voice of comfort - The need for it - The modern dispersion of saints
- Strangers and not strangers - Adoption in one direction producing
alienation in another - Difficulty of the situation - The need for
fortitude - Self-denial - Mr. Self a dangerous acquaintance - Christ
knocking at the door - The price of the Kingdom - Eye service -
Christ's rule of selecting his friends - God's "abundant mercy"
- Crucifixion and resurrection - The Father's love - The goodness
that will come of it - Inferiority of the present state - Glory
of the coming state - Reserved in heaven meanwhile - Faith and reason
- The glorious picture they jointly produce
PETER i.- Sometimes in reproof, sometimes in comfort: thus the Spirit
speaks as need requires. Here, it is the voice of comfort; the voice
of the shepherd, Peter, as he executes the commission assigned to
him in the parting words of the Chief Shepherd: "Feed My lambs."
It is pleasant to hear such a voice. We need comfort. We are in
a world of evil, in which are many hindrances. The Father is little
thought of; the Son largely forgotten; and the children (such few
as there are) despised. This makes the situation bleak enough for
the lambs; but there are other trials; false brethren, wolves in
sheep's clothing, biting - winds of doctrine," and poor weak
failings in all of us that make us self chidden and condemned. We
need to be comforted, and the Lord commands it for such as are broken
and contrite in heart, trembling at His word.
addresses himself to "the strangers scattered." In Peter's
day, they were scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia,
etc. To-day they are scattered throughout England, Wales, Scotland,
America, Australia, etc.; and though differently situated in many
respects, their spiritual needs are the same. They are strangers
and not strangers. The truth has made them at home where they were
strange, and strange where they were at home. They are no longer
strangers and foreigners to the commonwealth of Israel with its
all glorious covenants of promise, with which in the days of their
darkness they had no connection. They have received the adoption
of sons, and rejoice in being fellow-citizens with the Lord Jesus,
with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets and saints
of that splendid polity that will one day fill the world with light,
and life, and love, and joy, and glory to God in the highest; in
this, they are at home where they were strange. But this has more
of the future than the present in it. We rejoice in the hope it
is true; but we walk by faith and not by sight, and this is burdensome
to the natural man.
the things that are seen, we have been turned just the other way
about. We once belonged to the world, and the world loved its own,
and we were at home in it, but now we are strangers and sojourners,
as all the fathers were. We look not at the things which are seen.
We await the day of the manifestation of the sons of God. In this
attitude we need the exhortation of this chapter: "Gird up
the loins of your mind; be sober, and hope to the end, for the grace
that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
Without the continual girding of the loins of the mind (in the continual
adjustment of our mental relation to the things that are and shall
be, in the unfailing study of the holy oracles) we shall grow weary
and faint in our minds, and hope will die instead of continuing,
and we ourselves become cast away on the great ocean. We must train
ourselves to accept the position of strangers and sojourners. "If
ye call on the Father," says Peter: that is if ye really mean
to be children of the Father, who, I without respect of persons,
judgeth according to every man's work, "pass the time of your
sojourning here in fear." Our salvation is not otherwise to
be wrought out than in fear and trembling. There is no time for
pleasure hunting. The service of Christ is now, as it always has
been, a course of self-denial. Analyse most men's hearts, and self-comfort,
self-prosperity, self- honour, self-pleasure, in some form or other,
will be found the directing motive. Christ is made to wait on Mr.
Self's convenience. It is a dangerous policy; for, without respect
of persons, the Father, who judgeth every one's work, will shortly
ask of the whole programme, "Did ye it for Me?" Christ
stands now at the door and knocks. If we open to him and take him
in as our friend and counsellor, dwelling in our heart by faith,
he will become Captain, and will direct the whole course of things
for us, and enable us to render a good account in the day when the
great question is put. But if we listen to other voices rather,
and neglect the reading of the Word, giving heed only to the demands
of business, the love of money, the claims of kindred, the wants
of the flesh in houses, lands, clothes, eating, drinking, marriage,
etc., Christ, after awhile, turns away from the door, and the Christless
house, joined to its idols, is given over, at last, to desolation.
Christ means to bestow immortality and a kingdom, and, therefore,
he asks a high price, even the whole heart and life. He is patient;
but he will not, in the day of his glory, accept the homage of an
eye-servant. Many, no doubt, in that day, will prostrate themselves
eagerly before him, and claim kinship, as he himself tells us; but
his favours will be reserved for those who faithfully serve him
in his absence, declining association with a world that knew him
not, taking part in the testimony of him which the world despises,
and diligently observing his precepts, while all is untoward, self-crucifying,
and silent. He will be to us what we are to him. In this he is like
the Father, who to the pure shows Himself pure; to the righteous
shows Himself righteous, etc. (Psalm xviii. 25). Deny him, and he
will deny us confess him, and he will confess us; neglect him, and
he will neglect us; serve him, and he will gird himself and make
us sit down to meat and come forth and serve us.
great rule is, "He that doeth the will of my Father, the same
is mine." Often did he enforce this rule when on earth. He
comes soon again to enforce it as he never has enforced it before.
Of how great consequence, then, it is to place ourselves in the
right relation to this rule while opportunity continues. The Father's
will is many a time and clearly expressed in these holy oracles
which it is our privilege to read from day to day. It is expressed
thus in the chapter before us. As obedient children, fashion not
yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance. But
as He that hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner
of conversation. Because it is written, Be ye holy for I am holy."
This is the Spirit's own standard. To reach it we must continually
strive, for we are assured on the same authority of the Spirit,
that "without holiness no man shall see the Lord." Let
there be no talk of this standard being too high; this is the language
of the unwise. We must rather accustom ourselves to the thought
and the language of the Spirit, and labour to conform to that statute
of the kingdom which requires us to "deny ungodliness, worldly
lusts, and live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present
shall be greatly helped in this if we remember and in daily prayer
realise that lovely aspect of the Eternal Mind presented by Peter
when he says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus
Christ, who, according to His abundant mercy, has begotten us again
to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."
Our salvation is of God. Christ is of God. It is of His abundant
mercy that we have hope. He is kind. He is love. He is not willing
that any should perish. In Christ He invites all to come, saying,
"Him that cometh unto Me, I will in no wise cast out."
In this we have strong consolation which comes like dew on the parched
ground. Christ's resurrection was the Father's act, not by any rule
of commercial satisfaction or equivalent, but of His "abundant
mercy," the obstacle being removed in the condemnation of sin
in the flesh: sin having been nailed to the tree in the body of
His beloved one.
to His abundant mercy, which He was not compelled to show, He raised
His beloved from the dead for our justification, that we who were
dead in trespasses and sins might have hope who had none. The Father
begat us again to this lively hope by the resurrection of His Son.
The resurrection is everything, without which the condemnation of
sin in the flesh would have been nothing. The apostasy destroys
this by making the condemnation everything and the resurrection
of Christ a thing of which no reasonable account can be given so
far as effecting our salvation is concerned. It errs also in making
the condemnation bear on the - soul "so-called - the immaterial
principle of life - instead of on the flesh - that "body of
His flesh" in which through death we are reconciled (Col. i.
20). Certain good words and fair speeches have been sounded in our
ears which would drag us in the same fatal direction. Let us be
on our guard. There is need for the apostolic exhortation that we
take heed that we lose not those things which we have wrought.
comfort is to realise the whole arrangement as the Father's love.
It is His way for His own honour and our salvation. We have but
to learn what that way is and worship. The love that has devised
it is a love passing knowledge. The goodness that will come of it
eludes the highest effort of imagination. We are begotten "to
AN INHERITANCE" such as no mortal ever possessed. The highest
state to which man can attain in this life is disfigured by the
moth and rust that doth corrupt, and exposed to various kinds of
thieves, including death, the most formidable of them-that break
through and steal. The fine houses take much keeping in order; the
fine ways of life bring much labour; this vile body wants much tending
in bath room and laundry to keep it even tolerable. All tends to
decay and dissolution; but "the inheritance is incorruptible,
undefiled, and fadeth not away." These characteristics apply
to all its elements.
spiritual, delivered from the tendency to decomposition inherent
in all animal organizations; faculties exalted; emancipated from
the heaviness and cloud that haze over the most brilliant of mortal
powers; life immortalised by the transmutation of our substance
from the frail fibre of animal being to the indestructible tissues
of spirit-body; the society of impeccable immortals, radiant with
life, light, and praise; dominion secured in all the earth; honour,
wealth, joy, and renown our portion in the high places on earth
when the voice of the scorner has ceased; the earth a smiling paradise;
its valleys jubilant with righteous mirth; "glory to God in
the highest; goodwill toward men; health, blessing and plenty crowning
all lands with joy; time not dimming the glory or weakening the
zest; the advent of an enemy or an end to salvation impossible;
"an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, that fadeth not away."
meanwhile, "it is reserved in heaven."The Lord is there;
therefore, all is there: for all this will come of him. We are not
of those who make the mistake of supposing that because it is reserved
in heaven, therefore we must go there to obtain it. We have listened
to the exhortation which, in the same chapter, tells us to hope
to the end "for the grace that is to be brought unto us at
the revelation of Jesus Christ." We are of those who look for
his appearing in the love of it, knowing that the kingdom, which
is the inheritance, will, at that time, appear also. Its being out
of sight makes a demand on our faith and patience; but we wait,
knowing that He who hath promised is faithful, and that he who shall
come will come, and will not tarry.
to whom will his coming be a joy? To all? Nay, verily, to them who
are kept by the power of God through faith." The Gospel is
the power (Rom. i. 16), and faith cometh by hearing it (Rom. x.
17). Those who keep it in memory (ii Cor. XV. 2), are kept by the
power of God through faith, if their memory be of the earnest sort
recommended by Paul to the Hebrews, "giving the more earnest
heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time they slip."
This memory depends upon compliance with another apostolic recommendation:
"Give attendance to reading;" "as new-born babes,
desire the sincere milk of the Word that ye may grow thereby."
A constant and diligent attendance upon this will include us among
those "who are kept by the power of God through faith unto
salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time."
we greatly rejoice;" yet our experience is that of those to
whom Peter wrote "for a season we are in heaviness, through
manifold temptation." Our temptation "may not be of precisely
the same order as that of our brothers in the first century, but
its operation and effects are the same. It is not joyous; it presses
on us unto weariness and groaning, and, perhaps, tears; but it is
not accidental. It is part of the Father's programme "that
the trial of our faith "may yield joyous results in the day
of glory. If it be found unto "praise, and honour, and glory,
at the appearing of Christ," we shall not have suffered in
vain. This will be if we come through trial-proof. Peter mentions
gold in the furnace as an illustration. Our faith must not disappear
in the process of trial. The gold may dissolve, but it is gold for
all that, and is visible. Let us see to it that our faith fail not
in the heaviness that comes with manifold temptations. There is
great joy, at last, if we overcome; "and this is the victory
that overcometh the world, even our faith!"
having not seen, ye love," says Peter. He does not say "we,"
because he was among those who had seen him. But thousands, in the
first century, believed who had not seen. They believed on the same
principle that men believe in anything they have not seen with their
eyes. They believed on the evidence of credible eye- witnesses.
This is the solid foundation of our faith. The apostles make a strong
point of this always: "We have not followed cunningly-devised
fables," says Peter, "when we made known unto you the
power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were EYE-WITNESSES
of his majesty" (2 Pet. i. 16). "We cannot but speak the
things which we have seen and heard" (Acts iv. 20). "That
which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, and handled
with our hands" (I John i. I). The men of the first century
not only heard the testimony of eye-witnesses, of whose integrity
they had a guarantee, in the steadfastness with which they declared
their testimony, in the face of evil consequences, but they saw
their word attested with wonders and signs. Our foundation is the
same, but we, being on a higher stratum, get down to it by excavation.
By the exercise of reason upon the facts of history, we are enabled
to get to the same point of belief in the resurrection of the Lord
Jesus. We have not seen him, but we believe he exists. We have not
seen him, but we love him. How could we do otherwise than love him?
And this love constrains us as it constrained Paul, to do those
things which he has required at our hands; in much weakness, it
may be; in much sorrow and travail of soul, because of the hardness
of the way; but yet, in love, in hope, in faith, and in a certain
sense, in joy unspeakable. We contemplate him as our High Priest,
and are comforted; we think of him as our Elder Brother, and we
are drawn towards him. We remember him as God manifest, and bow
before him in great awe. We remember him as our coming deliverer,
and our hearts rise and our hearts fill with great joy. We recollect
him as the Lamb slain, and, with all our hearts, we yearn for the
opportunity of joining our song to those who, surrounding him in
the day of his glory, will sing, "Worthy is the Lamb that was
slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and honour, and
glory, and blessing. Amen, and Amen."