For, "All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall,
John 13:34; 1 Corinthians 13:1-3; 1 John 3:14). Peter might have chosen some other test. Possibly he had reason for anxiety on this particular ground, for the Epistle contains several hints on the proper mutual relation of these Christians; e.g. 1 Peter 1:22; 1 Peter 2:17; 1 Peter 3:8-10 4:8; 5:5.
I. SALVATION IS HERE SPOKEN OF AS THE PURIFICATION OF THE SOUL IN OBEYING THE TRUTH. "Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth;" only another way of saying, "Seeing you have received this salvation of which I speak, which issues in holiness." For:
1. This is a suitable and comprehensive expression of the fact of salvation. "Obeying the truth" is a synonym for" believing the gospel;" e.g. 2 Thessalonians 1:8; Romans 6:17; Hebrews 5:9; Romans 10:16, in all of which "obey" is evidently equivalent to "believe." The word is used by Peter in that sense in this Epistle (1 Peter 3:1 and 1 Peter 4:17). Link that with the other word, "purifying the soul;" and whether that refers to the cleansing by the atonement or by the work of the Spirit, we have the essential elements of redemption.
2. This expression with this meaning harmonizes well with what has gone before. The last two paragraphs from ver. 13 dealt largely with purification resulting from faith.
3. This particular way of speaking of salvation bears closely on the subject in hand. In each of the epistles to the seven Churches, our Lord gives himself a different title, according to the special condition of each Church. So here the apostle speaks of their redemption under this aspect of it, because this aspect of it bears on the duty of Christian love he is about to enforce.
III. SALVATION NATURALLY ISSUES IN CHRISTIAN LOVE. "Ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth unto unfeigned love of the brethren."
1. Love a necessity where salvation is. That is shown as follows: "See that ye love one another,... being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God."
(1) Love a necessity because the Christian has a new nature. We are to love every man; but the love we are here called to is love of the brethren. But no power can make us love as a brother one who is not a brother; for that there must be a common fatherhood, and where that is it must be felt. Children of the same father, animated by the same principles, influenced by the same Divine Spirit, sharing the same hopes, joys, sorrows, conflicts, - these cannot help being drawn together.
(2) But this is also spoken of as a Divine nature. "Incorruptible." The relation between Christ's people is not a union after the flesh, such as connects Abraham's children. They are born, not of man, but of God; God's nature inspires them. Think of the love God has to his children! Then where God's nature is, love of the brethren must be.
(3) This is also an ever-living nature. The human nature fades, its strongest principles and closest bonds may last but a little while; even the mother may forget the child. But, said Isaiah, "the word of the Lord endureth for ever;" and Peter adds, "This is the word which has been preached to you." That is, this new life of ours does not die out; that which has produced it liveth and abideth for ever, and is a living, operative power in us. What God has thus implanted, he does not suffer to die. "He will perform it till the day of Jesus Christ;" he will develop its hidden possibilities. Then is it not certain that the redeemed man will love? God cannot impart and train a nature of love which does not love.
2. This love is of a very high order.
(1) "Unfeigned." Peter, Paul, and John all speak of this feature of Christian love. "Let love be without dissimulation;" "Let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth " - as though an assumed affection were common. But that is not Christian love.
(2) "Love out of a pure heart." That is holy. Christian love is holy love. Holiness is its basis. Contrary to loving all men, bad and good, as brethren. There must be charity to all, but true brotherly love towards those who turn from Christ there cannot be. Or does" pure" mean "unmixed"? - a love that rises from purely spiritual causes, and not because others are good to us, or give us pleasure, or belong to our Church. The publicans and sinners have that love. Christian love is due to love of God, and loves others because God does.
(3) "Fervent." The opposite of coldness. A love that lights up the features and makes the hand-grasp warm and kindles happiness. It consumes selfishness, and sets our thoughts to work for others' good. Fed from a heavenly source, "many waters cannot quench it" (waters of infirmity, neglect, jealousy, injury, yea, even wrong); that is Christian love - very different from bare courtesy. How can one feel coldly where the father loves divinely?
III. SALVATION IS THEREFORE TESTED BY THE POSSESSION OF THIS LOVE. Where the life is, the love is; where the life is low, so is the love.
1. Have we sympathy with the people of God - true fellow-feeling that helps? "Whoso hath this world's good," etc. We should if we loved.
2. Do we delight in fellowship with them? Love must be with its beloved. Is it so with us? do we love the house of God, the brotherhood, etc.? We should if we loved.
3. Are our judgments concerning them tender and charitable? "Love covers a multitude of sins;" "Love thinketh no evil," etc. Is it so with us? Do we find ourselves trying to put a favorable construction on evil reports, hushing them up, sorrowing over them, talking to God about them? We should if we loved.
4. Are we ashamed to call them brethren? - C.N.
All flesh is as grass.
1. The nature of God, as revealed to us in the Scriptures, is the nature from which a gospel might be expected.
2. The gospel, so far as we appreciate it, and so far as we understand the thirsts and wants of human nature, is an all-sufficient gospel for man.
3. A gospel less than the gospel of the grace of God must have left some thirst unslaked, or some necessity unmet, or some wound unhealed, or some tears unwiped away; and while those tears were falling, that wound smarting, that want craving, that thirst burning, there could not have been the experience and enjoyment of complete salvation.
4. A gospel more real and substantial, or more worthy of the world's acceptation, could not have issued even from God.
5. And this gospel is abiding, because it is the incorruptible seed of life everlasting. The old spiritual nature is impregnated with the seed of a new man, a Divine seed and incorruptible, the seed of the truth of the gospel; and the man who has thus received the gospel enters upon a new and eternal life. The gospel now lives in a living mind, and in a living heart, and in a living character; it repeats itself in the believer; and as the character and mission of Jesus Christ may be learned from the written life of Christ, so the gospel may be learned from the spiritual life of him who believes it.Let us now indicate the practical bearing of this doctrine.
1. The text magnifies the gospel. Let us be devoutly careful to preserve its gloriousness in our own eyes. And in order to do this we must reverence the gospel.
2. The text shows that the gospel is intended to be to us personally, and thereby furnishes us with a test of our religious state. The gospel is intended to be the germ of a Godlike life within us, and if it fail of this, it fails of its chief effect.
3. The text points out that in which is continuance; let us take care to handle perishable things as perishable, and to demean ourselves toward the gospel as everlasting.
4. The text suggests the strongest motives for the immediate and universal preaching of the gospel. Flesh is as grass. The man whose days are as grass is dying daily. And it is only here, while he is breathing out his brief life, that his nature can be impregnated with this incorruptible seed.
5. The text encourages us to sustain, and in all respects to provide for, the continuous preaching of the gospel. One after another the preachers of the gospel enter that valley, and are seen no more. But what do they leave behind? The sanctuaries in which they ministered? Yes; but something more. The flocks they tended? Pleasant memories? Yes; but much more. They leave that gospel, written not on tablets of stone, but upon the fleshy tablets of the heart; they leave that gospel more than written — they leave it in many hearts, a seed with a germ of Godlike and eternal life in it; they leave it as a new man, in many who have been born again by it as by incorruptible seed; they leave it in the rich experiences and holy activities of the new man; they leave it in a state imperishable, and they may leave it without anxiety.
(C. A. Bartol.)
I. THAT MAN AND HIS GLORY ARE FADING AND WITHERING. All flesh is grass.
1. It is weak, and low, and little as grass. Mankind is indeed numerous as the grass of the field, multiplies, replenishes, and covereth the earth; but like grass, it is of the earth, earthy, mean, and of small account. Alas, the kingdoms of men which make so great a noise, so great a figure, in this lower world, are but as so many fields of grass compared with the bright and glorious constellations of stars, made up of the holy and blessed inhabitants of the upper regions. Proud men think themselves like the strong and stately cedars, oaks, or pines, but they soon find themselves as the grass of the field, liable to be nipped with every frost, trampled on by every foot, continually insulted by common calamities.
2. It is withering, and fading, and dying as grass; having both its rise and maintenance out of the earth, it hastens to the earth, and retires to its root and foundation in the dust. In the morning, perhaps, it is green and growing up, its aspect pleasing, its prospect promising; but when we come to look upon it in our evening work we find it cut down and withered. If it be not cut down by disease or disaster, it will soon wither of itself; it has in it the principles of its own corruption. Is all flesh grass? All, without exception of the noble or the fair, the young or the strong, the well-born or well-built, the well-fed or well-bred? Is all grass, weak and withering?(1) Then let us see ourselves to be grass, and humble and deny ourselves. Is the body grass? Then be not proud, be not presumptuous, be not confident of a long continuance here; forget not that the foot may crush thee. Grass falls; let me not be such a fool as to lay up my treasure in it. Is the body grass? Then let us not indulge it too much, nor bestow too much time and care and pains about it, as many do, to the neglect of the better and immortal part. After all, we cannot keep it from withering, when its day shall come to fall.(2) Let us see others also to be as grass, and cease from man, because he is no more than thus to be accounted of. We are now to consider, not common men, but men of distinction, and to see them withering and falling.
3. Let us inquire, What is the glory of man in this world? There is indeed a glory of man which is counterfeit, and mistaken for glory. Solomon says, "For men to search their own glory is not glory" (Proverbs 25:27). The glory men commonly pursue and search for is no glory at all. Is beauty and comeliness of body the glory of man? So they pass with some who judge by the sight of the eye; but at the best they are only the goodliness of grass; they are a flower which death will certainly cut down; or the end of time will change the countenance; either wrinkled age, or pale death. We should therefore make sure the beauty of grace, the hidden man of the heart, which neither age nor death will sully. Is wealth the glory of man? Laban's sons thought so when they said concerning Jacob. Of that which was our father's hath he gotten all this glory (Genesis 31:1). But this also is a fading flower, Is pomp and grandeur the glory of a man? That also withers away. Great names and titles of honour are written in the dust. Give me leave to show you some instances of the glory of a man.(1) Is a large capacity of mind the glory of a man?(2) Is learning to be reckoned the glory of a man?(3) Is tenderness and humility, modesty and sweetness of temper, the glory of a man?(4) Is the faithful discharge of the ministry of the gospel the glory of a man?(5) Is great usefulness the glory of a man, and a delight in doing good? Well, here is the glory of man; let us be ambitious of this glory, and not of vain glory. See true honour in the paths of wisdom and virtue, and seek it there. This is honour that comes from God, and is in His sight of great price.
4. Having seen this flower flourishing, we are now to see it withering. As to himself, this glory is not lost, is not stained, by death; it is not like worldly honour, laid in the dust, and buried in the grave; no, this flower is transplanted from the garden on earth to the paradise in heaven, where it shall never fade. The works of good men follow them, but they forsake us, and we are deprived of the benefit of them.
II. Though man and glory are fading and withering, YET GOD AND HIS WORD ARE EVERLIVING AND EVERLASTING. The glory of the law was done away, but that of the gospel remains. The glory of ministers falls away, but not the glory of the Word they are ministers of. The prophets, indeed, do not live forever, but the words which God commanded them did, and will take hold, as words quick and powerful.
1. There is in the Word of the Lord an everlasting rule of faith and practice for us to be ruled by.(1) It is our comfort that Christianity shall not die with our ministers, nor that light be buried in their graves.(2) It is our duty not to let our Christianity die with our ministers, hut let the word of Christ contained in the Scriptures still dwell in us richly.
2. There is in the Word of the Lord an everlasting fountain of comfort and consolation for us to be refreshed and encouraged by, and to draw water from with joy, and an everlasting foundation on which to build our hopes.
1. We are like grass in our relation to the earth.
2. We are like grass in the frailty of our nature.
3. We are like grass in the uncertainty of our lives. The blade dies in all seasons.
4. We are like grass in the unnoticeableness of our dissolution. Blade after blade withers and dies, and the landscape appears as ever.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)I. THE TRANSITORY NATURE OF ALL THE THINGS WHICH APPERTAIN TO THIS OUR EARTHLY STATE. "All flesh is grass," etc.
1. How affectingly is this sentiment verified in the personal endowments of man, beauty and strength! Survey that animal structure, once so lovely, when it is wrinkled by the hand of time; when it is withered by the action of disease; when it is blasted by the stroke of death. Survey these melancholy changes which await the sons and daughters of Adam, and you will feel the propriety of the sentiment in the text.
2. The wisdom of man, no less than his beauty and strength, serves as an example of the sentiment in the text. In the present age we are accustomed to denounce the systems of former generations as fanciful or crude, and to smile when we hear them dignified by the names of philosophy and science; boasting at the same time that the perfection of philosophy and the arts have been reserved for our own age. Alas! for us, generations will arise that will look back on the nineteenth century, and in their turn laugh at the rudeness of our inventions, the infancy of our science, and the blunders of our philosophy. The fact is, that all knowledge merely human is destined to pass away (1 Corinthians 13:8).
3. We may also adduce as an example of the truth in the text the passing away of all those things which constitute the elegancies and decorations of civilised life; all that is designed to gratify the taste and imagination. Whatever the pencil of the painter has portrayed; whatever the chisel of the sculptor has wrought out; whatever the skill of the architect has raised; whatever the imagination has devised of rare and ornamental in furniture, dress, or manners — all must serve in its turn to show that the goodliness of man is as the flower of the field.
4. I must not omit to bring forward riches as furnishing a verification equally strong of the sentiment of the text.
5. These remarks apply with equal propriety to that idol of many hearts — fame. The historian's pen, the poet's muse, the tablet of marble and brass, all the means which have been employed to perpetuate a name, have only served as a comment on the text.
6. Power and dominion, desired by some and envied by others as the most abiding of human things, are only exemplifications on a larger scale of the truth affirmed in the text. Empires rise and fall; sceptres change hands, thrones are overturned, and one dynasty succeeds another.
7. One other illustration of the affecting sentiment of the text yet remains. The great globe itself, the habitation of fallen man, is destined to pass away!
II. THE DURABILITY OF THAT DISPENSATION OF TRUTH WITH WHICH JEHOVAH HAS BLESSED THE WORLD. By the Word of our God I understand Messiah's dispensation, the gospel of the Son of God, with all the fulness of its grace and truth.
1. It is proved that this Word of our God shall stand forever, in spite of all that can be effected to the contrary by persecution. Evangelical truth has outlived the memory of her once mighty foes; has overturned the monuments reared to commemorate her own destruction; and, clothed in celestial radiance and power, has gone on from conquering to conquer!
2. The course of events has shown that the Word of our God shall stand forever, notwithstanding the hostility of infidel men. The religion of Christ Jesus may be compared to an exceeding strong citadel, erected on the summit of an everlasting rock. They alone tremble for its security who are ignorant of its impregnable strength.
3. As a confirmation of the position in the text, that the Word of our God shall stand forever, we may with holy exultation advert to that spread of the Christian religion which has taken place in our day.
4. I may mention as a further proof that the Word of our God shall stand forever, that holy energy with which it is still accompanied.
(J. Bromley.)Isaiah 40:6-8): — In every one of us it must be fulfilled that all that is of the flesh in us, seeing it is but as grass, must be withered, and the comeliness thereof must be destroyed. The Spirit of God, like the wind, must pass over the field of our souls, and cause our beauty to be as a fading flower. There must be brought home to us the sentence of death upon our former legal and carnal life, that the incorruptible seed of the Word of God, implanted by the Holy Ghost, may be in us, and abide in us forever. The subject is the withering work of the Spirit upon the souls of men.
I. Turning then to THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT IN CAUSING THE GOODLINESS OF THE FLESH TO FADE, let us, first, observe that the work of the Holy Spirit upon the soul of man in withering up that which is of the flesh, is very unexpected. You will observe that even the speaker himself, though doubtless one taught of God, when he was bidden to cry, said, "What shall I cry?" Even he did not know that in order to the comforting of God's people, there must first be experienced a preliminary visitation. Many preachers of God's gospel have forgotten that the law is the schoolmaster to bring men to Christ. It cannot be that God should cleanse thee until He has made thee see somewhat of thy defilement; for thou wouldst never value the precious blood if thou hadst not first of all been made to mourn that thou art altogether an unclean thing. The convincing work of the Spirit, wherever it comes, is unexpected, and even to the child of God in whom this process has still to go on, it is often startling. We begin again to build that which the Spirit of God had destroyed. Having begun in the Spirit, we act as if we would be made perfect in the flesh; and then when our mistaken up-building has to be levelled with the earth, we are almost as astonished as we were when first the scales fell from our eyes. The voice which saith, "Comfort ye, comfort ye My people," achieves its purpose by first making them hear the cry, "All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field."
2. Furthermore, this withering is after the usual order of the Divine operation. If we consider well the way of God we shall not be astonished that He beginneth with His people by terrible things in righteousness. Observe the method of creation. What was there in the beginning? Originally nothing. "The earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep." There was no trace of another's plan to interfere with the great architect. So it is in the new creation. When the Lord new creates us, He borrows nothing from the old man, but makes all things new. He does not repair and add a new wing to the old house of our depraved nature, but He builds a new temple for His own praise.
3. I would have you notice that we are taught in our text how universal this process is in its range over the hearts of all those upon whom the Spirit works. "All flesh is grass; and all the goodliness thereof" — the very choice and pick of it — "is as the flower of the field," and what happens to the grass? Does any of it live? "The grass withereth," all of it. The flower, will not that abide? So fair a thing, has not that an immortality? No, it utterly falls away. So wherever the Spirit of God breathes on the soul of man, there is a withering of everything that is of the flesh, and it is seen that to be carnally minded is death. If the work in us be not the Spirit's working, but our own, it will droop and die when most we require its protection.
4. You see, then, the universality of this withering work within us, but notice the completeness of it. The grass, what does it do? Droop? nay, wither. The flower of the field: what of what? Does it hang its head a little? No, according to Isaiah it fades; and according to Peter it falleth away. There is no reviving it with showers, it has come to its end. Even thus are the awakened led to see that in their flesh there dwelleth no good thing.
5. Let us further notice that all this withering work in the soul is very painful. As you read these verses do they not strike you as having a very funereal tone? This is mournful work, but it must be done. All that is of nature's spinning must be unravelled. It was a great merry for our city of London that the great fire cleared away all the old buildings which were the lair of the plague, a far healthier city was then built; and it is a great mercy for a man when God sweeps right away all his own righteousness and strength, when He makes him feel that he is nothing and can be nothing, and drives him to confess that Christ must be all in all, and that his only strength lies in the eternal might of the ever-blessed Spirit.
6. Observe that although this is painful it is inevitable. Why does the grass wither? Because it is a withering thing. "Its root is ever in its grave, and it must die." How could it spring out of the earth and be immortal? The seeds of corruption are in all the fruits of manhood's tree; let them be as fair to look upon as Eden's clusters, they must decay. Moreover, it would never do that there should be something of the flesh in our salvation and something of the Spirit; for if it were so there would be a division of the honour. It gives me great joy when I hear that you unconverted ones are very miserable, for the miseries which the Holy Spirit works are always the prelude to happiness.
7. It is the Spirit's work to wither. Better to be broken in pieces by the Spirit of God than to be made whole by the flesh! What doth the Lord say? "I kill." But what next? "I make alive." He never makes any alive but those He kills. He never hems those whom He has not wounded.
II. Now, concerning THE IMPLANTATION. According to Peter, although the flesh withers, arid the flower thereof falls away, yet in the children of God there is an unwithering something of another kind. "Being born again, not of corruptible seed," etc. "The Word of the Lord endureth forever," etc. Now, the gospel is of use to us because it is not of human origin. If it were of the flesh, all it could do for us would not land us beyond the flesh; but the gospel of Jesus Christ is super human, Divine, and spiritual. In its conception it was of God; its great gift, even the Saviour, is a Divine gift; and all its teachings are full of deity. Now this is the incorruptible Word, that "God was made flesh and dwelt among us"; that "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them." This is the incorruptible Word, that "whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God." Do you receive it? Then the Holy Spirit implants it in your soul. Do you leap up to it, and say," I believe it"? Then you possess the living seed within your soul. And what is the result of it? Why, then there comes, according to the text, a new life into us, as the result of the indwelling of the living Word, and our being born again by it. Now observe wherever this new life comes through the Word, it is incorruptible, it lives and abides forever.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
The Word of the Lord endureth forever
I. THE RIGHTEOUSNESS WHICH THE GOSPEL REVEALS FOR JUSTIFYING THE UNGODLY IS EVERLASTING. Mankind are guilty before God; and what blessing is so necessary as justification? Of what avail are rank, power, wealth, learning, and even Church privileges, of which so many boast, for acceptance with God? What, then, is the glory of the self-justiciary? It is fading and transient as the flowers of the field. And what presumption in sinful mortal man to hold up any of these things, or all of them put together, if that were in his power, as his righteousness, in direct opposition to the declared will of his Creator and Lord. Is the God who made him to be dictated to by him? No. That Word, fixing the mode of acceptance, endureth forever, while the glory which man opposes to it shall wither, and leave its worshippers covered with confusion. The certainty and the perfect reasonableness of this result must impress us more deeply if we consider the character of the righteousness which the Word of the Lord reveals and establishes. It is absolutely perfect, for it includes obedience to both the precept and the penalty of the law of God; it is divinely excellent, for it was performed by the Son of God, who condescended to assume our frail nature that He might perform it; it is the most glorious production of Divine wisdom and love: it hath magnified the law and made it honourable; it hath thus propitiated God and abolished death.
II. THE VITAL PRINCIPLE WHICH THE WORD OF GOD INSPIRES IS IMPERISHABLE. The only life which we derive from Adam is feeble, terrestrial, mortal. Its activities, aims, and enjoyments correspond to its nature and origin. They all centre in things worldly and perishing. The gospel is "the ministration of life." The Lord Jesus conveys by it the influences of His quickening Spirit into the soul that was alienated from God and absorbed in earful, and produces in it the new creature, even faith working by love. The truth which the Word testifies concerning Christ being thus known and believed becomes the principle of a new life, the activities of which appear in the outgoings of the soul towards Him in trust, hope, love, gratitude, submission. By the illuminations of His Word Christ lives in that soul, and exerts a mighty power over all its faculties — a power which inspires it with His own views, spirit, and aims. Actuated by the vital principles which His words create — for His words are spirit and life — the mind connects all things with Christ and with God, converts them into means of instruction, into motives to love and obedience, into materials for praise. It regards its most common mercies as the fruits of Divine bounty, the expressions of the Divine goodness and care. It submits to privations and afflictions, and endures them as the salutary discipline of a wise father; and the most ordinary occurrences it contemplates as the dispensations of Him who makes "all things work together for good" to them that love Him. The relations, then, and pleasures, and pains, and intercourse, and pursuits, and occurrences which are peculiar to the present transient state, and which are so insignificant in themselves, because the state to which they belong is so fluctuating and evanescent, rise into dignity and importance, from the influence which the Divine Word exerts on the mind in which it lives, and become the means at once of present fellowship with God and of training up an immortal spirit for a holy and blessed eternity. Now this vital principle, so excellent in itself, is imperishable. In the present state, indeed, its power is small, its activities are feeble and irregular, and, of course, its influence is very limited. But let us recollect that it is only very lately since it came into being, and that it exists in the midst of much which is most hostile to it, and which continually opposes its growth. It shall exist, and notwithstanding the bleakness of the soil in which it is planted, and the noxious exhalations which rise around it and the storms which assail it, shall wax stronger and stronger; for the seed is the Word of the Lord which liveth and abideth forever.
III. THE HONOUR TO WHICH THE GOSPEL RAISES BELIEVERS, AND THE BEAUTIES WITH WHICH IT ADORNS THEM, ARE UNFADING. It dignifies them with intimate relations to Christ, introduces them into God's favour, exalts them to be His sons, gives them access with confidence to His gracious presence, a claim on His protection and care, and makes them kings and priests unto God. And these are not only enduring, but ever-increasing honours; at least their transcendent excellence and glory shine with increasing lustre, and the longer and the more fully they are enjoyed they are the more highly valued, and their power to ennoble and to bless is more abundantly experienced and more humbly and gratefully acknowledged. They are enduring, for the loving kindness of God, which is the sum of them all, is immutable, and the charter which conveys them is irrevocable, for it is confirmed by the blood of Christ and the oath of God.
IV. EVERY HOPE WHICH IS FOUNDED ON THIS WORD SHALL BE MORE THAN FULFILLED. What blessed hopes does it authorise and encourage the believer to cherish! — the hope that God will never fail him nor forsake him, that the Divine Spirit shall be his guide and comforter, that his heavenly Advocate shall secure to him mercy and grace in every time of need, that the Lord will perfect that which concerneth him. Oh! are not these glorious hopes, not only worthy of intellectual and immortal beings, but hopes which ennoble and purify and bless them! Can the greatest and best portion of worldly good which human heart ever ventured to anticipate bear comparison with them for a single moment? And that hope rests on a sure foundation. It is built on the living and imperishable Word of Him who is eternal and almighty, whose name is Faithful and True, and sooner shall heaven and earth pass than one iota or tittle of His Word remain unfulfilled.
(James Stark, D. D.)I. THE WORD OF GOD IS THE SEED OF LIFE. It is a principle having life and energy, which sown in man's heart grows there, expands, and bears fruit to such an extent that the whole man is transformed into a new creature, and henceforth lives to God. It is not so often a broad outline of Christian truth that strikes its root into the conscience as some word or two; some thought; some blessed promise, such as 1 John 1:7; some touching invitation, like Matthew 11:28; some alarming note of warning, as Luke 13:3; some fearful description, as 1 Timothy 5:6. In the private history of almost every one amongst us who has dared to confess Christ there has been, previous to that step, a time of reading and of praying over the Word of God. Schoolboys in their private rooms, trembling, it may be, at their fellows' laugh, clerks in their intervals of business, a wife in her husband's absence at his daily work, soldiers and sailors, have placed the Bible on their tables, read, prayed, applied the Word, made it their own, and so been "born again of this incorruptible seed," etc.
II. THE WORD OF GOD LIVETH AND ABIDETH forever; and if we need to receive it into our hearts as the seed of life, so have we need to cherish it there as the support of life — of that life which, beginning here, goes on throughout eternity. Distinctly and forever shall we think of and see before us the Lamb who has redeemed us to God by His blood. Distinctly and forever will His holy law stand out as the law by which we tried to live on earth and by which we cannot fail to live in heaven.
(F. Morse, M. A.)
I. The first consolation our text has for this depression is that IT CONTRASTS WITH OUR FRAILTY THE WORD OF THE ETERNAL GOD. It matters little that the worker passes if his work endures. If we had but as firm a faith in "the Word of God" as we have in the results of human investigation, if we were as earnest in the Divine work as in our own, despondency would be at an end. Piety will never be checked, faith will never languish, because "all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass." For piety is bent on serving God, and faith receives God's revelation; and though "the grass withereth and the flower thereof falleth away," "the Word of the Lord endureth forever."
II. The next thought suggested by our text is that MAN'S CHANGEFULNESS ILLUSTRATES THE ETERNAL PURPOSE OF GOD. The Divine intention is brought out in His dealing with the fleeting generations of men; it becomes venerable in retrospect, while it is ever revealing itself in the freshness of a progressive history. An unvarying history would be a history of death; we gain a vaster idea of permanence by advance than we could ever gain by the continuance of unchanging forms. "One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh; but the earth abideth forever" — depository of God's creative energy. Another spring sees the grass revive; the trees look down on the renewed face of the earth. So, though men die, humanity endures; the same in its great necessities, the same in its sense of dependence and obligation, with quenchless aspirations ever rising; there is an abiding human heart. And humanity finds the same eternal God, the same object of piety, the inspirer and rewarder of faith, the fountain of an everlasting hope; finds the same salvation, the same Saviour — "Jesus Christ, yesterday and today the same, and forever." There is development in humanity as there is evolution in nature; and this development witnesses to the abiding God, who needs ages to work out His will and reveal His eternal purpose of goodness and grace to waiting man.
III. It is not of the eternity of God or of God's rule over the world that our text speaks; it is "THE WORD OF THE LORD," WHICH "ENDURETH FOREVER," We need a revelation; an unrevealed were an unknown God. And yet how can we dream of abiding truth in a changing humanity? As mankind advances will not men's thoughts vary concerning even such fundamental things as moral obligation, the character of virtue, the objects of our devotion, the very being of God? The answer is, there will be development in the Christian faith; a fuller apprehension of its truths, a deeper sympathy with its spirit, a larger experience of its power, a broader application of it to the varying wants of men. But it will be from the old founts that the new inspirations will be drawn; men will turn to Christ and His gospel in every social complication, every conflict of faith, every spiritual need. The world's morals must be Christian morals; the world's religion the Christian faith. We are able to apply the test of history to this prediction. What book is there, eighteen hundred years old, which has the interest for all sorts and conditions of men the gospel has? We look inward, and we find the reason of its perpetuity to lie in its appeal to what is deepest in the soul of man.
IV. The enduring Word of God is THE PLEDGE OF OUR ENDURANCE. "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever." The gospel has been "the salt of the earth," preserving it from decay. Under it the world has renewed its youth, and its last days shall be its best. The love and righteousness, which are first revealed to our faith as ever abiding in God, and then are formed in Us — graces of character as well as objects of faith — are the only things that can endure. The man in whom they are not is dead while he liveth; the man in whom they are shall live, although he die.
(A. Mackennal, D. D.)I. We have here A DIVINE GOSPEL; for what word can endure forever but that which is spoken by the eternal God?
II. We have here AS EVERLIVING GOSPEL, as full of vitality as when it first came from the lips of God, as strong to convince and convert, to regenerate and console, to sustain and sanctify, as ever it was in its first days of wonder working.
III. We have AN UNCHANGING GOSPEL, which is not today green grass and tomorrow dry hay, but always the abiding truth of the immutable Jehovah. Opinions alter, but truth certified by God can no more change than the God who uttered it.
IV. Here, then, we have A GOSPEL TO REJOICE IN, a Word of the Lord upon which we may lean all our weight. "Forever" includes life, death, judgment, and eternity.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. IT IS SECURE, WHATEVER MAY BE THE EFFORTS OF POSSIBLE PERSECUTION. I do not say that you will not have apparent triumphs on the part of the persecutors. False brethren will fall away, but God's truth, somehow or other, will still survive, and He to whom that truth pertains and whose Word we are speaking will make it good in spite of opposition, and make it good in the oppressions of His faithful servants, strengthening them with strength in their souls, turning curse into blessing, and making the wrath of man to praise Him, whilst the remainder of that wrath He will restrain.
II. THE OLD GOSPEL IS IN NO DANGER WHATEVER FROM THE INTELLECTUAL OPPOSITION OF OUR MODERN INFIDELS. Here and there we have the sound of triumph on the part of our adversaries. Reading their literature, as some of us do, we find those triumphs much more frequent perhaps than some of you may suppose; but what are the triumphs? They are not triumphs over the old gospel as it came down from heaven. You have had things incorporated with Christianity which God never put there — they are disproved; you have had opinions foisted upon the gospel from the traditions of men — they are being detached; you have had interpretations of Holy Scripture which are undoubtedly untrue — you have had them put to silence. But need I say that such victories are not against us? They are on our side! To get rid of error is to get rid of so much dead weight; and although the discomfiture of a Christian man, when the traditions which he has maintained are taken from beneath him, may not be that which he likes, yet such discomfiture is so much clear gain to the Christian cause, and that clear gain it will go on to acquire.
III. THE OLD GOSPEL IS IN NO DANGER FROM THE DISCOVERIES OF OUR SCIENTIFIC MEN. I know of no statement so popular amongst the foes of the Christian faith as this, that the teachings of our sacred books are at variance with the teachings of the natural sciences; at variance, for example, with the teachings of astronomy, of archaeology, and especially of geology. Not one of those sciences whispers a coming contradiction to your Bibles; not one of them foretokens a coming time when you will have either to give up that book or to deny indisputable facts.
IV. THE OLD GOSPEL IS IN NO DANGER FROM THE ADVANCEMENT OF CIVILISATION. How is civilisation advancing! What a power is that of our commerce, our literature, our science, our art, our philanthropy, our moral and intellectual philosophy! There is much about it to be admired; it softens asperities, conciliates antagonism, refines the manners, elevates the character, combines and consolidates into one the entire family of man. Wondrous is the good which it has been doing, and wondrous is the good of which it is itself the representative and the embodiment. Tell us that civilisation will be the destroyer of Christianity! Why, abstract from your modern civilisation that which Christianity has imparted to it, and you have just that which very presently, by common consent, would be buried and out of sight. Why, it is the very child which your Christianity has brought forth; it is the very creation of which Christianity in her pure exuberance is instrumentally the creator. You might just as well think of this great superstructure in which we are assembled existing without a foundation as to think of modern civilisation existing without Christianity.
V. THE OLD GOSPEL IS IN NO DANGER FROM THE ULTERIOR NECESSITIES OF HUMANITY. There may be species of human necessity that have never yet come to light in our acquaintance with mankind; and there may be species that never will come to light, except it be in some further and advanced stage of the history of our race. The capacities, the susceptibilities, and the activities of the human soul are perfectly wonderful. Give to that human soul the opportunity, the means, and the appliances which may be requisite, and where is the man that will tell me what deeper depths of the emotional he may evince, what mightier forces of the intellectual he may disclose, what intenser sympathy with the diabolical he may display, and what more glowing apprehensions of the immortal he may manifest? Abide by your old gospel with an unfaltering faith. Let that time come, and be it present to your eye now, when there shall be powers of investigation to which there is no parallel now; there will be the message to the man who possesses that power of investigation — Go and investigate the great "mystery of godliness." Be your power what it may, it will find its occupation there. Be it so, that there shall be a capability for apprehension to which there is no parallel now: the commandment will be — Go and take the "unspeakable gift" of God, and try and find the occupation for your apprehension there. Be it so that there is guilt perpetrated — and who can tell after what we see ourselves what forms of guilt may be perpetrated? — be it that guilt is perpetrated at which even the devil stands aghast: there is "the blood that cleanseth from all sin"; let the sinner go and be cleansed and pardoned by that. Be it so that there will be unparalleled sympathy with and aspiration for the immortal; let the man who is the subject of such aspirations go and try to understand the "far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." Oh! there is no danger for the old gospel! You may have philosophy sublimated, until that with which we are familiar shall be as nothing side by side with your philosophy; transcendently superior will be the glorious gospel of the blessed God, and so far from being inadequate to man's requisitions then, it will supply, with an amplitude which is imperial, all that shall be required. So far from being effete and obsolete, it will exist with living and with royal power; so far from being, as we are told, an exploded superstition, an exhausted fountain, an ancient, decrepit, infirm, unavailable messenger of good, there it will be, in all the vigour of its youth, proclaiming salvation through the blood of the Lamb, and declaring to mankind in its highest elevation there is a higher elevation still. "Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil, that is understanding." This Word of the Lord wilt be all adequate to the necessities and the requirements of humanity.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
This is the Word which by the gospel is preached1. The same Word of the Lord — the same glorious gospel — is now preached to you. And it is this day as young and fresh, and strong and imperishable, as ever it was. It "abideth forever." And the flesh is still as frail, and all the glory of the flesh still as fleeting, as of old. There is no spot on this round earth where we can escape the admonition and the rebuke to our levity and pride. It startles the wayfarer in the bright savannas of the south, and amid the sands of the desert and the icy desolation of the pole. It whispers from the green mounds of western forests, and is repeated by the billows of ocean as they roll above the multitudes that have gone down to slumber in the silent depths. There is no hope for man, save only what is provided by that Word of the Lord which in the gospel is preached unto you.
2. But remember that even this mighty Word has power to bless and save only as it is believed and obeyed. Alas! how is this simple truth wilfully forgotten by multitudes who may yet be said to be exemplary in their attendance on public ordinances!
3. Let me ask those of you who profess faith in the gospel whether your obedience of the truth is such as purifies your souls from all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit; whether, in particular, it has tended in any measure to a brotherly love unfeigned.
(J. Lillie, D. D.).
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