; even so a man may be standing on the earth, and on some low part of it, and yet have his eye upon heaven and be contemplating it. "For conscience."

1. In this there is, first, a reverential compliance with God's disposal, both in allotting to them that condition of life, and in particularly choosing their master for them, though possibly not the mildest and pleasantest, yet the fittest for their good.

2. In this there is, secondly, a religious and observant respect to the rule which God hath set men to walk by in that condition, so that their obedience depends not upon any external inducement, failing when that fails, but flows from an inward impression of the law of God upon the heart.

3. In this there is a tender care of the glory of God and the adornment of religion.

4. There is, lastly, the comfortable persuasion of God's approbation, as is expressed in the following verse, and the hope of that reward He hath promised. "Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the inheritance, for ye serve the Lord Christ" (Colossians 3:24).

(Abp. Leighton.)

I. RELIGION BROUGHT INTO THE LITTLE THINGS OF LIFE. It does not merely include duties unto kings, but duty towards lesser lords. We may learn from this —

1. That religion applies to all classes and conditions of men. Each state of life has its own little kingdom, its own little world.

2. That nothing is too insignificant to be brought under the power of Divine direction.

II. PRINCIPLE SUPERSEDING COMPULSION. In this verse the apostle establishes one of the most important principles of morality — that our obligations to relative duties are not to be gauged by the character of the person to whom they are performed.

1. It is not utility that should regulate our conduct. The will of the world is to discard that which is not useful or profitable.

2. It is not comfort that is to direct our lives.

3. It is not force that is to drive.

4. It is neither the fear nor the love of man that moves.

III. OBEDIENCE INDEPENDENT OF CIRCUMSTANCES. Masters, like kings, differ. Some are reasonable and kind, others are unreasonable and bitter. Is a servant only to serve them who are fair and kind? By no means. The reason is explained when we come to realise that the present is of very little moment to show who serve Christ.

(J. J. S. Bird.)

Suffering wrongfully
It may be asked whether the advice of St. Peter to submit quietly to wrong does not destroy manliness and force of character if it is acted on? Does it not tend to create a race of effeminate, spiritless men? This question involves another. In what does moral strength consist? It is sometimes taken for granted that moral strength must catch the eye, must inflict itself on the imagination; that it must be something bustling, demonstrative, aggressive; that it must at least have colour, body, muscle, to recommend it. This is not the ease. Moral strength, in its very finest forms, may be the reverse of all this; when it makes no show, and is passive, it is often at its best. Many a man who can act with great courage in moments of great personal danger, in a struggle with a brigand, or in a burning house, cannot go through an illness as bravely and patiently as a little girl. The hardest thing often is to do nothing, to await the approach of danger or of death, and yet not to lose nerve and self-possession. No moral strength in the whole history of mankind ever equalled that which was displayed on Calvary, where all that awaited Him was present from the first to the mind of the Divine victim, "who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered He threatened not, but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously" (1 Peter 2:23). Nothing that has been said will be so greatly misconstrued as to be taken to imply that cruelty, tyranny, oppression, can be agreeable to the mind of God. He permits these things among men from time to time, just as He permits much else that is evil for His own wise ends. He brings good out of them, yet He condemns them. By and by He will punish them. Nowhere is it implied in the Bible that the systems involving the oppression of man by man have vested rights in the moral universe, or that the circumstances which permit it are even tolerable, unless they are perpetuated for very different purposes indeed. The days will come when Englishmen will look back to the abolition of the slave trade by the English Parliament as a greater title to glory than was Trafalgar or Waterloo; as among the very greatest in the course of our history. Wilberforce and Clarkson will rank even before those celebrated commanders, to whose courage and genius, under God, we owe the independence of our country. Among yourselves there are probably some who, for conscience toward God, endure grief, suffering wrongfully. There are no slaves, thank God, on English soil, but there are multitudes of persons in positions of dependence whose lives can easily be made miserable by the cruel ingenuity of their betters, and too often for no worse crime than that of obeying a higher sense of right. Every rank in society has its petty tyrants and its secret confessorships; to suffer wrongfully for conscience toward God is the monopoly of no one class. Here is a cadet of a noble family who will not consent to a transaction which he knows to be unjust, and he is cut off with a shilling. There is an apprentice or clerk in a large city house who will not abandon the duties or restraints of a Christian life in deference to pressure or abuse or ridicule from his companions, and he has a hard time of it. Yonder is a governess who has learnt a higher estimate of life and duty than her wealthy and ostentatious employer; or a clergyman who feels too keenly the real character of Divine revelation and the tremendous issues of life and death to acquiesce in some popular but shallow misrepresentation of the gospel which makes his people comfortable without bringing them nearer to God. These, and such as these, must, "for conscience toward God, endure grief, suffering wrongfully." Law can do but little for them; the province of law lies outside the spheres of the heart and the conscience; the whole world of motive is beyond it. But religion can do much, or rather everything, by pointing to the crucified and risen Prince of that vast company in all ages who have cared less to avoid discomfort than to be true to known truth and duty; by pointing to the unapproached bitterness of His sorrow, and to the completeness and splendour of His triumph.

(Canon Liddon.)

Where shall we look for an explanation of God's permission of prevalent injustice and wrongful suffering in the world? Some have sought an explanation in the circumstance that all have sinned, and therefore all deserve to suffer. This affirmation is undoubtedly true, yet it offers no kind of solution to the problem. Nor does the promise of the ultimate termination of all evil in the world, or the promise of the future reversal of all present injustices, or the final recompense of the righteous, offer a perfect solution of the mystery of present wrongful suffering. All these promises shed some light of comfort on the mystery; they also help the sufferers to endure their wrongful sufferings gloriously; but they do not explain why the patient endurance of such wrongful sufferings is permitted by, and especially acceptable unto, God. And perhaps no sufficient explanation is possible in our present darkened and limited condition of existence. And, for anything we know to the contrary, the present exercise of simple faith may be, through all eternity, of such unspeakable value to man that injustice and wrongful suffering may be permitted by God chiefly for the sake of the training and development of simple, victorious faith. There is, however, another blessing of injustice which lies within our ken and is perfectly manifest. It is the splendour of spiritual character, which is engendered by injustice and wrongful suffering; and which, as far as we can see, is never engendered in any other way. As the finest gold is the gold most heated in the furnace, so the finest souls are the souls whose furnace in life has been the hottest. Without burning and welding, human souls inevitably continue gross and feeble. If when we commit a fault and are buffeted for it we take it patiently, there is no glory in patience like that. The finest spiritual glory requires a furnace heated with injustice and wrong to make its splendour and its strength appear. The very injustice which is a curse to the soul of him who commits it is transfigured by patient endurance into a blessing and a glory to the soul of him who suffers it. Not those who merely suffer, but those who suffer wrongfully, have perfect fellowship with the sufferings of Christ. And the patient endurance of such sufferings, because of the strength and glory which it imparts to the souls of His greatest children, is acceptable and well-pleasing unto God.

(Canon Diggle.)

The words imply —

1. That man has a conscience.

2. That conscience sometimes leads to suffering.

3. That sufferings that spring from the following out of a good conscience are reasons for gratitude. "This is thank worthy."


1. Of the spiritual over the material.

2. Of the right over the expedient.

3. Of the Christly over the selfish.



(D. Thomas, D. D.)

A minister was asked by a Quaker lady, "Dost not thee think that we can walk so carefully, live so correctly, and avoid every fanaticism so perfectly, that every sensible person will say, 'That's the kind of religion I believe in'?" He replied, "Sister, if thee had a coat of feathers as white as snow, and a pair of wings as shining as Gabriel's, somebody would be found somewhere on the footstool with so bad a case of colour blindness as to shoot thee for a blackbird."

(King's Highway.)

Ye take it patiently
Patience is the endurance of any evil, out of the love of God, as the will of God. The offices of patience are as varied as the ills of this life. We have need of it with ourselves and with others; with those below and those above us, and with our own equals; with those who love us and those who love us not; for the greatest things and for the least; against sudden inroads of trouble, and under our daily burdens; disappointments as to the weather or the breaking of the heart; in the weariness of the body or the wearing of the soul; in our own failure of duty or others' failure towards us; in everyday wants or in the aching of sickness or the decay of age; in disappointment, bereavement, losses, injuries, reproaches; in heaviness of the heart or its sickness amid delayed hopes, or the weight of this body of death, from which we would be free, that we might have no more struggle with sin within or temptation without, but attain to our blessed and everlasting peace in our rest in God. All other virtues and graces have need of patience to perfect or to secure them. Patience interposes herself and receives and stops every dart which the evil one aims at them. "Patience is the root and guardian of all virtue"; impatience is the enemy of all. Impatience disquiets the soul, makes her weary of conflict, ready to lay aside her armour and to leave difficult duty. Impatience, by troubling the smooth mirror of the soul, hinders her from reflecting the face of God; by its din it hinders her from hearing the voice of God. How does it shake faith to be impatient of evils, either in the world or in the Church, or those which befall a person's own self! How does impatience with others' defects chill love, or impatience with even our own failings and shortcomings extinguish hope! To be impatient at blame is a blight to humility; at contradiction, destroys meekness; at injuries, quenches long suffering; at sharp words, mars gentleness; at having one's own will crossed, obedience. Impatience at doing the same things again and again hinders perseverance; impatience of bodily wants surprises people into intemperance or leads them to deceive, lie, steal. "In patience," our blessed Lord tells us, "possess ye your souls." By patience we have the keeping of our own souls; we command ourselves, anal our passions are subdued to us; and "commanding ourselves, we begin to possess that which we are." Patience, then, is the guardian of faith, the fence of love, the strength of hope, the parent of peace. Patience protects humility, keeps meekness, is the soul of longsuffering, guides gentleness, strengthens perseverance. Patience makes the soul to be of one mind with God, and sweetens all the ills of life. It casts the light of heaven upon them and transforms them into goods. It makes the bitter waters sweet; the barren and dry land fruitful. Desolation it makes a loneliness with God; the parching of sickness to be the fire of His love; weakness to be His strength; wounds to be health; emptiness of all things to have things from Him; poverty to be true riches; His deserved punishments to be His rainbow of mercy; death to be His life.

(E. B. Pusey, D. D.)

Writing, probably from Rome — certainly in one of the closing years of his life — St. Peter saw the great tendency of social and political circumstances around him towards that great outbreak of violence against the worshippers of Christ which is known in history as the first persecution, in which he and St. Paul laid down their lives. He is anxious to prepare the Asiatic Christians for the trials which are before them. Then, as now, there were bad Christians who fell under the just sentence of the criminal law, and St. Peter reminds them that there is no moral glory in suffering that which we have deserved, even though we take our punishment uncomplainingly. "What glory is it if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently?" But he knows also that aggravated sufferings awaited numbers of inoffensive men and women, whose only crime would be that they were worshippers of the meek and lowly Jesus, and centres of light and goodness in a corrupt and demoralised society. When the storm burst, as it would burst, they might be tempted to think that the government of the world was somehow at fault in this award of bitter punishment to virtuous and benevolent persons, conscious of the integrity of their intentions — conscious of their desire to serve a holy God — to do any good in their power to their fellow creatures. Accordingly, St. Peter puts their anticipated, trials in a light which would not, at first sight, present itself, and which does not lie upon the surface of things. "If, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God." There is a peculiar moral glory in patience under unmerited wrong, if not according to any human, yet certainly according to a Divine, standard. "This is acceptable with God." Now, many men have said, and more, perhaps, have thought, about such teaching as this, that it is a splendid paradox. That a criminal should suffer what he has deserved satisfies the sense of justice. That a good man should suffer what he has not deserved violates the sense of justice; and if he submits uncomplainingly he acquiesces in injustice. Nay, he does more: he forfeits the independence — the glory — of his manhood. The precept to take it patiently is, in a word, objected to as effeminate and anti-social. Now, here it must be remarked, first of all, that for serious Christians this question is really settled by the precepts and example of our Lord Himself. "Even hereunto were ye called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example," etc. In His public teaching our Lord made much of patient submission to undeserved wrong. He pronounced those men blessed who suffered for righteousness' sake. Not in exemption from suffering, but in truthful endurance, would His true followers find their peace. "In your patience possess ye your souls." Nay, more. Christians, He says, are to welcome such trials. They are to meet the persecutor half way. They are to do good to them that hate them, to pray for their persecutors, etc. And in perfect harmony with this teaching is His own example. Well, it is this sinless being who is also the first of sufferers. Nothing was wanting, humanly speaking, to make patience impossible. The natural sensitiveness of His tender frame, the ingenious appliances of torture, such as a crown of thorns pressed down upon the head and the temples, the coarse brutality of His executioners, the vivid consciousness of the sufferer sustained from moment to moment, might well have exhausted patience. And what His mental sufferings must have been we may infer distantly from the agony in the garden. But St. Peter directs especial attention to the insults to which our Lord was subject, and which may have tried His patience even more than the great sorrows of His soul or the tortures of His body. "When He was reviled He reviled not again; when He suffered He threatened not, but submitted Himself to Him that judgeth righteously." No complaint, properly speaking, escaped Him. Certainly, He asked the soldier who struck Him on the face for the reason of the act. He for a moment broke His majestic silence in His compassion to this poor man's insensibility to natural justice, and perhaps also in order to show that if when suffering more He did not complain, it was not because His feeling was dulled, but only what was due to patience. For Christians, then, I say, the question whether patience under undeserved wrong is right — is a duty — is not an open question. It has been settled by the highest authority — our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. From His teaching there is no appeal In His example we Christians see the true ideal of human life. "As He is, so are we in this world." And yet if, for Christians, the question is not an open one, the very authority which settles it enables us to see some reasons for the decision. Indeed, our Lord teaches us by His sufferings more than in any other way. By these He reveals to us the love of God: by these He points to the value of heaven. These sufferings are the measure of the gravity of our sins, of the miseries of hell, of the solemnity of life. But beyond this our Lord gives us lessons about pain. The existence of pain in the world is a fact which has from the earliest ages attracted and perplexed human thought. What is it in itself? It is a certainty both to feeling and to thought, and yet it is beyond analysis; and its inaccessibility to any real examination adds to its mysteriousness with all thoughtful minds, and increases the anxious interest with which it is regarded. It is ubiquitous: it is importunate: it meets us everywhere: it leaves us today only that it may return tomorrow. In this vast district of human experience deism sees, however reluctantly, an unexplained libel upon the character of God — atheism a hideous flaw, which, however bound up with the order of nature, impairs and disintegrates it. The Greeks talked much of a Divine Nemesis, a word which has played a great part in human thought; but Nemesis was not merely Divine justice overtaking human crime: it was also a malignant envy which grudged man his power or his good fortune, and which humbled him accordingly. Heathendom saw that there was a connection between pain and conscience. It had very indistinct ideas of the nature of this connection. What it was exactly revelation must say. Accordingly in the Old Testament there is one predominating aspect of the moral use of misfortune and pain. It is the punishment of sin. The righteousness of God is the great feature of the Jewish revelation of God. God is power; God is intelligent; but above all else God is righteousness. And it is in accordance with His righteousness — not, observe you, as the caprice of an arbitrary will, but in deference to the unalterable necessities of our self-existing moral nature — that He inflicts pain and misfortune as punishment for sin. This faith that pain justly follows misdoing, because God who governs all is righteousness and could not have it otherwise, runs through the Old Testament. It dictates the law: it is illustrated again and again in the history: it is the keynote to more than half the Psalms: it supplies the prophets with their greatest inspirations. But although it is true that sin is followed by punishment, because God is righteousness, it does not follow that all human suffering in this life is a punishment for sin. Against this idea the Old Testament itself contains some very emphatic protests. Thus the Book of Job has for its main object to show theft Job's misfortunes are no real measure of his sins. And when Psalmists could say, "It is good for me that I have been in trouble," or "The Lord hath chastened and corrected me, but He hath not given me over unto death," or "All Thy waves and storms are gone over me," it is clear that already a new light was breaking upon the world. But it was by our Lord that the cloud was fully lifted from this great district of human experience, so that we are now able to map it out, and to discover its bearings, and turn it to practical account. Our Lord does not reverse what the old dispensation had taught as to the penal object of a great deal of human pain, but He also rules that much pain is strictly a discipline — a Father's discipline of His children. Pain may thus be a token of favoured sonship; and, if so, then to pass through life without pain may be anything but an enviable lot. "If ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards and not sons, for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?" Pain thus need not be an enemy: it may be a friend in disguise: at least it may become so. Why should it not be welcomed? This is the voice of Christian teaching. Why, like the natural elements, fire and water, should it not be taken in hand and conquered and made the most of? Why should we not get out of it all the disciplinary and purifying virtue that we can, and so turn the scourge into a blessing? And if the question be asked by some anxious soul, "How am I to know? Is this unjust humiliation, or this insult, or this loss of means, or this illness, or this heartache, a punishment for past sin or a tender discipline?" the answer is, "Conscience must itself reply." Here, then, is the answer to the criticism on St, Peter's precept, to which I was referring just now. There may be cases in which the interests of truth and righteousness — the interests of others — may make resistance to oppression a duty. They are rare, indeed. As a rule, trouble and pain are to be taken patiently as coming from God, inflict them who may. The early Christians were men who felt they had nothing to do either with the legal government of the Roman Empire or with the moral government of the universe. All that they knew was that they had to suffer for being what they were, and for believing what they did believe. The only question with them was how to suffer. And as for society, society has been again and again purified, regenerated, saved, by the passive endurance, as distinct from the active struggles, of its very best members. And let me make two remarks in conclusion. In this glad acceptance of undeserved pain we see one of the central forces of the Christian religion by which, as a matter of fact, it made its way among men eighteen centuries ago and ever since. Literature, social prestige, political influence, were all against the Church; but in the long run the old empire was no match for a religion which could teach its sincere votaries, generation after generation, to regard pure suffering as a privilege, as a mark of God's favour, as a pledge of glory. Depend upon it patient, cheerful acceptance of suffering is a great force which achieves more than many active energies that command the attention of mankind. And if this way of taking the troubles which are laid upon us supplies Christianity with its force, so it secures to human life its best consolations. We live in an age of progress. The circumstances under which we pass life are being brought more and more under the control of man; but is there less suffering in the wend than there was a hundred years ago? Looking to the present state of the world, is there likely to be? I fear not. Even science, which does so much for us, shifts the scene of suffering, rather than diminishes its area. What is taken away by one hand is returned by the other. If disease is assuaged, life is prolonged under conditions which, in an unscientific age, would have been fatal to it, and which necessarily involve suffering. And human nature does not change. The same principles and passions and dispositions which, needlessly or intentionally, inflict suffering on others are at work now, although their operation is limited by improvements in human society. Some of us may be young and lighthearted, and may not yet know what real trouble and pain mean. We shall know in time. The lesson comes to most men early enough in life, whether inflicted by others or, as more frequently, direct from above. The important point is to be prepared for it when it does come, to see in it the hand of our Father in heaven, to thank Him for treating us thus as children, for punishing, for purifying us here, that He may in His mercy spare us hereafter.

(Crown Liddon.)


1. The not entertaining the impression of injuries with acrimony of thought and internal resentment.

2. The not venting any such resentment in virulent vindictive language.


1. From the peculiar provoking quality of ill language.

2. Because nature has deeply planted in every man a strange tenderness of his good name, which, in the rank of worldly enjoyments, the wisest of men has placed before life itself. For, indeed, it is a more enlarged and diffused life, kept up by many more breaths than our own.

III. BY WHAT MEANS A MAN MAY WORK HIMSELF TO SUCH A COMPOSURE AND TEMPER OF SPIRIT, AS TO BE ABLE TO OBSERVE THIS GREAT AND EXCELLENT DUTY. And here, when we consider what obstructions are to be conquered and removed, we must acknowledge that nothing under an omnipotent grace can subdue the heart to such a frame. To discommend this, of returning railing for railing, slander for slander, both to our practice and affection, I shall fasten only upon this one consideration; namely, that it is utterly useless to all rational intents and purposes.

1. The first reason that would induce a man, upon provocation, to do a violent action by way of return, should be to remove the cause of that provocation. But the cause that usually provokes men to revile, are words and speeches; that is, such things as are irrevocable. Such a one vilified me; but can I, by railing, make that which was spoken, not to have been spoken? Are words and talk to be reversed? Or can I make a slander to be forgot, by rubbing up the memory of those that heard it with a reply?

2. Another end, inducing a man to return reviling for reviling, may be by this means to confute the calumny, and to discredit the truth of it. But this course is so far from having such an effect, that it is the only thing that gives it colour and credibility; all people being prone to judge, that a high resentment of a calumny proceeds from concernment, and that from guilt; which makes the sore place tender and untractable.

3. A third end for which a man may pretend to give himself this liberty is because in so doing he thinks he takes a full and proper revenge of him that first reviled him. But certainly there is no kind of revenge so poor and pitiful; for every dog can bark, and he that rails makes another noise indeed, but not a better.

(R. South, D. D.)

The word patience hath in common usage a double meaning, taken from the respect it hath unto two sorts of objects somewhat different. As it respecteth provocations to anger and revenge by injuries or discourtesies, it signifieth a disposition of mind to bear them with charitable meekness; as it relateth to adversities and crosses disposed to us by Providence, it importeth a pious undergoing and sustaining them. That both these kinds of patience may here be understood, we may, consulting and considering the context, easily discern.


1. A thorough persuasion, that nothing befalleth us by fate, or by chance, or by the mere agency of inferior causes, but that all proceedeth from the dispensation or with the allowance of God.

2. A firm belief that all occurrences, however adverse and cross to our desires, are well consistent with the justice, wisdom, and goodness of God.

3. A full satisfaction of mind that all (even the most bitter and sad accidents) do (according to God's purpose) tend and conduce to our good.

4. An entire submission and resignation of our wills to the will of God, suppressing all rebellious insurrections and grievous resentments of heart against His providence.

5. Bearing adversities calmly, cheerfully, and courageously, so as not to be discomposed with anger or grief; not to be put out of humour, not to be dejected or disheartened; but in our disposition of mind to resemble the primitive saints who "took joyfully the spoiling of their goods," who "accounted it all joy when they fell into divers tribulations."

6. A hopeful confidence in God for the removal or easement of our afflictions, and for His gracious aid to support them well; agreeable to those good rules and precepts: "It is good that a man should both hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord"; "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him"; "Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart."

7. A willingness to continue, during God's pleasure, in our afflicted state, without weariness or irksome longings for alteration.

8. A lowly frame of mind (that is, being sober in our conceits of ourselves, sensible of our manifold defects and miscarriages; being meek and gentle, tender and pliable in our temper and frame of spirit; being deeply affected with reverence and dread toward the awful majesty, mighty power, perfect justice and sanctity of God; all this wrought by our adversity, effectually, according to its design, softening our hard hearts, mitigating our peevish humours.

9. Restraining our tongues from all discontentful complaints and murmurings, all profane, harsh expressions, importing displeasure or dissatisfaction in God's dealings toward us, arguing desperation or distrust in Him.

10. Blessing and praising God (that is, declaring our hearty satisfaction in God's proceedings with us, acknowledging His wisdom, justice, and goodness therein, expressing a grateful sense thereof, as wholesome and beneficial to us) in conformity to Job, who, on the loss of all his comforts, did thus vent his mind: "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."

11. Abstaining from all irregular and unworthy courses toward the removal or redress of our crosses; choosing rather to abide quietly under their pressure, than by any unwarrantable means to relieve or relax ourselves.

12. A fair behaviour toward the instruments and abettors of our affliction; those who brought us into it, or who detain us under it, by keeping off relief, or sparing to yield the succour which we might expect; the forbearing to express any wrath or displeasure, to exercise any revenge, to retain any grudge or enmity toward them; but rather even on that score bearing goodwill, and showing kindness unto them.

13. Particularly in regard to those who, by injurious and offensive usage, do provoke us, patience importeth —(1) That we be not hastily, over easily, not immoderately, not pertinaciously incensed with anger toward them.(2) That we do not in our hearts harbour any ill will, or ill wishes, or ill designs toward them, but that we truly desire their good, and purpose to farther it as we shall have ability and occasion.(3) That in effect we do not execute any revenge, or for requital do any mischief to them, either in word or deed; but for their reproaches exchange blessings (or good words and wishes), for their outrages repay benefits and good turns.

14. In fine, patience doth include and produce a general meekness and kindness of affection, together with an enlarged sweetness and pleasantness in conversation and carriage toward all men; implying that how hard soever our case, how sorry or sad our condition is, we are not therefore angry with the world, because we do not thrive or flourish in it; that we are not dissatisfied or disgusted with the prosperous estate of other men; that we are not become sullen or froward toward any man because his fortune excelleth ours, but that rather we do "rejoice with them that rejoice"; we do find complacence and delight in their good success; we borrow satisfaction and pleasure from their enjoyments.

II. THE EXAMPLE OF OUR LORD WAS INDEED IN THIS KIND THE MOST REMARKABLE THAT EVER WAS PRESENTED, the most perfect that can be imagined; He was, above all expression, "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief"; He did undertake, as to perform the best works, so to endure the worst accidents to which human nature is subject; His whole life being no other than one continual exercise of patience and meekness, in all the parts and to the utmost degrees of them.

(Isaac Barrow, D. D.)

I. THE SPECIAL BEAUTY OF CHRISTIAN BEHAVIOUR. "This is the grace or beauty."

1. The disciple of Christ does not act from motives of expediency, but from principle.

2. The disciple of Christ does not pursue pleasure or ease, but duty.

II. THE EXCITING MOTIVE WHICH PROMPTS THE ATTAINMENT OF THIS CHARACTER. He will know that he is pleasing God. He will realise that God is the avenger.

III. THE NATURAL ARGUMENT TO BE SPECIALLY CONSIDERED. "For what glory is it," etc. This is an urgent and important warning and caution. It urges discrimination and self-examination with regard to our sufferings.

(J. J. S. Bird.)

Acceptable with God
"This is acceptable with God." And the Greek might bear such a rendering as this: "God says, Thank you." Yes, so it is. If in some great house some poor servant, or if in a school some persecuted child, will dare, for God's sake, to choke back the passionate outburst of indignation, and to endure grief, suffering wrongfully, there is a thrill of delight started through the very heart of God, and from the throne God stoops to say, "Thank you." The hero explorer may be thanked by his country and his Queen, but the weakest and obscurest saint may receive the thanks of the Almighty.

(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

Even hereunto were ye called.
God has ordained that all His shall suffer troubles, therefore we are to look for them, and bear them patiently. Through many afflictions we must enter into the kingdom of heaven. God knows how ill we can bear prosperity, but are ready to surfeit thereof, as children do of sweetmeats. Standing waters gather mud. As the Israelites in their journey to Canaan suffered much, so must we in this tabernacle, before we come to heaven; thus is God pleased to exercise us for His own glory and our good.Uses:

1. We must not think the worse of any because of their afflictions, or conclude them to be bad men and hypocrites, which was the fault of Job's friends.

2. We must not think the better of ourselves for prosperity. God can afford the dogs the bones, the things of this world.

3. We must not dislike ourselves for our afflictions. It is an argument of God's love, not of His hatred (Hebrews 12:6). To have afflictions and to profit thereby is the sign of a happy man.

4. We must prepare for afflictions, not dreaming for ease; they are the better borne when looked for.

5. We must bear them patiently, as being of God.

6. We must bear them thankfully, as whereby we are furthered in holiness.

7. We must bear them joyfully, in respect of the eternal happiness and immortal glory we shall be shortly brought to.

8. If the children of God get not to heaven but through many sorrows, what shall then become of the wicked and ungodly (1 Peter 4:18; Jeremiah 25:29; Jeremiah 49:12)?

(John Rogers.)

Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example
"He suffered for us"; it was during His agony in the garden that our Lord appears to have been most deeply penetrated with the sense of His afflictions.

I. THE INTENSITY OF THOSE SUFFERINGS which our Saviour experienced in the garden of Gethsemane; and,

II. WHAT HIS CONDUCT UNDER THOSE SUFFERINGS OUGHT TO TEACH US. There is, perhaps, no circumstance of the gospel at which our reason is so inclined to cavil, as the affliction which our Saviour then experienced. We cannot understand how it is possible that the Messiah, who is "one with the Father," should be thus liable to grief, and thus deeply moved at the prospect of His approaching persecutions. Our difficulty here results from our utter inability of forming any notion of the infinite magnitude of the Divine power, We can understand that in the Majesty of the Deity, He should hold pain and sorrow as His subjects; but we cannot understand His rendering Himself subject to them. We are unable to conceive that exercise of His power by which He manifested Himself as entire a master of His own infinite attributes, and withdrew Himself, as it were, from the sustaining succours of His eternal Godhead, that, as a man, He might suffer for our redemption. Yet this is what our Saviour did. If we were merely to confine ourselves to temporal views, and exclude all consideration of the spiritual cause of our Lord's sufferings, it may even then be with truth affirmed that such an accumulation of woes was never brought to bear at one moment on one man. He knew to a certainty that He had no deliverance to look for; that Judas, His companion, would betray Him; that the princes and rulers would condemn Him; that the people would reject Him and save Barabbas; and that His enemies would heap their persecutions upon Him to the last. In the mere anticipation of what He was about to undergo, our Redeemer had full cause for the agony which He experienced and expressed in the garden of Gethsemane. But, with such aggravations suggested by His own prophetic spirit as no other man ever knew, Jesus was cut off by the very sublimity and holiness of His character, from a source of succour which, under similar circumstances, has often afforded relief to other men. If they do not actually extract the sting of human suffering, they serve to divert the thoughts, and thus to allay the pain of it. But what are those passions? They are either a sullen pride which will not allow the afflicted under any circumstances to confess themselves subdued; or a fierce resentment which induces them to baffle the malice of their enemies by opposing a mask of obstinate insensibility to every attack; or an empty vanity which leads them in the lowest depths of wretchedness, and on the very borders of the grave, to angle for the applauses of the world by putting on a light appearance of unconcern. But whatever support such feelings might afford to others, they could have afforded none to Jesus in the hour of His agony. They are repugnant to the dispositions by which His gentle heart was animated. But it may be conceived that Jesus, under all His troubles, might still have found relief in the consciousness of His innocence. If there are occasions when this reflection may prove a source of secret comfort to the sufferer; there are others when it serves as the severest aggravation to his misery. If an elder brother who had mercifully interposed to save the children of their common parents from destitution, who had succeeded in placing them in a prosperous condition, should, after all, detect them conspiring with his enemies to malign and ruin him, would it be any consolation to reflect that he had not deserved such treatment at their hands? Even so must the consciousness of His innocence have affected the heart of Jesus. It must have been the most galling addition to the weight of those oppressions which were heaped upon Him by His countrymen. The consideration that they, who would be the authors of His oppressions, ought to have been bound together by the remembrance of His loving kindnesses, as His firm protectors, must have struck far deeper into His heart than ever the soldier's spear wound in His side could pierce. But not only on His own account: His compassionate nature would grieve for others; for His disciples, whom the profession of the faith in His name should render obnoxious to the enmity of their friends, and expose to persecution. But, as yet, we have only surveyed our Saviour's agony in the garden as resulting from human feelings. We will now proceed to regard it as affected by those views which would have been suggested by the religious aim of His approaching passion. Our Saviour, by His death upon the Cross, was about to pay the price of the transgressions of the whole world. He was about to suffer for our sins; and those sins for which His death was demanded, would naturally engage His contemplations. He would now see before Him the multitude of those offences for which a sacrifice was to be offered; the heinousness of them; the outrage that they were against the majesty of God; the ruin, the destitution which they had spread over the face of the earth; and the weight of the punishment they deserved. The bare idea of any one of those wicked acts which are daily committed by the cruel or the impure, is hateful to every innocent mind. What horror then must necessarily have filled the soul of our Saviour when, not singly, but in their aggregate amount, those mortal offences were brought before His holy view, as He estimated the extent of the ransom which was due, and which He had Himself undertaken to discharge? But our Lord thus "suffered for us," says St. Peter in my text, "leaving us an example that we should follow His steps." The lessons which His sufferings ought to teach us:

1. We should learn from them to submit ourselves in every condition of life with an unreserved obedience to the will of the Almighty.

2. We should learn from our Lord's conduct never to despair of the loving kindness of our Heavenly Father, but to rely upon His unfailing goodness; to look to Him for succour and relief; and to feel assured that, if He see not fit to remove our cause of sorrow, He will, in His infinite mercy, answer our prayers for assistance, by vouchsafing to our souls the ability to support it.

3. We should learn humility from the example of our Saviour's sufferings.

4. We should learn from our Lord's example the extent of that Christian love which, as His disciples, we are bound to bear our fellow creatures. Our Lord suffered for us. He exhibited, in dying for us, the fulness of that brotherly charity with which our hearts should glow towards each other. He condemned every affection which emanates from a selfish and ungenerous source, by His willing immolation of Himself for the sins of the world that had condemned Him. His thus dying for us teaches us not only the value we ought to set upon our own salvation, but the value we ought to set upon the salvation of others.

(W. Harness, M. A.)

The first reason for the gift of the Incarnate Son to a perishing world, is that He might be a sacrifice for its sin. The second reason is, that He might be an ensample of godly life to those who believe in Him. We sinners cannot invert the order, and say that He was given, first as our example, and secondly as our sin offering before God. For we cannot imitate Him until He has redeemed us from the power and guilt of sin; the first need of a sinner is pardon and moral freedom, the second, the ideal of a new life.

I. WHY WE NEED SUCH AN EXAMPLE AT ALL. Let us ask ourselves what it is which makes human nature radically different from that of any of the creatures that surround us. The great characteristic of man is the possession of free will. The growth of the human body indeed is as little within man's control as is that of an animal. But human character, and so much of the bodily life as bears on character, is as much under our control as are the canvas and the colours under that of a painter. Our passions, our inclinations, our thoughts, our sympathies, our antipathies, our habits, are at the disposal of our wills; we are what we have gradually made ourselves. Man, then, is an artist. And as an artist he needs not merely the material out of which to mould some expression of thought, but an example, an ideal, to copy. It may indeed be asked whether it will not do as well to obey a precept as to copy an example. Example, it is said, is vague; precept is explicit. Precept is active; it seeks you out and addresses you. Example is passive; it lets you imitate if you will. Example merely says, "This may be done because it has been done." Precept says, "Do it." No, you especially who, as parents or masters, are responsible for influence on others; assuredly, no. Example goes further than precept. Precept leads us to the foot of a precipitous mountain, and it cries, "Scale that height." But example whispers: "Mark what I do, and then do it; it cannot be hard for you since it is easy for me, Look how I step over that crevice, and rest on this projecting foothold, and tread lightly and quickly along that insecure bit of the path. Watch me; keep close to me. Then all will be well in the end."

II. We do then need an example, and OUR LORD HAS SATISFIED THIS NEED OF OUR NATURE AND COMPLETELY. In Him we have before us an example which is unique. He passed through life in the humblest circumstances: yet He belongs to the human race. He alone in the world is the universal man; He is the one man who corresponds to that ideal of humanity of which there are traces in the minds of all of us; He is the great example.

1. That which strikes us, first of all, in the example which He has left us, is its faultlessness. We are startled by His own sense of this. He never utters one word to the Father or to man which implies the consciousness of a defect. "I do always those things that please the Father." "The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me." Was this an illusion, or did it correspond with the fact? He was surrounded by jealous observers. He could reckon on no forbearance, no generosity, no equity, in His opponents. Yet He passed their criticism unscathed. "Which of you," He could say, "convinceth Me of sin?" And there was silence. In this sinlessness He is, although our model, yet beyond our full reach of imitation. The best of men knows that in his best moments he is beset by motives, or thoughts, or inclinations, from which Christ was utterly free. But this does not destroy, it rather enhances, the value of our Lord's example. In all departments of thought and work, the ideal is, strictly speaking, unattainable by man; yet man should never lose sight of it.

2. We are struck by the balance and proportion of excellences in our Lord's human character. As a rule, if a man possesses some one excellence in an unusual degree, he will be found to exhibit some fault or shortcoming in an opposite direction. Our finite and fallen nature exhausts itself by an effort in a single direction; it would almost seem bound to atone for a temporary success by some compensating failure. Of this want of balance in excellence, of this exaggeration in particular forms of excellence which entails an accompanying defect, there is no trace in our Lord. Read His life over and over again, with this point in view; and nothing will strike you more than its faultless proportions. In so vast a field, take one illustration out of many: the balance which He keeps between severity and tenderness.

3. Consider again a feature which runs through His whole character: its simplicity. In nothing that He says or does can we detect any trace of contrivance or of aiming at effect. He takes the illustrations which come ready to His hand, or which meet His eye: the birds of the air, the rain, the red and lowering sky, the lily, the grain of mustard seed, the corn, the ruined tower of Siloam. On these He grafts this or that fragment of eternal truth. We cannot enrich His teaching by any additions. Our crude efforts could not but disfigure its incomparable beauty. As with His words, so is it with His actions. He acts with a view to the glory of God the Father, and with a view to nothing else. Hence a directness and transparency in His conduct, which we feel in every detail of it.

4. One further point to be remarked in our Lord's example is the stress which it lays upon those forms of excellence which make no great show, such as patience, humility, meekness, and the like. As we read the gospels, we are led to see that the highest type of human excellence consists less in acting well than in suffering well. It is this side of His example of which St. Peter is thinking as being so useful to the Christian slaves to whom for the moment he is writing (ver 23). Christ had before Him a purpose of infinite beneficence; that of recovering man to God and to endless happiness. Yet in carrying it out He met with scorn, resistance, hatred, persecution. Yet no unkind or impatient word falls from Him. He bears in silence the contradiction of sinners against Himself. He prays, "Father, forgive them." He is obedient unto death. "Leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps." "Yes," it is said, "it is a beautiful, a transcendental picture; and if Christ were merely man, we might perhaps imitate Him! But then He is God as well as man; and this seems to remove Him from the category of beings whom man can imitate. His theological glory in the fourth gospel is fatal to His moral value as a human model in the first three." The difference between Jesus Christ and ourselves is indeed infinite; it is the difference between the Creator and the creature. And yet He is also truly man; and for the purposes of imitation the truth of His manhood secures all that we require. For the purposes of imitation, He is practically not more out of our reach than is a father of great genius and goodness out of the reach of his child. Certainly we cannot imitate Jesus Christ when He heals the sick, or raises the dead. But we can enter into and cherish the spirit of those high works of mercy. We can do the natural kindnesses which are akin to them. And there are deeds and words of His which we can copy in the letter as well as the spirit. Indeed, the objection has been already solved by the experience of eighteen centuries. The imitation of Christ is the perpetual source of saintly effort in the Church of Christ. Generation follows generation, looking unto Jesus. One man says, I will imitate His patience; and another, I will copy His humility; and a third, I would practise, though afar off, His obedience; and a fourth, His love for men; and another, His simplicity; and another, His benevolence; and another, His perpetual communion with the Father; and another, His renunciation of His Own will. When one point is gained, others follow. Thus, little by little, "Christ is formed," in the characters of His servants. This imitation of our Lord is not a duty which we are free to accept or decline. "The elect," says St. Paul, "are predestined to be conformed to the image of the Son of God." If there is no effort at conformity, there is no true note of predestination. A devoted layman of the Church of England said on his deathbed, that, on reviewing his life, the omission which he chiefly deplored was that he had not made a daily effort to study and imitate Jesus Christ as He is described in the gospels. Is not this a common omission even with serious Christians? Should we not do what we may, while yet we may, thus to follow in the footsteps of the Perfect Man?

(Canon Liddon.)

"The Christian is the noblest type of man," says our Christian poet; and, assuredly, if the Christian be, in any extent, a reflection of the spirit of Christ, this language must be true. Whatever the grace we seek to inculcate we may find in Him a perfect illustration. Amid all life's trials, perplexities, temptations, and requirements we can have no law so suited to every occasion as this: "Let the same mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus."


II. THE ESSENTIAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE MORALITY WHICH THE WORLD PROFESSES TO HONOUR AND THAT OF THE GOSPEL, IS TO BE FOUND IN THE ENDEAVOUR OF THE LATTER TO REFLECT THE MIND OF CHRIST AS IT ACTUALLY EXISTS. I do not mean, of course, the morality of pure selfishness — if it be worthy the name of morality at all — which is all that numbers would acknowledge, but that which is cultivated by those who would develop a character higher than the Christian — the morality of the "Religion of Humanity," and of those who hang on its outskirts, approaching more or less nearly to its ideas. What is it, and how does it differ from that which the Church of Christ commends to the acceptance of men? It is clear that up to a certain point there is no outward difference. The law of truth, righteousness, sobriety is common to both. Further, the morality outside the Church is different from that which was in the world before the gospel, in that it has incorporated with its precept that law of gentleness, mercy, self-forgetfulness which was first set before men in the life of the Lord Jesus. Here, then, is likeness so great, that there are some only too eager to conclude that they are the same. These are the graces for which we seek lofty aims, pure desires, gentle thoughts, loving deeds. What can Christianity do more? Alas! has it not failed even to do as much? Without entering at length into the controversy here, it is at all events clear to those who will look beneath the surface, that this is not Christianity. The characteristic of the Lord was that the zeal of God's house had eaten Him up. In other words, the central idea of His life was to please God. It would be misleading in the very highest degree to describe a life out of which this ruling idea of the Saviour's conduct, this inspiration of His whole being, was omitted as Christlike. The difference is an essential one. It goes to the root of the whole being, affects every motive, touches every principle, regulates the whole ambition of the soul.

III. ONE OF THE FIRST AND MOST FREQUENT CHARGES AGAINST THE TEACHING OF THE CHURCH IS, THAT IT ENCOURAGES A SELFISH TYPE OF RELIGION. A grave impeachment this, and one which, if sustained, certainly indicates a separation from the spirit of Christ. It is a mere truism to say that there is no feature more prominent in His entire ministry than that of unselfishness. The one ruling thought of His life on earth was the salvation of others, and the sacrifice of Himself for this end. And as with His life, so with His teaching; it was full of emphatic warnings repeated against selfishness. This certainly, is lost sight of in too many of the current representations as to the nature of salvation. How often is the stress of exhortation laid upon happiness, whether here or hereafter, rather than upon holiness as the supreme object of Christian endeavour! Nay, how often is the idea of salvation almost restricted to this one point of deliverance from the wrath of God and the sentence of the law!

IV. IN THE DISTINCTNESS AND PROMINENCE GIVEN TO THE THOUGHT, THAT THE OBJECT OF THE GOSPEL IS TO CHANGE THE CONDITION OF MEN ONLY BY A CHANGE AMOUNTING TO AN ENTIRE RENEWAL OF HEART IN THE MEN THEMSELVES, IS TO BE SOUGHT THE TRUE ANSWER TO THE SUGGESTION THAT THE CHURCH IS ONLY FOSTERING A HIGHER TYPE OF SELFISHNESS. Looked at thus, salvation is the richest blessing which can be conferred upon man. It means salvation from himself — from the evil heart of unbelief which makes him depart from the living God; but which also places him in selfish antagonism to his fellowmen; from the sway of passions which scorn all restraints of right and duty; from the curse of a restless, discontented, repining, ambitious heart. The effect of a work like that can be only to purify and ennoble the character. Its polar star is no longer happiness but duty, and duty defined for it by its understanding of the will of God.

V. THE QUESTION WHICH IS OF GRAVE AND CRITICAL IMPORTANCE, IS WHETHER THE CHURCH IS EARNESTLY WORKING TO THIS IDEAL, AND SEEKING TO ENFORCE IT UPON MEN. It is not to be denied that there are those whose only desire is for safety, and who wish to secure even that at the least possible cost, and that they do very much to awaken the prejudices of men by the representation they give of Christian life. It is, in truth, little better than a ghastly caricature. They are not distinguished from others by nobility of character, generosity of spirit, tenderness of heart, active and sympathetic charity. They are not courageous in their assertion of principle, still less are they foremost in the exposure and condemnation of wrong. They have not keen instincts of justice, still less have they strong impulses of benevolence. If they try to reach the average standard of service, they never exhibit a spirit of self-denying devotion. Yet with all this there may be unctuous words on their lips, and occasionally an apparent spiritual excitement. But the conscience is not sensitive; the heart is not tender; perhaps there is not an intelligent conception of what religion ought to be. If we could probe their principles and motives, we should probably find that they had accepted the selfish conception of religion. They want to be sure for eternity, and they endeavour to obtain this assurance by a rigid conformity to their ideas of the Divine requirements. It is from professors of this type, who are not so uncommon as we should desire, that unbelievers take their conceptions of the Christian ideal. "These," they would say, "are your saints. In what are they better than those whom they would describe as sinners? They may seek a different kind of happiness, but the one class is as selfish in its views and aims as the other. If this be Christianity, there is in it nothing to awaken our reverence or constrain our faith." The only answer that can be found is the exhibition of a different spirit. It is for us to meet, by publishing the gospel of the kingdom that Christ died, rose, and lives again, that He may be the Lord both of the dead and living; that they only eat of the tree of life who keep His commandments; that the test of discipleship is obedience, conformity to the example He has given, that we may follow in His steps.

(J. G. Rogers, B. A.)

Christ came to give us a religion — but this is not all. By a wise and beautiful ordination of providence, He was sent to show forth His religion in Himself. Christianity is not a mere code of laws, not an abstract system, such as theologians frame. It is a living, embodied religion. It comes to us in a human form; it offers itself to our eyes as well as ears; it breathes, it moves in our sight. The importance of example who does not understand? The temptation is strong to take, as our standard, the average character of the society in which we live, and to satisfy ourselves with decencies and attainments which secure to us among the multitude the name of respectable men. On the other hand, there is a power in the presence, conversation, and example of a man of strong principle and magnanimity, to lift us, at least for the moment, from our vulgar and tame habits of thought, and to kindle some generous aspirations after the excellence which we were made to attain. I hardly need say to you, that it is impossible to place ourselves under any influence of this nature so quickening as the example of Jesus. This introduces us to the highest order of virtues. This is fitted to awaken the whole mind. There is one cause, which has done much to defeat this good influence of Christ's character and example, and which ought to be exposed. It is this. Multitudes think of Jesus as a being to be admired, rather than approached. I wish to prevent the discouraging influence of the greatness of Jesus Christ, to show that, however exalted, He is not placed beyond the reach of our sympathy and imitation.

1. I begin with the general observation, that real greatness of character, greatness of the highest order, far from being repulsive and discouraging, is singularly accessible and imitable, and, instead of severing a being from others, fits him to be their friend and model. Greatness is not a secret, solitary principle, working by itself and refusing participation, but frank and open hearted, so large in its views, so liberal in its feelings, so expansive in its purposes, so beneficent in its labours, as naturally and necessarily to attract sympathy and cooperation. It is selfishness that repels men; and true greatness has not a stronger characteristic than its freedom from every selfish taint. A superior mind, enlightened and kindled by just views of God and of the creation, regards its gifts and powers as so many bonds of union with other beings, as given it, not to nourish self-elation, but to be employed for others, and still more to be communicated to others. I know not in history an individual so easily comprehended as Jesus Christ, for nothing is so intelligible as sincere, disinterested love. I know not any being who is so fitted to take hold on all orders of minds; and accordingly He drew after Him the unenlightened, the publican, and the sinner. It is a sad mistake, then, that Jesus Christ is too great to allow us to think of intimacy with Him, and to think of making Him our standard.

2. Let me confirm this truth by another order of reflections. You tell me that Jesus Christ is so high that He cannot be your model; I grant the exaltation of His character. I believe Him to be a more than human being. But on this account He is not less a standard, nor is He to discourage us, but on the contrary to breathe into us a more exhilarating hope; for though so far above us, He is still one of us, and is only an illustration of the capacities which we all possess. This is a great truth. Let me strive to unfold it. Perhaps I cannot better express my views, than by saying that I regard all minds as of one family. When we speak of higher orders of beings, of angels and archangels, we are apt to conceive of distinct kinds or races of beings, separated from us and from each other by impassable barriers. But it is not so. There is no such partition in the spiritual world as you see in the material. All minds are essentially of one origin, one nature, kindled from one Divine flame, and are all tending to one centre, one happiness. I am not only one of the human race; I am one of the great intellectual family of God. There is no spirit so exalted, with which I have not common thoughts and feelings. That conception, which I have gained, of one universal Father, whose love is the fountain and centre of all things, is the dawn of the highest and most magnificent views in the universe; and if I look up to this being with filial love, I have the spring and beginning of the noblest sentiments and joys which are known in the universe. No greatness therefore of a being separates me from Him, or makes Him unapproachable by me. The mind of Jesus Christ and your mind are of one family; nor was there anything in His, of which you have not the principle, the capacity, the promise in yourself. This is the very impression which He intends to give. The relation which He came to establish between Himself and mankind, was not that of master and slave, but that of friends. We read too these remarkable words in His prayer for His disciples, "I have given to them the glory Thou gavest Me"; and I am persuaded that there is not a glory, a virtue, a power, a joy, possessed by Jesus Christ, to which His disciples will not successively rise. In the spirit of these remarks, the apostle says, "Let the same mind be in you which was also in Christ." I have said that, all minds being of one family, the greatness of the mind of Christ is no discouragement to our adoption of Him as our model. I now observe, that there is one attribute of mind, to which I have alluded, that should particularly animate us to propose to ourselves a sublime standard, as sublime as Jesus Christ. I refer to the principle of growth in human nature. Our faculties are germs, and given for an expansion, to which nothing authorises us to set bounds. The soul bears the impress of illimitableness, in the unquenchable thirst, which it brings with it into being, for a power, knowledge, happiness, which it never gains, and which always carry it forward into futurity. When I consider this principle or capacity of the human soul, I cannot restrain the hope which it awakens. The partition walls which imagination has reared between men and higher orders of beings vanish. I no longer see aught to prevent our becoming whatever was good and great in Jesus on earth. In truth I feel my utter inability to conceive what a mind is to attain which is to advance forever. To encourage these thoughts and hopes, our Creator has set before us delightful exemplifications, even now, of this principle of growth both in outward nature and in the human mind. We meet them in nature. Suppose you were to carry a man, wholly unacquainted with vegetation, to the most majestic tree in our forests, and, whilst he was admiring its extent and proportions, suppose you should take from the earth at its root a little downy substance, which breath might blow away, and say to him, that tree was once such a seed as this; it was wrapt up here; it once lived only within these delicate fibres, this narrow compass. With what incredulous wonder would he regard you. Such growth we witness in nature. A nobler hope we Christians are to cherish; and still more striking examples of the growth of mind are set before us in human history. We wonder, indeed, when we are told that one day we shall be as the angels of God. I apprehend that as great a wonder has been realised already on the earth. I apprehend that the distance between the mind of Newton and of a Hottentot may have been as great as between Newton and an angel. There is another view still more striking. This Newton, who lifted his calm, sublime eye to the heavens, and read, among the planets and the stars, the great law of the material universe, was, forty or fifty years before, an infant, without one clear perception, and unable to distinguish his nurse's arm from the pillow on which he slept. Has not man already traversed as wide a space as separates him from angels? And why must he stop? There is no extravagance in the boldest anticipation. We may truly become one with Christ, a partaker of that celestial mind. Let us make Him our constant model. I know not that the doctrine, now laid down, is liable but to one abuse. It may unduly excite susceptible minds, and impel to a vehemence of hope and exertion, unfavourable in the end to the very progress which is proposed. To such I would say, hasten to conform yourselves to Christ, but hasten according to the laws of your nature. As the body cannot, by the concentration of its whole strength into one bound, scale the height of a mountain, neither can the mind free every obstacle and achieve perfection by an agony of the will. Continuous, patient effort, guided by wise deliberation, is the true means of spiritual progress. In religion, as in common life, mere force or vehemence will prove a fallacious substitute for the sobriety of wisdom.

3. The doctrine which I have chiefly laboured to maintain in this discourse, that minds are all of one family, are all brethren, and may be more and more nearly united to God, seems to me to have been felt peculiarly by Jesus Christ; and if I were to point out the distinction of His greatness, I should say it lay in this. He felt His superiority, but He never felt as if it separated Him from mankind, He saw in every human being a mind which might wear His own brightest glory. I insist on this view of His character, not only to encourage us to aspire after a likeness to Jesus; I consider it as peculiarly fitted to call forth love towards Him. With these views I feel that, though ascended to heaven, He is not gone beyond the reach of our hearts; that He has now the same interest in mankind as when He entered their dwellings; and that there is no being so approachable, none with whom such unreserved intercourse is to be enjoyed in the future world. I exhort you with calmness, but earnestness, to adopt Jesus Christ as your example, with the whole energy of your wills. Let not the false views of Christianity which prevail in the world, seduce you into the belief that Christ can bless you in any other way than by assimilating you to His own virtue, than by breathing into you His own mind. Do not imagine that any faith or love towards Jesus can avail you, but that which quickens you to conform yourselves to His spotless purity and unconquerable rectitude. Settle it as an immovable truth, that neither in this world nor in the next can you be happy, but in proportion to the sanctity and elevation of your characters.

(W. E. Channing.)

In these words, take notice —

1. Of one end of Christ in suffering: that He might leave us an example.

2. They were remarkable steps that Christ took when He was here in the days of His flesh. And among them all He did not take one wrong one.

3. The steps of Christ are to be followed. Our Lord did whatsoever became Him, and exactly "fulfilled all righteousness" (Matthew 3:15).

4. Here is a special intimation of a Christian's duty patiently to bear injuries, and to take up the Cross.

5. The sufferings of Christ and His example being joined together in the text, here is a signification that by His death He has purchased grace to enable us to follow His example.


1. Think not, as long as you remain in this world, to be altogether free from sin as Christ was.

2. Think not that Christ in all His actions is to be imitated. There are royalties belonging to Him, which none must invade. He alone is judge and lawgiver in Zion.

3. Think not that your obedience can be meritorious, as Christ's was.

4. Think not that your greatest sufferings for the sake of righteousness are in the least expiatory of sin, as Christ's were.


1. In His great self-denials (2 Corinthians 8:9; Romans 15:3; John 7:18).

2. In His patient enduring the world's hatred, and the slights and contradiction of sinners (John 15:18, 19; Hebrews 12:2; Matthew 5:44).

3. In His resisting and overcoming the prince of dark ness (Matthew 4:1-11).

4. In His contempt of the world's glory, and contentment with a mean and low estate in it (Luke 4:5, 6).

5. In His living a life so very beneficial, doing good being His perpetual business (Acts 10:38; Ephesians 5:9; Titus 3:8).

6. In His most profitable and edifying communication (Psalm 45:2; Luke 4:22; 1 Peter 2:22, 23; Matthew 11:28).

7. In His manner of performing holy duties (Hebrews 5:7; Romans 12:11).

8. In His great humility and weakness (Matthew 11:29; Proverbs 6:16, 17).

9. In His love to God, great care to please Him, and fervent zeal for His name and glory (John 14:31; John 8:29).

10. In His sufferings and death (Hebrews 12:2).


1. Consider the greatness of the person who gives you the example (Revelation 19:16; Philippians 2:10).

2. Remember the relation wherein you that are saints do stand unto the Lord Jesus. "You are members of His body" (Ephesians 5:30). There fore you "should grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ" (Ephesians 4:15).

3. Consider that God did foreordain you that are believers m a conformity to the Lord Jesus (Romans 8:29).

4. Walking as Christ walked will make it evident that you are indeed in Him (1 John 2:6; Galatians 4:19).

5. Your following the example of Christ very much honours Him, and credits Christianity (Colossians 3:1).

6. Christ frequently speaks to you to follow Him, and observes whether and how you do it (Revelation 1:14; Revelation 2:23).

7. Follow Christ's example, that you may enter into His glory (2 Timothy 2:11, 12; Revelation 3:21; Colossians 3:4).


1. Let your unlikeness to Christ be matter of your great humiliation.

2. Study more the admirable excellency and fairness of the copy which Christ has set you, and how desirable it is still to be growing up more and more into Him in all things.

3. Being sensible of your own impotency, live by faith on the Son of God (Isaiah 45:24; John 15:4, 5).

4. Give up yourselves to the conduct of Christ's own Spirit (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29).

(N. Vincent, M. A.)

I. THE LIFE OF OUR BLESSED SAVIOUR IS A MOST ABSOLUTE AND PERFECT PATTERN OF HOLINESS AND GOODNESS, complete and entire in all its parts, and perfect to the utmost degree, in the following whereof there is no danger of being misguided, whereas all other examples of mortal men are fallible and uncertain guides.

II. As the life of our blessed Saviour is a most perfect, so likewise IT IS A FAMILIAR AND EASY EXAMPLE. The Divine nature is the great pattern of perfection; but that is too remote from us, and above our sight; therefore God hath been pleased to condescend so far to our weakness, as to give us a visible example of those virtues He requires of us in "His own Son, appearing in the likeness of sinful flesh," practised in such instances, and upon such occasions as do frequently happen in human life.

III. The life of our blessed Saviour is likewise AN ENCOURAGING EXAMPLE. It cannot but give great life to all good resolutions and endeavours, to see all that which God requires of us performed by one in our nature, by a man like ourselves.

IV. IT IS AN UNIVERSAL PATTERN. As the doctrine of our Saviour, so His example was of an universal nature and design, calculated for all times and places.

1. It is a pattern of the greatest and most substantial virtues: piety, obedience, purity and innocence, universal charity.

2. He was a pattern of the most rare and unusual virtues: sincerity, humility, contempt of the world, kindness and benignity.

3. The life of our blessed Saviour is likewise a pattern of such virtues as are most useful and beneficial to others. In His readiness to do good to all persons and all kinds; by instructing their ignorance, and supplying their wants, spiritual and temporal; by resolving their doubts, and comforting them in their sorrows. And then in His seeking opportunities for it, not content with those that offered themselves, and in His unwearied diligence in this work.

4. Our Saviour is likewise a pattern to us of such virtues as are most hard and difficult to be practised, such as are most against the grain of our corrupt nature, and most contrary to flesh and blood. Christ denied His own life, and gave up Himself wholly to the will of God (John 5:33; John 6:38; Matthew 26:39, 42). He denied His own will also in condescension to the prejudices and infirmities of men for their edification and good (Romans 15:2, 3). He denied Himself, in the lawful pleasures and satisfactions, in the ease and accommodations of life: He lived meanly, and fared hardly. And He denied Himself likewise in one of the dearest things in the world, to the greatest minds, I mean in point of reputation: "He made Himself of no reputation" (Philippians 2:7). But that which I shall particularly take notice of, under this head, is His great meekness.

5. Our Saviour is likewise a pattern to us of the most needful virtues, and for the practice whereof there is the greatest and most frequent occasion in human life.(1) The great humanity of His carriage and deportment, of which He gave manifold instances, in His free and familiar conversation with all sorts of people. He did not despise the meanest.(2) Another very needful virtue, and for which our Lord was very eminent, was His disregard of the opinion of men, in comparison of His duty.(3) Another virtue for which there is great occasion in human life, and for which our Lord was very remarkable, was His contentedness in a mean and poor condition; and such was His condition to the very lowest degree.(4) The last virtue I shall instance in, and for the exercise whereof there is very great and frequent occasion in human life, is patience under sufferings, and such a perfect resignation of ourselves to the will of God, that whatever pleaseth Him should please us, how distasteful and grievous soever it be. And of this virtue our blessed Saviour was the greatest example that ever was.

V. OUR LORD'S EXAMPLE IS IN THE NATURE OF IT VERY POWERFUL, TO ENGAGE AND OBLIGE ALL MEN TO THE IMITATION OF IT. It is almost equally calculated for persons of all capacities and conditions, for the wise and the weak, for those of high and low degree; for all men are alike concerned to be happy. And the imitation of this example is the most effectual means we can use to compass this great and universal end; nay, it is not only the means, but the end, the best and most essential part of it. To be like our Lord, is to be as good as it is possible for men to be; and goodness is the highest perfection that any being is capable of; and the perfection of every being is its happiness. His life was even and of one tenour, quiet, and without noise and tumult, always employed about the same work, in doing the things which pleased God, and were of greatest benefit and advantage to men. Who would not write after such a copy. This pattern, which our religion proposeth to us, is the example of one whom we ought to reverence, and whom we have reason to love above any person in the world. Yet farther, it is the example of our best friend and greatest benefactor.

(Abp. Tillotson.)

1. In the object of His life.

2. In the standard of His practice.

3. In His commerce and connection with the world.

4. In His condition of life.

5. In His sorrows and joys.

(J. Cumming, D. D.)

1. Wholly.

2. Openly.

3. Fully.

(J. Cumming, D. D.)

1. It is worthy of observation that in the public services of our church we offer petitions for the literal granting of which we can scarcely dare took. We desire of God, for example, "that this day we fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger"; and again, we beseech of Him to "vouchsafe to keep us this day without sin"; but there is not one of us who will presume to say that he ever passes a day without sin. It would argue the want of a real hatred of sin, and would therefore be highly dishonouring to God, to pray to be kept only from a certain degree of transgression, just as though any other degree might be allowed or overlooked. Besides, we cannot be ignorant that humility is at the root of all Christian graces, and that what encourages pride is most injurious to piety. Suppose, then, we were required to imitate a pattern which might be equalled, and is it not certain that as the resemblance seemed to grow, we should feel increasing self-complacency? The fine result of copying an imitable model is, that the vast distance at which we stand from perfection forbids our feeling proud of success. The advance appears nothing, when compared with the space which yet remains to be traversed. Oh! it is practically one of the most splendid things in Christianity, that it fixes our efforts on a model so immeasurably above us, that we have never time to calculate whether or not others are beneath us. We can never repose complacently on what we are; we must always find cause of humiliation in what we are not.

2. We have to go somewhat farther. You may say that whatever the evil consequences of erecting a low standard, there must be much that is disheartening in the copying a model which is confessedly inimitable. On the contrary, we argue, in the second place, that there is everything to encourage us in the fact that the standard cannot be reached; for it certainly is not essential to the suitableness of our example, that it is one whose excellence we may hope to overtake. This would be making our power of imitation, and not noble and beautiful qualities, the guide in selecting an example. It will not be questioned that a faultless work of art, if such there could be, can be only the best model for an artist, and yet the artist may not expect to produce what is faultless. Why is there to be introduced any different rule into the nobler science of moral imitation? Encouragement will depend mainly on the probability of improvement; and this probability being greater with a perfect than with an imperfect model, it follows that we have more cause to feel encouraged in imitating Christ, whom we cannot reach, than one of our fellow men, whom we might perhaps surpass. What the painter seeks is improvement in painting; what the orator seeks is improvement in oratory, and therefore each is anxious to study the prime master in the art. What the Christian seeks is improvement in spiritual graces, and he will gain more from copying Christ, in whom those graces were perfect, than by imitating any saint in whom they were necessarily defective. I know indeed what you may urge in objection to our statement. You may tell us that our illustrations are at fault; that the painter and the orator cherish a secret hope of equalling their models, and that hence they have an encouragement which is not afforded to the Christian. The Christian is not, then, sustained as is the painter or the orator, by the hope, however vague, of reaching, if not exceeding the standard; and the want, you say, of this stimulus, forbids our illustrating the one case by the other. But even if we allow that thorough accuracy of resemblance ought not at least to appear hopeless, we can still plead for the advantageousness of our being set to imitate Christ. Accuracy of resemblance is not hopeless. "Beloved," said St. John, "now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." "As, then, we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." So that as a Christian looks onward to the future he has more to encourage him than the dim possibility which you appeal to as stimulating the painter or the orator. His is the noble, the inspiring certainty, that however slowly, and however painfully goes forward now the imitative work, a day has to dawn, when, fashioned into perfect conformity to the model, he shall be presented unto God "without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing." He labours, therefore, as one who knows that his labour is "not in vain in the Lord." We exhort you, then, to the imitation of Christ, assuring you, that the more you strive to acquire the resemblance, the more will you make sure of your calling and election, and the more frequent and delightful will be your foretastes of the joys which shall hereafter be awarded to the faithful. It is not indeed by your own skill or by your own energy that you may look to effect conformity to Jesus; but by the Holy Ghost, that Divine Agent whose special office it is to renew man after the lost image of his Maker.

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

Christ suffered for us, and left us an example. There must be no division of the two. You must not regard the suffering on one hand, and the example on the other. You must not divide Christ. I love to contemplate the life of Christ as an example, and the death of Christ as an atonement for sin. If He were an atonement without being an example, He would have been no atonement. If He were an example and yet not an atonement, He would be no example. If I preach to you Christ as an atonement, but not an example, my doctrine would be immoral; and if I preach to you the example of Christ, leaving aside the atonement of Christ, my preaching would be worthless. The New Testament always couples the two elements in the life of Christ. The word "example" in the text, is synonymous with the word model, or the idea of design. I do not know of any system, or of any religion, which can place before men a life fit to copy, except that of Jesus Christ. In Him we have the model of a perfect character. In the next verse the apostle changes the figure. Here the apostle, after describing Christ as an example, proceeded to refer to Him as a Shepherd leading His sheep to the green pastures. The sheep followed the Shepherd. They had implicit reliance on Him. And Christ has left us an example which we may with equal certainty follow. It is devotion; it is worship; that is the sentiment which we cherish towards the Lord Jesus. It is not mere sentiment. Christ is not simply a hero — some one to wonder at, and strike men with astonishment. His life is something different, and something greater. His life is an example which all men might follow. No one in his senses would dream of living a life like Christ, so obscure and so self-sacrificing — no one would care to tread in His footsteps and stoop so low unless they looked at the whole plan, as a complete example, at the unity of aim, at the supreme objects to the attainment, by His life and death, of those distinguishing features which made the Lord Jesus Christ what He was. You will now see what the subject of the present discourse is — The Lord Jesus Christ as an example. What is a perfect example? How would you define the perfect man? There are four principal features in such a character.

1. A perfect example must be sinless. Christ is not a mere fragment of a man. Men have peered into the life of Christ, bringing microscopic criticism to bear upon its minutest details, but have failed to discover a single fault. Voltaire tried, and failed; Strauss has tried, and Renan. They have all failed, and many of them were men whose genius was sufficiently creative in its character to discover faults where there were no faults; but in the case of Christ they found no sin. And yet Christ was no recluse.

2. It was not sufficient that the life be a sinless one — difficulties must be overcome; that must be a characteristic of the perfect man, the great example of humanity. Now, there are the angels. An angel is perfect, but has not overcome difficulties. Could anyone conceive of any combination of circumstances in which the anguish could be so keen, in which the suffering could be so intense, difficulties so insuperable as those which Christ experienced and overcame?

3. A perfect example must be more than an example: it must hold out pardon for the past. We cannot forgive ourselves. Our past is so sinful that we falter before it. Robertson has said that man can afford to forgive himself if Jesus Christ can afford to forgive him! That is right; that is true. It is possible to break the links connecting the man with the old life and to restart in a heavenly direction by the aid of the Holy Spirit of God.

4. The Christ of the gospel is a living Christ. That is the foundation of the gospel. It would not pay me to preach philosophy to you, if I could do so. I would not preach poetry without a living Christ; I would not preach doctrine to you without a living Christ. The Bible would not be worth anything for the purpose of preaching but that it contains a living Christ. The atonement would be valueless except for a living Christ.

(T. C. Edwards.)





(G. Hill, D. D.)

The example of Christ — is it not an effort beyond humanity? Can the example of purity and perfection be urged upon frail creatures, whose passions and infirmities place them forever beyond the hope of such attainments? In the first place, then, let it be remarked that imitation is not attainment — that our professing to follow an example is a plain confession of our inferiority to what we propose — and that men might be engaged, as they are in science, in a perpetual progress of improvement, useful and consoling, though they can never flatter themselves with the hope of arriving at a point beyond which there is no further improvement, But it may be said the example of Christ, a model of sinless purity, is unfit for beings who neither possess His nature nor hope for His perfections. Here let us mark the plain distinction between the office of the Divine legislator and the duties of the man: the latter all are called on to fulfil, the former none but He could execute, Even in the most exalted parts of His character — those that seem most remote from human agency — there are many things the spirit of which may be transfused into our conduct, and make "the disciple not unworthy of his Master," It is not for us to march in triumph to Jerusalem, while those that went before and those that followed cried, saying, "Hosanna"; but it is for us to mark the progress of His grace in our hearts and those of His faithful followers. We cannot, like Him, raise the dead to life, banish the infirmities of nature by a word, and heal disease by a touch; but we can watch in patience by the bed of sickness, and by patience, and gentleness and spiritual consolation turn the visitation into a blessing. But it is not alone to the public character of Christ that we are to look for objects of imitation; they may be found in every part of life, for all the declivities of life He humbled Himself to tread.

(C. R. Maturin.)

Let us begin with observing, in general, the great superiority of this to every other example. Here are to be found all the graces and virtues collecting their strongest heat and spreading their brightest lustre, to fire the soul with a virtuous ardour, to enlighten and direct the path of life. It is another obvious advantage of this example that it is calculated to extend its influence to all the world. Christ appeared not in those affluent circumstances in which there may be little opportunity of the exercise of the most substantial and, at the same time, the most difficult graces, or in which the benefit of His pattern would have been confined to the smallest part of the world, but in those more mean and humble scenes of life which constitute the general lot of men, where His example might have the most extensive influence, and suit most effectually the present condition and necessities of human nature. Let us now proceed to select from the numerous graces which adorned the character of our Redeemer a few of the most important. And here it will surely be unnecessary to observe that it is not every branch of that character which we are required to imitate. His supernatural operations were the displays of essential perfection, peculiar to the Deity Himself, incommunicable to His creatures. The great line in which we are to follow the Author and Finisher of our faith is in the practice of those distinguished virtues which adorned His character, and which constituted it the standard of moral excellence.

1. The first feature of this kind which we take notice of is His piety to God. His temper was ever calm and peaceful, such as might naturally be expected within a mind rejoicing in those blessed exercises whose natural effect is not to sour and corrupt the heart, but to improve its most excellent feelings, to mould it to the image and likeness of that God whom we adore, to render it merciful, and generous, and humane, like Him who is the great source of love.

2. Another very capital feature in the character of the Redeemer was His contempt of the pomp and vanities of life. Put on His humility, and it shall clothe thee.

3. Another most important feature in this illustrious character was the ardour of His benevolence. From Him no calamity departed unrelieved, no suppliant who did not receive the requested boon.

4. The last feature of His great character which we take notice of at present was His meekness and patience. If His character is not distinguished by those specious and dazzling qualities which are often most dangerous and detrimental to the world, but which excite the wonder of unthinking men, it exhibits ornaments infinitely more real, and recommends to our imitation qualities more truly great and generous.

(John Main, D. D.)



III. CHRIST THE PERFECT IDEAL OF UNSELFISH LOVE, AMIDST INTENSEST SELFISHNESS. The mother, pale with incessant vigils by the bedside of a sick child, exhibits unselfish love. Howard, dying of fever caught in dungeons where he was following after his Divine ideal, presents to us a picture of love. But it would be easier to measure the heavens with a span, or weigh the mountains in scales, than to fully portray Christ's love.


I. MISTAKES MADE CONNECTED WITH IT. Imitating the out ward actions only. Failing to see the essential connection between the outward act and the inward principle. What is visible is but a portion of the deed. Some try to imitate Christ to procure a justifying righteousness. Others endeavour to imitate Christ to become like Him. To walk in Christ's steps we must be possessed by Christ's spirit.




(E. H. Hopkins.)

I. THE TEXT FIXES THE ABSOLUTE STANDARD FOR THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. Christ is the Christian's example. The word translated "example," found nowhere else in the New Testament, means, first of all, a writing copy such as is given to a child learning to write. The standard for the measurement and aim of the Christian life is therefore —

1. Christ, and not the best human life.

2. Christ, and not distorted representations of Him. Christ as revealed in the simple clearness of the Gospels.

3. Christ, and not the high tide mark of present day Christianity. A subtle evil, into which all are in danger of falling, is to feel that to be as good as others is to be good enough.

II. THE TEXT POINTS OUT THE PRACTICAL MEANING OF CHRIST'S LIFE FOR US. The word "example" — copy — appeals to the universal faculty of imitation. A great factor in all education. Christ did not live for the purpose of winning admiration or applause. To imitate is more than to adore.

III. STRENGTH FOR AND PROGRESS IN THIS IMITATION OF CHRIST WILL COME TO THOSE WHO ARE CONSTANTLY IN HIS PRESENCE. Where the child puts its copy before it, there we may put Christ. In His presence we get strength to become like Him. Things in contact assimilate, the stronger predominating. Things in touch are reliant, the weaker on the stronger.

(J. D. Thomas.)

Nothing is more striking to a close observer of human life than the almost infinite variety of character which exists among those who profess to be Christians. No two are alike. Even those who are alike revered for their saintliness show the widest diversity in individual traits, and in the cast and mould of their character. Yet all are sitting before the same model, all are imitators of the same blessed life. There is but one standard of true Christian character — the likeness of Christ. Why, then, is there such variety of character and disposition among those who aim to follow the same example?

1. One reason for this is that God does not bestow upon all His children the same gifts, the same natural qualities. Life is not minted as gold is. Grace does not transform Peter into a John, nor Paul into a Barnabas, nor Luther into a Melancthon. It makes them all like Christ in holiness, but it does not touch those features which give to each his personal identity. You drop twenty different seeds in the same garden bed, and they spring up into twenty different kinds of plants, from the delicate mignonette to the flaunting sunflower. In like manner each believer grows up into his own peculiar self. Regeneration neither adds to nor takes from our natural gifts.

2. Another reason for this diversity among Christians is because even the best and holiest saints realise but a little of the image of Christ, have only one little fragment of His likeness in their souls. The reason is that the character of Christ is so great, so majestic, that it is impossible to copy all of it into any one little human life; and again, each human character is so imperfect and limited that it cannot reach out in all directions after the infinite character of Christ. It is as if a great company of artists were sent to paint each one a picture of the Alps. Each chooses his own point of observation, and selects the particular feature of the Alps he desires to paint. They all bring back their pictures; but lo! no two of them are alike. The truth is, the Alps as a whole are too varied, too vast, for any one artist to take into his perspective, and paint upon his canvas. The best he can do is to portray some one or two features — the features his eye can see from where he stands. And Christ is too great in His infinite perfection, in the many sidedness of His beauty, for any one of His finite followers to copy the whole of His image into his own little life. The most that any of us can do is to get into our own soul one little fragment of the wonderful likeness of our Lord.

(J. R. Miller, D. D.)

These are words which betray their authorship. As we read our thoughts fly back to the upper room in Jerusalem, when, on the eve of His approaching sacrifice, during supper our Lord left His place at the head of the table where He was reclining, laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself, and, pouring water into a basin, proceeded to wash His disciples' feet, and wiped them with the towel wherewith He was girded. All of them wondered: one of them, Simon Peter, remonstrated with Him, but He would not be stayed in His strange work. And when He had resumed His place, He answered their questioning looks and told them what it meant. "I have given you an example that ye should do as I have done to you." Can we wonder that the scene, the words, were cut so indelibly into the memory of St. Peter that years after, just as though it all happened yesterday, he writes, "Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that ye should follow His steps." It is in its adaptation to the necessities of mankind the secret of the power of Christianity consists. This is why it lives on, ever fresh, ever vigorous. It is made for man as he is, apart from the mere outward circumstances and environment of his life. it is as suited for man today in his advanced civilisation as it was in the crude days of past centuries. For it gives man what his higher nature wants to have, it tells man what his spiritual being yearns to know, it meets in man the God-implanted instincts of his inner self, and therefore it claims for itself the admiration and reverence and love of all men. What, then, is the great need which is alluded to here? It is this. Man wants an ideal which shall call forth his enthusiasm and awaken his energies. He must have one. It is a necessity of his being, for every man is made up of two selves — there is the self of the man as he is, and there is the self of the man as he would be or ought to be. All through life this need makes itself felt. As soon as the child's mind begins to open and the little one commences to observe and think for itself, it all unconsciously looks round for an ideal; and if it has a loving mother, it finds what it wants in her. The child becomes the boy, and for a time, at any rate, his father is his ideal of strength and wisdom. The boy goes to school, and some schoolfellow skilled in games, or clever in learning, or born to rule his fellows becomes his ideal. The youth passes into manhood, but even in the full maturity of his developed power, even in the consciousness of his self-reliance, he seeks an ideal still, the embodiment of strength, or wisdom, or industry, or success. Ay, and not only is this ideal a deep necessity, but it is a real force. It moulds the character; it influences the actions; it shapes the life; it fills with enthusiasm. It is a great motive power. And the one man to be despaired of is the man without an ideal. See, then, how Christianity steps in and meets this yearning. It puts before man the only ideal which will satisfy his needs and meet his necessities. For it has to be borne in mind that if an ideal is to be a power it must possess certain characteristics and qualities.

1. An ideal must be definite. Many men mistake an idea for an ideal. And many lives are wasted because they are lived running after ideas which evade their grasp, and slip from their hold, and lack definiteness.

2. An ideal must be universal. This is what humanity craves. An ideal ought to be a bond of union. Alas! too often an ideal separates. Men choose each his own ideal and go their way, too busy to think of, or care for, or help their struggling comrades.

3. An ideal must be perfect. It is in this the danger of ideals consists. The man must have an ideal, and in his haste and lack of right judgment he oftentimes selects that which is unworthy. What is the consequence? It drags down the man.

4. And therefore an ideal, just in proportion as it possesses these qualifications, must be final. The restlessness within the man is calmed down and dies away before such an ideal.And in the Christian ideal all these requirements are found brought together. Is it not so?

1. The Christian ideal is definite. It stands out like a snow-capped mountain against the blue sky, its outline distinctly defined, each peak and crag, each chasm and precipice clearly mapped out. The life of the Christ has been lived before men. It is beautifully portrayed for us in the four Gospels. Each inspired artist has viewed it from a somewhat different aspect; each dwells on that part which comes most closely home to him; each puts the Christ before us as he best knew and understood Him. But there is no contradiction. Christ is a reality, not a fancy, a history, not a fiction, a substance, not a shadow. His deeds are familiar to us; His words are recorded for us. Now it is holiness — "Like as He which called you is holy, be ye yourselves also holy in all manner of living." Now it is charity — "Walk in love, as Christ also loved you." Now it is patience — "Consider Him that hath endured such gainsaying of sinners against Himself, that ye wax not weary, fainting in your souls." Now it is self-denial — "Let each one of us please his neighbour for that which is good, to edifying, for Christ pleased not Himself." Now it is Forgiveness — "Forbearing one another and forgiving each other, even as Christ forgave you."

2. The Christian's ideal is universal. It is not an esoteric religion, such as is the fashion of the day, whose chief recommendation is that it is unintelligible to the many, suited only to the select few, a small circle; it is for all, not for some. Christ is the ideal of all nations. But no people was ever so strong in this sense of nationality as the Jew. And Jesus was a Jew, born of a Jewish mother, brought up in a Jewish home; His environment all through His life was Jewish. Take the picture out of its Jewish frame, place it in Gentile surroundings, and though the frame is changed, the picture is just as attractive and soul inspiring. He is the ideal for all. He is the universal pattern as He is the universal Saviour. Christ is the ideal for all men. He lived the ordinary life of ordinary men and women. Christ is the ideal for all sorts and conditions of men. He was rich — yea, who so rich as He? He was poor, for though He was rich, for our sakes He became poor — yea, He had not where to lay His head. He was learned above the most intellectual of men, for He was the Wisdom of the Father, and they who heard Him were astonished, for He taught as one having authority. He was unlearned, for did they not say of Him, "How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?" Christ is the ideal for all men in all circumstances of life. We see Him in solitude, in the home, in society. Christ is the ideal for all ages. The child, the boy, the young man just entering life's arena, the matured in body and mind, all find in Him their ideal.

3. The Christian ideal is perfect. Where else shall we find an ideal that can pretend to lay claim to perfection? Not in the heroes of classic times. Not in Socrates, with his grave moral blemishes, Cicero, with his childish vanity, Seneca, with his miserable avarice and cowardice. We shall not find it among the great and good men of Old Testament times. He is perfect, for all virtues are concentrated in Him. He is perfect. This is the well nigh universal testimony of men. And therefore the Christian's ideal is final. We cannot sum it up better than in the pithy words of Renan, "After Jesus there is nothing more but to fructify and develop," or, as a great lay writer says of it, "It comprehends all future history. The moral efforts of all ages will be efforts to realise this character and make it actually as it is potentially universal. Humanity as it advances in excellence will only be approximating to the Christian type. Any divergence from that will not be progress, but debasement and corruption." How shall we explain this perfection? What does this character of the Christ mean? Let these men solve the difficulty if they can, who while they bear witness to His perfection refuse to accept His teaching, or else explain away His words. Our answer rings forth in the words of the Nicene Creed, "God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God," or as we sing, "Perfect God and perfect man." This, then, is the Christian's ideal. It is the Christian's duty and privilege to follow and imitate Christ. It is hard, for no mere external resemblance will suffice. Christ is not a model, but an ideal, as has well been said. If He were a model it might be enough for us to copy its outline; but if He be an ideal we must imitate His spirit. It is hard, for the ideal is perfect, and therefore far above out of our reach. The higher we climb, the further the summit seems to be lost in the clouds of eternal perfection. It is hard, but it is not impossible. We can walk in the steps of our great example. How shall this likeness be ours? Little by little, through patience and perseverance. Little by little, for it is nothing less than the formation of character, and the formation of character is always slow and gradual. It is like the growth of a tree with its hard knots, its twisted branches, its smooth twigs. How gradually it has become what it is! How slow the process by which the twig of one year becomes the branch of next year! How shall this likeness be ours? Answer me another question and I will tell you. What is the lever power of the world? It is love, you say. And has love no place in the Christian's efforts to be like Christ? Surely, yes. Think again of that pale, anxious student. He is copying a lifeless face. From the picture there comes no power to inspirit him in his toil. But we are imitating a living, loving Christ. Gaze on His features. Remember He is our sacrifice as well as our ideal.

(C. J. Ridgeway, M. A.)

Reviled not again
Bengel's Life.
A person expressing to Bengel his sympathy for him at being so virulently written against, he replied, "You will not regret this when I tell you that such very trials teach me only the better how to gather up and strengthen the testimony of my conscience. I have learnt a good method of cheerfully enduring reproach. I think of the reproachings and revilings which the Son of God has been receiving from the Jews for 1,700 years, and of His wonderful long suffering with them all this while. Thus I learn not to fret at a few relics of the same which may be thrown at me."

(Bengel's Life.)

Who did no sin, neither was guile found
The apostles of our Lord notice with much complacency the individual virtues which dignified or adorned His character, just as the Evangelists have related the actions in which they were displayed, with much unaffected simplicity. But while they mention particular virtues, they do not lose sight of the effect which they may collectively produce in illustrating the merit of Him in whose deportment they appeared.

I. THE MORAL PERFECTION HERE ATTRIBUTED TO CHRIST. Christ "did no sin." This phrase, according to its original conception, means nothing more than harmlessness; and is not understood to comprehend any positive or superior excellence. But as applied to Christ it means a great deal more; and, indeed, it should in every case mean a great deal more, considering what the Divine law prescribes, and what sin is in reference to it. Sin essentially consists in transgressing or refusing obedience to the Divine law. And the law does not merely prohibit many things which we are accustomed to call sinful, it also enjoins many things which we are accustomed to call holy. The injunctions are as much a part of the law as the prohibitions. He who will not relieve the distress of his neighbour when he has it in his power, is as really a sinner as he who wantonly inflicted the injury which called for this expression of kindness. It is only when a moral agent performs every deed which is commanded as well as abstains from every deed which is forbidden, that he can properly be said to have "done no sin." Now, it is in this strict and elevated sense that Christ "did no sin." All the requirements of the law were fulfilled in His character. Nor can the eye of the most scrutinising observer discover in it one feature of nonconformity, or one act of opposition to the will of Him who ruleth over all. There may be particular virtues, or particular modifications and degrees of virtue, of which His life will afford you no instance. These are wanting, however, only for this reason — that in the execution of His appointed work, and in the peculiar sphere in which He was destined to move, no opportunities occurred for practising them. The path of obedience which was assigned to Him was a long and a rugged one, and He walked in it with undeviating steady fastness, and He walked in it to the very end — manifesting from the very commencement to the very termination of His progress an unreserved acquiescence in the demands of God's law. In speaking with approbation of our fellow mortals, we are generally necessitated to fix upon some one leading virtue by which they have distinguished themselves; but with regard to Christ we perceive all the virtues adorning His character, and we feel at a loss in determining to which of them we should give the preeminence. In speaking with approbation of our fellow mortals we are frequently obliged to dwell upon the excellence of their external conduct, and to conceal the principles and motives by which they were influenced. But with regard to Christ, so far as they have been developed to us, the principles on which He proceeded were as Divine, and the motives which impelled Him as disinterested and worthy as the actions themselves. In speaking with approbation of our fellow mortals we must always accompany our eulogium with certain exceptions to their disadvantage — certain shortcomings which detract from the splendour or from the value of the good qualities for which we commend them, or certain vices which counterbalance them and render our commendations less cordial. But with regard to Christ we can discern no such imperfection or demerit. In speaking with approbation of our fellow mortals we are always supposed, even when our laudatory language is most unbounded, to allow that we wish not to be strictly apprehended, and to leave it to be understood that there is need for that charity which seeks not to detect the failings of humanity, and tries to cover them when they are known: but with regard to Christ this charity has no room to operate. Nor is this moral perfection either an imaginary or an exaggerated attribute of Christ. As certainly as we know that He lived and died, so certainly do we know that in His life and in His death He was without sin. For this we have every degree of evidence of which the case admits, or which can be desired to satisfy our minds.

II. LET US NOW MAKE OUR APPLICATION OF THIS TRUTH. It is applicable, as we formerly stated, to various useful purposes.

1. And it serves to confirm our belief in the truth of Christ's mission. This effect is produced in some degree simply by viewing Christ in the light of a person of good principle and of excellent character. He holds Himself out as a witness. It is to the truth of revelation that He gives His testimony, or rather it is His own Divine origin and embassy that He certifies. And therefore in proportion to the confidence that we repose in His general worth will be the credit that we give to what He says respecting Himself, and to the message which He brings from heaven. But the argument comes still closer to us than this. Had the Author of Christianity been an impostor, it is impossible to conceive that He should have been of such holy and unblemished character as we find Him to have been. The depravity of heart which gave birth to such a system of artifice, as in this view He must be supposed to have contrived and published, could not fail to have given birth also to a great variety of crimes and vices. On the supposition that Christ was an impostor, it was no ordinary or harmless deception that He was playing off upon mankind. It was founded on the assumption of Divine power; it pretended to aim at the Divine glory; it affected to promulgate the Divine will; it invoked a solemn and visible manifestation of the Divine presence. And while it thus blasphemed against God, it trifled with the understanding and the affections of man. It called upon him to believe what was not true. Now I ask you if it be possible to reconcile such impiety towards God, and such unfeelingness towards men, with that reverence for God, and that tender compassion towards men by which our Lord was so eminently characterised in every other instance? I ask you, if such light and such darkness, such righteousness and such unrighteousness could possibly dwell together, and operate together, in the mind and in the conduct of the same individual? The answer to all these questions must necessarily be in the negative. Christ cannot be a deceiver as to His gospel, and yet in all other respects without sin. You must either give up the one proposition or the other. There is yet another view to be taken of this point. Christ did more than hold Himself out as a Divine messenger — He held Himself out as standing in a peculiar relation to God, as being His only begotten Son, as having the attributes of Deity, as being one with the Father. With these pretensions His sinfulness, even His commission of one sin, would have been completely inconsistent, and would have rendered them utterly false and groundless. His perfect freedom from sin, therefore, is essential to the proof of His Divine mission. It does hot prove that He was God, for He might have been a creature and yet have been preserved from all unrighteousness by God's almighty power. But as He claimed the honour and asserted the possession of supreme Deity, it was necessary that no unrighteousness should cleave to Him. I have still further to observe that the sinlessness of Christ is to be viewed as a miracle, which establishes the truth of His mission as much as any of the miracles which are usually resorted to for this purpose. And it was not possible for Him to be thus sinless, except by the special interposition of heaven. The laws which govern human nature and human condition were here suspended, as it were, for producing that effect. A person wearing the form of fallen humanity exhibited not a vestige of the weakness and the wickedness by which, in every other case, fallen humanity has been characterised.

2. Let us apply the subject for the purpose of encouraging our dependence upon Christ as the foundation of our hope. The law of God has demands upon us that must be fully satisfied before we can obtain His forgiveness and enjoy His favour, and be admitted into His heavenly presence. It demands punishment, and it demands obedience; and we must suffer the one and yield the other, either in our own persons or by a substitute. We are very apt indeed to trust in our own strength for the justification of which as sinners we stand in need. But a little consideration of what our own strength is, and of the achievement to which we propose to apply it, must satisfy us that such a trust is vain. Our only refuge, then, is in a substitute; and it is the great business of the gospel to reveal this substitute as both willing and able to do for us what we are incompetent to do for ourselves. Now, in order that our faith in Him as our surety, who is to redeem us by His vicarious obedience, may be justified, we must have clear demonstrations of His sufficiency for sustaining that important character. It is with this view especially that Christ is represented so distinctly, and declared so frequently, to be without sin. For supposing Him to have been otherwise, then our belief in His adequacy to the undertaking He had engaged in would have been shaken or destroyed. Let this truth be always present to your minds when you think of Christ as the ground of your acceptance; and especially when you look to His death as the sacrifice of atonement which He offered up for your iniquities, and as the finishing act of that obedience which in your stead He rendered to the law of God. Be not faithless but believing. Let not a sense of your unworthiness and guilt fill your souls with desponding fears and apprehensions. But place unlimited confidence in "the holy one and the just." His sacrifice is faultless. His merit is infinite. His work is perfect.

3. Finally, let us apply the subject for one direction in that course of life which we must pursue as candidates for heaven. Though Christ by His unspotted sacrifice and perfect obedience has renewed our title to life and immortality, yet it is still true that without personal holiness we cannot see the Lord. This character is pointed out to us by the precepts and maxims of the gospel. But we have the additional advantage of having it illustrated and enforced by the example of our Saviour. The exhibition of this example was one, though a subordinate, purpose of His incarnation. He has left it upon record expressly and authoritatively, "that we should follow His steps."

(A. Thomson, D. D.)

I. His CONDUCT. "Did no sin."

1. Though tempted severely and continually.

2. Though surrounded by sinful men.

3. Though exposed to poverty of the deepest kind.

4. Though wearing a body subject to infirmities.

II. His CONVERSE. "Neither was guile found."

1. He never disguised His abhorrence of falsehood.

2. He did not promise more than He intended to perform.

3. He did not hide from His followers the consequences of their position.Application: —

1. The purity of Jesus in word and deed should be sought by us.

2. Hereafter we shall be as He was and is.

3. This purity can never be congenial to us until our hearts are regenerated.

(R. A. Griffin.)

Bore our sins in His own body
This wonderful passage is a part of Peter's address to servants; and in his day nearly all servants were slaves. If we are in a lowly condition of life, we shall find our best comfort in thinking of the lowly Saviour bearing our sins in all patience and submission. If we are called to suffer, as servants often were in the Roman times, we shall be solaced by a vision of our Lord buffeted, scourged, and crucified, yet silent in the majesty of His endurance. We ourselves now know by experience that there is no place for comfort like the Cross. Truly in this case "like cures like." By the suffering of our Lord Jesus our suffering is made light.

I. THE BEARING OF ERR SINS by our Lord. Jesus did really bear the sins of His people.

1. How literal is the language! Words mean nothing if substitution is not stated here.

2. Note how personal are the terms here employed! "Who His own self bare our sins in His own body." It was not by delegation, but "His own self," and it was not in imagination, but "in His own body." Observe also the personality from our side of the question, He "bare our sins," that is to say, my sins and your sins. As surely as it was Christ's own self that suffered on the Cross, so truly was it our own sins that Jesus bore in His own body on the tree.

3. This sin bearing on our Lord's part was continual. The passage before us has been forced beyond its teaching by being made to assert that our Lord Jesus bore our sins nowhere but on the Cross, which the words do not say. "The tree" was the place where beyond all other places we see our Lord bearing the chastisement due to our sins; but before this He had felt the weight of the enormous load. The marginal reading, which is perfectly correct, is "Who His own self bare our sins in His own body to the tree." Our Lord carried the burden of our sins up to the tree, and there and then He made an end of it.

4. This sin bearing is final. He bore our sins in His own body on the tree, but He bears them now no more. The sinner and the sinner's Surety are both free, for the law is vindicated, the honour of government is cleared, the substitutionary sacrifice is complete.

II. THE CHANGE IN OUR CONDITION, which the text describes as coming out of the Lord's bearing of our sins. "That we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness."

1. We are henceforth legally dead to the punishment of sin. What a wonderful deliverance for us! Bless the Lord, O my soul!

2. But Peter also means to remind us that, by and through the influence of Christ's death upon our hearts, the Holy Ghost has made us now to be actually "dead to sins": that is to say, we no longer love them, and they have ceased to hold dominion over us. The newborn life within us has no dealings with sin; it is dead to sin. The Greek word here used cannot be fully rendered into English — it signifies "being unborn to sins." We were born in sin, but by the death of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit upon us, that birth is undone, "we are unborn to sins."

3. But our Lord's sin bearing has also brought us into life. Dead to evil according to law, we also live in newness of life in the kingdom of grace. Our Lord's object is "that we should live unto righteousness." Not only are our lives to be righteous, which I trust they are, but we are quickened and made sensitive and vigorous unto righteousness; through our Lord's death we are made quick of eye, and quick of thought, and quick of lip, and quick of heart unto righteousness. Certainly, if the doctrine of His atoning sacrifice does not vivify us, nothing will.

III. THE HEALING OF OUR DISEASES by this death. We were healed, and we remain so. It is not a thing to be done in the future; it has been wrought. Peter describes our disease in the words which compose ver. 25. What was it, then?

1. First, it was brutishness. "Ye were as sheep." Sin has made us so that we are only fit to be compared to beasts, and to those of the least intelligence. We "were as sheep," but we are now men redeemed unto God.

2. We are cured also of the proneness to wander which is so remarkable in sheep. "Ye were as sheep going astray," always going astray, loving to go astray, delighting in it. We wander still, but not as sheep wander; we now seek the right way, and desire to follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. If we wander it is through ignorance or temptation. We can truly say, "My soul followeth hard after Thee."

3. Another disease of ours was inability to return: "Ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned." Dogs and even swine are more likely to return home than wandering sheep. But now, though we wandered we have returned, and do still return to our Shepherd. Our soul cries, "Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee." Thus, by the virtue of our Lord's death an immortal love is created in us, which leads us to seek His face, and renew our fellowship with Him.

4. Our Lord's death has also cured us of our readiness to follow other leaders. Faith in Jesus creates a sacred independence of mind. We have learned so entire a dependence upon our crucified Lord that we have none to spare for men.

5. Finally, when we were wandering we were like sheep exposed to wolves, but we are delivered from this by being near the Shepherd. We were in danger of death, in danger from the devil, in danger from a thousand temptations, which, like ravenous beasts, prowled around us. Having ended our wandering, we are now in a place of safety.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. OUR LORD'S DEATH FOR SIN. And here, ere we approach to behold the great sight, let us put off our shoes from off our feet, and bow down in lowliest reverence of repenting grief, for, remember, if Jesus had not died for sins, we must have died, and died eternally too. Oh, the bitterness of our souls had we been in such a state!

1. There was a substitution for our sins, and by that substitution believers are saved. It was not merely a transfer of punishment from one to another, but there was a transfer of sin in some deep sense, or else the Scripture speaketh not what it meaneth: "He bare our sins in His own body on the tree."

2. Now I want you to pause, having noted the fact of substitution, to consider the substitute. "He His own self bare our sins." And who was "He"? I want you to feel a personal love to our dear Lord and Master. I want your souls at this moment to realise the actual character of His existence and His true personality. Though thus God over all, He became a man like unto ourselves. And He, in that double nature but united person, was Jesus, Son of God and Son of the Virgin; He it was who "bare our sins in His own body on the tree."

3. Here we call to your remembrance the fact stated in the text so positively, that the substitution of Christ was carried out by Him personally, not by proxy. The priest of old brought a substitution, but it was a lamb. He struck the knife and the warm blood flowed adown it, but our Lord Jesus Christ had no substitute for Himself, He "His own self bare our sins in His own body."

4. Notice, also, that the substitution of Christ is described in our text in a way which suggests consciousness, willinghood, and great pain. "He His own self bare our sins." They were upon Him, they pressed Him. The Greek word for "bare" suggests the idea of a great weight, "He bare our sins" — stooped under them, as it were; they were a load to Him.

5. And He bore those sins manifestly. I think that is the mind of the Spirit; when He says "in His own body," He means to give vividness to the thought. We are so constituted that we do not think so forcibly of mental and spiritual things as we do of bodily things; but our Lord bare our sins "in His own body." "His visage was more marred than that of any man, and His form more than the sons of men." Remember another text — "Yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God." Mark the "tree" or Cross for a moment with much attention.(1) It was the place of pain. No death could be more full of agony than that of crucifixion. Blessed be Thy love, O Jesus, that Thou couldest bear pain and death for us.(2) But the Cross was not the place of pain merely; it was the place of scorn. To be fastened to the Cross! Why, they would not put the meanest Roman thereon, though he committed murder; it was a death for slaves and menials. To be laughed at when you suffer is to suffer sevenfold.(3) But more, it was the place of the curse, for "cursed is every one that hangeth on the tree," and the Word has told us that "He was made a curse for us."(4) Last of all, it was the place of death.

II. OUR DEATH TO SIN. "That we, being dead to sin, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed." Now, observe right well that we are dead to the condemning power of sin. Henceforth I have nothing to do but to live as a righteous man, accepted in the Beloved, to live by His righteousness and rejoice in it, blessing and magnifying His holy name. As many of you as have looked to Jesus Christ bearing your sins in His own body on the tree, are dead to sin as to its reigning power.

1. Dead, first, because we have seen its detestable nature. It had its charms, but now we have perceived its hypocrisies. The false prophet Mokanna, who wore the silver veil upon his brow, deceived many, for he said that should that veil be lifted, the light which would gleam from under it would strike men blind, the glory was so great; but when one had once perceived that the man was leprous, and that on his brow instead of brightness there were the white scales of a leper, nobody would become his disciple; and so, O sin, at the Cross I see thy silver veil removed, and I mark the desperate leprosy that is on thee. I cannot harbour thee in my heart.

2. We are dead to sin, again, because another passion has absorbed all the forces of our life.

3. And yet again, sin appears to us now to be too mean and trivial a thing for us to care about. We have lost now, by God's grace, the faculty which once was gratified with these things. They tell us we deny ourselves many pleasures. Oh, there is a sense in which a Christian lives a self-denying life, but there is another sense in which he practises no self-denial at all, for he only denies himself what he does not want, what he would not have if he could. If you could force it upon him it would be misery to him, his views and tastes are now so changed. Let these eyes be forever sightless as the eyes of night, and let these ears be forever deaf as silence, rather than sin should have a charm for me, or anything should take up my spirit save the Lord of love, who bled Himself to death that He might redeem me unto Himself. This is the royal road to sanctification.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

"I don't like this idea of somebody else bearing my burden," said an objector to the atonement recently. The reply was, "Friend, somebody else has been bearing your burden ever since you came into the world." So is it with us all. Our mothers bore the burden of our infancy. The sailor bears the burden that brings us good news from afar. The miner bears the burden that warms our dwelling, and the reaper bears the burden that gives us bread. That we, being dead to sins. —

Faith looks so steadfastly on its suffering Saviour that it makes the soul like Him, assimilates and conforms it to His death, as the apostle speaks. That which Papists fabulously say of some of their saints, that they received the impression of the wounds of Christ in their body, is true in a spiritual sense of the soul of every one that is indeed a saint and a believer; it takes the very print of His death by beholding Him and dies to sin, and then takes that of His rising again, and lives to righteousness.

(Abp. Leighton.)

A legend of the Jews relates that the Prophet Ezekiel once raised a number of his countrymen from the dead, but the miracle was so far imperfect that the resuscitated men ever after retained the complexion of corpses, and their garments the smell of the sepulchre. Some believe it is after this fashion that the Lord Jesus raises us from the death of sin to the life of righteousness. So far, at least, as this world is concerned, we must expect to retain the blemishes and scent of moral corruption. We have not so learned Christ.

(W. L. Watkinson.)

By whose stripes ye were healed

1. Bodily distempers are very often conveyed by descent from others. So the sin of our first parents has spread a fatal corruption through the whole human race. Man is not only liable to many bodily distempers from inheritance, he brings many upon himself by imprudence and by sinful gratifications. In like manner, besides what is called original sin, we are chargeable with many actual transgressions.

2. Having spoken of the origin of sin, let us now trace the manner of its progress.(1) Vices, like diseases, steal upon us by slow degrees. Their first attack is often imperceptible.(2) As bodily distempers are frequently most dangerous when the patient is least sensible of them, so it is a bad symptom of the soul when it has not a just sense of the evil of iniquity.

3. Having considered sin as to its source and progress, we shall also take a view of its effects.(1) Sickness weakens the body, debilitates the nerves, and unfits mankind so long as it continues for enjoying and discharging the affairs of human life. Sin also enfeebles the mind by curbing and confusing the reasoning powers.(2) Nor is this the only effect; for as sickness often brings much pain, so sin also is accompanied, or will be followed, by sorrow and sufferings.(3) As diseases produce the death of the body, so sin, if unpardoned and unremoved, will destroy the soul.


1. Jesus Christ is the Physician, and the means prescribed are His Word, His ordinances, and His providences, made effectual by the Spirit.(1) His Word is medicinal. A text of the Bible, well applied and directed to the heart by the Holy Spirit, has produced very valuable effects.(2) The ordinances of Christ, under which are included all acts of worship, prayer, praise, and the Lord's Supper, are designed to increase our hatred of sin and love for holiness.(3) All events are in the hand of God. Providential dispensations are employed to reclaim and reform sinners. Sometimes more awful, sometimes more mild exertions are requisite.(4) The office of the Holy Spirit is another of the means promised and prescribed by the mercy of God for the recovery of the health of souls. He is the Divine Agent who gives efficacy to the other means.

2. The character and capacity of Jesus Christ, our glorious Physician, shall now be a little considered.(1) His knowledge and capacity are infinitely great.(2) Our blessed Saviour is not only able and skilful, He is also friendly and compassionate.(3) Our blessed Redeemer is very humble and condescending.(4) The Son of God is a Physician to whom you may have access in all places and at all times.Application:

1. As we derive by our birth a weak and depraved nature, and are daily increasing the number of our offences, what strong reasons are these, not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think, but to think soberly!

2. The progress of vice, as above considered, should excite in us the greatest jealousy and circumspection.

3. The effects of sin, formerly mentioned, show that vice is, of all evils, the most formidable to mankind.

4. It is our duty to follow exactly the prescriptions for spiritual health which Jesus Christ has been pleased to direct.

5. Remember that it is by a believing reliance on the blood of Jesus Christ that the remedies in the gospel prove means of spiritual health.

(Robert Foote.)

There is much that is mysterious about disease, and probably much that will always remain so, even after human industry and skill have done their best to fathom its secrets. But in ancient times, when medical science was almost if not altogether unknown, the causes that produced it seemed to be impenetrable. Its progress was fitful and capricious. In the same way the process of healing was equally uncertain. A few simple remedies were used for simple ailments, and if these were futile, men were helpless. Their pharmacy was exhausted. Nothing was left but to submit to the inevitable. And we can well understand how in such circumstances disease was felt to be an appropriate symbol of moral evil which was enveloped in similar mystery, and seemed to be as little amenable to control. But the fact that disease was recognised as so appropriate a symbol of moral evil rested on something more than external resemblance. In some cases it was known to be the penalty of a moral offence. Sin produces and is succeeded by suffering in obedience to the same law by which the fruit is developed from the blossom, or the organism from the germ. And hence, when Scripture speaks of us as needing healing, this is not merely a figure, it is a reality. Sin contains suffering, as an essential element in itself. We have, then, to consider what this conception of sin as a disease is intended to teach, and the aspect under which its cure is presented by the apostle.

I. First, THIS CONCEPTION OF SIN REMINDS US THAT IT IS SOMETHING ABNORMAL OR UNNATURAL. It is an infliction that has disturbed the harmony of our nature and thrown it out of gear. In the case of disease this is shown by the fact that we invariably protest against it, and endeavour to throw it off. When we fail to do this, it is either owing to our being unconscious of its presence, or to its having reached such an advanced stage in its development that it has paralysed our powers of resistance. It is the same also with sin. The religions of the world, with their crude and often revolting methods of sacrifice, bear pathetic witness to the unrest of conscience, and the conviction that something is wrong between man and the powers above him. And wherever the instincts of human nature have been healthiest, and the moral sense has been most widely awake, the efforts made to pacify the offended Deity have been most earnest and sustained. And there are the same attempts to avert a menacing future, not, it may be, by the offering of sacrifice, but by more refined and subtle efforts at atonement — the religion of many dissolving itself into a mere lifelong effort to put themselves right with God. And how are we to explain this dislocation? What has been its cause? What, but that we have all violated the eternal law of righteousness, and placed ourselves at variance with God? And no one can break that law and remain unreconciled to Him without suffering. It would be infinitely worse for us if we could.

II. Secondly, DISEASE DISABLES US BY IMPAIRING OUR STRENGTH. What we can undertake in health we cannot undertake when health has failed. Some things we must give up entirely; others we can only do partially, if we do them at all. Perhaps we hardly realise the enormous waste for which sin is responsible, and how far short humanity falls of its possible attainments. Our proudest and most brilliant achievements, what are they but solitary and occasional flowers which show what the wilderness might have been?

III. In the third place, WE KNOW THAT THE NATURAL END OF DISEASE IS DEATH. It can be checked. Its violence can be reduced. It may be entirely overcome. But treat it as though it did not exist, and allow it to take its way, then, however trifling its beginnings and fitful its progress, it will set up a trouble and disturbance in the whole system that will certainly lead to its ultimate destruction. So the wages of sin is death. There can be no doubt about this. The connection between the two is invariable. And as every sickness can be most easily cured in its initial stage, or, at least, before neglect has complicated the symptoms, so it is with sin. Trifle with it, indulge it, let it go on, and it will rivet its hold, and infect your moral nature till the will is hopelessly enslaved and the only termination is death. And what is the death that comes as sin's terrible wages? Is it the death of the body? Is it exhausted and done with when the last debt of nature has been paid? No. For sin is not resident in the body, so that we can lay it aside when we shuffle off this mortal coil. It is a spiritual act, the result of a certain spiritual condition. And this spiritual condition is not changed by the mere fact of physical death. That, indeed, separates the soul from the body, and hands over the latter to the powers of dissolution. But the former remains as it was. And if it has not renounced its sin, and been quickened by the life that wages a perpetual warfare against it, death will not sever it from its ruinous ally. It will simply introduce it to that final and hopeless separation from God which is the essence of spiritual death. For it will no longer be surrounded by what here alleviates and conceals the awfulness of such a state. We have now to consider the aspect under which the removal of sin is here presented. It is described as a healing or making whole, and it is effected by the stripes of Christ. "By His stripes we are healed." That is, by what Christ suffered our sufferings are brought to an end; their source or fountain is staunched. But how are we to understand this? It is true in a sense that all suffering, when it becomes severe, can only be cured by the suffering of others. It imposes this penalty to some extent on those who undertake to relieve it. The strength and skill of the physician are often heavily taxed to save his patient. And the same remark is true in a still higher degree in the treatment of moral evil. To check even venial faults, so as to help the defaulter to renounce them, requires a patient tact and affection which are rarely found combined. There can be no doubt that in dealing with us Jesus suffers in this way infinitely more acutely than we do, in proportion to His deeper hatred of sin and deeper love of holiness. But however great the sufferings of Christ in this sense may have been and still are, it is not to such the apostle here refers. He is thinking not of what Christ may still endure from the perversity and faithlessness of men, but of something which He endured once, and endures no longer. The very word he uses leads us in this direction. It neither suggests the suffering involved in the doing of good, nor the strain which a loving sympathy has to bear in sharing the sorrows of its fellows. Stripes are imposed by some one else. They indicate the infliction of a pain which is not the direct consequence of our own action, but to which we are subjected by the action of others. Moreover, they necessarily suggest the idea of punishment. They are a chastisement, and mark the man who receives them as obnoxious to justice and dealt with accordingly. Now, it is by the sufferings of Christ so understood the apostle says we are healed. They were stripes. And they were stripes, not for His own sin, because He had none, but for ours. "He was made sin for us, who knew no sin." "By His stripes we are healed." Yes, by His stripes. For all sin is due to our separation from God. It marks the ebb of life, the lowering of vital force, the feverishness that ensues from this fatal severance. And what hinders the healing of the breach is just the fact that this sin is the violation of a righteous law which refuses to be at peace with us till its claims are satisfied. And these claims are met by the sacrifice of Christ. "God was in Him, reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing unto men their trespasses." The streams of life have begun to flow into its wasted framework, and wherever they reach the ravages of sin are checked. Peace comes in place of restlessness, content for dissatisfaction, hope for despair, and the spectre of fear is banished. Slowly but surely the love of goodness is developed. And Christ's healing relieves from a pain and apprehension that can scarcely be uttered. It triumphs over an unworthiness that is deeper than words. It brings a hope and gladness that transfigures life, and opens a fountain of new inspiration. What labour is then too great, what enterprise too forlorn, when His grace has healed us, and bound up our painful wounds? There was no foe which could not be conquered, no misery which could not be relieved. The tide had turned. The watchword was, "Forward!" — "forgetting the things that are behind." Messengers of peace and goodwill hastened abroad. Right struggled to subordinate the power of might, and has never given up the fight. Philanthropy arose, and the echo of her footsteps was heard in the waste and desolate places of the earth. And what is our magnificent array of modern Charities, our agencies of help that reach out a hand of succour to every soul depressed below the general level of comfort or advantage? What are the labours of the economist, the statesman, the physician, as they push their way into the problems before them with a sure triumphant conviction of ultimate victory, but the fruits of that great healing of Christ that has turned darkness into light, and the dull wretchedness of despair into bright and keen-eyed hope? "By His stripes we are healed." Have you received this healing of Christ?

(C. Moinet, M. A.)

The slaves whom the apostle was addressing understood full well the meaning of "stripes." The Greek word means the weal left by a stripe. From the grave the Saviour came, bearing the weals of many stripes, wound marks in hands and feet and side; but those bruises and wounds tell a story which makes our hearts leap with joy. When the Great Shepherd, raised through the blood of the everlasting covenant, met His timid followers in the upper room, He bade them behold the print of the nails and the scar in His side. "Then were the disciples glad." And as we consider the Lamb, "as it had been slain," and discern those precious memorials of His finished work on our behalf, we too may break forth into new songs, like those in heaven. Those stripes are the price of our redemption, the evidence of our purchase, the sign manual of pardon.

(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

"Mamma," said a little child to her mother when she was being put to bed at night — "mamma, what makes your hand so scarred and twisted, and unlike other people's hands?" "Well," said the mother, "my child, when you were younger than you are now, years ago, one night, after I had put you to bed, I heard a cry, a shriek, upstairs. I came up, and found the bed was on fire, and you were on fire; and I took hold of you, and I tore off the burning garments, and while I was tearing them off and trying to get you away I burned my hand, and it has been scarred and twisted ever since, and hardly looks any more like a hand; but I got that, my child, in trying to save you." I wish today I could show you the burned hand of Christ — burned in plucking you out of the fire; burned in snatching you away from the flame. Aye, also the burned foot, and the burned brow, and the burned heart — burned for you. "By His stripes we are healed."

(T. De Witt Talmage.)

Ye were as sheep going astray
I. Let me, then, call upon believers in Christ SERIOUSLY TO REVIEW THEIR FORMER CONDITION, when they, as well as others, were as sheep going astray. The fitness of this similitude to exhibit the natural state of mankind may justly be inferred from the frequent use that is made of it in the sacred writings. Thus a sheep that has forsaken the good pasture and strayed into the barren wilderness presents to us, in the most affecting light, an emblem of indigence, perplexity, and disappointment. Again, this figurative representation denotes a state of danger as well as of indigence and dissatisfaction. Few animals are beset with more enemies than sheep; and perhaps none are possessed of less cunning to elude or of less courage to resist them. With what awful precision doth this part of the similitude exhibit to us the state of unconverted sinners! Their spiritual enemies are both numerous and mighty. Once more: though sheep are not the only creatures that are prone to wander, yet they of all others discover least sagacity in finding the way back to the place from whence they strayed; so that in them we likewise behold a most descriptive emblem of man's helpless state by nature, and of his utter inability by any efforts of his own to regain his primeval happiness and glory. But still there remains one other ingredient in man's apostasy from God to which the similitude, comprehensive as it is, cannot be extended; the fatal ingredient I mean is guilt. A sheep gone astray is an object of pity rather than of blame. Man's apostasy was the effect not of weakness, but of wilfulness; the guilt that lieth upon us is nothing less than proud and obstinate rebellion — rebellion blackened with the vilest ingratitude.

II. "YE ARE NOW RETURNED UNTO THE SHEPHERD AND BISHOP OF YOUR SOULS." Ye are returned to Him who came from heaven to earth "to seek and to save that which was lost"; who, though infinitely offended by your criminal apostasy, hath Himself made atonement for your past wanderings, and expiated your guilt with His own precious blood. Ye are returned to Him who will henceforth watch over you with peculiar care, and guard you as His property which He purchased with His blood. Ye are returned to Him who hath not only almighty power to guard you against danger, but infinite compassion likewise to sympathise with you in all your distresses, and to comfort you in all your sorrows.

III. What they were by nature, and what they are by grace may suffice TO DIRECT US TO THAT TEMPER OF HEART WITH WHICH WE OUGHT TO APPROACH THE TABLE OF THE LORD. And it is obvious —

1. That we should do it with the deepest humility. Are we sanctified? once we were impure. Are we found? once we were lost. Are we made alive? lately we were dead; it was God who quickened us, and not we ourselves. Surely, then, pride was not made for man.

2. We should perform this service with the warmest emotions of gratitude and love, giving thanks to the Father who spared not His own Son, but delivered Him to be a sacrifice and sin offering for us.

3. Godly sorrow for past offences, and holy purposes to offend no more, should likewise attend us to the table of the Lord.

4. These purposes must ever be accompanied with a sense of our own weakness, and of our absolute need of aid from above. Even after we are returned to the Bishop of our souls, if left to ourselves we should quickly stumble and fall.

5. This diffidence of ourselves ought always to be qualified with a steadfast trust, an unsuspecting confidence in the power and faithfulness of our great Redeemer.

(R. Walker.)

Amongst all the varied tribes of nature there could not be selected a more perfect type of a life liable to wander. The passage bird is never lost. High over the waves of the Atlantic it strikes a right path to its home a thousand leagues away. With unerring certainty the creature of the forest finds a right path to its cave; but the sheep has no such sure accuracy of self-direction; it is in its nature a helpless and dependent tiling, and but for its shepherd would lose its path to the final shelter. Just as helpless and dependent is your soul. If you travel in the right path it is not because you have an unerring instinct, or an unerring reason, or an unerring sense of right, but because you have an unerring Leader.

(C. Stanford, D. D.)

Are now returned
The Israelites were a pastoral people. For although in the time of the apostle the pastoral life had largely given way to the agricultural, yet all their history, all those elements which excited their imagination and rejoiced their patriotism, were of the pastoral character. It went into their poetry, and the agricultural and pastoral figures exceed in number, and certainly equal in exquisite beauty, any others that are to be found in the whole range of not only the Bible, but of universal literature. This is eminently seen in the Old Testament, but the New Testament is not without a trace of such a feeling. Here we are called wanderers. Men that are converted are the men that have wand: red away from the right ideals of life, and have been brought back again; they were wanderers. We are represented as going astray from right dispositions, and from right actions, and from right directions. Our aims, our conduct, and our character are malformed. Religion in the soul is what the right use of the organs is to the body. When all the organs of a man's body are carried on according to the laws of nature you have health. So when a man has gone astray, he has lost nothing, except the right use of himself. He has not lost will power; he has not lost intellectual power. And when a man is recalled from wandering, and it is said he is born again, we mean that from his wrong use of himself he turns toward the right use of himself. He is brought to recognise a higher standard of living, body, mind, and soul, and enters upon that better understanding. Then we say he has been recalled by his shepherd; he has returned. Every organ of the body is, according to the design of God in nature, good. It is wrong use that produces evil. Every faculty of the human mind and soul is right and needful to the body and soul, to social relations and universal truth. But the wrong use of right things is sinfulness. It may be in a single act, or in a continuity of acts until they become habit; then it is character; and character is nothing but an automatic practice of wrong uses induced by individual acts of sin. Now, on the other hand, when a man is called of God, here is the one grand ideal: "Love is the fulfilling of the law." He who carries his whole nature obediently to the grand law of love and all its interpretations in God's Word, that man has been restored to himself, and in so far to his God. Conversion, then, is the beginning, under inspiration's teaching, an example of the reconstruction of a man's voluntary life. It is the beginning of rebuilding character and conduct, on the basis of love. It is the beginning. It is no more than the beginning. The Church is not, then, an assembly of saints. It is a school with all manner of instruments that are designed to help men. Merely being in the Church does not save men. It is an assembly of men beginning, mostly, and certainly the incoming into any Church is of men that have been lost, wandered, gone out of pasture, gone away, and they are called back again. A man coming into the Christian Church is coming into right conditions in which be may learn how to rectify the aberrations of his conduct, and, so far as his nature has been positively made morbid, rectify his nature. A man has found out that the way of his life, the way of selfishness, of pride and evil passions is the bad way; it is contrary to God and nature — the best nature — contrary to the welfare of society, of the family, and of the individual. He is so convinced of it that in covenant, in his secret thought with God he says, "If Thou wilt help me, I will from this hour" undertake to re-educate myself into the Christ spirit." If you want to know whether you are sinful or not, just take any of these great characteristic commands of Jesus Christ; take any point of example in Himself, any conduct, anywhere, and try it on. How shall a man know whether his clothes fit or not? He goes into a store and says to his tailor, "Look here, how do 1 know what size I want?" He looks at him a moment, then takes a boy's coat and says, "Try that on, if you please." He gets one arm half way down, and he can't find any armhole on the other side. "Oh, that is a world too small for me. I can't get into that." Try moral qualities in the same way. You have one text that leads to this very analogy or figure, "Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ," as a garment. Put it on your con science. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ as an element of love. Put on the saving and helping of men, instead of hating men. Try on each one of these Christian graces, and see whether they fit you, or whether you can get them on. A person should come into the Church of Christ joyfully, yet not so much on account of attainment, but because he has put himself now in the way of attaining, and may hope to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ unto the end.

(H. W. Beecher.)

It is well to look back sometimes.

I. ESTRANGEMENT. "For ye were as sheep going astray." "All we like sheep have gone astray." There is a depth of meaning in the expression "going astray" which very fittingly represents the condition of man with regard to Divine things. It implies —

1. A state of dissatisfaction. Neither men nor animals, as a rule, leave that which gives them satisfaction and enjoyment. With regard to man and God the word very far from expresses the real state. Man is more than dissatisfied. He abhors the necessities which the Divine fold entails. He hates the restraint, the associations, the duties.

2. A state of unrest. It is a constant wandering; a going hither and thither without a settled purpose; a drifting on the sea without an aim; going whither chance or the whim of the moment may lead.

3. A state of danger.

II. RECONCILIATION. "But are now returned." There is something very pleasant in the word "return." It speaks of old associations renewed, severed connections reunited. It means something so different to a new breaking of the ground. The reunion with old familiar places, persons, or things has a charm which has in itself the spirit of poetry and the reality of prose. The sheep returning to the fold goes back to the familiar ways, familiar surroundings, and the familiar voice of the shepherd. And so the soul going to God is only returning to its normal condition. Don't let us forget that the coming to the fold of Christ is a return. An important point concerning this return is that it is not natural. It is not easy or pleasant to retrace our steps, to acknowledge our folly.

III. SAFETY. "Return to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls." Here is ample protection, security, and supply.


The Shepherd and Bishop of your souls
There is no symbol upon which the early Church seems to have dwelt with more delight than that of Christ as the Good Shepherd, bringing home to the fold the lost sheep. It was engraved on gems; it furnished the legends of seals; it gives today an almost fabulous value to fragments of broken glass; it was painted upon the chalice of the Holy Communion, it was carved upon the tomb of martyrs in the catacombs. In the text there is presented to us a two-fold truth.

I. The first is THE ASPECT OF INFINITE LOVE, AS REVEALED IN THE OFFICE AND FUNCTION OF A SHEPHERD; and the second is THE WEAKNESS AND HELPLESSNESS OF HUMAN SOULS, as revealed in the figure of a flock. And these are expanded by the additional idea of our Lord's episcopate as the Bishop of souls, and the implied necessity of a fold where there is a flock. And then, as the shadow of sin must ever rest upon our brightest hope, and the wail of penitence mingle with our highest song of praise, there is the reminder of the fact, that from the care of this eternal Shepherd, and the safety of this Divine fold, there are those who are going astray. What, then, does this word teach us of Christ's care for His people? Now, the vocation of a shepherd has always been the symbol of the most tender and vigilant watchfulness. The ruling idea of the shepherd's vocation was that he was the appointed defender of his flock, and their safety was committed to him. When the lion and the bear came upon the flock which the youthful David was tending, he slew them both, and delivered the lamb, even at the peril of his own life. And yet, bold as the shepherd was to all that would assail his flock, to the flock itself he was the embodiment of tenderness and care. His authority was the power of love. His only emblem of authority was the pastoral crook; the well-known tones of his voice were the guiding power; and, going before his flock, he led them through green pastures, calling them all by their names, and carrying the lambs in his bosom. In this day of intenser activities, we can hardly appreciate all that is meant by such a metaphor. But these are the hints which the symbol gives us, of the tender watch care of the great Shepherd of souls over His flock, as He first rescues them from the devil going about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, and then folds them safely within the sacred enclosure of His Church, and then watches over them in every pathway of their daily life. The symbol of a flock suggests the complementary truth, and teaches us the lesson of trust and reciprocal duty. For it defines our relation to Him, and the obligations involved in that relation. Within the fold of Christ we are not compared to cattle, to be driven by force or fear; we are not as swine, to wallow in the mire and filth of sin; but we are sheep, to follow a Divine Shepherd's voice. If the tenderness and love of Christ be not a sufficient power to make us obedient, He will use no force. If the constraining power of the Cross fails to guide our wayward feet, then we will not be guided by Him at all. And the severest penalty of our disobedience will be our own going astray; our self-exclusion from the fold of Christ; our loss of His watchful care, and our exposure to the power of the adversary. And then, as if to interpret for all time the fulness of this office of our Lord, another word is added, whose meaning was destined to be permanently fresh in every age. The pastoral life of Oriental lands might lose its meaning when transplanted to other lands and centuries; but the office and function of a bishop is preserved forever from oblivion by its inherent position in the organisation of the Church. And this word the apostle places side by side with the other word of local significance, that both might go down the ages together, and each interpret the meaning of the other. And so the Good Shepherd is also the Bishop of souls. The title, in its comprehensive significance, lifts our thoughts to that Divine episcopate whose cathedral is the temple not made with hands, eternal in the heavens; whose diocese is the universe of souls, and whose affairs are administered today from the right hand of the Majesty on high. The collective pastorate of the Church on earth, acting in His name, is 'but the representative of the infinite care and ominiscient watchfulness of the great Shepherd above.

(W. A. Snively, D. D.)

I. THAT MEN HAVE SOULS. First, the fact is the most demonstrable fact to man.

1. All the evidence that we have both for the existence of matter and mind is derived from phenomena. The essence of both is hidden.

2. The essence whose phenomena come most powerfully under consciousness is most demonstrated.

3. The phenomena of mind come far more powerfully under consciousness than that of matter. Thought, feeling, volition, we are conscious of these. Secondly, the fact is the most important fact to man. Consider the capacities, relations, influence, deathlessness of a soul. Thirdly, the fact is the most practically disbelieved fact by man. Most men profess to believe it, but few men really do so.

II. THAT MEN'S SOULS REQUIRE A GUARDIAN; an ἐπισκοπος, an overseer. This is clear from three things. First, from the natural fallibility of souls. No finite intelligence, however holy and exalted, can do without a guardian. Secondly, from the fallen condition of souls. They "have gone astray." Look at the mistakes they make about the chief good, worship, etc. Thirdly, from the natural instincts of souls. Souls through all ages have been crying out for guardians.

III. THAT CHRIST IS THE ONE GUARDIAN OF HUMAN SOULS. He is the Bishop. What should be the qualification of him who can take care of human souls? He that would do so should at least have four things. First, immense knowledge. He should know the nature of souls, the moral situation of souls, the right way of influencing souls. Secondly, unbounded love and forbearance. The waywardness, the insults, the rebellion of souls would soon exhaust any finite amount of love and patience. Thirdly, ever increasing charms. Souls are to be drawn, not driven. Fourthly, inexhaustible power. Power to extricate from present difficulties, to guard against future, and to lead on through interminable ages. Christ has all these qualifications, and more. Let Him, then, be my overseer.







(U. R. Thomas.)

In these words we have a brief and yet clear representation of the wretchedness of natural conditions and of our happiness in Christ. It imports indeed the loss of a better condition, the loss of the safety and happiness of the soul, of that good which is proper to it, as the suitable good of the brute creature here named is safe amid good pasture. That we may know there is no one exempt in nature from the guiltiness and misery of this wandering, the prophet is express as to the universality of it: "All we like sheep have gone astray." Yea, the prophet adds, "We have turned every one to his own way." We agree in this, that we all wander, though we differ in several ways. Truth is but one; error endless and interminable. Thy tongue, it may be, wanders not in the common path road of oaths and curses, yet it wanders in secret calumnies, in defaming of others, or, if thou speak them not, yet thou art pleased to hear them. It wanders in trifling away the precious hours of irrecoverable time, with vain unprofitable babblings in thy converse; or, if thou art much alone, or in company much silent, yet is not thy foolish mind still hunting vanity, following this self-pleasing design or the other, and seldom and very slightly, if at all, conversant with God and the things of heaven, which, although they alone have the truest and the highest pleasure in them, yet to thy carnal mind are tasteless and unsavoury? Men account little of the wandering of their hearts, and yet truly that is most of all to be considered. It is the heart that hath forgotten God, and is roving after vanity: this causes all the errors of men's words and actions. A wandering heart makes wandering eyes, feet, and tongue: it is the leading wanderer that misleads all the rest. "But are now returned." Whatsoever are the several ways of our straying, all our wandering originates in the aversion of the heart from God, whence of necessity follows a continual unsettledness and disquiet. The mind tumbles from one sin and vanity to another, and finds no rest; or as a sick person tosses from one part of his bed to another, and perhaps changes his bed in hope of ease, but still it is further off, thus is the soul in all its wanderings. But shift and change as it will, no rest shall it find until it come to this returning. But is not that God in whom we expect rest incensed against us for our wandering? and is He not, being offended, a consuming fire? True; but this is the way to find acceptance, and peace, and satisfying comforts in returning: come first to this Shepherd of souls, Jesus Christ, and by Him come unto the Father. There be three things necessary to restore us to our happiness, whence we have departed in our wanderings.

1. To take away the guiltiness of those former wanderings.

2. To reduce us into the way again.

3. To keep and lead us in it.Now all these are performable only by this great Shepherd.

1. He did satisfy for the offence of our wanderings, and so remove our guiltiness.

2. He brings them back into the way of life — "Ye are returned." but think not it is by their own knowledge and skill that they discover their error and find out the right path, or that by their own strength they return into it. Men may have confused thoughts of returning, but to know the way and to come, unless they be sought out, they are unable. This is David's suit, though acquainted with the fold, "I have gone astray like a lost sheep; Lord, seek Thy servant."

3. He keeps and leads us on in that way into which He hath restored us. He leaves us not again to try our own skill, whether we can walk to heaven alone, being set into the path of it, but He still conducts us in it by His own hand, and that is the cause of our persisting in it and attaining the blessed end of it (Psalm 23:3). Are we led in the paths of righteousness? Do we delight ourselves in Him and in His ways? Can we discern His voice, and does it draw our hearts so that we follow it? "The Shepherd and the Bishop." It was the style of kings to be called shepherds, and is the dignity of the ministers of the gospel to have both these names. But this great Shepherd and Bishop is peculiarly worthy of these names as supreme.

(Abp. Leighton.).

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