The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:1 Peter 5:5Who was so fit to communicate this command to man as the once self-confident, arrogant Peter? We can fancy, as he wrote the words, how his mind would go back, with blushing memories, to many a passage in his earlier history; and as he thought of the painful processes through which, by the grace of God, he had unlearned the impetuosity, the egotism, and the pride of his youth, he would say it with all the earnestness and the force of one who had felt the power and the subjugation of a besetting sin, "Be clothed with humility."
I. "Humility," to be "humility" indeed, cannot see itself. It hides itself in Christ; it lets nothing be seen but Christ. The best "humility" is Christ; it makes itself humility by losing itself in the humility of Jesus. Now, if it be asked, "Of what material is this clothing of humility made?" I should take you for the answer to that marvellous scene when, upon the margin of heaven, Jesus denuded and emptied Himself of the prerogatives of Deity, and put off His glory, and put on shame and weakness, that He might be a Brother to the people whom He came to save. I would bid you collect from all the humilities of the Redeemer's history the real fabric of the "humility" that you are to copy and to follow.
II. I am persuaded that the first way to grow humble is to be sure that you are loved. The education of almost any child will teach you that if you treat that child harshly, you will make his little heart stubborn and proud; but if he feels that you love him, he will gradually take a gentler tone. So it is with the education through which we are all passing to the life to come. The first thing God does with His child is to make the child feel that He loves him. He shows him that he is forgiven. He gives him many tokens of His remembrance; He heaps tendernesses upon him, like the angels' food, that was to "humble them in the wilderness." There is nothing which will stoop a man into the dust like the gentle pressure of the feeling, "I am loved." No heart will resist it. The forgiven David; the woman at Jesus's feet; Peter under the look; John in the bosom; the gaoler, first rushing to suicide, and then casting himself at the feet of the Apostles when he heard a kind word—"Do thyself no harm; we are all here"—all witness to that one universal law love, makes humility.
III. There is a false "humility," than which none can be more unlike Christ's or destructive to the character. It is of three kinds. There is "humility" of external things in a mortification of the body—a thing which nature likes to do, and which men generally admire, and call saintly. But it is a cloke, not a robe; a look, a posture, a ceremony. There is a great deal of self-applause, self-righteousness, conscious goodness. Self is denied on one side to break out, gratifying itself on the other side. The body is more vile, but the spirit is full of self-consequence. There is another counterfeit which Satan makes and calls "humility" (for there is never a work of God's but Satan is ready to counterfeit it); it is what St. Paul calls, in his epistle to the Colossians, "a voluntary humility," people thinking themselves unworthy to come to God. They put in other matters that God hath not required, and therefore "worship angels." And there are those who do not know it, but who, like Peter, are, under an appearance of "humility," indulging contemptuous pride. "Thou shalt never wash my feet." "I am not good enough to be saved. I am not worthy to come to the Lord's Supper. I cannot believe God loves me." What is that but the worst form of pride, giving God the lie and setting up worthiness as a condition to receive the free gift of God? True humility is to cast yourself so low that you just take, as a poor, helpless sinner, without a question, all that God is, and all that God gives, and all that God undertakes for you, as all your life, and all your peace, and all your salvation. For remember that this is the grace to which God has promised everything else.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 12th series, p. 13.
Clothed with Humility.
I. Humility—what is it? It is a gracious gift of the Holy Ghost. So far as it has respect to God, it is that docility which is willing to learn what God teaches; that conscious penury which is willing to accept whatever God proffers; that submissiveness which is willing to do what God desires, and to endure whatever God deems needful. And, so far as it has respect to man, it is that self-oblivion which is not indignant at being overlooked; that modesty which is not aware of its own importance; that considerateness which, in reproving sin and in trying to rescue the sinner, recognises a brother or sister in the same condemnation: and in this development it is near of kin to that charity which envieth not, which vaunteth not herself, which is not puffed up, doth not behave herself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil.
II. Humility is the conscious penury which is willing to accept whatever God offers. And there are two things which in the Gospel He more particularly offers: righteousness and strength. Perhaps, if those who have never got the full comfort of the Gospel would look narrowly into it, they might find that the hindrance is a want of humility. By the door of the Gospel a God of love invites you to come into His peaceful presence; but though a wide door, it is wonderfully low, so low that no one can enter who does not stoop.
III. Finally, humility is that submissive and acquiescent mood of mind which is willing to do, to undergo, and to become whatever may be God's good pleasure. If a haughty spirit cometh before destruction, God giveth grace to the humble. Affable, contented, obliging, grateful humility grows in favour with God and with the people around, and never lacks the materials of a continual feast.
J. Hamilton, Works, vol. vi., p. 389.
1 Peter 5:5I. The humble man must be a spiritual man—a believer in Christ Jesus. Other men may be modest, may be retiring, may be unselfish; but the Christian alone can be humble. They want the great source, the central point, of humility. They know perchance that they are weak, erring, inconsistent; but only the Christian knows that he is a sinner. No man knows this in the inner depths of his heart until God's Holy Spirit has wrought there—has opened his eyes to see that in him which Christ came to save him from, and has brought him in abasement to the foot of Christ's cross. Nothing can lead a man to humility except God's blessed Spirit, breaking up the hard and fallow ground within, showing a man what he himself is and what Christ is. Two truths of which the natural man is ignorant: (1) What he himself is. The humble man must know himself. The self-examination we need is a habit, becoming at length, like other habits, a second nature. (2) And what Christ is. In true humility, faith is absolutely necessary.
II. "God giveth grace to the humble." There is no difficulty now in seeing that this is so. For it is the humble who are ever seeking that grace. The proud have no sense of their need of it; but it is the daily bread of the humble. Prayer for it is to them not an irksome duty, not a prescribed form to be got through, but the work of the heart, the struggle of the whole man for more strength to walk in God's ways. It is to the humble, then, that the promises are made, "Seek, and ye shall find"; "Ask, and ye shall have"; "Knock, and it shall be opened unto you."
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. ii., p, 30.
1 Peter 5:5I. Who are the proud? One has the pride of birth. A long line of honoured ancestry has preceded him; he boasts of the blood of heroes and of princes. Fair indeed is his portion, and truly noble, if he be like the servants of God of old, perfect in his generation, not disgracing his descent by meanness of spirit, but rather striving, in the highest sense, to be the best of his line. But this is not pride of birth in the offensive sense. It is the pride of birth to stand aloof in thought from the poor and lowly-born, to deny in practice the universal brotherhood of mankind, to depreciate God's gifts and God's people. This pride of birth God resisteth.
II. Another is proud of his wealth. Here also it is none the less true that God by His promises resisteth the proud. The mere pride of the possession of this world's means—how does it make discord in all the course of God's government and God's redemption of the world. There is the day of God's final victory, when the rich man also dieth, when all his revenues cannot keep his spirit here on earth, nor all the splendour of his tomb preserve the spirit's cherished tenement from decay.
III. Another is proud of his power. But here too God fights against pride. The pride of another is his talent, of another still his character. "God resisteth the proud." As long as the heart dwells in a fair habitation of its own, it has no place in God's spiritual temple; self-satisfaction is an insuperable barrier to the reception of the Gospel of Christ.
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. ii., p. 15.
References: 1 Peter 5:5.—C. Kingsley, Town and Country Sermons, p. 323; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 10; F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. ii., p. 171; J. Edmunds, Sixty Sermons, p. 268.
1 Peter 5:5-6Humility and its Greatness.
I. Let us examine the source and ground of humility. This is drawn from the knowledge of God. Hence, where the knowledge of God is absent, the exercise of humility becomes impossible. It is in His presence and before the light of His majesty that the lesson is to be learned, not in the rude conflicts of the world, nor in the eager strifes of man with man, not in the heat of human passion, interest, or ambition; but in worship and devotion, the uplifting of the heart God ward, and the flashing of the light of God into the darkened human intellect. Humility begins with the knowledge of God, and advances to the knowledge of ourselves.
II. Consider the practical outgoing of humility. (1) It produces an absorbing and unmeasured admiration. For the worse we think of ourselves, the more adoring must be our sense of the sovereign love and grace, the infinitely perfect and effectual righteousness, of the God who has redeemed us. The greatness of God first abases pride, and then the knowledge of ourselves magnifies the greatness of God. (2) From praise and trust combined there will arise also implicit obedience. For admiration and trust exalt to the highest degree the glory of the Being admired and trusted. If obedience be hard, trust in God makes it easy, for trust goes out and up in prayer, and prayer, rising like a messenger, comes down again like an angel from the Divine presence laden with blessings, and bearing the gifts of grace and peace.
III. These three sentiments of adoration, trust, and obedience necessarily affect our relation towards our fellow-men. Let us picture to ourselves a man who is thus humbled, and say if he is not a strong man, and noble and honourable in his strength. The strength is all of God; the gift is of God; the knowledge is of God; the character in its appropriate relations is the character of God.
E. Garbett, Experiences of the Inner Life, p. 223.
Reference: 1 Peter 5:6.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxix., No. 1733
1 Peter 5:6Christian Work and Christian Rest.
I. Half, and more than half, of the practical faults in the world arise from looking upon life in a false view, and expecting from it what God does not mean us to find in it. It may be that many persons, when reading attentively our Lord's life and studying His language, are greatly surprised at the absolute unworldliness of both of them. He to whom all things future are as present suited both His life and His words to what He knew would be ever the chief error of mankind. He knew that social and civil activities were sufficiently natural to man to need no encouragement. He knew that knowledge would be pursued, and arts and sciences cultivated. But He knew that the kingdom of God and His righteousness would not be sought after. He knew that men would look carefully enough on the things of this life, but would care for little beyond it.
II. For ourselves then, and for our children, life is before us as a trial-time of uncertain length, but short at the longest, in which we may fit ourselves, if we will, for the eternal life beyond it. This is life to each of us, and this is our proper business; all the rest that we do or can do, however splendid, however useful, is, or should be, done only subordinately. It is not true that our great business or object in the world is to do all the good we can in it; our great business and object is to do God's will, and so to be changed through His Spirit into His image that we may be fit to live with Him for ever. This, then, is Christ's daily lesson to us: not to be idle and slothful in our work, and to sanctify it by doing it as to Him, and not as to men; not to be idle as those who have mere bodily faculties, who live only to eat, to drink, to sleep; not to be too busily and carefully engaged in our own labour, and still less for its own sake, as those who live only for themselves and for this world, and to whom God, and Christ, and eternal life have never been made known. Let us work earnestly, for so did Christ; but let us work also as doing God's will, and for the improvement of our own souls, or else our work will not be such as He will acknowledge at His coming.
T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. ii., p. 173.
1 Peter 5:7The Sympathy of the Divine Care-bearer.
Nothing can be more beautifully true to the real meaning and intention of this passage than this translation. It conveys exactly what St. Peter means it to convey. Its rhythm is perfect. But we must be upon our guard that we do not run into a confusion of thought from the repetition of the word "care." "Care" can never be to God what it is to us. To a Being infinite in power, love, and leisure, "care" can never attach in its inferior "and baser sense. The very reason why we should "cast" our "care" is that God cannot be made unhappy or weary by it. The fact is that, in the original of this verse, the word "care" is not repeated. It is quite a different expression which is applied to God from the one which is used concerning us. We may write it, "Casting all your anxiety upon God, for to God all that concerns you is dear." Nevertheless our version is admirable, and infinitely better than any other. It exactly carries the thought and the comfort which God meant it to do, "Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you."
I. "Care" is a word which is used both in a good and bad sense in the Bible. "Care chokes the word." Yet we are to "have care one to another." Quite literally, the word used for "care," in the beginning of my text, is the same which Christ employs when He says, "Take no thought for the morrow": and it is, "Do not split your mind; do not have a divided heart." "Cast all your corroding thought upon Him, for He careth for you." It is a delightful thing to do—to "cast care." It leaves life so light! But never think it is an easy thing. Here again the word God uses, both in the Greek and in the English, is very discriminating, for to throw, to hurl, to "cast," is not easy. It involves a great effort. Every one who has tried it has found it so. It is a very rare thing, and a very difficult thing, to do what we have to do, and then have no "care" about it. No words can say how blessed a thing it is when it is done. But it is no light thing to do. We do not lay these things; we "cast" them.
II. You must begin with the fundamental truth that Christ is both "the Sin-bearer" and "the Care-bearer" of His people. I do not mean that these two things are really different. Sin is the heaviest of all "cares." Nobody who has ever felt its burden will question that. But, strange as it may appear, it is often more difficult to "cast" our "cares" than it is our sins, else why are so many Christians so burdened with daily life and depressed with so many anxieties? Why is it that men who are sure of their salvation yet are not sure of their constant provision? The fact is that in some respects it is a higher religion to trust God and leave all with God about temporal things than it is about spiritual things. We may easily deceive ourselves about our spiritual faith, and think we trust when we do not, because the subject is far away out of sight; but temporal things are visible, and real, and close; and we can scarcely make a mistake whether we trust God about them or not. They are daily tests of faith. And many fail here who think that their spiritual faith is strong. Yet could that be the case? Can we really believe in a God of grace when we do not rest in a God of providence?
III. But now the important question is, What shall we do that we may "cast"? How shall we fulfil this kind and hard command? (1) Realise, and take a large estimate of, the God of your life and of your providence. See His hand in everything. Feel His eye always upon you, and believe in His fondness for you. Never think of this world as being ruled by general, universal laws. It is. But think of what is as true, and much better for us to think of, though we may not be able to see the reconciliation between the two: that there is a particular and special providence in every little thing, and that God overrules everything for His own; that you are a centre round which the universe of providence circles. (2) When you say your prayers, pray about the small things—the things which are upon your mind at the moment. Pray about the things, whatever they be, concerning which at that time you are most interested. Do not pray vague prayers, the prayers that will suit everybody, but your own personal prayer, just as much about your worldly trial as about your heavenly one. (3) Live in the day: in the day's duties; in the day's trials; the day's strength; the day's joys. Live inside the day. "The morning and the evening"; "the evening and the morning"; and tomorrow heaven!
J. Vaughan, Sermons, 13th series, p. 197.
References: 1 Peter 5:7.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. viii., No. 428; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 6; E. Blencowe, Plain Sermons to a Country Congregation, p. 297; W. C. E. Newbolt, Counsels of Faith and Practice, p. 149; W. J. Knox-Little, Church of England Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 17; W. Arnot, Good Words, vol. iii., pp. 122, 124; E. White, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 40; H. VV. Beecher, Ibid., vol. xxx., p. 177; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 343; J. Keble, Sermons for Sundays after Trinity, Part II., p. 474. 1 Peter 5:8.—E. Blencowe, Plain Sermons to a Country Congregation, vol. ii., p. 375; J. Vaughan, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 36; F. W. Farrar, In the Days of thy Youth, p. 297.
1 Peter 5:8Companionship in Temptation.
I. St. Peter evidently thought that the conviction of companionship in temptation was meant by God to be a source of strength. We are hourly and daily assailed by sore temptations. Let us then remember that our case is not an isolated one. Other persons, our fellow-Christians, are being tempted in like manner, not, indeed, all by precisely the same temptations—for the tempter understands character and knows how to adapt and adjust his snares—but still in the like manner, by the engine best fitted to break down each individual's attempts at defiance.
II. Regard a man as suffering in the same way that you suffer yourself as labouring under the same illness, disabled by the same accident, wounded in the same battle. How the heart opens to him! What an entirely different interest he inspires! He is no more a man merely, nor an acquaintance merely, but a brother. Suffering creates families. It is the great adopter. And does not the analogy hold in spiritual suffering? Some biographies which tell us of religious struggles that have been very terrible move us to a certain awe. We recognise the sufferer as greater than ourselves, because he has suffered more. And that which we do instinctively feel of the very greatest spiritual wrestlers, we ought to feel in due degree of all those among whom we live. What a sacredness will they thus acquire in our eyes! Our temptations are their temptations, and a tempted soul cannot be uninteresting. Christ died for it. Christ's death gives once for all a solemnity to all human lives.
III. The thought that others are being tempted like ourselves leads us (1) to render justice to them and (2) to be ourselves upon our guard. The recollection that we are not alone in temptation, but that others are yielding to it and causing unhappiness by yielding to it, may well warn us of the great power, the widely extended domain, of the common enemy.
H. M. Butler, Harrow Sermons, p. 320.
References: 1 Peter 5:8, 1 Peter 5:9.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii., No. 419; F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. i., p. 299. 1 Peter 5:9.—W. Arnot, Good Words, vol. iii., pp. 125, 127; A. P. Stanley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 292; J. Keble, Sermons for Sundays after Trinity, Part I., p. 74. 1 Peter 5:10.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. ix., p. 65; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vi., No. 262; vol. xxix., No. 1721; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 193; H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The Life of Duty, vol. ii., p. 26. 1 Peter 5:14.—W. Peacock, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxii., p. 153.
Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.
But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.
To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
By Silvanus, a faithful brother unto you, as I suppose, I have written briefly, exhorting, and testifying that this is the true grace of God wherein ye stand.
The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son.
Greet ye one another with a kiss of charity. Peace be with you all that are in Christ Jesus. Amen.