This Chapter begins with an Exhortation arising from the former. A blessed Account of Christ is given, both in the Beginning and Close of the Chapter. Very interesting Relations are made of Christ, to allure the Church to the Love of Him.
Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, (2) As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: (3) If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. (4) To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, (5) Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
This Chapter opens with an exhortation to the Church, from what went before. The new-birth, being confirmed in all its blessed properties, and the spirit being born into that incorruptible life, which liveth and abideth forever, the people of God are here very properly called upon to testify the certainty and reality of these things, and that in a double manifestation. First, by laying aside all that evil conversation, and those evil actions, which marked the unregeneracy of their nature, while in that state. And, Secondly, in being alive to those holy desires after Christ, which are the evident tokens of the new-birth. I admire the beauty, as well as elegance of the Apostle's figure, in considering the new-born child of God as a babe in Christ. For, in the first awakenings of the spiritual life, every child of God, in his attainments, can be considered no higher. And a very blessed testimony it is of the new birth, when the child of God desires the breasts of consolation; hungers and thirsts after Christ, and is longing more for the knowledge of Jesus, and communion with Jesus, than the babe of nature testifies its health and cries for its daily food. And, indeed, under the presumption which the Apostle makes, and which is the sure consequence of being born again, the soul hath tasted that the Lord is gracious; this spiritual sense, which belongs only to the regenerate, makes the child of God exceedingly anxious to drink deeper into the glorious truths of Christ and his redemption. For the soul hath now felt somewhat of the plague of his own heart, hath had some views of the glories of Christ, and the suitableness of Jesus to his wants, as a poor sinner; and thus having known some-what of his own emptiness, and Christ's all-sufficiency, the earnest longing of the soul is for the being satisfied with the breasts of consolation, and to milk out and he delighted with the abundance of Christ's glory, Isaiah 66:10-11
There is an uncommon degree of beauty in the expression, to whom coming. The words imply, not one act, but a constancy of action. It is as if he meant to say, always coming; and for this plain reason. All our springs of spiritual life are in Christ. And the stream doth not depend more upon the constancy of supply from the fountain, than the new-born child of God (yea, and the eldest believer, and, if possible, with increasing need), doth upon the momentary supplies from Christ. Reader! do you know anything of this in your own attainments? Blessed and happy are you if you do. Very sure I am, that it is a secret but little known in the present day. The greater part of professors, yea, and too many of God's dear children also, are calculating the state of grace in which they stand, more by their own feelings, than by what they are receiving from Christ's fulness. They live like bees in the winter, in their own hives, upon their own substance, and thereby make to themselves a wintery dispensation, instead of coming out to the sweet light, and life, and everlasting fulness of the Sun of Righteousness. Whereas the Holy Ghost here teacheth the Church a more excellent way. By always coming to Christ, every day, and all the day, under a conscious sense of our own emptiness, and Jesus's all sufficiency, we receive out of his fulness grace for grace, John 1:16. And it is a sweet life. They only know the blessedness of it, who so use Christ, as God in his rich mercy hath appointed him. For my own part, I love to feel my wants, and poverty, and leanness that I may carry all to Christ, and make an exchange for his fulness, riches, and soul-renewing comforts. And very sure I am, that if I did not feel these things, but were puffed up in my own fleshly mind, the throne of grace would not be often visited by me. Oh! how truly blessed it is, When God the Spirit gives the soul a feeling sense of her poverty; then points to Jesus, who is all fulness to supply; then leads the soul to Christ, and Opens a communication with Christ, for the supply of every want, and the enjoyment of his all-suitableness and all-sufficiency. Oh! the loveliness of the Apostle's words, to whom coming!
The figure of a stone, and a living stone, in allusion to Christ, is uncommonly striking and just. As the first and last in the spiritual building, his Church, Christ is the Rock of Ages. And to intimate both the eternity of his nature, and the source of life to his people, he is Called a living stone, having life in himself. And I leave the Reader to form his own conclusions, under grace, whether the very expression doth not carry with it the fullest conviction of the Almightiness of his person; for otherwise, the very term living stone, would be inadmissible. And I beg the Reader not to overlook the striking contrast between God's esteem of Christ, and Man's, by nature. Disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious! What can be more decisive, in proof of the natural enmity of the human heart by the fall! And what more blessed to a child of God, of having been taken out of the quarry of nature, and being built upon Christ, when become living stones, deriving life from Him, and offering up through Him, and in Him, the Spiritual sacrifices of praise for redeeming love, coming up with acceptance before God upon the altar Christ Jesus?
Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. (7) Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, (8) And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.
I need not tell the Reader what scripture the Apostle hath gathered this beautiful passage from, Isaiah was directed, ages before, to proclaim Christ to the Church under this strong figure, Isaiah 28:16. But indeed, the whole book of God is full of the same glorious truth. See Deu 32:4; 2 Samuel 23:3; Psalms 118:22-23; Ephesians 2:20. But what I particularly beg the Reader to observe is the beauty and fulness of the similitude, and his Church, his Zion is founded by Jehovah. It is the Lord in his three-fold character of Person, which hath founded it, Isaiah 14:32. Hence, Christ in his union of God and Man in One Person, is the foundation, on which the whole building rests. He is also the whole strength which unites, and keeps the building together. Believers are said to be rooted and built up in him, Colossians 2:7. And he is also the finisher, in whom, and by whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth to an holy temple in the Lord, Ephesians 2:19 to the end. And, if the Reader will pause but for a moment, and consider how very fully this is proved, as it relates to all the points of the spiritual building in Christ, he will discover the blessedness of the whole.
First. In Christ's Person. All temporal, spiritual, eternal blessings are centered in Christ's Person. Hence his people, in him, are brought into a communion and fellowship by their union with him, into the enjoyment of those things; and, without which, there can be no blessing in either department, in the life that now is, or that which is to come.
Secondly. In Christ's offices. His obedience and death; his law fulfilling, and law-satisfying sacrifice; his surety-ship, engagements, and sin-atoning offering; his death, resurrection, ascension, and unceasing priesthood; all these, and every other which Christ wrought on earth, and is now carrying on in heaven, make him the whole foundation of his Church to rest upon, for all the purposes of time and eternity.
And, lastly, to mention no more: In Christ's relations to his people, he becomes the first and the last, to include all and everyone of the tenderest relationship, which constitute the Father, Husband, Brother, and the Friend; so as to fill all, and perform the part of all, yea, infinitely nearer than all, being the Head of his body the Church, the fulness that filleth all in all, to the members of his body, his flesh, and his bones.
Reader! pause over the view; and look one moment longer before you quit this beautiful portion of the Word of God, and consider the different reception this Holy One finds in God the Father's esteem, his people, and the world. In God the Father's esteem, he is declared to be the chief corner stone, elect, precious. Yea, God speaks of him as One in whom his soul delighteth! And so great, and holy, and gracious, that he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. In his people's esteem, he is so precious and se highly beloved, as to he the altogether lovely, and the fairest among ten thousand. But to the world, a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence. He is despised and rejected of men. His Person, his offices, his humble birth, his obscure life, his mean death; yea, all that relates to him as the Savior of sinners, renders him an object of scorn. Oh! thou precious Lord of thy people! how is it that I was made to believe in thee, while thousands reject the counsel of God against their own souls!
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: (10) Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
What a blessed and honorable testimony hath God the Holy Ghost here given of the Lord's people. A chosen generation! Yes! chosen in Christ, before the world began, Ephesians 1:4. Chosen for Christ to be his companion, spouse, and people, on whom he might make his love to shine forever; in giving all that is communicable from himself here in grace, and hereafter in glory. A royal priesthood. Yea, both kings and priests to God and his Father, Revelation 1:6. Truly ordained by the unction of the Spirit at regeneration. And truly offering up their daily offerings in Christ, through the blood of sprinkling, which gives a blessedness and a savor to their persons and services, being accepted in the Beloved, Ephesians 1:6. An holy nation. So God called his Church, when he first formed his people into a Church in the Wilderness, and when he declared that they should be to him a peculiar treasure, unto him above all people, Exodus 19:5-6. And, although they are scattered, and live as the remnant of Jacob was said to be, in the midst of many people, while unconnected with any: Micah 5:7. Yet, altogether they form a numerous body, and are holy in the Lord, Leviticus 11:44; John 17:19. A peculiar people. Peculiar indeed! Their habits, manners, customs, pursuits, desires, differ wholly from all others, through the grace given them. They are as Joshua and his fellows, men wondered at, Zechariah 3:8. And how should it be otherwise, being called upon by the predestinating love of God the Father, to dwell alone in his purpose, choice, and will, peculiarly chosen to an union with Christ; and specially the objects of the regenerating grace of God the Holy Ghost! And the effects which follow cannot but be the result of such a cause. He that called them from the darkness of the Adam-nature of sin, in that call brought them into the fellowship of Christ, who is himself their light and their life. And, as, while in a state of unregeneracy they were altogether unconscious of the electing love of God the Father, and the union-love, and redemption-love of Jesus Christ, and therefore in this sense might be truly said to be far off as those which had no head, and were not formed into a people; but now, by the renewing of the Holy Ghost, shed upon them abundantly through Jesus Christ, they were brought nigh, and made heirs according to the hope of eternal life, Titus 3:4-7.
Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; (12) Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. (13) Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; (14) Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. (15) For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: (16) As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. (17) Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. (18) Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. (19) For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. (20) For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.
There is somewhat very affectionate and endearing in this request of Peter. He calls the Church, dearly beloved, to shew the oneness and common interest which the whole mystical body of Christ, whether Apostles, or of the lowest of the people, have together. And by strangers, he means, strangers and pilgrims upon earth. Such should have their affections in heaven, yea, on Christ, carrying all their wishes and purposes, and desires, before them there. They are supposed to know, yea, they cannot but know, that the body of sin and death they bear about with them, while below, hath all its affections opposite to grace. And, under those impressions, to be always upon the watch over the fleshly lusts of the body, which war against the soul. And, above all, to seek the blessed influences of the Holy Ghost, to keep the heart with all diligence, by whom alone the deeds of the body can be mortified, Romans 8:13
The argument the Apostle adds to this, from the shame the un - godly will take in beholding the honest conversation of the Lord's people, is very striking. Though at present they speak against you, as evil doers, they are conscious, at the same time that they accuse you falsely. And, therefore, in the day of judgment, those very actions of your's, which, contrary to their own consciences, they now speak against, shall be then their greater condemnation, your greater comfort, and to God's glory. What a spur this is, under God's grace, to encourage the redeemed of the Lord to an holy life and conversation? The precepts which follow in these verses are too need any comment.
For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: (22) Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: (23) Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: (24) Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. (25) For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.
How very blessed is introduced here the person and actions of Christ! And, let the Reader observe, how Christ's death is first spoken of, as a Surety, before that his meekness is held forth as an example. I mention this the rather, because those wretchedly deluded men, who wish to rob the Lord Jesus of his glory, and, consequently, the Church of her happiness, in talking of Christ dying only as a martyr to his religion, and wholly as an example of patience to his people under suffering, bring forth this passage, as, in their view, justifying their argument; whereas, in fact, it is the reverse. For this very portion first mentions Christ's suffering for us; before that it is added, he becomes our example, that we should follow his steps. A plain proof that the former is the grand cause the Holy Ghost first insisted on; and the latter, but as a sweet elect arising out of it. And when the whole volume of testimonies in scripture to this glorious doctrine of atonement is taken into the account, to what a miserable expedient must such men be reduced, who shelter themselves under such a flimsy covering, for their un-belief? How fully Christ speaks of his giving his life a ransom, Matthew 20:28. How blessedly Paul also testifies of it He gave himself (saith Paul) an offering and a sacrifice to God, for a sweet smelling savor, Ephesians 5:2. Who gave himself for our sins, Galatians 1:4. Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures, 1 Corinthians 15:3. And this same Apostle, in the next Chapter, saith, that Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God. Observe, it is for sins, and the just for the unjust. And how could either be, but as a sacrifice for sins, and as in the room and place of the Sinner? 1 Peter 3:18
I need not tell the Reader, acquainted with his Bible, that the greater part of these verses is a quotation from the prophecy of Isaiah 53:1. And who can read the account of either, among the Lord's people, dry-eyed, or unaffected in heart? The Prophet, as though he had been in the hall of Pilate, describes the sufferings of Christ as accurately, seven hundred years and upward before the event came to pass, with all the blessed consequences resulting from it. And, here the Apostle goes over the subject again, who was himself an eye-witness of it, 1 Peter 5:1. The close of the Apostle's account is very blessed. He considers the Church as sheep, and Christ the shepherd. He beholds them as having gone astray, like sheep, in the Adam-fall of nature, and now brought back by the recovery of grace. And what I beg the Reader not to overlook in this relation is, that They were sheep before they strayed. And they were Christ's sheep, given him by the Father, before he purchased them in redemption, from their Adam-wanderings, by his blood, and brought them back by his Spirit. Oh! the preciousness of this to my soul! Yes! through grace I am now returned to the Great Shepherd and Bishop of Souls! His is a diocese indeed, over which the Lord exercises his Pastoral care, by watching over it night and day, lest any hurt his fold, Isaiah 27:3. But where shall we look for any other? Precious Lord Jesus! thou art the same still in heaven! Thou art our High Priest forever, after the order of Melchizedec
Blessed Lord God the Holy Ghost! since by regeneration thou bringest the children into their adoption character in Christ Jesus, give me the daily influences of thy grace, that I may live and act up to the high character of my calling; and laying aside all the old corruptions of the old nature, of malice, and guile, and hypocrisies, and evil speaking, as one new-born in Christ, may all the longings of my soul be after Jesus. Having tasted his graciousness, excite in me a thirst for unceasing enjoyments of him. And however my Lord becomes a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence to the world, may my soul be building upon him, as Jehovah's chief corner stone, elect and precious in Zion; everything that is blessed for faith to rest upon, in life and death, in time and to all eternity, And amidst my weakness and unworthiness, and the slenderness of my faith, give me grace to attend to what thou hast here said as a token of faith; unto you therefore which believe, he is precious. Surely Christ is more precious to me than thousands of gold and silver. And therefore, my God saith, this is faith. Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief.
Precious Jesus! thy people is a chosen generation; God the Father hath chosen them, and made them so. They are from the same source, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people! And will not the same grace which hath so distinguished them, cause them to be distinguished also as lights in the world, among whom they shine in a crooked and perverse generation? That grace must be from thee, for all grace is in thee. Enable them, 0 Lord, to abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul, and to adorn thy doctrine in all things. And while rejoicing in being delivered from sin, and all its tremendous consequences, by thy blood, may they follow, through the sweet influences of Holy Spirit, thy example!
Yes! thou Almighty Shepherd and Bishop of souls, thou hast brought back thy blood-bought sheep to thy fold, and thou wilt keep them thine forever.