The Christian Life in Some of its Characteristics
1 Peter 2:1-3
Why laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, all evil speakings,…

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.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings,

WEB: Putting away therefore all wickedness, all deceit, hypocrisies, envies, and all evil speaking,

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