2 Peter 1:16-20
For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ…
"For we have not followed cunningly devised fables." The infidel says we have. This is no new cry. It is as old as Christianity itself. The apostles themselves were said to have been imposed upon. Since that day the ground of attack has been changed. We are now told that the apostles were the impostors.
I. THE STATEMENTS THAT HAVE BEEN DENOUNCED AS FABLES.
II. THE PERSONS WHO ARE SAID TO HAVE FABRICATED THESS FABLES. Infidelity asserts that they were deceivers. Of this we might justly demand proof. They appear to be men of strict integrity. They do not hesitate to expose each other's faults or to confess their own. They appear to be utterly destitute of the art of deception.
1. Is it pretended that these grand impostors were men of renown for their talents and influence, and that, therefore, they acquired an ascendancy over the public mind? This is at once disproved by the fact that, at the very outset of their career, the Jewish Sanhedrin perceived that they were "unlearned and ignorant men" (Acts 4:13), whilst Gentile magistrates and governors regarded them as weak, demented enthusiasts, whose fittest treatment was scourging and imprisonment.
2. Will it be contended that in the construction of their scheme, they adapted their fables to the popular taste? This is at once denied. Their system was absolutely opposed to parties of every class, to men of every clime. How different was the system of Mohammed! and how different have been the schemes of more modern infidels! How careful have these impostors been to pander to the passions of those they have sought to delude, presenting or promising whatever has been adapted to the views and the tastes of the proud, the worldly-minded, the sensual, and the profane!
3. But it is said that they were fools and fanatics. This assertion is more easy than the proof. They were. indeed, accused of folly and of madness, but they convinced their accusers that they spake the words of truth and soberness. Their writings certainly afford evidence that they were men of more than ordinary mental vigour. Their style is nervous and plain. Their story is simply and unaffectedly told.
4. But they were actuated by ambition, it is said. On what object was their ambition fixed? Worldly honour or worldly power is usually the great object of the ambitious. Besides, it was not their ambition to exalt themselves, though they had opportunities of doing so (Acts 3:14.). The entire history of the apostles is pregnant with proof that they sought not their own, but the things of Jesus Christ. What things might have been gain to them, those they counted loss for Him.
5. Impostors generally expect to get something by the impositions they practise; and the greater the risk of detection, or the danger of punishment, the greater is the gain, the hope of which is their animating motive. Now, what was the gain which prompted the apostles to devise and to execute their grand imposture? You must be aware, that so far as this world was considered, they had everything to lose, and nothing to gain. "Bonds and afflictions awaited them in every city." Will it be said that all this was the obstinacy of contumacy? that rather than avow the cheat, they readily underwent privations and sufferings? The life of reproach and trial the apostles lived, and the death of torture that they died, incontestably prove their sincerity.
III. But who WERE THE PARTIES ON WHOM THESE SO-CALLED FABLES WERE SO SUCCESSFULLY IMPOSED?
1. If the evangelic history had been a fraud, of course the apostle- would have been most likely to succeed in the work of deception among the inhabitants of some barbarous clime; or, at any rate, among those who lived far away from the scenes where the plot was laid. Did they then travel into some remote or obscure region, where the inhabitants would have little inclination to suspect them, and less opportunity to detect their deceit? No; they began at Jerusalem.
2. Shortly afterwards, the apostles were induced to go unto the Gentiles; the one who was most active in this great missionary enterprise among the heathen, being a convert to the faith of Christ — not an original disciple of the Nazarene — and a convert, whose accession was one of the noblest triumphs of truth, of which the Church of Christ can boast. Do you not think that the disputer of that day would demand evidence before he gave credence to the statements of the apostles? Do you not think that the wise men of Greece, and the noble of Rome, would easily have detected the deceit of "Christ crucified," had it been a cunningly devised fable, and would indignantly have denounced its abettors as worthless impostors had they not been the ambassadors of God?
IV. THE CONSISTENCY OF REVEALED TRUTH WITH REASON AND WITH COMMON SENSE. Let it, however, be remarked that those truths of Divine revelation, which it is necessary for us to understand in order to be saved, are so simple and plain that the wayfaring man, though a fool, needs not to mistake respecting them. And therefore we argue that they are not cunningly devised fables.
1. To begin at the beginning — we mention first the existence of one great, supreme Being, whom the Bible denominates God. This great doctrine is everywhere assumed throughout the sacred volume, and forms the foundation of all religion, and of all morality too.
2. This Bible professes to be a revelation from God, designed to teach us His will, and to point out to us the path that leads to immortal blessedness. Is there anything unreasonable in this?
3. Let us now proceed to ascertain whether those truths which we call, by way of eminence, the truths of the gospel, are incredible or absurd. The first we notice is the entire and universal depravity of man. Go where you will, do you not find your fellow-creatures depraved as well as degraded? Is not the hand that God has filled with plenteousness lifted up in daring rebellion against Him?
4. Another great doctrine is the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ. But it is objected that it is most unreasonable to suppose that the Divine Being should lavish so much love, as the doctrine of redemption supposes, on this insignificant world of ours, while there are so many worlds, and so many systems beside, filled with intelligent beings, all demanding the care of the Great Supreme as well as ourselves. We see nothing unreasonable in this supposition. Does the mother who watches and weeps over her sick or dying child, love her other children the less because her heart is so strongly drawn towards the afflicted one? Does it not magnify the Divine Being to know that when man had sinned and thereby excluded himself from the family of God, the Father of the spirits of all flesh spared not His own Son, in order that the banished ones might be restored?
5. And what inconsistency, either with reason or with common sense, can you find in the doctrines of justification or pardon righteously bestowed, because obtained by faith in the blood of Christ, and of the sanctification of the soul by the Spirit of Christ?
V. Among the RESULTS of this lengthened inquiry into the evidences of Christianity. we trust will he —
1. The confirmation of the believer in the truth as it is in Jesus. You know what you have believed. You know whom you have believed. You will not sell your birthright for a mess of pottage.
2. Another result we hope will be the establishment of such as may be wavering.
3. A third result we anticipate from this inquiry is a clearer perception of the nature of Christianity, and a deepened conviction of its value, How vast are my obligations to the blessed God for having devised such a scheme for saving rebellious worms, and for having made it known to me. How necessary for me to avail myself of its privileges.
(P. C. Horton.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.